Louis W. Claude 1868 - 1951
Bella Case La Follette 1859 - 1931
William H. McFetridge 1926
Albert J. Ochsner 1852 - 1925
Al. Ringling 1852 - 1916
Lou Ringling 1851 - 1941
Alma Lux Waite 1883 - 1981
Louis Ward Claude
Born - 1868, Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin
Died - August 10, 1951, Baraboo, Wisconsin
Not many people can claim to have been born at Devil’s Lake just south of Baraboo, but Louis Ward Claude was one person who could. Born just a few years after the Civil War ended, he was named after his father Louis J. Claude who was an immigrant from England. After finding his way to Wisconsin in 1856, the elder Claude built a picturesque Gothic Revival style house named Eagle Crag on the north shore of the lake where he raised his two children with his wife Elvira. Louis W. Claude grew up in a house rich with aesthetic and architectural details. His father continued to dabble in architecture drawing the plans for the expansion of the largest hotel at Devil’s Lake.
After attending the public schools in Baraboo, Claude attended the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he studied architecture and building engineering. Claude attended some classes with his life-long friend Will McFetridge whose father owned the Island Woolen Mill in Baraboo. Claude also met Frank Lloyd Wright while attending the university and all three men, Claude, McFetridge and Wright, each eventually worked as apprentices in the prominent Chicago architectural firm of Adler & Sullivan.
In 1895 Claude set up a solo practice in Madison, Wisconsin but partnered with Edward Starck the following year. Starck was born in Milwaukee and was the same age as Claude. He apprenticed with prominent architects in Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago before partnering with Claude. The firm of Claude & Starck lasted for over 30 years and the firm designed hundreds of commercial, residential, industrial and public buildings in a variety of styles including Tudor, Gothic, Neo-Classical and Prairie School. The firm became known for the design of public library buildings with their first being the Baraboo Public Library which was built in 1903. Claude & Starck would go on to design more than 40 libraries across Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and elsewhere. Claude designed an office building in 1917 for his friend Will McFetridge who was now co-owner of the Island Woolen Mill with his brother. This building today is the Sauk County History Center.
After dissolving his partnership with Edward Starck in 1927, Claude spent more time at the old family home at Devil’s Lake. He was a strong supporter of his friend Will McFetridge’s campaign to preserve Devil’s Lake for a state park. He consulted with McFetridge over the years from the progression of ideas to the activities that lead to the State acquiring land and improving it for park purposes. Louis W. Claude, his mother Elvira and sister Louise, negotiated the donation of their land for the park with a life tenancy, or 60-year lease of the house, with access to it, and an acre of land. Louis Claude died on August 10, 1951. His sister Louise died just weeks later on September 24, 1951, and their property eventually became part of the Devil’s Lake State Park. Unfortunately, Eagle Crag, the Claude house, was torn down a few years later. The site was later partly developed to become the major access to the north shore of the lake. A memorial built on the location of the house in the 1950s resembled the fireplace mantle. It appears to have incorporated some of the original carved stones in the Gothic arch of its opening. A bronze plaque dedicated it as a memorial to Louis James and Louis Ward Claude.
Belle Case La Follette
Born - April 21, 1859, Town of Summit, Juneau County, Wisconsin
Died - August 18, 1931, Washington D.C.
At the time of her death in 1931, The New York Times called Belle La Follette "probably the least known yet most influential of all American women who have had to do with public affairs in this country." She is best remembered as the wife and helpmate of Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette—a prominent Progressive Republican politician both in Wisconsin and on the national scene—and as co-editor with her husband of La Follette's Weekly Magazine.
Belle Case was born on April 21, 1859 in the Town of Summit, Juneau County, Wisconsin. Her parents Anson and Mary Case were Unitarian of English and Scottish descent and they moved their family to rural Baraboo when Belle was around one year old. Belle attended school in Baraboo after which she enrolled in the University of Wisconsin–Madison from 1875 to 1879 where she excelled as a student, virtually never missing a class or arriving late. While still in college she met her future husband Robert “Bob” La Follette who was also attending the university. While Belle excelled in her studies, Bob became notorious for poor grades but also a clear, charismatic intelligence. Upon graduation, she taught high school in Spring Green and junior high school in Baraboo. Their companionship eventually led to an engagement and Belle and Bob were married on December 31, 1881.
