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.