ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Watertown Historical Society

Notes of Interest




A painting by the late Dr. F. A. Notz, professor of Greek at Northwestern College and a painter of note, has been donated to the Watertown Historical Society by the daughters of Dr. Notz, it was announced by Dr. E. C. Kiessling of Northwestern College.


The picture arrived Sunday morning and the announcement of its arrival was made during the Pioneer Day program at the Octagon House by Dr. Kiessling.  It was he who suggested to the daughters that they contribute one of their father’s works to the society. This suggestion was made some months ago during the exhibit of paintings by Watertown artists which was held at the Elks Club.


The daughters at that time agreed to the suggestion and made a special effort to get it here on Sunday.  The painting is entitled "Rock River at Watertown."  It is a water color and is to be placed permanently in the Octagon House.


Dr. Notz and his family used to live in Western Avenue.  Dr. Notz, who is still remembered here by a great many people, taught at the college more than 40 years and painted numerous Watertown scenes.


The 3 daughters now reside in Washington where one of them, Mrs. Cornelia, is one of the head departmental librarians of the Congressional library.  Getting this painting by the man who distinguished himself in the field of education here is something every member of the historical society will appreciate, and it is certainly worth preserving in the permanent collection of objects at the Octagon House. 



10 08       The Watertown Historical Society received an award of merit from the American Association for State and Local History today for the successful restoration of Wisconsin's famous Octagon House and the Schurz kindergarten building and for opening these buildings to the public.  Designed to pay tribute to those people who promote a better understanding of America's heritage at the local level, these awards are given annually to individuals and groups deemed worthy by reason of outstanding achievement or significant new project in the field of state and local history.   WDT



02 01       Assemblyman Byron F. Wackett last night was re-elected president of the Watertown Historical Society at the annual meeting.  Others elected are: P. E. Burkhalter, first vice president; Miss Jane Lord, second vice president; Miss Myrtle Roberts, third vice president; Miss Marcella Killian, secretary; J. V. Anderson, treasurer; Miss Gladys Mollart, curator.


12 15       The board of directors of the Watertown Historical Society today announced that Mr. and Mrs. Donovan L. Mabie, Fort Atkinson, will be the new custodians at the Octagon House and First Kindergarten building.  They are moving into the recently renovated living quarters at the Octagon House.  Mr. and Mrs. Mabie are former residents of Watertown.  Mr. Mabie is a tool maker and is now employed at the Moe Brothers plant in Fort Atkinson.  While in Watertown he was connected with Village Blacksmith.  Mrs. Mabie is known for her cultural and professional interests here.   WDT




The Watertown Historical Society, which owns and operates the famed Octagon House and the First American Kindergarten on the Octagon House grounds, is one of five local historical societies in the state to be honored by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.  The coveted Reuben Gold Thwaites cup, which goes annually to the outstanding local society of the year, will be presented to the Watertown Historical Society.  The award will be in recognition of the society’s restoration and operation of the Octagon House historical complex, and its promotion off an active local history program.




Byron F. Wackett, Jefferson County assemblyman, last night was reelected president of the Watertown Historical Society at the annual meeting of the organization held in the Watertown Municipal Building.  Other officers named are Lee Block and Dr. E. C. Kiessling, first and second vice presidents respectively, Miss Catherine Jean Quirk, secretary, and R. J. Hoge, treasurer.




Lee Block was elected president of the Watertown Historical Society at the board meeting which followed the society’s annual meeting in the Municipal building last night.  Elected with Mr. Block were Byron F. Wackett, vice-president, Mrs. Harold Peterson, newly elected board member, secretary, Mrs. Harold Schumann, re-elected secretary, and R. J. Hoge, re-elected treasurer.  A vote of appreciation was given to Mr. Wackett, who has served as the society’s president for the past 15 years; to Miss Catherine Quirk, who submitted her resignation as secretary but will continue as an active board member, and to Miss Jane Lord.




