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September 2014

19

Fred H. Keller | Retrospect


Retrospect

New photo provides another look at old Mammoth Spring

The Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society recently received a late 1920s or early 1930s aerial photo of Sussex- Templeton's Mammoth Spring Canning Co.

Notable features include the two-story Lannon-stone company office just left of the center of the photo and the Bug Line Railroad Depot midway down the left edge. At the other end of the tracks on the right edge of the photo are three box cars on a sidetrack.

Above the tracks on the right edge you can find the former Holman-Elliott quarry filled with water. This became the Sussex area swimming hole in 1916 after the quarry kilns, warehouses and offices burned down.

It was closed to organized swimming and fenced off in 1991 and is now shrouded by overgrown trees, out of sight and almost out of memory. The 20-foot deep quarry pond is now full of stunted fish and the giant walleyed pike who feed on them.

The round pile in the center is not a structure but spent pea vines, waste output from the pea vinery machines. Farmers used to spend all late fall and winter hauling these rotting pea vines to their cows, who thrived on them. The spent vines smelled to high heaven, like a cross between the vilest outhouse and liquid ammonia.

Finally, in the early 1940s, this pea vinery was moved to where Quad/Graphics and QuadTech are today.

The Mammoth Spring Canning Co. operated for more than 75 years, from September 1920 to the shipping of its last processed crop in March 1996.

According to pages 486-488 of "The Story of Wisconsin 's Great Canning Industry," published in 1949, the Kraemer family of Richfield came to Sussex soon after World War I. Kurt Kneiske said they bought the burned-down Holman-Elliott quarry kiln business in Templeton (east Sussex) in about 1918 for a reported $50,000 and then set to establishing a canning company.

Local farmers, business people and the local banker bought stock in the future canning company for $100 a share, yielding another $12,400 to establish the factory on the former quarry site.

Philip Kraemer served as the company's first president. Its first board of directors included P.W. Kraemer, E.A Kraemer, A.G. Kraemer, John P. Kraemer, Sussex banker J.W. Cannon, plus local farmer and businessmen John P. Stier and Walter M. Hardiman.

A local doctor, Cornelius Gruelich, wanted to join the board, and when he was not appointed, he raised a ruckus. John P. Kraemer quickly stepped forward and scraped together some additional money and bought out Gruelich's stock. It was a poor financial decision for Gruelich as the stock generated steady dividends and gained in value over the years.

The first products canned were locally grown peas in 1921, enough to keep two factory lines going.

The factory provided summer employment for many Sussex-Lisbon people, and a source of income for the farmers who raised the crops – not just peas, but corn, beets, carrots, beans and other vegetables.

John P. Kraemer became the dominant force in the company, leading to his appointment as both general manager and sales manager in 1924. Kneiske later became the production manager and succeeded John Kraemer as company president after the Korean War.

Other notable company bigwigs were Laverne Clarey, who took over as factory manager in 1944 from Henry Yuds, who had served as factory superintendent from 1921 to 1944. The Stolper family – first E.A. Stolper, then his son, Carl – also became involved in the business.

The canning company eventually expanded, adding a plant in Astico, only to trade it in for canning plants in Eden.

During World War II, German prisoners of war worked at the cannery. After the war, Mexican-Americans from Texas started to take over the production jobs, but a sizable group of local citizens also continued to be a big part of this large-scale enterprise.

Scott Ladd bought out the company in the mid 1960s. He later sold the company to Friday Canning, which, in turn, was bought out by Chiquita Brands in the 1990s. Chiquita ran it for a few years. They closed it and eventually sold it to Bielinski Homes.

The developer tore down the canning company between August and October 2003, but had to postpone plans for the site because of Bielinski Homes' many business problems.


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