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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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Brief History of Parnell

The present unincorporated area of Parnell began to take shape in the late 1870's, for at the annual Mitchell town meeting, 7 April 1870's, it was moved and carried that a plot of land be bought of Mr. Richard Phalen at the cost of $50.00 upon which a town hall was to be built. Until this time, all elections and annual town meetings were held either in the home of Mrs. Julia Dooley, whose house was a bit east of the present town hall, or in a log school, about where the present town hall is.

The site chosen was east and a bit north of the present intersection of Parnell road and County Trunk A, and so chosen as it was because of its central location. Since Thomas Reilly was the lowest bidder on the specifications, he was awarded the contract for $479.00. The Town Hall was ready for the next annual meeting, which was held therein, on the 6th of April 1875. We can readily imagine that Mrs. Julia Dooley was relieved. This building served the town until 1944, when it caught fire and burned.

Sensing that a spot close to the center of a township, which was entirely rural, would be a good place to start a blacksmith shop, young James Reilly, who was living in the Random Lake area, and whose family came from County Louth, Ireland, bought a small piece of land east of the town hall, and shortly after 1880, set up shop.

During the presidency of Grover Cleveland, a post office was opened across the road and which was called "Parnell Post Office" in honor of Charles Stewart Parnell, the Irish patriot of the time and member of the British Parliament, from County Wicklow. He worked for Irish home rule and ownership of the land by small farmers who were tenants-at-will, the land having been confiscated two centuries before and given to absentee landlords.

Aside from the post office, James Reilly's blacksmith shop was the sole business until Thomas Burke, in 1891, built a store at the northeast corner of the intersection of the roads. In the same year, Laurence P. Reilly bought property on the southwest corner, where later a cheese factory was successively operated by Laurence Reilly and Chester Burke. In the mid-twenties and thirties, it became a fixit shop run by Henry Remminger, and finally what is now the Parnell Tavern, run by Merle Skelton.

According to assessor's records in 1896, John Dowling built a hotel between the Burke store and Reilly's blacksmith shop. In the same year, that being 1896, according to the assessor's book, John Manly (sic) bought property across from the Reilly home and (you guessed it) built a hotel.

Dowling's building was known as the West Side Hotel, and Manley's the East Side Hotel. Each building changed owners several times. Dowling's became Mike Flood's, then John Mangan's. (In the 1920's a great prankster, either Chester Burke or John Burke, picked off the sign in front of the swank Shorecrest Hotel in Milwaukee, and stuck it in front of the Mangan building. From then until its razing, it was humorously referred to as the Shorecrest Hotel in local newspapers and amongst Mitchellites.)

After 1900, John Manly (sic) sold his hotel to his father-in-law, John Lindsay, whence the building passed successively to Herman Dipple, to Charles Gahagan, and to Rex Ninneman. In 1952, it was destroyed by fire.

Thomas Burke sold his general store to Patrick Slattery and went to Auburn, CA. Pat also became a Ford car salesman, and sold many around the area. In 1920, because of his success, he sold his Parnell premises to his brother Ed, and built a Ford garage in Adell.

In its heyday, Parnell had two stores, two hotels, a meat market, a blacksmith shop, a baseball team, a district school house #3, and even for a while, a medical doctor, Dr. Meyer. It was the center of the surrounding community for dances, card parties, dramas, movies, patriotic rallies during World War I, the meeting place for both the men's and women's Forester meetings, medical shows, and occasional fisticuffs.

By 1920 its heyday was over. The collapse of farm prices after World War I, the coming of Rural Free Delivery, the improvement of roads, but above all, the change in transportation and travel from horse drawn vehicle to motor vehicles, caused its decline. The larger towns and Sears Roebuck, were of easier access.

Contributed by: Connie Michaels-Lipp

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