STORIES AND REMINISCENCES
The Yosemite House - As I Remember
The old hotel which stood where the bowling alley and discount store now are was built by my grandfather, George McCracken, better known as "Tuck" McCracken.
Austin McCracken, his father, was the first settler in East Troy, Wisconsin, where he built a log inn in 1836. Because it was the only place in the county [Walworth] where you could buy a drink, it did a roaring business, which I presume is how Great Grandpa could afford to send his two sons, George and Mace, to Lawrence College. They must have been in one of the first classes. In 1842 Austin sold the inn and moved his family to Mackford where he built a mill. Mackford was named after him.
Soon after Grandpa and Grandma were married they took a trip out West. They were so awed by the splendor of the Yosemite Valley, they named the hotel they were building "The Yosemite House." They had one daughter "Maggie," my mother. When she married my father Will Dunsmoor he took over as manager of the Yosemite House as Grandpa was in failing health. Before the train came through, Grandpa and Grandma traveled by team and buggy. They would drive to Brandon and board the train for Milwaukee to attend the opera. I still have Grandma's mother of pearl opera glasses in a little leather case. Grandpa would leave his team in Brandon with Mr. Hall, who owned the Brandon hotel.
Later after the train came through, the Hotel [Yosemite House] had a bus, a canvas affair drawn by two mules, which met all the trains to bring passengers and their luggage uptown. "Peanuts" Glassman was Grandpa's handy man--he drove the mules and helped about the hotel.
Grandma did most of the cooking. There was a big kitchen, a walk-in ice box, kept cold by big chunks of ice cut in Little Green Lake, and stored in an ice house on the premises. There was a big brick built in oven. They told about how one night Grandma made baking powder biscuits for supper. She told them to ring the supper bell but when she opened the oven there was a terrible odor--she had used sulfur instead of baking powder. So she had to stir up another batch. Salesmen planned their trips to Markesan to take advantage of Grandma's menus such as corned beef boiled dinner on Thursdays. Dinner was at noon then.
Grandpa also had a sister, Great Aunt Net Dart who lived alone in a little house east of the Masonic hall. She was an invalid and Grandpa sent all her meals up to her hot from the hotel. Her husband George Dart was the son of the first settler in Dartford now Green Lake. Aunt Net suffered from severe headaches so they cut her long heavy hair in a man's haircut which was queer in those days.
There must have been a tremendous amount of work to be done. Mother told how she and Grandma would sit for hours making sheets. You couldn't buy bed size sheets. They had to be made by sewing yard wide strips together over and over by hand. There were no ready made clothes either, that is for women. A seamstress would come and spend a week or two getting the women in the family ready for the next season. The first one I remember was Ethel (Slim) Evand. But by then there were treadle machines.
There was a sort of open court in front of the hotel with steps leading down to the lower floor where Dick Bloedel had a barber shop. Dick died very young, before his son was born, and the whole town mourned. I remember one hot summer night when he had difficulty breathing, the firemen went over and wetted down the grass in front of his window with their hose.
There were lots of regulars living at the hotel and then the travelling men who made it their stop while they visited Manchester, Kingston, Dalton, and Princeton. They would rent a rig from the Livery Stable run by Julius Lieske. Julius also kept a goat around the stable, and I remember one time it climbed the outside stairs where the Thayer family lived over Collingbournes store (where Burkes is now). The goat ate all of Mrs. Thayer's plants she had on the landing, and while it seemed to go up with ease, Julius had a hard time getting it down.
Dr. Thayer came to Markesan just out of Medical School. I owe him a great deal. He persuaded my father to take me to Chicago where the Armours had paid a famous Austrian surgeon $30,000 to come to this country to operate on their daughter, Lolita. While here he operated on several other children. Because of him I could lead a normal life.
The Thayers took all their meals at the hotel. I remember one Sunday noon someone came for the Dr. while he was eating dinner. Young Herbert (Doc) Evans had had an accident with his hunting rifle and it was necessary to amputate his arm there at home.
The Yunkers were also guests of the hotel. Charles and "Izzy" Yunker started the first pea canning company in the area. Izzy ran the cookers. They also had the first automobile in town.
My father was a lover of horses. He always had a riding horse and often went for a canter before breakfast. He also bought Mack [the author's brother] a Shetland pony, "Trilby." He would hitch Trilby to a buggy or cutter and Mack would take me for a ride. Sometimes [he] would venture quite far from home, but he would have to watch out for the gypsies who were usually camping in the lane going down to the lake. They would try to steal the pony. One day father heard of a man in Neenah who had a Kentucky saddle-bred to sell. He took Mack on the train to Neenah and bought the horse. Mack, who was only 9, rode the horse home. I have often wondered how he found the way, with almost no roads and certainly no maps.
Later father leased the hotel to a man named Ernsperger. Our family moved into the quarters above the drugstore (where Power and Lite is). They built a connecting stairway so that we could go down for our meals without going outdoors. That building was brick and had fire screens on all the windows which father would close if there was a fire, and it seemed we had lots of fires. People would come up and stay until the danger was over.
We had gas lights now too which someone would have to go around and light with a long taper.
Claude Doty was the first druggist I remember, followed by Reg Schoen. But Markesan had two drugstores. Atkinson was up in the block where the Markesan State Bank is. Earnest Mottram is the first Postmaster I remember. We had two drygoods stores, D. D. Williams and Collingbournes. John Henninger owned the jewelry store. We had a meat market, a harness shop, and later two millinery stores. One belonged to Mrs. Kluckman--Alex Kluckman was the barber--and one to the Spitzer girls. If you couldn't afford anything else, a new hat for Easter was a "must."
We had two banks. The Markesan State Bank started by Ned and Charles Smith--later directed by Ira Parker--and the Farmers State Bank, whose President was Henry Friday. Mr. Friday also owned the creamery. Markesan butter was famous for its quality and they used to say it was served at the White House.
We soon had two canning factories and a new venture owned by Steve Folson and Guy Miller. I think this was the forerunner of "Speed Queen."
Since our family had grown to three boys and two girls my mother was anxious to get out of the hotel and one day when I was eleven, my father announced that he had sold it to Herman Long and taken the Long home in trade. I was so thrilled at the prospect of having our own kitchen I spent hours studying cook books.
The[n] one day the fire we had always feared happened and The Yosemite House burned to the ground. My mother was away at the time and we were glad as it would have made her very sad. My father had bought the Hardware Store from Rumsy Evand which he ran until he died.
Years later when I was married and living in Detroit the mailman brought a package for which I had to sign. He spelled out the name, and said "Funny name for a town." I said "It's an awful nice place though." He looked up and said "It must be Home."
Well, that it was. I'll always have a spot in my heart for Markesan.
|Last updated 3/8/1999||This site represents an ongoing project to document the history of Green Lake County. If you have information to share, please contact Bob Schuster by email at email@example.com or at 6020 Kristi Circle, Monona, Wisconsin 53716, (608) 221-1421.|