Roy William Hughes was born in the town of Pardeeville, Wisconsin. He went to work for his father William, in their store and warehouse. But it wasn’t long, before disaster struck. Roy would have been sixteen years old, at the time.
According to an article from The Pardeeville Times:
Pardeeville woke up the night of April 1, 1906, to face the worst disaster of its history. Some one had set fire to Hughes’ Store next to the Park Hotel and also to the A.E. Kohler’s Grocery Store on the north west side of Main. The machinery in the pump house had also been tampered with. The volunteer firemen with their inefficient fire equipment battled nobly but could not put out the blaze. The Portage fire department was called and by dawn the fire was checked, but not before ten business houses were destroyed and others damaged. The roof of Music Hall was even on fire. The loss was estimated at between 50 – 60 thousand dollars. It was a sight to see, crazed people carrying out their valuables and crowds milling about. Many people lived in the flats above the stores. Like the San Francisco fire, it proved a blessing in the end as now fireproof buildings arose on both sides of Main. It also resulted in a more modern fire equipment.
I’d kept in contact with my grandmother, Mary Margaret Hughes, and though she never told me about the fire, she did paint a vivid picture of the store and warehouse, stating, “[…] You saw pictures of Grandpa William’s store – people brought things in to sell and also to buy. People made their own butter. They had groceries, clothes (ready made), material for making clothes, notions (buttons, ribbons, thread, needles). Dill pickles came in barrels. They were sold individually.” Grandma mentions in her email, that both William and Roy became Postmaster of Pardeeville. Then she goes on to describe more about the store itself – “Grandpa Wm Roy worked in the store, in the warehouse, and he dug potatoes. I do not know how that worked if Grandpa Wm Martin had an agreement with the farmer. The warehouse bought and sold grains, potatoes, eggs and poultry. They also bought and sold coal.” Here, her words are confusing – is she meaning to refer to William, or to Roy Hughes? Further complicating things, is that according to one of my family history documents, Roy’s real first name was William, and that friends referred to him as “Roy”.
At any rate, grandma Mary provided me with a little more information, in a later email, stating, “I never knew my grandfather (Roy) – he died 3 years before I was born. He also had a store – a warehouse, where he brought produce, grains, eggs, vegetables (like squashes), which he sold to markets in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Some were shipped by trains. Others were shipped by truck. Eggs were candelized (you put them up to a light to see that there weren’t any chicks growing in them.” Then she mentions some photos – none of which, I’ve seen (Not sure if she meant to send them and didn’t, or what happened, exactly). At any rate, she states, “The one picture we did last weekend was a picture of their home. We did a picture of one of their stores. One store had burned prior to that one. I do not have a picture of the warehouse. Some place I have one of the office of the warehouse.”
Further information about the store itself and how it was run, is gained by looking at William’s obituary, which states that, “In 1884 he established himself in a small grocery store in Pardeeville. He met with success from the start, and in the early days of the village, his business afforded one of the best markets in the county, for he would buy anything a farmer had to offer, no matter what it was, always giving a fair price in return.”
I sent in a request for information, to the Wisconsin Historical Society, and they sent me back copies of some photos. The first photo was of the original store (above) before it was destroyed by arson fire.
The second photo they sent me, was of the store, rebuilt and the third of the store in 2020.
It is interesting to note the changes that the building itself has gone through, over the years, while still containing echoes of the past.