The unincorporated village of Hofa Park, Wisconsin, is located in the township of Maple Grove, in Shawano County. According to a Menominee Indian legend, the term Shawano (pronounced: Shah-no) means "To the South." Traveling south, along the Wolf River in search of food, these Indians came to a large lake where they found an abundance of wild rice. They called it "Sha-Wah-No-Nay-Pay-Sa," or Lake-to-the South. Later, the county and city of Shawano were named from the lake.

Shawano County was organized by the Laws of 1853 (Chapter 9) and was approved by Act of the Wisconsin Legislature on February 27, 1854. At first, the name of the county was spelled Shawanaw, but by the Laws of 1864 (Chapter 411) it was changed to the present Shawano.

Town of Maple Grove

In the very southeasternmost corner of Shawano County lies the township (also called town) of Maple Grove. It is bounded by the town of Angelica, Shawano County, on the north; by the town of Lessor, Shawano County, on the west; by the town of Seymour, Outagamie County, on the south; and by the town of Pittsfield, Brown County, on the east.

The name "Maple Grove" was probably descriptively given to this township because of its great amount of maple forests. Though other types of trees were found in this township and surrounding area, the Polish settlers claim that these were mostly cut when they arrived at Hofa Park in 1877. But still standing was a great supply of maple forest because hard wood then did not seem to command as great a price as other types of lumber, especially pine.

Hard Wood and Lack of a Railroad

Further proof of this is offered by Anton Klaus, a buyer of logs and lumber from Green Bay in the 1870's, He openly claimed in the Daily State Gazette (March 19, 1872) that "the quality of hard wood through the towns of Hartland. Angelica and Maple Grove was far better and greatly in excess of any part in this section of the state."

He also expressed the opinion that hard wood will eventually be worth more than pine ever was. Listed as found in the above townships was the following hard wood: maple, beech, basswood, poplar, elm and ash. Klaus suggested that "a railroad is only needed to make every foot of this wood valuable."

In 1872, there were twenty-three million feet of logs cut in the above three towns. With railroad transportation assured from this area to Green Bay, more saw mills could be built and lumber could be manufactured right in these towns and then shipped to Green Bay. As a result, the populations of the towns in question would increase tenfold and every acre of land would be trebled in value. At one station of the Green Bay and Lake Pepid Railroad, Klaus paid out in the winter of 1872 over $18,000 for hard wood whose quality was inferior to that found in Hartland, Angelica and Maple Grove townships.

But the railroad never came and wagon loads of logs were slowly hauled by teams to Green Bay. Thus, the greater prosperity of the above towns was hindered.

First Officers of the Town of Maple Grove

The town of Maple Grove was formed in 1870. William Crofoot was the first Town Chairman. Other officers to first serve this township were Oley Olson and Hans Lausten, Supervisors; Tom Bradock, Assessor; Martin Keating, Treasurer; Niel McKinnon, Town Clerk; 0. B. Stevens, Justice of the Peace; and John Hallam, Constable. Most of these men as well as the Miles Lutsey, Ole Knutsen and Nels Nelson families, which came in the years 1874-1875, settled along the Old Military Road, now Highway 29.

Polish settlers arrived later. A group of four Polish families was induced by John J. Hof to settle in the town of Maple Grove in 1877. Though the Poles came later, today over eighty-five per cent of the farmers living in this township are of Polish descent.

First Stores, Schools and Saw Mills

In 1876, Ole Knutsen built the first general store in the town of Maple Grove at Laney. It was situated more or less on the spot where the Mastej Store is found today. In 1881, this store was owned by C. Blackfeldt who operated a similar business at Lessor at the same time.

The Laney store also served for a number of years as a post office for the Hofa Park and Pulaski settlers until they obtained their own.

At Laney, too, Captain William Powell owned an inn where it is recorded that very good meals were served. Laney was the half-way stop on the stage coach route between Green Bay and Shawano. Powell's Inn, however, was destroyed by fire on February 7, 1874.

An early effort was made by the first townspeople to provide for an elementary education for their children. In 1876, the first school building in Maple Grove was constructed at Laney.

Some of the first saw mills in the town of Maple Grove were those owned by David McCartney, John Abby, Olesen and Peters, Charles Kessler and Robert Brighton. They manufactured lumber and shingles of a superior quality and had a high rating on the market.

