website  watertownhistory.org

    ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin

 

Watertown Inter-County Fair Association

1905-1927

 

 

1898

01 26          EARLY HORSE RACE

First Street, from the new Commercial [Hotel] to the waterworks plant, was converted into a race track for a brief period Saturday afternoon, when an exciting trial of speed took place between two high-bred pacers, one an Ixonia horse, and the other an "unknown."  Bert Smith was starter and “Hi" Rogers time-keeper, while a host of horse-flesh admirers served as judges.  Notwithstanding the Ixonia steed coming in ahead, it was difficult to decide as to the better racer, the drivers offering so many excuses and explanations that the spectators were placed in a quandary.   WR

 

10 12          COLUMBUS STREET FAIR TOURED

Saturday afternoon a delegation of citizens including Mayor Mulberger, Jesse Stone, Carl Manz, Emil Seibel, H. G. Grube, E. L. Schempf, Louis Kusel and J. W. Moore went to Columbus to view the sights of the street fair being held there.  The Columbus carnival was not one of the greatest pretensions, but it was very successfully conducted and well served the purposes for which it was gotten up, to attract visitors and to pleasantly entertain them.  It was reported that it did not result in any great impetus to trade during the days it was given, but it afforded the neighboring farmers an opportunity to exhibit their products in competition for valuable premiums and to enjoy themselves at the same time.  The Columbus people seemed well pleased with their efforts and visit of the Watertown delegation was beneficial in the acquirement of much needed information.  WR

 

10 19          MOVEMENT FOR WATERTOWN STREET FAIR

The movement for the holding of a street fair and carnival of fun in Watertown next September took tangible form Monday evening at a mass meeting of citizens held in the city hall.  The meeting was not largely attended, but the ball was set rolling and an organization accomplished by the election of the following executive board:  W.C. Stone, president; E.L. Schempf. vice-president . . . Mr. Gifford's idea of the prospective amusement fete is to have it extend over a period of four days, commencing on a Tuesday and ending on the succeeding Friday.  He proposes to raise $5,000 by subscription for the expense of the carnival.  The holding of the affair is of course contingent upon his success in securing the required amount but he seems to have the utmost confidence that he can do it, and if he fails no one will be anything out.   WR

 

1899

11 21          WATERTOWN CARNIVAL ASSOCIATION REPORT

Last Tuesday evening the Watertown Carnival association held a meeting at the city hall, when the report of the executive committee was made and accepted.  It is as follows:

 

To the Watertown Carnival Association Gentlemen:

Your executive committee begs to submit the following report of their transactions: the total receipts from all sources amounted to $2,342.03, and the total disbursements to date amounted to $2,308.84, leaving a balance of cash on hand of $33.19, vouchers for which disbursements are in the hands of the secretary and open for inspection of parties interested.  Your committee begs to say further that they have endeavored to act with due regard to the amount collected by contributions from the liberal citizens and have used these funds to the best advantage.  Thanks are due to the several parties who contributed their help and wagons that came gratis, and to all those who contributed in any way to make the carnival a success not soon to be forgotten.

 

The committee has made an inventory of all the property belonging to the Carnival Association and said inventory is on file with the secretary.  The floats are stored in the ice house of Ohm Bros., gratis, to remain there at the pleasure of the association, and it is recommended that an effort be made to dispose of them, which would create a new fund to start a still more elaborate festival.  WR

 

1905

03 15          At city hall Monday evening was held a mass meeting to discuss the advisability of organizing a Fair organization of Watertown.  It was the unanimous opinion of those present that an annual Fair was desirable for our city and it was the sense of the meeting that the matter should be pushed to a successful issue. E. E. Grube [H. G. Grube? ]  gave the assurance that the Watertown Driving Park Club would be willing to turn in its property to a fair association if such an organization were formed.  This property includes the half mile track, buildings, fences, etc., now on the driving club's grounds in the Seventh ward.   WDT

_________________

When the project of a county fair for Watertown was broached Herman Grube was one of its ardent supporters and helped in many ways to launch it to a successful issue.  He had been previously identified with the Watertown Driving Association, which was merged with the fair association, and was elected treasurer of the Watertown Inter-County fair, which position he held during the first three years, relinquishing the office owing to stress of other duties connected with the fair.   Watertown Daily Times, 1924

 

1905

Watertown Daily Times, 03 28 1905

 

A second meeting of those interested in the establishment of a fair association in this city was held last Thursday evening, and was well attended. S. E. Woodard presided and Charles Mulberger acted as secretary.

