Postcards from Ashton, Wisconsin

Today’s post is 1360 words, 24 photos, a 6 minute read. Enjoy!

Hi everyone,

Last week, I took you to Panama to get some warmth and sunshine. Click here if you missed that post.

Even though the spring equinox was last Monday, it doesn’t look like it outside. A couple of days ago, we had a little snow on the ground and more is in the forecast. A good time to stay inside and write!


This week I’ll take you to Ashton, Wisconsin, a mere ten miles from the State Capital building in Madison. Make your way out to Highway 12 North, drive until you see the signs for County K. Notice the convenience store on one corner and the Game Time Sports Bar and Grill on the other corner. Turn on to K and go west for a mile past a few houses, the Old Brabender Place, and the Kalscheuer Family Farm and Pumpkin Patch. In less than two minutes, if you observed the speed limit, you’ve now entered the village of Ashton.

Ashton is a small unincorporated village in the Township of Springfield which has an estimated population of about 2900 people spread out over 36 square miles. There is no listed population for Ashton proper, all I know is that there are about 15-20 houses surrounded by prime farmland.

Ashton was founded in 1849 and according to Wikipedia, named after Thomas Ashton, the president of the British Temperance Emigration Society and Savings Fund. Why him? That’s a good question. So I dug a little deeper and found that the fore mentioned society was organized to invest in land in the United States, including Wisconsin, to promote emigration of poor English families on welfare. I don’t know how well that worked because from what I know, most of the farms in the Ashton area were settled by Germans immigrants. There’s a lot more to the story but that’s enough give you a little flavor of Ashton.

Readers might be wondering what there is to see and do in Ashton. Most of the activity takes place at St. Peter’s Catholic Church and School. The church is by far the largest and most prominent building in town. But there are other places with action too, like Connie’s Home Plate, a local tavern and the baseball field across the street from the church.

St. Peter’s

St. Peter’s parish was founded in 1856 by German families and the current church was built in 1901 on a slight rise in the terrain. The tall steeple can be seen for miles around. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. A school was added in 1867 and is still operating today. Behind the church and school is the cemetery with rows and rows of headstones, many old, some more recent. Most occupants of the cemetery were born, lived, and died within a few miles of Ashton.

Several years ago on a cold, snowy day in March, my friend Wayne invited me join him to photograph the interior of St. Peter’s Church. Wayne is a native Ashtonian and lives about a third mile east of the church on the family farm where his ancestors homesteaded in the mid-1800s. He contacted Father Brian and asked permission to photograph the church after the Daily Mass ended. Permission was granted with the caveat that we deposit a few bucks in the collection plate, which we gratefully did.

We had free rein of the church including the area behind the alter. Upon entry, I was first intrigued by what was at the back of the church, the oils for anointing, the angel with the candelabra, the death of Jesus, and the prayer grotto off to the side.

The sanctuary with the pews for the congregants and the alter with all the scenes from the Holy Bible were quite stunning.

The stained glass windows were equally beautiful with great detail and color.

Before photographing the chancel (the area around the alter), we took a look behind the scenes where the priest and alter servers prepare for the Mass. I like this series of photos for their storytelling ability. The top photo shows the priest’s vestments, the sturdy chair, and the left behind heavy wool sweater.

Here the Book of Blessings waits for its next use along with sticky notes to mark the pages and a pencil for a short note, maybe a name of a parishioner.

These series of hooks hold the ties for the servers robes (white and black for different seasons perhaps), a jumble of crosses, and a flyswatter, the handiest tool of all!

The thurible is the metal pot where incense is burned. The smell of incense reminds parishioners of the sweetness of God and the smoke links heaven and earth. At least according to sources I Googled!

Back in the sanctuary, I make more photographs of the nave.

Then I  spent some time up in the choir loft. Note the ornate pulpit where the priest gives his sermon overlooking the congregation. 

Above the song books was this display, I guess to honor past choir members.

As we were leaving, I noticed this small table and board near the entry door. A place where information is available and notices posted. The ropes are used to ring the large bell and call the parishioners to Mass.

While we were inside for a few hours cozy and warm, the snow continued to fall.

While that photo shoot was the first time I was inside St. Peter’s in Ashton, it wasn’t my last. Wayne asked me to take a family reunion photo after a special mass. The service was led by one of the family who had become a priest many years before.

It’s a big family!

The year prior, Wayne asked me and others to take photos at the 150th anniversary of the school. There was a big turn out, hundreds of former students came from all over for the festivities. One of my photo assignments was to take a group photo from a man-lift about 20 feet up in the air. When the people gathered on the ball diamond, up I went with a couple of cameras, a tripod, and a megaphone so the crowd could hear my directions. I took several photos, some without the church in the background. I like this one the best. As luck would have it, this photo also appeared in the Sunday edition of the Wisconsin State Journal. That made me happy!

I should mention that St. Peter’s has the reputation of having the best parish Friday night fish fry in the area. Check it out sometime, I’m sure you’ll be glad you did.

The Ball Diamond – St. Peter Park

The photo above is the only one I have of the ball diamond located across the street from St. Peter’s. It’s the home field of the Ashton A’s of the Home Talent Baseball League, the largest adult amateur baseball league in Wisconsin with 44 teams. The league was organized in 1929 and Ashton won the league championship once in 2014. I say that’s pretty good for a small village.  I’ve never been to a game but I’ve heard they draw a nice crowd to cheer on the home team.

Connie’s Home Plate

Two doors down from St. Peter’s is Connie’s Home Plate, a tavern where the locals gather to wet their whistle, swap stories, and enjoy each others company. I’ve never been there but I’ve heard the bar is a repurposed chicken coop with a low ceiling and a comfortable atmosphere.

I’m guessing that if a stranger walked in the bar, conversation would pause for a few seconds while everyone stares at the newcomer bellying up to the bar. I’ve had that experience at other taverns in small towns. Pretty soon the fella sitting on the stool next to you strikes up a conversation. After drinking a beer or three you are old friends.

Well folks, that’s Ashton, Wisconsin. Not exactly, a tourist destination with a lot to see and do. But if you go there, you’ll meet some of the finest people around. That’s good enough for me.

If you’d like to see more photos from the Ashton area, click here and here for photos and stories by my friend Wayne.

Until next week, happy travels!


7 thoughts on “Postcards from Ashton, Wisconsin

  1. My dad (born 1902) was born and raised in Ashton. I had relatives living there when I grew up in the 30’s and 40’s. As often as I had been in Ashton as a child, I unfortunately have never been inside beautiful St. Peter’s. I’m blown away by its beauty. I still have family living in and around Ashton, but I no longer live in the WI, so I don’t get back there too often. Way back in my days of being in the area, Connie’s Home Plate was just known as Pete Dorns!

    The photos are magnificent! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Tom. Really appreciated the beautiful photos of St. Peter’s here in Ashton and the very complimentary words about our area and the wonderful people here. Sounds like you and Donna are enjoying an active retirement!

  3. Great post Tom. I really like three things: your narrative, your photos (great management of exposure in difficult interior situations), and your friend (and mine) Wayne Brabender. Really enjoyed this read.

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