Index to Wisconsin Brewery
and Related Articles
The Taverns and Stages
of Early Waukesha County, Wisconsin
with particular emphasis on those in the Town of
by Editor Michael R. Reilly, copyright February
Last updated Feb 19, 2013
Based on excerpts from
The Taverns and Stages of Early Wisconsin
Bv J. H. A. Lacher
[From the Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin for 19 14,
pages I 18-167] Madison
Published for the Society 1915
Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT
Comparatively little has been written about the taverns and stage lines of early
Waukesha County, Wisconsin, yet a thorough understanding of that period is
hardly possible without some knowledge of these establishments, for they
affected the lives of the people in the county deeply and from many angles.
taverns exercised a profound influence upon the lives of the settlers, and it is
the purpose of this paper to tell their story and that of their landlords,
together with a cursory account of the stage lines, in the hope that they may
receive deserved recognition as important factors in the settlement and
development of Waukesha County. For obvious reasons it is neither possible nor
desirable to enumerate all the taverns that once studded the landscape of
Waukesha County, or to mention the yet more numerous landlords who at different
times presided over them; nor is it necessary to devote much space to the hosts
and hostelries of the larger places, because these have generally received due
notice in the various Waukesha County histories. In order to give some idea of
their frequency along main roads, this editor will give the name and location of
approximately all the taverns on a few such thoroughfares.
The original author, J. H. A. Lacher, took great pains
to resurrect data on the subject by correspondence and interviews with hundreds
of old settlers; by reading scores of local histories, pamphlets, and
manuscripts; and by consulting official records and searching carefully through
many files of old newspapers at the State Historical Library, he sought to
verify and correct the information thus obtained. Yet there may be errors from
his work and that found by your editor.
to modern life, we can hardly realize the conditions that prevailed in Wisconsin
before the coming of the railroad. The absence of all these conveniences,
together with the ever increasing influx of settlers and the constant recession
of the frontier, meant a different adjustment of life. It meant numerous
ambitious hamlets and villages, many now extinct, where craftsmen made and sold
their wares; it meant long lines of teams taking the products of farm, forest,
and mine to the lake ports, or merchandise into the interior; it meant droves of
live stock moving at a slower pace and the eventful arrival of the stage at a
lively canter; it meant tardy news, local amusements, greater self-dependence,
and a simpler life; it meant the prominence of the tavern and the wide influence
of the landlord. Whether village tavern, or wayside inn, it was the social
center of the neighborhood.
The tavern of early Waukesha
County, and even earlier, Milwaukee County, discharged many functions.
It furnished not only food, drink, and shelter, but was also the
place for all indoor amusements, such as dances, concerts, lectures, puppet
shows and wax figure exhibitions, for which purposes a suitable hall was usually
provided. This hall was also the meeting place of secret societies, like the
Masons, Odd Fellows, and the Oriental Evauic Order of 1001, the last named a
burlesque secret organization then quite popular. Here, too,
were held caucuses, town meetings, conventions, and elections.
The lack of churches and public buildings in the communities enhanced still
more the importance of the tavern, for in their absence the hall was used for
religious services or sessions of the court. The tavern was the place for
assemblages of all kinds, even county fairs; while at Fourth of July
celebrations, then the event of the year, the landlord was generally the
A perusal of Waukesha papers published before the days of the railroad will
disclose an almost entire absence of what is now known as county news. Since
curiosity about the affairs of
others is an inherent human trait, our early precursors in the County must have enjoyed a quicker medium for disseminating
the news of the neighborhood than the weekly paper. There
was indeed such a medium, namely, the taverns that abounded
in the villages or were located at frequent intervals along the
well traveled trails, roads, and highways.
A line of STAGES is now in operation, and will continue to run from Racine,
or mouth of Root river to Wisconsin City* on Rock River. A stage will leave
Racine every Thursday at 9 o'clock, A. M. and arrive at Wisconsin City on
Friday, passing through Mount Pleasant, Call's Grove, Foxville, Elkhora Prairie,
Wilksbury, Cold Spring, and Emerald Grove. Returning, leaves Wisconsin City,
Sunday, at 6 o'clock, and arrives at Racing on Monday. Careful and experienced
drivers are employed, and no expense will be spared to render every possible
accommodation to the travelling community.
