Wilhelm "William"/"Will" Daniel Isely [1881-1962]
Wilhelm "William"/"Will" Daniel Isely
[4-24-81 ?? Wisconsin; 11-4-1962 Monroe, Wisconsin]
The Life of William Isely
Autobiography by: William Isely, Printed: August 1961
In 1901, George [my brother] and I bought the farm from Dad [Christian Iseli/Isely (II)] for $12,000.00, two hundred and forty acres, with no money and only one hundred acres of plow land. But we didnít look too far; with all the timber Dad said, ďIt will make you money.Ē It didnít, but it worked out all right.
In 1901, we built a barn thirty-four feet by eighty-eight feet, which cost $2,500, more or less. It was a lot of money at that time. Then we did start to cut wood to make some money by hauling it to Monroe. What roads we went through! Sometimes it was six oíclock before it was sold. We had a place to unload it for $2.25 a cord for soft wood and a place for hard wood for $3.50, so we could only come out even. Wood went up a little every year. It was hard work; nobody knows what we had to do. It took a lot of expense to keep harnesses and horses and wagons up, but we went on. Someone said, ďGo on with the work,Ē so we went on.
In 1903, we got bigger ideas and went to work and built a house with no money. Credit was good, so we went on. Fred Ritschard built the house for $350.00 for his labor. The house cost $3,500, more or less. That was a lot of money at that time, when milk was seventy cents a hundred and hogs were $3.00 per hundred. We paid six per cent interest.
In 1904 George got married, so we had a cook from the fall of 1903. I had to do the cooking for five of us.
In 1906 I got married, on February 22. We built on the house, as it was too small. So I said, ďI will give $4,000 or take $4,000,Ē so George took the money and I took over all the debts. It ran me deep in debt, but I went on. But I forget Ė in 1906 we bought forty acres from Richard McGuire for $2,000; so I got in deeper. The forty acres had only eight acres of plow land, and in 1910 I had a well drilled up on the hill and built a cistern, and had running water in the house and barn and hog barn. Alfred Witmer dug the ditches. It was a lot of work. The three wells I had drilled were a big improvement for us. They cost a lot of money, but I didnít keep track of it.
So I kept working on the wood cutting and hauling, with three wagons on the road every day when the weather was good, for the Fall until the Spring.
The stumps sprouted so much that the cows had a hard time to get through, so I bought a stump puller to try to pull out the stumps. The first one was too small and we broke it; so I bought a bigger one that could pull any stump, but left a hole that a cow could stand in level with the ground. So that was time and money wasted.
With no money coming in from all that land, it was a problem, so I hired men to grub it. There would be no money coming in until it could come out of the soil. It took me twenty-five years to clear one hundred and twenty-five acres. No one knows how hard it was, every Spring clearing the stumps and plowing with six horses and a big breaking plow.
In 1914 I rented the farm to Will Rufer and went to Monroe and bought a house. We stayed less than a year. After so much hard work, we took a little rest. We took a trip to California in April, 1915. My sister, Mrs. Carl Marty, went with us.
We went to Chicago and from there to New Orleans. We were going to stay a day, but it did not look good. We took a taxi and went down town. We stayed about one hour and made up our minds to go back to the train. We knew it was due to leave at eleven oíclock, so we went back and got the same berth. So we went on West.
Texas is a large state. But what a country at that time. Sand piles were like little mountains. We were going into New Mexico, but we didnít go.
We went to Los Angeles where my brother John lived. He was sick at the time. From there we went to San Diego to the fair. We had a hard time to find our hotel; but finally found it. Then we went back to Los Angeles and stayed there almost two weeks. From there we went to Lindsay where my brother Jacob was. We stayed two weeks there. From there we went to the San Francisco Fair. We saw many ruins of the 1906 earthquake. From there we went home. There is now (sic) place like home.
We went back to work. Fred Ritschard made the plans for the building. He did the building work and Charles Pickett did the mason work. When the building was finished Mr. Rufer moved up to the new building and I moved back home. I sold the house to Mrs. D. Theiler. Mr. Rufer stayed there until his time was up, and then I took over again and went working with the timber.
Pat Joyce and Frank Monohan did most of the cutting at seventy-five cents a cord. I rented a saw to saw lumber. This didnít pay out, but we went on hauling.
