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Home > Historical Places, Photographs & People > Madam Ella


Antigo's Famous or Infamous Madam Ella


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My Recollection of Madam Ella
During the mid 1950's when I was in seventh or eighth grade my mother was the head clerk of the baby department at Glowens Department Store. Glowens was a large two story building located at the southeast corner of Fifth Ave. and Superior St. in downtown Antigo where the Chase Bank drive-in is located today. The baby department was located on the second floor along with the women's dress department and my favorite the toy department. The women's dress department was managed by a family friend Dorothy Rae.

I remember one day I had come to Glowens to see my mother and the toys of course. It turned out that day I got to see a lot more. While I was talking with my mother Dorothy Rae came over to us and said quietly "Be discreet but take a look at my customers! Madam Ella and her girls are here to buy dresses." So over the next hour or so my mother and me would every so often sneek a peek at the goings on. Madam Ella and three or four of her girls were chating, laughing, smiling big smiles and having a great time as Madam Ella and the girls picked out different dresses. The girls took turns trying the dresses on in the dressing room and then come out to show Madam Ella and the other girls. Madam Ella would either give her approval or disapproval of their choice. After the final approval Madam Ella purchased about a half dozen dresses for the girls and herself and then they all went happily on their way with their new gifts.

After they left mother and I got together with Dorothy Rae who then told us things she knew about Madam Ella. I remember Miss Dorothy described Madam Ella as being like Miss Kitty on the very popular television show of the time "Gunsmoke." Then she told us several stories about how kindhearted Madam Ella had financially helped out several local families that were in need.

"Gunsmoke"
Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty and Matt Arness as Marshal Dillon

"Gunsmoke" was a radio network show for nine years on radio before becoming a television show that ran from 1955 until 1975 on the CBS network. Reruns of the show are still running on cable channels today.

Two of the main characters of the show were Marshal Matt Dillon played by actor James Arness and Miss Kitty Russell played by actress Amanda Blake. Some others were, Milburn Stone as Doc. Adams, Dennis Weaver as Chester Goode, Ken Curtis as Festus Haggen, William Shatner as Fred Bateman and Burt Reynolds at Quint Asper.

In the show Marshal Matt Dillon is in charge of Dodge City, Kansas a town in the wild west of the 1870's where people often have no respect for the law. He had to deal with all the problems of frontier life: cattle rustling, gunfights, brawls, etc. Such situations called for sound judgement and brave actions. Marshal Dillon was just the man for the job. But he sure got shot in the arm a lot.

Miss Kitty was the owner of the Long Branch Saloon/Dance Hall/Brothel. Her prostitution profession was only hinted at. In a 1953 article in Time Magazine, Miss Kitty was described as just someone Matt has to visit every once in a while. Both Miss Kitty and Marshal Dillon were always helping somebody out. The show guided viewers to see Miss Kitty just as a kindhearted businesswoman.


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A Genealogical Perspective of Antigo's Madam Ella


