Chilton Honoring American Veterans

Over the years the Chilton community’s efforts to honor the service of its military veterans has been mixed, at best. The first and best memorial, up until now, was not one generated by broad community support. It was the result of one man’s determination to create a monument that, by its nature and prominent location, was a constant reminder the area’s residents of the role its servicemen played in their nation’s military conflicts.

That man, Anton Kocher, was an Austrian immigrant who wound up in the Union Army fighting in the Civil, less than nine years after setting foot on United States soil.  Kocher, as a member of the Union Army, fought bravely against the Confederates.  He volunteered for military service and served with Company B, 13th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry.  Kocher, a native of Austria, came to the U.S. in 1856 at the age of 24. He and his family settled in the Chilton area, a community which at that time had a large German speaking population.  After the Civil War, Kocher came back to the Chilton Area where he prospered as a farmer and other enterprises. But he always remembered those days spent in combat. He proud of his service to his newly adopted county and was saddened by the fact that there was no memorial honoring veterans in the area.

In 1900, about 35 years after the end of the Civil War, he appeared before the Calumet County Board and asked it to appropriate $3,000 to build a memorial. He was rejected.  One can only speculate on what transpired after that but in the end Kocher came to the conclusion that if the local government wouldn’t do it, he would do it himself.  The final result was a handsome 19-foot foot tall red granite monument that now stands on the Calumet County courthouse lawn.  The inscription on it states: “Donated by Anton Kocher to Chilton”.  The monument which features a soldier. complete with rifle, in the uniform of Union Soldier in the Civil War. When it was first unveiled on September 2, 1902, had most prominent and busiest location in the City of Chilton the very middle of the intersection of Main and Madison streets, (now State Highway 57 and U.S. 151.  The monument’s unveiling and dedication was a grand ceremony. The entire front page of the Chilton Times was devoted to the event, which, according to the newspaper began with a 45-gun salute at sunrise. Many dignitaries from surrounding communities took part as well as the Spanish American War veterans and the Appleton fife and drum corps who joined in a large parade.  And the location was fine for the times. This was the horse and buggy era and what horse traffic there was moved slowly and was light.  What will surprise the monument’s observers are the local ties. The pedestal is made of Wausau granite with the work done by the Groetzinger Marble Works of Chilton.  The elegant monument remained at its highly visible location for around three decades. Then, in 1933, with a steady increase of more and faster cars and trucks it was deemed a traffic issue and was, ironically, moved to the lawn of the building that housed the county board that refused to fund it back in 1900.  This first monument which was donated by Kocher recognized in three major conflicts—the Mexican/American War of 1846-1848, the great Civil War of 1861-1865 and the Spanish/American War of 1898-1899.

After the Kocher Memorial in 1902 a span of 55 years passed, a period that included WWI, WWII and the Korean War, before any other form of military service recognition occurred.  In 1957 members of the Calumet Veterans of Foreign Post 3153, rolled up their sleeves, got out their picks and shovels and dug the footings for the VFW memorial situated in Klinkner Park. A grand total of $350 plus a ton of volunteer labor, mostly by WWII Veterans, produced the modest memorial. It was refurbished in 2008.  Another gesture to honor military service came in 1988 when the VFW Post, the American Legion Post and the Auxiliaries of both units combined to place a memorial stone with bronze plaques attached along State 57 in Hillside Cemetery.