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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History
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This article was contributed by Kay Reitberger

Herman - Franklin - Millersville

Sheboygan Press - April 29, 1927

Gristmills Worked Day And Night For Farmers Who Came By Ox Team


The village of Franklin, situated about 12 miles northwest of the city of Sheboygan, was once the most thriving settlement in Sheboygan county. It was there that the first settlement was made by a group of Germans who came from Lipper, Germany, in 1847, as described in detail in the review of the town of Herman.

Originally, the region in and around Franklin was covered by a luxuriant growth of magnificent pines unequalled in number and size. For a number of years, during the early settlement of the county, Franklin was the center of business and social activity, and only for lack of transportation facilities might have become a city of importance.

In 1850, J. H. DICKHOFF started a gristmill on the west side of the Sheboygan River directly south of the bridge. A few years later John SCHULENBERG bought a half interest and entered into partnership with DICKHOFF. Subsequently Fredrick ARPKE acquired DICKHOFF's share of the mill. About this time, the canal was dug extending from a point below ARPKE's sawmill to the gristmill, and power to run the machinery was derived from this source. In 1868, a large addition was built to the west side of the mill and three run of stones were placed in operation.

Travel Far To Gristmill

At that time, this was the only gristmill in that region, and farmers came from distant points, many from along the lake shore in Manitowoc county, with grain, The trips were made principally with yokes of oxen, and farmers often had to remain in Franklin for two days before the mill was able to grind the grain into flour or grist. For many years this mill was kept in operation day and night with the exception of Sundays. One set of the original run of stone used is still being utilized for grinding graham flour by the company owning the mills at the present time.

Originally the canal was lined with timber, but after this had rotted away, a considerable distance of the channel was relined with concrete.

Soon after the Civil War, Fredrick ARPKE and his brother Adolph built a hub and spoke factory on the Sheboygan river about one mile south of the village, to which they later added a planing mill.

In 1853, a man named MENKE started a brewery, which was the first in this section of the country. A few years later Gustav SEIDEMANN bought an interest in the business and subsequently acquired sole ownership of the brewery. In 1858, the building was destroyed by fire which started about 11 o'clock at night. Carl MATCHES, who was working at the pump in the basement while the fire was raging overhead, was buried alive when the flames burned away the supports of an upper floor releasing about 2,000 bushels of grain which fell to the basement. The body of MATCHES was burned to a crisp.

Brewery Now House

Mr. SEIDEMANN immediately rebuilt the brewery on a much larger scale. A beer cellar, extending about 75 feet into the side of a hill near the west bank of the river, was dug and lined with brick hauled from Sheboygan. The cellar was used for storing and cooling of beer. For the past several years the old brewery has been occupied as living quarters.

The first blacksmith in the village settlement was a man named BLOEDEL, whose shop was located on the south side of the road near the east approach to the wagon bridge. Peter SCHNEIDER later took over this shop and carried on the business for a number of years, being succeeded in the business by Jacob EIFLER. Later a shop for making and repairing wagons was built across the road and operated in connection with the blacksmith shop. The wagon shop was operated by William KIRST who later came to Sheboygan and started a similar business on Center avenue near N. Seventh street. Both of these buildings are now owned and occupied by GOETSCH brothers.

The first merchant in Franklin was a man named MEISEKOTEN, who started a general store during the early 50's on the west side of the river. He conducted this store for many years. Martin R. GESCH's store is now located in this building.

Make Flour Barrels

The first shoemakers in the village was a man named HEIMLEIN and he was followed after the Civil War by John EICHENBERGER. Walter, a son of the latter, still carries on the business of dealing in shoes and men's furnishings.

During the early days, Franklin was an active center for the making of pork and flour barrels and tierces. Prominent among the coopers were the three FRANZ brothers. August operated a cooperage in the village and Henry and Charles operated a large shop about one-half mile east of the village. Besides the FRANZ brothers, Gottlieb MEINHOLD and a man named MELIUS also operated cooperages in the village.

There was also a very important pottery plant located about a half mile east of Franklin, which was established during the late 50's by Carl LANGENBERG. Plain and fancy pottery was made of the red clay dug along the roadway.

The first custom tailor to locate in Franklin was a man named FIECHE.

The first cheese factory was started during the early 70's by Louis RESEBERG. He operated the factory for only a shot time.

During the late 60's Paulina LEIDEGER erected a building on the west side of the river and started a general store, which she continued until about 40 years ago, when it was taken over by C. GREIBE. Mr. GREIBE still carries on the business at the old stand.

The first hotel was built and conducted for a number of years by a man named GILBERT. Later a Mr. MATCHES was proprietor and after him Henry DIX conducted the hostelry.

Dancing Popular

A dance hall was located on the second floor of the hotel and for many years was the scene of gayety (sic) among the early settlers of the town. Dances were held every Saturday night during the winter season and were attended by practically every resident of that vicinity. Three beds were provided especially for babies. The infants were placed side-by-side crosswise of the beds where they slept while the parents enjoyed themselves dancing. The only music available at that time was an accordian, but the lack of an orchestra did not detract in any manner from the pleasure which these weekly hops furnished for the rugged early settlers of that region.

Free Whiskey

It may interest many people of this generation to know that during the years prior to the Civil War, that the stores kept a barrel of the best whiskey on tap to which customers were invited to help themselves free of charge. The best grade, at that period, could be bought for 18 cents a gallon, and no attempt was made to traffic in liquor. Whenever a customer entered one of the stores at Franklin he was told to help himself at the barrel. Sometimes they would take a drink and sometimes they would refuse. Rarely did anyone become intoxicated from over-indulgence.

Franklin Roller Mills Co.

The Franklin Roller Mill, located in the village of Franklin, was erected during the late 50's for a man named DICKHOFF as a sawmill. DICKHOFF was succeeded by a man named SCHULENBERG who soon after became associated with Frederick ARPKE. Later a run of stone was put in for the grinding of flour and feed. In 1877 Mr. ARPKE became sole owner of the property and continued operating the mill for many years.

The present company, composed of William EICKHOFF, Paul JESCHOB and C. W. ARPKE, since taking over the plant have made many improvements to the mill. New water wheels have been installed, a roller process supplanted the old style stones and other modern equipment has been added to facilitate the grinding of feed. One of the original run of stones is still being used for the grinding of graham flour.

The grinding is in charge of Calvin W. ARPKE, grandson of Fredrick ARKPE. William EICKHOFF resides at KIEL, and Paul JASCHOB lives in Milhome.

Goetsch Bros. Garage

Albert and William GOETSCH established the first garage in the village of Franklin in 1907. At the beginning they occupied a small frame building located on the north side of the street near the east approach to the wagon bridge over the Sheboygan river, formerly owned and occupied by Jac. EIFLER as a wagon repair shop.

The business proved successful from the start and within a short time it was deemed necessary to erect a larger and more modern garage in order to handle the automobiles and to give proper service. Accordingly, the large brick building which GOETSCH Bros. now occupy, and which is located on the south(?) side of the street, was erected. In addition to the new garage, GOETSCH Bros. also utilize the old wagon shop and the old blacksmith shop, which stands directly west of the new garage, for many years owned and operated by Peter SCHNEIDER, said to have been the first blacksmith in the village.

Besides being distributors in that section of the county for Buick, Chevrolet and Dodge automobiles. GOETSCH Bros. deal extensively in farm implements. A large service station, in charge of competent mechanics, is maintained and a large supply of parts for autos are kept in stock as well.

Henry and Paul BOEDEKER, brothers, have been faithful employees of GOETSCH Bros., for the past twelve years. Both are expert mechanics. Henry BOEDEKER has the distinction of being one of a crew of men who unloaded the first Ford car that was shipped to Sheboygan county, about twenty years ago.

Walter Eichenberger

Walter EICHENBERGER, dealer in shoes and men's furnishings at Franklin, comes from a family several generations of which followed the same business. His father, John E., established the business in the village of Franklin about sixty years ago. In 1908 Walter took over the business, which he carried on in the building erected for his father until 1915, when he had the entire building remodeled and an addition built in order to provide room for stock to handle the increasing trade. A large porch was built, a modern plate glass front and cement sidewalks added materially to the appearance of the property and facilitated the handling of the business.

Walter EICHENBERGER was born in Franklin in the year 1883. After having lived in Plymouth four years, he returned to his former home to carry on the business established by his father.

Town Herman Mutual Fire Insurance Co.

The Town Herman Mutual Fire Insurance company was organized on June 9, 1871, with the following board of directors: Friederich LANGENBERG, Wilhelm REINEKING, Carl WEBER, Cord BOEDEKER, and Simon STUCKMANN. The present board includes Paul H. B(???)KE, Godfrey W. DAMROW, Henry GREIBE, William JOHANNING, Henry S. KLAMME, Arthur MONK, Arthur REMICK, William STREBLOW, and William STRASSBURG. Henry GREIBE is secretary.

The annual report for 1926 shows that at the time the company had issued 3,768 policies aggregating $16,838,000.

Millersville Named After Its Founder

The village of Millersville, located about one mile south of Howards Grove, derives its name from H. G. MUELLER, who came to the town of Herman with his parents in 1846, and who, in 1857 in partnership with William HALLWACHS built a sawmill on the bank of the Pigeon river, at the present site of the village.

This mill was later destroyed by fire, and was re-built as a cheese box factory and planing mill. In 1875, after HALLWACHS went to Howards Grove, Mr. MUELLER built a gristmill with three run of stone, which he continued to operate in connection with the planing mill until 1886, when he was elected sheriff of Sheboygan county and moved to the city of Sheboygan.

In 1915 Herman SPRENGER & Sons took over the mills. Early in the forenoon on December 27, 1916, a fire starting under the floor in the section of the mill used for making cheese boxes, completely wiped out the plant. The following spring a company, including several farmers residing in that vicinity was organized under the name of the Millersville Manufacturing company and a roller flouring mill was erected on the site of the old mill.

On January 27, 1926, the Millersville Manufacturing company was succeeded by the Millersville Box company. The latter company discontinued the grinding of flour and gave its attention to the sawmill, planing mill and gristmill.

The officers of the Millersville Box company are as follows:

President - Emil KLEMME
Vice-president - Henry MUELLER
Secretary - Walter MUELLER
Treasurer - Fred SPRENGER

Bitter, Neumann & Company

BITTER, NEUMANN & Company is a firm which took over the general merchandise store established about thirty-six years ago by William J. KOHL.

Five years ago, Alfred BITTER, senior member of the present firm, purchased the store from Mr. KOHL and carried on the business until January 1, this year, when the BITTER, NEUMANN & Company was incorporated with the following officers:

President - Alfred BITTER
Vice-president - Roland NEUMANN
Secretary and Treasurer - Walter MUELLER

This company comprises three energetic and progressive young men who have already perfected plans for the erection of a modern two-story building with tile walls and brick front, on a lot west of the present store building. The new store will have dimensions of 40 by 56 feet, and building operations will start in 1928.

In addition to an extensive line of dry goods, groceries and notions the firm will handle a large line of general hardware, besides installing all kinds of plumbing and heating systems. The company will specialize in KOHLER enamel and plumbing ware, and is fully equipped to properly install any kind of plumbing. Milking machines, paint and oils, and a tinshop, which is also to be added to the business will provide an adequate trading center for people residing in that locality.

Millersville Garage

The Millersville Garage, Henry J. BERTH, proprietor, is located at the main cross-roads in the village of Millersville. The garage is a new modern building containing a repair shop fully equipped with the latest appliances, a spacious display room, and a very comfortable office.

The garage is operated under the name of Chevrolet Sales and Service Station, and Mr. BERTH being an enterprising business man, has proved to be a profitable and growing establishment in the village.

Patrons of this garage are assured of receiving prompt and efficient service.

The first blacksmith in the village was Charles REISCHE, and the first cheese factory was owned and operated by Adam KUENTZ. This factory was destroyed by fire many years ago.


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