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Lannon History Index

Lannon and its quarries

By Ruth Schmidt 

    A man, in his retirement years, stood on the front porch of his home in the little village of Lannon and looked down Lannon Road. "Five of the stone houses on this street originally stood in Stone City at the Hadfield quarry," he mused. "There are ten more on Vine Street, and at least four on Lake Street, all moved from the quarry, into the village and remodeled." The quarry of which he spoke, with almost 30 others around Lannon, are the foundation of Lannon's history and industries. The name Lannon and ornamental building stone quarried here have become synonymous, the history of Lannon deeply imbedded in its limestone.

    An escarpment stretches across the Great Lakes region from Niagara Falls through northern Michigan, and down eastern Wisconsin to Racine. Out-croppings of Niagara limestone surfaces along this drift, in Fond du Lac, in Milwaukee, and westward from Waukesha - especially in the Lannon area, and this reef remained undisturbed for thousands of years, until the early 1800s. 

    William Lannon and his young bride came in 1834 to the area now known as Lannon. Legend has it, they saw flat white rocks lying on top of the ground inviting them to build a wall. They erected a one-room house with solid stone walls two to three feet thick. (Stone houses today are thin veneer rock surfaces over a frame structure.) Lannon crushed some of the limestone and made a plaster, held together with horsehair, to seal the inside of his substantial home. Later, William Lannon opened a stone quarry on his farm which was along the present State Highway 74. 

    The Lannon farm has special interest in Lannon history. There were two excellent artesian springs here, one on each side of the road. Eventually the farm was divided between Lannon's two children, William N. and Mary Lannon Linder. A frame house was built on the south side of the road when Mary inherited these 118 acres. A milk-house was built over the spring which made a natural cooling tank. The spring on the 93 acres on the north side, belonging to William N., had such cold water that it was used for cold storage. Old William Lannon had two brothers, Thomas and James who came to Waukesha county in 1837 and settled in Muskego. Thomas' grandchildren (atty. Francis Radsch of West Allis and Mrs. George Kempken of Hartland) remember the story their mother told of visiting the Lannon farm one August, and eating fresh strawberries which had been kept in the cold spring. These stories are told to ex- plain why a post office there was called Lannon Springs. William Lannon gave some of his land to the St. James Catholic church and cemetery at Willow Springs. The frame house built on the south side of Hwy. 74 became the first home of "The Ranch," a well known organization the provides farm-home experiences for retarded boys. In 1847, Mr. Lannon made a plat of the land around the quarries, west of Lannon village, and called it Lannon Springs. 

    As other settlers came, they found plenty of stone for everyone willing to pick it up and build walls for a home. As one old settler said, "If they wanted a flagstone patio they just kicked the dirt aside and there it was." At first the stone was free to anyone who wanted to use it, but as more settlers arrived, some of the most enterprising landowners began to 8ell the stone. The 1880 History of Waukesha County records lists Lyman Goodman as the first person in Waukesha county, in 1840, to open a stone quarry, in the village of Prairieville, but Isaac Howard was selling stone from his quarry in Lannon in 1838.

    Isaac Howard came from Vermont in 1835, at age 18 to survey the area of Waukesha that was to become the Town of Menomonee. He and his 15 year old wife located on a site near Lannon, where he opened his quarry in 1838. The 1859 atlas shows a Howard quarry and kiln on the southwest quarter of Sec. 17 in the Town of Menomonee. There was still a Howard quarry at the site 100 years later. 

    Among immigrants who arrived in the earliest settlement was August Schultz, who came to work in the quarries at age 14. He operated a crusher, and later acquired land on Lannon Road to open his own quarry. When Hadfield took over this quarry, and Lakeshore Quarry bought up many of the original operation, Schultz became manager. Some of the best-known, and oldest quarries in the Lannon area include: Kieffer, Davidson, Hamon, Wallen, Flanagan, Sheridan, Lund, Walsh, Davis Brothers and Schultz. Many quarries operated under these names for 50 to 100 years. 

    In 1855, at least a dozen quarries were shipping stone to Milwaukee by team and wagon. Most was paving stone. 

    Curbing and flagstones were cut by hand. Then the steam drills, that looked like three-legged spaceships on the moon, cracked off paving blocks 16 to 20 inches wide. The stone was scored, and with hammers and chisels broken into paving and curb-sized blocks, 16 inches by four feet or curb-sizes. Handling stone was slow hard work; today's air hammers can do more in a day than hand-drillers did in a month. 

    Stone cutting is a skilled art and the quarry industry soon attracted immigrants. from Italy, who were artisans of the trade. More immigrants came-Pole8 and Germans-until a small settlement, called Stone City, grew up around the quarries. Twelve four-room stone houses were built along the road in Hadfield Quarry. (These were the houses that were later moved into the Village of Lannon.) Each house held two families. The tenants (quarry workers) were allowed a garden plot, a small barn and one or two pigs. John Walter, who still lives in Lannon, remembers butchering the pigs for the stone cutters and delivering the pork to the quarry homes. Delivery service was not customary in those days, so he got to these homes about once or twice a year. The settlement was mostly Polish immigrants. The Italians and Poles did not get along well, so another settlement (frame houses) was built at the edge of the quarry, called "The Other Village." 

    Hadfield had opened quarries in Waukesha during the 1840's. His lime kilns and stone became the most popular in the industry in this area. When he recognized a superior quality of stone in the Lannon area, he bought several quarries along the Lannon Road. This area is now better known as Menomonee Park. Hadfield platted it in 1890 and called it Hadfield. 

      A railroad spur was built into the Hadfield quarries in 1889-90, to connect with operations in Waukesha. (Lannon had a "dinky" line, built in 1885, that made rail connections in Butler.) When empty cars were pushed back onto this spur, the women from both settlements made a wild dash for crating wood on the cars, to use for firewood. (Both settlements had outdoor, stone ovens.) If an Italian woman claimed the right to one car, no Polish women had better try to take wood from that car or a battle was sure to follow, with one or the other getting a board over the head. Each had their territory; they did not mix. They were called the Dagos and the Polacks, in those days. The Polish men played cards and drank beer on Sunday, their children "fetching" pails of beer from the neighborhood saloon. The Italians, in the Other Village entertained themselves by dancing and singing. Then they would all work together in the quarry 10 hours a day, six days in the week. In the days of hand- labor, the wages were 10 to 15 cents an hour, with unskilled men working for a nickel an hour. Craftsmen were paid well if they got 82 a day. Most of them could Bay "Another day, another dollar." Machine operators were paid a monthly wage


   Every quarry had its own kiln until the turn of the century, and, because the lime made from stone in this area was the whitest and strongest on the market, it was in demand regardless of cost, most of which was shipping cost. Due to the slow and poor transportation, the industry did not expand rapidly the first 40 years, but with the coming of steam shovels, derricks, steam drills and railroads, the quarries flourished. The heyday of the industry reached its peak between 1880 and 1900. 

    Some of the largest work done in the Lannon area was quarrying the huge three by four foot blocks of solid rock used in the Milwaukee breakwater. Stone for this breakwater came from the Belgium and the Lannon quarries- 20 to 30 carloads of stone a day leaving Lannon for the job. The break- water was built as three projects: the first 5600 feet was built between 1881 and 1902, ,~other section was added in 1922; and in 1930 the break- water was completed. 


    With the increasing number of people who came to this area to work, it is only nature. l there must be other businesses to tend the needs of these settlers. Probably the busiest was the blacksmith, for sharp drills were needed every morning and every boss wanted his ready before the day's work began. 

    A Mr. Saunders opened a store in 1843, in the vicinity of Lannon Springs. Legends tell us he traded salt and flour for wood ashes, which he used to make soap, which in turn he used as barter for his supplies. Another store, at the intersection of Lannon Road and Hwy. 74, supplied gloves. Rows and rows of gloves hung from wires across the ceiling. Each morning, every worker made a trip to the store, and pulled down a pair of new gloves. Handling stone was rough work; by night, the gloves were ready to discard for a new pair the next day. The storekeeper had no worries about bad credits for he kept the books and before the payroll was made out each quarry manager came to the store, paid the monthly bills, and deducted, this from the wages due . 