David McCartney's saw mill at Laney, for instance, employed about 150 men on the premises and in the woods. In January, 1875, it had four million feet of logs in the yards with a prospect of ten million feet by the end of the logging season. Suspending operations for a few years, the McCartney mill started up again in 1881.

Farming Draws Settlers to Maple Grove in Late 1870's

The Green Bay Daily State Gazette (May 20 and 27, 1879) reported that "farms in Laney were in good demand this spring." Settlers from Milwaukee were arriving in good numbers and more were forecast to come. Agents selling land in this area besides John J. Hof were Morris Thomas and William B. Hutchinson. A farm of eighty acres commanded a price of $920 in 1879 at Laney, or about $11.50 an acre.

Having cleared the land, these settlers immediately began sowing wheat and oats followed by the planting of corn. In 1879, Shawano County produced more oats than wheat, the latter being sown mainly to provide the settlers with bread for the year.

Also in 1879, more corn was planted than ever before and a greater number of hog's were fatted. Potatoes had been planted for a number of years already but were plagued by the potato bug, Deer were also so plentiful that they were destroying crops. Yet state laws forbade shooting them out of season. Nevertheless, this problem was gradually solved.

By 1888, dairy farms increased to such a point that John Leonard opened the first cheese factory at Laney in that year.

Town and Village of Angelica

Intimately connected with the history of Hofa Park and Pulaski was the village of Angelica. Settled earlier, it is about four miles northeast of Hofa Park. The village is located in the township bearing the same name. Like Maple Grove, Angelica township was formed in the year 1870 while the village "sprung up in the forest openings" about 1872.

In the spring of the latter year about forty families were settled in and around the village of Angelica, drawn there primarily by the logging and lumber interests. As a result, Angelica at the turn of this century had a greater number of and more impressive buildings than meet the eye today.

Besides the considerable building of dwellings there during the years 1872-1873 and later, two hotels were also found in Angelica at this time. These were the Angelica House and the Wescott House, the latter owned and operated by H. H. Wescott. At the same time, Robert McLaren built a commodious store. All three of these business establishments were having "a good run of customers" according to a contemporary Green Bay newspaper.

First Town Board and Railroad Prospects

The first town board of Angelica consisted of R. W. Button, Chairman; W, H. Upham and Talbert Pricket, Supervisors; and Robert McLaren, Treasurer.

Once again, the prediction was made that "with a railroad and a depot in the midst of the settlement, there is no reason why it (Angelica) should not become a village of considerable importance" (Green Bay Daily State Gazette, Jan. 16, 1873). During the last week of March, 1873, E. D. Clinton, of the Milwaukee and Northern Railway, visited Angelica and paid up all dues of the road for right of way, clearing, ties, wood, etc. Everyone was certain that there would be a railroad going through Angelica during the following summer.

Again in July, 1877, D. H. Pulcifer, former mayor of Shawano, and R. W. Button, chairman of Angelica township, interviewed railroad officials at Green Bay in regard to a proposed narrow gauge railroad from Green Bay to Shawano. Both Shawano and Angelica citizens were willing to support this project, but their efforts met with no success.

Saw Mills at Angelica

A number of saw mills were built at Angelica in 1872 and spurted the growth of this village. Work was thus provided for the settlers who labored in the mills or fanned out into the surrounding forests and logging camps. In the year 1872, the following mills operated at or near Angelica: William E. Upham and Bros., J. P. Laird & Co., Smith and Packett and Olesen and Peters.

The two largest of the above saw mills were those owned by the Uphams and Laird. The Upham mill was located about a mile from the stage coach road passing through Angelica. As much as 280,000 feet of logs were hauled to it in four days in March, 1873.

In the same year, the Uphams built an addition and installed a new lath and shingle mill and edger. Nearly all of the lumber from their mill was delivered to Seymour. Together with John Russell, they also conducted a trading post and a grist mill on the Menominee Reservation and were proprietors of a large lumber yard and store in Shawano. About 200,000 feet of lumber and a corresponding amount of shingles from Angelica supplied this lumber yard annually. In May, 1878, the Uphams closed their saw mill at Angelica and moved to Marshfield, Wisconsin.

Laird, who also owned saw mills in northern Minnesota, manufactured pine and bass lumber besides shingles and laths and filled large orders for the S. Bullock Chair Factory in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. A boiler explosion at the Laird mill on December 21, 1873, caused the death of six men and injury to one. The loss to the mill itself amounted to $15,000.