Belle remained an activist throughout her life, but did note that "the supreme experience in life is motherhood," and enjoyed taking care of their children. Their first child, Flora Dodge La Follette, always called "Fola," was born on September 10, 1882. Belle would return to the University of Wisconsin Law School as a wife and mother and became the school's first female graduate in 1885. Her other children were Robert Jr., born in 1895, who succeeded his father as Senator; Philip, born in 1897, who became Governor of Wisconsin; and Mary, born in 1899.
While Belle never practiced law she did assist her husband Bob in numerous cases. In the 1890s, she wrote a brief that broke new legal ground and won a case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Bob would later call her his "wisest and best counselor." Belle also lectured on women's suffrage and other topics of the day. In 1909 she edited the "Home and Education" column in the magazine started by her husband, La Follette's Weekly Magazine, which later became The Progressive.
Belle also spoke publically against segregation and for women’s suffrage. When suffragists made appearances at more than 70 county fairs in 1912, Belle Case visited seven of them in 10 days. In 1915 she helped found the Woman's Peace Party, which later became the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. After World War I, she was active in the Women's Committee for World Disarmament, and helped found the National Council for the Prevention of War in 1921. She and other women influenced governments to convene the Naval Arms Limitation Conference in 1922.
After her husband's death on June 18, 1925, his seat in the United States Senate was offered to her, but she turned down the opportunity to become the first woman Senator. She died on August 18, 1931 in Washington D.C. and was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Madison.
Did you know?
That while teaching in Barabooo one of Belle’s students in was John Ringling, of whom she later wrote "... when John read a long account -- interrupted with giggles from the school -- of the side shows he and other boys had been giving every night, I lectured him and drew the moral that if John would put his mind on his lessons as he did on side shows, he might yet become a scholar. Fortunately the scolding had no effect."
William H. McFetridge
Born - April 7, 1869, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
Died - December 29, 1926
The name McFetridge is most closely and appropriately associated with the Island Woolen Mill that once operated in Baraboo, but William McFetridge was a man of far-reaching interests and sophistication that went well beyond the boundaries of the former woolen mill. Both he and his brother Edward were reluctant to enter the milling business their father James owned in partnership with Henry Rich. Both pursued higher education and aspired to other careers. William attended engineering classes at the University of Wisconsin at Madison along with his friend Louis W. Claude who went on to become an architect. When James McFetridge died in 1893, Edward left his job at the Baraboo National Bank and William, only 24 years old, came home from art school in Chicago to help manage the mill. Partial owner Henry Rich wanted to sell his share of the mill to the brothers, but they resisted for eight years, until in 1901 they made a final commitment to the operation. Edward became the president and day-to-day manager of the mill, while William oversaw the hydroelectric plant, construction projects and worked in sales. The reluctant participants would grow the Island Woolen Mill into the largest employer in the county and one of the largest woolen mills west of Phildelphia.
Inspired by the natural beauty in and near Baraboo, William became an early advocate of a state parks system in Wisconsin. Beginning in 1902, Will McFetridge actively promoted broadly his idea of preserving Devil’s Lake and its watershed for public enjoyment. The breath-taking beauty of the lake had been a favorite of tourists, especially after 1871 when the Chicago & North Western Railway line was built to Baraboo, along the east shore of the lake. Both McFetridge and Claude had observed the growth of commercial tourism at the lake over the years. They also witnessed deforestation in the development of farms surrounding the lake, the logging of old-growth pines, the destructive quarrying of the quartzite on the eastern bluff adjoining the lake, and became concerned about the prospect of additional roads, summer homes, and the like. Will McFetridge did much to promote the concept of creating a Devil’s Lake State Park. He hosted tours of Devil’s Lake and invited decision makers and influential people alike to visit and engage in discussions on the topic. He spoke with local, Madison-based, and statewide clubs and organizations, and orchestrated tours and trips to gain support for the effort.
Governor James O. Davidson appointed McFetridge to Wisconsin’s first State Park Board in 1907. Two years later the Board issued a report calling for the creation of parks in Door County, at Wyalusing, Wisconsin Dells and Devil’s Lake — three of which were created. Devil’s Lake officially became Wisconsin’s third state park in 1911 and McFetridge kept up an active correspondence about its continued improvement with state officials until shortly before his death.
