Waterford

As published in "The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties" (Chicago: 1879), pages 482-485
The year of grace 1836, witnessed the arrival of the first white men in what is now the village of Waterford, in the persons of Mr. S. E. Chapman and Levi Barnes. They were for a long time residents of Lockport, Ind., but being attacked with the prevailing Western fever, mounted their horses one day, and, after some weeks of hard travel, reached the land of promise. Mr. Chapman was well satisfied and made up his mind to stay. He and Mr. Barnes "camped out" that night on the prairie, and woke in the morning to find their scarlet handkerchiefs, which they had tied on their heads the previous night, gone, stolen by the Indians, who were then in great force in that section of the country. Having made up his mind to stay, Mr. Cbapman returned to Lockport, and, in the fall of 1839, emigrated with his family to the new settlement. On his arrival, in 1836, he made the,first claim in the vicinity on what is known as the "Wedges farm," half a mile west of the village. About the same time, a Mr. Beebe arrived, and made a claim to the mill-power, erected a small shanty, and tried to hold it. In the following year, Mr. Chapman and Mr. Barnes purchased the mill-power from Mr. Beebe, paying him $700 for the same. Soon after, the purchasers erected a saw-mill, and the year following built the first grist-mill in the village, which will be mentioned in detail, further on.

Later, Mr. Alpheus Barnes made a claim to what is now known as "Bennet's farm," and, in the same year, Mr. Ephraim Barnes arrived with his family and took up his abode there, as did also his father and mother. He remained but a short time, when himself and his family made another move, and erected the first house in the village, in the shape of a log hut, which they jointly occupied, old Mr. Barnes in one half and Mr. Ephraim Barnes in the other. In 1838-39, emigration westward being at its height, Waterford received its share, and just prior to the first land sale, which was held in Milwaukee, in March, 1839, Moses Vilas, a surveyor, laid out the village. From that time on, the arrivals were quite numerous, and in order to keep pace with the growing demands of their little city, Mr. S. C. Kress, in 1839, erected a small frame building, in which he opened and maintained a tavern. It stood immediately behind the building, now known as the "Waterford House," and for many years did a large business, but finding his place becoming too small, he, at the expiration of about six years, erected the "Waterford House," a large and handsome brick dwelling, which still remains a monument to the past glory of the proprietor, who has been known to accommodate as many as forty teams there on one night.

The First Birth Among the many strangers who arrived here during the year 1838, was a very diminutive emigrant. She, for it was one of God's best creations, was subsequently called Helen Chapman, and grew up to be an ornament to the city which she claims as the place of her nativity.

The First Death. As to the name of the person whose death first cast a gloom over the little colony, some controversy has arisen. A portion of the citizens insist that it was a newly-born male child, a son of Mrs. Hiram Barnes, which occurred in the winter of 1837, and others that of Mr. Willard, a young Vermonter, who died about the same time from typhoid fever. The general opinion, however, is that it was that of the infant.

The First Marriage, always a source of excitement in a new settlement, was that Mr. Ira A. Rice, which occurred in Kenosha in 1837.

The First Store in the village was kept in 1848 by A. B. Jones, Jr., who rented a frame building for the purpose from S. C. Russ, which then stood on Main street.

The First Brick House. In 1848, Mr. Andrew B. Jones arrived from the State of New York and erected the first brick house, which still stands on Main street.

The Manufacturing Interests. In 1838, the first mill was erected in the village -- a sawmill -- being started by Mr. Chapman. In the year following, he put up a flouring-mill with two "run"of stones, one for flour and the other for feed. In 1848, Andrew B. Jones arrived from New York State and purchased a portion of the water-power from Chapman, upon which he erected a flouring-mill, which he operated for six years, and then removed to Janesville. In 1856, Mr. Chapman erected a large stone mill, which, after considerable litigation caused, the plaintiffs averred, by Chapman having raised the mill-dam, which they claimed overflowed their land, passed into the hands of Messrs. Parker, Smith & Co., by virtue of a judgment. About 1868, a verdict was rendered in their favor in Oshkosh, which empowered them to tear down the dam, but as that would have destroyed the water-power, the villagers raised $2,500 and procured a sale of the mill to the plaintiffs, they taking it in satisfaction of the judgment and paying him $4,000 in addition.

About the same year that Mr. Chapman erected his large mill, Mr. S. C. Russ put up a mill, which he ran for a number of years and sold to his son-in-law, James Keller, who afterward disposed of it to a Mr. Bronkhurst, in whose possession it was when destroyed by fire.

In 1840, William Hovey came from the State of New York and erected a large wooden mill at a cost of $16,000, but, after the lapse of ten years, Mr. Chapman instituted suit against him for using too much water and in the graphic Ianguage of one of the early settlers "cleaned him out." About 1864, George Gale arrived in the village from East Troy, Wis., and purchased the building which he fitted up as a paper-mill, carrying on that business for three years, but being finally compelled to close out for the lack of sufficient power.

The present interests of the village are represented by the flouring-mill already spoken of, a saw-mill established there about ten years ago by Dr. Daniel Thompson, and a brewery started in 1876 by Mr. John Beek, who still controls it, producing about 200 barrels of beer per day.

The Religious Record. The first churh was organized in 1851, as the Congregational Church, Mr. Levi Barnes being the exhorter. It is said of him that, on one occasion, while speaking to his congregation on the enormity of Sunday fishing, which they were very fond, he warned them that, if they did not reform, they would all be gone, "hook, line, bob and sinker." For the first two years, meetings were held in Mr. Chapman's house; but, in 1853, it was decided to build, and, accordingly, work was commenced upon a piece of ground donated by S. C. Chapman, and the building completed in 1857. It cost $3,500, and will seat 800 persons.The first regular Pastor was the Rev. R. R. Snow, of Connecticut, who remained there ten years. He was followed by the Rev. Mr. Stevens, who remained about three years. Various, ministers filled the pulpit up to 1876, when the Rev. Mr. Clapp took charge, and remained two years. On account of the manner in which the society has fallen off, they have no preacher at present, being too poor to pay for his services.

The Methodist Church was organized in 1872, with about twenty members. They worshiped in the Congregational Church for a few months, after which they built a church of their own. It cost them $2,500, being constructed of wood, with a stone basement, and will seat 200 persons. The first minister was the Rev. Mr. Painter, a student from Evanston, who remained three years, and was followed by the Rev. Mr. Halsey, who remained two years, being followed in his turn by the Rev. Mr. Griswold. The society now numbers fifty persons, the Rev. Mr. Porter being their spiritual adviser, and is a flourishing organization, having a neat house of worship, supplied with an organ and other accessories to comfort and convenience.

The German Methodist organized eight years ago, with a complement of twenty worshipers, and proceeded at once to build a wooden church, at a cost of $1,500. Their organization, since that time, has increased to some extent, and now numbers thirty-five persons. They have never had a regular minister located with them, but were supplied from other places until a year ago, when the Rev. John Brier was "called."

St. Peter's German Lutheran Church was organized in 1860, with about forty members, and, in 1864, tbey erected a large stone church, at a cost of $2,000. The land upon which it stands was donated by Mr. Schentzenberg, and, in 1866, he made a claim to the church. The congregation brought suit against him, and, in the same year, judgment was rendered in their favor. The church will seat 250 persons, and, in addition, they support a good school and parsonage, which were erected at a cost of $1,200. The first minister was the Rev. Mr. Englebrecht; the present, Mr. Frederic Schneider. The present Trustees are Messrs. Charles Buckholds, Charles Kahn and William Davis.

The Catholic Church established itself at Waterford, in 1850, and within two years erected a church edifice, the society at that time being composed of 150 members. It is of stone, and cost $2,000, the seating capacity being 300. Father Matthew Gernbauer was the first priest, the present incumbent being the Rev. Charles Schumacher. The church is apparently prospering, as is evidenced by the purchase, some time ago, of a large pipe organ, for which they paid $600. In addition to the church, they have a priest's house of stone and a large stone schoolhouse, the latter addition having been established in 1871, and is presided over by the School Sisters.

Schools. The first school was established in 1840, of which Miss Caldwell was the teacher. She served one term, and then dissolved her connection with the institution. In those days of early ventures in every department of life on the frontier, no salaries were paid the pedagogues as the practice now, it being the custom for teachers to "board out" the tuition furnished ambitious pupils. It was not until after the State took charge of the schools, in 1858, that a money consideration was offered teachers. The first schoolhouse was built in District No. 2, Rice's Corners. That was taught first by Mrs. Dr. Newhall, she also "boarding" for her pay. Twelve years ago, the present school, a fine stone building, was erected. It is now in charge of Miss Hazeltine and Miss Malone, and under the dominion of a School Board, consisting of John E. Bennett, Director, John T. Rice, Clerk, and Theodore Harding, Treasurer. In the matter of schoois they are well supplied, having no less than four other district schools in the various districts, each of which is in charge of a competent teacher.

The Cemeteries. There are but two in the village, "Oakwood" and "The Old-Settlers," the former located in the last ten years; the latter an old institution.

The Post Office. was established in the village of Waterford, in 1843, in the Waterford House, Samuel C. Russ being Postmaster. He kept it for a number of years, and was succeeded by G. W. Sproat, who retained it eight years. It is now in charge of C. N. Whitman, who keeps it in J. W. Jordan's store. In former days, the mails used to go by stage from Kenosha to Janesville, there being a mail from the East and West on alternate days. There is now a daily mail from Burlington, by stage.

Secret Societies. The Temple Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons was organized April 2 1858, the officers being Samuel E. Chapman, W. M.; Hiram D. Morse, S. W.; Nelson H. Palmer, J. W.; George W. Sproat, Secretary; Charles Moe, Treasurer Archibald Cooper, S. D.; William C. Sproat, J. D.; William B. Powell, Tiler; Ira M. Sumner, Chaplain; Horace Carpenter, Marshal, and eleven Master Masons. When they were first organized, the occupied a room in the back of Mr. Chapman's house, but, as their numbers increased, they found their quarters getting too small, and, in 1862, moved into a room over Palmer & Moe's store, which, with one or two intervals, they have occupied ever since. The Lodge now numbers fifty-three members, and the officers are: G. Newell, W. M. ; Henry C. Wood, S. W.; Elisha Lewis, J. W.; F. C. Willman, Treasurer; S. H. Cook, Secretary; D. C. Engleson, S. D.; W. H. Smith, J. D.; Thomas Beaumont and S. M. Smith, Stewards; Daniel Foat, Tiler.

The Sons of Temperance were organized on February 12, 1872, with twenty-eight members, Dr. Newall being the first Worthy Patriarch. They now number forty-five members, and in addition, have a "wide awake" section for all children under fourteen years of age, which was organized April 4, 1879. The roster contains thirty members, Miss Ella Hulbert being the Worthy Patriarch of the whole. They have a very nice hall over G. F. McLeish's store on Main street.

The Temple of Honor was granted a charter on November 18, 1876, with a membership stated at seventy-four, and the following officers: G. E. Newall, Deputy Worthy Chief W. B. Robinson, W. C.; Dr. G. F. Newall, Past Worthy Chief; S. H. Cook, Worthy Vice Chief; Charles Palmer, Worthy Recorder; M. P. McKenzie, Asgistant Worthy Recorder; Fred Wallman, Worthy Treasurer; E. B. Moe, Financial Recorder; W. C. Sproat, Worthy Usher; Alexander Banchop, Worthy Assistant Usher; Francis Gault, Worthy Guardian, and Jacob Foat, Worthy Sentinel. The Lodge has fallen off in numbers very much, until now it is but a shadow of its former self, the number being but thirty-two. The officers are: M. Beardsley, W. C.; Daniel Cadwell, D. G. W. C.; M. P. McKenzie, P. W. C.; Daniel Cadwell, W. R.; Thomas Hansen, A. R. ; Ole Hansen, W. T. ; F. C. Wallman, W. V. T.; Alexander Banchop, W. W.; Peter Hattelsted, D. W., and the Rev. Dr. Porter, W. C.




Click here to go to
WIGenWeb AHGP

Back to the Racine County Town and Village History Page