Farming in Minong, Wisconsin
By: Sabrina Gruzlewski & Gabby Kidder
Bill’s family started farming in Minong in 1936 at Frog Creek Road. They moved from Eastern, Kentucky. The land that they purchased had two houses, a barn, and 160 acres, which they paid $1,500. The house had electricity, but no plumbing or running water inside. Forty acres of the land was woods, forty acres was pasture, and eighty acres was planted in crops.
Bill’s family had 13 cows; about half of them were milking cows. Since there were no machines back then they had to milk by hand. When they were done milking they would put the milk in jugs and bring them to the milk room. The milk room wasn’t very big, but was insulated to keep it cool. Then they would place the milk jugs in a big tank filled with water, which would keep the milk cool enough until the milk man came to pick it up.
Since they didn’t have plows back then Bill’s family used two horses. After a while they sold the horses to buy a small tractor. The tractor also came with an elevator. Bill’s dad usually would drive the tractor, but sometimes Doug would drive. They would drive it over the barrow. The elevator would pick up the barrow and put it in the wagon. Also in the barn was a runner on the ceiling that would pick up the hay. When they wanted to have the hay drop they would trip it by pulling a rope. About half of the time the rope would run out of their hands and they would have rope burns. Bill’s family didn’t have gloves so bill took cloth to put on his hands to stop the rope burns.
One morning Bill woke up and decided he wanted to sell strawberries. His mom said, yes. So he went outside to pick strawberries. When he was done selling them he made $4.50. After that, Bill and his aunt were fighting to sell stuff. Because of Bill, his family started a trucking business. Due to the high demand in the winter for vegetables, they needed more room to grow them and deliver them to others. Bill’s mom was making more money selling the vegetables than his dad, who was working at the DNR.
The farmers in the area would help other farmers. At lunchtime they would have a big lunch. There was a table off to the side for the little boys and girls. His uncle picked him up and sat Bill next to him and said, “You work like a man you eat like a man.”
Doug Denninger Sr.
Doug Sr. started farming here in 1952. His house only had a fridge and a freezer. He didn’t have any plumbing until he was 5 years old. He had 22 milking cows, which would get larger and give more milk. The milk would sell by the pound; each cow gave about one pound. Now cows give about seven to eight pounds of milk. Doug Sr. also had some cows, two horses, chickens, and geese. The horses were Arabians used in parades and rodeos. He tried to impress the other cowboys at the rodeo by cow tying. However, when he was done his time was 27 seconds and the first place cowboy’s time was seven seconds.
Since Doug Sr. was an art teacher he would wake-up early to milk the cows. Then he would go inside, change, and go to school. After school, he would change and go back to milking. Eventually, he was the last dairy farmer in Minong. Doug sold his beef cattle to pay for the dairy farm and the baby beef cattle were sold to pay for supplies, taxes, and many more things.
Muriel and Rod Wilcox
Muriel started farming in 1954 and ended in 1975. Some animals they had were cows, chickens, sheep and 3 Billy goats. They had goats because Muriel was allergic to cow’s milk until she was 5. The goats were not penned so they would chase her mom to the side door and go on top of the car. Muriel’s family butchered chickens, pigs, and cows to eat because they barely went to the store. Muriel’s family would sell cattle and many different animals for money. Muriel and her friend would dress up baby pigs and put them in baby buggies to push up the drive way.
During this time, potatoes were very popular to farm. Over 30 people would come together to plant potatoes. After the growing season would pass, they all came back and dug up potatoes. They even picked potatoes from other people’s garden. To plant their crops they had a seed planter and an old tractor.
Muriel had never gone to a store until she was 16 for the 4H dance. Her dad was going to buy her a dress. She liked three dresses and could not decide on one. So her dad bought all three dresses. Muriel met her husband Rod at the 4H dance.
Thank you to: Bill Baily, Doug Denninger Sr., Muriel Wilcox and Rod Wilcox for helping us with this exhibit.
Denninger and Link Family Farming History
The Denninger and Link family are related because Glady Link married Calvin Denninger. Some of the businesses they had were farming, logging and a T- Shirt Company. Joseph Denninger and his family arrived in Minong in the 1870’s and Chris Link arrived in the 1880’s. Both of the families came from Germany. They came here to log and farm. The Denningers purchased 80 acres of land and the Links purchased 100 acres when they first arrived. Joseph Denninger had three boys and two girls when he arrived in Minong. The Links had two boys and two girls. Calvin was the first to farm from the Denninger family.
The Denningers owned a lot of land for the four farms for cattle, hay, and horses. When Calvin first started farming he tried to grow beans and corn, but it did not work because of the poor soil. Both of the families raised cows so they had milk to drink. They would butcher the cows for meat once they were too old.