ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


City Concludes Greatest Fete in its History


1936 Centennial Celebration Ends

Amid a Blaze of Civic Glory




History Society Discusses Plans for Centennial


Plans for Watertown’s centennial were discussed last evening at a meeting of the directors of the Watertown Historical Society held at the library.


Historical exhibits in windows of downtown business places are contemplated by the organization. An art exhibit also is being considered. Other projects which would adequately depict the early history of Watertown also were discussed. Harry Smith, Chairman of the centennial, was present at the meeting, attending at the invitation of the directors.


The directors last night decided to make a determined effort to have the Schurz monument, which is to be purchased by the Federation of German Societies in Wisconsin, erected in Watertown.  The society [Federation of German Societies in Wisconsin] has asked the state for permission to erect the monument on either the state capitol grounds or the University of Wisconsin campus.




Watertown Daily Times, 07 06 1936


Watertown today began its second century after winding up a four day celebration last night which commemorated the closing of the first 100 years of the community, founded in 1836 by Timothy Johnson.  The celebration has already gone down as the greatest and most successful community undertaking in the history of Watertown, an event that will be talked about for years to come.  Never before has there been such an outpouring of people and community spirit as was manifested here during the four days starting last Thursday.  Never has Watertown put on a celebration quite like this one and never before has there been such a display of public interest and appreciation.


All attendance records for community events were broken Saturday night when the climax of the Fourth of July celebration was reached at Riverside Park.  A crowd estimated at 30,000 persons filled the park to its capacity.  Automobiles in some directions were parked beyond the city limits.


The centennial parade, the old settlers' picnic, a civic homecoming banquet, athletic contests, band concerts and programs of free acts plus the most gorgeous and elaborate fireworks display ever seen here, and the first field mass of the Catholic church ever celebrated in Watertown, were important factors in attracting crowds.  There wasn't a failure among the events.


Historic Displays Pleases


No small part in making the centennial a success was the large number of displays which filled local store windows.  Containing relics and heirlooms, antiques, old historic documents, pictures and objects of all kinds, all associated with a past era, the windows were one of the biggest attractions with visitors.  Never before has there been on display here such an array of pioneer objects and collections.  It proved the old saying that Watertown is a city with an historic background and one that has contributed much in the way of pioneer data.


The kindergarten display, on the site of the original kindergarten in America, at North Second and Jones streets, where Mrs. Carl Schurz began the movement in 1856, proved another mecca for visitors.  The art display at St. Henry's hall also attracted many people.


Gayly decorated streets and store buildings, plus flags on many of the city's residences, made an impressive picture and provided a proper setting for the celebration.


Kiddies Share Limelight


The doll buggy parade, which was a feature of the first day's program, proved another successful and enjoyable venture.  It was witnessed by several thousands of people and was the most beautiful and largest doll parade ever held in the city.


The entries far exceeded expectations and the judges reported a difficult time in selecting the winners.  A total of $15 in cash was awarded to prize winners.  A list of the winners, however, was not available today from the judges.  Each child entering the parade also received an ice cream cone, 200 of them being distributed.


The free attractions and the gayly illuminated midway entertained and thrilled vast audiences and the band concerts by the Watertown City band and the 105th Cavalry band drew enormous crowds and were an integral part of the festival.  The appearance of the Watertown male chorus, directed by William Sproesser, a feature of Saturday night program, was loudly acclaimed.


People everywhere have been loud in their praise for the manner in which the centennial was conceived and worked out.  Aided by the most favorable kind of weather, the community celebrated as it never has celebrated before.


Much of the comment heard over the success of the celebration includes praise for the men who directed it, especially the president of the Watertown Centennial association, Henry P. Amann, whose intense work in connection with the plans was the guiding spirit in forging together the programs and arrangements.  J. E. McAdams, former mayor, who was appointed general chairman of the celebration at a time when the organization had been disrupted by the resignation of Harry N. Smith, who was forced to relinquish his chairmanship because of ill health which sent him to a sanatorium, also shares in the praise of the community for his interest and work in putting on the celebration.




