By Kris Leonhardt
Charles Noll came to Marshfield in January 1887. Along with his brother Frank, Charles had been sent to the northern timberlands to run the newly purchased hardware store belonging to their father, William.
William owned two hardware stores in southern Wisconsin. Looking to expand his business interests further north, he set his sons up in one of the fastest growing cities in the state.
The brothers worked hard to build the family business in the unfamiliar city. As weeks turned into months, the brothers began developing a solid reputation in the community. However, just as the Noll brothers began to assume a level of comfort, fire swept through the city, taking all the material goods the family had acquired.
What remained was determination and the relationships they had forged. This was enough for the Noll family to rebuild.
Constructing one of the first brick buildings in the city, brothers Frank and Charles reopened the hardware store. This time their brother William Jr., an expert tinsmith, joined them in the venture and added tinwork to their services.
Three years later their father William Sr. joined them in the business, and the family expanded into manufacturing milk cans and cheese vats to accommodate the booming cheese industry.
The William Noll Hardware Company had found its niche, and it was quickly on the way to becoming one of central Wisconsin’s leading hardware companies.
On a spring day in May 1902, Charles Noll exited his home at 111 West “A” (Arnold) Street, leaving his two young sons Walter, 5, and Karl, 1, in the care of their mother, Margaret. At 40 years, he was a picture of health and success.
While working in the hardware store that day, Charles was struck on the head by a five-gallon oil can made of galvanized iron. The incident left a gash on Noll’s head that he did not consider detrimental.
Days later the family realized that something was seriously wrong. The injury turned red, and it was discovered that bacteria had invaded the wound and given Charles blood poisoning.
Charles struggled between life and death for two weeks before he succumbed to the illness. Charles Noll was laid to rest in his wife’s family plot in the Catholic Cemetery of La Crosse.
The hardware store, which was located at 109-111 S. Central Ave., remained in the Noll family for four generations. In 1962 the business was sold to Don Hiller.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail at P.O. Box 51, Marshfield, WI 54449 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.