Cedarburg Town History

Cedarburg History

The following is taken from "Histories of Washington and Ozaukee Counties", Western Publishing, 1881. It is copied exactly from the book except that I have capitalized surnames.

The town of Cedarburg was set off from Grafton and organized in 1849. Among those who took an active part in the organization were C.E. CHAMBERLIN, John McGILL, John ROTH, John DUNNE, John SMITH, Frederick HILGEN, William SCHROEDER, C. RENTLEMAN, Charles DEBERPOOL, J. ARNDT, REUBEN WELLS, Michael GORMAN, John SEIDELL, James GAFFERNEY, Dr. H. BOCLO, Dr. S. HARTWIG, Edward NOLAN, L.L. SWEET and James RUDDY. The Board of Supervisors, composed of the following gentlemen, William VOGNITZ, Henreich KROHN and Edward NOLAN, met at the house of George FISHER, in the village of Cedarburg April 23, 1849, where they proceeded to lay out the different road districts of the town. The oldest settlement was that known in early days as the New Dublin District. It derived its name from the fact that the majority of the settlers had immigrated from Ireland.

As nearly as can be ascertained, Joseph GARDINIER, better known among the old settlers as "Miserly Joe," was the first white man to make an onslaught and break the solid phalanx of the forests in this section. Joe was employed by the agents who had charge of the survey and construction of the old Milwaukee and Green Bay road, and made his headquarters in a little log shanty near Cedar Creek, where the Hamilton Mills now stand. Samuel PLACE, L. FOX, Valentine HAND, I.S. BROWN, and Daniel STRICKLAND were the first to make improvements in the district. Valentine HAND built a hotel, which served as an excellent rendezvous for the old pioneers in which to crack their jokes and sample the bourbon of "Mine Host." It was at one of these meetings that a resolution to change the name of the district was offered. The proposition met with considerable opposition, but was finally passed, and, in 1847, New Dublin District was re-christened, and has ever since been known as the Hamilton District. Of I.S. BROWN, an old settler relates the following: "BROWN had evidently met with reverses in the East in money matters, which was the principal cause of his seeking the seclusion which the wilds of Wisconsin afforded. He was highly educated, a perfect gentleman, courteous in his manners and charitable in disposition. These excellent traits of character won for him the esteem of all who knew him. But some hidden secret of his past life seemed to weigh upon his mind. Melancholy had taken full possession of his being, creating a desire for solitude. The old settlers soon came to understand and respect his feelings, leaving him to seek, as was his delight, the hidden retreats of the forest undisturbed, and to seek intercourse with his fellowmen only at such times as his own inclinations might prompt him.” Of his home, the following lines of Spenser form an excellent description:

"A little lowly hermitage it was,
Down in a dale, hard by a forest's side;
Far from resort of people that did pass
In travel to and fro."


The development of the public-school system, and the establishment of school districts commanded the attention of the early settlers from the first, and the rapid advancement made in this important branch reflects much credit on the pioneers. The first School Commissioners in the town were Daniel STRICKLAND, H.V. BONNIWELL and Levi OSTRANDER.


The streams of Ozaukee County afford excellent facilities for water-power. The early settlers in this section were not slow to discover these natural advantages, and, as some old writer has put it, “necessity is the mother of invention,” so these men, cast into the wilderness, out of the reach of civilization, and destitute of a market or the means of manufacturing breadstuffs, were entirely dependent on their own exertions to supply the deficiency. Log shanties were built which served them as a shelter, where they cracked the kernels of the grain by hand, until saw-mills to make their lumber and grist-mills to grind their flour could be erected. Reuben WELLS was the first to come to their relief, by erecting a combined saw and grist mill on Cedar Creek, near where the village now stands. In 1844, Frederick HILGEN, the father and founder of Cedarburg, in company with William SCHROEDER, another worthy pioneer, came out from Milwaukee to Hamilton on the Green Bay road, from which point they cut a new road to the site upon which the village of Cedarburg now stands. They found the four KROTH brothers, Carl DAPPERPOOL, Patrick SMITH, Hugo POOL and Thomas BROKAW living in the vicinity, where they had made for themselves a few small clearings and erected a number of rude huts. They purchased thirty-five acres of land, at $35 per acre, from the KROTH Brothers, and immediately set about hewing timber with which to lay the foundation of a grist-mill, which they completed the same year - a half log and half frame structure. The following year they built two or three dwelling-houses, and a building for store purposes, the first in the village of Cedarburg. In 1847, they added a saw-mill, and made improvements on the dam which had been affected by high water. In 1855, the frame mill was taken down and a large stone one, six stories high, erected in its place. In 1865, Mr. HILGEN sold his interest to Joseph TROTTMAN, the present partner of Mr. SCHROEDER. The latter, though now silvered with age, still retains his position in the mill, which has now a capacity of 120 barrels of flour per day. The cost of the building was $22,000. Mr. SCHROEDER was the first store-keeper, and was also appointed the first Postmaster of the village.