Mrs. Sheldon E. Holmes, 519 West Street, granddaughter of Watertown's first settler, Timothy Johnson, reigned as the centennial queen and occupied one of the floats in the parade.   Mrs. Holmes' mother was Jane Johnson, daughter of Timothy Johnson and her father was John A. Chadwick.





Good Police Work


The enormous crowds which the city entertained during the festivities could not have been handled as they were without an efficiently organized and directed police force and special police assistants.  It is to the credit of the department that the traffic was handled to ably and that the enormous throngs of people were taken care of without mishap and in so orderly a manner.  Chief of Police Albert N. Quest today acknowledged the help and cooperation of the departments of Sheriff Joseph T. Lange and Walter Buschkopf and the fireman and other special officers, including American Legion members who assisted in police duty.  He also took occasion to thank the public for its cooperation in reducing traffic hazards and traffic tie-ups and for the general cooperation which the department received.


A setting down of the main facts of the centennial would not be complete without recognizing the good work of the various committee heads and committee members, together with the many local organizations which joined in helping along the plans and obtaining the splendid cooperation which made this centennial celebration, first a fact and then a success such as the city in all its 100 years has never seen before on just such a vast scale.


Setting for Mass


The setting for the field mass was one of great beauty and solemnity.  The altar used was the first one erected in St. Bernard's church and was taken to the field for the occasion.  The baldacchino was designed by Baldwin S. Raue who spent more than a week in working it out, and this was a beautiful piece of work which, when carried out for the setting of the altar, proved to be a work of art.



    Altar used was first one erected in St. Bernard's  


The mass was graced by the presence of the Rt. Rev. William R. Griffin, D. D., auxiliary bishop of La Crosse.  There were also a large number of other Catholic clergymen here for the event.


The mass was celebrated by the Very Rev. Dean F. X. Schwinn, pastor of St. Henry's Church.  He was assisted by the Rev. Joseph Brasky, Grafton, as deacon and the Rev. Edward Hertel, Waterford, as sub-deacon.  The master of ceremonies was the Rev. Leo Heger, West Allis.


The sermon was delivered by the Rev. Thomas Irving, C. S. C., assistant superior general of the Holy Cross order, Notre Dame University.


The arrangements for the field mass were in charge of the Rev. Patrick Haggerty, C. S. C., pastor of St. Bernard's church.


The choir of Sacred Heart postulate, directed by Brother Arnold, C. S. C., sang during the mass and the 105th Cavalry band also participated at the service.


The complete text of Father Irving's sermon.


Grady Talks


Attorney Daniel H. Grady of Portage, member of the University of Wisconsin board of regents, delivered the address at the banquet at the high school gymnasium last night.  It was a stirring talk and contained a message that those who attended the banquet will not soon forget.  The freedom, equality and liberty we enjoy - in America are some of the greatest assets we have, Attorney Grady stated.  To make his audience more greatly appreciate the things we enjoy, comparisons were made with foreign nations, many of which are today headed by dictators.


He asserted that the isms, about which so much is now heard, never will replace our present form of government because "there is nothing in the 'isms' to take the place of the liberty and equality we enjoy under our present government."  Because of the high type of government we have maintained, we hold so high a place among nations, he said.


The invocation was delivered by the Rev. C. W. Pinkney, pastor of the Congregational church; Mayor R. W. Lueck delivered the address of welcome; William Sproesser, with Mrs. Frank Bramer, accompanist, sang several solo numbers and also led the community singing; Rita Kramp and Carol Anderson presented a tap dance with Mrs. Herbert Weis accompanying; Frank Bramer played a violin solo, with Mrs. Bramer accompanying; a military dance was presented by the pupils enrolled in the Kehl School of Dancing with Mrs. Weis accompanying; musical selections were rendered by the Gorder trio, consisting of Mr. and Mrs. Glenn Gorder and Mrs. Frank Bramer and several short talks were given by Miss Ella Ruebhausen of Chicago, Prof. Witte of Madison, and Attorney Charles A. Kading of Watertown.


