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Grafton History

The following is taken from "Histories of Washington and Ozaukee Counties", Western Publishing, 1881. It is copied exactly from the book except that I have capitalized surnames.

Old Grafton was formed January 26, 1846. It then comprised the whole of Town 10, in Ranges 21 and 22. In 1849, the town of Cedarburg, until then a part of Grafton, became a separate and independent organization. The first town election was held at the house of Benjamin H. MOORE, April 7, 1846, when the following vote was polled: For State Government, 63 votes; against State Government, 32 votes; to retain the county seat at Grafton Village, 39 votes; for a removal to Cedarburg, 78 votes; for northwest quarter of Section 2, Town 10, Range 20, 9 votes; for Port Washington, 11 votes; for northeaster quarter, Section 3, Town 10, Range 20, 1 vote; against tax on county buildings, 129 votes; for tax on buildings, 8 votes. The first officers elected were: Supervisors, Benjamin H. MOORE, William SCHROEDER and William RICE; Town Clerk, Harvey G. TURNER; Treasurer, P. SMITH; Collector, Michael GORMAN; Assessors, Egbert G. SHUTE, James S. COLTON and John F. GREENHAGER; Commissioners of Highways, Hopewell COX, Joseph CARLEY and Harvey G. TURNER; Constables, Luther WETTERBEN, Patrick MATHERS and George FISHER; Fence Viewers, Hugh McELROY, Timothy KETCHUM and Thomas MURPHY; Sealer of Weights, Reuben WELLS; Justice of the Peace, Timothy WOODEN. It was voted to hold the next regular meeting at the village of Cedarburg. Almost the first business transacted by the Board of Supervisors, was to apportion certain of the town moneys for the support of a number of charitable applicants recommended to the board as being worthy of public aid. The first visiting physician was Dr. Peter MOORE. It was decided by the board that he should receive pay as follows: For all patients visited under the distance of two miles, 50 cents per visit, and extra pay for medicines. Professional men in those days were obliged to content themselves with moderate fees. Ministers considered themselves lucky if they were once a month made the happy recipients of a $10 piece. School teachers received $10 and $12 per month and boarded themselves, while lawyers would walk ten, twenty and sometimes as far as thirty miles to try a case before some pioneer Justice, for a fee of $2, and should this amount, through some fortunate circumstance, be increased to $5, the student of Blackstone hailed the acquisition as an omen that Dame Fortune was about to adopt him as one of her favored sons. As near as can be ascertained, a man by the name of John DRAKE was the first to settle in the town of Grafton, as the early settlers of Mequon, who came into that section as early as 1839, found DRAKE living in a little log and bark shanty, and it was thought that he had located there two years previous to that time. Timothy WOODEN followed close on the heels of DRAKE, and some believe that he might honestly claim to be the first settler. In fact, "Tim," as he was familiarly known by the old settlers, was quite a character in himself. He used to say, when asked where he came from, that he didn't come at all, but grew up with the country, and from his originality of character, and the manner in which he used to thrive without work (for Tim never denied being lazy), many were led to believe that he really was a favorite child of the forest. Yet with all his eccentricities, and antipathy to anything which required physical or mental exertion, Tim WOODEN succeeded in acquiring considerable property from which he widow, who now lives in Chicago, derives a revenue sufficient to maintain her in the best of circumstances. This peculiar trait in Tim's character is fully illustrated in the following story, told by one of his early biographers: "It is related that a party of Menomonee Indians, who probably understood his character, once enticed him out to Milwaukee Falls, now Grafton Village, and then led him to believe that they wanted his scalp They fastened him to a tree, and piling wood around him, with all semblance of true ferocity made preparations to burn him. When these were completed, the chief whispered in Tim's ear that the whites had on a former occasion shown mercy to him, and in return, he would cut his bonds and let him return to Milwaukee, provided he never informed who did it. “Walk twenty miles!” ejaculated the heroic Tim, whom fire could not intimidate; “If you'll lend me one of your horses, I'll agree to it!"

