Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Delta Diner

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

In 2010, less than two months after having spent 13 days on an exhausting late-April photography trip to North Carolina, Ruth and I decided to spend five long days photographing in Wisconsin and Minnesota. We were both working stressful Information Technology jobs at the time and all I can say now is, “What were we thinking?!” We worked hard, but we came home with photos of so many incredible places, including the Delta Diner, which is in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

We usually try to start photographing at first light but, having worked the day before, we didn’t leave home until late Friday morning. We took the highways about two hours northwest and then turned north, shunpiking and photographing our way along the backroads to Superior, Wisconsin. We ended that day photographing Wisconsin Point Light on Lake Superior. It was extremely windy and the lake water was brown due to previous storms.

We spent the next two days exploring on the backroads of several Minnesota counties in the northeast section of Minnesota, going as far north as Grand Marais, which is close to the Canadian border. We began heading south on Highway 61, late on the third day of our trip. Highway 61 runs along the Lake Superior shoreline. We ended that day having a picnic supper at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. The next morning, we were at Gooseberry Falls at dawn, in a fairly heavy rainfall. And I must express my gratitude to Ruth, who hiked with me to the falls and held the umbrella over my camera equipment while I photographed.

By the time we left Gooseberry Falls, the rain had let up and we explored a few sights along the rest of Highway 61. Then we returned to Wisconsin, crossing Douglas County and entering Bayfield County, traveling Hwy 13, which runs along beautiful Lake Superior. After taking a few photographs in the small town of Port Wing, we headed south through Iron River and on to the Northwoods town of Delta. There, “in the middle of nowhere,” on the site of the former historic Delta Store, sits the Delta Diner, a restored 1940 Silk City Diner.

The Delta Store, built in 1923 in the middle of the Chequamegon National Forest, was the center of activity for the town of Delta until it was destroyed by fire in 1972. During that time, you could do most of your business in one location – buy goods or mail a letter at the post office housed in the store, quench your thirst or satisfy your hunger at the bar or restaurant, or fill your car with gas from Standard Oil.

In the early 1990s, Todd and Nina Bucher left their corporate jobs in Chicago and moved to Iron River, Wisconsin, in the hopes of creating a better life for themselves. Todd had grown up, attended college, and worked in Wisconsin. After their move, Todd spent time fishing in the Delta area and often drove past the spot where the Delta Store used to stand. He was drawn to the old Standard Oil sign and small dilapidated stone building, both of which survived long after the store was gone.

In 2002, the Buchers purchased the property where the store once stood. Todd had been in love with old diners since a boyhood visit to an authentic railroad-car-style diner in Pennsylvania had sparked his interest. It had a stainless-steel exterior and an interior filled with colorful tiles and a long counter with stools.

Since that visit, he had sought out these classic diners whenever he traveled. After some quick but extensive research into their options, Todd and Nina decided to contract for the restoration of a 1940 Silk City Diner, which was delivered (with the last 10% of the restoration to be finished on-site) in October 2003. The Delta Diner officially opened less than three weeks later.

The Delta Diner was closed the day we visited. Little did we know, Nina was inside working in the kitchen. As I stood in the parking lot snapping a few photos, Nina came out of the diner and invited us in. She said that the diner was her husband’s business and that she had a small business herself, producing jars of “Jalepena Nina’s Spicy Pickled Garlic.” She graciously allowed me to take some photos of the inside of the diner.

In researching for this blog post, I now feel Nina was way too modest in saying that the diner was her husband’s business. One of the articles said that Todd provided construction and marketing skills and Nina took care of the books, the Diner Store (which was set up in the restored stone building), and some of the recipes for the diner meals. And in reviewing their website, I can see that they have worked hard over the years to expand their business.

Their Taste Budz Diner Store is now serving handcrafted Wisconsin ice cream from Purple Door Ice Cream and house-made waffle cones. They also sell coffee, drinks, and diner gear. And this summer, they opened a new seasonal Jamaican-style restaurant and bar next to the diner with a goal of serving the overflow of summer customers. It’s called the Chicken Shack and Tin Tap House. The restaurant serves jerk chicken and the tap house serves craft beer from Superior’s Earth Rider Brewery.