Grandchildren Presented


Two great grandchildren of Timothy Johnson, Watertown's first settler, were presented to the gathering.  They were Mrs. S. E. Holmes of Watertown and Edward Johnson of Pewaukee.


Henry P. Amann, president of the Watertown Centennial association, delivered a short talk in which he thanked all those who assisted in arranging the celebration.


J. E. McAdams, general chairman of the centennial celebration, was presented to the audience.  Mr. McAdams is an ex-mayor of the city.


Frank P. McAdams served as toastmaster and with his usual keen sense of humor filled his post in a very capable manner.


The program committee for the banquet consisted of Attorney Kading, Mrs. E. J. Hoermann, Mrs. J. J. O'Connell, Mrs. John Chapman, Nicholas Thauer, Edward F. Wieman, R. A. Buell and William Sproesser.  The reception committee consisted of Miss Wilder, Miss Mary Crangle, Mrs. E. J. Brandt, Miss Ella Rogan, W. R. Thomas, James W. Moore, E. Schmutzler and G. A. Stallman.


Alfred E. Bentzin served as committee chairman.



A group of people posing for a photo

Description automatically generated 

Ladies of the Saturday Club dressed in old fashioned gowns to celebrate the 1936 Centennial. 

[standing L-R] Mrs. Edgar Miller, Mrs. Charles E. Kading, Miss Gladys Mollart, Mrs. W.S. Waite, Mrs. A.G. Kotchian, Mrs. A.P. Hinkes, and Mrs. Elmer Kiessling.

[seated]  Miss Ella Wilder, Mrs. S.E. Holmes (Timothy Johnson's granddaughter), and Mrs. Elmer Buegler.


Picnic Success


The program at the Octagon House on Friday afternoon was well attended. 



An outstanding program was presented, which contributed much to making the Old Settler's picnic one of the highlights of the centennial celebration.  The picnic was presented by the Watertown Historical society, with Mrs. George Lewis, chairman.  Will Thomas was host.


The program included the following:  Harp music by Edward Aldrich of Oconomowoc; piano by Miss Josephine Sproesser; solos by William Sproesser; "Reminiscences" by Miss Mary Crangle; Tin Soldier's dance by Gail Hoffman, Ruth Andres and Barbara Arzbargez, all pupils of Miss Mildred Olson of the Watertown High school; the balloon dance by Betty Buell, Ruth Platz, Laverne Calhous, Lucille Newbouer, Jean Darcey, Dorothy Gehrke and Marguerite Iwen, also pupils of Miss Olson; dance numbers by pupils of Miss Hubbard, which included a toe dance, duet tap dance, Gavotte, Irish tap dance by five girls and Spanish dance; toe dance and song by Jean Mulhern of Chicago; several dance numbers by pupils of Paul Thom, including a Dutch dance by Patricia Northrop, Nancy Lewis and Phyllis Goecke; a talk on the "Hopes and Aims of the Watertown Historical society," by G. H. Lehrkind, in which the speaker urged the preservation of the Octagon house; and the Virginia reel.  Mrs. Herbert Weis played the piano accompaniment for several of the numbers.



Complete Sermon of the Rev. Thomas Irving, C. S. C.


Following is the complete sermon of the Rev. Thomas Irving, C. S. C., assistant superior general of Notre Dame University, delivered at the centennial field Mass at Riverside Park on Sunday morning:


"Unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.

Unless the Lord keep the city, he watcheth in vain that keepeth it."

Ps. 120.


We are gathered here today for the religious part of the celebration of the centenary of this city. It is proper that we should do this in order that we might give thanks to God for the many blessings which He has granted to this community in the past, to ask for the continuation of His bounty, and to offer a prayer that even greater gifts and blessings may enrich the lives of the men and women of the future. Nor should this celebration pass merely as a celebration.


