Genealogy: Family Histories
Compiled and Edited by Michael R. Reilly
Last Revised 03/16/2015
Retrospect, Feb. 11, 2015: Marsden general store burns down nearly 50 years ago
by Fred H. Keller
Feb. 3, 2015, posted Living Sussex Sun
Sussex experienced "instant urban renewal" about 50 years ago on the afternoon of April 26, 1966, when large, former main general store in downtown Sussex burned to the ground. At that time, it was known as the Schumann Building and it had seen better days.
It was built in 1898 by entrepreneur Joseph Marsden at a cost of $5,000 and dominated the general store business until the late 1950s when then owner-proprietor Anthony ("Bubbles) Schumann built a new flat-roofed concrete block building, which is today the Sussex NAPA. This area of downtown Sussex, across from the canning factory (Mammoth Springs Canning Co.), was referred to as the "The Valley," as it dips down and two creeks merge in the area on their way to the Fox River and on to the Mississippi River.
April 26, 2016, will probably be a special day in the history of Sussex, as it will mark this major fire, just as Sussex was starting to surge from its agrarian past. The 1960 U.S. census had Sussex's population at 1.087, and then it grew by 154 percent in the next 10 years. It was the biggest ever percentagewise growth Sussex ever had. Today, the population is roughly 11,000 people.
Joe Marsden descended on Sussex-Lisbon probably in about 1892 and the first big mention of him locally in the newspapers was in the Feb. 26, 1893, Waukesha Free Press, which read, "On Wednesday evening at 7 o'clock occurred the marriage of Miss Eva Jane Moyes to Joseph Marsden of Edgerton, Wis., Rev. Binder officiating."
There is a story behind the story of this marriage.
James Moyes had come to Sussex as a 5-year-old in 1842 with four siblings. He had been born on May 21, 1837, in Perthshire, Scotland, to parents John and Elizabeth (Rogers). The father claimed 80 acres, which is today the Sussex Village Park and, most prominently, the Sussex Fire and Police building. John broke the land and the rigors of life in the new world laid him low in 1852 and he was buried at the Lisbon Central Cemetery. Now 15 years old, James, under the direction of his mother, took over the farm.
Then, 10 years after his father's death, the United States was into the second year of the Civil War. The leaders of Waukesha County asked the governor, Alexander Randall, if they could have a "number" for the next Wisconsin volunteer regiment, with the county hoping to inspire local lads and young men of the county to step forward and join the ranks in a "Waukesha Wisconsin 28th Volunteer Infantry Regiment" and so it was. More than 900 Waukesha men stepped forward and, to make the 1,000-plus that was needed for an infantry regiment, about 100 men from mostly Walworth County were accepted.
James Moyes stepped forward and was inducted on Aug. 21, 1963, and went into training in Milwaukee for one week. At this point, the officers of the regiment told the men they could go back to their Waukesha County homes on Friday evening but they had to be back early Monday morning to get into shape for military service. The idea was so the soldiers could go to their homes and wind up their affairs during their weekend off and be back into camp early Monday morning.
Well, James Moyes, now owner of the future Sussex Village Park land, hurried home to Sussex, got his girlfriend, Mary Sophie Weaver, and they got married, had a reception and a honeymoon night in that short weekend off. Nine months later, there was born a little girl, Alice. Corporal James Moyes never saw her until he came back from the Civil War in mid-August 1865 when he returned to Sussex from Texas.
Alice grew up to be a seamstress of high quality but she was laid low on April 5, 1892, at the age of 29. James and wife Mary Sophie had a second girl, Eva Jane, born in 1869. She would become the wife of Joe Marsden in 1893.
The significance is Joe Marsden married into a well-to-do Sussex farm family where the father, James, was old beyond his years while wife Mary Sophie Weaver Moyes would die March 4, 1896. Joe Marsden and wife Eva Jane were going to be heirs of the farm and money and that his how he got his start as a Sussex developer.
Next week: Part two of this series on Joe Marsden.
Retrospect, Feb. 18, 2015: Marsden loft was useful to community
by Fred H. Keller
Posted Living Sussex Sun, Feb. 13, 2015
Last week was the first part in a series on a pivotal point in the history of downtown Sussex, when Joe Marsden built the mega general store building in 1898 across Main Street from the Sussex Main Street School.
The building would burn to the ground, starting at about 2 p.m. on the afternoon of April 26, 1966. This spectacular fire was the starting point of a new store, the removal of two other adjacent businesses, the Charles Woodchick Sweet Shop and the Podolske Hardware Store, which had been in business since 1915.
The cost of Marsden's building was roughly $5,000. There was the two car loads of lumber from the carpenter, Charles Walters, who bid $2,150, and the iron worker, George Weaver, who put in parts of the roof and siding for $225.
It opened in late 1898. The double store was rented by the Baer Brothers as they took over both sides of the store's main floor. They had a general store on the east side and on the west side there was an ice cream parlor. In the basement on the west side was a meat market. Meanwhile, Mrs. William Wilkins had a little section in the store where she sold military products to the ladies.
Whatever business you patronized, you had to climb or descend at least five steps as the basement was half exposed to the sidewalk of wood slats and adjacent horse hitching posts.
The upstairs of the Marsden business building was an open loft. The lone access to this open area was a set of wooden steps from a central front middle front of the building stairway. It was dangerous if the place caught fire. An extra set of fire escape stairways was added much later on the west exterior wall going down to a gravel driveway.
The first recorded use of the loft was in a Waukesha Dispatch newspaper clipping from Nov. 26, 1898: "The vestery men of St. Alban's Church gave an oyster supper in Marsden's Hall Thursday evening, Nov. 10th."
The loft was a great boon to the community and the adjacent school. The young athletes used it for the newly invented game of basketball. There was a drawback. Many years ago, Roy Stier told me about his 1922 Sussex championship team that used the loft for its home games. The loft ceiling was only 10.5 feet high and the basket was 8 feet, 9 inches off the floor. Hitting the ceiling was still inbounds and one could actually use the ceiling to bank in a shot, according to Stier.
Clarence Baer, the big wheel of the original store, married a local girl, Miss Elsie Frost, in June 1897. She was a half Weaver, the prominent settler family in the Town of Lisbon. She was the daughter of Emily Weaver Frost, the 13th child of the "Father of Sussex-Lisbon," James Weaver (1800-86). James Weaver and wife Elizabeth Fielder had 16 children over a 25-year period, 1821-45.
Other owners of the Sussex General Store over the years were Gauthier and Freyer, and Gauthier and Buck. Then a long-time owner was George Lees, and finally, Anthony "Tony" (Bubbles) Schumann, among others.
Schumann had a store prior to World War II in Sussex, a competitor to the Lees General Store, but when he came back to Sussex after the war, he bought out Lees and owned the building outright.
Meanwhile, the loft held graduations, plays, dances, banquets, wedding receptions and even political meetings. A strong use was for sales programs put on by promoters.
Politically, the strangest possible meeting ever held was in about 1920. The Ku Klux Klan had a flyer printed that they were going to hold a meeting there; at the time, the Klan was experiencing a nationwide power surge. I was visiting the owner of the Baer, Gerkin, Mindemann, Van Valen home in 1988 and I was shown the tattered white cardboard sign for the meeting. I could never find any way to authenticate this happening, other than I saw it with my own eyes while doing an investigation for a book I was about to print back then.
Today, the space is taken up by the Piggly Wiggly store and its parking lots.
This series will continue next week.
Retrospect, March 4, 2015: Community had front-row seats for Marsden fire
by Fred H. Keller
Posted Living Sussex Sun, Feb. 27, 2015
April 26, 1966, was a Tuesday. School was in session at the Sussex Main Street School and the Orchard Drive School behind it, housing kindergarten through third-grade students. Fourth-graders to eighth-graders were at the then three-year-old Maple Avenue School.
Across the street from the Main Street School was the Marsden Business Building, two and a half stories high. The once-spacious loft on the third floor was now divided into three apartments. Tony Schumann was the owner, but he had moved the general store business in 1952 to the Buzz Jacobsen, flat-roofed concrete block business building and gone to "self service." Schumann had two tenants in the three upstairs apartments in this derelict building.
One apartment was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. George Weber, who had a 12-year-old son, Mark. They also had a dog, which would perish in the fire. The second apartment was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. John Morris and two small sons, 2-year-old David and 1-year-old Kelly. Fortunately, none were in their apartments when the fire started. Mrs. Morris was the former Jeannie Greulich, daughter of the Sussex attorney, and following the fire, with no belongings left, moved into the home of her father, attorney Dan Greulich (the former home of James Weaver, 1800-86).
Just six months earlier, a tenant on the main floor, a second-hand store, was in place, but left secretly, abandoning its quarters. Remaining in the structure was a coin-operated laundry and a tin shop in the basement, run by World War II veteran Bud Ries.
The Sussex Post Office had rented the eastern part of the main floor from 1934 under postmaster John Stier and later, his wife Emma Steir until 1940 when Pearl Boots took over the Sussex postmaster's job. She lasted until 1954, when Art Bauer became postmaster. He would eventually leave the building and re-open the Sussex Post Office at the northeast corner of Orchard Drive and Main Street, today's Sussex Salon.
At approximately 2:15 p.m., an apartment renter in the adjacent Woodchick building, Mrs. Wilmer Zimmerman, called the Sussex Fire Department and said she was seeing smoke coming from the mega-wood "giant laundromat building" in downtown Sussex.
The Sussex Fire Department was on its way and eventually five other departments were called, and the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department was also on the scene.
Future long-time Sussex Fire Chief Corky Curtis was 9 years old at the time and a third-grader at Main Street School. He wanted to be a fireman and, every time he heard the Sussex fire alarm go off, he would raise his hand in class and ask his teacher to allow him to go to the bathroom. He ran down to the bathroom and looked out the window to see if the fire truck was coming down Main Street. His focus was to the west and Main Street, not looking straight ahead at where the massive plume of smoke was mounting.
Finally, the first fire truck arrived and this changed the direction he was looking to what was behind the fire truck: the burning, smoking Marsden-Schumann building. Instantly, he ran back to his classroom and the teacher was dismissing the children, and the alarm was the knowledge of the entire school population.
The teachers were followed by the children out to the front lawn of the school to watch as the Sussex Fire Department was followed by the Merton, Lannon, Brookfield and Pewaukee fire departments, all wailing their siren as, by now, the smoke column from the fire was rising hundreds of feet and floating west and to the two adjacent Woodchick and Podolske buildings.
The fire had seemed to start in the stairwell to the loft/apartments and was rolling inside to the east and shortly had broken through the ceiling to the main floor laundromat.
Robert Stier was the veteran chief of the Sussex Fire department and it was his desire to protect the two adjacent buildings, to limit the damage to the derelict Marsden-Schumann building. The action was to get as much water to the scene as possible, cool down and slow the fire traveling to the west and ultimately to have enough water to put up a wall of water between the two buildings.
A secondary, but just as important, goal was to watch for flying embers to the adjacent buildings and homes, to have a quick-acting emergency detail with the visual ability to contain the fire.
Next week: Part five of this series on the instant urban renewal caused by the 1966 fire.
Retrospect, March 11, 2015: Entire fire department helped put out blaze
by Fred H. Keller
Posted Living Sussex Sun, March 5, 2015
The great Sussex downtown fire of April 26, 1966, will probably have a big remembrance in the year 2016. There are still hundreds of eyewitnesses to this huge conflagration, as the adjacent school, Sussex Main Street School, and its back lot neighbor, Orchard Street School, were quickly closed after the 2:13 p.m. call-in of the first alarm by Mrs. Wilmer Zimmerman, a tenant in the adjacent Woodchick building. Her apartment shortly would be in dire peril of becoming part of the growing fire.
The teachers and the children were allowed to go out to the front and side yards of the Main Street School to watch the fire across the street. Meanwhile, Maple Avenue School was also excused, and a second generation of spectators was added to the viewers of one of the biggest fires to happen in downtown Sussex. Those children, who were ages 5 to 14 at the time, are now in their 50s and 60s.
All four of my children were spectators of the big fire.
Catherine Keller, with her nearby fellow classmate Janet Podolske, walked to downtown and then to "Aunt" Shirley Morgan's house, which at the time was two-and-a-half-story home and today is the front west lawn of Associated Bank. Catherine remembers Aunt Shirley crying because she had many years of employment in the burning structure, as she had had worked in the Sussex Post Office, which used part of the building from 1934 to the early 1960s.
There was the added factor that Catherine and Janet had fathers on the fire department that they could watch from a safe distance.
Chief Robert Stier, the son of the former principal of the Main Street School, John Stier, quickly called for mutual assistance, alerting Merton, Lannon, Brookfield, Pewaukee and Menomonee Falls, plus the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department, and the battle was on.
The Sussex Fire Department was then made up of the traditional 32 men and the fire chief. It had started in 1922 because of the Main Street School fire (Jan. 30, 1922) with 32 and a chief. Occasionally, it was 33 and a chief. Back then, to get on the Sussex Fire department, a volunteer would often have to wait a year, or several years, until someone retired.
I can remember being the 33rd member and thus the last to be called at roll call when I joined March 1, 1961. I had progressed to #26 by the time of the 1966 fire.
The big thing Chief Stier wanted was more water, more firefighters and the implementing of his strategy to quiet down the roaring fire, particularly on the west side, and to put up a wall of water in the 8-foot gap between the Marsden-Schumann building and the adjacent two-and-a-half-story Woodchick Sweet Shop.
The water supply from canvas holding tanks set up in the street were used by pumper fire truck to accomplish the fight to cool down the fire and for the wall of water to save the Woodchick building. Meanwhile, a rapid response team with a high-pressure hose was looking for flying embers that were being blown west toward the two adjacent buildings.
The water was coming from the cistern hydrant at the Mudlitz Universal Garage and the Sussex Village Hall, plus other tanker trucks got water at the Olde Lisbon Town Hall WPA-built cistern (where the Sussex Franciscan Family Practice is today). Additional water sources were at the Sussex Creek (Main Street Bridge area), and the Maple Avenue crossing by the Northwestern Railroad. There was even water from the Sussex swimming quarry (Mammoth Springs Canning Company area), now an Art Sawall apartment complex.
Slowly, as the massive fire reached a crescendo, the fire trucks on Main Street became so hot by the radiated fire that they had to be sprayed to stop the blistering of the red paint. It was successful.
Finally, the east side collapsed into an inferno that left the west end still standing, but tipping. It became the aim of the firefighters to keep this from burning. They did this with streams of water, and with luck, water pressure and even a little pick pole work, it was collapsed partly into the burning building, with some of it falling harmlessly into the 8-foot area between the building access way. The two adjacent buildings were saved.
Now it was time to contain the vast mound of burning wood fuel and eventually put out the fire.
The vast majority of the fire was now contained and somewhat allowed to burn itself out, for a period of time, and then a final attack to put it out.
The archives of the Sussex Fire Department mention that 8,000 feet of hose were used. The estimated cost for the fire was $25,000 for the building and $25,000 for the contents – on the first official estimate. Later, there were estimates of $60,000 in damages.
Next week: Part six of the series looking back at the April 1966 fire in downtown Sussex.
Retrospect, March 18, 2015: Whole fire department pitched in for great blaze
by Fred H. Keller
Posted Living Sussex Sun, March 13, 2015
It was estimated that 80 firefighters were on the scene of the downtown Sussex fire April 26, 1966. There were also some significant civilian volunteers who stepped forward at the burning of the Marsden-Schumman building.
I was a fireman for Sussex and I remember Don Roskopf and Joe Marchese helping to hold down some high-pressure water hoses, but of course, trained firefighters were handling the nozzles. Also former Sussex Fire Chief Roy Stier stepped forward and was on the water procurement detail.
The Sussex Fire Department had 33 firefighters who responded to the call, the entire force of the department. The majority put in approximately nine hours, with some working as many as 18 hours. The variance was because some firemen remained on the scene all night to guard against rekindling, and to also drown hot spots. There was also the clean-up of equipment.
The official report by the Sussex Fire Department showed a total of 348 man hours for the event, from start to finish the following day.
A list of the firemen who worked the fire were Chief Bob Stier, First Assistant Chief Ray Schroeder, Second Assistant Chief Arne Peterson, First Captain Joe Mudlitz, Second Captain Paul Cain, Lt. Norman Steffen, Chaplain Mike Mooney, and firefighters Lavern Clarey, Fred Stier, Roy Evert, Ray Podolske, Gerald Bennette, Hilbert Manke, Elroy Ries, George Semrow, Wilmer Marx, Virgil Hart, Jack Beier, Paul Fleischmann, Arnold Schaich, Charles Zimmermann, William Beier, Charles Youngbauer, Glen Moody, Gerlad Tetzlaff, Francis Haasch, Gerald Weber, Richard Schmidt, Fred Keller, Don Clarey, Vilas Kraut, Dave Noreika and Wes Matila.
Almost half, 16, had served in World War II, or its aftermath, the Korean war. Peterson had been at Iwo Jima while Podolske was shot down over German in his B-17 and was a POW. Mulditz had been in on six invasions in the Mediterranean Sea.
Present Sussex Fire Department Chief Corky Curis was a 9-year-old third-grader at the time and watched the big fire. He is now in his 40th year as a Sussex fireman, at age 58. He joined the Sussex Fire Department right out of high school at age 18 on July 1, 1975. If he is in until July 1, 2017, he will join Lavern "Mickey" Clarey as the only two people to ever spend 42 years in the Sussex Fire Department. Anything beyond that date will make him the longest-serving Sussex firefighter. As it is, Curtis is third in longevity with 40 years; Roy Stier with 40 years is second right now, having served from 1922-62.
Following the fire, Schumann and the Sentry group bought up the Woodchick and Podolske buildings and tore them down. They eventually tore down the Lilly Lawler house (to the west) and the Watler Rosier house (to the east). Later, the Will Edwards-Egger home was moved off the site by Don Holt and daughter Diane. A new IGA-Sentry store was built with a wrap-around parking lot and initially there was a 1966 return of the Sussex Post office stand-alone building. It was put in next to the creek, lasting until 1989.
There are some side notes about the activities of some of the firefighters who battled this blaze.
Mooney was murdered during a 7-Eleven robbery in Georgia. Manke, Bob Stier, Marx and Joe mudlitz were presidents of the Sussex Lions Club. Bob Stier, Matila, Mudlitz, Evert, Marx and Moody would serve on the Sussex Village Board. Many of the veterans would be members, some charter members, of the Sussex VFW, and several would serve as commanders. Jack Beier would die a recluse in Milwaukee.
Bob Stier, Jerry Tetzlaff, Don Clarey, Marx and Hart are in the Sussex Baseball Hall of Fame. Also players on the town baseball team were Peterson, Bennett, Fred Stier, Evert, Cain, Steffen and Fleischmann.
According to Chief Curtis, and my own memory, I am the last living Sussex firefighter who was at this fire.
There is a movement that the Sussex Fire Department, and possibly the village, will celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the Sussex Instant Urban Renewal fire in 2016.
The Sussex Fire Department served both Sussex and Lisbon from May 1922 to Dec. 31, 1982, when the then-new Lisbon Fire Department took over the township's fire and rescue operations.
The Sussex Fire Department was handling less than 100 calls of all kinds in 1966, but today the Sussex and Lisbon departments collectively service roughly 1,300 calls per year, mostly rescues.
The first three females were accepted for membership into the fire department on May 1, 1982. Today, a noticeable part of the department is female.
The final installment in this series will appear in next week's issue.