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Plain, Sauk County, Wisconsin - Part 1

This research began in June 2004 is an attempt to find out how Plain, Wisconsin, was named, and if there was any truth to a rumor or saga that Plain was named after "Maria Plain" basilica in Austria. There are 5 parts (6 web pages). At the end of each part is a link that, when clicked, will take you to the next part.

History of Plain

The village of Plain is located on Wisconsin Highway 23 in the Town of Franklin. The area of Plain was originally known as Cramer's Corners because Solomon, John, and Adam Cramer owned the land after moving there from Richland County, Ohio (previously from Pennsylvania). The Cramers are listed as land owners in an 1857 Town of Franklin map. (This Cramer family should not be confused with the Kraemer [Krämer] family from Irlach, Bavaria, Germany, who settled in Plain, Wisconsin, in 1867.) Several rough buildings were erected and the area acquired the nickname of Logtown. A post office was established at Plain in 1860, and Plain formally became a village in 1912.

The origin of the village's name is widely rumored to have been selected as an homage to the Shrine of the Virgin Mary at Maria Plain, in Salzburg, Austria. There are, however, no known official documents nor any newspaper articles or books of that time to support this claim, and writings of the time indicate a less colorful origin:

In the book, "Baraboo and Other Place Names in Sauk County, Wisconsin" (written in 1912, the same year that Plain was incorporated), it says of Plain that it was "called Plain because the inhabitants were plain people."

In a September 23, 1915 letter in the local newspaper, the Weekly Home News, a subscriber wrote of his desire to have Plain re-christened, as the town had expanded and improved so much over the past three years that it had outgrown the "plain"ness of its name.

In the letter, the author writes: "Within a few weeks very strong efforts will be made at proper headquarters to have the name of Plain changed, as that name does not agree with the rushing strides our burg is making. First of all there is no meaning to the word Plain, as it is an adjective; we must have at least a noun and why not put a "ville" or "city" to it."

Source: Wikipedia

Note: Someone edited the above Wikipedia page on March 31, 2010 and changed the last name "Cramer" to "Kraemer" in reference to Cramer's Corners. Plain was not called "Kraemer's Corners" with a "K". The Wiki page was since corrected. See page 5 of Hildegarde Thering's book, "A History of Plain" written in 1982. Kenneth Kraemer wrote a book about the Cramer family in 2018 titled, "The Other Cramers

Please see "Plain vs Maria Plain Discussion" for thoughts about the naming of Plain.


Following is a collection of newspaper articles, excerpts from books, magazines, brochures, and websites regarding the naming of Plain, Wisconsin. A 1931 source (story by a school girl) is the first printed statement that I found that suggests Plain may have originated from "St. Mary's of the Plain" a pilgrimage place in Bavaria. To date, I have found no official documents to prove this. From the time when Plain was settled (ca 1849) until 1931, no other printed document refers to Maria Plain. Was it from the 1931 story when the rumor began that Plain was named after Maria Plain? Some rumors say Maria Plain was in Bavaria, some say it was in Austria. Perhaps the tale began to spread even more with the Maria Plain pamphlet, published about 1951.


1840
Nearby Wilson Creek is named for John Wilson

"John Wilson (often incorrectly mentioned as Thomas) was the first settler in the Town of Troy. He was born in Scotland, educated in Edinburgh, his native city. . . " Wilson emigrated to Canada, then moved to Buffalo, New York where he married. In the late 1830s, he went to Wisconsin (not yet a state) and was put in charge of a crew to dig canals at Portage. In 1840, Wilson bought land on the creek known today as Wilson Creek in Spring Green Township, Sauk County, Wisconsin. His double-log house served as his home and a place for travelers to stay. He was a popular and widely-known person in Sauk County. He died on December 1, 1866 on his homestead in Wilson Creek. Source: Harry Ellsworth Cole, A Standard History of Sauk County, Wisconsin (1918 - The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York), page 562, How Wilson Creek was named.

Edinburgh in Scotland, United Kingdom, is only one hour east of the village of "Plains" in North Lanarkshire, Scotland. Perhaps John Wilson had relatives in Plains, Scotland or visited there one time. Could he later have suggested the name Plain to the early settlers of what is now known as the Village of Plain in Franklin Township, Sauk County, Wisconsin, just 6-8 miles north of Wilson Creek? 


1849
Sauk County Map

This 1849 map of Sauk County, Wisconsin, from a book published in 1918 shows that the village was called Plain and was located in Franklin Township. Could the map have been drawn in 1918 or is it an original map from 1849?

Click to enlarge:

Source, Map from: Cole, Harry Ellsworth, 1861-1928, Editor. A standard history of Sauk County, Wisconsin: Volume I. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1918 2 v. 27 cm. Digital Library


1849
First Settlers in Franklin Township, Sauk County, Wisconsin
(Note that these early settlers were not Germans or Austrians)

Dewitt Slauter came to Franklin Township in the fall of 1849 and settled in the area known as Sugar Grove. He was buried in the Plain Protestant Cemetery.

