Following the line of the Western Union Railroad, the first place of importance reached by the
wayfarer is Burlington, an embryo city of 2,000 inhabitants, beautifully situated on the banks of
White River near its junction with Fox River. Samuel E. Smith and William E. Whiting were the first
" pale faces " to settle upon its present site in I836. They were followed by a brother of the
former, Moses Smith, who was the first to make a claim on what is now the village of Burlington. In
the following year, in conjunction with Mr. Samuel Vaughan, Mr. Moses Smith erected a saw-mill and
attached to it a mill for grinding wheat. It was quite a small affair, but proved to be the
foundation of an elegant stone mill, which is now the pride of the village.
In 1839, the Star of Empire having already taken. its way westward, moved in its goods in the
persons of other adventurous spirits, who, realizing that the Eastern States were becoming too
crowded, determined upon emigrating West, and growing up with the country. Among
these were Pliny M. Perkins, a miller by profession, who, in the winter of 1838-39, arrived and
bought out the water-power from Moses Smith, and erected a much more pretentious mill
than that first constructed. It was a frame structure, and, what is technically known as a three'
run mill" -two of flour and one of feed. In 1846, finding that the population was increasing, he
built the first "big" mill in that section, which was 40x6O feet, and four stories high.
That building ran for eighteen years, but was finally destroyed by fire. By no means dis-
couraged at his serious loss, Mr. Perkins rebuilt the mill, but only for a second visitation of
the elements as the sequel proved, which came in 1874, when his possessions again vanished in smoke
and ashes. Mr. Perkins was still unappalled at his repeated misfortunes, for, upon the ruins of his
second loss, a handsome mill was built up costing with its machinery $20,000, and becoming, as it
remains today, the " pride of the village,."
In 1871, failing health caused Mr. Perkins' retirement from active service, and he rented his
establishment to his sons, James and Edward, who associated a brother-in-law, Andrew Lawton, with
them in the management of affairs. But after a brief experience, the new firm sold out to Ayers &
Benson, by whom it is now continued, a remunerative venture. To Mr. Perkins belongs the credit of
having shipped the first flour from Wisconsin to the State of New York, and from that mill,
Racine, Kenosha, Milwaukee and Burlington were supplied.
After the removal of the Indians across the Mississippi in 1837, immigration began to flow in, and
in 1839, was at its height. The first house erected in what is now the village, laid out about that
time by the Rev. Jason Lathrop, was put up by Moses Smith in the spring of 1836. It was a frame
shanty, standing on the west side of Fox River, and the South side of White River. He it was, in
conjunction with Benjamin Pierce, who erected and kept the first store; about the same time,
1836-37, Enoch Woodbridge and Enoch Putnam opened the first hotel. It was built of logs, and was
kept by Reed Nims until June, 1839, when he sold out to Mr. Stephen Bushnell, who got up a grand
Fourth of July dinner, at which a most excellent time was had. As business improved, and the
newness of things began to wear off, came a desire for better things." and, in 1843, Benjamin
Forbes erected a brick house from bricks made in a yard opened in 1840, at the forks of the Fox
River, by a man named George W. Gregg. The house still stands on Geneva street.
The first death to occur among the little band was that of Miss Alvira Hayes, who died in February,
1838, a year subsequent to her marriage, and was buried west of the village near the line between
Walworth County and Burlington.
As to the most important event of record -- the first birth, there is some controversy, but Mr.
Charles Loomis, now a sturdy farmer living near the village, is credited with that honor, he
having been born in the latter end of 1838. The first marriage celebrated was that of Miss Alvira
Hayes and Mr. William McLaughlin, which was solemnized early in 1837; on that occasion, a wedding
cake was furnished, the "shortening" in which was made with fat rendered from a string of "Red
Horse" fish furnished by the bridegroom. As stated, Miss Hayes, the bride, did not long enjoy her
married life, but died the following year of congestive fever. During the summer and fall of 1839,
this malady, said to resemble cholera, was attended with great mortality in the district, resolving
itself finally into an epidemic which defied medical skill. After lingering for a time, the
epidemic suddenly ceased, leaving a multitude of new-made graves to attest its severity, and form
the nucleus of the present cemetery.
When the rush for land in the West was at its height many "squatters," as they were called, came
also, but not to stay. They would look around and stake out the best country they could find, and
when a bonafide settler came, who desired that particular portion, a scene like the following
Settler- "Say, Mister, how much for that land"
Settler- "No, thank you,. Good day.
Squatter- "Well, how much do you want to give?
Squatter- "All right; take it."
