ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Watertown Rotary Club



1928 Rotary Intl ribbon.  




The Octagon House, one of the outstanding historic landmarks of the city, will be the scene of the Rotary club’s next noon day luncheon meeting on Tuesday.  The club will meet at the Octagon House instead of the Elks [club], where weekly meetings were usually held.


Mayor R. W. Lueck and others will be guests of the club, as well as Will Thomas, past president of the Watertown Historical Society, who lives in the house.


The Rotary club, through its president, G. H. Lehrkind, has taken a particular interest in the Octagon House and hopes to some day see it preserved as a historical landmark of the city. 


The home has attracted wide attention in the state and in other states.  Persons from all over the nation have gone out of their way to visit the “home with eight sides,” and all who have seen it were greatly impressed. The visitors’ book which Mr. Thomas keeps contains thousands of names from all parts of the United States.


It is reported that the owner of the home will turn it over, free of charge, to any responsible organization that will agree to keep it up and preserve it as a landmark and a place of historic interest.



Much sentiment favoring the acquisition of the historic Octagon House was expressed at the meeting of the Rotary club which was held on the lawn of the home on Monday afternoon.  The movement to have the home kept up as a historic landmark has been gaining momentum for many months.  Recently the Rotary has taken a great interest in the movement and is now lending its influence to the project.


A number of officials were guests of the club at the luncheon meeting.  All members of the park board were present, as well as Mayor R. W. Lueck.


It was reported at the meeting by G. H. Lehrkind, president of the club, that the house, together with the spacious lawn, will be turned over to any responsible group that can assure upkeep of the property.


All those who addressed the gathering favored the acquisition of the property by the city, with the park board or a commission taking charge of it.  Speakers also pointed out that the upkeep would not involve a great deal of money.  The possibility that the property could be self-supporting also was mentioned by several of the speakers who pointed to similar historic places in other communities that were self-supporting.


With only a small cost involved to keep up the property, Mayor Lueck expressed his belief that the present city administration would favor the acquisition of the home.  Members of the park board indicated that the historic site would be a welcome addition to the city’s park system and stated that every effort would be made to keep up the grounds in the event the city acquired the property and turned it over to the park board.


The Octagon House was built by the late John Richards, who came to Watertown in 1836, a few months after Timothy Johnson, the first settler, came here, Will Thomas, who lives in the home, told those present.  He said the home was built by Mr. Richards in 1854 and despite the fact that it is 82 years old the home stills stands perfectly level.  Mr. Thomas expressed a hope that the house would be acquired by the city, or some responsible organization, and kept up as a memorial to the late John Richards and preserved as one of the foremost landmarks of the city.


Many of those at the meeting saw the house for the first time yesterday.  All were very much enthused and stated that they never had realized that Watertown had a home of such historical significance as the Octagon House.


The home has proved extremely popular with outside visitors.  The register at the home contains the names of several thousand persons from nearly every state in the union.  A home with eight sides is a rare sight, visitors have told Mr. Thomas, and all who have seen it have informed him that they did not regret the fact that they made it a point to visit the home while passing through the city.






In 1936, during the city's centennial celebration, Mrs. Holmes reigned as the centennial queen and occupied one of the floats in the parade.   Mrs. Sheldon E. Holmes, granddaughter of Watertown's first settler, Timothy Johnson, died last evening at her home at the age of 75 years.  She had been in failing health for some time.  Mrs. Holmes' mother was Jane Johnson, daughter of Timothy Johnson and her father was John A. Chadwick.




The Watertown Historical Society has undertaken the restoration of the gardens at the Octagon House.  Local groups and organizations are being given an opportunity to help in this matter by arranging for the planting of trees and shrubs and now is the time for all local groups to take up the subject at their meetings because if any planting is to be done it should be done soon.  The Watertown Rotary Club has already arranged to assist and several other groups contemplate helping along the plan.  The state is assisting to the extent of state architects laying out the garden plan so that a systematic planting scheme can be followed.  The garden is also to be a sort of memorial in that organizations that wish to plant trees or shrubs may dedicate them to individuals such as early day residents here and pioneers of the community.




       At former Memorial Park on North Second St.