If you’re ever in the Northwoods near Delta, make sure to visit the wonderful and authentic Delta Diner “in the middle of nowhere.”

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!

Monday, September 9, 2019

The Kohlmann Cemetery Murder

By Phyllis Ringelstetter Buskager

(Note from Joann and Ruth: We are pleased to announce that our sister, Phyllis, will be joining us occasionally in telling the stories we love to share with you. We also plan to begin sharing some of our family history and photographs. We know you will enjoy reading her first blog post about a discovery she made recently in a local rural cemetery.)

Earlier this summer, Joann and I had a family photo session with our Aunts (our mother’s sisters). We’ve been meeting with them once or twice a year for the past few years to get their help in identifying the people and places in a large collection of family photos. A bonus is that the photos jog their memories about family stories and anecdotes! More recently, they have also been sharing a lot of family history information with us. The photo below shows our mother, Dorothy Barman (top left), with seven of her siblings, circa 1945.

Part of the family history that we recently received included information about farms in the Township of Springfield in Dane County, Wisconsin, where our grandparents grew up. On a drive that my husband Vern and I took to locate those farms after that photo review session, we came upon an interesting little cemetery. Vern knows that I’m always interested in the stories that are told in old cemeteries so he asked if I wanted to stop. And, of course, I did.

Right away we noticed the black granite Kohlmann Cemetery monument, indicating that the cemetery was established in 1848. As we walked through the small cemetery, we noticed a story on the back of the monument, which states that the cemetery actually has multiple names, including Methodist, Yankee, and Kohlmann Buckel Cemetery.

The back of the monument also indicates that the cemetery was created as the first cemetery in Springfield Township when a man named Charles Kohlmann was murdered near the spot he is buried. So, we walked around looking for his grave. Finding a black metal cross with his name on it, we noticed that it is somewhat unusual in that it actually says that he was murdered! His grave marker shows “Murd. 1848.”

When we got home that evening, I decided to see what information I could find about that murder, which occurred back in the mid-1800’s in this rural Wisconsin community. I located several different sources, including some newspaper articles and a document prepared by the township, which all told the same story. Charles and Wilhelmine Kohlmann and their four children came to America in 1847 from Prussia, Germany. After arriving in America, the Kohlmanns came to Springfield Township, bought some farmland from the US Government, and settled into a new log cabin on the land.

Soon after arriving in the area, Charles set out on foot for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a yoke of oxen and about $140 worth of gold coins. This was enough to buy a wagon and other necessities such as tools and household provisions. When Charles said goodbye to his family to leave for that lengthy on-foot trip, it proved to be the last time they saw him alive. And though his grave marker shows “Murd. 1848,” the articles and documents that I found indicate that he was actually murdered in October of 1847.

A local Madison newspaper article dated October 23, 1847 says that the oxen returned home without him on the afternoon of the day he left, which was Thursday, October 14. The article goes on to say that a search was initiated and it went on until the next Tuesday, when his body was found in some bushes about 100 feet off the road and less than two miles from his home. His throat had been cut and his money was gone.

The article concludes by saying that various circumstances cast suspicion upon a man named Jacob Gross, a Frenchman living in the area. Apparently, a search turned up the missing money in Jacob’s possession. The article writer also says he was informed that Gross had confessed. Jacob Gross was arrested and placed in the local jail, awaiting trial.

The second newspaper article that I located was from May, 1848. It summarized the results of the trial of The United States vs. Jacob Gross. It turns out that the jury, after a brief deliberation, acquitted Jacob Gross to the dismay of many who believed he was guilty of the dastardly deed. There is no information to indicate that anyone else was ever tried for the murder. Jacob Gross continued to live in the township and is actually buried in the Kohlmann cemetery several feet away from the grave of Charles Kohlmann.

When you’re out for a drive and come across an old country cemetery, stop and walk through it. You never know what stories may be told in those old cemeteries.

Happy Shunpiking!

Photos in this blog post can be purchased as wall art, paper prints, downloads, phone cases, and keepsakes by clicking on the photo. You will be taken to the gallery website where you will see a big blue "BUY" button. Or to see all photos available, click on the "Browse Galleries" button on the menu at the top of this page. Thank you for your interest!