TimeLine
Spelling of Family Surname:
The original spelling which appears on many family members's tombstones is with a "k." Bleckschmidt
Many historical records spell it with a "h." Blechschmidt
On different census records the name is misspelled as "Blackamunt," "Blacksmith," "Blackschmidt."
1850
Federal Census
Aztalan, Jefferson, Wisconsin.
Surname mistakenly spelled "Blacksmith."
Grandfather: Lorenz "Laurence" Jerome Bleckschmidt 1819-1899, born Germany
Occupation: Farmer
Grandmother: Magdalena Rockdashel 1832-1911, born Germany
Their children:
Aunt Mary 1849-1924, born Wisconsin
1860
Federal Census
Aztalan, Jefferson, Wisconsin.
Surname mistakenly spelled "Blacksmith."
Grandfather: Lorenz "Laurence" Jerome Bleckschmidt 1819-1899, born Germany
Occupation: Farmer
Grandmother: Magdalena Rockdashel 1832-1911, born Germany
Their children:
Aunt Mary 1849-1924, born Wisconsin
Uncle John 1, 1853-?, born Wisconsin
Aunt Barbara 1857-1930, born Wisconsin
Aunt Catherine 1858-1936, born Wisconsin
1870
Federal Census
Aztalan, Jefferson, Wisconsin.
Family surname mistakenly spelled "Blackamunt."
Grandfather: Lorenz "Laurence" Jerome Bleckschmidt 1819-1899, born Germany
Occupation: Farmer.
Grandmother: Magdalena Rockdashel 1832-1911, born Germany
Their children:
Aunt Mary 1849-1924, born Wisconsin
Uncle John 1, 1853-?, born Wisconsin
Aunt Barbara 1857-1930, born Wisconsin
Aunt Catherine 1858-1936, born Wisconsin
Uncle Adam 1861-1892, born Wisconsin
Father: William 1863-1931, born Wisconsin
Uncle John 2, 1865-?, born Wisconsin
Aunt Rosa 1870-before 1880, born Wisconsin
1880
Federal Census
Aztalan, Jefferson, Wisconsin.
Family surname mistakenly spelled "Blacksmith."
Grandfather: Lorenz "Laurence" Jerome Bleckschmidt 1819-1899, born Germany
Occupation: Farmer.
Grandmother: Magdalena Rockdashel 1832-1911, born Germany
Their children:
Father: William 1863-1931, born Wisconsin
Uncle John 2, 1865-?, born Wisconsin
1895
State Census
Aztalan, Jefferson, Wisconsin.
Family name spelled: "Blechschmidt"
Wm Blechschmidt, Head of family
5 white males
2 white females
3 born in United States
4 born in Germany
1900
Federal Census
Aztalan, Jefferson, Wisconsin.
Family surname mistakenly spelled "Blacksmith."
Father: William G. Bleckschmidt 1863-1931, born Wisconsin
Occupation: Farmer
Mother: Emilie Ottlie Krueger 1865-1908 born Germany
Brother: Albert 1891-1944 born Wisconsin
Step-brother: Gustav 1832-1911 born Germany
Grandmother: Magdalena Rockdashel 1832-1911, born Germany
Note: Gustav's biological father was Gustav Rosentrader who was Ella's mother's first husband.
November 29, 1902 Ella Emilie Bleckschmidt was born in the town of Aztalan, Jefferson County, Wisconsin to William G. Blechscmidt and Emilie Ottlie Krueger.
1905
State Census
Aztalan, Jefferson, Wisconsin.
Family surname mistakenly spelled "Blacksmith."
Father: William G. Bleckschmidt 1863-1931, born Wisconsin
Occupation: Farmer
Mother: Emilie Ottlie Krueger 1865-1908 born Germany
Brother: Albert 1891-1944 born Wisconsin
Ella 1902-1981 born Wisconsin
Brother: Harry 1904-1973 born Wisconsin
Brother: Ervin 1904-1969 born Wisconsin
Step-brother: Gustav 1832-1911 born Germany
Grandmother: Magdalena Rockdashel 1832-1911, born Germany
1910
Federal Census
Aztalan, Jefferson, Wisconsin.
Family surname spelled "Blechschmidt."
Father: William G. Bleckschmidt 1863-1931, born Wisconsin
Occupation: Farmer
Mother: Died 19 Feb 1908.
Ella from age 6 grew up without a mother.
Her grandmother was her mother figure until she died died three years later in 1911.
Ella at age 9 became the the only female in the family.

