Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society, Inc.

Search this site and our local communities. Wisconsin History Search Only

You may now join, or renew your SLAHS membership using your PayPal account, credit, or debit card.

Please use the following link to make a secure on-line payment.

About Us
Search this site
Monetary Donations

Artifact Donations

Buy A Brick Donation

Fundraiser Letter

Notable Links
Index to Wisconsin Brewery and Related Articles


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 Lisbon

by Editor Michael R. Reilly, copyright February 2013

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.

    The early 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.

    Accustomed 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 caterer.

    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

source: 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 1855. 

    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
a barroom.

    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. These 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 feet.

    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 events.

    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 important 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 audiences.

    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 green peas.

    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 Waukesha County.

    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 food.

Waukesha County

    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 towns.

    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 purchased it. 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,

Jacob Weitzel,

Ezra Maynard,

David Arlt,

and Theodore Loomis, all in a distance of four one-half miles.

Turning northwest on the plank road one passed

the Forest House,

Taverns, politics, 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 Civil war.

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 well.

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 Janesville area.

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 of Pewaukee.

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 Hartland.
This site uses Facebook comments to make it easier for you to contribute. If you see a comment you would like to flag for spam or abuse, click the 'x' in the upper right of it. By posting, you agree to our Terms of Use. You can also email [email protected]. While we strive for a lively and vigorous debate of the issues, we do not tolerate name calling, foul language or other inappropriate behavior.


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. ]


and the Burr Oak,

and Otis's,

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,

S. Hunkins,

P. V. Monroe,

Captain F. AV.


L. McLean,

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;

at Lisbon:

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.

Public House

The 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.
David Bonham
April 4, 1837
Source: Milwaukee Advertiser, Milwaukee Advertiser, April 15, 1837

"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 politician.

    "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 in Wisconsin,


Home / About Us  / Membership / Search this site

Copyright Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society, Inc., , 2002 - 2016, Except as noted: All documents placed on the website remain the property of the contributors, who retain publication rights in accordance with US Copyright Laws and Regulations. In keeping with our policy of providing free information on the Internet, these documents may be used by anyone for their personal research. They may be used by non-commercial entities, when written permission is obtained from the contributor, so long as all notices and submitter information are included. These electronic pages may NOT be reproduced in any format for profit. Any other use, including copying files to other sites, requires permission from the contributors PRIOR to uploading to the other sites. The submitter has given permission to the website to store the file(s) for free access. Such permission may be revoked upon written notice to the website webmaster. Website's design, hosting, and maintenance are donated by Website Editor & Webmaster: Michael R. Reilly (Mike)