Starting near the turn of the century, Sussex-Templeton had a succession of large "pea viners," continuing on until the 1950s, when the machinery went out of style.
Pea viners were used to separate peas from the large truck-loads of freshly cut pea vines from farmers’ fields. The machines were tall and long, and hand-fed by workers using pitchforks.
The city of Waukesha had a canning company, incorporated Dec. 1, 1899, which quickly grew to be the largest canner in the state of Wisconsin.
In 1908, the Waukesha Canning Company came to the communities of Sussex-Templeton and Eagle and established satellite pea viner stations. The Sussex-Templeton five-unit pea viners were in an open wooden shed on land south of Silver Spring Drive, and just east of the Sussex Creek. Incidentally, Frank Grogan lived in the adjoining home.
In 1924, Grogan was elected as the first president of the village of Sussex-Templeton, thus combining the two adjacent villages. He also served as a “field man" for the Waukesha Canning Co.
Wagon-loads of pea vines harvested at Lisbon farms were brought in by horses to the viners. The vines, stems, leaves and pods would go up in a pile south of the works, and they would quickly ferment into a sticky mess. The smell of ammonia would spill into a full-out door lavatory. However, the vines were free for farmers to haul away to be used as milking feed for the cows who loved them.
With the vines so close to the creek, there would have been run-off from the plant juices that would dye the water a garish green. The creek would remain such a color a mile away, as the Sussex Creek flow hit Lisbon Road, and then continued down to feed into the Fox River. (Was this pollution?)
The peas were shucked into 50-pound boxes, which were quickly shunted to a Soo Line Railroad spur (today the Wisconsin Central). Every two hours, a special “jittney train” was made up and quick-paced to Waukesha, where the peas were canned.
Power for this first series of five viners was furnished by Edger Brown and his steam machine. Brown had the time to utilize his steam machine for the pea crop because they matured in late June or early July, before wheat, oats, barley and other grains matured. Thus, the peas were a source of extra income.
However, the Waukesha Canning Co. went into receivership in 1910, bankruptcy in 1910-11 and it obsolete by 1912, as the no. 1 local viner.
The no. 2 viner was part of the September 1920 building of the Mammoth Spring Canning Co. By 1921, the viner was located where today stands the Art Sawall Mammoth Springs Apartments (essentially right in the middle of Old Templeton with houses and businesses adjacent to it).
The unfortunate mix of location coupled with the odor produced prompted the new Mammoth Spring Canning Co. to put the no. 3 viner station where today is the area east of Quad Tech, south of the Chicago North Western Railroad. The prevailing winds came from the west, so the odor was somewhat gone. However, on certain days, whiskey corners got a full whiff of it.
I personally remember farmers coming into Sussex mills with a truckload, and we could not serve them too fast to just get them back out onto the roadway to their local farms. You could smell them from 10 feet away.
However, when you asked the farmers about it, their reply would be, "It puts a lot more milk into the pail when I can feed them to my cows," and that the pea vines were essentially "free for the taking.”
However, by 1960 all the pea-thrashing viners were gone – peas were now harvested by movable, motorized threshing machines which cut, threshed, and spit the vines onto the field and the peas into holding bins.