Many stories, similar to the one above related, are told by the old settlers in regard to Tim's peculiarities, but with all due deference to himself and friends, it is but just to say that most of them are without foundation, and are told only for effect. The following, concerning his death, is vouched for as a fact: A common saying among the old settlers, when questioned about any particular job in which they might be engaged was to answer, “Well, I ain't doin’ anything else.” WOODEN was taken down the the cholera. When in the last stages of the disease, one of his friends approached him and said --
"Tim, I believe you are dying;" to which Tim replied --
"I ain't doin' anything else." In a few hours after, he was dead.

The first event of importance which took place in the town of Grafton, was the building of the dam across the Milwaukee River, and the raising of Dilble's saw mill, in the fall of 1841. Among the old settlers, who participated in the memorable work, were Fred. W. HORN, now of Cedarburg, T.A. HOLMES, Timothy WOODEN, William WORTH, Reuben WELLS, Peter TURCK, Ephraim WOODWORTH, Timothy KETCHUM, Hugh McELROY, and a large number from the German settlements in Mequon. There were no dwelling-houses in those days, the only accommodation in the way of shelter being an old shanty, half log and half bark, which had been erected on the bank of the river a few years previous. In addition to this, the Indians had built quite a number of wigwams under which the men found shelter for the night. Notwithstanding the poor accommodations, they had come fully prepared to have a good time after the raising was over. A fiddler, as they were called in those days, who had been engaged for the occasion, called the crowd together, and the forests were made to ring with music, and the gladsome shouts of the merry pioneer dancers. "Never," says Mr. HORN, "have I enjoyed a dance as I did the one at the old saw-mill raising."

The first school teacher in Grafton was Miss Emoline TEALL, daughter of Col. William TEALL, and now the wife of Harvey G. TURNER, one of the first lawyers of the town, but not a resident of Manitowoc.

Miss TEALL taught in the Hamburg District, where the village now stands. When Phineas M. JOHNSON, Jacob ANDREANA and William T. BONNIWELL built the stone block formerly occupied as a court house, they re-christened it, and gave it the name of Grafton. The following year Charles E. CHAMBERLIN taught a school in the adjoining district. Says Mr. CHAMBERLIN: "I received $11 per month and boarded myself, out of which sum I saved money, but it cost very little to live in those times. A suit of jean answered for Sunday as well as for week days. Game of all kinds was plenty, fish were caught in abundance, fuel cot only the labor of preparing it, wheat was 50 cents a bushel, potatoes but 10 cents, sugar and coffee could be bought from 6 to 10 cents per pound, while the very best of whisky was sold for 15 cents a gallon. Thos were the days in which we enjoyed pure independence The freedom of the forest is sublime, and possesses a grandeur unequaled by any of the magnificent displays of refined and cultured society." J.A. BROWN started the first newspaper in the town, under the heading of the Washington County Eagle. The Advertiser, now of Port Washington, was also started in the village of Grafton, by a number of influential men, who were opposed to a division of the county. C.E. CHAMBERLIN did the first mechanical work, while the press work was done in Milwaukee. Benjamin F. MOORE kept the first store, and opened his house for the accommodation of the traveling public. Benjamin SEBRING was the next to engage in the hotel business, and held the field until 1848, when John SIMON came in and opened the Wisconsin House. COE & MOORE were also engaged in the same business, and accommodated travelers in a little frame building, which was called the Grafton House. At that time a stage-line was running between Sheboygan and Milwaukee. DAVIS & MOORE were the first to embark in this enterprise, and engaged a man by the name of STEPHENS as driver, who wielded the lines for a short time, when Datus COWEN took charge o the reins, and became the recognized pioneer stage-driver of the old Green Bay and Milwaukee route. The establishment of this line by Messrs. DAVIS & MOORE, was looked upon as a great undertaking, and was greeted with considerable enthusiasm by the old settlers, as it opened to them the conveniences of a mail, and afforded what was considered in those days excellent facilities for travel. A large grist-mill was erected in 1846 by P.M. JOHNSON, T.A. HOLMES and others, and was run by water-power obtained from the river. The fall at this point is sixteen feet, and the power the best on the Milwaukee River. The dam has been washed out twice since 1841. The first and most destructive flood was in the spring of 1865, the second in 1881. It has been thoroughly repaired, and affords excellent power by which the grist-mill, and a large woolen factory, a hundred yards below, are run. The flouring-mill is now owned by H.C. SMITH & Co., and has a capacity of 100 barrels of flour per day. Their principal brand is the "White Lily." In 1846, LAMBERSON & GILL built a dam three-quarters of a mile below the old saw-mill site, from which they obtained a fall of twenty feet. A building was erected with a view to starting a paper-mill, but it was afterwards converted into a furniture factory for the manufacture of chairs and bedsteads. It changed hands several times until 1860, when it became the property of William REYNOLDS. From 1864 to 1872, it was under the management of R.L. PARSMORE and B.A. WILLIAMS, when Mr. REYNOLDS once more assumed control, and kept it in operation until 1873, since which time it has been standing idle. In 1881, the dam was swept away by the spring flood. John STEINMETZ built a brewery in 1846, which is still in a flourishing condition.