    Early in history, the settlement had a hotel, a butcher shop, saloons, a harness shop and whatever was necessary to supply the needs of the settlers. 

    At first, the mail was brought to Stone City from Waukesha. When a carrier did not recognize an immigrant's name, he was advised to ask Bill Lannon, because, "Lannon knows everyone in the quarry." It became a password. 'Take the mail over to Lannon," until Bill Lannon applied for a postal station at his farmhouse, June 11, 1864, under the name of Lannon Springs. old records seem to indicate this station was really a private service to the community, as the application was granted with the provision, "if the area was served by any other delivery at the time, the station would have to operate at no expense to the United States Postal Department." This office was on Hwy. 74, about three quarters of a mile west of the present post office. "

       Picture to right--> Top row (left to right) Mick Kiefer, Reinhardt Zahnow, William Golner, Unknown, Adam Rossman, Ted Golner, Walter Hardiman, Anton Grabowski, Pat Marx, Joe Roebuck, Bill Roberts. Bottom row (left to right) John Thiery, William Weyer, unknown, Fred Gastrau, Philip Hartman, Otto Schmoller, Billy Jones.

        At first, the mail was brought to Stone City from Waukesha. When a carrier did not recognize an immigrant's name, he was advised to ask Bill Lannon, because, "Lannon knows everyone in the quarry." It became a password. 'Take the mail over to Lannon," until Bill Lannon applied for a postal station at his farmhouse, June 11, 1864, under the name of Lannon Springs. old records seem to indicate this station was really a private service to the community, as the application was granted with the provision, "if the area was served by any other delivery at the time, the station would have to operate at no expense to the United States Postal Department." This office was on Hwy. 74, about three quarters of a mile west of the present post office. "

    In the records in the Lannon Post Office, in 1978, Keith Gissal found an application ~or a post office for this area, dated January 16, 1879, but there was no record of any office opened. Old settlers tell how residents of Stone City, Hadfield and Lannon Springs worked together to get a central post office. This may be the reason another application was made June 18, 1890, by O1avius O1sen, and signed by the Templeton Postmaster. The name suggested on the original application was "Hadfield" this was crossed out and "Stone City" was written in; this was also cross- ed out and the name "Lannon" was written over the other names. The application was approved and a post office established August 2, 1890, in Lannon. This off1ce has been open since, with the following men serving: Olavius O1sen was the first postmaster, followed by Abram Hadfield, June 1891. John Flanagan Sr. served 1893-1897, followed by Augustus Hinner 1897-1905; George Loos 1905-1912, followed by Jack Flanagan (son of John Sr.) also served from 1912-1949, when John Walsh was appointed. He served until 1957 when Keith Gissal came. Lannon was incorporated as a village in 1930.

    Lannon had become the center of the building stone industry by 1915, ; yet, according to research done by Jean Penn Loerke, in her thesis "Waukesha Limestone, the Quarries, the Kilns, and the Buildings" notes that in 1915, nowhere on record had the name lannon stone appeared - rather referred to as "limestone from the Lannon area." This trade-name seems to have become associated with limestone building stone between World War I and World War II. Since 1950, this high quality stone and the village name of Lannon have become synonymous. Lannon stone of such superior quality that other quarries like to use the name lannon stone in referring to all limestone building stone, as it implies a higher quality than some beds really produce. 

    After World War II, the stone industry changed primarily from paving stone, lime kilns and solid-wall building stone, to by-products such as disinfectants, ornamental landscaping rock, and thin veneer-facing stone for building. Portland cement had replaced mortar and macadam, power machinery had replaced pick and crowbar, and modern markets replaced the demand for stone building blocks to more ornamental stone. The low cost of old stone buildings (of which Waukesha county was so proud) was due to the abundance and excellence of local stone. That has faded into history as modern markets demand such a variety of stone that the few remaining stone companies import 40 percent of what they sell. 

    In 1959, more than thirty stone companies were listed in the local telephone yellow pages, now there are four. The Halquist Go. controls most of the building stone, having bought up the independent operations around Sussex and Lannon. Vulcan Materials specialized in limestone by products. The sto:1e industry is not declining, it is just changing. Lannon stone houses are still popular, whether remodeled or modern. 