Fred W. Kehl, 829 Richards Avenue, has been elected president of the Watertown Rotary Club for the year commencing July 1.  He now is club vice president.  Ralph Ebert was re-elected secretary.  Three board members were elected at yesterday's club meeting. They are George Wolff, Harold Blaesius and Dr. E. E. Burzynski (incumbent).  Other directors are S. J. Luchsinger, Kehl and S. J. Gamroth, retiring president.   WDT


05 11       35th Anniversary

The 35th anniversary of the founding of the Watertown Rotary Club was observed last night with a ladies' night inter-city dinner program, held in the upper hall of the Elks Club.  A total of 225 Rotarians and Rotary Anns from Jefferson, Lake Mills, Fort Atkinson and Watertown, together with special guests, were present to mark the occasion.  The Watertown club was organized by the Madison Rotary Club. The charter night was held on January 16, 1924, with 150 Rotarians from various cities, including Madison and Waukesha, present.  The Madison club was represented by 80 Rotarians who came over by special train.  The Waukesha club made the trip by interurban.   WDT




The Watertown Rotary Club is going to meet at the Legion Green Bowl starting in August.  Ever since the club was founded here the membership has met every Monday noon at the Elks Club, in the lower dining hall.  The space in the lower dining hall is limited and the same table arrangements have to be followed week after week, it was pointed out.   WDT



05 09       FRED KEHL

Fred Kehl, Watertown, governor of Rotary International district 625, made up of 41 Rotary Clubs, last night was accorded a standing ovation at the banquet which concluded a two day district conference, held at the Dell View Hotel, Lake Delton.  Kehl, in summarizing his 10 months as district governor, told the conference that the district membership shows a net gain of 70.  He also told the conference he visited 10 of the clubs in the district three or more times, 18 two times and 12 clubs one time.  He told the assemblance he plans to make several more club visits before his term expires on July 1.  WDT



11 20       BEN THAUER

Ben Thauer, associated with Skinner & Thauer, on Monday was recognized by the Watertown Rotary Club for a perfect attendance record over a period of 35 years.  Thauer was presented with a 35-year pin by Gerald E. Flynn, club president, in behalf of Claire Thomas, governor of District 25, which includes Watertown.  The presentation was made at the weekly luncheon meeting of the club, held at the Legion Green Bowl.  On Nov. 24, 35 years ago, Thauer became a member of the club.  He was the club’s 14th president, serving in 1937-38. Also, for a period of many years, he served as club treasurer.    WDT




Henry Stoeppelworth took over the reins of the Watertown Rotary Club on Monday at the club’s weekly luncheon meeting, held at the Legion Green Bowl. He succeeds Robert Franz, who has served as the club’s top officer for the past year.  Franz, in turning over the gavel to the new president, expressed his gratitude to the club for having had the opportunity to head the club for the past year.  He said being president for the past 12 months was a most enriching experience.  Franz announced an all-time high for membership in the club.  He said the club now has 78 members.  He announced that during the past year 12 members of the club had a 100 per cent attendance record.  They are: Gerald Flynn, Theodore Guse, Max Stueber, Dr. J. R. Casanova, L. J. Lange, Arthur Mallow, William Schumann, Ben Thauer, Walter Thrams, Arthur Weihert and George Wolff.    WDT



03 20       PLAYBOY BUNNY

“This is one of the finest programs we ever had,” a member of the Watertown Rotary Club remarked at the conclusion of the program presented at the club’s weekly luncheon meeting, held at the Legion Green Bowl on Monday.  Many others, too, were quite vocal in their acclaim for the program.  They sat enthralled as the main speaker gave his talk, but all eyes were not always on the speaker.  They were on the young lady who accompanied him, for she was none other than a bunny from the Lake Geneva Playboy Club.  Star Koerner, Jr., director of public relations, spoke first, giving statistical information on the new club at Lake Geneva.  But it was obvious that many were eagerly awaiting the second speaker — Bunny Pert.      WDT



Kenneth F. Beyer, manager of Keck’s, is the new president of the Watertown Rotary Club.  He took over his duties at yesterday’s meeting of the club.  He succeeded Ken Clausen, manager of Penney’s, who has served for the past year.  Rotary Club presidents serve one-year terms.  Leo Bargielski, administrator of Watertown Memorial Hospital, is president-elect of the club and will take over as president on July 1, 1970, as president.  Rev. Paul H. Meister is program chairman. George Wolff is club secretary, and William Kwapil is treasurer.    WDT



