HISTORY OF WILLIAMSBURG
THE GROOTEMAAT MILL
In the year of 1867 John Grootemaat, Sr., moved into the locality and built a grist and flour mill. It was built on the hill at the northwest corner of Green Bay Road and Ring Street. This mill was a typical Holland wind mill and was known to be the only mill of its kind in this part of the country. It had four wide arms, each 34 feet in length or 68 feet across each pair. The building was three stories high. There were three mill-stones, one to grind rye flour, one to grind feed, and the other to grind pearl barley. Unfortunately, a fire which originated in the grocery store sixty feet away, set fire to the Grootemaat mill, and the building was burned to the ground. This occurred in the year 1885, and was a severe loss to the entire community.
The cement mills, located on the upper Milwaukee river, also aided in the development of Williamsburg. In those days nearly all the mills, factories and tanneries needing power, were located along the river. The Humboldt paper mill and the cement mills gave employment to about. 300 men, most of which were Germans, who brought their families to the vicinity. Walrath's ice house was the first to locate here. This business proved to be a large industry.
Mr. A. C. Liepe likewise was an early settler in the neighborhood. His drug store was the first in this locality, He being a representative of German chemists, people would consult him for suggestions or remedies when someone was ill. Emil Hoefs shoe store, formerly conducted by his father, was also one of the early business establishments. The old store then occupied was much smaller than the present modern one now in use, and was located a few doors north.
There were nine progressive florists located in this community, all did a flourishing business. Another attractive feature in the early days were the many green houses and truck gardeners. They all had stands at the old German market place on Juneau Avenue. Their wives conducted these stands and sold their products, while the men worked on the farms. It is quite probable that the location of these many green houses lent a beauty to this section, and we presume, formed an attraction to newcomers, A little beyond Williamsburg, farms were everywhere in evidence, however, most of these were truck farms. One of the largest of these was conducted by Charles A. Schulbius, who with his wife and children lived on the Port Washington Road about two miles north of the city. Charles Schulbius was actively engaged in this business for many years, however later on, embarked in the manufacture of sauerkraut and dill pickles which he conducted on a large scale. It is learned that his two sons, Louis and Max Schulbius now carry on this business, their father having recently retired.
Another gardener at that time was John Pagenkopf, who owned a large tract of land at Seventeenth and Davis Streets. His two sons, August and William, continued the work started by their father many years before, and they have developed it into one of the largest vegetable farms in the city. The old farm supplied grocers with fresh vegetables besides enabled a good supply of products to be sold at the Juneau Avenue Market, direct to the consumer. There were farms extending from Pagenkopf's land all the way east to Humboldt Avenue. One of these was owned and operated by Jacob F. Krauss, whose daughter, Mrs. Christina Wittmacher, was the first daughter of Williamsburg. She was born in the year 1849 in a humble home of log construction, located on the northwest corner of Keefe Avenue and First Street. Investigation shows that it was a genuine log cabin, built by her father of logs obtained from the surrounding forests. Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Krauss, Sr., were blessed with six children, all of whom are still among the living. The elder Krauss,. was a mason contractor, however, was also proficient as a stone cutter, bricklayer and a plasterer. He built most of the early homes on the north side of Milwaukee. It was his costume to work on his farm in the forenoon, and devote the rest of his time to his occupation. He and his family would work until late at night in order to be able to earn a livelihood. The house where Mrs. Wittmacher was born, still stands at its old location, but it has been remodeled and the original logs have been veneered with clapboards. The names of Jacob Krauss's children besides Mrs. Wittmacher are: Jacob Krauss, a veteran of the Civil War, now residing at Soldier's National Home in West Allis; Charles Krauss, Sr., now occupying the old homestead, Mrs. Louise Hoyer of Tenth Street, Mrs. Caroline Dettmann, wife of the florist, A. M. Dettmann, and the youngest of the six, Mrs. Emma Borchardt of Third Street.
The Krauss children attended the Williamsburg School which was located on the Green Bay Road, just north of Davis Street. It was of brick and stone construction and had been in use until recently. Now a new school, called the "Green Bay Avenue School" has taken its place. It is a very modern structure in every respect and one of the finest buildings in Milwaukee. The school in times of old, consisted of one room with very ordinary facilities. Its attendance was about 100 scholars with only a male teacher.
One of the land marks of Williamsburg was the Elkert Tannery on Eighth Street, which was razed some time ago. The Elkert Bros. have since built a new tannery north of Keefe Avenue, on Booth Street, where they are continuing in successful operation.
Space is too limited at this time to mention the names of other prominent citizens who aided in the building up of the North side. Most of the pioneers have already passed into the great beyond, and were they here among us, we are confident that they would be astonished at the progress that has been made. In the year 1891 Williamsburg was duly annexed to the city of Milwaukee, and this community has since enjoyed wholesome prosperity.
Prior to the annexation of Williamsburg to the City of Milwaukee, it was necessary to walk all the way from Davis Street and beyond to Center Street in order to get on a street car, however, immediately following the annexation, the street car line was extended north to Davis Street. This district is no longer known as Williamsburg. It is now referred to as the north section of Milwaukee.
Business establishments along the old Green Bay Road multiplied from time to time, and the Green Bay Avenue of today is known to be the shortest and busiest street in the city of Milwaukee.
In our present day we are all enjoying the modern conveniences of a large city, due to the sacrifices and untiring efforts of our early citizens.