Menomonee Township History

Excerpts were taken from pages of an old 1880's publication on the history of Waukesha County.

Township 8, range 20, east, now called Menomonee, was a part of Lisbon until an act of the Legislature, approved December 20, 1839, which declared the town, as now bounded, should, after March 1, 1840, be a separate town, to enjoy all the rights and powers of any other town. Menomonee is largely a German town, though there are some Irish, a few Scotch and a few Americans. It is composed of good farming lands, and its inhabitants are thrifty and fore-handed. The first settler in the town was Patrick Raferty, a native of Ireland. Many other Irishmen soon after followed him, and the town at one time contained a large number of settlers of this nationality; but they have been displaced largely by the Germans, who now have a fast hold upon much of the very richest farming lands in Menomonee.

The first death was that of Mrs. James Brogan, probably, whose husband was an early settler in the town.

The first settler, Patrick Raferty, has the honor of being father to the first child born in Menomonee. His son Francis, was born in 1837.

The first school was taught in the town during the summer of 1848, by Ellen Corbett, who had comparatively a large number of scholars. In the fall of the same year, probably, a frame schoolhouse was built, which was the first in the town.

The first church edifice was erected at what is now Fussville, in 1846.

The first religious services in the town were held at James Brogan's private house by Father Kundig, of Milwaukee, afterward Vicar General. This was early in 1842.

William M. Saunders opened the erst store, in 1848, near what is now Lannon Springs. The first saw-mill, or mill of any kind, in the town, was built by Nottingham & Phippin, on the Fox River, Section 31.

The first murder in the county was on Section 31, in the town of Menomonee, in 1845. David Bonham shot James Keene at the old Nottingham saw-mill.

Who first kept "open house" in Menomonee is not easily stated; but a comparatively large hotel was built at Menomonee Falls in 1842. and the following appeared in the Milwaukee Courier:

The, subscriber has opened a public house bearing the above name, at Menomonee Falls, 14 miles from Milwaukee, on the Fond du Lac road, where he will be happy to accommodate all who may favor him with a call. He has connvenient lodging rooms, stabling, and all the other appurtenances that should attend a public house, and hopes to give satisfaction to all who may favor him with a call. W. R. Hesk. Menomonee Falls, January 19, 1843.

In 1872, a town surveyor and permanent stone land-marks were provided for by public taxation. In 1879, a good town hall was erected on Section 16, near the center of the town. For many years, annual squabbles had taken place over holding town meetings, first at one place and then at another, which had become unpleasant and detrimental. The erection of the present commodious building for town purposes was due mostly to the efforts of Thomas McCarthy.

The first postoffice was probably at Menomonee Falls, in 1842, and William R. Hesk was the first Postmaster.

Snow lay on the ground during the winter of 1842, from November 8 to April the next spring. Wild turkeys were then plenty, but that winter starved them all, and none have been seen there since. Deer were almost as plentiful as sheep are now, droves of thirty and forty being a very common sight.

Wolves were still more numerous, and kept close company with whomsoever was hardy enough to venture on a visit to neighbors.

A large camp of Menomonee, with a few Chippewa, Indians was located on what is called the "Wild Marsh." During the winter of 1842, which was a memorable one in Menomonee, they furnished nearly all the meat the white settlers had. They exchanged venison for various articles.

The marsh that those Indians camped on was then, and is now, known by the name of the "Wild Marsh." It has more the appearance of a small lake than a marsh, and covers parts of Sections 21, 22, 27 and 28, containing about 500 acres. It has always grown wild cranberries, but only a few knew anything about it until within the last few years.

The Indians first showed the berries to a few of the whites, who were so afraid to have any one find out where they grew that they would not pick them themselves. The land is now owned by different persons, and they have to keep a good watch or the berries will all be picked for them. The surface of this marsh is as level as a lake; of soft muck about ten feet deep, with a thin sod on top. It is not safe for stock, as there is nothing to hold them up but the sod.

Isaac Howard's stone quarry was opened in 1838; that is, stone was taken from it at that date. The quarry produces a, good quantity of stone. The other quarries in the town, from which excellent stone of smooth, even layers, is taken, are Saunders', Davis' and William Lannon's. Menomonee limestone is noted for its exceedingly good quality.

Dennis McCarty, who settled in Menomonee in 1842, died in March, 1848, and was buried in Brookfield. When, in October, 1862, his remains were removed to Lannon Springs, the soft wood coffin was found so nearly petrified that it could be handled like a new, strong box. Arthur A. Redford, an early settler, was noted as being a wonderful story-teller and a quack doctor. Probably the most ridiculous thing he ever did was to hire out as a wet nurse. Of course he " got bounced" from his position in short order.

