By: Joanne M. Haas/WDNR Bureau of Law Enforcement
The King family's three Wisconsin conservation wardens got a jaw-dropper of a surprise when the lid was lifted from a dust-covered box jammed in a congested storage room of a departed grandmother.
Behold, cradled in the decades-old box were the credentials of a grandfather of varying 'greats' who served as a Wisconsin Special Deputy Fish and Game Warden in 1907-1908.
The King wardens certainly didn't. But it did explain a few things about how and maybe why they became wardens. If you believe in genetics, it's in their wiring. If you're more the romanticism literature type, this was their destiny.
Any way you look at it, finding history that is a direct link to your life is a stunner. Especially when you can connect the dots to how and where you live.
A few years back, two of the Kings' grandmother passed on, leaving a house of memories to clear.
"She kept everything. She had boxes and boxes all in one room," Lt. Jeff King said. "My parents found it."
"It" was the original and now yellowing delicate credentials of Paul Noble - the great-great grandfather of Lt. Jeff and his brother, Hunter Education Administrator Lt. Jon King and great-great-great grandfather of their cousin -- Field Conservation Warden Nick King. All serve with the Wis. Department of Natural Resources' Bureau of Law Enforcement.
The documents traced a life that has been, in some measure, replicated by the three Kings.
Paul Noble was stationed in Darlington, Wis., the southwestern town where the three Kings grew up - and two of them still live. And, just to make it more interesting, the youngest King brother of Jeff and Jon - Jason -- serves as the city's police chief.
Paul Noble was already considered a seasoned gentleman when he served the state as a special warden from 1907 to 1908. He was appointed to serve by Wisconsin's fifth chief warden - J. W. Stone, who at that time could appoint two wardens per congressional district. Paul's parents settled in Wisconsin in 1845, the year Paul was born, after traveling across the Midwest from Pennsylvania. Paul was born in Indiana during the trek across America. By the time he was appointed by Chief Warden J.W. Stone and Governor J.O. Davidson in 1907, Paul was already 62 years old.
And, Paul Noble's per diem for one year of his service was a whopping $98.
"What was that spent on?" Jeff King said. A good question since the first car that was available to the greater public was the Model T in 1908, the last year of Paul Noble's service.
So, we know it wasn't mileage. And that $98 was for 1907. What was it for: Hay for the horse? Meals? Hours of duty?
This is just one of many history leads Jeff plans to pursue to learn more about his family lineage.
Jon King says the find explained the other half of the family tree. "This is a whole side of our family - the Noble side - that we never really knew about," Jon King said.
Added Jeff: "None of us even knew he was a warden. My son is named Paul and at that time, we did not know about Paul Noble. The fact that my son was named Paul and I chose a career as a warden creates a special connection."
They had heard the name before.
Paul Noble's granddaughter was a Noble, who married John King in the early 1940s - the grandfather of Jeff and Jon, which explains the King-Nobel connection.
Always knew the career choice was warden
Becoming a warden was something all three Kings say they knew was in their future from a very, very early age.
Nick King, who has been a warden since 2017, went on ridealongs with cousin Jeff King and had the same kind of upbringing - outdoors, hunting, fishing. He took an honorable detour into the military and completed his education before applying to serve as a warden.
"I'm a third-generation warden," Nick said with a smile, adding he was intrigued when he learned of his family's law enforcement history.
Jeff laughed and said: "Yes, it only skipped 110 years."
But, like Jeff who intends on finding out more, so does Nick: "I'm really into it. I went back to see how exactly we were related."
For Jeff, he remembers the moment he knew he could help initiate change for the better. It was on a day when he would pedal 3 or 4 miles to his favorite fishing creek outside of Darlington. On this day, the trash from the waste transfer plant had blown into the creek.
When Jeff got home from fishing, he decided to call the DNR in Dodgeville to see what could be done about the litter blowing into the creek. "I was just a little kid at that point and felt passionate enough about the problem to look up the DNR in his phone book and make the call."
Brother Jon recalls learning all about hunting and fishing from their safety-stickler father and having a lot of fun outdoors.
"Fishing was always part of our life and at many family gatherings," Jon King said. "The guys would go out to Chamber's bottom and go fishing. When we would get to our aunt and uncle's house for overnight, I remember going to Ludden Lake and fishing."
Hunting, Jon says, was also a big family tradition.
"We got into hunting as soon as we legally could do so. Uncle Barry King and Father Gerald King took us squirrel and rabbit hunting. I think our cousin Barry "Bud" King Jr played a large part in getting dad back into hunting and taking us out," Jon said. "When we got to deer hunt, it was one of the best times of my life. We sat in the bottom at Powell's Family Farm as a group. The conversations we had as a large group were a lot about the family, farming, and hunting. I can remember the pan- fried rabbits and squirrels that dad would cook."
Jon and Jeff recall their uncle, Nick King's grandfather, Barry King taking them fishing each summer and having a blast every time they got to stay with Uncle Barry and Aunt Ruthann's.
There never was a second career choice for any of the three.
Search for more is on - and a second find!
The warden historians tell Jeff that Paul Noble's credentials are the oldest known in existence.
A trip to the Darlington Historical Society revealed a newspaper clipped showing the late Warden Noble catching poachers in 1908 - something all the Kings have done, too, in modern times.
And in the last two years, after the Kings' mother passed on, a second discovery of a Bible that had the Noble family history handwritten on the inside cover. Paul Noble is buried at Darlington as is one of his brothers. Another brother, a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army representing Wisconsin, died in the Civil War in the Battle of the Wilderness.
His brother died in the Civil War in the battle of the wilderness. His body was burned so no funeral nor burial. He was a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. army from Wisconsin.
The King wardens have years of research to do on Mr. Noble - a gift of a find with so many clues as to why they chose the career on the outdoor beat.
If you have information regarding natural resource violations, you may confidentially report by calling or texting: VIOLATION HOTLINE: 1-800-TIP-WDNR or 1-800-847-9367. The hotline is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Trained staff relay report information to conservation wardens.