Thomas J. Morgans, a native of Wales, was the second settler. He married Martha Ann Slauter in Prairie du Sac in 1848. 

Other settlers following the Slauters and Morgans were: Thomas Wells; Robert A. Davidson; John Smith; Andrew Cooper; Jeremiah, John and Adam Cramer; William Henneman; Jeremiah Whiteis and sons; Harvey J. and George M.; Levi Butts,

Source: 
Cemetery Inscriptions of Sauk County, Wisconsin,Volume 6, Bear Creek, Franklin and Spring Green Townships. Compiled by Myrtle E. Cushing and other members of Wisconsin State Old Cemetery Society, 1985. Page 35


1856

"Time Line . . . 1856 Railroad Service to Spring Green, Plain founded"

Question: Does that statement mean the railroad service was founded in 1856, or Plain was found in 1856? The book had no sources. 

The source is dated 1998: page 53 of "Honey Creek Hamlets: Denzer, Leland, Black Hawk, Witwen. 1848-1998. Celebrating Wisconsin's Sesquicentennial" 1998. Preface by Stanley A. Sprecher and Doris Litscher Gasser. A collection of stories, poems, illustrations, maps and pictures. Five PDFs available at Gasser's website.

1857
Town of Franklin - Map

Source: Enlarged map from State Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin. 

What was known as Highway B appears on the 1857 map and can be seen running horizontally through Section 10 to the west, then turning southwest in Section 12. Since Plain was not yet named as such according to this map, the name "Plain" did not yet appear on this 1857 map. Earlier Catholic church book records list St. Luke's church as being in Franklin Township (not Plain). When was this map drawn? Was red ink available at that time? The handwriting on the map doesn't quite look like old handwriting from the 1850s. Could this be a drawing made much later? I'm not sure this map could be called an original source.

September 21, 1857
First Mass held in what is now known as Plain - 4 years before construction of the first church

Rev. Maximilian Gaertner was a missionary priest born in 1801 at Heiterwang, Reutte, Austria. Heiterwang is a village surrounded by very tall mountains. Sometime before 1819, Gaertner went to Augsburg, Germany. From 1819 to 1826, he studied at the monastery at Wilten, now a suburb of Innsbruck, in Austria. Innsbruck is also a mountainous area. 

It's not known if Gaertner ever went to Maria Plain basilica by Salzburg in Austria. The distance from Wilten to Basilika Maria Plain is 180 km which takes 2 hours 48 minutes by car on modern highways. Map: https://goo.gl/maps/Um7daeeoAxG2 
If Gaertner traveled from Wilten to Maria Plain basilica, he would need to walk over several mountains. Another possibility is that he traveled by boat on a river. 

In August 1846, Gaertner went to America to work as a missionary priest. At Le Havre, France, he boarded the vessel "Iowa" and arrived in New York in September 1846. He met up with Fr. Adalbert Inama and helped him pave the way through bramble and brush to set up a new Catholic parish at Roxbury in Sauk County, Wisconsin. Gaertner was a missionary priest in many other towns in Wisconsin as well. 

In 1851, he took a year off and went back to Austria (maybe to get money for missions). He sailed via Southampton, England, to New York and traveled with other missionaries. 

Back in Wisconsin, Gaertner and Rev. Adalbert Inama were on a missionary tour in the Sauk County area. In 1857, they worked to establish parishes in small villages. Gaertner presided over first Masses at various scenic and hilly places including at what is now known as the Village of Plain in the territory of Wisconsin. Before visiting Plain, he was celebrating first Masses at Germantown in Richland County and nearby Cazenovia in Sauk Co (both hilly places). There was opportunity for Rev. Gaertner to suggest to the pioneer residents of any of these villages to name their hilly towns after Maria Plain. He wrote a daily diary (ten diaries in all); the originals are stored in DePere, Wisconsin. Some pages have been transcribed (see parish books from St. Norbert in Roxbury and St. Joseph in East Bristol). Original images are available for browsing (free) online at St. Norbert College Digital Collection hosted by the Milwaukee County Library: click

Gaertner traveled with religious items to set up altars in homes. On September 20, 1857, he traveled (likely by horse and over rough trails) over the bluffs at Sugar Grove then stayed overnight in what he described as a "stinky" bed. The next morning, September 21, 1857, he built an altar at the log home of "Neuhaeuser" (current spelling is "Neuheisel"). Gaertner didn't specify if the stinky bed was in Sugar Grove or at the Neuheisels. At 9 am, Gaertner heard confessions from 8 people and performed some baptisms. There was a Mass at 11 am followed by a marriage of a Protestant from Switzerland and the Neuheisel's daughter. He collected $1 in donations for the church. At 3 pm, he went past Sugar Grove to an Irish area. The next day he built an altar at another home and heard confessions, baptized some people, and had catechism. The day after that, he heard 24 confessions and made other Sacraments. He went back to Bear Creek to stay there overnight because of weariness. 

Sugar Grove is 2 miles north and west of the Neuheisel home (south of Plain). The Neuheisel home was located south of what is known today as the Village of Plain and is very near the old Catholic cemetery. According to Gaertner's daily diary, the Sept. 21, 1857, visit at today's Plain appeared to be his one and only visit. Unfortunately, Rev. Gaertner did not identify the "town" Plain by name, nor did he mention "Maria Plain" in his diary. 

In 1858, Gaertner was recalled back to Wilten in Austria where he remained until his death in 1877. 

Georg Neuheisel was born in Bavaria, and his wife Theresa Emser was born in Jaegersburg in Saarland, Germany. They were married in 1836 in Hoechen, Stadt Bexbach, Saarland, Germany. Maria Plain basilica in Salzburg, Austria, was 590 kilometers from Saarland (near the border of France). It's not likely this family ever visited Salzburg. 

Sources:
1) Rev. Johann Stephan Maximilian Gärtner, Tagebüch (Diaries) [German] (N.p.: n.p., 1846–1858), diary #1-10. Original diaries in DePere, Wisconsin; also available online. Some parts have been translated to English.
2) Hildegarde Thering, A History of Plain, Wisconsin (Plain, Wisconsin: privately published, 1982)]
3) Personal research

Pater Adalbert Inama O. Praem

Adalbert Inama was born on December 26, 1798, at Kaltern an der Weinstraße, South Tyrol, Austria (now Caldaro Sulla Strade del Vino, Bolzano, Italy). Before 1828, he was educated at Bozen, Südtirol, Austria (now Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy). Around 1828, he joined the Premonstratensian order at Stift Wilten (Wilten Abbey) in Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria. His ordination was on May 4, 1828. After that he taught at the University of Innsbruck. In 1843, he emigrated from Austria to America. From 1843 to 1849, he wrote many letters about the Catholic missionary. Records available at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison. From 29 Jun 1843 to 14 Sep 1844, he was pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Utica, Oneida County, New York. In 1845, he was the first pastor of the first Catholic parish founded in Syracuse, Onandaga County, New York. 

In 1845, he moved to Wisconsin Territory (Wisconsin became a state on May 29, 1848) where he founded the congregation of St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Sauk City, Sauk County. A new church, "St Norbert House," was finished in Roxbury in March 1846 where Inama was a parish priest. In 1846, he and Rev. Maximilian Gaertner worked together as missionary priests to celebrate Masses and Sacraments for Catholics in Sauk County and Dane County. In mid 1847, Reverend Inama presided over the first Mass in a log cabin belonging to Joseph Derr in the parish of St. Joseph in East Bristol, Dane County, Wisconsin. In 1873, Inama retired as an active priest and celebrated his golden jubilee in July 1878. He died October 18, 1879, at Roxbury and was buried there in St. Norbert Catholic Cemetery. 

Did Rev. Inama suggest the name "Plain" for today's Village of Plain in Wisconsin? Did Inama ever visit the Maria Plain basilica near Salzburg? The distance from Inama's birth place in today's Italy to Maria Plain basilica near Salzburg, Austria, is about 300 kilometers. Inama would have to cross over very mountainous terrain by foot. The distance from the Wilten / Innsbruck area where Inama taught to Maria Plain basilica is about 180 kilometers, also over mountains. If not by foot, he may have traveled by boat on a river. 


March 31, 1858
Post Office named Plain

This is the earliest original source that I could find that refers to "Plain"

Number 20.
Memorial to Congress for a Mail Route from Prairie du Sac, in Sauk county, via Sauk City, Harrisburg, Plain, and Maqua, to Sextonvlle, in Richland county.
Prairie du Sac to Sextonville.
The memorial of the Legislature of the State of Wisconsin respectfully represents, That the interest to convenience of the counties of Sauk and Richland will be promoted by the establishment of a mail route from Prairie du Sac in Sauk county via Sauk City Harrisburg, Plain and Maqua to Sextonville in the county of Richland and by the location of Post Offices on said route as follows: One on section five town nine north of range four east and that said office be called Plain and that B. V. Bunnel be appointed Postmaster thereof also one on section No. two in township No. nine north of range No. two east and that said Post Office be called "Maqua" and that Alonzo Carpenter be appointed Postmaster thereof.
Your memorialists represent that the citizens who reside in the district of country through which most of the contemplated mail route will pass are at present entirely destitute of mail facilities and your memorialists believe that the proposed route if establised[sic] will afford facilities for Post Office communication to a large number of citizens who by their industry and enterprise are now settling and improving a valuable district of country. Approved March 31st 1858.

Source: General Laws Passed by the Legislature of Wisconsin in the year Eighteen Hundred and Fifty-Eight; together with Joint Resolutions and Memorials. Published by Authority. Madison: Calkins & Webb, Printers. 1858. (Google Books: Pages 231-232)


About Bela V. Bunnell, the first postmaster at Plain

Bunnell was not a German nor an Austrian emigrant. It's not likely he would have visited Maria Plain basilica in Austria.