John Campbell gives Menomonee the honor of containing the largest family of boys of any town in the county or the State. His son, Hugh Campbell, is one of the most noted athletes in America, the strength and skill displayed by him in putting the heavy weight, wrestling and in other of the Scottish games, being truly astonishing. He is called the strongest man in Wisconsin. Mr. Campbell's six sons average 220 pounds each in weight, and are well proportioned.

The first recorded town meeting was held April 5, 1842, at the residence of W. R. Hesk. D. E. Bancroft was chosen Moderator. It was voted to allow such officers as might be chosen $1 per day for time actually spent in the service of the town. The first, officers elected were William R. Hesk, Chairman; Hollingsworth S. Smith and Francis Bancroft, Side Supervisors; S. M. Garfield, Clerk; Ira Rowe, Assessor; D. E. Bancroft, Constable and Collector; William Ranney, Martin Nangle and William McCarty, Highway Commissioners; William R. Hesk, William McCarty and William Ranney, School Commissioners.

The present town officers* are as follows: Supervisors, Thomas McCarty, Chairman; John Welsh, Fred Wegner; Town Clerk, Peter Reith; Assessor, Bernard Minten; Treasurer, Franz Berchens; Justices of the Peace, John Walfit, Eugene Campbell; Constsbles, Michael Kiefer, Thomas Gill, Jr., Henry Schumacher.

In April, 1842, the town was laid out into six road districts, S. S. Smith being overseer of the First; F. Bancroft of the Second; Henry Redford, Third; Timothy Ryan, Fourth; Stephen Gray, Fifth, and William Ranney of the Sixth. The men who lived in the town at that time, and were liable for road tax, were as follows: S. S. Smith, W. R. Hesk, L. C. Snyder, John Wren, Mr. Waite. John Brown, F. Bancroft, Mr. Ward, O. T. Reed, Abner Rowe, Daniel Proudfit, Mr. Alban, Henry Redford, T. C. Horn, Patrick Raferty, Timothy Ryan, Alexander Maloy, K. L. Gurtley, Joel Hammond, Mr. Alender, Martin Nangel, William Daugherty, Patrick Daugherty, Martin Stanton, Mr. Cone, Orson Hubbell, Levi Ryckman, William Ranney, William McCarty and Joseph Pickel.

At the same time, April 28, 1842, the School Commissioners divided the town into six districts. District No. 1 had six persons in it; No. 2 had five; No. 8, three; No. 4, ten: No. 5, five; No. 6, three; total, 32. The total tax given out for collection at this time, including county and Territorial tax, was $153.59.

On May 1, 1843, the first Justices of the Peace - William Ranney and Benjamin Harmon, - were elected.

The Waukesha and Menomonee Falls road was surveyed June 7, 1845. It was laid out in January, 1844, from the Falls to the Lisbon line (now Lannon Springs) a distance of four miles and sixty-three rods.

The first road in the town laid out by the Supervisors, was surveyed by them June 18, 1849. Previous to that time, the Road Commissioners had laid out all roads.
On April 1, 1851, the first money, $75, was appropriated for the long tamarack bridge in the centre of the town.

At the town meeting, held January 80, 1864, $4,200 was raised to defray expenses of securing volunteers for the Rebellion, and other war expenses.

The Menomonee, Granville and Germantown Mutual Insurance Company was organized March 20, 1875, The first Board of Directors chosen were: G. W. Everts, President; John Flanagan, Secretary; Thomas McCarty, Godfrey Inden, Bernard Minten, William N. Lannon and John C. Schneider. The first policies went into force on the 20th of May, 1875, when the property insured amounted to $50,000. The total amount insured up to date is $1,158,822; number of policies issued, 817. The company has since its organization sustained losses to the amount of $3,035, which required two assessments of one mill on the dollar each time. It has cost the members of this company four-tenths of one per centum for five years to keep insured, besides $1.50 for application and policy. The company insures farm buildings and contents, live stock, personal property of all kinds, but does not insure in any village or outside of the three towns. The present Directors are as follows: G. W. Evarts, President, of Granville; John Flanagan, Secretary, of Menomonee; Peter Reith, Menomonee; John Kissenger, Germantown; Bernard Minten, Menomonee; A. Rarndt, Granville; John C. Schneider, Granville.

Through the kindness and labors of Thomas McCarty, the historian was furnished a complete list of the towa officers of Menomonee for thirty-eight years; but, as such a list could not be had from all other towns, it was deemed advisable to show no partiality toward Menomonee, although necessitating the destruction of two or three day's labor by Mr. McCarty.