In our own back yard
Fatigued from Saving America, on the seventh day, the Head Groundskeeper rested. What do you expect? It was the last Sunday in September; how many more days remain with temps in the upper 70s under bright hazy skies?
Blaska fired up the HD Softail Slim and headed out for parts unknown. I.E., no particular place to go and no deadline to get there. Which is how we rest at the Stately Manor. We get lost.
The leaves are only beginning to turn this early autumn but the soybean fields draping the hillsides of western Dane County are a rich butterscotch color, streaked with mocha. The field corn stands tall but has not completely yellowed; farmers have only begun to chop for silage.
Mineral Point Road (County Hwy S) took us out to the unincorporated hamlet of Pine Bluff and from there it is decision time: north on County Hwy P or south on County P or stop at the Red Mouse for a beer. (That can wait for the Slimy Crud next Sunday.) We turned north and bobbed up and down the unglaciated hills past a vineyard and a hop farm until we hit Cross Plains. Remaining on P through town, a last-second decision took us through the unincorporated hamlet of Martinsville, which pretty much consists of St. Martin’s Catholic Church and an ancient fieldstone mechanic’s shop that looks like it once housed a blacksmith. These little hamlets served their farm communities in the horse and buggy days.
Worked our way to WI Hwy 19 and past Indian Lake Park, which — Wait A Minute! What Was That?!
As a member of the Dane County Board committee responsible for county parks, we had visited Indian Lake, with its tiny chapel built by immigrants thankful for being spared a smallpox epidemic. But had never noticed the stark ruins looming against the blue sky on the north side of the road. The specter dominates the 138 acres of Halfway Prairie wildlife area; the Ice Age trail runs through it. The dominant feature is the quarried-stone shell of the Friedrich and Katharina Matz home. The still-imposing structure was built shortly after the Old Guy’s return from the Civil War but burned in 1949, leaving the shell and an echo of history. The lone remaining out-building is mostly intact.
The Matzes raised corn, potatoes and oxen (the tractors of the day) when they homesteaded here in 1852. Goats now patrol the grounds to keep down the invasives, although they weren’t home when we visited 09-26-21.
A story board pictures a son and his family in the house, intact. And this quote from the founder, an immigrant from Germany in 1848 (the year of Wisconsin statehood and revolution in Europe): “I’ve often said out loud that I’m happy with America; but I say it privately to myself more often. I owe God many thousand thanks for putting me in a free and better country.” Works for the Werkes.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: We give thanks that pioneers like the Matzes made the USA a freer and better country. And that Dane County preserved such treasures. The site opened to the public in 2012. Bonus: we returned back to the Stately Manor in time to watch the Brewers clinch!