Through the many years of my late husband, Alan’s, and my hobby of collecting antique collectibles and on the search for antiques, we always enjoyed the stories these items from the little hamlets and villages of this rural area that lies along and near the meandering Kickapoo Valley. Up until the 1960s, many of these communities could still be found on a map of Wisconsin.

Most of these area hamlets consisted of a one-room schoolhouse, a church, a post office, a small community store, a blacksmith repair shop and a tavern of which many had a second-story dancehall, and one gas pump, which would later be added to the store in the 1930s.

Neither the area farmers nor their families had to travel far to find immediate needs. These numerous small businessmen appreciated the local patronage of “their” local business. It was during a time of numerous people asking to “charge it” or “put it on my bill.” Many of these local small businesses didn’t budget for advertising, but they did budget for a yearly customer Christmas gift.

Once each summer, a traveling salesman stopped at each location displaying a large traveling trunk and later a panel truck. From these displayed items, business people could order gifts with their logo stamped with their business name, location and a telephone number, if available. These many items were then used as patron Christmas gifts.

In our collection, we found a wide variety of objects. Very early items included stick match holders, toothpick holders, plates, salt and pepper shakers, glass water tumblers, Watts company bowls, small creamers, cutlery, knives, and small, framed glass scenes with the years tiny calendars attached. The World War II era brought advertising on Zippo cigarette lighters, keychains, wood and plastic beer tokens, and “Ever Sharp” mechanical pencils followed by numerous ball point pens. These gifts were given with a firm handshake, a thank you and have a merry Christmas. The list of these wonderful hamlets and their beloved community members are long gone. But it’s fitting to wish merry Christmas to these past friends and family.

Hamlets and Communities of County Corners: Burr, Cazenovia, Champion Valley, Debello, Dell, Dilly, Hillsboro, Hoffmans Corners, La Farge, Mount Tabor, Ontario, Rockton, Tripville, Valley, West Lima, White City and Yuba.