Town West Bend

Source: Washington County, Wisconsin : past and present; by Quickert, Carl, ed
Publication date : 1912
Publisher Chicago : S.J. Clarke Publishing Co.

The original town of West Bend, as divided off by the Legislature on January 20, 1846, included the areas of the towns of Barton, Trenton, Farmington and Kewaskum which have since gone in the administrative business for themselves. The area was trimmed several times until it was reduced to its present size.

As the first settlers of the town M. A. T. Farmer and Isaac Verbeck are set down. Both hailed from Pennsylvania and were related to each other. In the spring of 1845, they with their wives, children, and two thousand pounds of baggage arrived in Waukesha county, not far from the border line of Washington county, where two brothers of Verbeck had already settled. From there the restless Isaac undertook a cruise into Washington county. Like Columbus he did not trust his good luck altogether, for he had heard of beautiful lakes and land farther east. On the way he spent a night in a wigwam among hundred fifty odd Indians. Here he became a witness of the Indian's sense of justice. A German had shot a deer which had been hunted by some Indians. One of them was greatly nettled at the German's claim of the booty. He retired to the woods and fired at the German without hitting him, whereupon the latter answered the shot and killed his adversary. The other Indians who carried the body away entirely sanctioned the action of the German, saying that "John" who was known as a "bad Indian" had received what he deserved. When on the following morning Isaac from the wigwam overlooked the prairie, the chief stepped to his side and said: "White man, walk on!" And he walked on and came into the vicinity south of West Bend. He liked the country so well that he took up land and settled on it with his brothers and his brother-in-law Farmer. They put up the first shacks in the town.

Besides these settlers the following arrived in the years 1845-46: The Alsacian Moses Weil and his family, the innkeeper G. N. Irish, the Rusco brothers, Jehiel H. Baker, Walter Demmon, the Young brothers with their families, Daniel Freer, Edward Helm, Elder Babcock, James L. Bailey, the blacksmith Sinn, and others.

Like other places, the city of West Bend is indebted to the Milwaukee river for its existence. The swiftly running water offered a strong inducement for a sawmill and a gristmill. Byron Kilbourn of Milwaukee on an exploration trip through the county noticed the excellent waterpower, and he and two other Milwaukeeans (James Kneeland and Dr. E. B. Wolcott) bought land along the river bank. This was in the fall of 1845.

In the following year a dam and a sawmill were built, and in 1848 the clang of a gristmill joined the intermittent buzz of the band saw. They turned out lumber for houses and flour for bread, the two most necessary staples of the pioneers, and so the work of building up the future county seat could begin.

The voters held their first town meeting on April 7, 1846, in the house of Isaac Verbeck. The minutes of that meeting have been lost. But a few recollections of it have come upon us: That the meeting didn't know exactly how to constitute themselves; that finally somebody swore in somebody else as clerk, and he in turn swore in the election officers; that Barton Salisbury was chosen chairman, Verbeck secretary, and Farmer treasurer. There is a difference of opinion as to whether a coffee pot or an old tallow candle box was used to collect the ballots. Between thirty and forty votes were cast.

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