The names of B. V. Bummell and Zara Bummell (with question marks on the spelling of their last name) were included in a listing of members of the association of the Plain Protestant cemetery (also known as Pleasant Hill Cemetery and Town of Franklin Cemetery). This association was organized at a meeting in April 1858. Names of the other association members were: William Anderson, John Born, B. V. Bummell (?), Zara Bummell (?), John Cooper, Mathias Crall, Adam Cramer, John Cramer, Solomon Cramer, R. W. Davis, R. A. Dundon (?), Wm. H. Henneman, Eli Jones, William Jones, Charles Lamb, Paul Luther, T. J. Morgans, George Neuheisel, Reason Renard, Bastian (Sebastian?) Reuschlein, Jost Fulker (Voelkel?). 

The 1860 US Federal Census shows that "B. V. Bunnele" was a farmer in Franklin Township, Sauk County, Wisconsin; Post Office Plain. He was 50 years old and was born in New Hampshire. He had a wife named Ruth, age 36, born in Vermont, and two sons, Gilbert and Zerah, both born in Vermont. 

In the 1875 Kansas State Census, B. V. Bunnell and his wife Ruth and son Gilbert lived in the Township of Oxford, Johnson County, Kansas. The census said the family came from Wisconsin prior to moving to Kansas. 

The 1880 US Federal Census shows the Bunnell family (Bela V, Ruth and Gilbert) lived in Oxford, Johnson County, Kansas. This census says that Bela's parents were both born in Connecticut. Ruth's parents were born in Vermont and Massachusetts. 

The name of Zerah Bunnell appeared in the 1895 census at Butler, Bloomington County, Kansas; and in the 1905 census at Cowley, Winfield County, Kansas. He enlisted in the military while in Wisconsin. His wife was Frances; children were Emma, Hattie and Leota Bunnell. 


Sources: 
Cemetery Inscriptions of Sauk County, Wisconsin,Volume 6. Bear Creek, Franklin and Spring Green Townships. Compiled by Myrtle E. Cushing and other members of Wisconsin State Old Cemetery Society, 1985. 

Census records online

March 31, 1858
Mail Route

No. 161 A, memorial to congress for a mail route from Prairie du Sac, in Sauk county, via Sauk City, Harrisburg, Plain and Maqua to Sextonville in Richland county.

Source: Journal of the Senate of Wisconsin. Annual Session, A. D. 1858. Madison, Wisconsin. Atwood & Rubleck, State Printers. 1858. (Google Books: Pages 959 and 963)


1858 to 1865
A new parish priest (1858-1862) and construction of the first Catholic church (1861-1865)

Nine months after the Plain post office was established and named "Plain," Rev. Francis Xaver Weinhardt arrived at what is now known as the Village of Plain to serve approximately 16 Catholic families who lived and farmed in the area.

Speculation that can be disputed: Did Rev. Francis X. Weinhardt suggest naming the village "Plain" in honor of "Maria Plain" basilica in Austria? The dispute is that the post office was already established as "Plain" on March 31, 1858, but Weinhardt didn't arrive in Plain until nine months later in December of 1858. 

Rev. Weinhardt was born in 1828 in Halle in Tirol, Innsbruck Land, Austria. He was the priest at Plain from December 27, 1858, to June 1, 1862, and is credited with inspiring his parishioners to build their very first church.

On May 23, 1861, it was decided to build a church. When Bishop John Henni from Milwaukee visited the parish on October 18, 1861, he said, "If you do not have a patron saint for your church, why not take the name of today’s feast day, St. Luke’s, in memory of the day that your Bishop was with you for the first time."

Below is the first St. Luke's Catholic Church located near what is now the address of 1680 St. Luke's Drive south of Plain, Wisconsin. Construction began in 1861; the church was dedicated in 1865. The photo below was taken after 1875. This church no longer exists as it was eventually replaced by a second church. The fifth and current church used by the parish was dedicated in 1940.



Sources:
1) Hildegarde Thering, A History of Plain, Wisconsin (Plain, Wisconsin: privately published, 1982), Page 153-154, Letter by Rev. F. X. Weinhardt to Rev. F. J. Simonik, dated July 5, 1885.
 
2) Phyllis Liegel Dearborn's booklet, Pastors Who Served St. Luke's Parish, 1857-2007 (2007), page 3.

3) Harry Hooper Heming, The Catholic Church in Wisconsin - A history of the Catholic Church in Wisconsin from the earliest time to the present day, (Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Catholic Historical Publishing Company, 1895-1898).

4) Bernadette D. Bittner, History of the Churches of Sauk County, Wisconsin, 1977.

5) Scanned postcard of St. Luke's church owned by Anthony Brickl of Arena, WI, in 2004. 


 1860
Plain post office was established
(See March 31, 1858 above. Why do people refer to 1860 as the date Plain's post office was established?) 

