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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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City of Sheboygan Falls
By: Fred Beisser

Following article appeared in "A Guide to Sheboygan County and the Fair--Past and Present" published in 1952 by the Centennial Celebration History Committee and printed by R.E. Lindner Co., of Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin that was the publisher of the Sheboygan County News. The author, Fred T. Beisser, was the editor of the Sheboygan County News at the time. Contributed by his son, Frederick G. Beisser, now living in Parker, Colorado.

The fertile and bountiful lands surrounding the City of Sheboygan Falls today, with the clear, rushing waters tumbling over the falls of the Sheboygan river below the union with the Mullet, attracted pioneers to this area of Wisconsin as early as 1835, about the time the settlement of Sheboygan was started. Randolph B. Marcy, an Easterner, was the first landowner.

However, he never lived here and on Dec. 1, 1835, Silas B. Stedman from Berskshire, Mass., bought out Marcy at $13.50 per acre and he became the first settler within the present city limits. He saw the possibilities of utilizing the water power and contracted to have a sawmill built by June 1836. It was finished the following winter, being located on the east side of the Sheboygan river, across from the present woolen mill building.

For a short time there was prosperity. Lumber of first importance to early settlers, sold at $50 a thousand feet, and wages were $5 per day. The following year, 1837, when a depression hit, lumber sold at half price. It was then the first frame house was erected and occupied by John McNish, and later Stedman lived there until John E. Thomas, publisher of The Sheboygan County News, move in. The house was located on Water street hill though no building exists there today.

It was about that time that Sheboygan Falls attracted other pioneers, and men who envisioned the value of water power. There were David Giddings, Charles Rounsville, Jonathon Leighton. Near the city a German settlement was established on the Green Bay Road (now Memorial Highway 32) by H.C. Heide of Milwaukee who brought with his group George Thierman, E. Logeman and N. Heide. Descendants still live in this area today.

At the same time, 1845, Joe Richardson and sons William H. and Egbert, arrived and began a custom sawmill, planing mill and cheese box factory. It expanded and today the later generations operate the Richardson firms--furniture factory, lumber company and machine company.

The excellent water power drew in other industries. J. D. Gould build the first tannery in 1855 which was bought by Charles S. Weisse and a Mr. Mueller. The first big tannery was build by Weisse in 1880 and his sons took it over after his death in 1897. A tragic fire in 1919 resulted in the death of Charles H. Weisse, one time congressman and two employees. Today the tannery is owned by Joseph Stern.

W. H. Prentice, in 1861, started the first woolen mill on the east bank of the Sheboygan river across from the present woolen mill site. It was taken over by G. H. Brickner in 1872, who built the massive structure on the west side of the river in 1879-1880, starting operations in April of the latter year.

A foundry was built in 1846 by Horace Trowbridge, whose descendants still reside here, where the present Bachmann Implement shop is located. Another was started 45 years later on the site of the present Van Engen service station. E. Quinlan's rake manufacturing firm, started above Stedman's sawmill was taken over by George Spratt, a Civil War veteran in 1871, whose daughter Sarah Spratt was a kindergarten teacher in Sheboygan Falls for over 40 years.

At the site of Sheboygan Falls present fire station and city hall, William Service began manufacturing wagon carriages in 1854 and his product took top honors at many state fairs. A harness and saddlery manufacturer, Andrew Bassuener, began his shop on Braodway where today a tailor shop is located. There were hosts of other industries and businesses--sash and blind factories, grist mills, breweries, fanning mills and similar early firms.

The Falls Baptist church, oldest in the state and county, was organized in February 11, 1836 in Sheboygan but moved here the following year, with the Methodist church following in 1`846. A Congregational church was started in1847 but failed to exist. The First Episcopal Church began in 1864 and the Lutheran and the Dutch Reformed churches also started at early dates.

Early societies included the Sons of Temperance No. 1, with a charter from New York, which was succeeded by the Alliance of Good Templars. Begun in 1847, it went out of existence before the turn of the century. Fidelity Lodge No. 3, International Order of Odd Fellow, was organized in 1849, reorganized in 1871 and went out of existence about 20 years later. The Guttenberg Lodge, IOOF, started in 1879 still continues. St. John's Masonic Lodge No. 24 was organized in 1849 and it still continues.

Sheboygan Falls was the home of the home of the first dairy boards of trade, beginning in 1873 when cheese was traded.

Known first as Stedman Falls, later Rochester, the village of Sheboygan Falls became an independent organization in 1854, but it was not until 1913 that it was chartered as a city. The late Herman Boldt, a state senator, was its first mayor and his descendents still reside here.

Early residents, whose descendents still live here, including also Leonard P. Dean, furniture maker and mortician, Ben Heald, John Reysen, Jake Ramaker, William and James Trowbridge, Dr. R. M. Nichols, Jos. Osthelder and others.

The county's early cheese industry was associated here with Hiram Smith, channing and Frank Mather playing leading roles. Harvard Giddings was the first white child born in this city and Sheboygan County, on April 4, 1844, son of David Giddings.

Contributed by: Fred Beisser

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