For a time it was thought that the mill would not be rebuilt. But the owners decided to remain in Angelica and a completely new mill was in operation by March 1 of the following year.

It had a capacity of manufacturing 25,000 feet of lumber and 100,000 feet of shingles per day. In 1875, this mill employed 140 men and turned out ten million feet of logs. It was still running at top speed in 1882.

Temperance Influence at Angelica

Despite the logging and lumber boom, Angelica was under good temperance influence from its very beginning. No traffic in intoxicating drinks was allowed. When someone proposed to convert the Angelica House in 1879 into an inn and liquor saloon, the plan was met with great opposition. The town chairman, who was described as a temperance man "from his boots up," resisted the granting of the license. The Angelica correspondent to a Green Bay newspaper of the day commented that "hardly a greater misfortune could befall that town or any other than the establishment of a dram shop within its limits."

Establishment of Congregational-Methodist Church

Aided financially by the Congregational Church of Appleton and by the Presbyterian Church of Green Bay, the settlers of Angelica built the first church in the village in 1875. The modest structure, measuring 26x36 feet, was dedicated on Tuesday, September 14, 1875. It was called the Union Congregational Church. Gifts of articles for the church were donated from as far as Milwaukee and Racine, Wisconsin.

From 1879, the Methodists, whose element was growing stronger at Angelica, also used this church and worked toward a permanent agreement on this score with the Congregationalists.

Later Places of Business and Trade

In 1880, Andrew Spence purchased the store at Angelica and managed it with the aid of Casper Iverson. By 1890, the Fisher brothers, Harry and Albert, succeeded Spence and are reported to have had a booming business.

A post office was located at Angelica since it was on the stage coach delivery route. A guide board on the road before the post office indicated that Green Bay was then 21 miles, Shawano 18 and Seymour 11 miles away from Angelica. Postal service from Angelica was discontinued in 1906 when this area was served by rural carrier from Pulaski as it is today.

Very important to a farm community in the horse-and-wagon days was the blacksmith. The wagon and blacksmith shop at Angelica was owned in 1881 by Rasmussen. His was the only place within ten miles where a farmer could get any wood or iron work done.

Military Road from Green Bay to Lake Superior

From the very beginning and into the first decade of the twentieth century, transportation from Green Bay or Shawano to Angelica was directed over the Old Military Road, now State Highway 29. This was also the stage coach route which brought mail to the villages along the way as it discharged or picked up passengers.

Although the Old Military Road was established by the Act of Congress in 1863, it was first on June 20, 1868, that Governor Fairchild received patents for 72,000 acres of land from the Federal Government. This was a grant given for construction of "a military wagon road" extending from Green Bay to the Michigan state line at Lake Superior. The J. W. Babcock Co. was hired as contractor for the construction of the road.    It received  three sections of land for every mile of road built.

In 1875, a Green Bay newspaper reporter who rode the length of the road criticized that it was "nothing to brag about for smoothness even in the winter season." The section from Green Bay to Shawano was in a better condition. But from Shawano to the state line it was only a narrow passageway, cut through the dense woods with a few stumps grubbed out and the most formidable boulders removed. The accusation was made that the Babcock Co. "cared more for pay than for accomodation, reputation or road."

Stage Coach Route and Operator in 1875

The stage coach run from Green Bay to Shawano was owned and operated in 1875 by John Hendricks. "Modern" improvements in his stage coaches included a stove and a passenger fireman. The route from Green Bay ran past the Duck Creek and Oneida reservations. The first stop was made at Mill Center which had a post office and four saw mills at the time. Then came Owego, four miles beyond Mill Center and possessing a post office and the Foster mill.

Next on the route was Laney, the half-way station between Green Bay and Shawano. Here a longer stop was made. A Mr. Rudd owned the Half-Way House in 1875 and served excellent meals. Here, too, fresh teams of horses were exchanged for the balance of the trip to Shawano.

Leaving Laney, the stage coach made its next call at Angelica, where activity was centered mostly at the Upham and Laird mills which employed the most men. All in all, the stage coach passed through, twenty-three saw mill towns on the Green Bay-Shawano trip, each with a capacity of producing from two to ten million feet of lumber per year.

Stage coach travel from Green Bay to Shawano was discontinued in 1906 when the North Western Railroad began passenger service from Green Bay through Pulaski to Shawano. Besides the stage coach, the early settlers traveled on the military road by oxen-and-cart, horse-and-wagon, or simply walked. Their limited funds did not always allow them the luxury of a stage coach ride.