"Plain. Established July 30, 1860, with Bela V. Bunnell as postmaster."
In 1993, the post office was still in service, using ZIP Code 53577. Plain is located in Section 8, T9N, R4E in Franklin Township. Source: Wisconsin, its territorial and statehood post offices. Compiled by Frank Moertl; edited by James B. Hale, James Maher and Greg Schmidt.Author: Moertl, Frank. HE6376.A1 W62 1993.
Repository: Historical Society (Wisconsin Library & Archives), head librarian's desk

According to Jim Hansen (since 1974 the reference librarian and genealogical specialist at the Library of the Wisconsin Historical Society library in Madison, Wisconsin) the book sourced above was compiled in 1993 by the Wisconsin Postal History Society. The application for a post office went through the federal government.

"When Plain was first settled, it was known as Cramer's Corners. Later the inhabitants called it Logtown. On July 30, 1860, the post office was established at Plain. This was in Section 5, Town 9 North of Franklin Township, which is the section immediately to the north of the present village. Originally, mail arrived via Spring Green but later also arrived from Reedsburg by stage via White Mound. The first postmaster was Bela V. Brownell (?Bummell)." Source: Page 35, last paragraph

"With a station set up at Spring Green, a road was built over the hills from Plain to that village. The mail was picked up at Spring Green every Saturday by John Cramer, the mail handler, or by one of the neighborhood. At Plain, the post office was established on July 30, 1860, according to the records of the Federal Post Office Department." Source: The History of Plain Post Office by Carol Luedtke, Historian; Submitted by Doris [Kraemer] Bindl. 1992

1863 - Reference to the post office at Plain

1863 Wisconsin Blue Book, page 239:
Post Offices in Wisconsin.
Post Office: Plain
County: Sauk









(Click to enlarge)

Prior Wisconsin Blue Books did not list Plain:

1860 (page 31), Post offices in Sauk County:
Spring Green
Wilson's Creek

1862 (page 141), Post offices in Sauk County:
Spring Green
Wilson's Creek

The Wisconsin Blue books can be viewed online here.

1871 map - Plain, Sauk County, Wisconsin



1877 
Franklin Township
Sauk County, Wisconsin - Plat Map 
 
Look carefully in Section 5 (center square in the top row)
Red arrow points to "PLAIN PO"


 1877
A column by 'Pedagogue' which shows that Plain was known as Plain in 1877

From Plains.
Plain, Wis., Dec. 8, 1877

Source: The Inter-County Times (Spring Green, Wisconsin), December 11, 1877,  page 1, column 3


1878 Map of Franklin Township, Sauk County, Wisconsin

Click *here* to see the 1878 map, from the website, "For My Cousins." The map is from Illustrated Historical Atlas of Wisconsin. Compiled and published by Snyder, Van Vechten & Co., Milwaukee (Wisconsin) 1878.

The 1878 map shows two post office locations in Franklin Township: "Plain P. O." and "White Mound P.O."


1879
Logtown news
A column by 'Old Settler' referring to Plain as Logtown

From Logtown.

Among the first events of the new year was 'Rice & Barton's Novelty Combination' which visited this place January 5th. We are told they had a crowded house even though it was Sunday evening.

The little crowd that gathered for a dance at the 'cheese-house corners' had a pleasant time until about ten o'clock, when a certain young lady saw fit to array herself in her husband's wardrobe and step in, which cause a little excitement for a few moments and the dance was all over. It was either a 'put-up job' or a funny joke.

The streets of our town were crowded with teams yesterday, in consequences of a controversy about a wagon. A trial was had before Mr. Hutter, justice, who will render his decision to-day. Spring Green and Bear Creek were well represented.

'Some of these days' Alois Hutter will have a new store. He has most of the stone hauled for the cellar wall.

Jacob Ott, the wanderer, has returned. He will be with us a few weeks; he talks of settling down to business next spring in southern Kansas, and says he has been sewing wild oats long enough. We wish him good luck.

Old Settler.


Source: The Dollar Times (Spring Green, Sauk County, Wisconsin), January 14, 1879, page 3, column 3-4.


1879
Plain was known as Plain in 1879
(The same year it was known as Logtown)

Advertisement:
Alois Hutter
Offers his services to the public as an
AUCTIONEER.
Having had experience in the business and the advantage of a knowledge of both English and German, he expects to give entire satisfaction to his patrons.
Address, Plain, Wisconsin.



Source: The Dollar Times (Spring Green, Sauk County, Wisconsin), February 4, 1879, page 3, column 4.

1879 - Plain

Home Matters.
Lizzie Buss, of Plain, was the guest of Miss Elisa Zilg last week.



Source: The Dollar Times (Spring Green, Sauk County, Wisconsin), May 27, 1879, page 3, column 2.


Logtown Song 

An informational sign at the open house of the Old Franklin Township Historical Society museum (OFTHS) at the historic Franklin Town Hall building in Plain, Sauk County, Wisconsin, on July 25, 2004, showed a version of the Logtown Song as remembered by a former resident of the Plain area.