McFetridge partially retired from business in 1917, in part because of ill health, but also because of his intense patriotism. When the United States entered World War I that year, McFetridge was convinced that Sauk was not sufficiently hawkish. He lobbied every political leader, from President Woodrow Wilson and Wisconsin’s Senators down to all the town chairmen, urging them to help get Sauk totally behind the war effort. He headed the county Defense Council, supervised recruitment of soldiers, boosted bond drives, and fervently backed the ultrapatriotic Loyalty Legion.
In 1918, illness forced McFetridge to make his home much of the time in southern California. He spent his last days there passing away in 1926, but was brought home to Baraboo to be buried in the country that inspired his vision.
Albert J. Ochsner
Born - April 3, 1852, Baraboo, Wisconsin
Died - July 25, 1925, Chicago, Illinois
Upon his 1925 death, an obituary published in the Journal of the American Medical Association called Dr. Albert J. Ochsner, “One of the most eminent surgeons in the United States.” Dr. Ochsner was one of the recognized leaders of the medical profession and could be compared favorably with such prominent surgeons as the Mayo Brothers or Dr. John B. Murphy. Ochsner had come a long way since the time of his birth in 1852.
A native of Wisconsin, Albert Ochsner worked as a school teacher to pay for his University of Wisconsin bachelor’s degree. He graduated M.D. in 1886 from the Rush Medical College, Chicago and subsequently studied in surgical clinics in Vienna, Berlin, and London. After he returned to the U.S. and started his medical practice in Chicago, he joined the staff of Augustana and St. Mary’s Hospitals in 1896. He became a professor of clinical surgery at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, a position he held until his death in 1925. His lectures were highly valued for their clearness of style and erudition and he was afforded many honors.
In 1912 Dr. Ochsner was a co-founder of the American College of Surgeons, (ACS) and believed that every ACS fellow had a responsibility to ensure that the profession continued to improve and grow. Dr. Ochsner was the college’s first treasurer in 1913 and the first chair of the credentials committee that evaluated the membership applications of thousands of surgeons who sought ACS Fellowship. In 1913 Dr. Ochsner was a highly vocal proponent of the entry of Daniel Hale Williams, MD, an African American surgeon from Chicago over the protest of some ACS members. Dr. Ochsner served as President of the ACS from 1923 to 1924 and in his presidential address he said, “It is the duty of every Fellow to encourage young surgeons in the acquisition of the necessary qualifications [for ACS Fellowship], because it is exceedingly important to this country to give proper development to the next generation of surgeons.” Ochsner also served as the president of the Clinical Congress of Surgeons of North America (1910-1912) and the American Surgical Association (1924).
Dr. Ochsner became known as an advocate for treating appendicitis with the “starvation method,” which helped reduce the number of surgical procedures that arose when guidelines for the diagnosis and pathology of appendicitis were created. In 1906 he published a widely known handbook on the disease, in addition to several books on the practice of surgery and a book about hospital management and construction. His most important medical article concerned peritonitis as a complication of appendicitis.
In 1918 when his parents’ estate in Baraboo was being contemplated for a park, Ochsner donated his portion of the estate and the city purchased the remaining interest from his four siblings.
The following year Ochsner Park was opened as Baraboo’s first public park.
Dr. Albert Ochsner died in 1925 and was buried with his parents at a free congregational cemetery near Denzer, Wisconsin.
Did you know? The zoo at Ochsner Park was started in 1926 by Baraboo Park Superintendent Clifford Campbell as a way to attract more people to the park.
Born - December 13, 1852, Chicago, Illinois
Died – January 1, 1916, Baraboo, Wisconsin
Although the Ringling Brothers Circus was owned and managed by a band of brothers, the empire was led by the oldest of the seven boys born to August and Salome Ringling. Born in December of 1852, Al. Ringling’s parents were both immigrants to America, his father coming from Germany and his mother, whose maiden name was Juliar, from the Alsace region of France. They were married in Milwaukee before moving to Chicago where their first child, Albert Karl August was born. Ten more children would follow, seven of whom would live to adulthood, six boys and one girl.