On a lighter note and despite the rigors of a primitive life, Angelica had a representative baseball team as early as 1888. Calling itself the Angelica Harrison Club, it played such rivals as the Frazer Cleveland Club and teams from Rose Lawn, Seymour and Green Valley.

Frazer's Corners

Closely connected with the history of Hofa Park and its first settlers is the hamlet of Frazer, or Frazer's Corners as it is more popularly called.

It is situated in the town of Lessor, about two and one-half miles north­west of the village of Hofa Park. This hamlet was named in honor of George Frazer, its first settler, who came there in the early 1870's. He was also the first chairman of the township of Lessor.

Since their farms lay in the north­western corner of Maple Grove township, the first Polish families came through Frazer's Corners to reach their new homes in 1877. They also usually bought most of their supplies at George Frazer's Store, a little over a mile away, until a store was opened at Hofa Park in 1883.

First Settlers at Hofa Park, 1877

All the villages and greater or smaller parts of the townships mentioned above constitute most of the territory of St. Stanislaus Church at Hofa Park today. Into this booming saw mill and early farming territory came the first Polish settlers of the town of Maple Grove and the village of Hofa Park in the year 1877. They came as a group of four families. These were the Valentine Peplinski, Valentine Zygmanski, Michael and Frank Lepak families.

Having traded their homes and possessions in Milwaukee to John J. Hof for eighty to one hundred acres of cutover farm land and forest at Maple Grove, the men of the above families came first to Hofa Park in August of 1877 to build homes for their families. They constructed two frame buildings which one of the early settlers described as "rough shelters."

During the first week of September, 1877, the wives and children of these pioneers arrived at Green Bay on the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. They were met at the depot by their husbands, who hired a team of oxen and a wagon from Joseph Wanier, a farmer near Laney, to transport their families and few possessions from Green Bay to Laney.

Trip by Oxen and on Foot to Hofa Park

Mrs. Valentine Peplinski, who was with child, and the other women rode in the wagon. The men and boys walked for about four miles out of Green Bay. They were then kindly offered a ride by a logger whose team of horses had just hauled a load of logs to Green Bay and was returning to Laney for more of the same. Thus transported by oxen and horses, the four families rode as far as Laney on the Old Military Road.

From there on, they all walked to Angelica, arriving at this village late at night. Here they slept overnight on the hay in the barn behind the Angelica House. The final leg of the trip was completed on foot from Angelica to Frazer's Corners and then to their newly built homes, about a mile and one-half away. Here the Peplinski and Michael Lepak families occupied one home while the Zygmanski and Frank Lepak families lived in the other.

At the time, John Lepak, son of Michael, and John Peplinski were eleven and seven years old respectively. It is to them that the author is indebted for much of the information about their early years at Hofa Park.

John Lepak died in 1956 at the ripe age of 90, while John Peplinski just died in July of this, the diamond jubilee year of the Hofa Park Catholic parish, having himself reached the venerable age of 88 years. Both men, however, died at Pulaski. The Peplinski family had moved there from Hofa Park in 1887 and opened a general store. In time, John Peplinski developed a prosperous hardware business which is still in the hands of his family today.

Harry Peplinski, First Polish Child Born in Maple Grove

A few weeks after their arrival at Hofa Park the Polish settlers wel­comed a newcomer into this budding settlement. On September 28, 1877, Mrs. Valentine Peplinski gave birth to a son, who was the first Polish child born in the town of Maple Grove. He came into this world on the feast of St. Jerome and was therefore named after this saint. During his lifetime, however, he was better known as Harry Peplinski.

The four families lived in the two primitive homes until they cleared sufficient land. With common effort they built two more dwellings in time and then each family settled on its own property. The Valentine Peplinski farm was located on the land now owned by Frank Wozniak. Valentine Zygmanski occupied what is now the Emil Lepak farm. Julius Tyczkowski's land is the site today where Michael Lepak first settled, and the original Frank Lepak farm is now owned by Joseph Jarosinski.

Who can adequately describe the privation and primitive conditions in which these early settlers lived at Hofa Park? Hard work, very strenuous work, was their daily lot in clearing the land and in cultivating the first farm acreage to eke out a living at Hofa Park. When needing a bag of flour or other supplies, they would walk a mile and a half through the woods to Frazer's Corners and return to their homes carrying the supplies on their backs!