02 11       60th ANNIVERSARY

The 60th anniversary of the founding of the Watertown Rotary Club was observed with a Ladies Night Dinner held Saturday night at the Watertown Country Club with President Gary R. Smith presiding. The local service club received its charter at a Charter Night dinner held at the Elks Club on the evening of Jan. 16, 1924. The Watertown club was sponsored by the Madison club. A special train was chartered to bring 79 Rotarians from Madison. Also present were 10 Rotarians from Milwaukee, 19 from Waukesha, one from Manitowoc and one from Antigo. Eighteen Watertown Rotarians were present.   WDT



10 25       KASPAR PETER

Kaspar Peter, a longtime member of the Watertown Rotary Club, was accorded the designation of honorary member of the club.  The award was presented to Peter by attorney Donald Abraham, past district governor of Rotary and a past president of the local club.  Peter’s son, Kaspar, and the younger Peter’s wife, Barbara, were present for the meeting.  Peter is only the third person to receive this honor in the history of Watertown’s club.  The other two were Fred Kehl, a past district governor, and the late A. E. (Mike) Bentzin.  WDT




Dr. Robert Liners of the Watertown Rotary Club was presented with the Rotary Foundation citation for meritorious service from the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International at the District 6250 conference held this month in Wisconsin Dells.  The award was given to Liners in recognition of his devoted efforts for the furthering of better understanding and friendly relations among peoples of the world.  Liners was presented with the award by District Governor Don Mayo of Horicon and Dr. C. Mike Gibson of Houston, Texas, the Rotary president’s representative.  Liners and his wife, Lois, have conducted 40 one-month mission trips to 11 developing countries since 1974.  While in other countries, they provided volunteer dental care to patients with no other access to a dentist.




Donald L. Abraham of Watertown is retiring from Rotary Club after being an active member since 1970.  Abraham has had a perfect attendance record for the past 29 years.  Among his many achievements, he has served as president of two clubs, and also as governor of District 6250 (formerly District 625).  Abraham will have his last day in Rotary on Oct. 4, after joining the international organization on Oct. 1, 1970.  He was district governor from 1987- 1988.  While he was governor, the district raised $598,211 for the Polio Plus project; began admitting women as members; and added two new clubs.    WDT




William “Bill” Ehlinger of Watertown has been named recipient of the fifth annual Watertown Rotary Club Community Achievement Award.  He will be presented with the award at the annual Rotary dinner on Saturday night at the Watertown Country Club.  This award recognizes someone who has made great contributions to the community through work, civic activities or other means.  The award is based upon the four-way principles of Rotary of truth, fairness, goodwill and building better friendships, and being beneficial to all concerned.   WDT




The Watertown Rotary Club hopes to join forces with the Watertown Park and Recreation Department to leave a lasting legacy for the city as well as the civic organization.  The two entities hope to work together to take advantage of grant money to restore the Rock River shoreline at the Riverside Park island and its Rock River channel adjacent to the mainland.  If the grant is received and the shoreline is restored, the park would have a new look that will enhance the environment for future generations.   WDT


10 10       JOE DARCEY

Joe Darcey of Watertown has been named recipient of this year’s Rotary Community Achievement Award.  Darcey has been named recipient of the award by the Watertown Rotary Club because of his many contributions to the community.  Darcey created the Darcey Foundation to provide funds for students who have expressed an interest in agriculture education.  This past year, the foundation awarded six $5,000 scholarships.  Recipients are selected by the Watertown High School Scholarship Committee.   WDT




Residents will get a chance this weekend to discuss the plan of action for this month’s restoration project of the shoreline at Riverside Park.  Project Manager Augie Tietz of the Rotary Club will be holding a general discussion of the project at the park on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 2 p.m.  The actual restoration process will take place June 16-18 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Tietz said he is still actively pursuing volunteers for the program.  He added he hopes to get at least 30 to 40 volunteers.   WDT




Cross References:

William Sproesser was for many years the song leader of the Watertown Rotary Club, of which he was a member.  He and John W. Keck worked together in many Rotary musical programs, Mr. Keck being one of Mr. Sproesser’s favorite accompanists on such occasions.




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin