William H. S. Edwards, Lisbon farmer, teacher & politician Photos from the collection of Sussex Village Historian Fred H. Keller
William H. S. Edwards was a giant presence in the Town of Lisbon from 1861 to 1944. He was the grandson of early pioneers Henry and Helen Edwards, who purchased a homestead on what is today known as the Western Eagles Ridge Subdivision, and later taken over by his son, John Edwards, and his two wives (first Mary McInintyre, and upon her death, Mary Simmons Bacon).
Edwards was the first born and the only son of John and his first wife, who also had five daughters. There were three more daughters with his second wife. Thus, Edwards had five full sisters, three half-sisters and no brothers. With eight sisters pushing him, he led a full life in Lisbon, Waukesha and Madison.
Edwards married a Lisbon girl, Martha Redford. Her father, Thomas Redford, was the very first Lisbon pioneer, claiming 160 acres on May 15, 1836, on the western part of the intersection of today's Silver Spring and Town Line Road. Redford lost his first wife to childbirth (after two children) and married for a second time to Jane Realy with whom he had three children, the last being Martha, who was born on June 12, 1861. Both Edwards and his wife, Martha, were 23 when they married on Oct. 29, 1884. They had two daughters, Myrtle and Florence.
As a young boy, the handsome Will Edwards was playing with friends near a bonfire when a burning stick entered his eye, blinding him in that eye.
Edwards received a good education in local Lisbon schools and then two years at Carroll College to get a teaching degree. He used this to teach at the one-room Lisbon Plank School that is part of Halquist Quarry today. He also taught at the Lisbon 16 School at Hillside and Good Home Road. He then served six years as principal at the two-room Sussex Main Street School.
In local tidbits reports of activities in Sussex-Lisbon newspapers of his principal years, he was referred to as "Professor Edwards." After his stint of teaching, he decided to be a full-time farmer on the 160 acre Pewaukee Road homestead farm. However, the political bug bit him badly, and being a great speaker in high demand, he was elected to many different posts.
Meanwhile, he still retained the farm, but later sold it and acquired a former doctor's palatial home in downtown Sussex. Today, this home would be the western parking lot of Sussex Piggly Wiggly. In 1983, when his former home was facing destruction, or the option of someone moving it, Donald Holt and his daughter Dianne moved it down Main Street and Silver Spring Drive to its new resting spot as the Randy and Dianne Schuldt home, N62 W23445 Silver Spring Drive. The livery stable was also moved, and 2011 still finds the Schuldts as owner-residents.
Edwards was a member of the "Lisbon Big 4," made up of powerful local politicians that included James Templeton, John Small and John Rogers. All four served as Lisbon Town Chairman, and all four were on the Republican side of the ballot. All Four also served on the Waukesha County Board of Supervisors, with Templeton also serving as elected Waukesha Sheriff and under sheriff. Not mentioned is the many years that they collectively served as trustees of Lisbon.
Now Edwards outdid all of them as he served 10 years as Lisbon Town Chairman, but one can call him a recycler as there were four in and out of office periods for him, 1886-88, 1897 to 1900, 1902-03 and 1910-11.
To be continued next week.
William H.S. Edwards, Lisbon farmer, teacher & politician Photos from the collection of Sussex Village Historian Fred H. Keller
William H.S. Edwards was born just as the Civil War was starting, on May 14, 1861, in a home that still stands at W247 N6002 Pewaukee Rd. He was the third generation of the founding pioneers of Lisbon, and he would leave his mark. Raised on Pewaukee Road, in what is now called Eagle Ridge West, he left a giant impression on the community.
In the 1933 Wisconsin Blue Book, there was a biography paragraph about state Senator Will Edwards that read, "Thirty-third Senatorial District, Jefferson and Waukesha County, William H. Edwards (Rep.) was born in the Town of Lisbon on May 14, 1861. After completing his (teacher) course at Carroll College, he taught school for 15 years, six of them as principal (at Sussex Mains Street School). For the next 20 years he was actively engaged in the management of his arm (on Pewaukee Road) in Lisbon, retiring to live at a Sussex Main Street Home in 1914. Over the years he served as the Lisbon Town Clerk for two years and 10 years as a Waukesha County Supervisor, during one of which he became chairman of the Waukesha County Board. He became a member of the Wisconsin Assembly from 1915-29 with the exception of the 1923 session and was elected to the Wisconsin Senate in 1930, serving until 1934."
Edwards became a specialist and synonymous with state taxes. As a member of the Wisconsin Tax Commission, the study of taxes became his hobby. For years he was the first person consulted on all important tax matters. The Edwards family was a member of St. Alban's Episcopal Church, however, his big time membership was with the Sussex Ashlar Lodge, where Edwards became its leader (Worthy Master) from 1896-97), then again from 1904-07 and again from 1911-12.
In his final year of life, 1944, Edwards felt the shadows coming and made a great gift to the Town of Lisbon. Somehow he had acquired a handmade pen and ink, 1857 plat map of Lisbon. On Jan. 15, 1944 he gave this large map to the Town of Lisbon in the final year of the 31 year term of Lisbon Town Chairman William Zillmer. It showed the 36 square miles of Lisbon, and the names of all the landowners in the appropriate places.
This was the 102nd year of Lisbon. Then in 1992, the 150th year anniversary of Lisbon, the then Lisbon Chairman Donald Holt had 150 full-size copies of this formerly owned Edwards map reproduced by a fine arts company, and numbered the reproduction 1-150. They were given out to town executives, and to anyone who requested one. Today the Sussex Lisbon Area Historical Society has the first of the 150, framed and displayed in the entrance hall of the society's museum.
Edwards would die eight months later on Aug. 16, 1944, at his Sussex home on Main Street. He was 83 years old, and had been in failing health since about 1940. However, it was a heart attack following a week of being seriously ill, that ended his life. His funeral was in Waukesha with a friend, attorney J.K. Lowery, delivering the funeral oration. Burial was at the Waukesha Prairie Home Cemetery.
The pall bearers were Lisbon farmers Gavin McKerrow, Albert Schultz, Robert Vick, Arthur Wendt, William C. Zillmer and Pewaukee farmer W.H. Steele. Zillmer was the longtime Lisbon Town Chairman, 1924-1955.
Edward's wife, Martha Jane, would outlive her husband, as she was near 92 when she died May 18, 1953.