Merton Township History

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

An Interesting Letter-As published in the Hartland News 1915 William Mayhew, Oldest Resident of Merton

See also:
Pine Lake, First Settlers
Pine Lake, First Land Grants
Pine Lake Land Grant Map

Merton is particularly noted for its picturesque scenery, and the large number of streams and lakes. The surface of the country is very broken and irregular, compared with many other localities in the county. The soil is rich and deep, there being scarcely a part of the town that is not first class. Nearly all the farms bear the appearance of thrift and enterprise, and tradesmen and mechanics seem to be doing well. The inhabitants represent several nationalities. There are English, American, Irish, Danes, Norwegians and a few Swedes and Scotch, a foreign element preponderating. Ralph B. Allen enjoys the distinction of having been the first white man who drove his claim stake here: however, William Clarke, and a Mr. Hatch came about the same time. This was in the spring of 1837. Mr. Allen first made a claim on what is known as "Fisher's Flats," but he soon after relinquished it. The first breaking was done near Hartland, during 1837, on one of the claims near where Mr. Allen subsequently settled.

The first house was Mr. Allen's cabin, which served for a time as headquarters for the bachelors. Soon after Allen, Clarke and Hatch came in. Messrs. Cole and Short made claim near Pine Lake, but did not stay longer than one season. In 1838, Martin Molster, Albert Wising, S. Fisher, and perhaps a few others came in. In 1839-40, Cornelius Molster, John C. Molster, the Warren family, John Fisher, George W. Skinner, Sylvanus, Dewey K., and Hiram Warren, William and Abial Odell, Jonathan Finch and brothers, L.M. Moore, Josiah Moore, Henry Cheney and a few others -- as George Garaty. Mr. Childs, M. Lynch, and Mr. Pritchard came in. In 1841-42, a large number came in -- as John Johnson, Earl Wright, J. Weikert, Christ Hershey, John Fisher, Philitus Cross, Abel Cross, John M. Hall, Peter Weeks, James M. Gavitt, J.N. Cadby, S.S. Case, Sybrant Hall, F. Shraudenback, Henry Kuntz, A. DeWitt, John Whippan and his sons Richard, William, James, Edward and John Jr., David Mason, Mike, Andrew, James and John Shiel, Jerry Flinn, J.D. and Jonathan Hartley, David Smith, Charles G. Williams, David S. Wells, Henry Shears, Jesse Newell, Moses Smith, Harrison Cheney, Jacob Snyder, William D. Curtiss, Zadock, Henry E., and J. Palmer, William Leroy, L.H. Taylor, George McKern(?) P. & R. Perry, James Miles, D.S. Cheney, John Cox, John D. Hartly, the Furgusons, John Jr. and John Sr. and others. In 1843, Hosea, Nat and Isaac Prentice, T.R. Smith, John Rudberg, J. Kelly, James and Thomas Ray, D. Allen, S.B. Mills, Joseph Smith, Mr. Burroughs, W.W. Caswell, Capt. Gassman, John Kelly, Sr., Patrick and William Kelly, William P. Clarke, D.C. Marsh, William and Gideon Russell and many others came. In after years the influx of settlers was very rapid, until the land was all taken. In 1841, and subsequent years, a number of Swedes made a settlement on Pine Lake. The leader of the movement was an enthusiastic young minister, Rev. Gustave Unonius, a graduate of Upsala, who, after coming here in 1841, induced several others, especially from among the upper classes, including the nobility, who were anxious to better their fortunes in some way, to come here, to a land of beauty and prospects. About twelve families in all came over, including two noblemen of the realm and one Baron. The only head of a family left now, and about the only practical person among them all, was J.D. Rudberg, who was educated in the agriculture college of his native land for a civil engineer. The story of the sufferings of these people, before used to every luxury, beggars description. Their money was soon exhausted, and then, not knowing how to work to advantage, they were soon reduced almost to absolute beggary. Baron Thott became a cook for Mr. Rudberg, in order to get bread; Lieut. St. Sure, a nobleman, tried to break up and work a stony piece of ground, but failed completely, and to abandon everything or starve. But the ones about whom lingers the most romantic interest, were Capt. Frederick Von Schneideau, wife and child. Capt. Von Schneideau was a nobleman of the realm and belonged to the staff of Prince Oscar, of Sweden; but, falling in love with a beautiful Jewess, was obliged, owing to the opposition of friends of both parties, to effect a clandestine marriage, and, in order to avoid the penalty of the laws against the marriage of Christian and Jew, and the displeasure of friends, they came to America, and the home of their friend Unonius about 1842. He lived here several years, and lost his little all, not to speak of his sufferings, through an accident which nearly made a cripple of him. During this time, his tenderly nurtured wife proved herself one of "the bravest and best," caring for him and their only child, an infant girl, with a woman's truest devotion. Afterward, they went to Chicago, under the patronage of Mayor Ogden, where he made a comfortable livelihood as a photographer and music teacher. Eventually, he was enabled to visit his native land and the friends of his youth. His wife died in Chicago, and his daughter was then adopted by Mr. Ogden. She subsequently married a son of Leonard Jerome, of New York.