And thus the bargain would be clinched, and the wily squatter with his easily earned $10 would
move off, carrying with him all the title, he ever possessed.
The manufacturing interests are valuable. A history of the first and subsequent gristmills erected
in the village has already been treated of in these pages, but in this connection it
may be stated that last spring, from the mill now running, was shipped by Messrs. Ayres & Benson,
the proprietors, 500 barrels of flour to Glasgow, Scotland, and 3,000 barrels to Hamburg, Germany.
In order to get the enormous quantity of work off their bands, the mill is run night and day; and
when it is considered that 300,000 bushels of wheat are marketed here every
year, it is easy to perceive that the mill is a power in Burlington.
In addition to being the founder of such an enterprise, Mr. Perkins, in 1843, erected a
large woolen-mill on the bank of Fox River, opposite to that occupied by the grist-mill. It was
35X60, two stories above the basement; but, in 1878, upon being found too small for his
rapidly-growing trade, he expended $14,000 on improvements, making the mill 100 feet long by 50 wide,
and four stories high.
The mill first built, however, was rented to Capt. James Catton for five years, Mr. Perkins merely
receiving $1,000 per year for it, and at the end of that time, or about 1850, with a snug
little sum of $15,000, Capt. Catton drew out, and, with his machinery, moved further down stream,
where he erected another mill, which, however, has become a thing of the past. Mr. Ephraim
Perkins, who arrived about that time, then took possession of his brother's mill, and, in
partnership with a brother-in-law of Mr. Fiske, of Kenosha, ran it for a time, Mr. Fiske furnishing
the money. But the times grew hard and debt came on, so Mr. Fiske was forced to take it. He also
ran the mill, mortgaging it for the means that would enable him to do so, but, finding that he could
not pay off the mortgage, he was forced to let it go, and it was accordingly
sold to a Mr. Thompson, of Connecticut, for which he paid about $6,000. He retained it two years,
it being meanwhile run by one of Mr. Thompson s sons and a young gentleman named Ellsworth; but
they did not make a success of it, and, in 1855 or 1856, Mr. Perkins repurchased the property, for
$12.000. He ran it until 1871, when he turned it on rental to his sons, the same gentlemen to whom
he disposed of the flouring-mill, who kept it for five years; but a crisis and the State banks helped
them out of it, and Mr. E. N. White, the present proprietor, bought it. It is a large, two-set mill,
and uses from seventy-five thousand to one hundred pounds of wool per year.
In the year 1852, Mr. Jacob Muth, a prominent and enterprising German, erected a large brewery,
with which he used to turn out from fifteen to twenty barrels of the invigorating lager per day. It
was a frame building, and cost $2,500. He ran it until 1872, when he concluded
to abandon brewing and establish a malt-house; he tore the building down and erected, in its stead,
a large brick and stone malt-house, which he ran until 1877, when he sold out to the People's State
During a season of ten months, Mr. Muth used to malt from sixty to eighty thousand bushels of
material, with which he supplied the Chicago and Milwaukee brewers. Mr. Muth still resides in, and
is identified with the interests of, Burlington. The town yet includes a brewery in its list of
taxable property, located on McHenry street, near the Depot, owned and controlled
by W. J. Fink, who purchased the property, in 1873, from the firm of Dahl & Fink. It has a capacity
of about eight barrels per diem.
The Banking Interest
[The Banking Interest] is confined to the First National Bank of Burlington. There was formerly a
savings institution in
the town, which is now in the hands of John Reynolds, Esq., as Receiver. The First
National Bank was organized in December, 1872, with a capital stock of $50,000. The Directors
were Messrs. Jerome I. Case, Racine; Stephen Bull, Racine; L. M. Ayres, L. C. Anderson and C.
Hall. Mr. Case was elected President; Mr. Ayres, Vice President; Mr. C. Hall, Cashier, and Mr.
Eugene Hall, Assistant Cashier. Ever since the Bank commenced to do business, it has paid a
semi-annual dividend of 5 per cent, and now holds a surplus of $10,000. The
officers are still the same.
The People's State Savings Bank was organized about the same time as the National, with a
subscribed capital of $50,000, $15,000 of which was paid in. The Bank ran for about six
years, but succumbed, and is now in the hands of a Receiver, Mr. John Reynolds. Both the banks have
offices on Main street.
