Monticello Historical Society Learns the History of the Monticello Livestock Sales Barn
January 30, 2020
Last Monday night, members of the Monticello Area Historical Society and the public were treated to an excellent program presented by Jim McNeill, Manager of the Monticello Livestock Sales Barn from 1976-1998. McNeill's presentation of facts, stories and photos was punctuated with asking audience members, "do you remember this," reflecting on his 22 years (1976-1998) at the helm of the sales barn. His memory of special animals was fascinating as he told the stories and showed photos of the three boars that each weighed in over 900 pounds, and one which scaled out at 1,447 pounds. McNeill reflected on his long career, "I started when I was 16 years old, working the ring for auctioneer Jack Reynolds at Dodgeville."
The Sales Barn was founded and constructed in 1959 by Jim Dooley and Harry Hadinger, two Monticello area residents. This new business was an almost immediate success, and continued to grow from its founding. Both families were involved in the day-to-day operations of the business. Dooley and Hadinger took charge of the livestock operations.
Their wives, Fran Hadinger and Kathryn Dooley, operated the lunch stand in the building. The lunch stand quickly built a reputation for both the quantity and quality of the food they served. Business grew to the point that Hilda Milbrandt and Awina Gempeler were hired to help with the food operation. It was quite common that people would come to the sales barn not to buy or sell any livestock, but to treat themselves to their delicious hamburgers.
Some years after the business opened, Dooley and Hadinger decided to sell and retire. Area farmers Willy Elmer and Glen Flannery became partners, purchasing the business and successfully operating the business for a number of years before selling out to Ernie Ruefner, an area farmer.
Also working at the sales barn in the accounting department were George Grenzow, Lorena Holdrich and Mrs. Clarence Webb.
Bob Vogel was the first auctioneer, along with Ray Miskimon of Winslow, IL, and occasional area auctioneers who also helped up with the sales. At times the sale had so many animals to sell that the auctioneer would have to sell them at a rate of two or three animals per minute.
On busy sales nights, farm trucks bringing in a load of livestock to be sold that evening would have to often wait in line for an extended time because of the back-up of 50 or more trucks waiting to unload their livestock.
Three sales were held each week, along with two dairy sales per month. While the N.F.O. (National Farmers Organization) was very active in Wisconsin, the sales barn was rented to the group in order to hold their own membership sales auctions.
In 1976, the business was sold to Midwest Livestock Producers, a subsidiary of the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, becoming one of ten Midwest Livestock Producers sales barns in the state.
The economic impact of the sales barn can't fully be determined, but they had yearly sales proceeds that often reached $15 million per year. Hay, horse and tool sales added to the yearly sales.
For a number of area high school students, going to the sales barn on auction night was a regular happening, as they enjoyed checking out potential girl and boy friends. One may not think of a livestock sales barn as being a place to find a special friend, or a date for the upcoming prom. For a number of those high school kids of 45 years ago, they found love at the Monticello Sales Barn.
Imagine, if you will, a grandchild asking the question, "Grandma, where did you meet Grandpa? I met Grandpa at the livestock auction, and I'm still married to the old goat!" And yes, Sales Barn sold many goats over the years.