The Columbia Mill, located three-quarters of a mile east of the village, on Cedar Creek, was built in 1846 by Dr. LUMING & Bros. Objections were made by some of the early settlers who lived in the close proximity to the mill, to the dam, which caused the water to overflow their land. This dam was subsequently torn down, and a new one built further east on the creek, when everything proved satisfactory. The mill property was purchased by Gustav PFIEL in 1851, at sheriff's sale. PFIEL made several improvements, and run the mill for a period of two years, when he sold it to Joseph TROTTMAN, who held possession until 1864, when he sold out to E. HILGEN, E. STALLMAN and Charles BARTHEL. The latter was succeeded by William RAHN, in 1865. One year later, E. STALLMAN disposed of his interest to HILGEN and RAHN. The mill again changed hands in 1875, Mr. F. HOEHM this time being the purchaser. HOEHM met with poor success, and the property was foreclosed. It was then rented for a period of three years to BOEDENDOEFER & ZAUN. At the expiration of the lease, September 1, 1880, the mill was sold at Sheriff's sale, to the Northwestern Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee. On June 1, 1881, the company sold to Mr. ZAUN, who rebuilt the dam, which had been washed away by the spring flood of the same year. The mill is now in good running order, has four sets of stone, and a capacity of eighty barrels of flour per day, besides custom work. The fall at this point is thirteen feet. HILGEN & MEYER opened a store at the mills in 1874. This undertaking proved unprofitable, as their buildings were destroyed by fire two years later, after which disaster the enterprise was abandoned. There are two other grist-mills in the town of Cedarburg.

The Excelsior Mill is a large stone structure, built in 1875, by H. WAHAUSEN & Co., at a cost of $21,000. The property is now owned by Henry COLWAY. The power at this point is the finest on Cedar Creek. The fall obtained is twenty-five feet. The mill is located in Section 26.

The Hamilton Grist-Mill was built by Edward H. JANSSEN in 1854. It is now the property of Andrew BODENDORFER.

Ranking high among the manufacturing interests of the village of Cedarburg, is the HILGEN Manufacturing Company, established in 1872 by Frederick HILGEN & Son, at a cost of $25,000. In 1879, the business was purchased by the following-named gentlemen: Diedrich WITTENBERG, J.W. JOHANN, J.H. WITTENBERG, from the F. HILGEN estate. J.H. WINNER is President. The company manufactures doors, sash, moldings, blinds, glazed sash and Straub's Wash Machines. They also handle lumber in large quantities, and employ regularly seventy-five men. The mill is run by a forty-horse-power engine, and does a business of $125,000 annually. The company have warerooms at 458 to 466 Third street, Milwaukee.

The Cedarburg Woolen-Mill, run by water-power obtained from Cedar Creek, was built in 1865, at a cost of $30,000, by HILGEN & WITTENBERG. The business was carried on under this name until 1872, when the mill was incorporated as the Cedarburg Mill, D. WITTENBURG, President; H. WITTENBURG, Treasurer; J.W. JOHANN Secretary. The principal productions of the mill are yarns, blankets and flannels. The company employ on an average about forty-five hands, and does a business of $100,000 per annum. The mill contains twelve broad and three narrow looms, three knitting-machines for scarfs and jackets, and three for other purposes. The floor contains four sets of carding machines; second floor, weaving and spinning; the upper floor is used for twisting, reeling and storing goods. This company built a branch mill in the village of Grafton, in 1880, at a cost of $40,000. This mill manufactures worsted yarns, and is the only one of the kind west of Philadelphia. The machinery was imported from England. The mill is in charge of Joseph ISLES, formerly of Philadelphia. he has in his employ sixty hands, and does a business of $125,000 annually.

The pioneer blacksmith of Cedarburg Village was Joseph CARLEY, who made a clearing in 1844 and built himself a shop and dwelling house. He obtained heat from charcoal burned by himself. The first doctor was Theodore HARTWIG, who came into the village in 1846, and, in company with Hugo BOCLO, opened the first drug store. Mr. BOCLO still flourishes under the pharmacy sign. The brewing interest of the village were started in 1848, by ENGLES & SCHAEFFER.