The first published in Burlington was the Weekly Burlington Gazette, which appeared on April 8,
1858. The name of Mr. H. W. Phelps appeared as proprietor and publi.sher. It was Republican in
politics, and dealt out castigation wherever deserved with no unsparing hand. But fortune did not
smile, so the editor, on December 11, 1860, issued a valedictory, and removed to Horicon, where,
in all probability, he still is. From that time until 1863, the press was unrepresented, and, on
October 14, the first number of the Burlington Standard appeared,
which had the name of Lathrop E. Smith as editor and proprietor. He continued to publish until
August 15, 1866, when Mr. Henry S. Devereux, of Boston, purchased it. It now, under his able
management, and has a circulation of 800. It is an eight-page weekly, Republican in politics, and,
for the size of the place, is a credit to journalism.
The churches are numerous and well supported. The most ancient of the religious edifices in
Burlington is St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, which was organized in 1844 by some members of the
faith, who came from Detroit, Mich. They were joined by the Rev. Father Kundig, of Milwaukee, and,
in the same year, erected a small stone building which was the first stone house built in Burlington.
That they used as a church until 1859, when they erected the
present large stone building. In the same year, it was dedicated by the Rev. Father Henni, Bishop
of Milwaukee. It stands on what is known as the McHenry Road, on a high hill overlooking the
village, so that the first thing seen is its tall spire, rearing aloft its head to the skies. It is
118x50, and cost $10,000, the land alone being worth, at the time of purchase, $50 per acre.
When it was first built, the congregation mustered 100 persons, and now the Rev. Father Wisbauer,
who arrived from Austria in 1849, "points the way" to over one thousand persons, residents of
Burlington and vicinity. They have also put up a very nice parsonage at a cost of $1,500, which the
Priest occupies. Connected with the Church is, a very good school, which has an average attendance
of 200 children. It is in charge of the "School Sisters"- three in number- and right well do they
perform their duties. In addition to other property, they have in the church an excellent organ,
which cost $1,600. There are also several societies connected with it. They are the St. Cecilia
Church Choir, which was started some twenty-five years ago with about half a dozen members. They
now number fifteen. The leader and organist is Mr.
M. G. Prasch; President, Mr. Frank Reuschlein; Secretary and Treasurer, Mr. Frank Kline.
The St. Aloysius, Society was started, after dying away, six years ago, with sixty members,
and they number 120. Their
object is to beautify the interior of the church. Officers: Rev. Father Wisbauer, President; John
Prasch, Vice President; John Wagner, Treasurer; Frank Prasch, Secretary. The other societies are a
Young Men's Singing Society, organized in March,
1873, with six members, which have since increased to twenty-four; a Benevolent Society organized
February 6, 1871, with an enrolled membership of about sixty persons, and two societies for young
ladies- St. Mary's and the Heart of Jesus. They both have growing memberships, and doubtless are of
considerable utility as helpers in Church work.
The Burlington Baptist Church was organized in 1843, with about fifteen persons and Mr. W. R.
Manning as Pastor. The services were held in the old schoolhouse until 1851, when what is known as
the Free Church was built. That was erected by a coalition with the Presbyterians and Methodists,
and meetings were held alternately, but, in 1861, the Baptists purchased it. It is a stone building,
and cost $1,700, but the society is now very weak, having run down,
to almost its original number. They still keep up their services, Mr. Martin, of the firm
Martin & Sheldon, reading a sermon on Sunday. They have also a good organ, which cost about $150.
The German Methodist Church was organized in 1864, with Mr. and Mrs. Fred Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Ferdinand
Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Kellar, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Selke and two or three others. They bought a
small brick church from the English church members, and occupied it until 1874, when they built
their present large wooden building, which, is capable of seating 300 persons, and cost $2,600. The
first minister was Herman Reichter, who remained one
year. Various ministers filled the pulpit after that, until the fall of 1878, when the Rev.
Sebastian Weckerlin accepted the pastorate and took charge. He has worked it up from the former
small number to a membership of 160. There is also a nice parsonage which cost, with the land,
$1,300. There is still a debt of $1,050 due on the building, but it is growing small by degrees and
beautifully less. The living is worth about $400 per year.
The Plymouth Congregational Church and the German Lutheran Church are organizations of earlier
date, but as no records could be found, their history could not be obtained.
