Written by Selma Call in August 1985 as compiled by Clarence Call and Olga Indgjer
Strum, a thriving village located in the northern part of Trempealeau County in Wisconsin, has an interesting history. It began, not where the heart of the village is today, but north of what is now Woodland Drive. There the Kittelsons started a grocery store in what is today known as the Banes’ Apartments. Across the road was a two-story building, the lower part known as Finstad’s Blacksmith Shop, and overhead was a large hall used for public gatherings such as showers, wedding dances, and basket socials. A few rods east of the blacksmith shop was the Unity Creamery Company where butter was made, some of which was later shipped by rail to Chicago.
Some folks believe that Strum received its name from an early missionary named Strom. Other reliable sources mention that Strum was named by Congressman William T Price for his friend Louis Strum of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. At one time the village was called Tilden but was changed because of another village by the same name in Chippewa County.
Railroads were being built in our county during that period and one was built a short distance south of the initial buildings in Strum. That led to more shops and homes to be erected closer to the railroad line. In the early 1900s there were four passenger trains and two freight trains running through Strum daily.
In the early days Strum had three elevators that bought grain, hay, and straw that was shipped to Chicago. The elevators were owned by Fred Lyon, TM Olson, and John Olson. There was also a feed mill operated by John Clemenson. Strum had two stockyards that shipped livestock to Chicago by railroad. One of the yards was owned by John A Call and the other belonged to the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad Company.
As the early era was one of horse-drawn vehicles, Strum at one time had three blacksmith shops. Besides Finstad’s shop, the other two were operated by Even Peterson and Hellick Knudtson. They were kept busy shoeing horses, sharpening plowshares, and repairing wagons and machinery.
As Strum’s population grew, more stores were needed so Olaf Dahl and Joe Bergseth built a store where the Immanuel Lutheran Church is now located, and sold clothing and groceries. Their store was later destroyed by fire. Adjacent to the store was the telephone office owned by the Strum Telephone Company.
In the early 1900s Nels and Henry Robbe, two brothers from the Elk Mound region, came to Strum and built a general store which they operated jointly for some time. Henry later left the store and became the cashier for the first State Bank of Strum. His share was purchased by John Myhers, and the store became known as the Robbe and Myhers Store. When Myhers left, Nels’ son, Marshall, worked with his father in the store and later became the owner.
Strum’s first drug store was owned and operated by Bersing at the site of the present drug store. He later sold it to Grover Pace who in turn sold it to Charlie Gibbons. Other early pharmacists were Art Johnson, Otto Rognlien, and Claude Runkel.
In the early 1870s a Lutheran Church was build southeast of the village where the West Beef River Cemetery is now located. Many Norwegians began to settle around Strum, and most of them were of the Lutheran faith; but all could not agree on the church doctrines, so another Lutheran church was later built, and a cemetery was established nearby which is now known as the St. Paul’s Cemetery of Strum.
Many of the salesmen who came to Strum to take orders from the various business places sometimes had a hard time finding lodging in the vicinity of the present barber shop and restaurant. A livery stable was built east of the hotel. At first, Call and his wife operated the hotel and later it was taken over by Barney Hanson, Hezekiah P Williams, and Fred Breault. When Breault was in charge of the hotel, the Call’s living quarters caught fire in 1914 and the hotel was completely destroyed, together with a hardware store and harness shop which had been built by the Calls. Other buildings lost in the fire were one owned by TM Olson, consisting of a machinery warehouse, an office building, and a rooming house, and barber shop owned by John L Johnson.
People felt the need for an undertaking parlor, so Henry Strand had one built where the present Credit Union building now stands. Later that building was sold to Thor Borreson and the building where Tom Olson’s hardware store is today located became the new undertaking parlor. Henry Strand also operated a hardware store and later his son, Elvin, took over the business.
A grocery store, to replace the one that had been destroyed by fire was started by Olaf Dahl and Joe Mathieson in a building where the Red Owl Store now stands. It was operated jointly for some time but later Dahl sold his share to Mathieson, who operated it as a general store for a number of years.
Leland Hogue and his daughter, Delia, operated the dray in the village; and Delia was also the taxi driver between Strum and Eau Claire and other towns. She also helped her father in the barber shop. At that time a man could get a haircut and a shave for thirty-five cents.
Ladies did not feel properly dressed unless they wore hats, so Mrs. Kenyon opened a millinery shop on Strum’s main street. She seemed t know what each lady preferred and never sold two hats that were the identical.
Strum’s first bank was built by a man from Minnesota named Nelson. Another banker was Mel Skogstad who had charge of the bank when Clarence Call was a young lad. Clarence owned a pair of goats that he would hitch to a wagon with a spring seat on, similar to the farm wagons of the day. The goats chose to climb the steps leading to the bank and would spend the night there, much the displeasure of Skogstad who had to sweep the steps each morning. Before very long, the goats had to find new sleeping quarters.
Strum, like most villages of that day, had wooden sidewalks. The only light to illumine the streets at night was a gas lamp which was located on the corner of what is now Elm Street and Fifth Avenue. Henry Paulson, who operated the hotel at that time, was the lamplighter.
Almost every village had a meat market. The only refrigeration was ice that was cut in the coldest part of the winter and stored in sawdust in an icehouse. Some of the early operators of the meat market were Anton Peterson, Tony Mathieson, and Oscar Shermo.
A part of a building located across the road from where the lumber yard is today served as Strum’s Post Office. At that time everyone, including folks living in the country, had to go to the post office to pick up their mail. Two early postmasters were Ole Thomasgaard and Ole Nysven. In 1896 Congress passed the bill granting rural folks free delivery. Some of the early rural mail carriers were Austin Hogue, Ben Borreson, and Thor Borreson.
When automobiles began replacing horse-drawn vehicles, a garage was built by George Peterson and Joe Mathieson where the Ad-Delite is now published. Later Mathieson left the business and Peterson continued for a long time. At first they sold Dodges and Fords, but later it was known as Peterson’s Ford Garage.
Strum’s first schoolhouse was a two-room building located on the hill beyond the old brick schoolhouse on County Highway D north of the village. The brick building today serves as an apartment building. It was a happy day in the spring of 1913 when the students in the two-room school were asked to help in the moving into the new four-room brick schoolhouse. The brick building served as their school for about forty-five years.
Throughout its history Strum had been known as a “dry” town so there were no saloons in operation. The women belonging to the WCTU wanted to keep it thus, and had a building erected to hold their meetings in. It became known as the Temperance Hall. That building is now a part of the apartments on Elm Street. The large frame building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Hawthorn Street, once known as the Modern Woodmen hall, was built in the early 1900s and was used for many purposes such as school programs, graduation exercises, dances, basketball games, and movies.
What has been mentioned is the only a small part of the many interesting incidents that have taken place in Strum from its beginning to the present year of 1985. Today Strum could be classified as a city; and no mention has been made of its large modern supermarkets, attractive business places, consolidated schools, and beautiful homes.