Log Town Song
Dear Log Town, dear Log Town
For thee do I crave, for the wonderful
Buildings and people so brave.
Often times while I sit in my large
Armchair, thoughts come to my mind
Of a city so fair.
You may talk of Chicago and New York
By the sea, but of all the great cities,
It's Log Town for me.

The Logtown Song was played many times at dances in Plain in the 1920s to 1930s. 

Logtown - a colloquial name for Plain 

Logtown was a colloquial name for the village of Plain used in the early days when most of the buildings were made of log. In early settlement days, it was known as Cramer's Corners, after John, one of the four Cramer brothers, who came from Richland County, Ohio in the early 1850's. He was the first postmaster. Early plat maps show that two of the brothers, John and Solomon, owned much of the land on what is now the north and south side of Main Street. A sawmill, run by steam, was established on Solomon's land in 1902, and may also have contributed to the name of Logtown. This sawmill was eventually bought by Joseph T. Ruhland in 1910 and continued until the late 1930's.


Plain was still referred to as "Log Town" in 1953. Source: personal diary.

 1880
History of Plain

Headquarters for the article is Plain Post Office, commonly called Logtown, where a thirsty individual can get ninety-two per cent of bitter water fuddled with eight per cent of alcohol, known as beer, on demand at almost any time. . . The schoolhouse of District No. 1 was built in 1851. The first teacher was T.J. Morgans. . . . There is also a post office at Plain, called Logtown, that has been established several (about ten) years. P. Stutz is now Postmaster here. . . The first store was opened at Logtown, formerly called Cramer's Corners, by Mr. Perry, in 1869. . . Organization and Town Officers. Franklin was a precinct of Honey Creek until April 3, 1855 . . .



Source: History of Sauk County (Chicago: Western Historical Co., 1880). Page 673-674



1882
Village of Plain was started

Hildegarde Thering's "A History of Plain, Wisconsin" published in 1982 stated, "It was generally agreed that the village of Plain was started by 1882. Perry's store, B. J. Wilcox blacksmith shop, the Stutz saloon, and three houses made up the inland village. In order that the village business could be handled more effectively,
Plain secured a village charter in 1912.

The Village of Plain website quoted Hildegarde's Thering book, "Writings taken from A History of Plain, Wisconsin by Hildegarde Thering. It was generally agreed that the Village of Plain was started by 1882."


1882
Plain is referred to as Logtown

Spring Green News.
P. W. Meehan, Editor and Publisher.
Spring Green, Thursday, Dec. 7, '82
Localisms.
We are informed by subscribers from White Mound, Logtown and other places, that our paper would be patronized very liberally by residents of those places if it were so they could get their paper the same week it is printed. . .



Source: Spring Green News (Spring Green, Sauk County, Wisconsin), December 7, 1882, page 3, column 3

1883
Plain was known as Plain in 1883

Plain.
The late warm weather has transformed the fields of winter grain into fields of green verdure and gladdens the hearts of the farmers. . .



Source: Spring Green News (Spring Green, Sauk County, Wisconsin), April 19, 1883, page 2, column 3

1884
Plain was called Logtown

Plain.
Why is it that our town is called Logtown, by so many when we have 10 fine frame buildings and but 1 log house. We move that our town hereafter be called Frame Town.



Source: Weekly Home News (Spring Green, Sauk County, Wisconsin), February 21, 1884, page 2

1888 - Plain

A Visit With Our Neighbors. 
On Saturday last, in company with Bro. Meehan, the News man made a hurried trip to Black Hawk, stopping over night at that busy little burg, and driving home Sunday morning by way of Plain, another thriving place of about the same size. They are both on the south branch of Honey Creek, and are located in a broad and fertile valley.
We heard no complaint of hard times while lat Black Hawk, and found our newly-made friends O. W. Hahn, who runs the large general store and is also postmaster at that place, H. A. Klipstine, Chris. Ragatz and Fred Flamme, blacksmiths, L. W. Querhammer, manufacturer of wagons and sleighs, J. A. Reidel, shoe-maker and notions, Chris. Bernbard, the miller, all busy accommodating and hospitable. While at this place we were shown through the cheese factory, by its courteous foreman, it being our first visit to a factory in which the celebrated brickstein cheese is made, and find that it differs materially from the other factories, requiring more room, machinery and work to make this article. There are several very active church organizations at this place, and a fine building of worship was noticed near the village. Taking an early leave of our hospitable host and hostess Mr. and Mrs. H. A. Klipstein, we started for home on Sunday morning by way of Plain, and between these two village got sight of the largest barn in this county, that of John Anderson, who also runs a cheese factory. 
Our visit to Plain was brief, it being Sunday, and business, to a great extent, was suspended. This place has its share of business houses, however, there being a large general store by D. W. Morgans, who, with his duties as postmaster, has his hands full at all times. J. B. Hutter is also a merchant at this place. He is an aged gentleman, and was formerly teacher in the Catholic school at that village. There are also three sample rooms here, run respectively by F. Knipschild, who also keeps the hotel, Jos. Beck and Jno. Dickerson. Plain also enjoys the distinction of having located just outside the village limits a fine large Catholic church building, while near by is an elegant parsonage, built this year, and a good school in charge of three sisters of the faith. We made many acquaintances here for a brief time spent, and found the people sociable and pleasant, and in both places an entire absence of the coldness sometimes observed in larger places. 
Our journey to Black Hawk over the Colbrook valley road led through probably as rich a portion of the county as there is, located in the north-eastern corner of this township.
After we climbed the hill on our way from Plain, and to our right, is the beautiful valley of the Little Bear Creek, and to the left, in the dim distance, we behold the Blue Mounds, the highest point in the state. 
Altogether, the trip was a very pleasant one, with new faces and scenery on every hand, and we only hope to become better acquainted, as the days roll on, with those we met, and with others, whom we were not, in the short space of time allowed to our absence from home, permitted to see. To all such, our latch string hangs out. Come and see us.