The secret societies are also prominent. Perhaps the most powerful of these is the Teutonia
Singing Society, which was organized in May, 1853, with about twenty members. The originator,
and, for many years, its leader, was Mr. Joseph Bock. Until 1870, there were three societies- a Dramatic,
a Singing and a Turner's Society; but, as none of these, singly, were powerful
enough to build a hall, they united and formed what is now the Teutonia Society. In the same
year, they commenced the erection of their large stone hall, which stands on Geneva and Dyer
streets, paying for the land (two lots) $900. The hall itself, a very serviceable brick building,
cost $9,000, and was opened in 1871 with considerable eclat, other societies being present from,
Racine and Kenosha. It is 42x100 and 30 feet deep. In 1877, the Society celebrated its
twenty-fifth anniversary, and engaged the Hessian Military Band, which played there three
days, giving pleasure unbounded to the inhabitants. There is also a Dramatic Society, connected
with it, and, occasionally, they give performances, which are always much appreciated. In 1876,
they purchased ground and laid out a park, about a mile from the center of the village, paying for
the land, nine acres in extent, $1,000. It cost, altogether, $2,000, and since then they have
expended $200 per year on its adornment. It forms a very pleasant and very favorite res the weary
villagers, and, on hot summer nights, is always crowded. The Society is in a flourishing condition,
and now controls a membership of sixty-five. The officers are : Fred
Reuschlein, President; F. Petrie, Vice President; Richard Weygard, Secretary; and John Haas,
In 1848, the Burlington Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons was organized. with but a very small
membership. Four years after, the name was changed to Burlington Lodge, No. 28, F. & A. M. They
then had a membership of about twenty. At present, the Lodge numbers forty, and is fairly
flourishing. The following officers preside: John Reynolds, W. M.; J. E. Faitoute, S. W.; H. F.
Smith, J. W. E. Crawford, Treasurer; E. R. Smith, Secretary; James S. Rogers, S. D.; E. D. Perkins,
J. D.; R. T. Davis, Tyler. They meet in the Odd Fellows' Hall.
The Odd Fellows' Lodge was organized about the beginning of 1843, with ten members. Mr. Fred Loven,
of Kenosha, was the Noble Grand, and James Catton, Vice Grand. They are quite flourishing, and own
about $600 worth of property, consisting of regalia and furniture. Their increase in membership was
very slow for a long time, but, of late years, it has increased materially, at present numbering
some fifty members. They claim title to a commodious hall, over Kantz's hardware store, which is
also occupied by Masonic, temperance and other societies on "off" nights. Their present officers
are: James Edmonds, N. G.; Richard Weygard, V. G.; Thomas Marsland, Secretary; E. S. Voorhees,
Treasurer; J. W. Edmonds, Conductor. When first organized, the Lodge used to meet in what is now
Charley Arnold's meat market.
May, 1877, witnessed the birth of Union Council, No. 5-a Degree Lodge. The following were its first
officers: J. S. Crane, C. of C.; F. H. Nims, S. of C.; H. A. Sheldon, J. of C. C. F. Foley,
Chaplain; John Reynolds, Recorder; J. E. Faitoute, Treasurer.
The principal idea connected with it is that no members are qualified until they have completed
the degrees. The present officers, are: John Reynolds, C, of C; T. M Martin, S. of C.;
Charles Healy, J. of C.; F. H. Nims, Chaplain; H. A. Sheldon, Recorder; T. H. Marsland, Treasurer.
They have a, steadily increasing membership.
Temple of Honor, No. 4, is the name of a Temperance Lodge organized on March 28, 1876, with twenty
members. Their officers were: H. A. Sheldon, W. C.; C. G. Foly, W. V. T.; J. E. Faitoute, Recorder;
H. Stoetzer, Treasurer; T. M. Martin, W. F. R.; G. W. Stone, W. W. Their organization now numbers
sixty-five members, and their present officers are : C. A. Jones, W. C. T.; W. P. Goff, W. V. T.;
J. B. Hall, W. F. R.; G. W. Stone, W..R.; J. G. Wilson, Treasurer; F. H. Nims, Usher; H. A.
Sheldon, Chaplain; C. G. Foly, D. G. W. T. The society is fairly flourishing, owning, as it does,
$200 worth of property, in addition to $150 out at interest.