The family moved to Baraboo in 1855 when Al. was two and half years old and his father set up a harness shop here. As soon as Al. was old enough to help, August taught him the trade. It wasn’t too long however before August Ringling’s wanderlust led the family to move again in 1860, this time to McGregor, Iowa where Al. spent the rest of his childhood years. It was in McGregor that Al. and his brothers went to circus shows that traveled along the Mississippi River by boat, and the desire to work in the circus trade was born, especially in Al. Ringling.
By 1872 Al. Ringling was out on his own as a carriage trimmer doing things like leatherwork and upholstery to outfit carriages. On the side Al. taught himself performance skills such as juggling, balancing and plate spinning. He also worked on his skills training dogs and horses. By 1877 he had joined a stage show and for the next several years worked on a variety of traveling shows. Al. often returned to his parents’ home which by 1875 was back in Baraboo. It was here in 1882 that Al. set out with two if his brothers on their first joint effort, a hall show entitled Ringling Brothers’ Classic & Comic Concert Company. The following year Al. Ringling married his sweetheart Eliza “Lou” Morris who had also formerly lived in McGregor. When five of the Ringling brothers held their first circus performance in Baraboo in 1884, Al. was the only one married and his wife Lou became an essential part of the new circus. Despite hardships and setbacks, the circus grew steadily but was limited in range because it traveled by horse and wagon. In 1890 the Ringling Brothers Circus became a railroad show which made transportation much easier and helped expand the reach of the circus. In 1907 the Ringling Brothers purchased their largest competitor, the Barnum & Bailey Circus, which they operated separately from their own circus until 1918 when they combined both operations.
By the turn of the 20th century the Ringling brothers were some of the richest men in Sauk County. Several of the brothers built large homes in Baraboo, with Al. Ringling’s being the largest ever built in Sauk County at fourteen times the cost of the average home. In 1912 he announced that he would build a new theatre for Baraboo after a fire had destroyed Baraboo’s only opera house some years earlier. Three years later the Al. Ringling Theatre was built at a cost of $100,000. The theatre would be his final project and a gift to the community. He died on January 1, 1916 just six weeks after the theatre opened.
The Ringling Brothers Circus left Baraboo for good in the spring of 1918. Al. Ringling had been the major anchor in keeping the circus winter quarters here. The circus continued for the next 99 year under different ownership eventually closing for good in 2017. The legacy of Al. Ringling and the circus can still be seen and felt in places like the winter quarters which are now a part of Circus World Museum, the Al. Ringling Mansion and the Al. Ringling Theatre.
Did you know?
Ringling is the Americanized version of the original family name - Rüngeling
“Al.” always has a period after his name (as did his brother Alf. T. Ringling)
Born - May, 1851 Springhill Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania.
Died – October 14, 1941, Baraboo, Wisconsin
Eliza Morris, Louisa Morris, Louisa Redding, Eliza Ringling, and Lou Ringling are all names for the same fascinating woman that is shrouded in more mystery and legend than any of her famous Ringling brothers-in-law. Eliza Morris was born on or around May 12, 1851 at or near Morris Crossroads, Fayette County, Pennsylvania as the last of several children to John and Christiana Morris. When Eliza was about 18 months old the family packed up and moved to northeastern Iowa where her father John purchased a farm in Allamakee County. This is where Eliza Morris spent the formative years of her life. When she was about 12 years old her father sold the farm and bought a hotel in McGregor, Iowa.
Eliza spent her early teen years helping her mother and father run the establishment. When she was 16 she ran off on a summer evening to elope with a young man named Jefferson Redding. She and Redding were married on July 27, 1867 in Prairie du Chien and she gave her name as Louisa Morris. For much of her life she would often go by “Lou.” The newlywed couple lived at the hotel and helped run the establishment especially after Lou’s mother died in 1870. Her father John only lived a few more years himself, passing away in 1873.
The next period of Lou’s life is one shrouded in perhaps the most mystery. It is unknown what happened to her first husband, Jefferson Redding. It is likely that she had up to three children with him, all of whom died at some point, and Jefferson disappeared from her life. Neither Jefferson or Louisa Redding or any of their children have been found in the 1880 federal census. By the early 1880s Lou moved to Baraboo where one of her sisters lived and she began work as a seamstress. The Ringling family was also living there at that time and Lou eventually met Al. Ringling at a dance. Of course she most likely already knew him because the Ringlings had lived in McGregor, Iowa at the same time.
