Village of Marshall History

In June of 1837, 45 men forged their way from Milwaukee to Madison to begin construction of the new state capitol.  Three of these men, Andrew & Zenas Bird and Aaron Petrie, made a mental note of an idyllic location to begin their lives.  Many months of labor ended in October of 1838, when an autumn prairie fire destroyed a public building and the beginning of a sawmill.  For more than a decade, the present day village was known as Bird’s Ruins.


Between June 1839 and 1847, many newcomers settled in this area called Medina.  A two-room frame house served purpose for a general store and religious services.  The first physician in the area completed the sawmill.  During this time, a small red brick school, a milldam, a Baptist Church, Methodist Church, and the first postal service were developed. 


The Township of Medina was formally organized in 1848.  During the nineteenth century, the Village and Township continued to grow.  In 1849, Bird’s Ruins became Hanchetville in recognition of Asahel Hanchett’s ability for luring several needed businesses to the Village.  Hanchett added a gristmill, relocated the sawmill, and constructed a new dam.


As more and more settlers came to the area and began harvesting the fertile soils, construction of a plank road was commenced.  This road was seen as a thoroughfare, connecting isolated districts with Watertown and Madison until 1856, when railway officials interrupted with their own ideals of promoting trade.  Though the heated debate of the railway was defeated locally by a 2-vote margin, the railway had gathered their pledges and began construction, locating a depot in Hanchettville.  In great anticipation of the vast things to come, the village residents changed Hanchettville to Howard City after one of the leading railway promoters.  Prosperity failed to bless Howard City, and Asahel Hanchett sold his substantial land holdings to a pair of Madison Real Estate brokers, William F. Porter and Samuel Marshall.


Though little is known about Samuel Marshall, the William Porter family lived in Marshall until 1865, when Porter and his wife returned to his native Massachusetts.  Their son, William H. Porter, remained a prominent and influential citizen in the community with family still living here.


By 1899 the village post office had been in existence for nearly 52 years.  Rural residences, divided into four districts, began receiving mail delivery at their front door.  Marshall was the second village in the state to inaugurate rural postal service. 


The early 1900s brought about several changes to the community.  On January 24, 1905, 119 votes were cast – 66 in favor, 53 against – to incorporate the village.  A February election named the first village officers as: President, W. H. Tasker, Trustees, C.L. Palmer, G.L. Kaiser, Dr. Gibbs, J.H. Porter, A.J. Blaschka and J. F. Deppe; Clerk, Charles H. Lake; Treasurer, L.F. Kelley; Supervisor, Frank Pyburn; Assessor, William McNeill; Constable, Theodore Schueler; Justice of the Peace, John Fallows, and Police Justice, F.C. King.


In 1907, seven gas lamps were erected to light the way and remained until 1916, when Marshall Electric Light & Power Company commenced operation.  Commercial Energy was provided until the 1930s, when rural electrification enlightened Marshall and the farming community surrounding it.


A graduate of the Marshall Schools and a descendent of Marshall pioneer E. B. Bigelow, James Wheelwright, under the pen name of Robert Banning, wrote the novel “All is not Butter” (Little, Brown & Company, Boston, 1954).  The author based his novel on the violent, county-wide milk strike that centered Marshall in 1933.


Marshall was caught in the nationwide basketball hysteria in the late 1930s and early 1940s.  Two “City” teams sponsored by Lazers Motor Company kept locals on the edge of their seats.  One team, the “Hot Shots”, after three overtime periods on January 16, 1939, were tied at 43 with a team sponsored by the Madison Spanish Tavern.  A free-throw “shoot off” involving each player, was to settle the game.  After five rounds – 50 free throws – the Madison team faltered and the “Hot Shots” were victorious.


Dane County added Riley-Deppe Park to the outskirts of the Village in 1963 in honor of former County Supervisors George Riley and Ernest Deppe.  The population of the village had remained fairly constant, until the Motls developed Riverview Heights in 1959.   Additional housing needs increased immediately.  Apartment houses were built and five more plats were developed.  A 200-unit mobile home park and the Evergreen Mall shopping center were completed in 1970.  Marshall experienced growth in building and population not seen in years.  Advantages of suburban living had finally caught on to developers.  By 1976, Marshall had grown to almost 1,800, compared to 600 residents in the 1960 census.


As residents and historians looked at Marshall in its Bicentennial year, 1976, they found familiar names and businesses.  The Shirley Bergholz family and Bob Mercer each ran a supermarket; Charles Hart was in the furniture and undertaking business; Dick Noel ran a barber shop; Ernest Deppe was still selling automobiles after 63 years; and the 149-year old feed mill established by Asahel Hanchett is still in operation today by owner Ernie Blaschka.


