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Local History Index

Ghosts haunt 'Dead Man's Corners' 

by: Village Historian Fred H. Keller

Have you seen the ghosts at the intersection of Silver Spring Drive and Town Line Road?

The story of the intersection's interesting history starts with Thomas S. Redford, who at age 17 began walking to Wisconsin from New York in the spring of 1836. On May 15, 1836, he put in the very first claim for homestead land in the Town of Lisbon, on a parcel that straddled Silver Spring Drive going west from Town Line Road. He paid $1.25 per acre for 160 acres, for a total of $200. He immediately built a log cabin of bass wood logs, which became a headquarters for the first pioneers who came after him.

He made a lot of money planting wheat on the oak clearings on his land, then in open spaces he made from clearing the land. As he prospered, he decided to build a proper home of milled lumber, using his apprenticeship training as a cabinet maker to good use. His house still stands today, just northwest of the intersection. By 1848, he was living in the house and put the log cabin up for rent.

The start of the intersection's new designation of "Dead Man's Corners" began with John Brown, rented Redford's cabin and some land to farm in 1848. He intended to get married and "go into housekeeping soon" (1880 History of Waukesha County, page 747). However, "after arrangements were concluded, and Mr. Redford's extra furniture was purchased, the young lady, Miss Melville, put off the wedding. This so affected Mr. Brown that he hanged himself without delay."

Also in 1848, a Scotsman named George Clark was killed near the intersection when a load of lumber he was transporting fell on him.

In 1849, near the same intersection, James McDonald was driving a wagon with a young lady aboard when a runaway horse resulted in the girl's death.

The corner used to be called "Redford's Corners" because all four corners were owned by the extended Redford family. But the nickname was changed to "Dead Man's Corners" because for many years, people in the vicinity regarded the corners with fear and superstition.

The nickname was also reinforced by Redford's family life, as two of his three wives died in childbirth and two of his seven children, George and Irwin, died soon after birth.

The designation as "Dead Man's Corners" persisted for many years, and then disappeared. In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the intersection had its share of accidents, including a lot of fender benders and a few deaths. There was an uproar for stop signs to be installed, even though there were already stop signs for the north and south traffic on Town Line Road. The accidents would happen when a driver on Town Line either failed to stop altogether, or assumed that drivers on Silver Spring would also stop.

Public meetings were held to make it a four-way stop, and the director of county roads reluctantly put extra signs in. As the years progressed and the population of Sussex and Lisbon soared, full-fledged stop lights were installed and the carnage has since been minimal.


Child's death, multiple murders still haunt Sussex

A spooky spot in the center of Sussex began its nearly 90-year history with the death of a child and ended with a multiple murder in 1958.

First, some background: In 1866, the new St. Alban’s Episcopal Church building had just been completed. That year a new pastor, the Rev. John Bennett, had also taken over at that church (founded in 1842).

Also that year, the new pastor presided over a wedding Dec. 19 between Civil War veteran Alfred Weaver and Sarah Howard, uniting two prominent Lisbon families. Since it was going to be the first wedding the Rev. Bennett was to perform, and the first ever in St. Alban’s new church, Bennett’s wife admonished him, “Now, Papa, do it right, as we want it to last.”

And it did. The Weaver-Howard pairing lasted 58 years.

The Rev. Bennett’s wife (her name is not recorded) gave birth sometime during the early 1870s to Albertus, a small, sickly boy who died in infancy. A small white marble marker was put up just south of the stone church, to mark his grave.

Bennett and his wife then decided to prepare for their own burial next to their little boy’s grave. The pastor hired some local masons who installed an underground English-style crypt. It was made of local limestone, with two flagstone slabs on each side, north and south, to hold shelves for seven caskets.

A white marble slab aboveground marked the crypt, which lies south of the church in God’s Acre Cemetery. Bennett and his wife moved away after 1874, and when they died many years later, their bodies were not brought back for burial in their Sussex crypt, which remains empty to this day.

Here’s where the Weaver-Howard marriage enters the story.

Alfred and Sarah had two daughters, Harriet and Ada. Harriet, born in 1867, married a visiting Episcopal minister, the Rev. James A. Baynton, at St. Alban’s in July 1899.

Their son, Howard Baynton, born Aug. 22, 1905, attended the one-room Lisbon school that today stands on the Halquist quarry site on Lisbon Road. He went on to Carroll College and later become a doctor of medicine.

When the Rev. Baynton died suddenly in early 1925, Harriett remembered that the old crypt for the longdeceased Bennetts had never been used, so she bought the site for her husband’s remains. When they tried to place his newer-style coffin into the crypt, however, it wouldn’t fit, so he was buried next to the crypt instead. Harriet joined him in 1939.

