Pictorial view map of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, published by the Marr &
Richards Engraving Co. in 1890, reprint. Like many other towns in
Wisconsin, U. S. development began in the 1830's and 40's. This map
includes the "Lake Region of Waukesha County" and notes that "All these
Lakes and Resorts are within Four Hours ride of Chicago, on the Chicago,
Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway."
The article below appeared in the
"Oconomowoc Enterprise" newspaper in July, 1915. The article is a
transcription of a paper prepared by Miss Mary Newnham and read by her
at a meeting of the Ladies' Social Circle of the Congregational church
Features numbered & lettered references to
the following locations:
HOTELS AND SUMMER
RESORTS. P. O. ADDRESSES.
A. Jones House, Oconomowoc, Wm M.
B. Townsend House, Oconomowoc, Frank P. Hord,
C. "Woodlands House", Oconomowoc, David W. Small,
D. Draper Hall, Oconomowoc, Chas. B. Draper, Proprietor.
E. Gifford's, Oconomowoc, Geo. B. Gifford, Proprietor.
Oconomowoc, Dr. J. H. Voje, Proprietor.
G. Spring Bank, Oconomowoc,
Mrs. J. A. Burtis, Proprietor.
H. Interlachen, Hartland, Dr. J. A.
I. Hawthorne, Hartland, W. H. Simonds,
J. Lakeside Cottages, Hartland, D. W. Fowler,
K. Nagowicka Cottage, Delafield, Geo. B. Audley,
L. Nestledown Cottage, Delafield, W. E. Coon, Proprietor.
M. Oakton Springs, Pewaukee, Polacheck & Clason, Proprietors, C. L.
N. Nashotah Hotel, Pewaukee, L. W. Warr, Proprietor.
O. Fountain Spring House, Waukesha.
P. Hyde Park Hotel, Waukesha.
Q. Spring City Hotel, Waukesha.
R. Park View Hotel, Waukesha.
Park Hotel, Waukesha.
T. Fox River House, Waukesha.
I. Arcadian Springs.
II. Silurian Springs.
IV. Hygea Springs.
V. Henk Springs.
VI. White Rock
1. Lac La Belle.
6. Upper Nashotah.
7. Lower Nashotah.
8. Upper Nemahbin.
9. Lower Nemahbin.
10. North Lake.
11. Pine Lake.
14. Beaver Lake.
15. Pewaukee Lake.
W. North Lake.
OO Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway.
Waukesha, Oconomowoc & Western Railroad.
XO Wisconsin Central
OX Chicago & Northwestern Railway.
The following article was prepared by Miss
Mary Newnham and read by her at a meeting of the Ladies' Social Circle
of the Congregational church. It is full of interesting historical facts
and pertains particularly to Oconomowoc and vicinity:
EIGHTY ODD YEARS AGO -
Reminiscences of Oconomowoc and Vicinity.
"Eighty years or more ago this beautiful region of Oconomowoc
was a wilderness, invested by savages and wild animals of various kinds.
About that time, in 1827, a Frenchman named Vieau came to trade with the
Indians. It is claimed that he was the first white man to ever set foot
on Oconomowoc soil. In 1836, a few years later, other white men came.
One of them built a shanty where the cemetery is at the present time
located. A sawmill was soon built, and an addition built on to it to be
used for the purpose of grinding wheat.
In 1837 others
came to take up claims, or buy at a low price, by the acre, land near
by. One of them erected a log house, which stood where the present home
of C. K. Peck now stands and it was called the first house ever built in
Among the first Episcopal services that were
ever held in the village were held in this home. Lumber was brought from
the mill by William Thompson and others to be used for seats. Dr. Adams
of Nashotah was sent for to preach and hold the services, the choir
members being Madame Rockwell and Mr. Collins.
A log cabin
was built later on where Mr. Fitzgerald now lives on West avenue, and
the first frame house was built on the land where Mrs. Rockwell now
resides and was used as a boarding house to accommodate transients who
passed through the place.
Also a house, three stories high
with basement, was built on the lot where the H. K. Edgerton house now
stands. It was built of planks set up edge-wise and fastened together
with wooden pins. After a time it was torn down and the planks sold to
the farmers to build shanties with. Then the first hotel was built
The first regular store was opened in 1847 and the
first 4th of July celebration occurred that same year.
