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History - Local - Government - Sussex' Incorporation as a Village

The incorporation of the Village of Sussex, 1924

Fred H. Keller | Retrospect

Recently, Jason Nettesheim, a Scout leader for Sussex Boy Scout Troop 95, called me up and requested that I present a program on how Sussex became a village separating from the Town of Lisbon in 1924. The program would help the Scouts meet a badge requirement.

I reviewed the Sussex Lisbon Historical Society sources and prepared this presentation.

Wisconsin, Waukesha County and the Town of Lisbon were a distant, grassed and deeply forested land when pioneers came to the eastern shores of the North America. The French were in Canada and their explorers and the fur traders followed the Great Lakes and discovered the area that was given the name of the Northwest Territories which included what is the Big Ten area of today: Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, parts of Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The French claimed the area in 1670 and they controlled it until 1759, 89 years of the French flag flying over the future Wisconsin. Then by the rights of the French and Indian War, it was turned over to the British from 1759 to 1794, 35 years, when the United States by the rights of the Revolutionary War gained the territory which included Wisconsin.

Now there were a succession of states that administrated the Wisconsin territory which included Virginia and Ohio from 1794 to 1800, Indiana from 1800 to 1809, Illinois from 1809 to 1818 and then Michigan from 1818 to 1834 when Wisconsin was set off by itself, becoming a state in 1848. In this process at one time the capitol of Wisconsin was Wayne County, Michigan (Detroit) and later Brown County (Green Bay).

Anticipating the Northwest Territories coming into the United States, the new U.S. Government wrote and passed the great Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which governed how new states should come into the Union and how the states should form within their boundaries, counties and villages. Now Wisconsin and Milwaukee County opened up for homesteaders around 1834-36. Milwaukee County stretched from Lake Michigan all the way to the future Madison. It prominently included Waukesha County with the Town of Lisbon originally set up as what is today Menomonee Falls, Brookfield and Pewaukee. These four, 6-mile by 6-mile locations separated from each other in 1838 as the settlers poured in claiming land for $1.25 an acre or paying $200 for 160 acres.

Lisbon officially started on April 5, 1842, when an organizational meeting was held at the Lisbon Plank School house where Halquist Quarry is today. The first settler was on May 15, 1836, Thomas Redford and the first woman settler was Melinda Weaver on March 3, 1837.

Lisbon was a farming community and two little villages started, one near the present-day intersection of Duplainville and Lisbon roads; it never had a name. Around 1840, Levi Russell started a little store and shoe shop in this area. Later a William McDonald had a general store in this area that still remained unnamed.

A second village (the future Sussex) saw its first pioneer, George Elliott, but it was Richard Cooling who came to Lisbon in 1842 and by 1843 had opened a black smith shop (and later store) at the four corners of Maple and Main streets. This first home and business was at the southeast corner of Maple and Main. Soon there were two competing general stores, Browns and Champeny's, St. Alban's church and cemetery and many homes. Richard Cooling and his wife, Mary White, had a daughter, Esther Ann, who would marry a James Templeton, who will prominently figure in the formation of the Village of Sussex in 1924. Today, Templeton Middle School is named after him.

The name chosen for this emerging village was Sussex. Before the year 900, England was attacked and conquered by the Saxons, the Danish people and the Northman on Scandinavia. It is said that King Alfred the Great divided the warring country into Essex, Wessex, Sussex, Middlesex and Northumbria. Essex meant "East Saxons" Sussex stood for South Saxons and Wessex for West Saxons. Middlesex was around London, the lower-middle part of England and Northumbria stood for the people north of the River Humber.

Now this emerging village in Waukesha County was named Sussex because the dominant families of early Sussex were from Sussex, England and the area south of London. The unincorporated Sussex village of Lisbon-Waukesha County became the business and political center of the community with the U.S. post office locating there with Cooling being appointed post master on Jan. 6, 1851.

Sussex splits from Lisbon, Templeton

Editor's note: This is a continuation of a Retrospect about the incorporation of Sussex that appeared in the Sun on March 8.

The unincorporated area of Sussex has begun to grow by the late- to mid-1800s. It gained a stone church that replaced the small, wooden St. Alban's church building in 1864-66. Taverns started in Sussex and a brewery was located on north Maple Avenue.

The Civil War had been fought and won with soldiers coming home to Sussex and Lisbon. One veteran, James Templeton initially headed west to Colorado after his service, but came back to Sussex to marry Esther Ann Templeton on Sept. 1, 1868. Templeton took over his father-in-law's general store and U.S. post mastership.

In 1885-86, the landscape of Lisbon also begins to change as the Wisconsin Central Railroad is developed. James Templeton sees an advantage in moving from Maple and Main streets to the Main Street railroad crossing east of Waukesha Avenue one mile east of Sussex. He puts up a large grain elevator and takes over a general store in this emerging village. It is initially called "Buck Town" after the nearby farmland the track runs through.

Templeton moves to a new general store in "Buck Town/east Sussex" and also takes with him the Sussex Post Office. There is protest meeting at the Sussex-Lisbon Town Hall after this move. Residents demand the former Sussex Post Office be returned to the historic four corners of Sussex. The U.S. Postal Service bows to the demand in a way. They allow the post office to remain in east Sussex (Buck Town) and also allow old Sussex to have its own post office creating two post offices within one mile of each other. Thus, in 1888, James Templeton causes a name change for Buck Town to his namesake of the unincorporated Village of Templeton.

James Templeton becomes very wealthy and politically connected serving as Lisbon Town Chairman, a county board member and eventually Waukesha County Sheriff and under sheriff.

As World War I ends in 1918, Sussex and Templeton continue to grow. One new family to the area is the Kraemers of Richfield who moved to Templeton and build the Mammoth Spring Canning Co. The cannery serves the local crop yields and provides many fulltime, parttime and seasonal jobs for local residents.

The leader of the Kramer family is WWI veteran, John P. Kraemer. After moving to the area, Kraemer forms the Templeton-Sussex Advancement Association with a goal of undertaking community betterment projects and an opportunity arises in the night of Jan. 30, 1922, when the new Sussex Main Street School catches fire and burns to the ground. The cause of the fire was never determined. Some speculated it was spontaneous combustion from recently delivered coal while others say arson. One reason the building was claimed was because Sussex and Lisbon did not have a fire department.

The men in the Templeton-Sussex Advancement Association quickly stepped forward to form a community fire department. By May of 1922, the department was in place with 33 members. A fire truck was purchased, training instituted with monthly meetings and fundraising opportunities in the community. John P. Kraemer is considered the "Father of the Sussex Fire Department."

So successful was this formation of the fire department that the advancement association started to push for the separation of Sussex into an incorporated community including Templeton.

The initial petition had the boundaries of the proposed village including part of the Maple Avenue, and personal property which today is west Sunset, Hickory Drive, Oak Drive and Circle, but this petition was refused by the courts. On June 30, 1924 a new petition was drawn up that included around 615 acres of old Sussex and newer Templeton. Sixteen men, 10 from the new Sussex fire department and six other prominent local men added their names to the petition of June 30, 1924 and it was accepted. Voters approved the petition on Aug. 19, 1924 with 113 voting for incorporation and 78 against. In September of 1924, Sussex and Templeton left the Town of Lisbon with the name Templeton eventually disappearing and Sussex being the moniker of the newly incorporated village.

The leaders in this incorporation were headed by John Kraemer, Frank Groban and William Edwards. Kraemer would attain the designation of "Father of the Village of Sussex" to go with his earlier "Father of the Sussex Fire Department." Later, he would attain the title of co-founder of the Sussex Lions Club in 1939 and in 1958, the "Father of the Sussex Park system."

The two men against forming the incorporation were Templeton's namesake, James Templeton who died at age 82 on July 14, 1924 just before the election. The other vocal opponent was Templeton post master and general store owner, Frank Schroeder, who would die in five years.

The newly elected Sussex Village Board met in the Lisbon Town Hall until 1937 when the WPA built Sussex Community Hall at a cost of $26,000 of which the village paid $13,000.


The 16 signing the petition to incorporation Sussex-Templeton into a village were:

William Edwards - Was born on Pewaukee Road in Lisbon on May 14, 1861 one month after the Civil War began. In his life he spent 15 years teaching and being a principal in Lisbon and Sussex. He spent 10 years as Lisbon Town Chairman and Waukesha County Board Supervisor, 14 years representing the greater Lisbon area in the Wisconsin Assembly and four more years as a senator. He died in 1944.

Frank Grogan - Became the first village president and served 10 years on the county board. He was born April 14, 1865, two days after President Abraham Lincoln shot.

Other signers included: John P. Kraemer, local banker, J.W. Canon, Dr. C.D. Gruelich, Dr. George Lawler, Brook Hotel owner Paul Schroeder, hardware store owner George Podolske, blacksmith Fred Stier, service station owner Carl Marx, George Neumuller, farmer, land developer J. Chester Lingelbach, farm machinery salesman William Russell, James Booth, Charles Wileden and Sussex sweet shop owner H. Charles Woochick.


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