 

The report from the special committees appointed was most encouraging, and it was decided to push the work with all possible speed and hold a fair this year.  The work of soliciting stock subscriptions will begin at once. It will be necessary to raise about $7000 in addition to what will be turned over to the association from the driving club, but this will not be hard to secure, as when the previous organization was being effected about three years ago, fully that amount was raised in a short while, but the project fell through.

 

The above named will be used for the construction of a fence, exhibit buildings and stables, etc., and a portion of it will be used to advertise the fair and pay current expenses.

 

1905

Watertown Daily Times, 05 17 1905

 

A committee of the Watertown Inter-County Fair Association has started to solicit stock subscriptions and will call on the business people for amounts varying according to their means. Another committee has secured several thousand dollars and it now remains for the businessmen of the city to make up the balance so that a fair next fall may be assured . . . As soon as the subscriptions are all in a date can be set and the work of advertising the fair commenced.

1905

Watertown Daily Times, 06 15 1905

 

The prospects for the success of the Inter-County Fair which will hold its first meeting September 19-22 continue bright. It is surprising and at the same time gratifying to the officers of the association to note the great interest evinced by the general public over this event. Farmers from neighboring towns are more than pleased and the great crowd in the city Tuesday kept the fair officials busy answering questions propounded.

 

Secretary Charles Mulberger states that the premium list is now being arranged and the racing events will be the best that can be secured in Wisconsin. The total purses will aggregate $4500, which will not fail to draw some fast racers. In the way of other amusements, Secretary Mulberger is arranging for some high-priced features which are entirely new and novel, and will give the inter-county a great reputation from the start. The evening free attractions will be no less interesting and a good sum for this purpose has already been pledged. Watertown is able to accommodate without inconvenience the large crowds which will come to the city on this occasion.

 

September 19, 20, 21 and 22

     

 

1905      INTER-COUNTY

 

In 1905, at the prodding of Mayor Herman Wertheimer, the Watertown Inter-County Fair Association launched another series of successful annual fairs on the spacious grounds south of the Armory.  Besides the usual exhibitions, the fair offered something for everybody.  You could buy cream candy, rubber balls on strings, gyroscopes, glass fountain pens, have your fortune told and your picture taken on tintype, or see a real motion picture, the "Great Train Robbery."  At one o'clock a marshal on horseback cleared the one-half-mile track for the horse races.  Late in the afternoon, after the acrobatic performers and the clowns had put on their show in front of the grandstand, there would be a balloon ascension.  Mostly it was a horse and buggy fair, but a few horseless carriages, steered by tillers, were parked along the road.  Farmers hated them because they scared the horses.   Derived from Watertown Remembered

 

1906

Watertown Daily Times, 09 12 1906

 

This is the season of the year when people's fancies turn to the subject of fairs. This portion of the state has a goodly number of them which are taking place now or will within the next week or two and interest in them grows as the time approaches. It is at these annual fairs that the farmer proudly exhibits the fine stock and grains he has raised the past year and his wife's butter and prize jellies of the culinary department of the household. It is this feature of the fairs that really accomplishes the most good, for it educates the farmer and his wife, but then their value and social affairs must also be given much credit.

 

City people, too, take a continued if not growing interest in fairs, even though their nature has been changed somewhat from the spectacular shows that once were with horse races the chief features.

 

1906

Watertown Republican, 09 12 1906

 

H. A. Holdridte (Holdridge?) has been one of the busiest men in the city this week fixing the shoes on the horses which are to take part in the races during the fair. 

 

1906

Watertown Daily Times, 09 13 1906

 

Late developments have gone to show that the speed program of the Watertown Inter-County fair next week will be an unqualified success. The entries yesterday poured in at a lively rate and Secretary Mulberger is jubilant and now assures all that the race program will be one that will have no superior in the state. There will be a large field of horses, including many of the best in this country. Last evening, thirty-one entries had been made in the pace and trot events, to say nothing of the running races that are scheduled for each day. Horsemen know a good thing when they see it; therefore many are to take advantage of the liberal purses that are offered by the association for the various events.

 

1907

05 09       Track at fairgrounds in excellent condition for speeding; local horsemen invited to use

 

09 28          The Watertown Inter-County fair came to a close last evening after having had a very successful week. Despite the unfavorable weather of Tuesday and Wednesday.  Despite the unfavorable weather conditions the first of the week, the fair officers are satisfied that it was no worse and they feel quite well satisfied with the way things turned out.  The rains and threatening aspect of the skies no doubt debarred many from going to the grounds.  Nevertheless, the fair was a big success from the standpoint of attendance and entertainment.  Yesterday, the attendance was not as large as was anticipated it being estimated that about 3,000 people were on the grounds. It is also estimated by the management that about 30,000 people visited the fair during the last three days.   Watertown Daily Times,

 

1908

09 04       Arrangements practically completed for the 1908 Inter-County fair   WG

 

09 18       A great success.   WG

 

Watertown Remembered

 

When the Interurban Railway came to Watertown in 1908, it laid tracks down Second Street to the fairgrounds, site of the Watertown Inter- County Fair, charging a nickel for the ride.  This annual fair was initiated by Mayor Herman Wertheimer in 1905 and the fair site was on the grounds south of the Armory.  The cars were always crowded.  On one "Watertown Day" - always the Wednesday of the four-day fair - 11,000 people attended.  But by 1927 interest had waned and Watertown called it quits with the fair for the last time.

 

In that same year the Interurban made an attempt to bolster its failing business by opening a fine new depot on Second Street, adding plush new cars and reducing the time of the Milwaukee run. When the new electric train came to town for the first time, it stopped at the city limits to pick up the employees of the Electric Company, who had been taken out there to board the train and make the entry more impressive.

 

The ride to Milwaukee was much more pleasant than it had been on the old trolleys. But the Interurban could not compete with the automobile, and it followed the fair into oblivion in 1940.

 

The T.M.E.R.& L., as it was called (The Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company), had come to Watertown 32 years before, in 1908. It once ran the length of Main Street, from Fifth to the Northwestern depot. The screeching of its wheels as it rounded corners was a familiar sound, and the owl car, coming in around one in the morning and bringing home a few late Milwaukee visitors, would often awaken sleepers until they heard it rumble on, realized it was only the owl car and went back to sleep again.

 

1909

01 15          Request to build interurban this year as far south as the fairgrounds so that it could be of use in time for the 1909 annual fair   WG

 

02 05          Additional building to be erected on grounds; a fifty-foot addition added to the grand stand, old officers re-elected   WG

 

07 24          THE “FEARLESS GREGGS

 

 

The Watertown Inter County Fair will be held in Watertown September 21, 22, 23, 24.  There is the funny two vehicle act, the drivers fearless of death, to eyes of amazement.  They are automobile performers, the “fearless Greggs” as they call themselves.  Both are brave and as the picture shows leap from a high platform into the air, the one drives smoothly crossing over while the other spins in the air.  They will perform this daring feat until the world produces something better. 

 

Also at this fair the secretary Mr. Charles Mulberger hopes to attract $1200.00 worth of other attractions for these days, including an artistic house and crazy comedian donkey/jack asses. 

 

The fair management is resolved that instead of air-balloons or air-plane attractions there will be this automobile attraction.  An automobile that drives through the air is as exciting as air-balloons and it will by secretary Mulberger’s problem to yet further obtain additional quality events for the fair. 

 

The fair promises to be even bigger and better than before.  For the visitor the best is yet to come, a ride to the fair on the interurban.   Free translation of article accompanying image, Watertown Weltburger, 07 24 1909.