The lives of the pioneers who a century ago set foot upon this soil, and the lives of those who in the following generations have deepened that foundation, preach lessons to us, and it is our privilege and duty to listen and to learn from them. In those lives there is to be found inspiration and an example of sturdy virtues which we can ill afford to pass by. I know that there is an error abroad in the world today which thinks that we cannot learn from the past, that because a thing is old it is useless, that what is old does not apply to present conditions, that what might have been very well for the eighteenth or nineteenth century does not hold under present conditions. While this opinion may be true in certain minor and non-essential aspects of life, it is certainly not true in regard to the very foundation of life, or in regard to those elements which are necessary for the development of true character and for right living. God does not change, nor does human nature change, and the elements in us that make for heroism do not change, nor do the weaknesses that will drag us down change. Those qualities which made true and strong men in the first, the fifth, or the fifteenth century will also make true men today. What made the pioneers such valiant men will make men today great also.


Century Long Time


In the life of a man a century is a long time. In fact in the life of our country a century is a long time. In the history of the world or of the older countries or civilizations, it is not a long time, and with God a thousand years are as a day.


But there has never been a century in the world's history in which such a great change has been wrought as in the century that has passed since the founding of this city. Consider the advancement in science, both theoretical and applied, particularly in its application to the industries, how transportation and communication have been changed, how the comforts of life have been increased. Today we span the ocean as quickly as our forefathers crossed an inland lake. In their day they waited for weeks and months for news which now is sent around the world in the fraction of a second. Certainly the progress in a material way has been without precedent. All this has made such a profound change in life that we are separated by a great distance from the conditions of the pioneer days.


To understand the men of another century or another generation, and to understand their problems, it is necessary to put ourselves into their surroundings and to live with them in spirit. This is not easy, nor is everyone able to do it. That is the reason why some historians have made such serious mistakes; they did not understand the time of which they wrote.


Remove the railroads, the paved roads, the auto, the telegraph and the telephone, and the hundred other things which minister to the comforts of man, and you have a part of the setting necessary to understand life here a hundred years ago. Imagine them setting out from a foreign land or from what was then the far east of the United States to travel the long, slow, dreary journey and to cast their lot in a primitive, unknown, and uncharted land. They did not know what the venture offered them, nor what the outcome might be.


Men of Courage


Place yourself, if you can, in their position, and you will get some idea of the indomitable spirit which inspired them. It cannot be denied that they were men of more than ordinary courage. They were not blind, they saw the obstacles, the hardships, and the difficulties ahead. But they were of the type for whom difficulties were the stepping-stones to greater achievement. They overcame difficulties and were not overcome by them; they were venturesome, bold, if you will, but they were not imprudent nor reckless. For them life ruled by wisdom which took life as it was, and accepted what was at hand in order that in the struggle victory would be the result. They were men who were not afraid of sacrifice and hardship. They were too common sense, too wise to think that on this earth they would find a paradise, or that nature would hand them a fortune unless [only if] it was wrested from her by hard labor. They knew that "in the sweat of his brow man must eat his bread."


They faced the facts, and they took labor as a part of life. They were men with a high sense of justice and a sincere regard for the rights of others; men who as some has said, "would go across a country to pay a dollar which they owed – and would also go across a country to collect which was due to them.” There was a rugged honesty about them which knew no subterfuge, or double-dealing, or sharp practices.


They were God-fearing men who had unbounded confidence in the Providence of God. They were religious men, men who made religion something vital in life. For them it was an integral part of life, not a something that might or might not be accepted.


They were men who lived by faith. As evidence of that spirit they have left the monuments to their religious belief and of their generosity to the cause of religion in the beautiful churches and religious schools of this city. When we recall that they were just building their own homes and getting together their possessions, when each dollar came from the mint of toil, and was needed for what might be considered other legitimate purposes; and when we recall that in a few short years they had practically cleared away the most of the debt, a man must be a dull and unappreciative soul if he is not stirred to admire the spirit of those men who gave time, energy, labor, and money, and which in those days were bold enough to raise such temples to the Living God.


Christ Ruled Lives


But a more important lesson still which they have left to us is that Christ ruled their lives, and they made His principles those by which they lived. They not only knew them, but they were convictions with them and they lived them and that is the reason that such beautiful virtues shone forth in their lives. "By their fruits you shall know them and that was the good tree bringing forth good fruit."