Among the many characters peculiar to this colony was the hermit, Peter Bokman, a dissenting preacher and religious recluse. A little log-cabin, near Pine Lake, on the grounds of Dr. Leusthrom, marks the spot of his cave.

The intention of Unonius and the others was to found a university here, and a quantity of cedar logs were got out to build a church on what is now called Interlachen Point, where Dr. Leusthrom's house stands. They made a small house of worship on the east side of the lake, now boarded up and used for a private dwelling. Unonius graduated at Nashotah, and many years after returned to his native land. The others are scattered far and wide, and probably would wish to be remembered here no more forever.

In 1840, the first death occurred in the town, that of Martin Moulster, who died in January of that year. About this time, or not long after, two young men were drowned in Lake Keesus, while making maple sugar. The first birth was that of Emma Skinner, daughter of George W. and Lucinda Skinner, November 18, 1839. The first one who preached in this town was said to have been Elder Griffin. Elder Wheelock came here as early as 1842, and held meetings; also Rev. Baker, who held his first meeting in 1842 in the house of Henry Cheney. The first school=house is said to have been erected in 1843 on Section 26, and either Mr. Taylor or Mrs. Stephen Warren (nee Nicholson) was the first teacher. A schoolhouse was built at Stone Bank in 1843, also, perhaps as soon as the other. George W. Skinner was Territorial Justice of the Peace in 1839 or 1840. The first marriage was that of Stephen Warren to Miss Mary Nicholson. The ceremony was performed by George W. Skinner, Justice of the Peace, May 7, 1840. The first store, if it could be called a store, was opened by Michael Sheil, at Monches, about 1844. This embraced shoe-shop, saloon, and general merchandise. The Swedish settlers also had a little shop, kept by the wife of Capt. Von Schneideau, in a very early day. The first cemetery was surveyed in 1841. The first town meeting in Warren, now Merton, was held April 4, 1843, in the house of William LeRoy, on Section 26. The voters of the town went to Delafield in the morning in sleighs, to vote. After the meeting had been called to order, it was moved by Sylvanus Warren, that they divide the town, and that those who belonged in Merton (then Warren should repair to Mr. LeRoy's house at 1 P.M. of that day. The motion was carried, and in the afternoon thirty-nine voters assembled as agreed. Moses Smith was elected Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, and Charles G. Williams and Jacob Snyder, Side Supervisors; Town Clerk, L.H. Taylor; Road Commissioners, Hiram Warren, George McKerly and Earl Wright; School Commissioners, L.M. Moore, Sybrant Hall, Dewey K. Warren and Reuben Perry; Assessors, Henry Cheney and John M. Hall; Treasurer, Sylvanus Warren; Constable, Jesse Newell; Collector, Jesse Newell; Sealer Weights and Measures, Christian Hershey. Compensation for Officers was $1 per day. A tax, not to exceed half of 1 per centum was to be levied for support of schools. Sixty dollars was voted to be raised for current expenses. Philetus Cross, and one or two more were elected Justices as this election.

In 1844, there were 57 voters, election held at the house of John Fisher. L.H. Taylor was elected Chairman, and John M. Hall, Clerk. Three Justices were elected this year -- L.H. Taylor, Jacob Snyder, and Leonard Griffith.

In 1845, there were 72 voters. E. Capron was elected Chairman, and Moses Smith, Clerk.

In 1846, William Odell was elected Chairman, and Hosea Prentice, Clerk. In 1847, William P. Clark was elected Chairman, and John M. Hall, Clerk. In 1848, William P. Clark Chairman again and John M. Hall, Clerk.

During the winter of 1848 and 1849, Dewey K. Warren introduced a bill to have the name of the towns changed from Warren to Merton, to correspond with the name of the post office established in the town during the previous year. The town has since been known as Merton.

The postoffice received its name in a rather singular manner. Henry Shears made application to have an office established here, called Warren. To this application the Postmaster General replied that there was already an office in the State by that name. Mrs. Shears then selected the old English name Merton, or Moreton, where Cromwell first invaded the English Parliament, which was sent on, and the office was soon after established.

It is interesting to note the ages mentioned in this article may not be accurate.

If they are, he had a store with his brother at age 7 and was married at age 9

Source: Hartland News May 1, 1915

An Interesting Letter
William Mayhew, Oldest Resident of Merton,
has Lived there Seventy Years

Having been requested by the editors of different papers to write a letter for publication, I submit the following:

I was born at Edgetown, Mass., on July 13, 1845. My father with his wife and nine children, took a sail vessel from Edgetown, to Albany, from there to Buffalo by way of the Erie Canal, and at Buffalo took steamer to Milwaukee, arriving there on my birthday July 13, nearly seventy-one years ago; hired a team and driver to bring us to Merton, then called Warren. My father bought a farm from Squire S. Case, one-half mile from the village of Merton. In 1852 my brother Thomas and myself went into the mercantile business; we also had the postoffice. We continued in this business for two years when we sold out to Edward Cole. In 1854 I was married to Rumaha J. Mead, who died seven years ago. The same fall I joined my brother-in-law, Wallace Meade, in Kansas, where I remained five months, and then returned to Merton. I have in my possession a sword picked up by this same Wallace Mead, when the border ruffians were endeavoring to make Kansas a slave state. In 1860 I bought out A.S. Peck in the harness business at Merton, in which I continued until 1893, a period of thirty-three years. In 1893 I discontinued the business and have since kept a grocery store. During this period I was postmaster four years. Previous to this I was deputy postmaster far(sic) eight year.

Of my father's family there are now living besides myself one brother John Mayhew of Conway Spring, Kansas, and two sisters, Mrs. E. St. Julian Cox, of St. Paul, Minn., and Mrs. Phoebe Fisher, of Libertyville, Ill.

I have been a temperance man all my life, never having used liquor or tobacco in any form, which accounts for my having lived to see the village grow from three houses to its present size. Among the settlers here when we came, the following are fresh in my memory: John C. Molster, George Ringrose, Isaac Bull, Jeremiah Noon, John M. Hall, Jesse Newell, Hiram Warren, Jeremiah Poler, Henry Phillips, William Weeks, Elisha Pearl, Thompson Richmond, S.B. Mills, Silas, Ainsworth, Charles Williams, George H. Smith, Homer E. Fenn, John N. Cadby--the last named is the only one now living. Seven years ago after the death of his wife he went to Clifton Springs, N.Y., to reside with his daughter, Miss Alvin Dewey. In a letter recently received by the writer's family, he states that when he came to Merton there was only one house in the village, the home of William Odell and family, situated on the hill. Mr. Cadby was 96 years of age last December, writes a good, firm hand, and has a most remarkable memory.

have been a resident of Merton for seventy years and have lived in my present home fifty-fife years and am the oldest resident as far as I know, now living; always voted the Republican ticket. I take the following noted from my family tree: "In the year 1642 twenty-two years after the Mayflower had dropped anchor and folded her sails at Plymouth harbor, Thomas Mayhew, governor and patentee of Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and Elizabeth Isles, being familiar with the Indian language, began preaching the gospel to the natives at the age of 70 years and continued for 23 years dying at the advanced age of 93 years. He was followed by a grandson, who died at the age of 46 years, his brother Zachariah Mayhew, then took up the work in 1767, continued it until 1806, dying at the age of 89 years, thus the sacerdotal order continues for a period upwards of 160 years." Family history is fast crowding onto reminiscences, I will stop lest I weary my readers.

William W. Mayhew