Source:Weekly Home News (Spring Green, Wisconsin), November 29, 1888, page 2, column 4


1890 - Plain

A Drive to Plain.
In company with Postmaster Davis, last Saturday, the writer visited that much talked of little village, Plain, and if there had ever been any doubt existing in our mind regarding the hospitality of her citizens it would have been dispelled by the pleasure of this trip. The P. M. was driver, and it was through his invitation to witness the driving over the stony hills of one who had had experience in the like, that we were tempted to leave the quietude of a country printing office for the pangs and aches that a man is heir to who rides with an experienced (?) driver over these bluffs. We are not complaining, and if our ribs ever get in proper place again, are willing to face the same danger again, for Evan assured us that he wasn't half driving that day, but could make much better time in cooler weather, as ordinairly [sic] it was his custom to turn the curves on two wheels. The writer is thankful, however, that he is still here, and will suggest that John Morgan, Sile Davis, or some other fellow who has no family to leave behind accompany him next time. 
The road to Plain leads one through a splendid farming country, with fields rich with golden grain, and broad pastures stocked with sleek-looking cattle, and from the tops of the bluffs over which the road passes, looking off on either side one beholds the same grand panorama. 
Our stay at Plain was necessarily short, and after putting up the team we were soon seated at a table groaning with good things prepared by Mrs. Knipschield, and presided over by their little daughter. Here we might have been until this time, but Evan intimated that he would like to reach home in time for church that evening, and we withdrew. That other postmaster, Dave Morgans, was next visited. He had just returned from a trip in the country, and entertained us until our departure homeward. But before returning to Spring Green, a circular trip of a few miles the other side of Plain was made, which led past the boyhood home and present farm of our companion. On every hand farmers were busy cutting, shocking or stacking oats, which in that vicinity is a big crop. In fact crops of all kinds looked well on the route taken, and with the rain that has come to them since our visit, will yield abundantly.

Source: Weekly Home News (Spring Green, Wisconsin), August 7, 1890, page 2, column 4


1891 - Plain / Log Town

Plain Paragraphs.
Plain (or better known as Log Town) is increasing in size. A. Schoenman recently erected a neat little stable for his pony, and P. Volk is building a log stable for his cow. Quite an improvement isnt' it?

Source: Weekly Home News (Spring Green, Wisconsin), November 12, 1891, page 3


1895
History of the Catholic church in Plain

At a meeting of the Catholic settlers held on May 23, 1861, it was decided to erect a small stone church, Mr. Voelker at that time also donating two acres of ground to the parish.... After this the congregation was visited by Father T. Beau of Keyesville, and later by Father Heller of the same place. St. Luke was next visited from Honey Creek, the resident priests from that place attending, until 1875, when Father Spitzlberger built a substantial stone parsonage at Plain. ...

Source: The Catholic Church in Wisconsin - A history of the Catholic Church in Wisconsin from the earliest time to the present day by Hary Hooper Heming, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Catholic Historical Publishing Company, 1895-1898. Page 845-846

1896 - Logtown

A Drive Around the Circle
Accepting the invitation of Mr. Anton Schlosser to accompany him on Saturday last, to the funeral of our much esteemed old friend, the late John U. Schoenmann, we rode over the highway leading to Plain for the first time since the good work was done on the piece of road near the "snake pond." The condition of this road shows what can be accomplished with very little money placed in proper hands.

One fails to notice any particular damage done by the recent rains until nearing Plain, when, in several instances, the effects of too much water are visible in the newly plowed fields by water-washed streaks, which, however, the thrifty farmers have lost no time in repairing, some by filling in the washed places, others by re-seeding their fields.

