Some Pioneers of Waukesha

Source: Waukesha Freeman November 24, 1921

Surnames mentioned in this article:

Paper Written by Miss Anna SLAWSON as Sequel to Recent Historical SKETCH of City

As I glance down the winding road to Long Ago, crowding memories remind me that though many left Waukesha during its early years, others remained to boost and keep it on the map. George W. THUSTAN was among the earliest to come to the young prairie village, and one of our first neighbors. He is best remembered as a livery man, His trade was that of a joiner and many an old-time dwelling shows his handiwork.

The beautiful fluted pillars on the LAIN residence were made by him and each piece fitted to its place by his skillful hand. Mr. THUSTAN saw many needs in this growing community and tried to remedy these conditions. He found that a conveyance available to strangers coming to the village and wishing to reach the country was an absolute necessity; with this purpose in view, he purchased a strong, young horse, trained him for his work, and named him Dandy. This animal became a great favorite with men, women and children, and possessed an intelligence almost human. Dandy lived to a "green old age," receiving the best of care, and there are good reasons why he should go down in history with the rest of us.

Mr. D. W. BACON was always and from the earliest times a power in Waukesha, and his dictatorial imperious manner gave a spice to life which citizens never would have enjoyed but for his determination to rule. It is a matter of history that he once began some remarks at a gathering by saying in his usual pompous way: "Myself and other eminent gentlemen____."

Another very early settler was Michael THOMPSON, of New York, and his grandchildren, Louis and Minnie MARKLE, are residents here. His house, a distinguishing mark of pioneer days, stood on the site of Mrs. Margaret VINCENT's home. He was a man of intelligence and carried the mail to Racine for years, being finally succeeded by his son James. His three daughters were well educated and taught in Wisconsin schools.

Frank MARKLE, long a correspondent for the Evening Wisconsin, and later private secretary to Senator MITCHELL, was also Mr. THOMPSON's grandson. Calvin JACKSON enjoyed a pleasant home life with two sisters, Miss Esther and Mrs. Katherine ELDER. When he had been assigned to the "confirmed bachelor" class he surprised the village folk by bringing his bride to the cozy home on Wisconsin avenue, on the site of the Methodist parsonage. Mrs. JACKSON, an Ohio woman, spent the remainder of her life with us, loved and respected by all who knew her.

No family in the village was better known that that of H. N. DAVIS, whose eldest son, Cushman K., attained national fame when United States senator from Minnesota. Mr. DAVIS, about 1865, disposed of his long-occupied property on Wisconsin avenue, to Adam RAY, and took his family to Beloit and later to St. Paul. In the days of my young life, I was so much at home in the DAVIS domicile as in our own, and found in Sarah, the eldest daughter, a kindred spirit. We spent some of our playtime in writing stories, and no doubt dreamed of a time in the future, when we might become famous in the literary world. What she might have achieved can only be conjectured, but her early friends remember with grief and regret the clouding of a bright mind and her retirement from the world. Mrs. DAVIS, a bright cheery little woman, always doing something for the happiness of others has a warm place in my memory, as do two other good mothers. Mrs. George PRATT and Mrs. Vernon TICHENOR, who always gave me a cordial welcome and made my visits pleasant.

A small cottage east of the DAVIS property was never without a tenant and was occupied by Dr. SLYE during his residence here. It is to be seen on Center street, adjoining the WALBRIDGE house. P. N. CUSHMAN, until taking over the Exchange, had a home on Broadway, which for years thereafter belonged to George SPERL. That house, now in the rear of the RUEKERT block, still serves as a home.

All the good people of Waukesha did not live on Wisconsin street, nor near it, for many pioneers had homes on East avenue, among whom was William R. WILLIAMS, for several years holding the office of Register of Deeds; Vernon TICHENOR, our first lawyer; John DUNBAR, though a portly man, went about with a step as light and buoyant as a youth; Deacon MENDALL, a man of resolute will in defense of the right, and with a voice of great volume; D. W. REED, whose old home is now on South street; C. S. HAWLEY; the OLIN brothers, Thomas and Chauncey and O. Z.; E. M. RANDALL, in a house that long ago disappeared to give place to railroad tracks; Charles R. DAKIN; William SOPER, a lawyer; John MURPHY; and others.

When Alex W. RANDALL was governor of Wisconsin, he lived in a house adjoining the Elder MINER, now RANKIN estate, on the north, and Mrs. RANDALL dies there. The house is still in its original place, somewhat improved, but not greatly changed.

Capt. Augustus STORY owned a residence on Main street, which for long years has been the home of the late A. JACOBSON. The STORY children numbered six. The youngest son died in youth, but each of the other three had a career and made his mark in the world; one in the Navy, on in law and one in business. Mrs. STORY was a pleasant, attractive woman fond of dress and social affairs. It is said that no one, not even her children knew her age. Once at a tea party the hostess was desirous of ascertaining the sum of her guests' ages and each lady graciously told the years of her life. When Mrs. STORY was questioned, she quietly ignored the hostess and looking at a guest across from her, said, "Please pass the biscuit," It is needless to state that the hostess did not realize her desire.

Dominick CASEY and Patrick CARNEY, the one furnishing words of wisdom and the other wit in the columns of their weekly newspaper, were among the pleasant assets of early days and familiar as household words in every family were the names of HADFIELD, COOK, EALES, PORTER, BEGGS, ATKINS, CRAWFORD, MULLIGAN, MGEEN, GALLAGHER, HALLIGAN, CROSS, PILLON, WELCH, and others, with homes scattered about the village.

James WELCH had a tidy home on the corner of College and West avenues, He was a conscientious, industrious man, and during his life was sexton and caretaker of Prairie Home. He could neither read nor write, and kept in his mind, a record of burial places. The mind is sometimes a treacherous receptacle, and his lax system led to much confusion after his death.

A well known citizen, whose father died in the cholera epidemic of 1855, would give much to know where, in the silent watches of the night, the remains were laid, but the secret died with James WELCH. Professional nurses and undertakers were unknown among our pioneers. The hands of friendly neighbors smoothed the pillow, straightened the features and limbs of the dying, prepared the body for burial and made the shroud. The cabinet maker furnished the coffin, trimmed it and perhaps assisted in placing the body therein.

Soon after the completion of the railroad to this place, Charles B. ELLIS, an official of the company, became a resident here, and his daughter Emma was soon my inseparable companion, Mr. ELLIS was a Democrat, and affiliated with the then famous "Forty Thieves." He had not been here many years when he was elected sheriff of Waukesha county and resided for two years in the jail. This building was south of the courthouse and separated from it by a narrow space. On the occasion of my many visits to the family, I became familiar with the interior of both buildings. I often had a glimpse into the prisoners' quarters, and with my playmate roamed through the wide courthouse corridor flanked on both sides by county offices. Sometimes we climbed the wide, winding stairs on each side of the north entrance, to the large, airy court room above and became familiar with the sight of many of the habitues of the place.

Judge Arthur McARTHUR, a fine looking man with long, dark, waving hair, always attracted my notice, and Judge Levi HUBBELL and Johnathan E. ARNOLD, who often attended court here, I knew well by sight. Mr. ARNOLD had the reputation of being the best criminal lawyer in the northwest, and I also remember hearing it said that if the worthy gentleman had a good draught from the cup that not only "cheers" but "inebriates," before making his plea, he was sure of winning his case.

A number of trials for murder took place here in these far-away days but I remember most distinctly the one in which Frank STEVENS, a young man, received a life sentence. For a paltry few dollars, he murdered and robbed Mr. CRAFT, a son-in-law of John White, who lived a few miles east of the village. STEVENS served a part of his time and was, on a plea of failing health, pardoned, but I think did not long survive his release.