Bill Blaschka repaired and customized autos; Barry Motl and Harry Streich had electric shops; Lyle Hansen had antique furniture; while Harvey Heiman, Dick Ireland, Denny Capacio, and Victor Riddle each owned a filling station.  Edna and Owen Boss sold beer and packaged goods in their liquor store; Georgia Severson, Susie Wendt and Vickie Vick ran beauty shops; and William Pache was the local master plumber.


Tom, Dick and Dave Motl, William Skala, Henry Wild, Jr., and “Squiq” Converse were engaged in construction; Stan Haakenson erected livestock buildings;  John Stuntebeck did brick and tile work; Tom Breunig and Jim McFarland both specialized in television sales and service; David Zimbric owned a pharmacy; Bob Woelffer and Bob Fruend operated the meat market; while John Nelson and Lee Pledger ran a lumber company.


Herb Hellenbrand repaired small engines; Joe Hellenbrand had a hardware store and bought and sold used auto parts; Charles Counsell ran a diner, Betty Slama ran a café, and Bob Mercer was part owner of a bar and supper club.  Bob Lazers operated a bus line; Fred Gmeinder was in the welding business (a continuation of his fathers blacksmith shop); Myron Mather had a Laundromat on Hubbell Street, while John Barry ran one in the Evergreen Mall.  Frank Netzer had a car wash; Owen Sanderson had a trucking operation, and Arnie Weber hauled milk.  Norman Peck and son were in plumbing, heating and excavation.  Don Schleicher also did excavation.  Ted and Charles Johnson had a shoe repair shop; Jack Erb sold insurance and published the Marshall Shopper; and Vernon Yelk sold insurance and dealt in real estate, along with Phillip Freidel.


Mearl, Ken, and Melvin Martin and Carl Wendt had a feed and seed company and fuel oil business in Deansville; Max Janisch ran a tavern there, while Harold Bloomfield ran one in York Center.  Lloyd Moon had a dairy equipment service; Dane County Farmer’s Co-op was running smooth; a large number of people were employed by William Myer, who managed a plant manufacturing aluminum products, as did James Hoskins in his steel fabricating operation.  Midway Equipment Company sold farm implements four miles south of town on Hwy. 73; Frank Gietzel raised Arabian horses, while Jim Herman, and Ted and Doug Waddell, each had large farming operations.  Lee Merrick had a rendering plant just outside the village limits.


The 1970s led the community to many activities.  The Marshall Booster Club, recognizing outstanding school athletic and academic participants was formed.  A local chapter of the Jaycees was chartered.  The Future Farmers of America (one of the first chapters in the nation) was still very strong.  The American Legion and Auxiliary provided vital civic functions and held annual community events; a local snowmobile club was organized; a Girl and Brownie Scout troop was formed in 1974, and the Boy Scout troop revived after a lapse of several years.


A new post office, library, bank, and municipal building were in place; homes were sprouting up fast enough to claim the title of the “fastest growing community in Dane County.” Marshall was changing.  Marshall had a fully-equipped two-man police force with Chief Jim Hannon and Officer Mike Karls, while Dan James was the Municipal Justice.  Alvin Lazers and Jim Beasley maintained the village streets and water and sewage treatment plants.


A Bicentennial Committee, with Mrs. Janice Freidel and Mrs. Charlotte Counsell as co-chairmen, and Ernst Deppe honorary chairman, coordinated and scheduled a number of community activities for 1976.  Stan Trachte, Don Woerpel and many others worked on “A Nostalgic look at Marshall” history booklet.  As the committee finished its work, two major events struck Marshall.


The most destructive storm in recorded Wisconsin history crippled the area.  The storm heralded by freezing rain that lasted from Monday, March 1, 1976, through Thursday, March 4, 1976, covered everything in a crust of ice.  Heavy tree branches, already faltering under the weight of the ice, met their coup de grace Friday morning when strong winds attacked.  Branches dropped on power lines causing almost total blackouts for 48 to 72 hours.  Food spoiled, plumbing failed, furnaces sat useless; but even worse, the farmers suffered with dry stock tanks and milking and other chores done by hand.


With such hard times and worries from the storm, Marshall residents were uplifted with pride in the High School Girls' Basketball team.  The Girls' Basketball team ended a perfect season by capturing the state championship with a 40 to 36 win over Bloomington in the U.W. Field House Saturday afternoon in the first girls championship ever held.  The state crown was added to the only other crown won by Marshall – the high school girls gymnastic team of 1973.


