News: Spencer History – Big Four Cooperative


Surnames: Prechel, Fisher, Anderson, Larson, Kobs, Klein, Karau, Pickett, Neuman, Boock, Portz, Tempas, Markee, Steinhauser, Smaby, Stolph, Sadota, Telschow, Witt, Matell, Schwocho, Copet

Source: Spencer Centennial Book (1874 – 1974)

The Big Four Cooperative Oil Company organized on June 19, 1930, for the purpose of handling gasoline, kerosene and oil products. The term, Big Four, referred to the four townships - Spencer and Brighton in Marathon County, and Sherman and Unity in Clark County. Elected to the first board of directors were Otto Prechel, President; John Fisher, Carl Anderson, Fred Larson, William Kobs, William Domer, Ed Klein, and Emil Karau, Manager.

In the beginning they bought their products from Skelly Oil Co.,. but later Otto Prechel. as president, entered into a contract with Midland Oil Cooperative, Inc. for the purchase of gasoline, oils, etc. In 1932 a new 16'xl8' service station was built and December 2, 1932, the selling of tires and tubes was added to the business.

The company enjoyed a steady growth and expansion, having bulk tanks at Curtiss, Chili, Auburndale, Marshfield, and Spencer, the home base. There were seven trucks in operation at this time. The Board of Directors was enlarged, with a representative being elected from the various bulk tank areas. Officers then were Otto Prechel, president; F. M. Pickett, vice president; E. P. Karau, secretary; and Ed Klein, treasurer.

In 1932 and 1933 annual picnics were held at the Spencer Amusement Park which were well attended and very successful, with a good speaker being provided for each occasion.

The Farmer's Cooperative Shipping Association was organized in 1932 with H. W. Neuman as its first president and Emil Karau as manager.

On November 2, 1939, a Cooperative Burial Association was formed but remained in operation only a short time. Their Funeral Home was located in the old Trinity Lutheran Church building.

A Big Four Credit Union was also organized, its purpose being to provide small loans to its members at a reasonable rate of interest. The first board of directors were Otto Prechel, president; Arthur Boock, Herman Portz, John Tempas, Frank Markee, Ed Becker, and Father Steinhauser of Auburndale. It remained in operation for quite some time.

In October 1945 The Big Four merged with the Farmers’ Cooperative Company. Managers following Emil Karau were Arthur Smaby, Earl A. Stolph, Tom Sadota, Walter Telschow, Jack Witt, Francis Mattel Schwocho, and Loren Copet.



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