ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Watertown Squab Co.

Watertown Pigeon Club


Walter H. Kressin, 45, is the proprietor. 

Oscar Maerzke formed the company in 1896.

In 1920 he went into partnership with the late Charles Lutovsky, former mayor. 

In 1920 Lutovsky bought out his partner.

Kressin and his associates took over the company in 1929.




Pigeons are now plenty in the woods; large flocks are constantly flying in all directions.  Sportsmen are getting their full share of fun and game out of their visit to this region.  Those who go hunting cannot be too cautious in order to prevent serious if not fatal accidents to themselves or others.  Hardly a season passes during shooting time in which we do not hear of some casualty caused by carelessness in the handling of guns.    WD




Shortly after 7 o'clock this morning H. Fulkerson liberated from Main Street bridge 150 homing pigeons belonging to the Fox River Homing club of Green Bay.  After circling about for several minutes the birds started for their home in a flock.  The flight was quite interesting.   WR



Sunday morning H. Fulkerson liberated another flock of fifty homing pigeons belonging to the Fox River Homing club, of Green Bay.  They made the distance, 100 miles, in about two hours.  Those sent out last Wednesday morning reached home in several sets, the first set arriving shortly after nine, and the balance at intervals during the following hour.   WR




     apparent pigeon coop at rear of building




05 23       JOHN ROBINSON  /  Leased portion of Sprague brickyard

John Robinson has arranged to engage extensively in the business of hatching and raising doves, having leased from the H. Mulberger estate a portion of the old Sprague brickyard property in the Seventh ward and will erect a large hatchery thereon.  Mr. Robinson expects to have accommodations for 2,000 birds.  Dressed squabs, which find a ready market in the East at fancy prices, will be handled principally.    WR



09 28       FAMOUS PIGEON POST at Jefferson County Fair

A very interesting attraction at the Jefferson County Fair, which will be held in Jefferson October 2-5, will be one of the Milwaukee Journal’s famous pigeon posts.  The Journal will be represented at the fair by a staff correspondent and he will send the news of the fair to his paper by means of homing pigeons, which will make the trip to Milwaukee within an hour.  The establishment of this pigeon post at the fair was requested by Secretary O. S. Roessler of the Jefferson County Agricultural Association.  The Journal’s homing pigeons, according to President McKerrow and Secretary True of the state board of agriculture, were one of the chief sites at the state fair recently held in Milwaukee.  The state fair grounds are outside of Milwaukee and each day the pigeons carried to the Journal office from 10,000 to 12,000 words written by reporters stationed at the fair.   WG




             Reprint of Sunday Sentinel article




Watertown’s “bird” industries are again brought into prominence through an article printed in The Sunday Sentinel descriptive of pigeon raising.  Accompanying the article are two pictures showing Alderman Albert Wegemann’s famous dove farm — an interior and an exterior view.  The Sentinel article is no doubt of general interest, so we herewith reproduce it:


When the Western packer who wanted to enter the four hundred offered Ward McAllister [1] $1,000 to teach him the society way of eating quail on toast, he did not know the chances were dollars to doughnuts that the meat he was to experiment on was Wisconsin pigeon, instead of Nebraska quail.  That the shipment of these “quail” is an industry peculiar to Watertown of all Wisconsin towns would be a surprise to even most Milwaukeeans, who as a rule are unaware that about 30,000 pigeons are kept in cotes in that city to breed and sell to game dealers.


[1] Popular arbiter of social taste


As a matter of fact, Watertown’s “quail” industry is one which would astonish the average Wisconsin person by its magnitude.  Thousands of birds are killed there and shipped to Chicago and the East annually, but in Milwaukee, only a few miles away, there is almost no market for the birds.  This is probably because the game laws in this state forbid the sale or killing of the real bird, so any placing of the substitute delicacy on a menu card would bring the game wardens around in conveys.  The occasional pigeon pie however, may be a Watertown exportation.


