MUSCODA - With the beginning of the school year there may be a few Riverdale fans enjoying the activities at Pickering Park who wonder about the source of the park’s name. It’s a facility that has served the community well for many years. In 1958 when the Smiths came to Muscoda, the park, with its modern lights, was among the things locals bragged about when we first toured the community.
The late John Duffey, owner of Duffeys’ Service Station, was a history buff who wrote “A Bit of History” column for this newspaper for many years. The following information regarding Pickering Park came from John’s work.
Charles R. Pickering was a native of this area, born May 8, 1857 in the Town of Eagle. He finished country school when he was 15 years old and worked on the family farm until he was 21. He taught at several area rural schools, attended Platteville Normal, and taught in Muscoda for a time and then took a pre-medical training course at the University of Wisconsin, then moved to Rush Medical College in Chicago. He practiced medicine in Indiana before returning to Muscoda, working here for about 35 years.
Duffey wrote: “My own recollections of the doctor are that he was a small, frail looking man who was so very soft- spoken that it was not the easiest thing to understand him. He wore round shaped glasses, usually the rimless type, with silver bows and his uniform was usually a pair of lightweight coveralls or blue bib overalls and a blue shirt. His walk was slow and deliberate and on his head were straw hats of many different types and shapes.
I remember him driving Model Ts of different vintages and later a bit bigger car. His first Model T was of 1917 vintage. At that time he and Henry Elston had the only two cars in town. On Sunday each man would drive up and down the length of Wisconsin Avenue while the good citizens lined the sides and cheered. Dr. Pickering’s second car was a Model T of 1924 vintage.”
Dr. Pickering had many interests, including agriculture. He owned three farms along north Mill Creek. He was also president of the Muscoda State Bank, an officer of the Muscoda Cooperative Co., and the long-time president of the Muscoda School Board. He lived long enough to see the auto and airplane eras mature and especially enjoyed a plane trip over the area of his farms.
Duffey recalled “Dr. Pickering was obsessed about sleeping in fresh air – over his house was a built-In sleeping porch where he spent all but the very bitter nights. I particularly remember his closet – you opened it to find a human skeleton replica hanging inside.”
At the time of his death, Dr. Pickering had no blood relatives and left an interesting will, including the three renters on his three farms receiving the farms they operated, all the livestock, farm machinery and farm equipment.
His home in Muscoda and all its contents, including his library, was given to the Village of Muscoda to be used for library purposes and was the meeting place for the village board until the Kratochwill Memorial Building was built.
The remainder of the Pickering estate was divided equally between Jt. School District #1 of Muscoda and the Methodist Hospital in Madison. The bequest to the school amounted close to $40,000.I was told that prior to becoming Pickering Park, that piece of Muscoda was mostly sand and sandburs with school athletic events held in what was called “Lower Town Park” and is now Jaycee Park.