By 1928 the land was ready to make money, but we had only two good years. In 1930 hard times were coming on. I had eighty-four head of cattle. They had been a good price, but the price went down. This was my way to make money, to raise lots of young stock and sell cows. I let them pick out of the herd for $45.00.
In 1984 we had a very dry spring. It rained on April 3, and it didnít rain again until June 25. There wasnít a green blade of grass to be seen, so it didnít look very well with all that stock. I sold twenty-two head, and for the heifers I got $2.00 a hundred weight and $1.50 a hundred weight for the cows, which didnít count up very fast. If I would have kept them ten days longer it would have been different. It started to rain and rain!
We had thirty-five loads of hay for all that stock. This was the first time in my life that we didnít cut any grain. I planted eighty acres of corn, but as it was the old kind, it didnít get ripe, so we cut it and shock-fed it in the barn yard.
I had more feed left than at any time before, but I couldnít raise one calf. The cows had had too much corn that was moldy. All the way through, we had hard going.
In 1934 my taxes were $211.00, and it was hard to pay them. In 1948 my taxes were, $1,822.00, including income tax, and it was easy to pay them! We went through a lot in the ď30'sĒ, but we went on.
In 1936 we had to settle with the bank, so I talked with Ed Bayrhoffer. He was the agent for the Federal Land Bank. Mr. Renk was here in a week, and I made a deal with Mr. Renk, and in six weeks, it was all settled. Mr. Renk helped me out. I donít believe there is one man in Green County who went through what I did and stayed on top!
If I were to do all the land clearing and building today, it would cost $150,000.00. I could say much more, but I will cut it short.
Well, in 1940 there was a great change. Everything picked up. Many people say they canít make any money in farming. I donít say that my farming was the way it should be, but from 1940 I made money. I paid interest on $27,000.00 at 5%, and in 1948, on Mar. 1st, I had no mortgage on anything. There were Arley and myself to work, and had much hard luck. Hogs were $4.50 per hundred weight in 1940, and in 1942 my barn went up in smoke with a loss of $3,500.00, I bought all new machinery, three new tractors, one of which I sold to Will.
People say that there is no money in farming. From 1940 to 1949 I kept close figures on farming. I averaged $3,000 every year for nine years, clear after all expenses.
Then the war was going on and prices went up. Milk went up to $4.50 a hundred weight, and hogs went up very high. One man told me that his best year was in 1953. The prices are good, if you know how to farm.
I quit farming in 1949, and I havenít seen much farming since that time. They say prices arenít high enough. The money must come out of the soil; if you donít know how to farm, it would be better to do something else. Farming is something you have to know how to do. You canít put your seed in the ground with only half a seedbed. The ground must be worked right.
If anyone farmed since 1940 and didnít make a lot of money, he either had hard luck or didnít know how to farm. When you miss a crop it is a loss for one year. Farming is a gold mine, if you know how. I talked with a man about farming. People say they canít make any money, so I said how much money I had made from 1940 to 1949. He said, ďI made more money on less than 100 acres!Ē I will say that is good farming.
I remember that more than fifty years ago a man told me that he hired a lot of men to work. So did I. He said, "I always make him eat a meal. If he, is a slow eater, I say that I can't use him." I never did that. I took a chance. If he was no good I let him go. There are lots of signs of a good one. What is in the parents is in the children and what is in the children is in the parents. I could say more, but--
In 1950 my barn blew to the ground with a big loss, and in 1953 the tenant house burned down with a big loss. That is what I call a lot of hard luck!
I know a man who farmed about the same time that I did. He died and left an estate of two hundred thousand dollars. That is good money for a farmer. He didn't have to clear any land and he didn't do any building, but could make money pile up.
Well, I raised a small family of five children. My father had a large family. He came to Wisconsin in 1860 and settled here in this place which has been under the same name for ninety-nine years. Dad built a two-room house out of stone. As the family grew larger he built on to the house. There were fourteen in the family; twelve were born here. Dad didn't do much farming; he worked at a lead mine three miles west of here. He worked in the night, and walked three miles to work and home again. I believe it was a hard road to go, and I think Dad went through a lot of hard times, and so did I, but we came out all right.