Frederick HILGEN, the founder of Cedarburg Village, came to this country in 1844, and located in the city of Milwaukee. During the same year, he, in company with William SCHROEDER, started on a prospecting tour through what was then the wilds of old Washington County. They followed the Green Bay road north until they came to what is now called Hamilton, when they proceeded to cut a road from that point through the timber to the site where the village of Cedarburg now stands -- a distance of one mile. Being favorably impressed with the facilities afforded by the creek at this place for water-power, they at once began preparations for building a grist-mill. This enterprise was completed the following year, when both Mr. HILGEN and Mr. SCHROEDER decided to make this their permanent abode, and immediately set about clearing the land upon which to erect homes for themselves and families. From that time, Mr. HILGEN employed every means within his power to build up and advance the interests of Cedarburg Naturally enterprising, he seemed to possess the faculty of inspiring others with the same loftiness of spirit. Let any new project be started worthy of support, Mr. HILGEN would be among the first to aid in its completion. In 1864, Mr. HILGEN, in company with D. WITTENBERG and Joseph TROTTMAN, commenced the erection of the Cedarburg Woolen-Mill. The following year, he exchanged his interest in the grist-mill with Mr. TROTTMANN for his share in the woolen-mill, when the factory was run under the firm name of HILGEN & WITTENBERG. In 1872, Mr. HILGEN engaged with his son in the lumber business, when he built the large planing-mill now known as the Hilgen Manufacturing Company. The Hilgen Spring Park, a favorite summer resort, was laid out by him in 1852. The park comprises seventy-four acres, thirty acres of which is forest. The grove is one of the finest in this part of the State. There are two good hotel buildings, a band stand, spring and bath-house, besides several fountains in connection with artistically designed flower-beds and fine gravel-walks, which intersect at various points throughout the parks. The grounds and hotels are now the property of the Hilgen heirs, and are at present in charge of John F. HILGEN, who is keeping them in repair until a sale of the estate can be consummated. The spring has become quite popular, and is visited every summer by people from St. Louis, Chicago and New Orleans. Mr. HILGEN was also interested in the Bank of Cedarburg, which was organized March 20, 1868, under his supervision. These are among the principal enterprises in which he was the prime mover, and which now stand as grand witnesses of his energetic and useful career, which was brought to a close by the never-failing agent, March 27, 1879. Mr. HILGEN's death was deeply deplored by the community in which he lived, and when the imposing obsequies giving back his remains to mother earth had ended, scarcely a heart in all the town of Cedarburg but mourned the loss of "Father HILGEN," a name given to him by the old settlers. Mr. HILGEN was the father of thirteen children, eight of whom are still living.

This band was organized March 20, 1868, by the following-named stockholders: Frederick HILGEN, William SCHROEDER, Henry WEHAUSEN, Frederick SCHATZ, Juenjen SCHRODER, Joseph TROTTMANN and Adolph ZIMMERMAN. The capital stock was fixed at $25,000, and divided into 250 shares of $100 each. These shares were held as follows: Frederick HILGEN, William SCHROEDER and Juenjen SCHRODER, fifty shares each; Henry WEHAUSEN, Frederick SCHATZ, Joseph TROTTMANN and Adolph ZIMMERMAN, twenty-five share each. This institution did not prove a success financially, and was discontinued at the end of three years.


The village of Cedarburg was founded by Frederick HILGEN and William SCHROEDER in the year 1845. The village possesses natural advantages rarely surpassed by a town of its size. Cedar Creek, besides furnishing excellent water-power, has in connection with its small tributaries, chiseled out ravines, along which are a dozen or more elevations of greater or less magnitude, forming grand foundations which have been utilized for resident sites. The business portion of the village rests on a level tract of land, the storehouses and public buildings being mostly of stone and brick. Considerable enterprise has been manifested by the people of Cedarburg in both their private and public buildings. In the way of manufactures, the village ranks among the first of its size in the State, the capital invested in the various manufacturing enterprises being estimated at $250,000. The village has a population of 1,000, and is afforded an outlet for its manufactured and farming products by the Wisconsin Central Railroad, which touches the eastern portion of the town, near to the Hilgen Spring Park, a favorite summer resort, one of the many enterprises established by “Father HILGEN,” as he was familiarly termedby the old settlers. The village has good public schools, several parochial schools, four church edifices, three Lutheran and one Catholic, the latter being one of the finest buildings of the kind in the county. It is located on an elevation at the head of Main street, and forms one of the principal attractions of the village. It is a magnificent stone structure, and was erected at a cost of #30,000. The Lutheran Church edifices are neat, unpretentious buildings, one of wood, and two of stone.