What are these truths and these principles?


Christ said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." "I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly.”  "I am the light of the world."


Reason, history and experience prove that unless God's truth guides man, the result is confusion. Man cannot get along without God. The late Gilbert Chesterton, I think, has said that “when man puts off the supernatural, he does not become more natural, but he becomes unnatural."' Man needs Eternal truth in his private life, in his social life, in his economic and political life. Without it as his guide he must depend on human reason alone and the past has proved that reason is a very, uncertain guide. Following it alone mankind has fallen into serious errors, for passion has influenced it or swept it aside, and has lead man into ways that terminated in disaster.


The great fundamental questions are always confronting man, what is man, what is his purpose, what is the meaning of life, what is the end of it all. Upon the answer to these queries will depend man's outlook upon life and his point of view about life. We do not know a thing unless we know what it is for. We may understand its structure, and the principles which are involved, but unless we know what its purpose is we do not know it. Give a radio to a native of the jungles of India and because he does not know its purpose it is useless to him. There precisely is the major defect of this age. Too many men do not know man, for they do not know his purpose or the purpose of life. How can they give him a map of life if they do not know his destiny? How can they chart the way if they do not know whither it leads? How can they outline a program of life unless they know what is to be ultimately accomplished?


Turn Away From Truth


Only Divine Truth can give a sure and satisfying answer to these questions, and unfortunately too many of the leaders of the world have turned away from that truth, and what is the result? The unrest, the uncertainty, the confusion, the strife, the selfishness, and the suspicion which exist in the world today, man wandering about aimlessly, doubting, guessing and blundering along in the darkness of his own blindness. They are like sailors who have thrown the compass away, and have closed their eyes to the unfailing stars of heaven. They have turned their backs upon God, and in effect said to Him, "We do not want your guidance, we do not need "it." They have refused to give God His due of adoration and praise, and have transferred their allegiance to the false Gods of nationalism, the state, wealth, progress, or any of the idols which they have set up in place of the true God. This has brought about a condition in the world such that serious men are wondering whether we are not at one of those turning points of history, and whether our Western Civilization is going to pass away, and be buried with other civilizations in the oblivion of the past. They are worried about the future, and they are wondering what will happen. The question is what will happen when the residue of Christian principle, which still underlies the life of many nations, shall have passed away.


Men are deluded into thinking that our difficulties are social, economic, or political. Fundamentally they are moral and religious. Over a quarter of a century ago, an American writer said that the world was dying for want of spiritual energy. Unless this spiritual energy in the individual is renewed, and unless the principles taught by Christ are at the basis of any reform, these reformers are chasing a will-o-the-wisp. To save itself from itself the world must return to those truths which mean full and complete living, a living that is in accord with the destiny and dignity of man.


We hear much about the rights of man, the rights of labor, the rights of capital, the rights of the child, and so on, but we do not hear much about the rights of God.  Let it be remembered that unless the rights of God are made paramount and put at the head of the book, there is no basis for nor hope for an enduring security for other lights.


Preached Peace


Let us look for a moment at the teachings of Christ, and we shall see that the troubles, and abuses, and misery that have come to mankind have been due to the fact that men have substituted man-made ideals and plans for God's plan. Christ pointed out the dignity of man. Each man was so precious in His sight that He died for him; He made him His brother, and destined him to have a share in the very life of God. Now in part of the world where the state has been made supreme the dignity of man and the rights which depend upon that dignity have not been respected and to say the least life there is not human.  He preached peace, but there is no peace unless the true order of things is respected and followed.


He is the God of love and He taught us love from the beginning of His life until the supreme sacrifice of His life on Calvary, when; He shed the last drop of His blood for love of us, the most precious libation ever poured out upon earth.


