anston - a community rich in history
By Chris Jaworski, President of the Pulaski Historical Society
Anyone driving through the local countryside would scarcely notice the beginning and the end to the hamlet of Anston. This quiet community lies on County Trunk C in SE Pittsfield Township. Like most other small communities, a closer look into the past yields a very lively and colorful history.
The early days of Anston were extremely rural. The first settler was Fred Strechenbach who purchased land in present day Anston in 1852. Fred had one son, William. William Streckenback took over the family farm and is responsible for the first road and school in area. In addition, William Streckenback served as Pittsfield town treasurer for 20 years.
Allan T. Buckman also owned a farm in Anston. He purchased property in 1853. The first Pittsfield town meeting was held at the Buckman house in an upstairs room. A sum of $2.00 for the use of Mr. Buckman’s house was allowed for each meeting. Old-timers often referred to this house as the “cradle” of Pittsfield. This structure was dismantled in 1921.
Mr. Buckman was a member of the County Board of Supervisors for several years, a Justice of the Peace for 20 years, and a member of the Board of Canvassers for 17 years. The flag on the courthouse in Green Bay was at half-mast the day of his funeral.
One of the earliest stories of Anston pertains to an unusual pet, which William Streckenbach housed on his farm. In the early 1880′s Streckenbach captured a bear cub, which was less than a year old. He named the bear Jeff and kept him chained to a post. Jeff broke free on several occasions but could always be coaxed back with a pan of food. In the summer of 1882, Jeff broke free for his final time and charged Mrs. Streckback’s sister, who happened to be making her way from the garden with a dish of berries. Luckily, she made it to the house but watched helplessly as the bear chased down and killed a calf in a nearby pasture. William Streckenbach, who was away, at the time of the incident, later shot the bear. He then sold the hide to a butcher.
Other forms of wildlife were also plentiful in the area. William Streckenbach’s son Cliff told a story of tracking a wolf on the hill just south of Anston. He realized, after the examination of the tracks for a period of time, that the wolf was stalking him. Fortunately, he was able to escape without mishap.
Things changed in a big way during the year of 1906. The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad came through and set up a depot. Originally, the town was to be called Buckman in the honor of the Buckman families of Pittsfield. The railroad however had a station by the same name and therefore chose the Anston name instead. The origins and reasoning behind the name of the Anston are unknown.
After the founding, of the railroad depot Anston’s golden age began. Within a short period of time the following establishments could be found. Moving from west to east the town was laid out accordingly: a kraut factory, a beet dump, the pickle factory, lumber yard, potato warehouse, a feed warehouse/hardware store/office, grist mill, cement shed, coal shed, stockyard, blacksmith shop, a school, general store and a cheese factory. Located on the opposite side of the railroad tracks were, by the depot, was a section house and a tool house.
Anston’s kraut factory was owned by the Van Ern family. It operated for only a few years and was acquired by Lois Bandow who then converted the place into a dance hall/roller rink. Later the structure was purchased by Evert Severson who used it to raise turkeys.
The beet dump was the only loading station. Area farmers would sell their sugar beets here and have them shipped to the Menominee Sugar Beet Company of Green Bay. This was a huge operation which, at it’s peak, employed some 425 workers in Green Bay.
Arthur Bond founded the pickle factory. It was a branch of the Oconto plant which was owned by his father. The Bond Pickle Company in Oconto is still in operation today.
The lumber yard was only in existence for a short period of time. It was operated by Edward Kubiak of Pulaski and employed Les Buckman who ran the day-to-day operations.
A.L. Thomas founded the potato warehouse and employed Bud Bandow. Bandow later expanded the business and built the feed warehouse/hardware store/office grist mill, cement shed and coal shed. This business was later sold into Evert Severson who in turn sold it to the Pulaski Chase Co-op.
Anston’s stockyard was owed by the railroad and sued by local cattle-jocks. Cattle were most often shipped but horses came through as well. Broncos were brought in from out west came through as well. Broncos were brought in from out west to be purchased and used by area farmers.
The blacksmith shop was owned and ran by J.C. Briggs. When the demand for the blacksmiths had declined, he changed focus to pallet building. This business was purchased by Delmar LaCount and moved across the road. The building eventually burned down and was rebuilt as the Better Built Company.
Anston’s first school house was built in 1856 and was made of logs. In 1872, a red school house was constructed. In 1915, a more modern school was built. The old red school house was then moved to the railroad tracks and became the potato warehouse. The Anston School District, which is now defunct, was absorbed into the Pulaski School District. Anston’s school building was burned down in the late 1990′s. D.D. Clark built the general store. The business changed hands several times, ownership transferred from Wesloski, Drella, and later to Duroscher. The building eventually burned down.
Frank Lements founded the cheese factory. It was later owned by Ernest Magely. Like many small cheese factories in the state, it could not compete with larger factories and no longer exists. Finally, on the eastern outskirts of town was a baseball diamond. Anston would host teams from Duck Creek, Krakow, and Sobieski. Ice Cream and soda were served in the octagon shaped stands. The baseball field is now gone.
Significant events have occurred within the community of Anston throughout the years. In the spring, of 1980, Vice President Walter Mondale made a campaign appearance at the John And Helen Tauscher farm. State Representative Cletus Vanderperren arranged the visit. John Tauscher remembers it as a tremendous experience for his family. Prior to the stop, secret agents inspected his home. A special telephone line was even installed to Washington D.C in the event the vice president needed to be sworn in. The entire event went off without a hitch and a 30-minute conference was held in the Tauscher’s living room. The presidential motorcade and armed guard stationed on top of the Tauscher’s house were indicative of the important event unfolding in Anston.
On a lighter note, Anston is also known for some other important visitors. Rumor has it, that the Oak Ridge Boys stopped in at Irene’s Linger Londer Tavern on the western outskirts of town. Irene’s operated at the center of County Trunk U and County Trunk C. This was originally the route of Highway 32. Proprietor Irene Ballas died on November 22, 1987 and the tavern burned a few years after her passing.
Today, none of the businesses mentioned earlier are in operation. The railroad pulled out in the early 1990′s and the right-of-way has since been converted into the Mountain Bay Trail. Anston’s lone business is Axi-Line. The building is owned by Thomas Weid and leased to Axi Line. The company is a manufacturer of equipment used to test transmissions. Prior Axi Line, the site housed a white elephant discount store. Before that it operated as Better Built, a pallet company.
Anston’s other main business is the Tauscher dairy farm. Tauscher’s own approximately 750 acres, rent out about 300 more and own 500 Holsteins.
Industry has slowed considerably over the years. Today, Anston is primarily a residential community with about 70 inhabitants. A new housing development on the east side of town will add further to the population. Anston’s past as a center of commerce is looked upon fondly and with pride by area locals.