The Fire Company was organized March, 1867, with thirty-one members. The officers were: Fred SCHATZ, Chief; William RETTBURG, First Assistant; Phil ROTH, Second Assistant; Charles WILKE, Secretary; P. WEHAUSEN, Treasurer; John WEBER, Hose Captain; F. BERGMANN, Assistant Hose Captain; A. GRAEF, Captain Hook and Ladder Company; John ROTH, Assistant; George STRIHLE, Janitor. The house now owned by Hugh McELROY, and used as a dwelling, was built for the company, and for an engine-house. The company had a hand-engine, with about 500 feet of leather hose; cost $800. Soon after its organization it was merged in the Turner Society, and remained so until April 27, 1875, at which time it again became a separate organization, and in the fall of the same year built their present engine-house, a frame building 18 x 38, on a lot for which they obtained a perpetual lease from School District No. 2. The company has discarded the old leather hose, and now has 700 feet of rubber hose. In 1880, a hook and ladder department was added at a cost of $250. The present officers are E. LANGHEINRECH, Chief; Henry ROTH, First Assistant; A. BOEMER, Second Assistant; G. BURTHMANN, Hose Captain; C. BOXHORN, Assistant Hose Captain; P.P. DIETRICH, Hook and Ladder Captain; G.H. WIRTH, Assistant; John BRUSS, Treasurer; H. WEHANSEN, Jr., Secretary; H.C. NERO, G.H. HILGEN, Robert PFLEGER, Treasurer. The company holds a meeting on the first Friday of each month, and practice the day following. They have not been called out to a fire for about two years.

The Turn Verein was organized August, 1853, as the Cedar and Hamilton Society, with forty-five members. In 1867, the Hamilton members withdrew and formed a separate society, since which time the Cedarburg members have taken the name of Cedarburg Turn Verein. They built their present hall in 1868. It is located on Sheboygan street, and is a fine stone building costing over $5,000. The society hold their meetings on the first Tuesday of each month. Present officers are Charles VOGEL, First Speaker; Joseph TROTTMANN, Second Speaker; G. H. HILGEN, Secretary; A.R. BOMER, Treasurer; P.P. DIETRICH, Assistant Treasurer; H. WEHAUSEN, Jr., First Turn Master; G.A. BOMER, Second Turn Master; Theo. KRAUSE, Janitor; John WEBER, G. WURTHMANN, H. WEHAUSEN, Jr., Trustees.

Astrea Lodge, No. 104, A., F. and A.M. was removed from Port Washington to Cedarburg in 1863, being organized in the former place on the 24th of March, 1858. Its first officers were: William A. PORS, W.M.; C. BEYOR, S.W.; B. SCHOMMER, J.W.; S.A. WHITE, Treasurer; Ulrich LANDOLT, Secretary; L. EGHART, S.D.; C.W. BIALS, J.D.; E.J. DODGE, Tiler. On March 4, 1863, a committee, consisting of Charles WILKE, H. BOELS and Dr. Theo. HARTWIG, was appointed to find a new location for the lodge, on account of the disturbance caused by the draft riot, and Cedarburg was decided upon. The present officers are Edward LANGHEINRICH, W.M.; Henry HENTSCHE, S.W.; William LEHMANN, J.W.; Andrew BODENDOERFER, Treasurer; Charles WILKE, Secretary; Gustave BANZE, S.D.; John W. JOHANN, J.D.; Ehrg. ZSCHOMMBER, Tiler.

The I.O.O.F. of Cedarburg was organized in Newburg, a charter granted July 13, 1862, and the lodge removed to Cedarburg, December 20, 1873. First officers were: E.H. GILSON, N.G.; G.E. VANDERCOOK, Vice N.G.; J.B. KENDALL, R. Secretary; E. FRANKENBERG, P. Secretary; J.F. COLLINS, Treasurer The present officers are William RETTBERG, N.G.; John MUELLER, Vice G.; Charles WILKE, R. Secretary; Charles LAW, P. Secretary; George ANSCHATZ, Treasurer.

The post office was first kept by William SCHROEDER, then by Hugo BOCLO, who held the office for about fifteen years. Louis BURGSTAAL was the next incumbent, succeeded by John W. JOHAN, who is now Postmaster.

The Hamilton Mill is owned by Andrew BODENDOERFER, who bought the place in 1860. The village has one flour-mill, a marble-yard, one wagon-shop and a blacksmith-shop.

There are three hotels -- the Cedarburg House, Washington House and Hartford House.

The Cedarburg House is a stone building built in 1861, by Andrew KRUTHER, who has since that time made various improvements and additions to the property. It is now valued at $4,000. Mr. KRUTHER still remains proprietor of the house.

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