Village of Wilmot

From "The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties" (Chicago: 1879), p. 553:
Wilmot
Wilmot, in the township of Salem, a flourishing village of about two hundred inhabitants, first sprang into existence in the year 1844, through the intervention of Mr. A. W. Benham and family. He first settled at a spot subsequently known as Liberty Corners, but very shortly after moved down onto the present site of the village, claiming nearly all the land in the immediate vicinity. He then built a frame house, the first in the village, which was christened by him " Gilead," after a place his parents came from in the State of Connecticut. His house still stands on Mill Street. He was followed, in 1846, by Mr. and Mrs. Hugh McIntyre, who are still residents of the little burg. In 1848, after the village had received some additions to its numbers, a meeting was called for the purpose of providing the village with a name, and, the "Wilmot Proviso" being at that time a mooted subject, Mr. Wilber, a newly arrived settler, moved by way of a joke, that the settlement be christened "Wilmot", which, having been submitted to the meeting, the joke was ratified as an earnest motion, and the place so nominated.

The First Brick House - In 1847, a relative of Mr. A. W. Benham, named Wilton Benham, arrived at Wilmot, and built two brick cottages. He was about building a third, but went to California instead, and soon after his arrival was burned to death in the great fire at Marysville, where he located.

The First Store was also opened in Wilmot, in 1847, by Messrs. A. W. Benton and John Marsh, the latter a storekeeper of Kenosha, whose interests in Wilmot were represented by Benham. After a few years, Mr. Benham sold out his interest to John Bullen, Jr., who retained possession until 1852, when the store burned down, all the goods being destroyed.

The First Hotel - The year 1848 saw the erection of a temperance hotel in the village, by Mr. Ephriam Wilcox, and, in 1850, when thoroughly completed, a grand Fourth of July dinner was given, which to this day is well remembered by the participants. The "Wilmot" hotel is the local habitation of travelers to-day.

The First Birth was that of a son, in the family of Joseph P. Cushman, in the spring of 1849, and the appearance of the little stranger is still remembered with pleasure.

The First Death to cast a gloom over the littl community, was that of Mrs. Catherine Benham, which occurred in 1848, but that gloom was shortly afterward dispelled by the festivities consequent upon the nuptials of Mr. J. M. Wilbur and Miss Maggie Carpenter, which the veracious chronicler sets down as the first marriage in the village.

Prior to all these events, however, to wit, in 1846, the Rev. J. Lothrop, who, in addition to being an able Baptist minister, seems to have possessed considerable talent as a surveyor, laid out the village and subdivided the plat into lots.

The Milling Interest was at one time quite an item in the economy of Wilmot, but of late years it has fallen off somewhat. When Mr. Benham arrived, he, in the summer of 1844 - there being no water power to his fancy - excavated ditches through the marsh, and drained them pretty thoroughly; where they, met he erected a small frame mill, which he operated for about two seasons, the power being all that he - desired; at the end of that time, as his business increased, he constructed a dam across Fox River, on which stream he built a large mill; he ran that mill for a very long period, up to 1864 in fact, when it was purchased by Mr. J. W. Voak, who operated it until March 14, of the present year, when it was totally destroyed by fire. Mr. Voak was doing a very large business at the time of its destruction, he having increased the capacity from a three-run to a five-run mill. It has been the cause of five deaths in all, viz.; Three Irishmen, names unknown, who were drowned while engaged in the construction of the dam, by the upsetting of a skiff; Mr. Wapples, master-mechanic of the mill, who fell into the wheel seventeen years ago and was drowned, and Emory Wapples, a son of the latter, who lost his life when the mill burned, by his courageous though ill-advised attempt to save the safe and books.

At one time there was a saw-mill and a flouring-mill there, but by whom they were operated local history saith not.

THE CHURCHES.