 

09 03          Herman Wertheimer recognition   WG

 

09 10          THE INTER-COUNTY FAIR OF 1909

The Watertown Inter-County Fair will be held at Watertown on September 21, 22, 23, and 24.  This will be one of the big fairs held in Wisconsin this fall and will be run day and night.  The transportation facilities are of the best, as the street cars will run directly to the main gate with only a few minutes for the trip.  There will be free attractions on the grounds during the afternoon and evening and plenty of music.  The racing program calls for an outlay of $3600 in purses and everything connected with the 1909 fair will be on a large scale.

 

There will be train service north on Thursday evening, leaving Watertown about 9:30 o’clock.   WG

 

09 17          Watertown Fair of 1909; Children’s Day   WG

 

09 17          THE WATERTOWN FAIR

[same date] The Inter-County Fair will be held on the fairgrounds in this city next Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and it promises to be one of the very best fairs held in Wisconsin this year.  Over $3600 will be paid out in purses for the races.  There will be many free attractions both during the day and at the evening fair and the exhibits promise to be large and excellent in every department.

 

The first day of the fair will be Children’s Day—free to all children under 18 years of age.  Wednesday will be Watertown Day and it is expected that all lines of business will be suspended during the afternoon to help swell the crowd.  On Thursday a special train will carry the Beaver Dam visitors and they well be accompanied by the Beaver Dam Brass Band.  The Waterloo Cornet band and Waterloo Juvenile Band will furnish music for that day.  The Columbus Band will furnish music on Friday.  The Watertown Imperial Band will furnish the music on Tuesday and music on Wednesday will be furnished by the Watertown Military Band and the Reeseville Band.

 

The speed program [horse racing] will be under the charge of William F. Earle and will include the four days . . .

 

Following are the officers and superintendents of the fair:

 

President—H. Wertheimer

Vice President—G. M. Gahlmann

Treasurer—C. E. Frey

Secretary—Charles Mulberger

Assistant Secretary—Emil Track

Executive Committee—W. A. Beurhaus, John C. Gruel, H. G. Grube, Albert Cebell, C. A. Vaughan, Simon Molzahn, Charles Kiepert, Concord; C. E. Donovan, Waterloo; John F. Hughes, Reeseville.

 

Superintendents:

Gates and Grounds—C. A. Vaughan

Speed—William Earle

Horses—Ernest Krueger

Cattle—E. E. Randall

Sheep and Swine—Peter Thauer

Poultry—George J. Weber

Farm Implements and Vehicles—E. H. Graeszel

Educational—W. P. Roseman

Art and Floral Hall—W. J. Stube

Farm Products—Simon Molzahn

Privileges—W. A. Beurhaus

 

Admission to Grounds [fees] . . .

 

09 24          ONE OF THE BEST IN ITS HISTORY

The Inter-County Fair of 1909 now being held on the fairgrounds in this city is one of the best in its history—the exhibits are large and many of the departments are filled to overflowing.  There are many fine free attractions, the horse racing very good, and the attractions along the pike are clean, entertaining and instructive.  The attendance thus far has been a record breaker, that of Wednesday being estimated at 15,000.  Reeseville sent a delegation of nearly 500 and headed by its brass band and Hon. John Hughes marched from up Main and West Main Street and, before the end of the line came in view, Watertown people began to think all the residents of the western part of the state were pouring into the city.  Today Beaver Dam sent a special train load of excursionists headed by its band and large delegations from Jefferson, Ft. Atkinson, Waterloo and Oconomowoc are expected.   WG

 

1910

02 04          ANNUAL MEETING, WATERTOWN INTER-COUNTY FAIR ASSN

There was a large attendance at the annual meeting of the Watertown Inter-County Fair Association held Thursday evening of last week at the city hall, including many from the rural districts.  The secretary's report showed the association to be in fine financial condition.  It was voted to enlarge a number of the buildings the coming season and also to enlarge the grandstand.  William A. Beurhaus, Charles Harte and John Hughes (of Reeseville) were elected directors.  All the old officers were re-elected as follows . . .

 

It was decided to hold the 1910 fair on September 20, 21, 22 and 23.  This is the week following the state fair and immediately preceding the fairs at Jefferson and Beaver Dam.  A vote of thanks was tendered the officers on motion of Peter Thauer, and Charles Mulberger in responding thanked the public for their interest in the fair and the help extended to the association.   WG

 

04 27          FAIR GROUNDS ENLARGED

Five lots just north of the Watertown Fair Grounds have been purchased by the Fair Association.  This will allow more room for displaying live stock.   WG

 

07 01          MATINEE RACES SUNDAY

The matinee races on July 3 at the Watertown fair grounds promises to bring many good horses to the city for the three racing events.  The interurban cars will take the crowds to the grounds, extra service being put on at 10 a.m. and continuing until after the races are over with in the evening.  The three harness events will be trot or pace:  A free for all, 1/2 mile heats, best three in five, purse $100.  A 2:19 class, 1/2 mile heats, best two in three, purse $100.  A 2:30 class, 1/2 mile heats, best three in five, purse $75.   WG

 

07 22          MOTORCYCLE RACES

On Sunday afternoon there was a good-sized crowd at the motorcycle races at the fairgrounds . . . Australian pursuit race—Contestants start at equally distant points around the track and start simultaneously.  A man passed must drop out until but one, the winner, remains—Sporleder and Fischer tied, each 3 1/2 miles. Time, 4:25.  Prize, silver loving cup . . .     WG

 

07 22          NEW MERCHANTS' DISPLAY BUILDING

Opened Bids — Bids for the construction of the new merchants' display building on the Inter-County fair grounds were opened last week and are as follows:  John Schatz, $1718: L. A. Willenbockel, $1901; William Riebe, $1921 ; Ferd. Behlke, $1997; Rohde & Zickert, $2041 ; Charles Huenefeld, $2331.  The contract was let to John Schatz.     WG

 

1911

02 02       INTER-COUNTY FAIR ANNUAL MEETING

There was a large and enthusiastic attendance at the annual meeting of the Watertown Inter-County Fair Association at the city hall last Friday evening.  President Herman Wertheimer called the meeting to order, and City Treasurer, Emil Tanck officiated as secretary of the meeting.  The treasurer's report was read at the meeting and it shows the association to be in a sound financial condition.  A new lease of the fairground has been taken for 14 years.  It was voted to hold the annual fair from Sept 19 to 22nd.  Chas. Mulberger declined to serve longer as secretary, and a vote of thanks was extended him for the excellent service rendered since the organization of the fair.  The election of officers resulted as follows: 

 

President—H. Wertheimer

Vice President—G. M. Gahlman

Secretary — Charles Harte

Treasurer—Charles Frey

Secretary of Speed—Chas. Mulberger

Director for three years—S. Molzahn, H. Grube, Robert Dent, H. Kronitz, for on expired term.   WG

 

   Weltburger, 09 16 1911, Inter County Fair, Sept 19-22.

 

1912

05 02       CORN GROWING CONTEST

The Watertown Inter-County Fair Association has succeeded in securing good seed corn from the agricultural college for the annual contest for boys and girls and for which the association offers prizes.  The contest is limited to boys and girls between the ages of 10 and 18 years.  The seed may be secured at S. Molzahn & Company's place in Watertown.  It is known as Wisconsin Pedigree No. 7.  The supply is limited, and those calling first will be served first.   WG

 

1913

   1913, Inter County Fair advertisement

  Watertown Der Erzabler ad, The Ringling.

 

1914

   1914, Inter County Fair advertisement

 

   Teske Miniature Model Farm display

 

1915

02 11       BUSINESS MEN’S ASSN BOOST FAIR

At a regular meeting of the Watertown Business Men’s Association last Tuesday evening it was decided by resolution to do all in its power to boost the 1915 fair of the Watertown Inter-County Fair Association and pledged itself to contribute $500 toward the salary of Chas A. Harte, the efficient secretary of the fair for the past four years.  Everybody appreciates the fact that the fair is a good thing for both business men and farmers in this city and vicinity and all are going to boost more than ever for the 1915 fair.   WG

 

1919

 

Slide Show, 1919 Fair

 

 

1920

09 14          BIGGER AND BETTER THAN EVER

Watertown Fair:  September 21, 22, 23 and 24.      WG

 

1930s

Troop K 105th Cavalry (part of the National Guard) boarded horses at the old fairgrounds on the city's south side.

__________________________________________________________

 

Old History Remnants Recovered

1999

Watertown Daily Times, 04 10 1999

 

City workers are currently in the process of a road building project on the south side that has unearthed a little smattering of old history.

 

The crews are constructing a new roadbed on Utah Street south of Boomer Street. That new section of road is badly needed. The existing pavement was in pretty tough shape and drainage was poor. This short dead end street serves Wisconsin Auto Parts, Badger Car Wash and Holz Motors.

 

Well, while the crews were digging up the roadbed, they found a bunch of old railroad ties.

 

Those ties are all that's left of the old branch line of the interurban, known formally as The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company (TMER&L).

 

The interurban or TMER&L was a trolley car system from Milwaukee to Watertown, with other branch lines going south to Kenosha and north to Sheboygan. Service came to Watertown on July 31, 1908, and ended rather quietly on Feb. 1, 1940, a victim of the popularity of the automobile.

 

These old ties which were dug up really brought back memories of a lesser known part of the interurban history.

 

By the time the interurban arrived on July 31, 1908 for the first time, the railway owners had already set their sights on extending the line all the way to Madison. Rights of way had been purchased and the tracks were laid south of the city's business district to the intersection with the Chicago and North Western tracks and station. The plan was to extend it all the way to Madison in the very near future, and it was to have been done on private, rather than public, right of way.  But it never materialized.

 

In addition to that plan, the owners had other ambitious ideas. The tracks were laid south along South Second Street, and along what is now the sliver of land between Highway 26 south and Utah Street.

 

The terminal was the former Grinwald Ford dealership at Second and Market streets, so that track extension seemed pretty logical.

 

The immediate need was to service the inter-county fair, but the ultimate goal was to have the service extend south to the county seat in Jefferson.

 

Site of the inter-county fair, always held the third week of September, was the general area of the Watertown National Guard Armory, the Watertown Municipal Airport, and the three businesses we mentioned above.

 

That track was installed and grading was even completed about a mile south of the fair stop. But, again, there never was an effort to get the tracks all the way to Jefferson. It became too expensive, especially with the growing competition from the automobile.

 

Our records show that as late as 1934 tracks were still in place out to the inter-county fair, and maybe it was even longer. No doubt what was dug up there this week are the remaining ties of a once very busy line.

 

The round trip cost to the inter-county fair from any interurban stop in Watertown was five cents. What a bargain!

 

A map of the tracks show the branch continued south on Second Street, under the Milwaukee Road (now Canadian Pacific) tracks and then at Second and Hyland streets, there were several turnoffs probably used to store extra cars.

 

Then the track traveled adjacent to River Drive which was the old highway at the time. There was double track, presumably a passing siding from the approximate location of Stimpson Street at River Drive south to Mary Street where it again became single track.

 

2015

03 24       INTERURBAN TRACK TO FAIRGROUNDS TORN UP

South Second St, between Milwaukee St & Western Ave

 

 

   Image Portfolio        

 

 

Cross References: 

1861:  A trotting course – Some of our owners and dealers of splendid horses propose to add to the attractions of the live stock fair that is now regularly held here, a race course for the purpose of trying the speed of their nags and testing their qualities.  We learn that appropriate ground for this purpose can be very easily procured and two hundred dollars have been pledged to grade a road of suitable length.  Let the thing be carried out.  It will have a tendency to draw together more buyers and a sight now and then of a famous, fancy, or swift-footed traveler won’t hurt any body.  We are in favor of the race course.   Watertown Democrat, 03 28 1861

 

Display of artifacts unearthed by Watertown resident David Yelk while metal detecting on the grounds of the former Inter-County Fair.  A society holding.

 

Robert Dent was a director of the InterCounty Fair Association since its organization.

 

 

 

Table of Contents 

History of Watertown, Wisconsin

Index