    The future of the quarries here may not depend on the quality or amount of stone available. It will more likely be restricted by social and governmental controls. The Lannon stone quarries are being circled by subdivisions, and population brings regulations and controls which may, in time, strangle this famous industry. Until the days of World War II, stone provided a livelihood, in one way or another for almost everyone in the village of Lannon. Now less than 20 percent of the population depend on stone for a job. 

    Old settlers can tell many stories of early Lannon, all tas3d on its quarries-like the wise man who built his house on a rock, the village of Lannon built their village on stone. Old timers will tell you the community was settled by the Irish, but the colorful stories in Lannon's history indicate the Italians, the Poles, the Germans, and other nationalities have contributed their share to the growth and glory of Lannon and Lannon stone.

    This article was reprinted here with permission of the late Ruth Schmidt's step-grandson, Michael R. Reilly, from "Lannon History: Village of Lannon - Golden Jubilee 1930-1980" edited by Fred Keller.

Retrospect, Jan. 28, 2015: Hadfield had big impact on early Lannon

Posted Living Sussex Sun, Jan. 22, 2015

Prior to 1873, there was no Lannon village. It was just a crossroads of section lines and what is today Highway 74. The few businesses were at the Lannon Springs area, the intersection of Town Line Road, Highway 74 and what became Whiskey Corners. It was dominated by St. James Catholic Church and cemetery, the mail drop residence of William Lannon (Lannon Springs Farm) and the Willow Spring School.

But soon after 1873, the present-day triangle of Main Street, the future Lannon Road and also the future Good Hope Road became a business center and housing development. The big addition was the opening of multiple quarries in the vicinity, and the 1891 acquisition of a Lannon Post Office propelled the development.

Meanwhile, there was the mega-quarry at the Lake Shore-Joe Hadfield Quarry, immediately north of downtown Lannon. Today, this mega-quarry is the Menomonee Park, with its central water-filled quarry, now owned and developed by the Waukesha County Parks Department. In 1891, it really became a big-time quarry as the Bug Line, installed in 1890, had a direct spur line into the quarry. Today, that spur line is a trail from the Bug Line Trail to Menomonee Park.

Hadfield was something of a utopia-minded individual as he funded support for various U.S. utopias. In this line, he put in a big series of wood homes adjacent to his quarry.

And then came the crash, as the utopia settlements he fostered, " To each according to his need, from each according to his ability," ended up with everyone in need, as the inhabitants thought, "Why should I work, as my need will be taken care of by others?"

The precipitated a closing of the Hadfield Quarry and high, wide and far-reaching bankruptcy. Just prior to the financial crash, there was even a thought by the emerging community of present-day Lannon to have the name of their village be Hadfield after their principal employer and nearby land holder. However, no one likes a loser.

Joseph Hadfield, born in England on Oct. 16, 1816, came to Waukesha in 1843. Initially, he was a shoe cobbler, a trade he followed until 1868. At that time, he opened a small Waukesha quarry and it was a big success. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 was a business expander for Hadfield and his sons, George and Abraham.

So big was his Lannon-area quarry that was a big promoter of the Bug Line construction. He had a hard time getting enough workers for this quarry and, as a reward for working at his quarry and also getting his men to report promptly, he had a housing development put in adjacent to the "glory hole."

Most of the foreign-born workers were Italian and Polish and they did not get along with each other, aside from working well for Hadfield. His housing development was called "Stone City."

With the financial crash, there were court cases and then enterprising solutions were to jack up these homes adjacent to the quarry and move them south to what is today Lannon and on to the back streets of Lannon proper. One by one, they came down south to Lannon to Depot, Vine, Lake and State streets.

The photo with this feature has an image of "Second Street," but there was never an actual Second Street. It was just the second street west of Lannon Road, which was called Menomonee Avenue back then.

Meanwhile, Good Hope Road was originally Grand Avenue, then Vail Avenue and finally Good Hope Road, connecting to Milwaukee County.

Joe Hadfield lived until March 9, 1900, and even at his death, the lawsuits were still pending against him and the Hadfield Corporation.

Descendants of the house movers prior to 1900 are in many cases still living in Lannon today.




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