The Congregational Church was organized in 1853, with the following members: Mr. and Mrs. Udell and two daughters, Mrs. Carpenter, Mr. and Mrs. Bullen, Mr. and Mrs. Sirius Udell, Mr. and Mrs. Benham, Mrs. Ladue and Mrs. McIntyre. Mr. Bullen and Mr. Benham were two of the first officers, being Deacon and Trustee respectively. In 1854, a subscription was started, and a frame church costing $1,600, capable of accommodating 250 persons, was erected, the land being donated by Mr. Benham. The first minister was a Rev. Mr. Thompson, who came there in 1853. The present minister is the Rev. George W. Sargeant, and the Trustees are William Sears, William Faulkner. G. W. Vincent, Jolin Swenson and Hugh McIntyre; Anson Pierce, Clerk. The present membership of the church is about sixty.

The Episcopal Church was organized in 1868, by the Rev. Mr. Arvedson, of Algonquin, with twenty-two communicants. The were Robert Flemming, George Gardiner, Charles Mead, Robert Tweed, Richard Smith, Mrs. Thomas Randall, and the families of Robert Phillips, William Shotlieff, Robert Richardson, Joseph James and William Runnion. In 1871, a church was built, and on the 17th of September, in the same year, was dedicated by Bishop Armitage, of Milwaukee, who was then assisting old Bishop Kemper. The first regular Minister was the Rev. E. K. Miller, who remained until the fall of 1878. Since that date, the services have been conducted by the Missionaries, the Rev. Peter Arvedson, of Algonquin, with the Rev. George M. Everhart, of Kenosha, officiating. The building cost within a trifle of $3.000, the, land upon which it stands having been donated by Mr. Wilbur. They have a very good organ in the church, which cost $150.

The Roman Catholics organized a church in 1856, with about twenty members, and in the following year erected a small frame church on the hill overlooking the village. That cost $300, and was in charge of Father Schroundenbach, but in 1870 it was found necessary to build a more commodious place of worship, so the present church was erected, at a cost of $1,000, and in 1871 dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Henni, of Milwaukee, assisted by Father Fitzhenry, who still resides there.

In 1869, the German Lutherans, to the number of thirty, organized a society, and eight years ago purchased a private house from Mr. Schunmacher, that was remodeled, for church purposes at an expense of $500. The first ministers were the Rev. Fred Schug, who served four years; the Rev. Mr. Thiele, eighteen months; Heinrich Ecklemann, three years, and Carl Titze, the present popular minister, who has been there a year, ministering to the spiritual wants of thirty-three souls. The first Trustees were C. Gauger, J. Bernhofs and H. Wald. Those in office at present, and serving, are W. Ganzline, W. Schmidt, C. Gauger and A. Weyhramh.

The Church of the Methodist congregation was commenced in June, 1876, and dedicated in November of the same year, by the Rev. Mr., Atkinson, of Waukegan, assisted by the Presiding Elder, Dr. Miller. It is a handsome brick edifice, 28x5O feet, capable of accommodating 300 worshipers, and cost $2,650. The bell, of which the congregation are quite poud, the church purchased of Van Deuzen & Tift, of Cincinnati, Ohio, and was on exhibition during the Centennial, at Philadelphia. The first minister was the Rev. Mr. Blackburn; the present, the Rev. A. J. Benjamin. The Trustees are J. W. Voak, C. W. Voak, J. H. Sabin, C. H. Cruckman and W. Benedict. The Church is in a flourishing condition.

SCHOOLS.

The "teaching of the young idea" was inauourated by Miss Caroline McCammons about 1840, in a shanty built of rough boards, located on Main street, near Dr. Ford's drug store. She had then seven scholars, two of Mr. Benham's children, four of Mr. Wilcox's and Miss Mary McIntyre, at that time about five years of age. She remained but four months, and was succeeded by Miss Eunice Button, and subsequently by Miss Jane Stephens. There were, of course, a large number of teachers from that time to the present, but, unfortunately, the records have not been preserved. The present Principal is Mr. William Griffith, who assumed control three years ago. He has some thirty-nine scholars in charge, and, outside of Kenosha, this is the only graded school in the county. The system pursued there is a very excellent one.

SECRET SOCIETIES.

The most important of these, because the oldest, is the Odd Fellows Salem Lodge, No. 42, which was organized January 31, 1850, with fourteen members and the following officers: E. D. Robins, N. G.; William H. Smith, V. G.; S. A. Didama, R. S.; E. F. Barker, P. S.; Buckley Brainard, Treasurer. They have now fifty members in all, and their officers are: Dr. Ford, N. G.; Charles Phillips, V. G.; George Gardiner, Permanent Secretary; T. A. Emonds, R. S.; A. H. Kruchman, Treasurer. The Society owns and occupys a brick building on Main street, the erection of which cost $2,000. The young ladies have also organized a Rebecca Lodge of twenty members, which is now two months old, but no officers had been appointed at the time of writing.

The Division Lodge, No. 118, of the Sons of Temperance, was organized on May 14, 1875, with twenty-five members, and such was the winning character of the young ladies that, by June 30, of the same year, the membership was increased to fifty-eight. The present officers are: Walter Taber, W. D.; Mr. Benjamin, R. S.; Miss Ida F. Rice, A. R. S.; Dr. McClellan, F. S.; Florence Kinreed, Treasurer; G. W. Sargeant, Chaplain; Henry Rice, Conductor; Ida Carpenter, W. C. Ward Arnold, Outside Sentinel; Emma Benedict, Inside Sentinel.

MISCELLANEOUS.

The Wilmot Dramatic Association was organized last fall, with eighteen active members, and; by their own untiring efforts and the display of considerable histrionic talent, have amassed $500 worth of property. Dr. Ford, President; D. J. Vincent, Secretary, and Lyman Mead, Treasurer. The other members are as follows: C. S. Anderson, M. H. Tyrrell, James Owen, Elmer Vincent, Henry Rice, Ward Arnold, William Kinreed, Walter Taber and F. N. Beecher; Misses Mollie Favuer, Kate Brown, Bee Brown, Ida Harvey and Flo Wilbur.

In connection with the club is a brass band of twelve pieces, which was organized in January, 1879. Their members and instruments are: Lyman Mead, leader, 1st B flat; Ward Arnold, 2d B flat; Fred Beecher, 1st E flat; Elmer Vincent, 2d E flat; Louis Smith, 1st alto; Dow Vincent, 2d alto; Louis Hegeman, 1st tenor; Rance Shotlieff, 2d tenor; Antoine Lois, baritone; Frank Harvey, bass horn; William Harvey, bass drum; Frank Whipple, snare drum. The officers were D. J. Vincent, President; F. Mead, Secretary and Treasurer.

The First Steamboat which ever plowed the waters of Fox River, was the "Lady Catherine," launched and completed in the spring of 1854, by Post & Coleman, making her first trip to McHenry, Ill., on the Fourth of July of that year. She was mainly used for towing purposes for the Fox River Valley Railroad, to McHenry. She ran there two ears, and was then taken to Geneva Lake, where she was burned by accident. There is now a handsome little boat, the "Athletic," owned by Mr. Voak, who purchased and brought her to the village six years ago. She is sixty-five feet long, and used chiefly for excursion parties. Ten years ago, there were two propellers employed on the river, dredging it, but both were burned eventually. From "The City of Kenosha and Kenosha County Wisconsin" by Frank H. Lyman, 1916, p. 324
Wilmot
The Village of Wilmot in the Township of Salem first came into existence in 1844, through the intervention of Mr. A. W. Benham and family. He first settled at a spot known as Liberty Corners, but shortly afterward removed to the present site of the village. He then built a frame house, the first in the village, claiming nearly all the land in the immediate vicinity. He christened his location Gilead, in honor of the spot in Connecticut from which his parents came.

Benham was followed in 1846 by Mr. and Mrs. Hugh McIntyre. In 1848, after the village had received several new families, a meeting was called for the purpose of creating a name for the new community. The Wilmot Proviso was at that time a live topic of day and Mr. Wilbur, a newly arrived settler, moved jokingly that the new settlement be called Wilmot. The name was submitted to the meeting and adopted.

In 1847 Wilton Benham, a relative of A. W. Benham, arrived at Wilmot and constructed two brick cottages. He started a third, left for California instead, where he was afterwards burned to death in the great Marysville fire there.

