Weyauwega’s heritage goes back to the settlement at Gills Landing on the Wolf River in 1843.
In the 19th century, pioneers such as Will Gumaer, Louis Bostedo, Jacob Weed, and Lorenzo and Joseph Post broke ground for a gristmill, sawmills, stores and streets.
Waupaca County’s first inn and first store were opened in Weyauwega in the 1840s. The county’s first jail and the world’s largest rye mill were built in Weyauwega in the 1850s.
This history is presented through more than 200 vintage photographs in a recently released addition to the Images of America series – Weyauwega. It is published by Arcadia Publishing.
The authors are Kim J. Heltemes, Mary Werth and Janis Dahlke.
“I have collected and tried to salvage 8,000 photographs from Iola to Wautoma,” Heltemes said.
This is the fourth collection of photographs that local Historian Heltemes has produced for the Images of America series. His earlier books include
Waupaca. Wisconsin Veterans Home and Poy Sippi and Eastern Waushara County.
Heltemes is a Civil War re-enactor and a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. He was working to locate the graves of Civil War veterans in Oakwood Cemetery when he learned that the Weyauwega Public Library had an album of 72 pre-Civil War photos of members of the local Masonic Lodge.
“I attended a library board meeting and offered a deal. We could work on the book together and split the proceeds,” Heltemes said.
A portion of the profits will be donated to the Weyauwega Public Library.
Heltemes worked with Werth and Dahlke, who are both members of the library’s board of trustees.
Werth, a retired high school English teacher, collaborated with William and Joan Mallo, to produce Weyauwega Remembers, a history book that celebrated the city’s sesquicentennial in 2006.
“We started talking with older citizens about the pictures we had,” Werth said. “Hearing their stories was one of the most enjoyable parts of the project.”
There were several meetings at the library where Heltemes projected the photos on a screen to a small audience of older Weyauwega residents.
“They would reminisce and tell stories. It was good for them and great for us,” Dahlke said.
One member of the audience was 92-year-old Keith Wall, who provided the book’s cover photo of the Weyauwega train station.
Other participants included Ossie and Gloria Prillwitz, Florence Oehlke, Ethel Doede and others who brought their own photo albums to the meetings, as well as their memories of days gone by.
“You can have fantastic photographs that you know are from Weyauwega, but you don’t know the story behind it,” Heltemes said. “They helped with the quality of the photos and the stories.”
Because the Image of America book consists only of photos and captions, the authors stress that it is primarily a companion piece to Weyauwega Remembers.
For example, there is a photograph of Albijah and Maryetta Bennett on page 20 of the new book. The most interesting story about Albijah Bennett is that he ran out of money when trying to send his family from Milwaukee to Weyauwega. So he sent them ahead and walked and hitched his own way home.
Copies of the book are available at the Weyauwega Public Library and at area stores.