ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin

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Home-Coming Day a Great Success





The third annual homecoming and excursion of the Watertown club of Milwaukee to Watertown will be held on Sunday, Aug., 6.  The train will leave over the Milwaukee road at eight o’clock and arrive at Watertown at 9:20, where the excursionists will be met by a large reception committee of the citizens of Watertown.  Ward’s military band will play concert music at Tivoli island at Watertown in the afternoon. . .  It was decided to invite Mayor Dunne of Chicago, Mayor Rose of Milwaukee, and Governor La Follette to deliver addresses to the people at the picnic grounds in the afternoon. There will be a parade of all civic societies of Watertown in the afternoon.   WR


08 08       SUNDAY, AUGUST 6, A GALA DAY

Sunday, August 6, was certainly a gala day in this city it being the observance of the Third Home Coming Day which has become quite a social feature in the experience of the inhabitants of Watertown, and great credit is due the mayor and members of the home club, in making it the grand success it was under the circumstances — and there would have been a much larger attendance had the railroads made special rates for the occasion, which they were precluded from doing on account of the existing laws in the state.  As it was, there were at least 700 former residents of Watertown who came to meet relatives and friends and visit the scenes of other days.  The delegation from Milwaukee numbered about 500...   WR


Hundreds of Former Watertown People

Heartily Welcomed Here Last Sunday


Watertown Gazette, 08 11 1905


The third annual home-coming of the Watertown Club, of Milwaukee, last Sunday was a great success, and besides the large number of the club present, hundreds of old Watertown people from various other cities throughout the country took advantage of the occasion to visit their old homes here, hold family reunions, meet old friends and join in the general celebration on Tivoli Island.  Nearly 500 people came out from Milwaukee on the excursion train at 10 o’clock and the day previous about 300 came out from Milwaukee.  


People came from far and near, and it is estimated that fully 1500 former Watertown people were here to participate in the event and judging from the way the immense crowd of people vied with each other in the afternoon on the Island in extending happy greetings, we should say that all appreciate the occasion and hope that this annual gathering will continue for many years to come. 


It was a great success and special thanks for it are due to the president of the Milwaukee-Watertown club, Ernst Kehr and his able assistants, vice-president, Theodore Kusel; secretary, M. A. Blumenfeld; treasurer Jos. A. Schumacher; and Marshal of the Milwaukee forces, Al Urtubees.  Those having charge of the Watertown end of the affair were: Mayor Herman Wertheimer, James W. Moore, J. P. Holland, M. F. Blumenfeld, F. C. Werner, Otto Wegemann , Fred Kusel, John Gruel, Wm. F. Brandt, Julius Wiggenhorn, Edw. L. Schempf, Joseph E. Davies, Fred Ohm, Wm. Hartig, Wm. A. Beurhaus.


Financial committee -- Max Kusel, F. G. Keck.


Decorations committee -- Aaron Mead, George Spohn, Harry Beurhaus, Frank S. Weber, Ned Racek.


In the words of the Milwaukee Journal staff correspondent, “It was a genuine home-coming.  Men who for many years had been away from the little city and from their friends and relatives, returned and once more walked along the familiar streets and visited the old time haunts.  Mothers and their sons, separated for years, were united.  Fathers grasped the hands of sturdy offsprings and shed tears of joy at once more gripping them by the shoulders and looking into their faces.”


The arrival of the special train from Milwaukee at 10 o’clock really was the opening of the day, although in an informal way hundreds of home-comers who arrived the night before already had begun their own individual celebration by uniting with friends and acquaintances and going over once more in conversation and reverie the old life.  The afternoon was spent in perhaps the most natural picnic grounds in all America - Tivoli Island. Situated in the middle of Rock River, containing several acres of fine wooded land, and within walking distance of the city, it is an ideal spot.  The beauty of the scene is enhanced by the renowned Rough and Ready waterfall, which stretches the whole breadth of the river just at the end of the island and within full view of it.


The citizens of Watertown were in gay attire and they decked their streets and buildings too.  Down the full length of Main Street, the principal thoroughfare, were strung streamers made up of small national flags.  These zigzagged across the street from side to side, forming a continuous arch.  The buildings in many places were covered with flags, streamers and bunting, while everyone who had a flag brought it out and displayed it.


At Western Avenue (should be Main St) and Fifth Street was an arch made up of sheets of bunting, stretched from one side of the street to the other.  In the center was the flag and under it the suggestive inscription “Welcome Home.”


Visitors wore badges of the Watertown Club advertising the fact that this was the third annual Home-coming.  Officers and members of the executive committee wore special badges, and all citizens of Watertown wore ribbons which told that they were on the “reception committee.”  The whole town was on the reception committee, and this was evidenced by the whole heartedness of the welcome and entertainment.


Visitors could have anything a Watertownian could give.  The Elks club was thrown open and in the morning the officers of the Watertown club and the press representatives were entertained there. 


The special train, bearing the 500 members of the Watertown club of Milwaukee, left at 8 o’clock.  It was really a Watertown train because every man of the crew was from Watertown.  This ingenious way of carrying out the spirit of the day was the idea of D. C. Cheeney, superintendent of the LaCrosse division of the road, who himself was a Watertown boy.  The engineer was Pat O’Byrne, a well-known Portage engineer, formerly of Watertown; Ossie Forkenbridge and George Johnson were the conductors; Charles Forkenbridge, George Hurst, Harry Gassett and P. W. Bialkowski the brakemen.


Aboard the train were the officers of the club: President, Ernst A. Kehr; vice-president, Theodore Kusel, Waukesha, secretary, M. A. Blumenfeld; treasurer, Jos. Schumacher; executive committee, Jonas Hirsch, Chas. Bellack, A. Schumacher, Louis Quentmeyer, G. Wiggenhorn, Leonard Meyer, T. Liefield, L. Schmutzler and Charles Reul. 


The last car was occupied by Ward’s military band. Half of the town was at the Milwaukee Road depot to meet the home-comers when the train pulled in at 10 o’clock. Hundreds of the big reception committee were there and the arrangements committee, headed by the genial Herman Wertheimer, mayor of the city, the finance and decorations committees.  Besides the mayor there were in the party Jas. W. Moore, J. P. Holland, M. F. Blumenfeld, F. C. Werner, Otto Wegemann, Fred C. Gruel, W. F. Brandt, Julius Wiggenhorn, Edw. L. Schempf, Joseph E. Davies, Fred Ohm, William Hartig, W. A. Beurhaus, Max Kusel, F. G. Keck, George Spohn, Aaron Mead, Harry Beurhaus, Frank S. Weber, and Ned Racek.  Many of the home-comers who arrived on previous trains were in the party.


Mayor “Jim” Wertheimer, as he is familiarly called, is a great big man who looks the part he holds in the official life of the city.  Although the city is strongly democratic, he was elected republican mayor by a safe plurality.


“Glad to see you, boys. Glad to see you, boys.” was his greeting as he shook the hands of President Kehr and his other friends as they alighted.  There were many happy reunions in the next minute.  Relatives, mothers and fathers were there to meet their loved ones.  Tears of joy were shed and broken accents mingled with hearty shouts of laughter.  Then someone gave the signal to Ward’s band and soon the strains of “Home, Sweet Home,” broke upon the ears of the gay throng.  It brought a hush over the assemblage and the sweet music only added to the deep sentiment of the moment.  When the piece had been finished Thacker’s Concert band, led by Frank S. Thacker, struck up H. C. Miller’s “King All.”  This was a more lively air and it served to turn the thoughts of the people from the sentimental to the really gay.  A line of procession was formed under the direction of Chief Marshal Al Urtebees, of Milwaukee.  This was headed by the mayor, wearing a long streaming badge of red, and the other members of the various committees.  Next came Ward’s band dressed in blue, and Thacker’s band in bright green, followed by the home-comers and their friends afoot and then by parties in carriages.