In and near that city there are no less than five dove cotes, in one of which alone over 14,000 pigeons are housed.  The four smaller cotes are all within a radius of five miles from the city and all do a large business.  The largest of the cotes is owned and conducted by Albert Wegemann.  It is located on the bank of the Rock river [2] and consists of a court surrounded on three sides by low brick buildings, like the old California monasteries, while in one corner is the frame granary, and in another a remodeled dwelling house.


[2] Assumed location is 101 West Cady


One dove alone can make a small bit of a noise with its cooing, but when thousands of the birds are gurgling at once, the sound is audible for a block or more, like the whirl of thousands of skates on a frozen pond.  The entrance of an intruder varies the sound as the millions of feathers beat the air.


Inside the court which forms the big cote, there were found on a recent visit a few birds flying about unconfined, but the majority were under a wire screen which allowed plenty of flying room, without making the place a nuisance for the surrounding neighborhood.  It was almost feeding time, and the doves were flying about aimlessly, those inside the brick buildings peeping out from the cave-dweller like holes which spotted the walls between the windows, as if anxious for dinner to be served.  There were pigeons of all kinds and colors.  The cropper, with his copper-colored body, stood out in marked contrast to the pure white birds mingled among those of more mixed blood, while the ruffle-necks perched on the clothes-hanger racks inside the wire cage, and the blowers puffed out their throats, as if trying to imagine that their crops were full.


Black and yellow “tumblers,” homers and “letter-carriers” lived in the same happy family with the mongrel, most of the birds being those with the changeable cerise and green feathers which formed a collar about their necks.


Down in the basement of the lofts, bags of crushed corn were warming and then it was time to feed the quails.  Three bags of crushed corn were for lunch, and three bags more of broken barley from the breweries were to form the breakfast in the morning.  In the enclosure there were watering troughs, fed by a continuous stream of water from a pipe line, and on the ground near the troughs the bags full of grain were dumped.  While the pigeons flocked out from the lofts by the thousands, carpeting the ground with their feathered bodies, the common English sparrows gathered about the wire netting, shivering, and ruffling up their feathers in the cold, looking hungrily down upon the doves below which were being fatted for the killing.  The sparrows could get through the netting, but a dash among the pigeons for a bit of corn would be but to be beaten to the ground under the wings of the larger birds which were continually moving from one part of the cage to the other.


Now is about the dullest period of the year in the pigeon business, but even at this time the shipment of dressed squabs, and other birds as well, will run to about 400 a week, largely to Chicago and New York.  The birds are taken from the lofts which are ranged along the interior of the cote like shelves, their necks slit and their bodies plucked, and then they are ready for the market.  Some are sold in the East as quail, where much of the supposed game at fashionable restaurants is pigeon from Watertown lofts.  There is no choice in the species of birds, any strangers that are offered to the owners of the cotes being accepted, homers and swallow doves alike. 


It is the young that sells best, the squabs which are killed before they are fully feathered out.  The prices paid range from 25 and 35 cents a pair to 25 cents each, dressed.      The Watertown Republican, 09 Jan 1901




A consignment of 600 squabs was sent to Milwaukee this afternoon and will be used at the banquet given President Roosevelt at Milwaukee tomorrow evening.  The birds were selected with especial care and netted the shipper a handsome return.  The fame of Watertown squabs, like Watertown stuffed geese, is becoming national.




A business with a nationwide reputation for producing some of the finest squabs in the United States is located in this city, the Watertown Squab Company, 1107 North Fourth Street.  Entering its 40th year of raising the delicate fowl, the farm enjoys a high place among the leading producers of squabs in the county. Last year 84,000 squabs were handled by a local company, reports Walter H. Kressin, general manager. He explains that the large squab markets are in the East.  Although more than half of the birds are sold in New York City, many are purchased in Wisconsin.