After several years of rapid growth, the 1980s brought a calm to the Marshall area.  The Village board made plans for the use and maintenance of the Charles Langer Family Park.  Charles Langer originally purchased the parklands in the 1930s as part of a farm.  Charle's son, Roger, took over from his father and farmed most of the land until his death in 1979.  The Village board accepted the approximately 114 acres he bequeathed on September 25, 1979.  The Village erected a new 300,000-gallon Water Tower in 1986 to serve the community.


A dedication ceremony on August 26, 1984, named a ball diamond park on the corner of Lewellen Street and Dairyland Avenue after Leonard “Squig” Converse.  “Squig” Converse developed and built what was known as “Squigville” on the north end of the village.  Mr. Converse also left his impression on the school district after 18 years of service as a teacher, coach, and principal.


Boom Again!  Times had changed, and the Village began to see great growth.  It began with the annexation of land on several sides of the village.  On the southwest side of the village, approximately 20 acres were annexed and two 24-unit apartments were developed.


Lee Merrick annexed and rezoned property for a park on the east side of the Village.  Mr. Merrick opened Little A-Merrick-a Amusement Park.  The park features a 1/3 size railroad, operating an array of steam and diesel engines and proto-typical freight and passenger cars, with over 3-miles of track touring the surrounding property filled with animals of all sorts.  The amusement park features 20 various rides, games, go-karts, concession stands, 19-hole miniature golf, and a picnic area for your private or corporate parties.  The Park, opened Memorial Day to Labor Day, hosts two special holiday tours, Halloween and Christmas.


Several developers also began projects in the 1990s.  Don Anderson developed land for single-family homes on the north end of Maunesha Drive off of Riverview Drive.  Cyril Converse developed single-family lots on the southern end of Maunesha Drive off of Parkview Lane.  Dennis Kindschi developed two-family and multi-family lots on Waterloo Road.  Wayne Kiefer, North Lakewood Estates, developed 84 acres of land into single-family, two-family, and multi-family homes.  This development provided lots for 71 single-family homes, 9 two-family homes, 2 multi-family homes, and for one 8-bed assisted living facility for senior citizens.  Brookstone Homes also began a large development.  The development of 49-acres into 97 single-family homes began in 1995 and was done in several phases, including the addition of park land to Deerhaven Park.  A section of land to be developed by Brookstone Homes was sold to Dwayne Sievers for a senior citizen development called Marshall Courts.  This area consisted of a 20-bed assisted living facility and 15 senior housing duplexes.  These developments are still being completed today.


Almost one hundred years after Marshall was incorporated and local government was set up, the community is still run by an elected group of residents.  Marshall has remained a village to this day and has been served by many different dedicated Presidents and Trustees.  Everyone that serves the community is worthy of being recognized, though a few citizens stand out from the crowd due to their political endurance and longevity.  Frank Lazers served twelve years in the President's chair and Silas Pyburn served twenty.  Robert Harland put in twenty-five years of service to the village, including sixteen as clerk.  Mrs. Ella Taylor performed the duties of Village Treasurer for twenty-eight years.  Dan James served 13 years as Municipal Judge. Joseph Freidel served 10 years as President, and Henry Wild served 13 years as Trustee.  Marlin Hensler, Jr. served 18 years as Trustee and 12 years as Village President. Sue Peck served 31 years as Village Administrator and Clerk/Treasurer.


As the 1990s came to an end, governments and citizens worldwide prepared for the Year 2000 and the Y2K bug scare.  Marshall was no different.  Computers, over the years, had become an essential part of life and business in every aspect.  The question upon everyone turned out to be whether or not we had prepared for the turn of the numbering system for the years to come.  Would computers know we meant 2001 when we typed in 01 for a year or would they think it was 1901?   Many citizens throughout the world wondered if we would lose electricity or other amenities we had come to rely on.  Would lifestyles revert back 50 to 100 years?  Stockpiles of canned goods, food, drinking water, batteries, candles, gasoline and generators were found in homes everywhere.  Governments began their testing of hardware and software in anticipation of the New Year.  Emergency disaster plans were developed to keep business running as usual.  As the clock struck midnight on December 31, 1999, and the day changed to January 1, 2000, local residents and people everywhere were waiting for the lights to go out and for the world to enter the unknown.  Marshall, and the world surrounding it, found the New Year to be no different than any other.


As we thought about and prepared for the millennium, we looked back to the numerous years of transition.  From horse and buggy to automobiles, candles to gas lights to electricity, Marshall has grown and changed with each moment.  The unknown future of the Village of Marshall is for us all to see.