Well, I was going to close, but I see I had more expenses. In 1950 I hired Vic Schiller to do some road grading and cleared fourteen acres. It cost me ninety dollars per acre. I gave him a check for $1,600, and had some more work done. Allie Holtshopple graveled one-half mile of road and filled in the barn yard with a cost of $500.00, and Schiller moved the tenant house from Section 20 to Section 30. Mr. Schiller set a glass of water on the table and when it was set up the glass was standing, with no water spilled. It was moved one-half mile, and it cost me $400.00 to move it.
Rote took care of the wood work. That was $200.00, and Ray Montgomery worked on the water, digging the ditches and working on the sewer and bathroom with a cost of $1,200.00. So you can see by what I paid out that it took a lot of income to take care of it.
In 1943 I had the house insulated at a cost of $500.
This is the way that I layed out the farm: There are six twenty-acre fields, eighty rods long. Four of them have no ditches, two have some. Schiller can take care of them in ten hours. Two thirty-acre fields have no ditches, one fourteen-acres, eighty rods long has no ditches, one eight-acres, sixty rods long has no ditches. The valley we live in has very good soil. There are twenty acres of good timber, with forty acres in the valley. The fields are cut up.
Well, I went through a lot of thinking. I had good help from my Dad, Henry Durst and Russell Prien. They were good help. I will say I did the best that I knew, but we all need some help. Most of the fields are fenced with five wires and steel posts.
In 1922 I was hurt from an accident with a corn shredder and I was in the hospital for eleven days. In 1945 I was in the hospital for fourteen days, and could do no work for six months. In 1946 I made a trip to the South and the West and North, in all, 8,000 miles. If you can, don't wait until you get old. In 1953 I was sick three weeks, and was in the hospital. It all takes a lot of money to take care of this.
Well, I know farming is good if you know how! If you don't know how, there is no money in farming. If you work by the hour, day or month, you can't make any more than a living. If you want to make money you will have to go in business by yourself and do it right. There are too many young people who believe it comes by itself. It doesn't; you will have to get your head in good shape or it will not work.
I do say that drinking is the cause of most of our trouble. What is in the parents is in the children and what is in the children is in the parents. There are too many people what they are. If they would sit in a chair and think what they are they wouldn't say a word. The sins of the parents are resting on their children.
In my day I never used one-half pint of whiskey nor a quarter's worth of tobacco. I don't care for it. If they would all be like me, T. V. would 'have trouble! This is a country, but I believe no man can say that whiskey is good for any man.
Since 1953 I haven't been able to do any work. Three years ago I felt like doing some work, so I made some garden and I planted 1,200 hills of potatoes. The first time I tried it, I planted 1,200 hills of sweet corn. It was a wonderful crop! I did it all by hand, and had no weeds in it. My potatoes worked out all right. The stalks grew big. At a certain time some of the stalks looked dead. I told Jacob Kubly about It. Jacob told me, "If you don't spray them, you won't get any potatoes." So I sprayed them. It was too late for some two hundred hills, but 1,000 hills were good. When I dug them I had forty-two bushels of No.1 potatoes. If you take care of your crop it will work all right.
In 1915 I spent $4,000.00 for building fences on the farm. There were 240 rods of woven wire fence with two-barbed wire and 132 rods in woven wire, 360 rods of fence with five wires and all steel posts. Inside fences around the fields were 240 rods of woven wire and two-barbed wires and all steel posts, 600 rods of five-wire and all steel posts, 230 rods of steel fence with some oak posts, but not all five-wires. This is a lot of work and a lot of expense.
I had two wells drilled, one in the dry-stock pasture, over 200 feet deep, and one when I built the No.2 building. This well was 206 feet deep. These were a lot of expense, and it all had to come from the soil.
In 1948 I spent $2,000.00 on the cheese factory.
On July 4, 1960, I went out to work to cut thistles and this didn't agree with me. I got sick and the eye doctor told me that I had had a light stroke. My eyes went wrong and I wanted new glasses. He told me that new glasses wouldn't help me. I know I can see and read much better than I could two weeks ago, so it looks like I am getting better.
On December 5, at three o'clock in the morning, I had more hard luck! My barn burned and I lost all the feed, but saved all the stock. The barn was a total loss. When you have a fire, you have a loss. But the new barn is up and the stock is in the barn. Fred Durtschi built the barn for $3,700 for his labor. It cost a lot of money to build it, but it is all finished. This is my fifth barn and three homes. It would cost me $150,000.00 today if I would have to build them.
The money has to come out of the soil when you farm. Some farmers say that they can't make any money.
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