Brother: Albert 1891-1944 born Wisconsin
Ella 1902-1981 born Wisconsin
Brother: Harry 1904-1973 born Wisconsin
Brother: Ervin 1904-1969 born Wisconsin
Grandmother: Magdalena Rockdashel 1832-1911, born Germany
1920
Federal Census
Jefferson, Jefferson, Wisconsin.
Family surname mistakenly spelled "Blacksmith."
Father: William G. Bleckschmidt 1863-1931, born Wisconsin
Occupation unreadable/Retired?
Ella 1902-1981 born Wisconsin
Brother: Harry 1904-1973 born Wisconsin
Brother: Ervin 1904-1969 born Wisconsin
Aunt Mary Bleckschmidt Kroetz 1849-1924, born Wisconsin
Uncle Louis Kroetz her Aunt Mary's husband.
1921 In the 1921 yearbook of Jefferson High School Ella and her brother Harry are listed as being in the Sophomore Class.
1924 In a 1924 Milwaukee City Directory Ella E. Bleckschmidt is listed as working as a bookkeeper at the Marshall & Ilsley Bank. Two of her brothers also worked as bookkeepers elsewhere. Her third brother was a automobile salesman.
1930
Federal Census
Jefferson, Jefferson, Wisconsin.
Family surname mistakenly spelled "Blacksmith."
Father: William G. Bleckschmidt 1863-1931, born Wisconsin
Occupation Retired
Brother: Harry 1904-1973 born Wisconsin
1930
Federal Census
I have been unable to find Ella in the 1930 census records.

See Aug 22, 1946 reference to Ottman name. Was she married and divorced from an unknown Ottman?

I did find an Ella Ottman who was single working as a servant for a private family in Nashville, Washington, Illinois whose description is very similar to Ella Bleckschmidt?
1940 Ella, a.k.a "Bev" came to Antigo about 1940-1942.
Between 1942 and 1976 her three establishments, The White House, Red Star and South Town, were raided by law enforcement about 15 times.
1940
Federal Census
I have been unable to find Ella in the 1940 census records.
June 26, 1946 Ella married Alvin "Alvie" C. Diemer in Chicago? I have checked Chicago marriage records but have not found any such record.
Aug 22, 1946 Ella Ottman was fined $100 for a keeper of a disorderly house. Four other women were fined $25 each for being inmates of a disorderly house.
May 10, 1948 Ella and her husband Alvie Diemer separate.
June 21, 1948 Ella's husband Alvie Diemer was arraigned on a charge of assault with intent to do great bodily harm to a local Antigo man. The charge resulted from a fight at the White House tavern where Alvie and three other men beat him with fists and a blackjack so severly that he required 32 stitches to a laceration on his scalp.
Jun 25, 1948 Ella's husband Alvie Diemer had charges of assault with intent to do great bodily harm held open in court after Diemer agreed to pay the medical and hospital expenses suffered by the victim in a fight at the White House tavern. Diemer also agreed to reside elsewhere than in Langlade County.
July 19, 1948 In Antigo Ella was granted a divorce from Alvin "Alvie" C. Diemer on grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment. The Langlade County court granted her permission to resume her former name of Ella Blechschmidt.
1953 State Agents conducted a big raid on Ella's establishments. She was fined and as part of a plea agreement shut down one of her three establishments. She was not arrested between 1953 and 1976
1976 Ella is charged by State Agents with operation of a brothel after another raid. After fighting the charges in court for 3 1/2 years she paid a $200 fine.
February 12, 1981 Ella Emilie Bleckschmidt died February 12, 1981, at age 78, due to heart disease at the Langlade County Hospital and is buried in the Elmwood Cemetery.
February 13, 1981 Ella's obituary is published in the Antigo Daily Journal.
May 3, 1981 To settle Ella's estate the White House tavern, its contents and real estate were sold at auction.

Many of these items from the auction now reside in area basement rec room memorabilia collections.

Two excellent articles in the Antigo Daily Journal tell the interesting story of Madam Ella. See May 31, 2007 and Jun 16, 2007.

Over a 40 year career in prostitution Ella only had to pay a few fines. She never served any jail time and did not have any charges pending against her when she died.


Whether famous or infamous Ella Bleckschmidt is part of Langlade County's history.