After the ceremonies at the cemetery we drove over to the little hamlet of cosy, newly-painted dwellings, which is still referred to in some instances as "Logtown," yet a stranger, who had heard naught of the early history of the village, and the many log houses there at its first settlement, would wonder why it was thus named. On the ruins of these, if they ever did exist, has sprung up a village of no small pretentions, containing fine church and school buildings, cheese factories, stores, shops, and other business places. Here our horses were put up and the inner man was abundantly and satisfactorily provided for at a tempting table prepared by Mrs. Welch, who, as hostess of the hotel at Plain, probably never fed two hungrier mortals. A few moments of waiting for our horses to refresh themselves was enjoyed with those whom we chanced to meet about town and by calling on the merchants. Mr. Weiss was in market purchasing goods for the summer trade, while his partner, Mr. Beck, had just recovered sufficiently from a fifteen week's illness to direct the work about the store, though he took time to very pleasantly entertain his callers. 

Mr. Cooper, Plain's other merchant, informed the Spring Green visitors that he was anxious to dispose of his entire stock, as he had decided to locate elsewhere.

The day was too pleasant for trade, and farmers were busy at home, so after meeting but few of Plain's citizens our faces were turned toward Spring Green, with the ribbons in the hands of Mr. Schlosser, who, it is needless to say, is an expert driver and horseman. Though in the morning a hurried trip was the intention, it was now decided that sooner than miss any of the beautiful scenery that lies along the fertile valleys and picturesque slopes of the route taken, we would deprive Spring Green of our company the remainder of the day, consequently the horses were held in check during the drive, and the occupants of the carriage feasted their eyes on all that is beautiful in nature, the day being a perfect one.

In the Honey Creek valley there appears to have been greater damage by flood than was elsewhere noticed, though we could not help but think that with the ill luck at...[illegible] the heavy rains, [illegible] much to be preferred, in the condition in which the soil was left by years of drought, to another such season. 

One cannot drive through Black Hawk without stopping at the store, and nobody ever has a desire to do so, for to miss even a short visit with its genial proprietor, Mr. Otto Hahn, would detract from a day otherwise happily spent. Mr. Hahn has been in the mercantile business at Black Hawk long enough to know what the people want, and judging from his well stocked store they want pretty nearly everything over that way. By the way, Mr. Schloesser spent five years' apprenticeship in this store, and the fish stories he told as we neared the Black Hawk mill pond were fully as able as any he has told after some of his fishing trips in Spring Green.

Black Hawk not only has such a mercantile establishment as above stated, but here, also, is found one of the best flouring mills in the country, a cheese factory, blacksmith and wagon shops, &c., and a little village of well-kept, neat, homelike dwellings.

The road home from here also lends a view of rich farming country well provided with good buildings, leading past Harrisburg, where we pass a church and school house which are a credit to the community, and along through valleys and over hills, which make it one of the pleasantest drives we know of. Though Spring Green was reached too late to extend the drive over the river for the purpose of attending the Hillside musical, as was intended, the perfect day had fitted us for the disappointment. 

Source: Weekly Home News (Spring Green, Sauk County, Wisconsin), April 30, 1896, page 2, column 4-5


Continues to Part 2

Back to the beginning


History of the Naming of Plain: 

  • Part 1 - Early History - 1800s
  • Part 2 - 1900 to 1968 (includes Ast)
  • Part 2aMaria Plain pamphlet (2 versions)
  • Part 3 - 1971 to 2000s 
  • Part 4 - Cramer family of Pennsylvania/Ohio - settled in Plain ca 1848
  • Part 5Plain vs Maria Plain Discussion 


Population in Franklin Township and Plain, Wisconsin, from 1885 to 1940

From US Federal and Wisconsin State Census records
Year: Population
1855: 591 total in Franklin Township. 310 males + 281 females (Plain not listed separately)
1860: 559 total in Franklin Township. 293 males + 266 females (Plain not listed separately)
1870: 765 total in Franklin Township. 393 males + 372 females (Plain not listed separately)
1880: 1010 total in Franklin Township (Plain not listed separately)
1885: 1,033 total in Franklin Township. 527 males + 506 females (Plain not listed separately)
1890: no census available
1895: 1,075 total in Franklin Township. 567 males + 508 females (Plain not listed separately)
1900: 1,114 total in Franklin Township (Plain not listed separately)
1905: 1,213 total in Franklin Township (Plain not listed separately)
1910: 1,219 total in Franklin Township (Plain not listed separately)
1920: 324 total in Plain; 1,002 total in Franklin Township
1930: 323 total in Plain; 1,136 total in Franklin Township
1940: 405 total in Plain; 1,016 total in Franklin Township

Plain's population from "The Wisconsin Gazetteer" 
Years: Population
1895-1896: 100 (page 852)
1903-1904: 150 (pages 976-977)
1911-1912: 175 (page 1028)
1913-1914, 175 (page 1028)
1915-1916, 250 (page 947)
1917-1918, 350 (page 944)
1919-1920, 250 (page 1014) = this population is 100 less than the previous number
1921-1922, 325 (page 1059)
1924-1925, 350 (page 1116)

Plain's population from "Sauk County Directory" by Harry T. Belnap
Years: Population
1898-1899: 90

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