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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The first town board of
Angelica consisted of R. W. Button, Chairman; W, H.
Upham and Talbert Pricket, Supervisors; and Robert
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Hof's Temporary Office at
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
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
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
Poles Aid in Maple Grove
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Hof's Relief Activity Aids
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.