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Research References for Madam Ella


Antigo Daily Journal Articles:

1946, August 22, page 3, Charged Madam Ella Ottman.
1947, February 21, page 3, Ella Bleckschmidt and Ottman moral charges.
1948, April 26?, 1948, page 1, Morals Charge Red Star and South Town Madam Ella Diemer.
1948, June 21 & 15, Alvin (Alvie) Diemer charged with assult. He and two other men beat up Clyde Sinkler. Out-of-court settlement reached. Took place at White House Bar. Alvin agreed to live other than in Langlade County.
1948, July 8, page 3, Alvie Diemer back in Wausau Court. Driving without license, etc.
1948, July 20, page 3, Ella divorced from Alvie C. Diemer on grounds of cruel and inhuman treatment. Ella allowed to resume her former name Ella Blechschmidt; She was 45 and he was 34; They had married in Chicago on Jun 26, 1946? No children.
1949, September 28, page 1, Ella owns or leases three taverns. The Red Star, Southside and White House. Article says the Langlade County District Attorney is about to shut them down.
1949, September 29, page 3, Legal papers served on Ella.
1949, November 8, page 7, The Red Star, SouthSide and White House shut down.
1981, February 13, page 3, Ella Blechschmidt Obituary.
1981, May 3, Auction of White House Bar, Red Star and empty lot, etc.
2007, May 31, "A half century ago, sheriff landed in hot water over prostitution in the area"
Antigo Daily Journal "Hidden Places Series"

2007, June 16, Decades ago, Antigo was a virtual hotbed. Like many cities in state, there were brothels operating, but no more. Collector items now hidden in area homes are all that remain of Antigo's infamous Madam Ella and her White House Bar brothel.

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Research References for Other Northwoods/Langlade County Vices


Antigo Daily Journal Articles:

1941, March 10, page 1, Langlade County sheriff conducted gambling raids on 15 taverns. Four men and one woman, Martha Tavis of the Rolling Bar, one mile south of Antigo were charged with having illegal gambling equipment in their taverns.
1961, December 8, page 1, Moonshine still is found near Polar.



Antigo Daily Journal "Hidden Places Series"

2005, September 10, Pile of stones leads to speculation on Lily's moonshine past.
2007, June 2, Hidden phantom moonshine stills pockmarked the northwoods.
2007, June 23, Before the legal gambling of today's tribal casinos, illegal roulette wheels and card tables were hidden in the basements and back rooms of area taverns and night clubs.
2007, June 30, Chicago's old-time gangsters liked to take hidden vacations in the Northwoods. Capone and Dillinger visited Langlade County. Neopit's Billie Frechette was not like the movie version of a gangster's girlfriend.
2007, December 15, A place of parties and hidden moonshine now vanished Ormsby far from forgotten in the memories of those that proudly called it home.
2008, November 22, A museum of sorts for major crimes is hidden away in the evidence locker of the Langlade County court office.
2010, August 10, A skeleton in a tunnel! Recalling Lower Post Lake's Breezy Point area 1935 unsolved mystery. Maybe or not, a patient who didn't survive a well-known "gangster hospital" located a few lakes to the west?
2011, Jul 16, Casino auction marks end of an era. Mole Lake's Grand Royale Casino, the first true Las Vegas-style casino in the northwoods, goes on the auction block July 23rd.



Antigo Daily Journal "Primetime" monthly supplement:

1996, October 7, County has rich moonshine tradition.
2000, May 1, John Dillinger's life has ties to the northwoods.
2002, March 4, Moonshine recipes as individual as still operators.
2006, August 7, John Kolb, ex-Chicago 1920's gang member & owner of Nomad Trading ost, was intriguing northwoods character.
2009. January 5, Hard Liquor began flowing again 75 years ago.
2009, July 6, Local woman, Elaine Duchac, recalls her terror at age 7, when the Little Bohemia Lodge shoot-out with John Dillinger took place next door from her home.
2011, December 5, Daily Bros Circus train "Pie Car" was busted in Antigo for secret gambling equipment. Part 1 of 3
2012, January 2, Investigators quiz circus owners after Pie Car raid. Part 2 of 3
2012, February 6, Sexual Intrigue, booze sales were common on "Pie Car." Part 3 of 3

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