D. C. PERCE, Agent
Racine, August 1st, 1836
Milwaukee Advertiser (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
December 31, 1836, page 4 of 4
*The Town of Rock in Rock county was established
on February 17, 1842. Settled by farmers from the state of New York; there were
at one time five villages in the Town including Wisconsin City,
Koshkonong, Rock-port, Monterey and Middledale. All were consumed by the City
of Janesville with the exception of Middledale which was later re-named Afton in
In the beginning the tavern was usually a story and a half
log house, with a barn of like material, but with the advent of
the sawmill larger and higher structures of frame were erected.
A typical frame tavern of this period was the Exchange of
Mukwonago, built by Henry Camp in 1842, and described in a
paper read before the Territorial Badgers of that town by his
son, Dan L. Camp. The original log tavern, where he was born in 1840, was
connected with the new building and used as
Describing this room, he says:
"Tallow 'dips' in tin reflectors hung on the wall near the bar, but usually no
other light but that from the fireplace was needed. On one side of the fireplace
was piled half a cord of dry maple, and on the other was the sink where the
guest of high or low degree performed his ablutions with plenty of hard water
and a cake of yellow laundry soap. * * * If we ran out of bar soap there was
plenty of soft."
"Over the wooden sink there was a seven by ten inch mirror, flanked by a comb and
a brush suspended by chains."
"The new tavern was heated by four fireplaces, two on each floor, placed at each
end of the building. There was a small cook stove in the kitchen. How my good
mother ever accomplished the cooking for all the hearty eaters that came to our
tavern, besides getting supper for forty or more couples that attended the
dancing parties, is a mystery to me."
"The upper floor was made into one large room except for a long tier of bedrooms,
six by seven, on one side of the building, which were reserved for guests of
high degree and maiden ladies. The large hall, which my father called the
'steerage,' was lined on one side and down the center with beds, like a hospital
ward. When a ball was slated, all these beds had to be removed and placed
temporarily on the large veranda at the front of the building. "
"The festivities concluded, my father, who had been a seafaring man, sent
everybody aloft to put the beds back in shipshape order, whereupon they 'spliced
the main brace' in the aforesaid barroom."
"The 'steerage', when thus transformed into a ballroom, and trimmed with cedar
boughs, with six candles on each side backed by bright tin reflectors tacked
against the wall, together with the light from the fireplaces, presented a most
cheerful appearance, and became a favorite resort for dancing parties."
Until 1845 there were few taverns constructed of brick, stone, or grout. In the
later forties and early fifties, during their golden period, many large,
substantial taverns were built in Waukesha County, with commodious, attractive dance
halls, then called ballrooms, while generally on the top floor of the main
building, were sometimes located in a wing.
During this period the more pretentious ballrooms were provided with "spring"
floors, which were laid independently of the walls and yielded under the feet of
the dancers like thin ice. Persons unaccustomed to them, or somewhat inebriated,
would be liable to
fall, to the amusement of the terpsichorean adepts present.
Dancing was the most popular pastime, yet, naturally, the dances were not the
same as those now in vogue. Square dances,
such as quadrilles, and contra -dances, like money musk and the
Virginia reel, were the favorites; but, despite the opposition of the
strait-laced, round dances were introduced from the East
and by the Germans, who came in such numbers after 1848.
The most popular among these were the polka, mazurka, schottische, and waltz.
The waltz, especially, was denounced by pulpit and press as immoral.
During the fore part of the grand dances the fair participants wore dark prints,
but at midnight they repaired to the dressing room, provided by better taverns,
and donned their party clothes, light colored airy dresses of tarlatan or
muslin, or darker ones of delaine or debeige. The elite wore pumps of bronze or
black kid, the others dancing in their ordinary shoes or morocco, prunella, or
wax calf. Some of the men had pumps, but more wore boots, and occasionally one
danced in his stocking
The music, furnished originally by a fiddler, who was sometimes assisted by a
manipulator of a bass viol, improved as the larger towns came to boast of
excellent cotillion bands ; these were in good demand for the important
functions of the popular taverns, while local talent was engaged for ordinary
Editor's Note: From here through the chapter on
Waukesha County alone, many of the examples listed are from taverns outside of
Waukesha County. When suitable County instances are found this section will be
updated to include them, and exclude the other.
These "string" bands consisted generally of four instiounents, but occasionally
of a larger number.* Among the famous cotillion bands of the time were those of
Hess of Milwaukee and Severance of Whitewater. Sometimes the landlord himself
was a musician or dancing master, or both, as in the case of Jerome B. Topliff
of Elm Grove.
New Years, Washington's Birthday, the Fourth of July, and
Thanksgiving were the occasions for grand balls, when enterprising landlords
made extraordinary efforts to attract a large attendance. A shrewd selection of
popular floor managers from the various tributary communities constituted an
part of these carefully planned preparations. These functions
were sufficiently numerous to satisfy the most ardent dancer.
In the Watertown Chronicle for December, 1S44, John W. Windue advertises that
his "Cotillon Band is composed of first rate musicians in good practice and that
he can furnish on short notice any number and description of instruments."
The taverns were the scene of other entertainments than those already mentioned.
Under their hospitable roof amateur
comedians staged daily impromptu performances befoi'e appreciative, uncritical
Apart from financial or culinary ability, the table of the taverns varied with
the times and locality. In 1846, when the
landlords of southern Wisconsin advertised the "delicacies of
the season", the first tavern at Black River Falls served bread
and fried salt pork for breakfast and supper, with boiled pork,
bread, and bean soup for dinner as a change.^
Landlords, particularly during the heyday of the tavern, took great pride in
their table, and on special occasions tried to surpass one another in providing
gustatory pleasures for their guests.
Thus Sam Barstow, a noted landlord of Waukesha in the early forties, favored his
guests at a Fourth of July celebration by serving them in a large, temporary
bower with such rare and delectable dishes of that period as spring lamb and
Old newspapers reveal that the landlords delighted in lauding in print the
quality of their table. In 1847 the American House of Watertown boasted of its
"wild game"; the Exchange, of the same place, claimed among its "eatables and
drinkables, everything which the western fields, forests, waters, and markets
afford": while the Three Mile House of Emmet, Dodge County, modestly declared
its "creature comforts equal to any west of the lakes"
Possibly the recollection of meals partaken at taverns in the springtime of
life, when hard work and exuberant health gave
them keen appetites may betray old settlers into exaggeration;
but all accounts agree that there were then many good cooks among the women of
While the landlord may have been a good manager and provider, and though his
geniality may have captivated all, the quality of his table depended upon his
cook, who was generally his wife, with his daughters as assistants.
Tradition has it that the reputation for good cheer enjoyed in many taverns was
due to wives who were excellent
ministers of the interior. They and their daughters were not
ashamed to do housework.
These verses^ advertising Samuel Mallory's tavern at Elkhorn in 1845 bear
witness to this:
"His table is furnished with the substantials of life,
Cooked and prepared by his daughters and wife, Myself will attend you and give
you the food With desserts and pastry, which shall be all good."
Needless to say. many items of diet of tlie present generation were not included
in the menus of old. for landlords had not then refrigerator car service to
supply their table with unseasonable delicacies ; neither were there any canned
goods, and rarely ice cream. Game and fish were, however, plentiful, and these
often replenished the scanty larder of the frontier tavern.^"
Turkey, both wild and tame, was the chief attraction at parties,
but after the coming of the railway, oyster suppers were the feature. Holiday
suppers often had a roast pig set at each end of the long table. Then there were
hot mashed potatoes, pies, cakes, doughnuts, cookies, pickles, preserves,
coffee, tea, and cheese. The hot supper, served at six, was followed by the
dance. At midnight plates were passed to the guests seated around the ballroom
and a lap lunch of pie, cake, doughnuts,
coffee, and sometimes tea, was served. When the program did not include an early
hot supper, cold meat was usjially served.
Bills of fare served daily at these taverns did not offer the
variety set before the fastidious traveler of the present, but they had the home
cooking flavor, now so often lacking, and the rates were much lower. Although
the prevailing rate was one dollar per day, the charges were by no means
uniform. Fierce competition often resulted in price-cutting, when a man was kept
for supper, lodging, and breakfast, including feed and
stabling for his team, for as low as four shillings, or fifty cents,
this price sometimes including a drink.
Those occupying the "school section", a large loft, or an outlying apartment,
accommodating quite a number, usually had a lower rate. A
house was not considered full until every bed held as many as
could crowd into it "spoon fashion".
When all beds were occupied to their capacity, some landlords
gave teamsters who bunked on the floor an allowance of free whisky.
Mrs. F. Whitney of Waukesha relates that on one occasion in the late forties
fourteen ladies slept two in a bed in one large upper chamber
of the Hawks House, Delafield, while the men of the party
found accommodations of some sort on the ground floor.
Only occasionally do old advertisements of taverns mention their rates. The
proprietor of the Union House of Richland
City, J. AV. CoffinbeiTy, advertised in 1856: "Board by the day,
$1.00, single meals .371/2 cents, lodging, .25, board by the week,
.$3.00. Horse and hay overnight .25, horse, grain and hay overnight,
.371/0, including care, .50''. His competitor, W. J. Frame,
"Mrs. Cawley, who came to Clark County iu 1851, and served as cook in a boarding house, says that she cooked twenty-one deer that winter.
An interview published in tlie Neillsville Republic
of the City Hotel quoted lower
prices, but was more exacting
otherwise. he permits "No gambling or card playing in house
or barn, no profane or vulgar language, and sky-larking". His
rates were as follows:
Meals each .25, lodging one night $.10
Boarding by the week With lodging 2.50,
without lodging 2.00 day with lodging 75
Horses to grain, hay and care 37 '2
This, be it remembered, was a period of high prices.
Taking care of the animals—horses, oxen, mules—was the duty
of the hostler, so important a personage that one advertisement
states that "Robert, the Old Hostler, is on hand and animals
are safely entrusted to his care"- Of the functionary referred
to Dan Camp writes: "The low rates included a tip to
the hostler, consisting of a glass of 'red eye', which custom of
the time kept that individual in a perpetually pickled condition,
not drunk, but simply stalling around and trying to look
sober." And yet some hostlers developed into excellent landlords.
According to all accounts much whisky was consumed during
the period under consideration. It was generally believed at
this time that Avhisky was a necessary and useful beverage, and
that men doing hard w^ork required alcoholic stimulants in order
to be efficient. During harvest laborers expected and were supplied
with rations of strong drink, and a farmer refusing such
allowance was an exception. The numerous teamsters and
travelers, who frequented the roads at all hours and in all kinds
of weather, were generally afflicted with this prevailing thirst,
thereby increasing the patronage of the taverns and providing
a great source of revenue to the landlords. The tavern bars
were patronized even by the lead teamsters and impecunious
drivers who usually camped en route and provided their own
Until 1846 Waukesha County was a part of Milwaukee County.
The astute politicians of the former section, perceiving in
the rapid growth of the metropolis an impending loss of influence, anticipated
the theory of "squatter sovereignty" by securing the enactment of a law which
left the decision regarding separation solely to the votes of the dissatisfied
As a result of this successful political maneuver the politicians had not only a
larger number of local offices at their disposal, but Waukesha County furnished
during the first fourteen years of the State's existence, the governor during
six years, a United States senator, a secretary of state, and a state
superintendent of public instruction.
Since the immense traffic to and from Milwaukee passed chiefly through Waukesha
County, it contained more taverns
than any other territory of equal size, and, as every one of
them was a forum of politics, this was the political hotbed of the State.
Fourteen of its tavern-keepers were members of the Legislature, a number serving
several terms, and one had been a senator from Racine County.
The scope of this article permits a list of only the more important taverns of
this county. Going west on the Watertown
plank road one passed the
Topliff House at Elm Grove ;
the taverns of C. C. Dewey,
and John Henson ;
the Dousman, later kept by Dan Brown, [Michael Dousman had settled in Mackinac,
Mich., in 1791 after coming from Pittsburgh to trade furs with the Indians. He
then traveled to Wisconsin and settled in the Brookfield area. In 1843 he built
a house with his son Talbot on 320 acres on what is now Bluemound Road and
Watertown Plank Road.
In the 1850s a plank road was bult near the home called the Watertown Plank Road
wih a toll house just a short distance away. The home became a stagecoach stop
for refreshment halfway between Milwaukee and Waukesha. Being quite a showcase,
the house became the social center in the early days of the territory.
Michael died in 1854, and the house and land were sold to Daniel Brown. The
property was again sold in 1873, to Frederick Zimdars. In 1884 Charles Dunkel
Charles called it the Dunkel Inn or Halfway House. It remained in the Dunkel
family for 86 years. He renovated it in 1964.
John Behling, also a Dunkel descendant, owned the home until 1981. In later
years, the Halfway House was operated as a restaurant.
By this time, it was apparent that the building needed to be either demosished
or moved because of all the growth on Bluemound Road. It was sold to the City of
Brookfield in 1981 and moved to a 2-acre site on Pilgrim Parkway just a short
distance from its original site.
The Elmbrook Historical Society became responsible for refurbishing and
redecorating the home to the 1850s-period style. In 2002 the Society changed the
building's name to the Dousman Stagecoach Inn Museum.]
the Phoenix of John B. Cable;
and the taverns of William S. Clock,
and Theodore Loomis, all in a distance of four one-half miles.
Turning northwest on the plank road one passed
the Forest House,
entertainment & politics
In the mid 1850s, as people were moving west
to stake their claims for land on which to
homestead, there were many business
establishments called "taverns." More often than
not, they were not taverns as we think of them
today, but served as stopping places for a
night's rest before resuming the search for land
on which to stake a claim.
Until 1846 Waukesha County was a part of
Milwaukee County, and politicians used these
places to promote their ideas to residents of
newly formed localities. There was a lot of
traffic on Watertown Plank Road, now known as
Bluemound Road. In the 41-mile stretch from Elm
Grove to Goerke's Corners, there were at least
10 of these taverns.
During the first 14 years of Wisconsin
statehood, this area produced a governor, a U.S.
senator, a secretary of state, and a state
superintendant of public instruction, in
addition to various local officers.
Matthew Kilmister was born in England, and,
according to reports from the Wisconsin
Historical Society, he, his wife, and two
daughters were brought to America by P.T.
Barnum. After several years as musical
entertainers, he had accumulated enough money to
retire from show business. Around 1851 he
purchased the Forest House, an already
established tavern on Watertown Plank Road, west
of Goerke's Corners. Sometime in this period
he dropped the final "r" from his name and for
the rest of his life was known as Mr. Kilmiste.
He and his daughters gave musical and dancing
parties, which were well-received by travelers
and politicians alike. Political activity was a
daily part of life at Forest House and he was
active as a Democrat. It is thought that due to
his influence, Waukesha County politics changed
from Republican to Democrat shortly after the
The Forest House was advertised for sale in
1864. Included in the advertisement were almost
200 acres of land, groves of maple trees with a
sugar house capable of producing 1,000 pounds of
maple sugar annually, along with large residence
and barn. Also listed were sheds for wagons,
stabling for horses, cows, oxen and sheep, along
with a capacious hog pen, granary and frostproof
root cellar. Livestock consisted of horses,
colts, oxen, cows, pigs and 200 sheep, along
with all necessary implements of animal
husbandry. Apparently, Klimiste was not only a
successful innkeeper but a successful farmer as
Shortly after his retirement, Kilmiste became
aware of a growing problem in the area when two
of his prized horses were stolen from his barn
in the middle of the night. He immediately wrote
letters to the newspaper, advocating that a
committee be formed to keep people informed of
these activities, as well as to offer rewards to
encourage everyone to be more vigilant to
discourage the theft of horses and other
livestock. They also worked to track down
offenders and recover stolen animals. This
mutual aid society must have had some success
because several months later it was reported
that one of his horses had been found in the
Matthew Kilmiste lived until the age of 74
and is buried along with his wife, one daughter
and a son at Pilgrim's Rest Cemetery in the City
Each week in Living, the four authors of this
column provide photos and articles featuring
tidbits from the past to help Lake Country
readers better understand and appreciate their
roots. Penny Williams focuses on Pewaukee,
Margaret Zerwekh on Delafield, Jeanne Ann
Frederickson on Merton and Lisa Pellegrini on
Mosiey Clark's tavern at Pewaukee, [Asa Mosley Clark, son of Pewaukee’s first
settler, built this house in 1844 to provide food and shelter for travelers &
their horses. Located along the Watertown Plank Rd. the inn was a favorite
stopping place for people traveling between Milwaukee & points west. Food &
lodging cost 25˘ per night, including breakfast. The house was occupied by Clark
family descendents until 1992, when it was sold to the Pewaukee Area Historical
Society. ] http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=44560
and the Burr Oak,
and Frey's taverns at Hartland;
Francis Schraudenbach 's tavern at Nashotah,
Israel MeConneirs at Okauchee,
Joseph Mann's at the river,
and the La Belle House at Oeonomowoc.
Going west from Loomis' one passed E. P. Maynard's,
the Hawks, [Nelson Paige Hawks (1799-1863), a cultured Yankee, who was
Delafield’s first Postmaster, a Justice of the Peace, Town Chairman, owner of a
grist & saw mill, & builder of first town hall.
In 1846 Mr. Hawks built a large Georgian Revival house of hand-hewn timber and
hand-made nails which he called the Delafield Inn. It was known as "One of the
best-kept hotels in the Territory". Built on the Territorial road from Milwaukee
to Madison, the inn was always extremely busy with the many travelers who
stopped to rest for the night.
Many teamsters stayed with him en route from Mineral Point to Milwaukee with
their iron ore loads. Stagecoaches stopped once a day with travelers who were
homesteaders, miners, trappers, traders and territorial politicians.]
and Barber taverns at Delafield,
and C. L. Annis',
and J. D. McDonald's in Summit.
At Waukesha were the Prairieville,
and American houses;
at Genesee, Gabriel Corwin's,
and Major Treadway's Gifford's at North Prairie,
Oliver Gibson's at Eagleville,
Jerry Parson's at Jerico,
Howe's in S. 32, T. Eagle,
and the Adams House at Waterville.
Beginning at the county line and traveling southwest on the Mukwouago plank
road, these were encountered :
the taverns of William S. Parsons,
P. V. Monroe,
Captain F. AV.
J. W. Fritz,
and W. A. Yanderpool.
At Mukwonago there were the Exchange,
the Mukwonago House,
and J. Stockman's tavern,
with L. Stoclmian's a good mile beyond.
Traveling southwest on the Janesvillc plank road, one passed
George Green's tavern,
Senator "Vic." Willard's at the foot of Little Muskego Lake,
Martin's tavern at Chamberlain,
Aaron Putman's at Big Bend,
and Jesse Smith's.
The principal taverns on the Lisbon plank road were those of
Francis Bell at Butler,
and Captain W. W. Caswell at Merton;
1850's-60's "Ex-saloon has long history" - Mike Spinks halfway house;
underground railroad ?, photo: house for sale; "Former owner adds spice to
ex-saloon's past"; Lake Country Reporter, Thursday, June 13, 1996 (page) 21
and David Bonham's:
Editor: April 1, 1837 David
Bonham is advertising in a Milwaukee newspaper that his Public House (tavern)
was open at "Head of Fox River" [later Town of Lisbon]. The Head of the Fox
River encompassed an area on the eastern edge of the Lisbon township and that
which was Willow Springs, later Lannon, then Village of Menomonee Falls.
subscriber would inform the travelling public that he has opened a
house of entertainment on range 19 town 8 section 36 the north-west
quarter. It is on the Oconomowoc trail, at the head of Fox River, on the
direct route to the Upper Rapids on the Rock River, where he will be
happy to accommodate those may be disposed to give him a call.
April 4, 1837
Source: Milwaukee Advertiser, Milwaukee Advertiser, April 15,
"Oconomeewoc Village" instead of "Public House" heading in
the May 13, 1837 edition.
Meeting of The Waukesha County Temperance Society, At Lisbon [excerpts]
The second meeting of the Waukesha County Temperance Society
was held at Lisbon on the 2d inst.
The meeting was peculiarly interesting and encouraging; and although there was
some diversity of opinion on some points, the discussions were conducted in a
Christian spirit, showing a deep feeling for the good of the cause actuated all.
All were impressed with the felling that Temperance was the foundation of all
our social, civil and religious institutions; that upon the triumph of
temperance principles depended to a great extent the success of Christianity and
the cause of civil liberty.
The friends of temperance in Lisbon have set a noble example for the other towns
in the county and Territory; they are evidently in advance of their neighbors,
as there is not a place in town where intoxicating drinks can be bought
[Editor's note: So much for David Bonham's Public House.], and they appear
determined that there shall not be.
5. That the county society cordially approves the action of the Lisbon
Temperance Society, in their efforts to establish in their town, public
houses for the accommodation of travelers, on strict temperance principles; and
that it is the duty of every temperance man to give his influence for their
encouragement and support.
Source: American Freeman, Prairieville, Wisconsin, March 10, 1847
[Editor's note: We know now that Bonham's Public House
or "house of entertainment" opened in April 1837 did not fare well in a town of
leading temperance strength.]
If it wasn't for David Bonham, the Weaver family probably
wouldn't have come here. David was the ambitious one, arriving here in the
Spring of 1836, about the same time as Thomas Spencer Redford. David immediately
sought out a claim that Spring, then wrote back to his wife's Weaver kin in New
York State, describing the wonders of the Territory and about his land. After
John and Melinda Weaver received that letter in the Summer of 1836, they packed
their bags and sailed to the Wisconsin Territory, arriving in September. This is
all revealed in Melinda's Memoirs, also note that Redford's account of the time
appears to be in error.
When the Weavers were first moving into their one-room log
cabin on April 1, 1837, David was advertising in a Milwaukee newspaper that his
"public house" [saloon or tavern] was open for business. Obviously, David had
been building already the year before to accomplish this feat. Bonham owned and
operated the town's first business. In his advertisement, his location is called
"Head of Fox River", this area's first name [which included parts of present day
Willow Springs and Lannon].
At the same time Bonham held his first political position in
"Head of Fox River", being appointed to a "Committee of Vigilance",
basically a peace-keeper. He served in numerous other town, county, and state
political positions. He was a strong supporter of education and of "settlers'
rights", the latter led to the killing nine years later. Bonham had other
firsts; his son's death, and the first plow.
Among such an array of landlords and taverns it is hard to
single out a few for special mention. Matthew Kilmister, of
the Forest House, a little Englishman, who, wdth his musical
family, had been brought to America by P. T. Barnum, was one
of the jolliest, wittiest entertainers, and his table was beyond
criticism. He and his daughters gave musical and dancing parties
which were attended by persons ]Prominent in Waukesha
society; but farmers, teamsters, and railroad men were also his
loyal patrons. He died in 1882, aged seventy-five. In cheering
the lives of thousands, he was, like others of his kind, a true benefactor
of the race, and the world was brighter for his presence.
Leonard Martin, whose large tavern, shorn of its wings, survives as a
farmhouse, played an important role as pioneer, landlord, merchant, farmer, and
"Uncle" Jesse Smith, a pioneer of 1837, built a frame tavern
on S. 33, T. Vernon, in 1842, which, destroyed by fire, was replaced in 1847
with one of stone, now used as a farmhouse. It
was provided with a spring floor ballroom in the third story, a
stone oven with a capacity of forty pies, and water conveyed by
gravity from a nearby spring. His family did the work in the
house and on the large farm, the wife knitting the stockings for
all. He served three terms in the Legislature.
Genial, intelligent Samuel H. Barstow, who came from Connecticut
in 1839, was equally efficient as landlord and officeholder.
His principal charges were the Prairieville and American
houses, at Waukesha. He was a brother of Governor Barstow.
Capt. F. M. Putney kept a tavern a mile northeast of Prospect
Hill from 1845 to 1848, the stage from Milwaukee stopping
for breakfast and changing horses there. Later he acquired the
Exchange House, at Waukesha. He was a successful business
man, doing much to build up the place.
The Prairieville House, at the junction of Main street and
White Rock avenue, was for years the leading tavei'n of Waufcesha.
Popular as a place of entertainment, it was tlie scene
of political plots and gatherings, the resort of lawyers and slave hunters, and
when the territorial road was at its zenith, the
stage house. Its other famous landlord was Peter G. Jones, a
strong, unique character. Though very portly, he was a fine
dancer; a stylish dresser, he wore ruffled shirts after they were out of
fashion. The railroad and the shifting of the business
center at length caused the tavern's decline.
Before the railway and the Watertown plank road had diverted
traffic from the territorial road, Delafield had three taverns,
foremost of which was the Hawks House. A keen politician,
a practical joker, a capital story teller, and a good
provider, landlord Nelson P. Hawks, while a resident of Aztalan,
had also the distinction of being the builder of the first steamboat constructed