The couple’s son, Howard, married Dallas Graham, a registered nurse, but died in Pennsylvania just as suddenly as his father at age 32. Dallas brought his body back to Sussex and buried him next to his parents near the still-empty Bennett crypt.

Dallas threw herself into her medical career after her husband’s death. In March 1942, she was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a 1st lieutenant nurse. She was sent to North Africa in January 1943 and served in the Mediterranean during World War II. She married Dr. Benjamin Camp, an army doctor, on June 12, 1946.

She had buried her first husband at St. Alban’s and retained some connections to Sussex, corresponding regularly with some people there, though she and her new husband now lived in a palatial home in Atlanta.

All that ended Jan. 24, 1958, when an intruder shot and killed Ben, Dallas and the family dog. Trying to cover up what he had done, the killer set the house on fire.

After putting out the fire, the Atlanta Fire Department found the three bodies in the water-filled basement. As far as I know, no one was ever accused of the murders.

So ends this tale of the spookiest spot in Sussex: the Bennett-Baynton crypt with no coffins inside.


Historic suicide in Templeton

For some reason after the first pioneers came to the Town of Lisbon, suicide was a way to die but it seemed to be concentrated in the southeast corner of Lisbon. During this time, the area became known as the "Templeton" area of Lisbon.

In the 1880 history of Waukesha County, there is a series of pages about the early history of Lisbon. Included in that is information about Lisbon pioneer suicides.

John Brown rented the log cabin of the very first Lisbon settler, Thomas Redford, near the corner of Silver Spring Drive and Town Line Road. Brown rented it for five years and even bought some of Redford's furniture in 1848 with the intention of marrying a young lady referred to as Miss Melville.

However, she put the wedding off and, "This so affected Mr. Brown that he hanged himself without delay."

Another piece of the history says that in 1866, Jerry Stone, "swallowed a dose of strychnine in some beer, and thus ended his career."

Three years later, in 1869, James McDonald, "while temporarily insane cut his own throat," according to the "1800 history of Waukesha County," subsection Lisbon.

It is unknown where McDonald died, but there are sources that saw it was near the intersection of Duplainville and Lisbon Roads in what started in 1840 as the Levi Russell first mini village in Lisbon.

In June 1897, Lisbon farmer William Howard, went into his barn and committed suicide by slashing his throat with a razor without a word of warning. According to the Free Press newspaper of Waukesha, "There was no known cause for this insane act." The notice went on to say he had no problems with his domestic life that included a wife and three children. He had no debt and his neighbors thought highly of him. Howard was 44 at the time with no known infirmities other than, "at times (he suffered) from rheumatism."

James Templeton, the namesake of the Village of Templeton by the corner of Main Street and Waukesha Avenue, started an elevator and general store in his village and in 1887, was appointed Postmaster.

He turned it over to Owen C. Smith and his wife. Today where this general store/post office was is now the western part of Seigo's Japanese Steak House.

On Oct. 14, 1896, Mrs. Smith, "While suffering from a temporary aberration took a dose of Paris Green, from the effects of which she died," according to the Waukesha Dispatch newspaper. Paris Green was a proprietary name for green-dyed arsenic of lead. She left her husband with three children.

Almost 10 years later, Owen was still the Postmaster of Templeton and proprietor of the General Store. The Milwaukee Journal feature on July 15, 1907, said he took his life on a Sunday morning with a .32-caliber revolver. The body was found by his brother Clifford Smith. There was a Journal sentence that read, "it was thought that the suicide had become despondent on account of continued ill health." It did not disclose that he missed his wife who had committed suicide nine years and nine months prior in the very same building, the Templeton General Store and Post Office.

One of the most spectacular suicides to ever happen in Templeton occurred almost 100 years ago in September of 1910. As a young man in Sussex in the 1940-50s, I was first told about it by longtime Sussex resident Roy Stier and then later by Lila Busse Graser.

The Busse family moved into Templeton with a brother, Charles, later becoming a prominent Sussex and Waukesha politician. However, there was a dark side to the family history as William Busse Jr. a young quarry worker who had just married three months earlier, committed suicide. It was said that the marriage was not working.

William Busse Jr. lived in downtown Templeton and used his quarry connections to obtain a dynamite cap, according to a Sept. 23, 1910, Menomonee Falls newspaper feature. Coroner Hill concluded that Busse placed the dynamite cap in a groove of a doorway flagstone and then laid his head on a rock and blew himself up. The newspaper accounted used the phrase, "blown to atoms."

After hearing the explosion, the neighbors raced to the source and the first one that came upon the scene found Busse's hand out in the road. Shortly after, they found a headless body so shattered that it was hard to identify him.

There is a final part of this story that is hearsay from Stier that a lady while walking nearby Templeton quarry (former Sussex swimming hole from 1916-1991) and found a piece of Busse hanging on the barbed wire fence.

 


 

 

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