He gave us this lesson of love that we might make it the motive of our life in our relations with God and with our fellowmen. Love is the most powerful force in the world. It is the motive written into the annals of the world's heroism. Its effects are seen in the mother who spends herself for the welfare of her child; in the father who would give his life to protect and safeguard his home and family; in the soldiers who on a thousand battlefields of the world have gone into the teeth of death for their country; in the myriads of men and women who have given all – even life itself – to bring solace, comfort and mercy to their fellow men. These have followed in the footsteps of Him who said, "Greater love than this no man hath than that a man give his life for his friend." And again He said, "A new commandment I give unto you that you love one another as I have loved you."


If the love of Christ does not possess the soul it will turn to other objects, and first of all to self. "Two loves," says St. Augustine, "have built two cities. The love of self, the city of Babylon to the contempt of God, and the love of God the city of Jerusalem to the contempt of self."


In the economic and social orders the desire for gain and the desire for domination and power have caused men to turn from the love of God to the love of power and wealth. As a result in many instances injustices have arisen, and a spirit far removed from a spirit of charity has existed. If men on both sides of the argument were convinced of the necessity of justice and charity, and made these the foundations of their negotiations, the rights of both groups would be respected, and means would be at hand whereby a salutary and peaceful agreement could be reached.


U.S. Blessed


In regard to our nation we should remember that few nations have been blessed by a benign Providence as this nation has been. God has scattered broadcast over this land the blessing of natural resources and productiveness. To this people He has given a spirit of initiative, resourcefulness, energy and optimistic endeavor, which has in a century and a half placed the United States at the head of the nations of the world. Never in the history of mankind has there been such a phenomenal rise to pre-eminence among the nations. It would seem that God has a special mission for us in this storm-tossed world. The question is, shall we be worthy of this God-given commission?


We must admit that as a people we have our faults, both in the rulers and in the ruled. But after all this is only a human institution, and if anyone expects perfection in such an institution, he is a dreamer, a visionary, or a fanatic blinded by frenzy.


Let us beware of those men who think to cure these ills by destroying the whole American system. They are like a man who would cut down a tree just because one branch is diseased. Beware of them; do not be deluded. They do not bring peace. Christ appeared to His disciples after his resurrection and His first salutation was, "Peace be to you," and He showed them His hands and His feet and His Sacred Side. There were the marks of the wounds which proved his love for them. No reformer is a true and safe reformer unless he bears in his being the marks of one who has suffered on account of his love for his fellow-men, even to the extent of forgetfulness of self.


Let us go back to the spirit of the founders and preservers of this nation. Washington said that religion and morality must be had as supports of political prosperity. A student of the civilizations of the earth said at the conclusion of his research, "Thus a true and stable civilization can never be more than the by-product of religion. It is attained by those of whom it is not sought; and we see in the long run that empire is to those to whom empire is nothing, and we remember with a sense of awe the most astonishing of the Beatitudes, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land."


The strength of our national life in all of its aspects will depend on the strength and the solidity of the life of the individual. Our duty is clear. Our best and truest contribution as citizens, as neighbors, as private individuals, is to live by those Christian principles which inspired our forefathers, ennobled their lives, and made them a kindly generation. In this is there peace and joy, for the true joy of living is in being something more today than we were yesterday. Long ago it was said;


"Today well lived

Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness,

And every tomorrow a vision of hope."



          Children’s Parade




      portfolio of pictures






Cross Reference:

Miniature Octagon House featured in centennial parade




Not every city can have a second Centennial celebration for the city within 18 years of the first one.  Watertown did this in fine style; 1936 was for the first settlement, 1954 for the 100th anniversary of the first city charter.  Actually the city charter was signed in 1853, but planning and producing the celebration took a long time.  There were gala events lasting from June 25 to July 1, with an attendance of between 50,000 to 60,000 persons.  Charles Johannsen was general chairman, Al Lunde, Seth Perry and Joseph Checkai supervised the 175 unit parade, which included covered wagons, oxen, horses, comedy groups, and historic floats.  Alice in Dairyland was there and so was Alexander Wiley, U.S. senator, speaker for the evening.  A spectacular Centurama was held at Riverside Athletic field.  The new bandshell in the park was dedicated.  Many Watertown girls and boys, men and women, participated in this Centennial event.  It was an event to be remembered.




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin