Burlington

As published in "The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties" (Chicago: 1879), pages 471-477

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 would occur:

Settler- "Say, Mister, how much for that land"

Squatter- "$200."

Settler- "No, thank you,. Good day.

Squatter- "Well, how much do you want to give?

Settler- "$10."

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.

Manufacturing

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 Bank.

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 Newspapers

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.

Churches

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.

Societies

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, Treasurer.

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.

Schools

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 vicinity.

Miscellaneous

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 assemble there.

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.




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