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Three generations were represented in the traveling group for the wagon train that crossed east central Wisconsin during the second week of June.

Three generations were represented in the traveling group for the wagon train that crossed east central Wisconsin during the second week of June. Photo By Ray Mueller

Wagon train re-enactment

June 20, 2013 | 0 comments


Not of the same scale as 15 years ago but with similar footing was the horse and mule-drawn wagon train that rolled across east central Wisconsin during the second week of June.

Modeled on the two-week Military Road Wagon Train trek of 240 miles in 1998 as a way to observe Wisconsin’s sesquicentennial as a state, this one involved some of the same horse and mule-owning families but covered a more modest distance of about 75 miles.

Also titled "History on the Move," this year’s expedition - for which the planning began two years ago - was prompted by Dick Koltz’s comment in 1998 that he’d like to see a re-enactment of that venture in 15 years.

He and his family have been the long-time owners and operators of the Rock-K-Ranch near Greenleaf in southern Brown County.

While the 1998 wagon train rolled from Prairie du Chien in southwest Wisconsin to Green Bay in the northeast, this year’s route was from New Prospect at the edge of the Kettle Moraine Forest in far southeast Fond du Lac County to the Koltz family’s horse ranch along Highway 96 east of Greenleaf.

The recreational trail - on a former railroad track right of way - which runs from northern Calumet County into southern Brown County, was used for part of the last leg on this year’s trail ride.

Encampment Evenings

Overnight stops were at the recently renovated Wade House historic buildings and grounds at Greenbush in Sheboygan County, the Noah and Lavina Hochstetler (an Amish family) farm at rural St. Cloud in Fond du Lac County, and the Calumet County fairgrounds.

Stops also included Camp Forest at Forest Junction in northern Calumet County before the June 14 arrival at the Koltz ranch for a concluding barn dance with country and western music by the Star Fire family band of Hortonville (Readfield).

While at the Hochstetler farm, the evening’s entertainment including horse riding and bowl whipping demonstrations by Malone area resident Luke Kohlman, who has taken part in Buffalo Bill Wild West re-enactment shows since 2006.

Musical entertainment was provided that evening by Steve Nothem of Kiel and Pete Scheuerman of Plymouth. A bonfire was also staged.

Trail Challenges

One of the challenges faced by the traveling group was the fact that the trek coincided with the warmest and most humid days of the season so far.

As a result, a few horses were not in condition to handle the physical task of pulling the chuck wagons or other conveyances.

The first day was especially challenging because of the distance (about 18 miles) and the hilly terrain in the Kettle Moraine region of western Sheboygan County.

But such challenges provided an element of authenticity with the conditions faced by the pioneers or nearly two centuries ago who either settled in the region or traveled to the West.

Shortly after the group arrived at the Calumet County fairgrounds on the afternoon of June 12, a steady rain began to fall.

For a time, the sound of the raindrops on the roof of the arena at the fairgounds provided an extra tone to the country and western songs sung by KG and the Ranger (Karen Gogolick and Rick Roltgen) of Madison.

One factor that went quite smoothly was dealing with motorized vehicles on the roadways.

Less-traveled roads were used for the most part and the sheriff’s department helped with the crossing of the busy Highway 23 near Greenbush in Sheboygan County.

For the most part, residents along the traveled routes were not aware that the wagon train would be rolling past their property. Those who were home at the time quickly pulled out a camera and shared such comments as "this is not something you see every day."

Family Event

The Koltz family took the lead in organizing this year’s event. Dick Koltz’s son Matt served as the "trail boss" for arranging the roadway travel and the overnight encampments along the way.

Members of the extended Koltz family, including many born after 1998, accounted for 26 of the approximately 125 people taking part in this year’s wagon ride and related activities.

The ride started with 25 wagons and 75 horses but a couple of them were lost due to minor accidents (no injuries or major damage). About two dozen horses were saddle ridden.

The Koltzes approached the event as a re-enactment of the longer 1998 ride, as a reunion for participants in that ride, and, perhaps most importantly, as an opportunity to introduce the generation of their family to such an activity.

Dick Koltz estimated that about 30-40 percent of this year’s participants, including a couple of families from Iowa, were part of the 1998 wagon train ride.

Camaraderie among the troupe of riders was also an important part of the event. For some, it was another episode in a continuing friendship while for others it was an opportunity to meet new people with similar interests.

New Participants

Among the new attendees was Gary Sellen of Glenbeulah in Sheboygan County, an owner of Percheron horses and of a stagecoach with U.S. Postal Service lettering although it was never used for mail delivery. Jerry and Pat Jensen of Chilton were among the first-time participants in the ride.

The Richard Sixel family of Cleveland in Manitowoc County had a pair of mules pulling its wagon. They bought their mules from rural Manitowoc resident Glenn Rodewald, who was also part of the caravan.

Rodewald made canvas tops at his Vinyl Top Shop for four of the wagons in this year’s train.

An acquaintance with Dick Koltz through horse ownership or horse shows drew many of the attendees to this year’s trip.

Attendees were encouraged to wear clothing that, as closely as possible, resembled what was worn during the era when horse-pulled wagons were a prime mode of travel.

One stipulation of the excursion was that the wagons could not be equipped with car or truck tires.

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