65,000 Young Pigeons to Be Packed for Market in 1942,

Many Going to Milwaukee

One of the largest concerns of its kind in the Midwest, the Watertown Squab Co. is in the middle of its production season now and is headed for a probable output this year of 65,000 young pigeons.


The company – it’s really a small farm — operates on a four acre layout on the north side of the city.  Of its average annual output, 30,000 of the young birds are marketed in Milwaukee, at least another 30,000 go to the Chicago and eastern markets and the rest to miscellaneous customers over the country.


The company, founded in 1896, is the largest of its kind in Wisconsin.  Other production centers are in the east, south and in California.


Walter H. Kressin, 45, is the proprietor.  Oscar Maerzke formed the company in 1896. In 1920 he went into partnership with the late Charles Lutovsky, former mayor.  In 1920 Lutovsky bought out his partner. Kressin and his associates took over the company in 1929.


To supply 65,000 squabs a year means turning out about 200 butchered birds daily, Kressin explained.


Squabs are raised until they are about a month old.  Then they are butchered, the feathers picked and the birds placed in ice water.  After another washing and immersing in a second tank of ice water, the squab is given a final cleansing, packed in ice and sent to market.


They are graded according to color and weight.  The squabs are kept in small coops and not allowed to use their wings. This makes the meat more tender, Kressin said.


Squabs, if kept over four and a half weeks, are classified as pigeons.  Those that are raised to be pigeons on this farm are principally the White Kings and Silver Kings, with some Homers interspersed.  The pigeons are mated selectively; that is, the types of pigeons that have been found to be producing the best squabs are used for breeding purposes.  About 4,000 pairs of pigeons are kept here for breeding.  Each pair produces an average of 14 squabs a year.


The mother pigeon lays one or two eggs, and with the help of the male, hatches them in 17 days.  When the young are three weeks old, the parent pigeons build a new nest for the next eggs.  Tobacco stems are kept in the pigeon coops so the birds can build nests with them.  The sterna discourage insect pests and make a soft, clean padding for the young.  After the parent birds have fed their young for seven to nine days, the squabs are fed a wet mash daily until prepared for market.


“The pigeon is an unusually clean bird.” said Kressin.  "It takes a bath often and keeps itself scrupulously clean all the time."


Both Kressin and his assistant, John Heiden, work long hours to keep pace with orders.  They haven’t had a Sunday off in months.  One reason is the difficulty in getting help Kressin said.  They have one helper, Thader Wille.


This farm a decade ago did a business of 100,000 squabs a year, but sales fell off during the depression and haven't approached the 100,000 figure since.


The best sales period of the year for squabs is from October to March, according to Kressin.  In those months, however, there aren't as many squabs born as during, other months of the year.   Milw Jour




04 14       WALTER KRESSIN

Walter H. Kressin, 1012 Labaree Street, last night was approved by the Board of Police and Fire Commission to be the city’s new park policeman.  He succeeds the late Glenn O’Brien.  He was recommended for the position by Chief of Police Theodore C. Voigt from a list of men who were under consideration.  Mr. Kressin will begin his duties on May 1, the board reported this morning.  Mr. Kressin is a driver for the Wisconsin Transit Lines, Inc., operator of the Watertown bus service.  At one time he was associated with the Watertown Squab Company.




Arthur W. Kehl, 1400 North Second Street, today was named to serve as one of the judges for the Wisconsin State Pigeon Club’s first annual show' to be held at Kohler, Wis., Dec. 4,5 and 6.  He will judge the fancy breeds. The state show will have between 1,750 and 2,000 entries.





4th Annual Watertown Pigeon Club Show.  Over 1,100 pigeons were displayed at the Watertown Pigeon Club show held at Turner Hall.  Art Kehl, Jr., president of the local pigeon group, shows one of his winning pigeons.




   < click to enlarge


Evelyn Rose, 1981 article



In addition to its reputation for stuffed geese, Watertown was famous as a national market for squab. In the 1930s more than 100,000 top quality squab were supplied annually to eastern and local markets by the Watertown Squab Company which a operated for more than 50 years with a national reputation.  The company grew out of a concern founded by Oscar Maerzke in 1897. In 1910 Maerzke took in a partner, Charles Lutovsky.


Ten years later Lutovsky bought the business. He had arrangements with area farmers to pick up the squab (young pigeons) on regular routes. On Mondays he would set forth with a crate in his buggy to pick up squab in the Clyman area, on Wednesday he went to Lebanon and on Fridays he collected squab from Concord and Johnson Creek farmers. The squab received a grain formula at regular intervals to prepare them for market.


When Lutovsky was elected mayor of Watertown in 1930 he sold his business to his partners, John Heiden and Walter Kressin. They formed the Watertown Squab Co. Walter Kressin, was the last owner and manager of the company.


The Watertown Squab Co. had the reputation of producing some of the finest squab in the United States. The company had four 120 foot barns in the 1100 block on North Fourth Street, built off the ground with enclosed flying space.


Between 5,000 and 6,000 squab were sold annually in Watertown. Many persons will remember the popular squab dinners at the Buena Vista House and at the Oconomowoc Lake Club.


Kressin kept 3,000 pigeons (White and Silver Kings) for breeding purposes. Their feed was a grain mixture of corn, wheat, hemp, buckwheat, sorghum, and peas, with about a ton and a half of grain used each week. After 50 years of popularity in eastern and local markets the demand began to drop off in the late thirties and early forties and the business was gradually phased out.


An article in a Watertown Republican edition of the 1850s noted that "pigeons are now plentiful in the woods, large flocks are continually flying all directions. Sportsmen are getting their fair share of fun and games.” Sportsmen got more than their fair share.


These were the now extinct Passenger pigeons of history. No danger of that now for pigeons, are treated with respect by members of the Watertown Pigeon club, organized in 1936 by Arthur Kehl, Howard Kramp, Dr. A. W Breithaupt, Walter Schwenkner, Thomas Nack and Paul Wiley. After 45 years, Kehl, Nack and Schwenkner are still active in the club.   Cross reference article on passenger pigeons.


Watertown Pigeon Club


The organization of the Watertown Pigeon Club was held in the men's reading room of the public library, exhibitions were planned for that same year. The first pigeon show was held at the Wertheimer building, Main and South Fourth Street, with 270 entries, including 42 varieties of show pigeons. By 1950 the pigeon shows were attracting over 1,000 entries from 20 states.


The sport of pigeons is a very old and ancient sport. Kehl informed us that in Belgium it is the dominant sport, rivaling that of baseball in America. Pigeon shows are held twice a year by the Watertown Pigeon Club, on the Sunday after Labor Day in the park and again near Thanksgiving, at Turner Hall. "In the early shows at the park," Kehl related, "we had bingo tables and a cavalry band for entertainment. That seemed the popular thing to do at that time.”


Kehl was named to the United States Pigeon Hall of Fame in 1949, and has served as show secretary for many years for both the local club and national association shows.



   06 14 1979


Walter H. Kressin, 82, 1012 Labaree Street, died Wednesday at the Watertown Memorial Hospital.  He was transported to the hospital by the EMS vehicle.


Funeral services will be held at the Schmutzler Funeral Home with the Rev. Orlo G. Espeland of Immanuel Lutheran Church officiating.  Burial will be in Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery.


Kressin was born Nov. 3, 1896 in Watertown, son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Herman Kressin.  He was a lifetime resident of Watertown.


On Sept. 19, 1921, he married the former Eleanora Wille in Watertown who preceded him July 24, 1969.  He was the owner and operator of the Watertown Squab Company.  He drove the City Bus from 1947 until his retirement in 1961.


Surviving are one son, Roger of Watertown, and one sister, Mrs. Ida Saum of Watertown.


He was also preceded in death by six brothers, four sisters and one daughter.



Cross Reference:

William “Bill” K. Kaercher, member




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin