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Mosinee, Wis., filled with interesting facts — and actors

By Jeff Moore

The word “Mosinee” is an Indian word meaning “cold land” (Winnebago) or “moose” (Chippewa).

Originally, the town was called Little Bull Falls as the rapids in the nearby Wisconsin River sounded like the roar of a little bull. Postmaster Truman Keeler objected to the name Little Bull Falls, as he thought it was too vulgar for the ladies to write out such a name on their letters.

Females of all ages were soon banned from even saying the proper title out loud and referred to it simply as “LBF.”

Canada’s Joseph Dessert came to Little Bull Falls about this time and conferred with an old trapper named Conner, who suggested that since settlers kicked out the natives around 1857, an Indian name would be appropriate to honor the area’s indigenous inhabitants.

Several names were kicked around until they decided to rename the town after Old Chief Mosinee, a chief at Lac Courte Oreilles in the early 19th century.

• On May 1, 1950, local residents acting as “Communist invaders” seized Mosinee. Thespian Communists dragged Mayor Ralph E. Kronenwetter and Police Chief Carl Gewiss out of their beds. Mayor Kronenwetter surrendered at 10:15 a.m. in the town’s newly christened Red Square with a pistol to his back. The police chief was reported to have resisted and was killed.

Road blocks were set up around Mosinee, the library was purged, prices of goods were inflated for the duration of the coup, and local restaurants served Russian black bread and potato soup for lunch.

As he arrived at a rally to restore democracy to the community the night of May 1, Kronenwetter suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and never regained consciousness. He died five days later on May 6, 1950, at age 49.

The mayor’s doctor said the excitement and exertion probably contributed to his collapse.

Local minister Will La Brew Bennett — who, during the Communist invasion, demonstrated to the media how he would hide his Bible in the church organ if the Communists’ really invaded — was herded with other residents into a barbed-wire ringed concentration camp near Red Square.

He was found dead in his bed hours after the mayor’s death on May 7, 1950.

Footage from the mock invasion was used in the movie “Atomic Café.”

Jeff Moore is a data reporter at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (414) 225-1819.

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