Waukesha people were no laggards in respect to a knowledge of the new discoveries of the day. When the science of phrenology was in its infancy, Prof. O. S. FOWLER, its able exponent, gave a course of lectures here which were well attended. He also examined publicly the heads of volunteers, taught the location and names of "bumps" and what characteristic each indicated. He would give a written chart of character at one dollar each, and this was supposed to be a sort of guide to one's conduct through life. Lectures on mesmerism were given in the old academy. Many under the mysterious influence of the lecturer visited their former homes in the east, had a good time, which remained in the memory when they were free from the mesmerist's spell, and found themselves on the stage from which they had started on the trip.

Once in these early times a Dr. BARRETT came to interest people in the care of health. He gave lectures on "Hydropathy," or "Water-cure." Many attended, made copies of his lectures, and followed his advice in search of health; so you see our citizens had advantages of "welfare work" even in our pioneer days. Besides these, Andrew Jackson DAVIS, the seer and prophet of the much discussed doctrine of spiritualism, came to explain his cult, and to make village life less monotonous. Spelling schools and singing schools frequently lent amusement and instruction to the people.

One winter Mr. L. J. SHAW of Genesee opened a geography school. He had a large map on the wall and a long pointer. He taught us words and tunes and we sang about all the bodies of land and water on the earth's surface, with great gusto, while he pointed to each on the map. I remember it was all very jolly, but whether our knowledge of geography was much increased, I cannot say. A sober judgement of later years has convinced me he was one of the faddists always working in educational fields.

The quaint little building on Maple avenue now used by the Scientists as a place of worship was built for a home, in the early years of which I am writing, by Rev. Wm. F. CLARKE, a Canadian, who served the Congregational Church for some time as its pastor. Mr. CLARKE, according to my memory of him, was a scholarly and forceful preacher. Personally he was a very plain man, and wore his long locks straight down the sides of his face, where ears usually are. People were never able to tell whether he had these appendages or not, any more than in these times we can tell whether girls have ears or not. Some malevolent individual started the tale that Rev. CLARKE's ears had been cut off in Canada as a punishment for horse-stealing. Of course some credulous people believed the story, but Rev. CLARKE did not remain here for the curious to find out the truth, as he disposed of his property and returned to Canada.

Farmers in this locality planted orchards, and in a few years were able to gather apples. A few tried peach culture. Once in these early years Mr. Elijah GOVE came to our house and to others by the "green" and proudly exhibited samples of peaches he had raised. Mr. Moses TICHENOR, on his farm southeast of the village, one season raised fifty bushels of this luscious fruit, and disposed of most of the crop in Milwaukee; but the severe climate in later years was as disastrous to the peach crop as it was to May Queens.

In the early '50's three young men living in Western New York decided to break home ties, and seek their fortunes elsewhere. They agreed to migrate in the direction toward which a stick fell, that they had set up in the road. It fell toward the west, and these adventurers lost no time in going to Buffalo, and booked for a voyage on the Great Lakes. After the usual weeks of sailing they found themselves in Milwaukee, and later were looking for lodgings in Waukesha. Why they chose to cast their lot with us, history sayeth not. Their names were Samuel G. CURTIS, Silas FENNER and Russell FORBES. On the journey they fell in with another wanderer, Valentine BALTUFF, who joined the party and remained with it. CURTIS and BALTUFF were expert printers and soon were employed in the local newspaper office. FENNER, a shoemaker, was not long idle, and FORBE's took up clerking, The latter was a fine looking young man, with blond hair and a peachy pink complexion. He was a great favorite with the fair sex, but after a few years spent in this western burg returned to his home in Jamestown, New York. He was a brother of Mrs. Katherine FORBES CUSHING and when she was here at the dedication of her husband's monument in 1915 she made a special inquiry after Mr. CURTIS, who had been her brother's chum, and whom she knew in the east. In 1858, Mr. CURTIS married my sister, Frances, and took his bride to his former home in Jamestown, New York, where he resided until 1872, when they returned to Waukesha. A few years later Mr. CURTIS purchased the property now belonging to the Christian Scientists, and they spent the remainder of their lives there.

