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Spink & Smith Inn aka Spink
Demolition may end historic tie Site may have link to
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI) - Sunday, January 9, 2005
Author: REID J. EPSTEIN, [email protected], Journal Sentinel:
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Demolition may end historic tie
Site may have link to Underground Railroad
Sussex -- Today the old house at the corner of Lisbon Road and Highway
164 is a boarded-up shell, plywood covering the windows of what was once a
saloon and, some believe, a station on the Underground Railroad.
But the building is not for long. It, along with an adjacent barn and garage,
are set to be torn down this spring as part of the state's improvements to
Highway 164. When they go, it will mark the end of what may have been a link to
Waukesha County's history of abolitionist activism.
Fred Keller, the Sussex village historian, said Madeline Lembke, who
lived on the farm just east of the old tavern, used to say that it was
well-known in her family that the site was a stop for escaped slaves headed to
Canada before the Civil War.
But while Waukesha was sometimes known as "that abolitionist hole" in the 1840s,
there is no remaining evidence that the Sussex site was a stop on the
Underground Railroad, according to Sue Baker, the executive director of the
Waukesha County Historical Society & Museum.
Last February, the state began work to widen the two-lane Highway 164 that runs
through the City and Village of Pewaukee, Sussex and Lisbon. Plans call
for installing 30-foot medians, wider lanes, a frontage road and new traffic
Brian Bliesner, the project's supervisor for the state Department of
Transportation, said the tavern, its barn and the garage are going to come down
"All three of those are going to be taken down as part of the construction
contract," he said. "It's at the contractor's discretion, as soon as he can get
The construction is set to take place in three phases. The first, from Rockwood
Drive to Swan Road in the City of Pewaukee, began in February.
The second phase, scheduled to start this spring, is from Swan Road north to
just south of Highway VV in the Town of Lisbon.
The third and final phase of the Highway 164 project in Waukesha County is
scheduled for 2006. The Highway VV and Highway 164 intersection will be
reconstructed along with Highway 164 north to Howard Lane.
The federal government will pay for 80% of the project, and the remaining 20%
will be paid by the state and county governments.
Before the 2006 portion of construction, two more Sussex buildings near
the Union Pacific Railroad tracks are also set to be torn down.
The proof of Waukesha County's anti-slavery roots lie in letters to and from
Caroline Quarrells, a 16-year-old slave from St. Louis who escaped to Milwaukee
in the early 1840s before bounty hunters there tracked her down. She ran to
Waukesha, until the hunters found her out again. Then, the Congregational Church
whisked her off to Detroit, from where she crossed the border into Canada.
"It was incredibly rural out here then," Baker said. "So it would have been
easier for her to hide. She was here for a while, but the bounty hunters did
trace her to Waukesha County, and that's when the people from the Congregational
Church took her all the way to Canada."
If there were other stops on the Underground Railroad in Waukesha County, their
records have been lost, Baker said. Quarrells, unlike many slaves, could read
and write and documented her experiences traveling to Canada.
Difficult to verify stories
"That particular case was well-documented because Caroline knew how to write and
wrote back to the person who conducted her," Baker said. "We know that Caroline
came through here. We do not know about others. It could be that others came
Baker said Quarrells never mentioned the tavern at the corner of what is now
Highway 164 and Lisbon Road.
"There's nothing in anything that I've seen that mentions a tavern at that
location," she said.
Joe DeRose, a researcher at the Wisconsin Historical Society, said he also is
not aware of any evidence that the Underground Railroad went through the old
According to an 1880 history of Waukesha County, Quarrells described one of her
hiding places in Waukesha County as a place one mile east of the Ryan Road hill,
which would not place her at the tavern being town down.
"But what is a mile, when a girl is scared like she was?" Keller said.
Though the house's windows are now covered in plywood and closed to visitors,
Keller was inside before the state took ownership. In the attic were a pile of
Civil War-era abolitionist newspapers.
"We were going to put a Waukesha County historical marker over there," Keller
said. "They'll have a trail that people can trail to the marker."
Site may have link to Underground Railroad
This building at Lisbon Road and Highway 164 in Sussex is slated for
demolition, despite a possible connection to the historic anti-slavery
Construction to widen Highway 164 is being done in three phases, with the last
scheduled for 2006.
Fred Keller says neighbors recall stories of the tavern having been a stop on
the Underground Railroad.
Keller peeks inside the outhouse near the building at Lisbon Road and Highway