The first store was opened in 1847 by A. W. Benham and John Marsh, the latter a store keeper at Kenosha. After a few years Benham sold his interest to John Bullen, Jr., who retained possession until 1852, when the store and goods were destroyed by fire.

In 1848 a temperance hotel was erected in the village by Ephraim Wilcox and in 1850, when completed, a large Fourth of July dinner was given.

The first birth was that of a son in the family of Joseph P. Cushman in the spring of 1849. The first death was that of Mrs. Catherine Benham in 1848. The first marriage was in the same year, being that of J. M. Wilbur and Maggie Carpenter.

The village was platted and surveyed bv Rev. Jason Lothrop, 1846.

When Mr. Benham arrived on the site of Wilmot in 1844 he excavated ditches through the marshes, there being no water power present, and drained the land; where the ditches converged he erect, a small frame mill, which he operated for about two seasons, the power being all that was necessary. Then he constructed a dam across Fox River and built a larger mill. He conducted this mill until 1864, when it was purchased by J. W. Voak. In 1879 fire destroyed the building. This mill was the cause of no less than five deaths. Three Irishmen were drowned while engaged in the building of the dam, their skiff upsetting; Mr. Wapples, master mechanic of the mill, fell into the wheel and was drowned; and Emory Wapples, a son of the latter, was burned to death at the time the mill itself was destroyed, while endeavoring to save the books and safe.

The Congregational Church was organized in 1853 with the following members: Mr. and Mrs. Udell and two daughters, Mrs. Carpenter, Mr. and Mrs. Bullen, Mr. and Mrs. Sirius Udell, Mr. and Mrs. Benham, Mrs. Ladue and Mrs. McIntyre. Messrs. Bullen and Benham were two of the first officers, being deacon and trustee respectively. In 1854 a subscription was started and a frame church costing $1,600 was erected on land donated by Mr. Benham. The first pastor of the church was Reverend Thompson, who came in 1853.

The Episcopal Church was organized in 1868 by Reverend Arvedson of Algonquin with twenty-two communicants. They were: Robert Fleming, George Gardiner, Charles Mead, Robert Tweed, Richard Smith, Mrs. Thomas Randall and the families of Robert Phillips, William Shotlieff, Robert Richardson, Joseph James and William Runnion. In 1871 a church was built and dedicated on September 17th of that year by Bishop Armitage. The first regular pastor of the church was Rev. E. K. Miller, who remained until the fall of 1873. The land upon which the church stood was donated to the society by Mr. Wilbur.

The Roman Catholics organized a church in 1856 with about twenty members, and in the following year erected a small frame church on the hill overlooking the village. It cost $300 and was in charge of Father Schroundenbach. In 1870-1 a new church, costing $1,000, was built.

In 1869 the German Lutherans, numbering about thirty, organized a society and purchased a private house from Mr. Schunmacher, which was remodeled for church purposes. The first ministers were Reverends Thiele, Schug, Ecklemann and Titze. The first trustees were: C. Gauger, J. Bernhofs and H. Wald.

The Methodist Church was started in June, 1876, and dedicated in November of the same year. It was of brick and cost $2,650. The first minister of the society was Reverend Blackburn.

The first teaching in the village was done by Miss Caroline McCammons about 1846, in a rough board shanty, located on Main Street. She taught seven pupils, two of Mr. Benham's children, four belonging to Mr. Wilcox and Miss Mary McIntyre. Miss McCammons remained only about four months, and was succeeded by Miss Eunice Button and later came Miss Jane Stephens.

Salem Lodge No. 42, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was organized January 31, 1850, with fourteen members.

The first steamboat which ever navigated on Fox River was the "Lady Catherine," launched and completed in the spring of 1854 by Post & Coleman, making her first trip to McHenry, Illinois, on July 4, 1854. The boat was used mostly for towing, by the Fox River Valley Railroad, to McHenry. After two years' service the boat was taken to Lake Geneva and was there burned accidentally. Mr. Voak owned an excursion boat, the "Athletic," sixty-five feet in length.




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