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.
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. "
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.
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