There was building known as "The Barracks" in those early days which was
used for a tenement house, school house and hospital, at one time,
containing eighteen patients. It was situated where the mill now is and
moved away later on and used as a cooper shop.
One of the
first buildings on Milwaukee street was a blacksmith shop and stood
where Warr's shoe store now is. It stood on stumps that had been leveled
off for a foundation, for that location was a marsh and men fished at
night from a jack a lantern where the city hall is standing today.
The first church was built by the Methodists in 1849 and was
located on the lot where Kurz's (now Kellogg's) drug store now stands.
The lumber was furnished by George Williams who abandoned his plan of
building a barn in order to get the church. The land was given by J. S.
Rockwell, as in other instances churches had their beginning through his
generosity. This church was used by all denominations for some time.
Grading streets and building sidewalks began; a lyceum was
started, and an appeal was made to all clergymen, lawyers, merchants and
people of all classes, both male and female, to turn out to this their
first effort at intellectual improvement. Ladies' presence was
especially solicited to give prosperity and encouragement to the
association, and members were compelled to be accompanied by at least
one lady or fined a peck of apples, to be used for the benefit of the
A band was organized. The Ladies' seminary
was started (the Capt. Scudder residence), an infant school was opened
by Mrs. Woodruff, whose name is so revered today by her loving scholars
(the 49ers). Entertainments were many and of various kinds. Picnic
parties from the city were met by the band and escorted to the village,
where boats and vehicles were at their disposal, including sailboats.
The beautiful island in La Belle lake was then a veritable flower garden
and not private property as it is now, and many a picnic party enjoyed
life to its fullest extent there in the days long gone by.
The first school house was built in 1842 on the Lisbon road, opposite
the Schuttler place. It is still in use and owned by Mrs. Solveson.
The first child born in Oconomowoc was Eliza Dewey, born in
1840, while Charles Ferry was the first boy, born in 1841. The first
death occurred that same year, that of Mrs. Foster. She was buried on
Zion church point, but afterwards re-interred and placed in the cemetery
which was then at the Marston grounds. Later her remains were removed to
The first physician was Dr. Goodnow. His
office was at Nashotah just where the health resort now stands, across
the lake from Nashotah Mission.
The Mission was founded in
1838 and my father helped to cut the way over the hills in the
wilderness for the first wagon track. Settlers were fortunate to have an
ox wagon then to take their family to church in.
6, 1859, Bishop Payne of Africa, in the presence of Bishop Kemper and a
few clergy, put the first spade in the ground for the foundation of the
new chapel at Nashotah, the corner stone being laid on the 19th. This
chapel was threatened by fire in May, 1909. The cloister, three hundred
feet long, was in ruins when Chief Town and his men from here with their
fire engine (also one from Hartland) arrived on the spot just in time to
save the historic chapel. The theological seminary connected with this
mission has ordained about 340 men for holy orders, since 1845, when
Gustaf Unonias was the first graduate, and the first to officiate at
Zion Episcopal church in Oconomowoc.
The first teacher of a
public school in Wisconsin was Edward West. He took up a claim near
Oconomowoc in 1842. He taught in Milwaukee in 1837 and was known as "the
boy teacher". He died at the age of 85.
The saddest thing that
happened was in 1839. The drowning of the sons of Russell Frisby. They
were crossing the inlet of the bay on Oconomowoc lake, when their boat
capsized. Their bodies were buried on the shore near where they met
their sad fate.
In the year 1838 my father, in company with a
party of hunters, followed the Indian trail leading from Milwaukee to
Silver Lake, in search of game to be used for a game supper in
Milwaukee. Attracted by the beauty of the scenery and the lake region,
he decided to return later on, and took up a claim on Silver lake (now
the Weinz estate). The first night he spent alone in a covered wagon
with the exception of a pet house-cat, which bounded from side to side
of the wagon box as the wolves howled around its sides in the
wilderness. That year the old territorial road was in use. The little
village of Summit, with its store, blacksmith shop and hotel, sprang
into existence, expecting the new railroad would come her way. But when
it laid its iron rails they were laid three miles to the north and
Oconomowoc started to boom, and business finally died out in the little
village. Her district school-house stands there proudly still and
possibly a building or two of that date, but nothing else remains but
farming or gardening interests. The electric road cut through her fine
farming lands a few years ago and a little station is near her corners,
but when the car stops the conductor calls our "Dousman road", thus
robbing Summit of her birthright. The only road that led out of
Oconomowoc in that year, 1838, was the one that led to Summit. She had
established a post-office and not until 1842 did Oconomowoc have one.
The mail was carried through Summit from Mineral Point to Milwaukee.
Letter postage was twenty-five cents and as postage was not always
prepaid, often letters would lie in the office for weeks as it was
difficult to raise the amount demanded.
The earliest settler was
obliged to walk to Milwaukee (30 miles) for pork and flour, the only
products in the market at that time. He would start at daylight
returning late in the evening with from 50 to 75 pounds of these
provisions on his back and divide the same with his neighbors. Pork was
$40 per barrel and flour $20. A man was known to carry a heavy Peekskill
plow on his back cheerfully for 15 miles, as there was no other way for
him to possess it. Wheat was at first thrashed with a flail and winnowed
in the wind, afterwards hauled to Milwaukee for market at 50 cents per
bushel. Twenty-five per cent interest was taken on borrowed money.
Fish and game, Johnny cake and pies made of turnips, saved the
bravest from starving out. Even raccoons were considered a palatable
Horses were seldom dreamed of, but he who possessed a yoke
of oxen was proud to walk at their sides guiding them with whip and lash
telling them to "haw", meaning they would turn to the left, or to "gee",
which meant to the right, sometimes by the way of emphasis pushing the
beast by his bodily strength the way he should go. Such a team was
usually called "Buck" and "Bright". One man, however, who parted with
his feather bed in order to gain possession of a yoke of oxen, named one
"Hard" and the other "Times" in lasting memory of his sacrifice.
The early settlers was afflicted with fever and ague, called "shakes",
occurring every other day, proving quite convenient, as the same member
of the family did not all shake at the same time, and could care for
each other during the intervals.
Even the hogs and cattle did not
escape and would lean against the old rail fences when the "shakes" came
on, causing the rails to rattle.
Instead of boats, rafts were
used; pitchforks instead of spears, and the pitchfork was hastily
grabbed at night when the half-clad settler would rush to the scene
where the wolves were eating, alive, some of the few stock he possessed.
Not risking his life, however, as the wolf has a preference for a man in
full dress, and apt to run from one who has not stopped to make his
A pioneer mother did not need a barber shop, for she
would place a small crock over her child's head and with the scissors
would cut away what hair floated beneath the rim.
In the early
forties, Winnebago and Pottowattomie Indians were camped around these
lakes and were trouble-some to my mother. As a rule they were peaceable
and appreciated and never forgot a kindness. They would borrow the dog
and pay in venison. They would ask for the best wheat flour and never be
deceived in the quality. After giving it to them she would tell them to
"puckachee" to their wigwam and they would go in peace. At other times
she would have to brandish her dagger in order to frighten them. When
father was in Milwaukee or on a surveying trip and she knew they had
drank too much "firewater", or in their language were "squibbly", she
would allow them to sleep on the kitchen floor all night. In the morning
they would depart saying "she was a good white woman". They had to be
treated in a firm, but kind and tactful manner.
Oconomowoc had in
1859 1,000 inhabitants, three churches, the Congregational, Methodist
and Episcopal; a newspaper, 12 inches by 17 inches in size; the Summit
bank (now called Oconomowoc or Old Bank), two trains daily, one to
Milwaukee and one from the same city, taking 2 1/2 hours to make the
A school for boys was conducted where C. I. Peck's
residence now stands. Oconomowoc had her own post-office in 1842. The
postmaster had his trials, as he received a letter addressed to "the
prettiest girl in town" and he said there were so many pretty girls then
that he did not know which one to decide on.
Part of the east end
of town was a cemetery. The west end was used for a race track, circus
grounds, etc.. Where the slow ox team plodded along on the old plank
road (Milwaukee street and West avenue) now automobiles, motorcycles and
other swift vehicles are seen. The present generations would smile
audibly to see today a yoke of oxen in our streets. But they had their
place with the old settler and helped to "pave the way" with him. Few
people realize the hardships, privations, and courage of those who knew
Oconomowoc and vicinity in those early days of "Auld Lang Syne".
- Miss Mary Newnham
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