The village of Grafton is one of the oldest in the country. Buildings were erected and a town plat laid out as early as 1843. It is very pleasantly situated on the west bank of the Milwaukee River, at a point twenty-six miles north of Milwaukee. The early white settlers were attracted by the water-power, which they saw could be readily utilized from the falls, while it was resorted to by the Indians as a favorite seat of council. Quite a large Indian village, of several hundred wigwams, as supposed to have been built there, as the first aborigines still lingered in the vicinity, descendants of the Mnemonics and Sacs. They were always quiet and peaceable, and friendly toward the whites in many ways, bartering with them all kinds of game for provisions and fire-arms. Deer were plenty in those days, and the Indians had a way of hunting them by night. They knew about what places the animals would congregate, and would prepare a light to attract them, and then concealing themselves, awaited their opportunity. Soon the report of half a dozen rifles would resound through the forest, and, as an old settler puts it: "We always felt sure that Waubeka and his dusky followers were securing us venison for the coming day."

The lime interests of Grafton form one of the principal revenues. Timothy HIGGINS ranks as the oldest lime-burner in this section, he having built a kiln as early as 1846. The largest one now in operation is that controlled by J.W. ORMSBY and O.W. ROBINSON, of Milwaukee. This kiln was started in 1874, under the name of the ORMSBY Lime Company, and Charles STEWART, of Grafton, made foreman; he employs regularly twelve to fifteen men, and turns out 125 barrels of lime per day. The village of Grafton at present contains one large woolen-mill, one grist-mill, a chair and furniture factory, one brewery, one cheese factory, some twenty-five business houses, two wagon and blacksmith shops, and three churches -- one Catholic, one German Lutheran and one Presbyterian.


The corner-stone of the church edifice bears the date October 17, 1847. The congregation was first visited by Father SAILER. His successors were, first Father WICKMANN, Father FABIAN, Father STORE, Father SCHRANENBACH and Father STRICKNER as Visiting Priests. Resident Priests were Father MOES, Father ZINGSHEIN, Father GSTASH, Father ZIMMER, Father MARSHAL, Father WOEFELL, Father KARFBAGE and Father Andrew AMBAUEN, the present incumbent. The church has seventy-five families. The present Trustees are George BACH, Peter SPEHN and Jacob BIELEIN. Father AMBAUEN for several years past has worked assiduously toward establishing a school. Sufficient funds have now been subscribed by the members to complete the project. The school will be under the charge of the Sisters of St. Xavier's Society. A small congregation, numbering about twenty-five families, residing in the adjoining district in Town 10, is also under the charge of Father AMBAUEN, who visits them regularly on Sunday.

The German Lutherans and Methodists have also flourishing churches in the village. The town of Grafton is second in importance in the yield of agricultural products, and is one of the oldest farming communities in the county. The land is mostly in an excellent state of cultivation, and, when properly tilled, yields bountiful harvests of wheat, oats, corn and barley, fine crops of potatoes, and an abundant supply of grasses common to the country.

The enumeration of scholars at the dates named has been as follows: 1847, whole number 210; 1852, 382; 1860, 774; 1862, 815; 1867; 780; 1872, 796; 1877, 772; 1880, 664.

The Supervisors and Town Clerks since the organization of the town have been as follows:

1846 -- Supervisors, Benjamin H. MOORE, Chairman, William SCHROEDER, William RICE; Clerk, Harvey G. TURNER.
1847 -- Supervisors, Reuben WELLS, Chairman, Benjamin SEBRING, Patrick SMITH; Clerk, Charles E. CHAMBERLIN.
1848 -- Supervisors, Benjamin SEBRING, Chairman, William RICE, Patrick SMITH; Clerk, William HALPIN.
1849 -- Supervisors, P.M. JOHNSON, Chairman. L.L. SWEET, James McNAMARA; Clerk, Washington MOORE.
1850 -- Supervisors, Benjamin SEBRING, Chairman, Henry CLOUSING, James RUDDY; Clerk, Patrick RIORDAN.
1851 -- Supervisors, P.M. JOHNSON, Chairman, Henry CLOUSING, John LAWLER; Clerk, J.T. ADRIANCE.
1852 -- Supervisors, B.G. GILL, Chairman, John LAWLER, George FLEISCHMANN; Clerk, P. MOORE.
1853 -- Supervisors, H.G. TURNER, Chairman, Andrew SCHLETZ, Hiram FRISBY; Clerk, Aaron B. GATES.
1854 -- Supervisors, J.C. DOWNS, Chairman, John COTTINGHAM, F.A. SCHLETZ; Clerk, P. MOORE.
1855 -- Supervisors, J.C.DOWNS, Chairman, John COTTINGHAM, F.A. SCHLETZ; Clerk, P. MOORE
1856 -- Supervisors, J.C. DOWNS, Chairman, R. SMITH, P. SPEHN; Clerk, P. MOORE
1857 -- Supervisors, J.C. DOWNS, Chairman, Peter SPEHN, A. VIESSELMANN; Clerk, John AHLERS.
1858 -- Supervisors, H.G. TURNER, Chairman, Nolan GODFREY, Gottfried NOLTZE; Clerk, John AHLERS.
1859 -- Supervisors, John AHLERS, Chairman, Nolan GODFREY, John C. SCHOER, Clerk, George MILLER.
1860 -- Supervisors, John AHLERS, Chairman, John C. SCHOER, John LAWLER; Clerk, Anton STEINER
1861 -- Supervisors, John AHLERS, Chairman, Peter LAABS, William BRUMBACH; Clerk, Peter SPEHN.
1862 -- Supervisors, William F. TIBBETS, Chairman, J.A. JANSSEN, G. NOLTZE; Clerk, A. STEINER.
1863 -- Supervisors, John AHLERS, Chairman, William ULRICH, J.A. JANSSEN; Clerk, M. DEMRATH.
1864 -- Supervisors, John AHLERS, Chairman, Fred. BURHOP, Charles ZEIGE; Clerk, J.L. SEMMANN.
1865 -- Supervisors, John AHLERS, Chairman, Peter LAABS, Charles ZEIGE; Clerk, J.L. SEMMANN.
1866 -- Supervisors, Peter SPEHN, Chairman, H. SCHNEGE, William COULSON; Clerk, J.L. SEMMANN.
1867 -- Supervisors, William ULRICH, Chairman, Ed. RITTERBUSCH, William BOHNE; Clerk, J. AHLERS.
1868 -- Supervisors, William F. OPITZ, Chairman, William POMPLITZ, D. BURHOP; Clerk, J. AHLERS.
1869 -- Supervisors, William F. OPITZ, Chairman, D. BURHOP, D. BRUNS; Clerk, J. AHLERS.
1870 -- Supervisors, Peter SPEHN, Fred BURHOP, Fred MUSBACH; Clerk, John AHLERS.
1871 -- Supervisors, Peter SPEHN, Chairman, Henry SCHUMAKER, Joseph VON DEN BERGEN; Clerk, John AHLERS.
1872 -- Supervisors, William F. OPITZ, Chairman, Henry SCHUMAKER, Joseph VON DEN BERGEN; Clerk, John AHLERS.
1873 -- Supervisors, Peter SPEHN, Chairman, Henry SCHWENGEL, John B. SCHNEIDISCH; Clerk, John AHLERS.
1874 -- Supervisors, Peter SPEHN, Chairman, Henry SCHWENGEL, Joseph VON DEN BERGEN; Clerk, John AHLERS.
1875 -- Supervisors, Peter SPEHN, Chairman, Henry SCHWENGEL, Joseph VON DEN BERGEN; Clerk, John AHLERS.
1876 -- Supervisors, PETER SPEHN, Chairman, Charles SCHLEGEL, F. MUSBACH; Clerk, John AHLERS.
1877 -- Supervisors, Charles MINTZLAFF, Chairman, Charles SCHLEGEL, Gustav NOLTZE; Clerk, John AHLERS.
1878 -- Supervisors, Peter SPEHN, Chairman, A. KREUTZER, H. MINTZLAFF; Clerk T.W. MAHEGAN.
1879 -- Supervisors, Charles SCHLEGEL, Chairman, Andrew KREUTZER, Joseph MUNES; Clerk, T.W. MAHEGAN.
1880 -- Supervisors, Charles MINTZLAFF, Chairman, Gustav NOLTZE, Aug. KLUG; Clerk, T.W. MAHEGAN.
1881 -- Supervisors, Charles MINTZLAFF, Gustav NOLTZE, Aug. KLUG; Clerk, G.C. FLEISHMANN.