Mr. BALTUFF also chose a Waukesha woman for his life partner, as he married Libbie McCALL, and after leaving Waukesha made his home in Milwaukee and later Minneapolis. Mr. FENNER soon followed the example of his comrades and became a benedict, marrying Jane, daughter of Tom McGEEN. Miss Jane for a number of years chief executrix in the domestic affairs of Miss Betty CLARK's household, and it was with regret that she saw her faithful friend depart for her new home in Jamestown.

Our enterprising merchant went to New York each season, and on several occasions she made a visit to the homes of the two Waukesha girls in Jamestown. Silas FENNER was a cousin of the "fat FENNERS" of New Berlin, father and sons, noted for the amount of avoirdupois they carried about, and who did all the fiddling for country frolics.

Many other interesting incidents took place in our thriving village, and the story of a wedding that caused much talk I am afraid will not be on record unless I relate it. It occurred some years later then the period these memories cover. One evening the Odd Fellows were with members and guests enjoying a festival in their lodge room, When the merriment was at its height, a clergyman of the village arose to "say a few words." He spoke of the very pleasant time all seemed to be enjoying, and said only one thing would enhance their pleasure, and that was a wedding. He also stated that if any couple contemplated matrimony he would be pleased then and there to perform the ceremony which would make them happy for life. Then Edwin HURLBUT, a well known Oconomowoc lawyer, arose, walked across the room, and taking Mrs. Mary FARNER by the hand, led her before the minister. Ere the company was recovered from its astonishment the sprightly clergyman had made them husband and wife and they were turned over to the crowd for congratulations. This episode had an impromptu setting, but was probably arranged beforehand by friends, and it occasioned much talk afterward.

In 1865 when the news of Lee's surrender reached us, the people were wild with excitement and staged a celebration which was not even outdone on Armistice Day in later years. Hilarity abounded, and liquor flowed freely, and many added to their own fervor by quaffing from the flowing bowl. It was said: "Many drank who never drank before; those who always drank, then drank the more." Our sheriff, an exemplary man, allowed his zeal to get the better of his judgement and became unable to take care of himself, so two kind friends more steady than he essayed in the "Wee sma' hours" to help him to his home. With their charge between them they reached the jail, and the wife met them at the door. The sheriff attempted to explain the situation saying: "L-L-Lee's surrendered!" His wife gave him a withering look, and took hold of his coat said: "Yes and I see you've surrendered too!" With this she assisted him by a vigorous jerk to enter the house, and closed the door on his good friends. They were able to reach their homes without mishap, but probably on the way wondered what their reception would be. They delighted to tell this incident of Lee's surrender celebration, and contended they had "one" on the sheriff. During my first years in the village there often passed our house on his way down town a man using a crutch, as he had lost his leg. He was a tall, well formed and of gentlemanly mien, and often wore a white beaver hat. I soon learned he was Andrew SHERMAN. He lived in a white house west of the jail and facing what is now Martin street. He had a beautiful young daughter named Lizzie, and a wife of aristocratic appearance. Mr. SHERMAN did not long remain in this community, but sought a home elsewhere, and only a very few probably remember him. I believe that Roger SHERMAN MORE, who recently located here, is his grandson.

Mr. Edwin CHESTER, another old-timer, held many offices of trust, both in civic and church circles. He occupied the house vacated by Mr. SHERMAN and his home was brightened by the presence of two daughters, Henrietta and Elizabeth. The latter married Calvert C. WHITE, son of Lemuel WHITE. Mr. WHITE was a practicing lawyer here when the civil war broke out. He enlisted and went to the front as captain of Company F in the Twenty-eighth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry served through the war, returning as lieutenant colonel. He died soon after his discharge from service, and left as descendants two sons, Calvin and Chester, now residing in California. Mrs. WHITE was a cultured woman, a delightful companion and a generous friend. She spent her last days in California in order to be near her children. Late in life Henrietta CHESTER married Rev. Rufus PARKS, the pastor of the Presbyterian Church. Mr. CHESTER lived to a good old age, and when called to his reward was mourned by a large circle of friends.