3 Snowy Winter Stories From Early Washington County
01. ‘That Time the Mailman Replaced His Wheels With Skis’
Pictured is Bill Duehning, a rural mail carrier of Washington County. Standing resolutely beside his daily delivery truck, heaps of snow envelop the photograph, the result of a classic Wisconsin winter. For Duehning, snow was a mere obstacle easily conquered. If you look carefully at the bottom edge of the delivery truck, you’ll notice that something is missing. The front wheels.
Duehning replaced the front wheels with skis. His ingenuity allowed him to fare through the poor road conditions and deliver the country folk’s mail.
02. ‘When the Race Track Became a Ski Hill’
Shoop, shoop, shoop. Skiers glide down the hill, one after another, sending up spirals of glittering snow. A classic winter sport, most Wisconsin ski hills are brimming with rosy-cheeked snowboarders, skiers, and tubers come December. In Slinger, the ski hill, Little Switzerland, provides the perfect slope for all of the above.
Before it became Little Switzerland in 1941, the hill was competition grounds for daring motorcyclists. Crowds watched breathlessly and with great enthusiasm. The motorcyclists raced up the towering hill at exhilarating speeds. These races began in 1938 and progressed until 1940. The hill belonged to the Winter family as a part of a 40-acre property. In one animated tale, a cyclist lost his life in the midst of a performance.
Come December 7th, 1941, Slinger’s decorated ski hill was established. Through the years, the park has evolved but is still the central location of snowy merriment in Slinger. The photograph below captures the spirit of Little Switzerland in 1960. If look past the skiers traversing up and down the hill, you’ll notice something in particular at the crest of the hill, a massive ski slide. Yes, this was the truest form of a winter thrill ride. Up, up, up you went, until you flew down the hill at electrifying speeds. Even though the hill had different purposes, its daredevil utilization was still just as prevalent.
From motorcycles to snowboards, this hill has been an irreplaceable fixture of Slinger’s community.
03. ‘The Poem for a Cause’
During the Civil War, Washington County Families were readily contributing their efforts to help the country. Husbands, brothers, and fathers were away serving in the war. Back home, where the evergreens grow, women rallied to support the war effort in any way they could. With families divided, Christmas brought the pain of distance. For a much-needed raise in spirits, Miss Ada H. Thomas, an enchanting young poet, composed a piece for the local newspaper. The poem, On to the Southward, is a lively piece. Featured is an excerpt:
“From the east bays to the mighty Pacific,
From Illinois to the lakes banked in snow;
Gentlest in love, but in anger terrific!
That is the land where the evergreens grow!”
This winter poem was shared throughout Washington County. It sparked joy, bringing happiness during the snowy winter.
Today, Washington County still experiences Wisconsin’s extraordinary snowfalls. And like the stories above, we continue to embrace the wonder of winter.
Barrett, Rick. “Little Switzerland Ski Resort to Reopen.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. November 28, 2012.
Little Switzerland. Photograph. University of Wisconsin – Madison, 1938.
Little Switzerland Ski Slide. Photograph. University of Wisconsin – Madison, 1960.
Mail Delivery. Photograph. University of Wisconsin – Madison.
Quickert, Carl. “The War Period.” In Washington County, Wisconsin: Past and Present, 123-124. Madison: Wisconsin Historical Society, 2008. Previously published as “The War Period,” in Washington County, Wisconsin: Past and Present (1912): 123-124.
“Schleisingerville to Slinger 125 years (Slinger Library Collection).” Libraries Search, University of Wisconsin – Madison. Accessed November 24, 2022.
Schleisingerville. Washington County, WI Land Records, Historical Plat Map, 1915. Accessed November 24, 2022.
You Make Our Work Possible!
Community support allows us to continue telling Washington County’s stories. We invite you to become a member and consider making an additional gift of support. Contact us about sponsorship opportunities for local businesses as well.