Nearly every family in Watertown had company; nearly every home was made glad with a reunion, and all hearts were light and free from ordinary care.  It was home-coming day and the best in every larder was brought out for the visitors and for the families themselves.  All the hotels were crowded and repaid their visitors by serving delicious dinners.


Many visitors took advantage of the interval in the festivities to wander about their old haunts and look for the old familiar faces. On every street corner groups of citizens were standing usually encircling some old friend and listening to the narrative of his experience in other parts.  Ray Brown, who had traveled all over the world, has been in Japan and Russia during the war and who hurried home from Australia that he might be in Watertown on the gala day, and ex-city attorney Arthur Mulberger, who has been in Europe but who managed to get back just in time for the celebration are among those who call Watertown their present home.  They were able to bring news from friends in different places and to tell their fellow townsmen what people in other parts think of Watertown.


“One meets people from Watertown all over the world,” said Mr. Mulberger “and they are always doing well.  In London there are two Watertown men who are holding responsible editorial positions.  Major Evan R. Jones, who is a cousin of District Attorney Joseph E. Davies, is editor of The Shipping World, an important semi-weekly paper. He has been in parliament and has attained great distinction.


“Ralph Blumenfeld, born in Watertown, is managing editor of The London Daily Express.  His father at present father of Watertown’s German paper, The Welburger.  Even on board ship I met Louis J. Merkel, a New Yorker who formerly was a Watertown boy.”


Another citizen told of members of the Watertown Club and ex-Watertownians who lived in Germany, France and almost all countries of the world.  In New York there is a Watertown Club and a Wisconsin Club.  In Minneapolis and St. Paul the Watertown “boys” often get together in an informal way.


At 1 o’clock, the mayor the various  committees, and a large number of citizens met at the Turner Hall, and from there after marching about the principal street to the Tivoli island.  They were followed by a vast throng of the pleasure seekers.  All afternoon, too, the people continued to pour into the island from all directions until fully 5000 people were gathered.  Hundreds came in buses, the scores of rigs tied to fences and trees in the surrounding neighborhood told how many more had come, but by far the largest number walked to the park.


Here every possible means of entertainment was offered.  There were swings for the children, fish ponds where the girls could fish for bright pins and ornaments for 5c a chance; shooting galleries, cane ringing and baseball throwing attractions, and the usual  other amusements of like variety.  Souvenir stands intermingled with sandwich counters and cracker jack, peanut and popcorn venders.  There were countless opportunities for enjoyment and they were not neglected.  Ward’s band gave a concert during the afternoon.  The band was placed in the concert pavilion in the center of the island, and the excellent character of the music won universal praise.


Shortly after 3 o’clock the exercises opened.  The mayor, the executive committee and other officials occupied seats inside the dance pavilion, while the crowd gathered outside.  The Watertown grand march by Ward’s band was the first number on the program.  After this Mayor Wertheimer made a short speech of Welcome which was cheered enthusiastically.


“Ladies and gentlemen, home-comers and friends,” said the mayor, “in the name of the people of the city of Watertown I bid you welcome to our city.  It is not necessary for me to give you the key to our city, for the door is always open.  And not only is the city open to you but the kitchens and dining rooms or our homes are at your service.  We want you to understand that. 


“I am sure you are glad to return to this city.  The papers sometimes have made misleading statements concerning it and have told you that more people were leaving than were coming. But this is not true, and don’t you forget it that the people who are leaving here are the right kind of people and when they go out into the world they do something and amount to something.  But I want to tell you that the trains are bringing people into our city and that we are growing and prospering such as an honest and earnest people should.  I hope you will enjoy yourselves while you are here and that you will come again.”


C. A. Kading


C. A. Kading, city attorney of Watertown, was the next speaker.  His remarks were heartily applauded, and his effort was much appreciated.  He said in part: “Watertown may not have the skyscrapers,” he said, “the traffic and excitement of some cities, but it is steadily progressing, and above all, we can boast of one thing that surpasses all such benefits.  We can look into the bright sparkling eyes of more handsome girls and women than any other city of its size. The boys from other cities have discovered this fact, and many have come here and captured and taken away some of Watertown’s fair daughters.  We can’t blame the boys, though we are sorry to lose the girls.  Yet they help bring fame to our city, for they always speak of it with kindness and enthusiasm.


“The city of Watertown can well be proud of all those who have gone from its midst; proud to find such a large representation in the front ranks of successful and honorable undertakings; so proud to find so small a representation in the prisons and workhouses.  Full of energy and enthusiasm they go ahead knowing that there is room at the top.  We find them in all parts of the world holding all kinds of positions of trust and honor, and as our German paper, The Weltburger, says: Ein Watertowner muss dabei sein.’


“This idea of home coming is certainly a tender and beautiful sentiment. The word “home” means to us everything that is pleasant and comfortable.  There is no place like it.”


Joseph E. Davies


Mr. Kading was followed by District Attorney Joseph E. Davies, one of Wisconsin’s most gifted orators, and when he was announced a cheer that went up from the assemblage gave testimony to his popularity.  For an impromptu address it was a masterpiece of oratory, and he was frequently applauded.  Among other good things he said:   


“We are proud of the many public spirited old Watertown people who have gone out in the world and who have taken their position of honor and trust,” said the speaker, “who still retain the old love for the old home and who come back on ‘home seeing’ day, glad to be here.  We are glad to see them.  It may be permitted for me to say that here on Rock River we have a little inland city than which there is none more beautiful in surrounding scenery, shady streets and comfortable homes.  The workingman who lives here owns his little plot of ground.  It is recorded in the United States census that this little city of Watertown, with its strong German conservative business methods and Irish and Welch enthusiasm, is the third in the United States in point of percentage of those who own their own homes.  Let me call you attention to the fact that $75,000 has been expended on our streets for permanent improvements and that taxes are not going up but going down. It means that the cost of living is cheap.  It means that our workingmen do not go on strikes.  It must mean that this city is to be a manufacturing city, with its ample railroad facilities furnished by the Milwaukee and Northwestern roads.”


“Home -- what a flood of memories that word records.  And yet with the pleasure of that word comes the sorrow.  There are many faces not to be seen to-day, who are lying on the hillside up there.”  The speaker dwelt upon the benefit of the home-coming, its beautiful associations and its benefits to the character and life of those who participated in it.  The young speaker’s words were eloquent and they brought tears to many eyes.


Ernst A. Kehr


Ernst A. Kehr, president of the Watertown Club, was the last speaker.  He dwelt principally upon the loyalty of the people of Watertown and urged all to extend the friendly hand to other people from Watertown - to promote the brotherly spirit.


Among other things he said:  “Since we last met we have made many additions to the Watertown club.  Our list of members has grown materially, and it is surprising indeed how many Watertown people there are all over the United States.  A great many former Watertown residents do not know today of the Watertown Club, but in time to come we hope to have them all with us.




After the speaking the merrymaking continued during the rest of the afternoon and late into the evening.  Milwaukeeans and other visitors left on the late trains.


Today the people of Watertown are already looking forward to the next home-coming day.  One of those most interested in the events of home-coming day was Dr. Edward Johnson (*), probably the oldest living settler of Watertown.  Dr. Johnson has just celebrated his eighty-eighth birthday and appears as active and alert as many men thirty years his junior.  “I came to Watertown in 1843,” he said to The Journal reporter.  “When I stood on the hill near where this house stands I counted 25 roofs including barns, in the little settlement.  The hill was much higher then before so much grading and filling in had been done, and you could see all over the town.  Watertown was then called Johnson’s Rapids, after Timothy Johnson, who was the first settler here.


(*) Not related to Timothy Johnson, who settled here in 1836




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin