Linn 4-H Club first in county, state

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Ginny Hall | August 30, 2013

On February 22, 1912 Mrs. May Hatch organized the Junior Country Club.  These were daughters of the members of the Linn Neighborly Club.  The girls wanted to learn how to cook and can.  Early members were Maria Ledger, Genevieve Massey, Alice Lasch, Estella Bingham, Winifred Stoneall, Irma Zindars, Josephine Mergener, Florence Lasch, Helen Hatch, Nellie Batchelet, Lydia Leedle and Lillian Pierson. 

In April, 1912 Helen Martin, Superintendent of Schools in Walworth County, and F. M. Higgins, editor of the Lake Geneva News, received some “Sliver King” seed corn from Prof. R. Moore.  He was in the Agronomy Department of the College of Agriculture, UW-Madison.  Moore asked them to distribute the seed among boys and girls in the county to see which one would grow the best corn.  This would be on the premium list at the county fair.  First prize would be a scholarship to the one week Short Course at Madison in 1913.  Lester Hatch, from Traver School, received 3rd premium.  Florence Lasch, from Zenda School, received first prize.  Lester's parents saw the value of attending the Short Course and paid for him to attend. 

The next year, Lester Hatch received first prize and again attended the Short Course.  He stayed with T. L. Bewick, who had just been hired to work with boys and girls programs.  During this time Bewick told Lester that if he could get a group together, he would come down and meet with them. 

In March, 1913 the Lakeview Farmer's Club was organized at the Traver School.  The group met at the school but soon the club was too large and they continued their meetings at the Linn Town Hall in Zenda.

In the fall of 1914 the Lakeville Farmers Club held their first fair.  The prize for the Silver King corn exhibit was a trip to the International Stock Show in Chicago.  The prize was given by Thomas Cox of the Zenda Lumber Company.  The winner was Lester Hatch.  He had also shown some of the ears at the county fair.  Prof. J. Moore purchased the 10 ears of corn at $1.00 each.

Lester talked to Earl and Eugene Massey and they decided to have Bewick come down.  All the boys and girls in the area were invited.  Four boys and three girls came to the meeting held in May Hatch's house.  These seven members decided to organize and become the first 4-H club in Wisconsin.  The organization date is October 30, 1914.  May Hatch was their first general leader.  May Hatch received honorary recognition at one of the eight 1943 Farm and Home Week banquets held around the state.  Dean Chris L. Christenson, national farm leader, praised the work done in Wisconsin by farm leaders.

Mrs. Hatch's recognition reads: "The University of Wisconsin recognizing the eminent services of Mrs. May Hatch, who has developed social values in rural life; who organized the first 4-H club in Wisconsin; and who is highly and         widely esteemed for her work with rural youth, presents this testimonial on the recommendation of the faculty of the College of Agriculture and with the approval of the regents of the University.”   It bears the seal of the University and signatures of the President of the University, of the regents and dean of the College of Agriculture.  Over the years Mrs. Hatch received both state and national recognition for her work.

May came to this area as a young girl and spent summers working at the Lake Geneva Country Club.  She had been working for a Chicago newspaper and spent her vacations here.  She met and married Hobart Hatch her second summer.  They had five children.  She was one of the charter members of the Linn Neighborly Club and the Linn Farmers Club.  She took over the operation of their 160 acre farm when her husband died.  She served as the Town of Linn treasurer for 22 years and eleven years in her later life as the stewardess of the Lake Geneva Country Club.

May found time in her busy life to organize and lead the Linn 4-H club. 

Hatch's father, John Grimm brought the famous Grimm alfalfa seed from England.  It is still one of the top alfalfas grown in the U.S.

The list of those seven charter members and other very early members of the club varies in three different sources.  The names include:  Lester, Dorothy and Helen Hatch, Earl, Frank and Eugene Massey, Lawrence and Donald York, Florence Lasch, Josephine Mergener, Chuck Gavin, Maria Ledger, Mae Batchelet, and Jack Rowbotham.  

Their club was the first to have an exhibit at the State Fair.  In 1916 and 1917 they had the Champion Agriculture Exhibit and received a prize of $100 each year.  Helen Hatch also received a Champion prize of $100 for her exhibit of canned goods.  In 1917 some of her canning exhibit was sent to Washington, D. C. for a special display.  She won the title of Champion Farm Girl of Wisconsin.

In 1918 the club officially changed their name to Linn 4-H.  Their motto was “Whatever we do, we try to do a little better than anyone has ever done before.”

The club celebrated their 25th anniversary on December 28, 1939 at the Linn Town Hall.  Guy L. Noble, executive secretary of the National Committee on Boys' and Girls' 4-H work was one of the speakers and guest of honor.  Other guests included T. L. Bewick, state 4-H club director, Earl Cooper, one of his former assistants, James Beattie, the county agricultural agent and Mrs. May Hatch, original leader of the club. 

One undated newspaper article I found mentions that when May's husband died his farm encompassed 600 acres, much of it Geneva Lake shoreline.  He bought that acreage to water his young stock.  The Lake Geneva Country Club was once part of his farm.  Donald Hatch served as club maitre d'. 

Seymour Hatch, son of May and Hobart donated the land on which the Wisconsin Historical sign is located.  The sign is across the road from the home of Carol Hatch Frandolig, granddaughter of May and Hobart.

The General Leaders of the Linn 4-H Club over the years include:

            May Hatch -  1914 to 1932

            Helen Hatch Robinson -  1932 – 1948

            Donald Hatch -  1948 – 1951

            George and Gladys Merwin -  1951 – 1964

            Walter and Mary York -  1964 – 1969

             Ernie and Becky Merwin -  1969 – 1997

            Glen and Janice York -  1997 -2000

            Lisa Lasch, Dan & Donna Kundert and Sandi Pellman -  2000 -                                                                                                                         to presemt

The Linn 4-H club is still going strong and is looking forward to celebrating its centennial next year.

Linn 4-H general leaders are Daniel and Donna Kundert, Sandi Pillman and Lisa Lasch. Club members include Chesney and Peyton Bankenbush; Hailey Bauman; Jared Blada; Cheyenne Byard; Makenna Castleman; Allen and Jasmine Davenport; Cheyenne Dupee; Ashley Eichman; Sarah and Devon frederick; Callee and Sean Golfoy; Elijah and Grace Giovingo; Connor Hessman; Chase, Victoria and Alexa Hodkiewica; Gavin and Kendra Hoerth; Beth and Jonathon Jones; Rebecca Kamps; Taylor, Kyle and Braden Kundert; Holly Kynell; Brittney, Halley and Kelsy Landers; Sam Lasch; Delaney and James Lewis; Emily Mack; Olivia, Kyle and Zachary May; Cody Miller; Keven and Jonathon Quast; Taylor and Cole Radtke;; Cassidy and Alex Rickel; Grace Rote; Haleigh and Elizabeth Smith; Aaron, Adam and Austin Smith; Abigail Snudden; Jennifer Stowe; Silas and Abraham Thomas; Emma Thomas; Rachael, Meadow and Megan Warren; Bryan York and Zander Zilly.


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