Lee Block was reelected president of the Watertown Historical Society at the annual board meeting Monday night at Cole Memorial Hall.  Officers who will serve with Mr. Block are Dr. E. C. Kiessling, vice president, Mrs. Harold Peterson, secretary, Mrs. Harold Schumann, second secretary, Robert Bauch, treasurer and Miss Gladys Mollart, curator.  The board discussed the April membership drive and plans for the May opening of the Octagon House.  Mrs. A. S. Christensen will head a new member campaign, and will meet Wednesday morning with Mrs. Harold Schumann, board secretary, and Mrs. Dean Lawrence and Mrs. Ray Rose, advisory board members, to complete a mailing to all former members of the Watertown Historical Society as well as other interested persons.  A goal of 1,000 members in 1968 has been set by the Society.  These memberships will help greatly to publicize and support the work of the Society and to maintain the units on the Octagon House grounds.



The Watertown Historical Society has been presented with a decorative mountain ash tree for planting on the Octagon House grounds by the Watertown Kiwanis Club which is currently engaged in its “beautification through trees” project.  The presentation was made for Miss Gladys Mollart, curator for the society, by Stanley Gronert, Kiwanis Club president, and James Glaser, club treasurer.  Mr. Gronert explained that the mountain ash was selected because of the great beauty of its clusters of white blossoms in the spring and the attractive large clusters of orange-red berries each fall which will help brighten the grounds of the historical society.  Kiwanis Club members have been contacting city residents, urging them to plant decorative trees such as red, white or pink flowering crabs, Black Hills spruce and mountain ash, all of which are available through the Kiwanis club or President Gronert, at 201 Mary Street.  Phone Number 261 4993.  Proceeds from sales are used for various club projects.  WDT



The Watertown Historical Society will learn for the first time by reading it here that the wheels were set in motion last week to present it with a unique Christmas gift to be ready for display in its historic Octagon House barn at its reopening in May.  This gift is a huge genuine noodled goose being mounted by taxidermist, Walter Pelzer of the Milwaukee Museum, to elucidate and perpetuate the history of a highly specialized industry originated two centuries ago in Alsace and brought exclusively to the Watertown community by German farm immigrants a century ago.  About 150,000 pounds of Watertown Stuffed Goose, made extremely large especially in the liver for the choice delicacy of pate de foie gras, were shipped out at Christmas time for the eastern gourmet restaurants at the height of the industry’s activity here.  Fred Rumler, 727 North Church Street, is the sole remaining producer today.




Lee Block was re-elected president of the Watertown Historical Society at the annual meeting in the Municipal building Monday evening.  Also re-elected were Richard Hoge, first vice-president, Dr. E. C. Kiessling, second vice-president, Mrs. Harold Peterson, secretary, Mrs. Harold Schumann, corresponding secretary, Robert Bauch, treasurer, and Miss Gladys Mollart, curator.  Miss Mollart presented the annual report.  Board members re-elected to new terms were Block, Charles Yeomans, Catherine Quirk, Myra MacInnis and Mrs. S. J. Luchsinger.  Three members of the Euterpe Club, Mrs. Robert Franz, Mrs. Eugene Kirst and Mrs. Kenneth Nygaard, presented several selections of old songs.  A film, “Wisconsin’s Trail of Nations,” was shown.



The Watertown Historical Society, at its quarterly meeting this week at the Merchants State Bank, passed a resolution in honor of the late Miss Jane Lord, an honorary life member and one of the original signers of the Historical Society articles of incorporation.


Text of the resolution follows:


"It was with deep feelings of loss that the members of the Watertown Historical Society received the news of the death of its honorary member, Jane Lord.  Until several years ago Miss Lord was active as vice-president of the Society.  She contributed much to its growth with her efforts and enthusiasm.  With John Clifford she was an original signer of the articles of incorporation in 1933, and was especially influential with the Richards family at the time of their decision to transfer the Octagon House to the Society.