No official record for Al. and Lou’s marriage has yet to be found. They were allegedly married on December 19, 1883 and just four months later Al. Ringling started the circus with his brothers. Al. Ringling was the only one who was married at the time and his wife Lou did as much as for the circus as any of Al.’s brothers. In the early years Lou managed and made wardrobe, was an equestrienne, a snake charmer and even a teamster when needed.
The Ringling Brothers Circus switched to a railroad show in 1890 and grew steadily. By 1905 the employed over 1,000 people and the show traveled with 85 railroad cars. As the circus grew so did the wealth of the Ringling family. In 1905, Al. and Lou began the construction of the largest house ever built in Sauk County although one of their favorite spots was their cottage on Mirror Lake. Ten years later Al. Ringling paid for the construction of the theatre in downtown Baraboo that still bears his name. When he died in 1916 he left Lou with a cash sum of $325,000 and several pieces of real estate. Lou then poured her efforts into developing the property at Mirror Lake building rental cottages and a dance pavilion. In 1919 at the age of 68 Lou purchased land at the east end of Mirror Lake and began the construction of a three story hotel that was the largest and most modern in the area. She named the Morris Hotel after her family.
In the 1920s Lou became the principal investor in a country club development in Crystal Lake, Illinois. The project converted an estate there into a modern country club and golf course with residential lots. The project however went into receivership after the stock market crashed in 1929 and Lou lost most of her fortune. The hotel on Mirror Lake burned down in 1932. Lou was living at the hotel at the time even though she had sold it nine years earlier. After this she lived out her remaining years in a house she owned in Baraboo on Ash Street. She died there in 1941 having outlived her husband by 25 years.
Alma Lux Waite
Born - February 12, 1883, Baraboo, Wisconsin
Died - July 18, 1981, Baraboo, Wisconsin
Alma Lux Waite couldn’t have remembered the first performance of the Ringling Brothers Circus when it was held in Baraboo in May of 1884. She was only one year old at the time. She would however grow to be very familiar with the Ringling brothers, because after all they were her cousins, or first cousins once removed to be exact. The family connection goes back to her mother’s mother, Katherine Juliar who had two sisters who also settled in Baraboo with their respective husbands. Maria Magdalena Juliar married Gottlieb Gollmar and they settled in Baraboo in 1851. Maria Salome Juliar married August Ringling and they first moved to Baraboo in 1855. Alma’s grandmother, Katherine Juliar, married Henry Moeller and the couple had four children including Mary, Alma’s mother. Mary Moeller was first cousin of the Ringling brothers. In fact Mary had 19 cousins combined in the Ringling and Gollmar families. A far cry from her own family which consisted of only three surviving children, herself and her two brothers, Corwin and Henry Jr. In 1881 Mary Moeller married my Frank Lux the couple had their only child Alma in 1883. The family lived in Milwaukee for a while where Frank Lux had a saloon but eventually they rejoined their extended family in Baraboo where Alma’s grandfather and my two uncles had a carriage and wagon making shop.
Alma grew up with the circus. Here Ringling cousins started their circus in 1884 as a wagon show and when she was seven they switched to a railroad show. The following year, in 1891, several of her Gollmar cousins started their own circus which also had its winter quarters in Baraboo. Her grandpa Moeller and his two sons eventually started making and repairing circus wagons for the Ringling Brothers and Gollmar Brothers circuses.
Alma’s father died in 1918 and her mother started taking in boarders. One of them was a young man named Arthur Waite who was a locomotive engineer. Arthur and Alma were married around 1921 and the couple never had any children. The household however included Mary’s uncle Corwin Moeller who lived with the Waites until his death in 1946. When he died he left nearly his entire fortune to his niece Alma. The money grew and after Arthur’s death in 1964 Alma begun make philanthropic gifts around the community. One place near and dear to her heart was Circus World Museum which had opened in 1959. Alma paid for the hippodrome building at the museum and named it in honor of her Moeller uncles. She also gave other gifts to Circus World and to the Mid-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom. But she didn’t give it all away in her lifetime. Shortly before she died in 1981 at the age of 98 she drew up her final will and bequeathed the majority of her estate to the City of Baraboo. The amount was nearly $780,000. Since its inception the Alma Waite Fund has helped finance everything from the Concerts on the Square to a new fire truck. Only a portion of the interest may be spent each year and the principal has grown to over $1.1 million.