All posts by gmader

David Mader 1798-1880

David Mader

On December 29, 1789, David was born in Frutzen Baden, Germany. At age 39, he married Mary Schalk in 1837, who was 17 years younger than he. There were 6 known children born to them in Germany.

The family immigrated to America arriving June 29, 1853, when David was 55 years of age. Of his children were Martin 13, Frank 11, Theodore 8, Carolyn 7, Kreseng 5, and Dominick 2 years old. Kreseng died at a young age. An inscription in German on David’s cemetery stone reads; “Kreseng, daughter of David and Mary who died 31 July 1863, 15 years 1 month.” (1)

They came directly through Chicago to Galena Illinois and then up the river on a rafting steamboat to La Crosse, a small community of about 600 nestled close to the Mississippi River. Settling in a one room, windowless log cabin on rented farmland south of Ebner’s Coulee in the town of Shelby.(2) (Just east of the catholic cemetery near Cliffwood Bluff.) In the area were only nine families. Since there was no Catholic Church, Mass was held in their home by Father Lucien Galtier from Praire du Chien when he visited the Catholics in Praire La Crosse.

The early pioneers planted wheat which had to be hauled by oxen to the Leon Mill near Sparta to be ground into flour. The trip took two days each way.

“…After working the land for two years, David bought forty acres in section 11, which he immediately began to improve. He bought 160acres adjoining and thus became the owner of 200 acres of rich land. He erected a large stone house, barns and other buildings and was quite wealthy at the time of his death….”(3)

David bought the forty acres from Wm. Hanscome of Sacramento California on Dec. 11, 1855 for $70. (David’s farm was located at the base of Irish Hill and the stone house is to the right just before ascending Irish Hill.)

David built the stone house on the original 40 acres ca. 1856-1860.(4) The walls were solid stone 2 1/2 to 3 feet thick. Ice formed on the inside of the stone in the wintertime. The stone part of the house had only three rooms on the first floor; a large, long living room on the north side and two bedrooms toward the south. The front of the house faced the West. It did not have a fireplace.

The Mader Family farmed and made brick. The brothers worked the land and the brickyard, which had one shed, for their father David, until he sold it to his son Theodore two years before his death.

On April 13, 1878, David and Mary sold Theodore 200 acres which included personal property, belongings, and the brickyard which was located on the property. Theodore was to pay David $600 in installments, Martin $500 within three years without interest, and Carolyn Boma $1,000.

David and Mary continued to live with Theodore and his wife in the stone house where David died March 1, 1880, aged 82 years, and two months.

He was laid to rest in the old section on the hill of the Catholic Cemetery in La Crosse. His grave is marked by a tall stone with the cross missing from the top.

Died, Mader–Died at his residence in State Road Coulee March 1, 1880. David Mader, aged 82 years and two months. The funeral will occur from St. Joseph’s church.

Deceased was one of the old residents of this county, and a man greatly respected by all who knew him. He will be long remembered by the community in which he lived as a good citizen and neighbor.

(1) Kreseng is the first of the Mader family buried in America.. The inscription was the only source found of her existence. We could not find David Mader in the 1860 Federal census.
(2) Old history books, Biographical History of La Crosse Co. (1892) and Memories of La Crosse Co. (1907) state they settled in Mormon Coulee. According to older family members this information is incorrect unless it was considered Mormon Coulee in 1853 and the location given is where the log cabin stood.
(3) Biographical History of La Crosse, Monroe, and Juneau Counties, WI (Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1892) p. 126
(4) The age of the stone house was determined by the following information:
The earliest stone house pictures taken ca. 1865 shows the older boys in their early twenties and Doninick as a young teenager.
The addition of the brick summer kitchen in ca. 1860-1865.
The stained stone on the north side.
The age of the tree behind the summer kitchen.

Prairie La Crosse in the 1850s


Entering Prairie La Crosse from the Mississippi River, a pioneer in August of 1854 described the area;

“Indian canoes bordered the shore and brown faces were more common than white. A high bank of white sand almost blotted the view of the village. Oxen was a common sight on the roads and village streets. The roads were terrible. The entire business section was bordered by Front, State, Third, and Pearl Streets. A few farms had been started on the prairie land.”(1)

The village was a bustling little settlement of log cabins and plain boarded houses built on the sand hills near the Mississippi River. The town had grown from five dwellings in April of 1851, to 79 buildings by April of 1853. Buildings were going up on every street. Steamboats landed daily with passengers and freight. Oxen pulled loaded wagons in every direction.

A recent census listed in the La Crosse Democrat April 24, 1853, gave the population as 548. The businesses being:

“…Four general stores; one drug, one hardware, one furniture, and one stoves and tine ware, three groceries, one bakery, one livery, one harness maker, four tailors, three shoemakers, one watch man, four blacksmiths, one wagon maker, one gunsmith, one wood turner, and one sawmill.”

The men were nearly all bearded. The well-to-do wore long black frock coats with high collars and stove pipe hats. The women wore their hair plainly smoothed, and their dresses that touched the ground were high necked and long sleeved. The blanketed Winnebago Indians swarmed about town in their native attire with paint and finery.

The Indians entered any home “without a rap.” They congregated on Third St. where they danced and whooped a great deal.(2) An account written in an early newspaper in 1855 said;

“The Indians did their regular war dance in La Crosse week before last. There were about 20 of them in the ring with half a dozen time beaters, and 30-40 outsiders, mostly squaws and papooses. The men were half-naked, greased and painted, feathered, ribboned, and armed with hatchets, bows, and guns. They danced and pow-wowed and kept up a hullabaloo around town during the day.”


(1) La Crosse Historical Society “La Crosse Co. Historical Sketches”, Series 4.
(2) History of La Crosse, WI 1841-1900, 1951.