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Chapter History

Harry and Laura Nohr

Harry NohrLaura Nohr

"I can't quite figure out if I really like trout fishing or if I like trout fishing because trout live in the most beautiful places in the world."

-Harry Nohr

 

          When Harry Nohr returned from World War I, he brought his savings-and considerable talents as a butter and ice cream maker-to Mineral Point and opened a creamery. The business flourished for a while, but when it was undercut by a large competitor and failed, Harry refused to free himself from debt by declaring bankruptcy. Instead, though he probably preferred to spend more time with pretty Laura Jacka, he took a job selling calendars so he could pay his creditors. 

          In 1925 he joined C.H. Stewart, Inc., and began to hire and train distributors who would then sell the Stewart line of household products door to door. After he and Laura were married later that year, they traveled for Stewart's for more than ten years, befriending Americans from all walks of life and reading in their leisure hours. 

          The Nohr's life together might have seemed a study in contrasts to some, for Harry had been born to a poor central Wisconsin immigrant family while Laura was the only child of a Mineral Point merchant. Having earned his own living from the age of nine, Harry left school as a freshman when his employer broke his hip. Laura lived with her family and probably never worked outside the home until she married at the age of 22.

          Working throughout the country in the late 1920's and early 1930's, Harry and Laura saw America as few others could, but they returned to Mineral Point to settle down. Harry, a lifelong Democrat in a conservative county, was thought by some to take unpopular positions so he could annoy his fellow townspeople. However, his outspoken opposition to the extremism of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the Ku Klux Klan-as well as his active support of habitat protection, species preservation, and conservation education- have stood the test of time.

          Gordon MacQuarrie, the great sports and outdoor writer, not only understood Harry's principled outspokenness and unusual sense of humor but also participated as co-conspirator and writer. His literary device, the Old Duck Hunters' Association, cast Harry as Mr. President and Laura as Mrs. President. Their big white home on High Street, the aromas of Laura's delicious feasts, the sidelong glances and affectionate smiles, the back porch where the grapevine twined: all some to life in MacQuarrie's tales.

          Harry began turning wood when the table on the back porch needed a new leg, but when practicality became passion, Harry became a maker of bowls-beautiful bowls, bowls in which the heart of the native hardwoods was revealed. As his fame spread, the Nohrs received more and more guests in the basement workshop where Harry worked, and many recall his advice to educate their hands.

          "Find a way," Harry would say - because educated hands could always find a way to make the most of the materials at hand. It was sage advice when Harry first offered it... and in our own time as well.

 

Photos by The Democrat-Tribune, Mineral Point, WI and the Telegraph-Herald, Dubuque, IA; both courtesy of The Mineral Point History Room, Public Library, Mineral Point, WI.

History Compiled by Barbara Ballard

 

"The Harry and Laura Nohr Chapter of Trout Unlimited is proud to extend the Nohr's legacy of principled community action to the next generation."