Bio: Sheblak, Joseph (1864 - 1936)

Contact:  Stan


----Sources: THORP COURIER (Thorp, Clark County, Wis.) 03/12/1936

Sheblak, Joseph (19 MAR 1864 - 1 MAR 1936)

Joseph Sheblak was born at Prague, Austria, March 19, 1864. When he was but six weeks of age, the family emigrated to America, setting at Watertown, Wis. He finished St. Henry’s Parochial School, which at that time had only six grades, and attended Sacred Heart College, also at Watertown, for two additional years.

With Albert Butcher of Watertown he came to Edson (Chippewa Co.), Wis., and clerked in the general store which Mr. Butcher owned at that place. At that time groceries were trucked by ox team from Chippewa Falls, it requiring a day to make the trip each way. When the railroad went through Boyd Mr. butcher opened a new store at that place and Joe bought our the Edson store and continued there until he came to Thorp (Clark Co., Wis.) to work for Nye, Lusk & Hudson. At this place he worked for forty-four years till he entered the nursery business some years ago. Being one of the early settlers of this community he saw it grow from an early lumbering community to a rich farming district. He handled real estate and helped to settle many Polish people around the nearby country and also settled many disputes for them. The town at this time consisted of several stores, saloons and the old Forest Queen Hotel. Lumbermen would come in from nearby camps after loads of groceries and the store did a flourishing business. Most of the business at that time was done by use of coupon books and little cash was seen over the counters.

Indians were a common sight on the village street. When they came to town Joe would take them to his home and they would be given lunch, a tent which he had made himself would be set up on the lawn and they would sometimes camp there for several days. A picket fence enclosed the yard and children coming home from school would hang over the fence and watch the Indians. Bill Davis was the big chief of the tribe near here. There was no limit to the number of deer which could be killed and in the winter Joe shipped much venison for Indians to Chicago and during the fall shipped Ginseng.

Joe was the first one to have a bicycle here, it being one with a large high wheel in front and a small one in the rear, both tires being solid. He later had the first pneumatic curiosity in 1891. Although the roads were very poor and at some place little more than trails, he made a trip to Watertown and Milwaukee on his bicycle and returned the same way. He enjoyed testing his endurance and strength and once made a bet he could make 100 miles in a day, soon he packed up his lunch and although the roads were very poor, won the bet. An interesting note at this time was the fact that when a team approached the rider of a bicycle, he would get off and wait till the team passed so as not to frighten the horses.

Joe was always interested in community celebrations, especially those of Fourth of July in the old days when fireworks played such an important part. One years when a celebration seemed impossible because of lack of funds, Joe remembered seeing an ad in which the manufacturer offered $100 in cash to the one who sent in the most wrappers from soap. Joe immediately had his picture taken and for each one who gave him the required number of wrappers he gave his picture. This met with splendid success for he was the winter of the $100 cash prize and he donated $50 for fireworks and on the remainder the boys had a good time. He enjoyed looking back over old times and noting the development of the village.

Being a great lover of nature it was only natural that his yard should be a showplace of the village. He delighted in having visitors come and showing them around and explaining the various plants or trees to them.

He was always a great friends of the children and enjoyed making things for their amusement or pleasure. At Halloween time it was a common sight to see him cutting out grotesque faces in cardboard boxes and pasting colored paper over the cut section.

The art of taxidermy he acquired through books and practice. In the early years he had as many as 64 mountings in a single year.



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