The village of old Grafton, once the county seat of old Washington County, is situated on Section 24, in the western part of the present town, on the Milwaukee River. It has the marks of age upon it. The stone and other buildings are mostly clustered about the square. Some of them, still standing, were among the earliest built. The old stone block, built for county purposes when Grafton had county seat aspirations, is still standing. The excellent water-power was early utilized. Between 1842 and 1844 a dam was built and a saw-mill started, also a flouring-mill. I. EDWARDS, William BONNIWELL and P.M. JOHNSON owned the flouring-mill, and it is stated by old settlers that they built the first dam. John SIMON, still living in the village, gives the following account of it, in 1848, when he first arrived: "When I came, the stone block was already built, and so was the dam; then there were two saw-mills, and a grist-mill with three runs of stones. It was a part of the same mill that is running now. Three old-fashioned limekilns were burning near where the kilns are now. At that time we got mails by stage, daily, by line running between Milwaukee and Port Washington, on the Green Bay road. Datus COWAN drove the stage. There was also business done at Milwaukee Falls, a mile down the river. Lamson and J.B. GILL had a turning-shop, and made bedsteads; and on the other side was a chair-factory, run by George MILLER. For many years Grafton lay in a state of rest, showing little life or enterprise. It has lately awakened from its Rip Van Winkle slumber, and started into new life with all the vigor of youth."

The principal manufacturing industries of the place are:

The woolen-mill, built in 1880. It is built of stone, contains two sets of woolen machinery and one of worsted. It manufactures woolen and worsted yarns of the best quality. Its worsted machinery is imported and of the most modern kind. This is the only worsted mill in the West. It is owned and run by the Cedarburg Woolen Company. Derdrech WITTENBERG is the President and business manager. It employs, when in full operation, one hundred hands.

The flouring-mill, situated a few rods north on the same dam, is now run successfully by H. SCHMITH & Co. It has five runs of stones, all the modern improvements, and a capacity for the manufacture of one hundred barrels of flour per day. The products find a constant sale to the bakers of Milwaukee, the brand, "White Lily," being a favorite with the trade. The mill creates a constant and reliable market for wheat.

The water-power is one of the best on the Milwaukee River. The fall, at the dam, is sixteen feet, and at the woolen-mill, a few rods below, 20 feet.

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