Dan Hedtke of New London remains excited about acquiring an old wooden wagon during an auction last month.
Hedtke, a restoration hobbyist, eyed a pile of boards and four wooden wheels he thought must be a wagon. As he inspected the pile, one of the weathered boards revealed the hand painted message “New London Wagon.” He bid on the heap of wood and wheels and took it home.
“I was real curious to find something out about this wagon,” Hedtke said. “Some guys who were from the area of the auction said they knew a few men who had owned the wagon, but I couldn’t trace much down because the fella died.”
Unloading the boards at home provided a second clue to the wagon’s history. A small board showed two faded lines of lettering. Hedtke, also a history buff, took the board to the New London Public Museum in hopes they could provide some information.
Assistant Museum Director Alice Gilman saw that the first line of lettering began with a distinct letter ‘E,’ then faded completely until the end of the line, where the letter “N” was barely visible and the letter “Z” was clear to see. It was obvious this speck of information would lead nowhere.
“But then it was funny,” Gilman said, “I walked over to my desk with the board, and the change in lighting made it possible to read the first line completely.”
It read Emil Magadanz.
Gilman went to work on Ancestry.com to collect information on Emil Magadanz.
“That’s always a good website to use. The library has a membership to Ancestry.com and a person could go there to use it,” he said.
Through Ancestery.com and many other websites, Gilman found that Magadanz was born in 1879 in Hortonville. In later years, the Wisconsin State Census shows Magadanz listed as a farmer. Later, he worked at the quarry in Hortonville. He died in 1957.
Gilman said there are many ways to track down a mystery. Acquiring information from local, state, and federal census reports is a good place to start. Having a birth and/or death date takes a researcher into possibilities that may build a story.
Magadanz’ wagon may have transported any number of items to and from his farm. Magadanz may have had his name painted on the buckboard as identification, much like our license plates of today.
The wagon was reconstructed by Hedtke and on display during Heritage Days and Rail Fest, Aug. 2-3, at the New London Historical Village next to Memorial Park.
Hedtke plans to restore the wagon and will enjoy it for a few years. After that, he may find a permanent home for it, where everyone can see it.