NEW BOOK COMING! The Other Cramers: Building a Wisconsin Community
The family name “Kraemer” is well-known in Wisconsin for building roads, bridges and schools, churches, commercial and industrial structures and even R&D campuses. But what about “the other” Cramers whose name is spelled differently?
The Village of Plain, 800 strong today, was called Cramer’s Corners in the 1850s before it was called Logtown and then finally, Plain in the 1860s. The Cramers were protestants who came to the driftless area of Southwest Wisconsin in the early 1850s from Ohio, and even earlier from Pennsylvania. There were German-Swiss and were among the first pioneers in what was then a wilderness.
The first generation were all farmers in and around Plain, and at least one of them, Solomon Cramer, Sr., also was a carpenter and entrepreneur who made carpenters, builders and merchants of his seven sons. Solomon, Jr. and brother Pearson Cramer ran a building business that worked on landmark structures such as the Jones sisters Hillside School, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Romeo and Juliet Windmill, the gothic Catholic church at St. Lukes in Plain and the Spring Green High School.
In the early 1890s, as the Plain began to develop with an influx of Bavarian Catholics, these Cramers built a brickyard, sawmill, grist mill and timber/lumber business in the village. Many houses and saloons were adorned with brick from the Cramer Brickyard and built from trees harvested from Cramer forest lands and cut into building material at the Cramer Sawmill. In the early 1900s, three Cramer brothers built “The Big Store” as it was called – the large department store that was the biggest of three general stores in the village. The Big Store provided all manner of goods from food staples to household goods to farm equipment and supplies. Furniture, horse-drawn buggies and even sleighs bore the Cramer Bros. imprint on the back.
Tragedy struck in the mid-1900s with the death of Solomon, Jr., and several other family members from TB, and the patriarch of the family, Solomon, Sr. from a heart attack. The remaining Cramer brothers divested their father’s farm, forests and business holdings and in 1914 took a business partner, Phillip Bettinger, in the Big Store. Phillip bought them out by 1918 and they were all gone from Plain by 1922. Their exodus is best explained by a combination of culture and religious differences which pushed them out and kinship ties which pulled them to other communities.
Their story, the reasons for the Cramer Exodus and their final days are explored in the book, which is chock-full of documents, photos and other supporting information. It includes the 1980 “The Cramer Family Tree,” which is a narrative about all the Cramer families from the first pioneers to that date.
It is an important piece of the history of Plain, Wisconsin, and in the history of community building and evolution in Sauk County and Wisconsin more generally.
The book will be available from Amazon.com, OFTHS and the author in the fall, 2018.
Orders can be placed with the author for $30.00 a copy including shipping. Send a check payable to Kenneth L. Kraemer and mail to 8 Needlegrass, Newport Coast, CA 92657.