“Miss Lord herself was a 'history natural' in that she was a descendent of a Revolutionary war serviceman.  She was a member of the DAR and two lines in her background were prominent in American history.  Miss Lord was known widely throughout Watertown and vicinity.  She spent a busy life in the service of the community, and was a friendly and genial person who loved Watertown, and Watertown loved her.  We shall miss her."


Cross reference note:  Miss Jane Lord included in c.1940 photo  



09 07       Richard Hoge [1894-1983], director Emeritus of Watertown Historical Society; chairman of building and grounds committee for a number of years.



06 08       Gladys Mollart, [1895–1987] a founder of the Watertown Historical Society and leader in the efforts to preserve Watertown's history.




The Watertown Historical Society was recently presented with the top state award for excellence when it was given the 2000 Reuben Gold Thwaites trophy by the State Historical Society of Wisconsin at the annual conference of historical societies.  Local historical societies are eligible to win the award only once every 25 years.  The Watertown group last won the award in 1965 when the society was under the direction of the late Gladys Mollert, who was well known for her diligence in maintaining and promoting the Octagon House and First Kindergarten.  The Watertown Historical Society is only the third group to win a double award since the inception of the award 41 years ago.   WDT




The Watertown Historical Society became the caretakers of the Klingbeil family collection when Lores Klingbeil of Albuquerque, N.M., recently visited the Watertown area.  Klingbeil is the daughter of the late Herbert F. and Nora (Fehrmann) Klingbeil, who lived on East River Road.  Klingbeil brought 12 boxes loaded with family memorabilia which has become a part of the historical society's collections.  Also included in the collection are materials relating to the life of Josephine (Henschel) Fehrmann, mother of Nora Klingbeil.  Herbert Klingbeil was a plumber in Watertown and passed away in 1999.  The items in the collection range from vintage clothing, including puttees, a full bridesmaids outfit from 1929, a 100-year-old child's dress belonging to the late Nora Klingbeil, blouses made in the latter half of the 1890s to Watertown memorabilia.








The Watertown Historical Society hosted a very special 90th birthday party for the son of its founder on Saturday, September 5.  The honoree was Ralph Gaebler, of Milwaukee, a former owner of a chain of gas and oil stations in the Milwaukee area.  The event was held in the famed Octagon House Museum.


About 15 family members and friends of the family gathered to honor the spry 90 year old who regaled the company with stories of his youth in Watertown.  Also on hand were: William F. Jannke, former president of the society who delivered a talk on the importance of the Gaebler family in the founding of the Watertown Historical Society, Melissa Lampe, current president, who welcomed the guests, David Hertel, himself a former president of the society, who gave a special tour of the museum to the assembled guests, and Ken Riedl, who is not only a member of the board of directors of the historical society but also serves as the society’s webmaster.


Following a toast to the health of Mr. Gaebler and the museum tour, the party retired to Donny’s Girl supper club in nearby Pipersville for a birthday supper to honor Mr. Gaebler, who wryly remarked, “I didn’t mind turning 80, but 90 is sort of hard to take.”


The Gaebler family has a long history in Watertown. Mr. Gaebler’s great grandfather was Emil C. Gaebler, who came to the city in the 1850s and owned and operated an organ and melodeon store on N. Fourth Street, in the former WEPCO Printing building.  He also founded the Concordia Opera Society here, one of the finest musical societies in Wisconsin in the nineteenth century. Ralph’s grandfather was Max Henry Gaebler, who was one of the founders of the Watertown Table Slide Co., one of the leading industries in Watertown for many years. Mr. Gaebler’s father was Hans D. Gaebler, who at various points in his life was a school teacher, a law librarian, an official with the Watertown Table Slide Co., and an astronomer.


Hans Gaebler founded the Watertown Historical Society in the front room of his former Tudor-style home on Thomas Avenue in 1933. He went on to serve as the society’s president from 1936 to 1938 and during his tenure as president he oversaw the acquisition of the famed Octagon House and in 1941 started the movement to acquire the famed First Kindergarten building.




Cross References:

H D Gaebler, one of founders of historical society




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin