Friday, January 20, 2012

Minnie Ozanne

(Photograph Courtesy of  Minnie Ozanne from her book "My Memoirs")

"Surreys and buggies were the vogue in transportation when Miss Minnie Grimshaw, now Mrs. E.G. Ozanne, began writing news and "personals" for the Racine Journal-Times and its forerunners.
At 85, Mrs. Ozanne is a living history book.  Her memory is as keen as her interest has been all her life in the everyday events going on about her in Somers Township.  Although her "beat" hasn't been of spectacular nature, her faithful recording of the daily events has produced thousands of newspaper clippings which overflow more than 10 scrap books.
Mrs. Ozanne has lived all her life among the friends who have produced the daily gist for the copy which she began submitting to the Racine Journal in August, 1896.  At the time she was teaching in the one-room Burr Oak School after returning from Nebraska where she completed high school and had taught for several years.
Her first teaching job was offered to her while she was still in high school.  But, as now, teachers were in short supply and the county superintendent certified her and Miss Grimshaw lengthened her skirt and put up her hair and took the job.  She was boarded for $1 a week on a 600 acres cattle ranch where part of her chores included getting up early enough to wash the breakfast dishes before leaving for school.  After supper she also had to clean up the kitchen.
After three months teaching to complete the spring term, Miss Grimshaw moved to Jefferson County, Nebraska, and a one-room school isolated in the center of a corn field with the only entrance a footpath.  "My superintendent was an Indian," recalled the sprightly reporter.  "I was afraid of him, although I'd never seen him.  I sent my credentials in to him and they were returned in due time.  But one day while I was teaching, in he walked.  He was a tall man, the tallest man I think I've ever seen.  He sat in the back of the room and never said a word.  After school was over he came up to my desk and his only criticism was that I stood up too much while teaching.  I never saw him again."
Back in Somers Township, Miss Grimshaw took up her teaching job at Burr Oak School where she had attended as a youngster.  Three years later she was married to E.G. Ozanne, who died in 1936.  She continues to live on the Ozanne Homestead on Highway 31, south of the entrance to Petrifying Springs.  The homestead includes the site of the first log cabin in southeastern Wisconsin.  The homestead dates from 1842 and often is visited days by members of neighboring historical societies in their study of early Wisconsin history.
since the death of her husband her only companions have been her canaries and a dog which she now has outlived.  But life has never been dull.  She also is a notary public and secretary of the Somers Cemetery Association.
A few years ago she published her first book, "My Memoirs" which records the early history of her area as she lived it and knew it firsthand.  Until this summer, Mrs. Ozanne took care of her own lawn and the many flowers which surround her home.  A fall earlier this year, however, has cut down on her physical activity.  "And,", she observed, "the work for the newspapers seems to be getting to be more and more, and, I'm quite busy without taking time out for the yard."
Her present handicap annoys her.  She pointed out she had been ill only twice in her life.  Once was with the measles and the other was with whooping cough.  Both times were while she was teaching and after she cam down with each illness, "the whole school got it."
Like the poem, Mrs. Ozanne has lived her life by the side of a road.  The Green Bay Road has had a historical past, significant in the movement of the nation from east to west.  The road is marked with a bronze plaque, noting that it was established in 1832.  Over it moved the early settlers and pioneers who opened up the vast expanses of the rich Midwest and prairie lands.
From her home, Mrs. Ozanne has watched "the march of progress."  Not all of it has please her, either.  Probably the most severe blow was several years ago when the need for a wider roadway cut keep into her front yard.  Highway engineers took off 60 feet and brought the edge of the road to within a stone's throw of her front door.
Among modern inventions, Mrs. Ozanne has no time for television and she never has been in an airplane.  Inf act, she isn't sure all the new mechanical devises and gadgets have made life any pleasanter than her early days."
(Source:  Racine Journal Times, publication November 4, 1956.)

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