This Old House
by Linda Schafer, 1985
Reprinted with permission of the author
Except for four months of his life, my grandfather , Willard E. Schafer, had lived all of his 78 years in the same house.
It's not possible to be sure where the stone for the house was quarried. Limestone or dolomite crops out on the farm only a few hundred feet from the house and on the farm to the north less than a quarter of a mile away. Neither outcrop has been significantly quarried, however, raising the possibility that the stone was cut, roughly shaped, and transported to the building site from another quarry in the area.
The basement walls are approximately 18" thick, and the walls at the second floor level are 12" thick. One can sit on the inside window sills! The exterior window sills and window and door lintels are cut from solid pieces of limestone. The corners, cleanly cut about an inch from the edge, look as if they were done by machine rather than by hand.
Although I have searched for the identity of the builder, I have not been successful in finding him. I have come across some interesting information, however, that would make it possible to make some assumptions.
There are two other houses in the area that, while different in floor plan, have some of the same characteristics. The first is the "Davidson House", owned by Steve Babits at S64 W23420 Main Street in Sussex, in what was originally Templeton. The second is the "Weeks House" located on County Highway VV near the western edge of Lisbon Township. The Rodgers House is about a half mile west of Sussex at N67 W25395, also on Highway VV.
While talking to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Dinkel, present owners of the Weeks House, Mr. Dinkel said that Allen Weeks, from whom he bought the house, had mentioned to him that the house was built in 1860 by a Mr. Davidson. The first of these three farmhouses was owned by Andrew L. Davidson. The quarry and the house were located on the same farm.
Only four years after the first land claimers set down their stakes in Lisbon Township, quarries were opened in 1840-41, by Andrew Davidson, William Grave, and James Weaver. It is probable that Andrew L. Davidson was the builder of all three houses.
A small graveyard exists on the northwest corner of the property associated with the Rodgers House. Mr. Davidson is buried there along with his wife. Their tombstone reveals that he was born on September 8, 1822, and died May 2, 1904.
Archibald Rodgers was the first owner of this property, from 1846-1889. Born September 23, 1809, in Perthshire, Scotland, he had come to the Town of Lisbon, then part of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, in 1841, and resided there for the rest of his life. Rodgers was one of the first members of a small Scottish colony, formed around 1840, along with Robert James, Alexander Harris, and John Small.
Rodgers married Augusta (Agnes) Templeton in1850, after her first husband died in 1846. Agnes had two children by her first marriage, James and Andrew, who were raised by the Rodgers. Archibald and Agnes had four children: George, Agnes, Jeanette, and Isabel. Agnes died in 1876, and Archibald in 1891.
Rodgers was an owner of 95 acres of well-improved land at the time and was one of Lisbon's well-to-do and energetic citizens.
James Templeton, stepson of Archibald Rodgers, was brought to Wisconsin in 1843 from New York at the age of 6 months, and was four years old when his father died. His mother married Rodgers three years later.
Templeton served in the Civil War after being apprenticed to a Pewaukee miller. He was elected to be Waukesha County Sheriff in 1895-96 and to many other township and county posts. At one time he was postmaster of Sussex and later a new village to the east of Sussex that he named Templeton after himself. He built an elevator-mill on the Wisconsin Central Railroad (today's Soo Line) and a huge white house in the emerging village. Started in 1886 with the coming of the first railroad to Lisbon, the new village was taken over by Sussex in the 1924-25 incorporation of the Village of Sussex and the name Templeton disappeared from the map. The ornate Templeton home was destroyed by fire in 1937.
Isabel McKerrow, daughter of Archibald and Augusta (Agnes) Rodgers, was born on July 14, 1858. A native of Waukesha County, Isabel was of Scottish ancestry. On September 26, 1877, she was married to George McKerrow, one of the leading stock breeders and dealers of the state at that time. Also a Scottish native of Waukesha County, he was born April 1, 1852, the only child of Gavin and Elizabeth McKerrow.
Although there is not sufficient information about Alexander Will, I do know that he bought the Rodgers House and land in 1889 from Archibald Rodgers for $5,775, and changed the farm business. Apparently grain had been the main crop up to that time. An 12891 map of Lisbon shows the farm named "Spring Meadow Stock Farm". The emphasis had shifted from grain to cattle.
Alexander Will married Edith around 1900, and is probably the father of Charles Wills, who was well known in Lisbon Township.
On October 24, 1904, Alexander and Edith sold the house and farm to John and Lydia Schafer, Milwaukee, who moved into their new home with their first two children, Lucille and four-month old baby Willard, my grandfather. Grandfather once said his mother told him that they brought him to their new home on a pillow in a box! Two other children, Pearl and Florence were born in the house.
When Willard married Esther Meissner in 1929, his parents rented the farm to them, sold the personal property and moved to Waukesha where they lived the remainder of their lives. After paying for the personal property (cattle, equipment, etc.) Willard and Esther bought the house and farm, February 28, 1939. Two children blessed their marriage, Barbara and Mark.
My grandparents continued to dairy farm until they sold to Daniel Meissner of Hickory Hill Farm, (whose land adjoins the farm to the west), in April, 1975. The house was separated from the farm at that time and the Schafers continued to own and live in the house. On November 14, 1982, Willard passed away at the age of 78. A year later, the house was sold to Hickory Hill Farm and joined again to the rest of the farm.
Scott and Beth Meissner, (Dan Meissner's eldest son), now occupy the Rodgers House and lovingly care for it.
I am very thankful that this house, which has given me many fond memories, has stayed in the hands of my relatives for the past 80 years. The house is historic and beautiful, and should be listed among the most historical houses of the Town of Lisbon and Waukesha County.
(About the author: Linda Schafer, Merton, was a freshman at Hartland Arrowhead High School when she wrote "This Old House". She is the daughter of Mark and Gail Schafer.)
Editor's notes: "This Old House" originally published in the Sussex Sun newspaper, 1985, and the Landmark, Combined Spring and Summer 1985, Vol. 28, Nos. 1 & 2.
Hyperlinks added within the above article to additional information.
After marrying Isabel Rodgers on Sept 26, 1877, George McKerrow and Isabel lived in her father's house at least until 1880. The 1880 Census lists them and their daughter as living on Archibald's farm. George's step father, William Simpson didn't die until 1891. Archibald also died in 1891. Since the Rodgers farm was supposed to be sold to Alexander Wills in 1889, George may have taken over operation of the Simpson/McKerrow homestead between 1880 and 1889. Archibald may have moved with them there (?).
"The Meissners have agreed to sell the 540 acres they own to Bielinski Development Co. early next year and will phase out operations over four years. Sussex has just annexed 300 of those acres, and Village Administrator Chris Swartz said development of up to 300 homes over 10 years will likely begin with the arrival of sewer service in about 2006." Source: Journal Sentinel, "County will lose its biggest dairy farm", by Laurel Walker, Sept 19, 2002
From the Tuesday, October 14, 2003 edition of the Sussex Sun has a page 1 article by Peter Abbott, Staff Writer that states "The Meissner family has sold its historic Hickory Hill Farm - located on Silver Spring Drive one mile west of Highway 164 - to Bielinski Custom Homes of Pewaukee."..."Meissner is by no means giving up..."..." In the meantime, the 37-year old farmer will continue to work the Lisbon farm with his father until Bielinski moves them out. Our agreement requires a one-year notice, Meissner said."
Commercial development (?) of the house/farm property is expected to begin in 2005.