Money was a scarce item. Only by working in the sawmills and logging camps could the men earn some ready cash. In the beginning, the small farms of these pioneers produced only food sufficient for their families. After more land was cleared, farming would gradually support them as a means of earning a living.

With their small savings, the first settlers purchased oxen to help in clearing and tilling the soil. Horses were purchased later when these pioneers prospered a little more. The raising of a dairy herd also came gradually. Then the older children of the early settlers could be seen hurrying with pailfuls of freshly churned butter to sell it in trade at Knutsen's Store in Laney. Lack of refrigeration and speedier transportation always created the problem of the butter melting before it was delivered at Laney, particularly in the warmer weather.

More Settlers Arrive at Hofa Park

However humble and unpretentious, this was the beginning of Hof's Polish settlement at Hofa Park. In the spring of 1878, other Polish families arrived. They were the Valentine and Andrew Holewinski, Joseph Kasza, Anton Sobieszczyk, Joseph Holewinski, John and Michael Szniet, Frank Mucha and Simon Kielpinski families.

Within the next five years they were followed by such as the Joseph Baranczyk, Joseph Ziarek, Alexander Sawicki, Joseph Kosmicki, Theophil Krygier, Joseph Bruszkiewicz, Lawrence Naidul, Jacob Jaskolski, Jacob Kozlowski, Albert Gorecki, Jacob Radecki, John Miller, Joseph Swiecichowski, John Wawrzon and other Polish families, all too numerous to be completely listed here.

Most of these early settlers were born in the northwestern region of Poland, in the Cassubian, Pomeranian and Posen territories. Many of them thus spoke German in addition to Polish. Coming to the United States, they first settled for a few years in such Polish centers as Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Chicago, Illinois, as well as in the various cities of Pennsylvania and New York. Hof's advertisements in the Polish newspapers of the country drew them to Hofa Park. Once here, they corresponded with their relatives and friends and thus attracted more of their countrymen to this area.

Hof's Temporary Office at Hofa Park

The first settlers lived about two and one-half miles from the heart of the present village of Hofa Park. Believed to be the first building in the village was the temporary land office of John J. Hof. Standing south of today's church and beyond the present Stanley Swiecichowski Store, it was a simple frame building constructed of rude boards.

Sloping down the hillside and into the valley beyond were some eighty acres of the finest white pine, Whenever visitors at Hof's office admired the tall, sturdy pines, he smilingly remarked: "They are too fine to be sold. They will be used for the new church at Hofa Park!"

Polish Influence in Name of Hofa Park

In both editions (1905 and 1937) of his History of Poles in America, Father Venceslaus Kruszka claims that the Hofa Park territory was first named Bislawek, after the town near Posen, Poland, from which the first settlers of Hofa Park originated. However, none of the children of the early pioneers (especially John Lepak and John Peplinski) remembered that this village and area was called anything but Hofa Park from the very beginning. Neither do any of the early sources on the history of Hofa Park mention Bislawek as being the first name of this village. Thus, Father Kruszka stands alone in his claim.

The earliest church and secular records refer to this area as Maple Grove or Hofa Park interchangeably. The central portion of the village stands prominently elevated above the land surrounding it. In the late 1870's and early 1880's, it was still generously wooded. Here Hof used to arrange family picnics on Sundays to acquaint the growing number of settlers with each other. He often furnished the food and beverages at his own cost. Thus, because this section had an appearance of a park, Hof and the settlers referred to it as Hof's Park. This descriptive term was then used in regard to the village and the surrounding area.

Pulaski, Krakow, Kosciuszko and Sobieski are completely Polish names. Hofa Park is not. It is composed of non-Polish words, but it bears the influence of the Polish language. In English, the name of this village should have read Hof or Hof's Park. In fact, in the early years, this form spelled with a single or double f appeared in the English newspapers whenever any news were reported on Hof's first settlement. But the Poles speaking among themselves would use the term Hofa Park, "Hofa" being the Polish equivalent of "Hof's," or the Polish possessive case of Hof formed by adding a to the English word.

Thus, by constant reference to this area as Hofa Park by the Poles, this polonized form of the settlement won over the term Hof's Park. Hof immediately accepted it and printed "Hofa Park" on his maps, circulars, stationery and other advertising literature. Thus it also appears on maps and road signs today.

First Store, Church, School and Saw Mill at Hofa Park

For the first six years (1877-1883), as their settlement was growing and as they developed their own lands, the Poles bought necessary supplies at Frazer's Corners, Laney, Angelica and Seymour. During the winter months the men worked in the saw mills of these villages and in other places for the wage of 50 cents a day! At that time, this was considered good pay. They also hauled logs to Seymour and Green Bay, which cities served as a market for their other products, too.

In 1883, the village of Hofa Park saw the beginning of its own business enterprises. In that year, Matthew and Joseph Kosmicki built the first general store in the village. It also served as the first post office. The building stood approximately on the site of today's Stanley Swiecichowski Store and Tavern.

With the aid of Hof's generosity and the equally generous labor of the first settlers, the first log church or chapel was built in 1883, a short dis­tance from the above store. The first church was dedicated to St. Adalbert and was located about forty feet north of the present rectory.

The claim is made that the first school was erected at Hofa Park in 1885, but it is also known that the log chapel was used as a school on week days from the year 1883. This was not a parochial but a district public school, although catechetical instructions were given in its confines, too.

Miss Catherine Dillett was one of the first, if not actually the first, teachers. Her father was then Justice of the Peace of Maple Grove, lived at Rose Lawn, and later became a judge in Shawano.

Thorace Thompson, one of Hof's assistant lands agents, built a saw mill at Hofa Park in 1885 and manufactured a superior quality of lumber, shingles and laths. Tradition has it that he also learned to speak the Polish language to quite a degree because of his daily contact with the Poles. His saw mill was later owned and operated by Vincent Krygier, then by August Lepak during whose ownership it burned down.

Poles Aid in Maple Grove Roadbuilding

Soon after their arrival in the town of Maple Grove, the Polish settlers were active in that township's road building projects. Minutes of its town meetings indicate that by April, 1881, Valentine Holewinski was elected overseer of "highways" for District No. 2. Money was raised to improve the east end of the "Poland Road' the "Peplinski Road," the ''Holewinski Road," the "Tyczkowski Road" and others.

Jobs were let to "the Polanders" to cut and clear 140 rods long and 3 rods wide and to clear 16 feet in center of road and put in 32 rods of corduroy (logs) for specified amounts of money repeatedly. Between 1881 and 1885, some of the Poles receiving these jobs were Valentine Peplinski, Frank and Michael Lepak, Valentine Zygmanski, Valentine and Andrew Holewinski, Michael Smith, Joseph Kasza, Frank Mucha and Joseph Tyczkowski.

John J. Hof Also Financed Construction of Roads

On December 16, 1884, the town boards of Maple Grove and Angelica met at the Angelica Store "pursuant to notice for the purpose of laying out a highway on the town line between these two townships." John J. Hof was present at these and other meetings. He himself contributed to the building of numerous roads in Hofa Park and his other settlements. In 1899, the Green Bay Gazette (Feb. 3) credited Hof with the construction of about 100 miles of roads in the neighborhood of Hofa Park, Pulaski and Sobieski as his share of the "good roads movement."

On April 25, 1885, the town board of Maple Grove resolved to build a road west of Hofa Park (beginning practically at the doorstep of today's St. Stanislaus rectory) to the town line of Lessor and Maple Grove. The Polish settlers aided in these and many other road building projects.

First Poles, Holders of Town Offices

During the April, 1884, town elections, Valentine Peplinski was a candidate for the Justice of the Peace of

Maple Grove. He was defeated however by Martin Keating. The year 1885, on the other hand, was a banner year for the Poles. On April 7, 1885, Joseph Tyczkowski was elected to the office of the Justice of the Peace in Maple Grove for a term of two years. He was overseer of roads in District No. 2 in the same period, while Lawrence Naidul was elected overseer of roads in District No. 7 in the same year.

In 1885, too, Theophil Krygier became a supervisor on the town board and was appointed to the Board of Health of Maple Grove township. Finally, on April 25, 1885, Walter S. Gratski was elected town clerk of Maple Grove. Not all the names of Poles who served on the town or county boards or held town offices can be listed here, but from the year 1885 till this day the Poles of Hofa Park have always been generously represented.

Tragic Forest and Prairie Fire of 1886

Just when the Hofa Park settlers were beginning to reap a modest harvest of success in their settlement, a tragedy occurred which caused untold losses and suffering and nearly started a frantic wave of migration back to the cities. Reminiscent of the Great Forest Fire of Peshtigo in 1871 was the conflagration which swept through the forests and prairies of northeastern Wisconsin from Kewaunee County west and northwest through Brown, Shawano and Oconto Counties as far north as Coleman.

Reports on the damage done in Hofa Park, Laney, Angelica and Pulaski were made to the Green Bay State Gazette (August 21, 1886) by John J. Hof and Thorace Thompson. According to these reports, a large forest fire started on Monday, Aug. 16, on the south side of section 20, town of Maple Grove. The wind blew fiercely from the southwest and the fire crossed into Laney and then attacked John Russell's saw mill, formerly known as Olsen and Peters, on section 36, Angelica township. The mill burned together with about 100,000 feet of timber. A boarding house, store, barn full of hay, four dwellings and a blacksmith shop succumbed to the fire at Angelica. It made a clean sweep across the towns and villages of Shawano County taking houses, barns, grain, fences, cattle, horses, everything in its path. Because of a dry season, this area was on fire all summer, but no great damage was done till now. At the height of the fire, the settlers slept at night in the doorways of their home so they might be able to leave at a moment's notice.

Poles Suffer Heavy Losses

At Pulaski, then composed of parts of Maple Grove, Pittsfield, Chase and Angelica townships, the farmers lost all they possessed. They were mostly Poles, new settlers (this settlement began in 1883), and were in "small circumstances," as the Green Bay newspaper describes their financial position. They had no funds toward rebuilding their homes and farm buildings. With winter approaching, all the clothing they possessed was on their backs. Those who were fortunate to save their herds had to sell them because without feed they could not keep them through the winter.

Hof surveyed the damage and reported that most of the burned out houses of settlers were located about two miles west and two to three miles northwest of Laney. He persuaded all the settlers to stay and rebuild. However, none of them, with the exception of John Boncel, had insurance.

Twenty-six, predominantly Polish families in the towns of Maple Grove and Angelica, lost buildings, bedding, clothing, money, tools, oxen, mules, horses, cattle and crops. Among these were the following Poles of Hofa Park, Angelica and Pulaski: John Behmka, Frank Podulski, Michael Sentowski, Michael Stec, Felix Kielpinski, Anton Sobieszczyk, Joseph Jarek, Albert Gorecki, Lawrence Naidul, Joseph Baranczyk, Michael Bresinski, Frank Boruski, Alex Sawicki, John Degor, Joseph Klemens, Mrs. Dudek, Louis Krog, John Swensen, Martin Jankowski, Louis Peterson, two unnamed Danish families, Valentine Zywicki, I. Knapowski, M. Wusniak and John Boncel.

At Pulaski, John Boncel, one of its first settlers, lost a large saw mill, boarding house, residence, barn with contents, many smaller buildings, and a large supply of lumber and shingles. At the time, the Pulaski settlers also had 50,000 feet of lumber at the mill with which to build their first Catholic church. All this lumber burned and was not insured. It must be remembered that from 1883 to this time the Pulaski Catholics were members of the Hofa Park parish.

Hof's Relief Activity Aids Polish Settlers

At the time of the fire, Hof sent word to Hofa Park to let no settler leave for want of food and clothing. He gave orders to the Kosmicki Bros. Store at Hofa Park to furnish supplies to the amount of $2,000 and to charge it to his account.

Next, he went to Green Bay to see what could be done to relieve the present necessities of his burned-out settlers. He spoke to the relief committee in that city but received very little help because the losses were great in Brown County itself.

From Green Bay Hof went to seek help among his friends in Milwaukee. During the first week of September, 1886, he arrived at Seymour with a few carloads of supplies from Milwaukee for the sufferers of the fire at Hofa Park. Included were plows, drags, hoes, spades, clothing, bedding and cooking utensils, furniture and stoves, all mostly new. Donations were also made to Hofa Park people from Shawano and Appleton.

Bishop Katzer Initiates Program of Relief

Bishop Katzer of Green Bay also organized a relief committee for the fire victims of the diocese. Included on the committee for the townships of Maple Grove and Angelica were Walter Gratski and John J. Hof. Money collected for the benefit of the stricken people was to be handed directly to Bishop Katzer or his attorneys.

Despite the relief given, many farmers of Maple Grove and Shawano County were absolutely destitute of necessities for winter comfort. Walter Gratski, town clerk of Maple Grove, visited Green Bay as late as December 4, 1886, still seeking aid for the victims of the past summer's forest fire. He reported that temporary structures which served during the warm weather were insufficient for winter protection. Again he emphasized that the most destitute were the Polish settlers who spent all their money in purchasing land from John J. Hof. But no aid was offered Gratski at Green Bay. He was assured that help would come as soon as the state legislature would meet. Since the call for aid came from outside the county, there was nothing that the Fort Howard or Green Bay relief committees could do under the old instructions.

City of Shawano Contributed Its Share

On the other hand, the city of Shawano had done all it could for the relief of suffering, but could not supply all the needs. The problem was: to whom should these settlers look for aid? Gradually, steps were taken to ascertain on whom the responsibility rested for relief to these unfortunate people. In the meantime, they suffered patiently.

The most heart-rending incident was that reported by the Green Bay Daily State Gazette on December 14, 1886. On the previous Sunday, December 12, a Polish woman from Hofa Park, whose name is not given, was in Green Bay soliciting aid because her home had burned as late as in November. Her appeal was certified by Father Maczynski, then pastor of the Hofa Park Church. She had walked twenty miles to Green Bay and went about the city in the rain seeking help. She had left a husband with an injured leg and three children at Hofa Park.

Notwithstanding their great losses and the prolonged suffering and need, these hardy Polish settlers survived the fire, particularly because of Hof's help and encouragement. Curiously enough, neither the log church nor the business establishments in the village of Hofa Park perished during the fire.

Places of Business at Hofa Park, 1890-1958

Around 1890, the number of business places in Hofa Park increased. In addition to Kosmicki's Stove, Theophil Krygier opened a general merchandise store in the early 1890's. It stood more or less on the spot where the home of Thomas Palubicki is located today. Towards the turn of the century, Krygier built the first cheese factory in Hofa Park. It was a frame building and stood on the same spot as the Roger Faken cheese factory stands now. In 1923 a brick building replaced it. Roger Faken purchased this factory from Joseph Lubinski, remodeled it and introduced additional improvements.

At the turn of the century, Vincent Krygier, son of Theophil, owned and supervised three different businesses: a saw mill, grist mill and saloon. Together with Andrew Holewinski he also covered the Hofa Park, Pulaski and Krakow areas with a steamer tractor and threshing machine harvesting grain for the Polish settlers. John Lepak, Jeffery Vandermoss and other Hofa Park and Angelica farmers also threshed grain for themselves and others.

Hofa Park Settlers Open Businesses in Other Polish Settlements

Recognizing enterprise among the Hofa Park settlers, Hof induced some of them to transfer to his other settlements to begin business places there. Thus, he encouraged the Valentine Peplinski family to transfer to Pulaski in 1887. Valentine and his son John opened a general store there and later John pioneered in a successful hardware trade which endures to this day.

In 1892, Frank Peplinski answered Hof's call to build and manage the first store, hotel and saloon in Sobieski. Finally, in 1897, Hof donated three lots to Theophil Krygier at Krakow if the Krygier family would begin a general store in the latest of Hof's colonizing efforts. Krygier's sons, Vincent and Stanley, were sent to Krakow to open the first store in the village.

Andrew Borlik had the first blacksmith shop in Hofa Park around the 1890's. John Hernet, who worked for Borlik, married his employer's daughter, moved to Krakow and later to Sobieski, serving as the first blacksmith in both villages.

In the early 1900's, Joseph Kurowski owned a general store just about on the site of the John Piotrowski Tavern of the present day.

In 1915, Vincent Matecki began a harness shop at Hofa Park. He was succeeded in this business by Edward Bluma. When Xavier Czajkowski purchased the property from Bluma, he converted it into a garage and tavern, which today is owned by Norbert Hendricks.

Mr. and Mrs. Frank Stefaniak purchased the Kosmicki Store from the two brothers in 1920. Next to the store, Stefaniak also built a grist mill which burned together with the St. Stanislaus frame church on June 15, 1934. In 1945, Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Swiecichowski purchased the Stefaniak Store and Tavern and operate it to this day.

Many of the old photos of the early buildings, church, stores and so forth were taken by cameras owned by the Spaulding King Store in Rose Lawn, the Angelica Store or by an enterprising photographer from Seymour. Later, in the first quarter of the twentieth century, Walter (Ed) Piotrowski and other Hofa Park people could afford the luxury of a camera and used it to capture festive and happy moments in the lives of the Hofa Park farmers.