A Home with a History: The Hall Homestead

It’s been a while since I’ve done a family history post, now that I am in gardening mode. This one also took a while to research!

I have done some research on Todd’s side of the family and he has some deep roots in Wisconsin. Lucky for us! I’ve also been researching his ancestral homes. Many are no longer standing, including one in Madison (where the iris his great-aunt gave me originally came from).

Before we moved to Wisconsin, Todd and I would come to stay with Janet, his great-aunt, for a weekend or even longer (she also helped Todd plan his marriage proposal to me!). She lives just a block off one of Wisconsin’s largest lakes. And it wasn’t like visiting some old stuffy lady. Janet is a character and a well-loved, well-known local. On occasion, she would pull out old family albums and tell us all the stories. I loved it.

She told me many stories of her grandparents farm in Viroqua, and that the farmhouse was moved into town many years ago. I’ve tried to figure out which one it may be and even where the Leonard farm was. I have yet to find that house. In the process of searching for that farm, names started popping up in old maps that were familiar and I started discovering even more family ties in Vernon Co, but never pursued them.


Aunt Janet, Todd, and myself at one of our favorite lunch spots!

A couple years ago, we were visiting and looking through some stacks of albums and photos and an old faded family portrait jumped out at me. Behind an old frame, the faded picture showed a family standing in front of a house. Not exciting. Unless, you’re me and you’re trying to track down ancestral homes.

The Hall House

The old photo in the old frame

I immediately started interrogating Janet about the photo. She wasn’t sure who was in it or where it was, but I wasn’t about to give up. She ruled out it being the storied Leonard farm, but not the other side of her family, the Halls.

I took several photos of the photo and worked on enhancing the features on the computer when I got home. Soon, the figures became somewhat familiar. They looked like people I had seen before. Not in person, but in many other old family photos. Their features were too small and blurred to make out, but other things like height and statures gave me clues.

Hall Home Enhanced

I determined it was members of the Hall family and based on the age and my own recognition from other photos. I believe the photo may be of John R. Hall, his wife, Effie (Osvald) Hall, and three of their children. The children should be Clarence, Elda Mae, and Elmer Eugene. Elmer Eugene would be the youngest, born in 1894. Their youngest brother, Harold, was born in 1897.  I think that should place the photo right around 1896? Below are some photos of John, Effie, and a portrait of the family.

I did some searching, as always, through some historic maps and found J.R. Hall owning land just south of Viroqua in the late 1890s. Sure enough, when I overlaid the maps, I found a house that looks suspiciously similar to the one in the photo. At least from what I can tell on Google Maps!

After some more sleuthing, I am certain this is the Hall farm just south of Viroqua. The farm itself has a long history from what I’ve been able to pull out of various maps and a great excerpt from History of Vernon County, Wisconsin, together with sketches of its towns, villages and townships, educational, civil, military and political history; portraits of prominent persons, and biographies of representative citizens; history of Wisconsin, published in 1884. You can see the entire book here

Mrs. Martha A. (Sabin) Hall is the relict of Ralph Hall, who with his family came to Vernon county in October, 1856, and settled on section 5, town 12 north, of range 4 west, where Mrs. Hall with her family still resides. Mr. Hall purchased the farm of Oscar Henry. He was born in England in 1830, and came to the United States in July, 1843, with his parents, who settled in Cook Co., Il. He was married in Illinois in 1851, to his present widow, Martha A. Sabin. Mr. Hall died July 6, 1872. His father, George Hall, died in Illinois. His mother came to Viroqua in the fall of 1865, where she still resides. Mr. Hall was a highly respected and industrious citizen; was a charter member of the Vernon County Agricultural Society, and was also for some time treasurer of that organization, and was also at one time chairman of the town board of Viroqua. Mrs. Hall was born near Cleveland, Ohio, in October, 1830. Her parents, Sylvester and Phebe Hall, settled in Cook Co., Il., in 1841, where they lived till their decease. Mrs. Hall has three children — Phebe A., wife of Henry McDermott, was born in Cook Co., Il.; Ananias, born in the town of Viroqua, in December, 1858, and John, born in 1868. She still resides on the homestead farm, which contains 140 acres.

I completely lucked out finding this bit of information. It is super rich not only in genealogical information, but for tracking down the ancestral home. I had seen this biography before, but used it only for the genealogy. When I reread it, I was excited about it all over again.  All the bits and pieces are adding up. And to have a photograph of the home from so long ago is even more special.

Martha and Ralph Hall

Ralph Hall and Martha (Sabin) Hall

In the decades after this biography, based on a few historical maps, the farm went to John Ralph before 1896 then on to his brother Ananias some time before 1915. I have yet to do much research after that. I am just too excited to see what’s still there knowing that the land hasn’t been turned into a neighborhood yet, and there still seems to be an old farm house on it.

My next plan of action is to contact the current owner of the house and send a copy of the photo to them. Hopefully, as with all attempts to visit ancestral homes, they current owners will respond positively!

Last year, I visited my paternal grandfather’s birth site, and the year before we collected my maternal grandmother’s flowers. This year, I think this is the farm to see!

A little side note for genealogy nuts: Ralph Hall, is my husband’s 3rd great-grandfather on his paternal grandmother’s side.


Our House: Part 2

As promised, I looked into C.F. Russell and W.H. Dumbleton. They are connected!

After a lot of digging around through census records on Family Search, I finally found a “Charles F. Russell” living in about the right area, with the right neighbors. In 1880, he was living with his niece Mary Russell. By 1900, Charles was no longer found, but Mary was married to Walter H. Dumbleton and still living on Minnesota Ave. At the time, that would have been the correct address for the farm, which our lot was a part of.

Below are the selected lines of the 1880 Census and 1900 Census via Family Search:

1880 Census Charles and Mary

1900 Census Walter an Mary

I looked through more census records to find out a little about Mary and Walter. They had several children. Mary was born in New York, before she came to Stevens Point to live with her uncle, Charles. Walter was born in England and arrived to the U.S. in 1873.

By 1920, his listed occupation was “truck farmer.” This term I had to look up, because I had no idea what it meant to be a truck farmer. It turns out truck farms grew produce on a small scale, family farm to take to market. Being relatively close to the long running Stevens Point Farmers Market, I would guess, that is where their produce was sold.

Below are the selected lines from the 1920 Census via Family Search:

1920 Census Walter and Mary

This is so charming to me. The Point area’s market is still thriving, and truck farms though no longer called that (as far as I know) have seen a bit of a revival. There are a lot of small scale “farm to table” and CSA operations growing and popping up throughout the area. It is interesting to see those type of farms having a history here. Living on a little slice of what was once a truck farm is added inspiration for my garden.

Above: Stevens Point Market Square, 1900 (via Wisconsin Historical Society), The Point Farmers Market Recently, (via Pinterest), and “Making a purchase at farmer’s roadside stand, Eau Clair County, Wisconsin,” 1937 (via Library of Congress)

The Dumbleton’s still lived on this farm at least until 1930. After this census, I no longer find Walter or Mary. 1930 is only 26 years before the Naramore’s built our house. I’ve closed a large gap in the history of the land.

Below the selected lines from the 1930 Census via Family Search:

1930 Census Walter and Mary

Next week, I will double post.  A continuation of our home’s story (this time, I promise to start the renovation story) and a post to introduce the gardening portion of this blog.

Our House: Part 1

I have had such a hard time deciding where to start. There are so many homes, places, people, and gardens I want to write about. So, I’ve decided. I will just work my way back through family homes, starting with mine.

The stats on our home:

  • Built: 1956
  • Classic Ranch Style with 1,164 sq feet
  • 2 beds, 1 bath
  • On almost 1/4 of an acre
  • 4 lifetime owners (including us!)

Todd and I bought this little gem in the Spring of 2016. I was not super impressed, but the windows, lot size, and the fact it reminded me of one my all-time favorite homes (Grandma and Grandpa Pete’s) convinced me. There was a lot of work to do. Here’s the exterior the fall before we purchased it.


At some point, I will write an entire post about the before and after (ish) of our ongoing renovation. For now, I want to talk about this home’s history.

I am obsessed with old maps and land patents so, my first step in finding out the story of this home was finding who held the land patent. By looking at maps, and the legal description of our home, I was able to find who held the original patent on the section of land where our house sits. In 1855, certificate # 928 at the Stevens Point Land Office was granted to John Phillips. From my short research, I believe he was one of the first physicians in Stevens Point.

John Phillips Patent

My next clue in the story of the land comes from an 1895 land plat. The land had passed to C.F. Russell. It is an interesting map, because you can see the shape of the neighborhood begin to form. I have done some research on Charles but can’t remember where I put it, so it will have to wait for another day. This is the 1895 map overlayed onto a current Google map. The point of the red dot is our home.

1895 Overlay Point

By 1915, a plat of the city shows the land to be owned by W. H. Dumbleton (I assume he is Dumbledore’s American cousin, ha)! Once again, you can see where we are located, despite the overlay being so soft. You can aslo see neighborhoods starting to be sectioned out.

1915 Overlay Point

From here, I will have to do some real digging and footwork to find the missing information about the land and what was happening on it. But, I do know that in 1956, Ward and Evelyn Naramore built our home.

Ward Naramore was born in 1902, in Irma, Wisconsin. He graduated from a teacher’s college, after which he taught grade school, until his marriage to Evelyn, in 1929. During WWII, he served as corporal with United States Air Force. After the war, he served in Hawaii with the US Navy Seabees. I was so excited when I found out he was a Seabee, as my own grandfather was also one. Ward was employed by the legendary Lullaby Furniture company here in Stevens Point. He also was the president of the local carpenters union. He died in November of 1975.

Evelyn ‘Jelinski’ Naramore was born in 1906, here in Stevens Point. She worked at another Stevens Point landmark industry, the Weber Fly Factory. Evelyn must have been from strong stock, she passed away in 2007, at the age of 101.

The couple had one son, named Ronald, who was killed as a young boy in 1934. The boy was playing in the backyard at a family home in Merrill when he was ran over by a truck. He is buried with his parents at Guardian Angel Cemetery in Stevens Point.

From 1956,when the home was built until sometime around 2002, our house was owned by the Nararmores. Evelyn was moved to a nursing home before passing. Some of our current neighbors remember her as a kind, very old lady.

After the Naramores, two other owners lived here, but they stayed for short periods of time. We closed on the house March 28, 2016. It needed some love. We took it on knowing the home, which we guess Ward had quite a hand in building, hadn’t had many repairs or updates in decades.

In the process, we’ve found a few ladies hats up in the attic (Todd thought he’d found a scalp). And in 2016, while tearing out the bathroom ceiling just a day before Todd’s birthday, a handful of cards fell out. One just happened to be a birthday card, signed by Ward, himself.

There is a lot of comfort knowing about who this home has belonged to, and I feel like the improvements we’ve made would be approved by the Naramores. Despite having two other owners, it will always be Ward and Evelyn’s house. I think she would really like all the flowers we’ve added!

So, here is the little snapshot of our home’s history. There is still more I’d like to find out, but it’s a great starting point for digging into the history of where we live, from the home, neighborhood, city, county, and state. Every little plot of land has a story.

I hope to find out more about the Naramores, Russell, and Dumbleton.

In my next several posts, I will add to what I’ve learned about the owners, tips on where to find information on your own home, and of course the saga of our home renovations.