Of the early school history of Burlington, owing to the lax manner in which the records have been
kept, very little can be ascertained; but what was obtainable is here presented. The first school
of which there is any note was opened in 1888 by Miss Sarah Bacon, who was engaged by Mr. Royce,
the first lawyer in Burlington, in a house which then stood on the public square, but was
subsequently removed to Chestnut street. She was followed, after the summer of 1838, by a young man
named Lyon, who was then reading law, but is now known to fame as Judge of the Supreme Court of
Wisconsin. His pupils were not many in number, probably half a dozen. He remained but one winter,
when the school was suspended until 1842. In that year, Squire Royce, the gentleman above referred
to, John F. Trowbridge and John Seaton, were elected and qualified as School Commissioners, when an
improved system was inaugurated. But from 1843 to 1850, school was not a settled institution. In
1851, Mr. R. D Turner opened a private school, which he dignified with the appellation of "The
Academy," but it was not a success, he shortly afterward gave it up. In the same year, Mr. Royce went to
Racine to discharge the duties of District Attorney, and, from that year till 1857, school was
again suspended. In the latter year, Mr. George Jones was appointed School Superintendent, and a
young lady (name unknown) was employed to teach every summer, in order that the Commissioners might
draw the money which the Legislature had appropriated to the support of education. They then had
$1,500 in the treasury, of which Lafayette Pitkin was, as Treasurer, the custodian. For some time,
he opposed the project of another school, but was finally defeated, and, in the following year,
the present high school was commenced. While. it was in course of construction, a hall in the
second story of Klinger's building (now occupied by the Standard) was rented, and a, school opened,
with Mr. Samuel. O. Lockwood as Principal, and his wife and Miss Emily Dyer as Assistants. They
remained there until the high school was completed, in 1859, when Mr. Lockwood was installed as
Principal. He remained in charge a year. In the fall, a disturbance arose, which broke the school
up, and none was held until the following spring, when Mr. Benedict took charge. He remained a
year or more, and, from that time until 1872, there was a succession of masters, who remained for
longer or shorter periods. In the latter year, Mr. E. R. Smith, the present Principal, was called,
and accepted the charge. The building over which he presides is a large two-story stone structure,
easily capable of accommodating the 340 pupils registered there last year. It is divided into
four compartments or divisions, viz., the
Primary, Intermediate,. Grammar and High School, which are severally presided over by Mrs. Ellen
Montgomery, Miss Christie Munroe, Miss Susan McBeth and Miss. S. F. Cass, the latter as Assistant
to the Principal, Mr. Smith. The course of study is the same as that required
for admission to the Freshman Class of the State University, in addition to regular attendance, and
it is a fact worthy of note, that nearly all the teachers furnished to neighboring schools are
procured at that institution. The first School Board was organized in 1858, and, consisted of
Jacob Wambold and P. M. Perkins, Directors; J., H. Cooper, Clerk, with C. P. Barnes Treasurer. The
present Board is made up of Peter Foders, President; R. Wald and C. G. Foltz, Directors; E. Hall,
Treasurer, and J. S. Crane, Secretary. The yearly appropriation is $3,000,
and the school is well supplied with specimens of natural history and mineralogy, obtained in the
The Post Office.
In regard to this branch of civilization, the records are singularly
inapt, and beyond the fact that the first office was established in 1837, with Moses Smith as
Postmaster, no information was obtainable, the names of subsequent officers having faded Irom
the memory of even the "oldest inbabitant."
The Fire Department is a model of efficiency. In October, 1877, in consequence of a fire
which occasioned some slight trouble, twenty of the young men held a meeting and organized a
company known as the " Burlington Fire Company No. 1" About $500 was raised by subscription, and a
powerful hand engine, reel and 500 feet of hose purchased from the Racine Fire Department. Mr. E.
S. Voorhees was elected Foreman. J. E. Faitoute, Assistant, and Charles Keuper, Foreman of the hose
company. Last March, a hook and ladder company was organized, with thirty-five members, Louis
Konst being appointed Foreman. At present, the Department numbers eighty men, forty-five in the
engine company and thirty-five in the hook and ladder company. The men take a great deal of pride
in their organizations, and have competed for and carried off a number of prizes for exhibitions of skill,
including one from Freeport,
of $250, also a silver pitcher obtained at the Chicago tournament, last September.
Brass Band. In August, 1875, the hearts of the young men and maidens were made glad by the
appearance of a brass band, which was organized at that time, under the name of
"Brownson's Cornet Band," with C. A. Brownson as leader, and the following instruments and
men: C. A. Brownson, E flat; Frank J. Prasch, E flat; Stephen Rawleigh, B flat; L. Strong, B flat;
Jacob Humbold, first alto; John Wagner, second alto; M. G. Praseb, solo tenor; Joseph Klingle,
first tenor; H. Robering, second B flat bass; Louis Konst, E flat tuba; snare drum, Willie Wagner;
bass drum and cymbals, Charles Keuper. They practice in Teutonia Hall, and on fine summer nights
fill the air of the Teutonia Society's park with melody, much to the delight of the crowds who
The Agricultural Society is yet another corporation of which the Burlington people are justly
proud. Some sixteen years ago, the fairs were always held at Union Grove, but, as Burlington
increased in size and importance, her people became ambitious, and it was accordingly removed to
that village. The grounds themselves are located on Main street, and consist of fourteen acres of
land., which Mr. Pliny M. Perkins, the owner, rents to the Society. A fair is held there annually
in September, continuing one week, exhibitors coming principally from the surrounding country.