ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Rough and Ready Dam


Mill / Power House



   Watertown Daily Times, 06 12 1976


In the 1840's an earthen and timber dam was constructed directly above Tivoli (formerly Concordia) Island by Joseph and Calvin Boughton.  The power was used to run a saw mill on the east side of the river and a grain mill on the west side.  A wall was built from the dam to the island to create a mill race around the island.  In decades following construction of the dam, city maps show the island enlarged and developed a peninsula extending to the dam.  These changes were caused by silt from the river building up along the wall and along the island's shorelines.   


Captain James Rogan related the following “fish story:”  “The waters of Rock River were alive with fish.  When the first dam was built the stream below it was very shallow, and it was a favorite place for teamsters to cross from one side of the river to the other.  If you’ll believe me, the fish were so thick that hundreds of them were killed by the feet of the teams, while others would be thrown into the air by the spokes of the revolving wheels.”



11 10       The Rough and Ready mill has just opened.  40x50 feet.  4 stories high.  Capable of turning out 200-250 barrels of flour in 24 hours.   WC


1847       Eben Batcheller built the Rough and Ready mill

[1847 or 48] Eben Batcheller (Calvin. Jacob, Benjamin, John, John. Joseph), b. Stratton, Vt., Aug. 5, 1802; m. in Jefferson Co., N. Y., June 16, 1830. Lucy Cornstock, b. Western, Oneida Co., N. Y., July 24, 1809; d. Galesville, Wis., May 27, 1884.  Eben Batcheller was b. in Vermont in 1802, and moved, when seven years of age, to Lowville, N. Y., where he lived until after his marriage, after which he bought a piece of land on what was known as John Brown's Tract, moving from there to Port Huron, Mich., in 1834, and built a mill on Black River, about seven miles from Port Huron.  It was in 1840 that he moved to Wisconsin and had a farm and stopping place nine miles from Watertown, Jefferson County, town of Ixonia; from there he moved to a farm in Winnebago Co., in '47 or '48.  In 1855 he moved to Galesville, Trempealeau County, living there until 1860, when he moved to a farm a few miles away; in 1870 or '71 he moved back to Galesville, where he lived until June, 1876, and accidentally met his death, and is buried in the cemetery there.  He learned his trade as a millwright with his father, going with him to what was called the Grand Ottawa in Canada, when 18 years of age, and always followed his trade, until about 1860.  He had charge of and built the Rough and Ready mill at Watertown, the mill at Waukau [Wausau?], one at West Salem, and the ones at Galesville, both grist and saw, and repaired a great many. He always took great pride in his work and was greatly interested in the various improvements going on in his line.  Was a Whig in politics but joined the Republican party on its organization, and never voted any other ticket.  He was a great lover of hunting deer, and that undoubtedly had much influence on his moving to a new country as often as he did.  He belonged to no religious sect but was very particular that his children did not scoff at or in any way disturb any one who did.   He died May 6, 1880.  Res. Galesville, Wis.  [source]


Cross Reference:  We have the dam being built by others than Batcheller:  In the 1840's an earthen and timber dam was constructed directly above Tivoli (formerly Concordia) Island by Joseph and Calvin Boughton.  The Rough & Ready mill, alongside the dam, was built in 1847 by Heber Smith, Luther Cole and John Richards.  It burned to the ground in 1888.



The upper dam is situated on section three, on land originally claimed by Silas W. Newcomb, and is occupied by Cole & Richards for a grist mill of three run of stone, on the west side, which manufactures an A, No. 1 article of flour, and is capable of turning out eighty barrels per day.  John Richards has a saw mill and oil mill or turning shop on the east side.  The dam here is three hundred feet long, giving a head of seven and a half feet.  This power is capable of running a much larger amount of machinery than is now used.  [Source: City of Watertown, Wisconsin, Its Manufacturing & Rail Road Advantages and Business Statistics, 1856, published by order of Watertown City Council]






07 15       DAM REBUILT, L. A. Cole proprietor

The dam on Rock River just above the Rough and Ready mill has been rebuilt, and the mill itself is being repaired and will soon be in running order.  As this is one of the best flouring establishments in the State, we are glad to learn that its enterprising proprietors, L. A. Cole & Co., are determined to keep it in operation.  They have a fine water power and it is not often that the floods interrupt its use.   WD


08 12       Milwaukee Wisconsin newspaper article   WD




Thirty-three barrels of flour, contributed principally by the citizens of Ixonia, and ground by L. A. Cole “without toll,” at the Rough and Ready Mills, were forwarded to Kansas last week by W. H. Clark.  This is a generous donation.  Jefferson County has nobly answered the appeal that has been made for the relief of Kansas.  In a few day we learn that Mr. Munson, of, will send another lot of some twenty-four barrels of flour, to the same destination.   WD




L. A. Cole and J. Richards sold Rough & Ready Mills, in First ward, to Christian Koenig and Julius Blenkendorf for $15,000.  WD









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Built alongside the Rough & Ready dam in 1847 by Heber Smith, Luther Cole and John Richards.  It burned to the ground in 1888.




Watertown, Wis., Jan 16, 1890 -- Among the many electric light installations few, if any, surpass in the general excellence the combination plant of the above-named company [The Watertown Electric Light Company].  The power house is a brick structure 50x90 feet, with a chimney of splendid proportions rising to the height of 90 feet above the ground, and is situated on the bank of Rock river, in the center of the city.  It is divided into two sections by a heavy brick wall.  The rear portion of 40 feet, thus formed, constituting the boiler room, in which is placed a battery of two steel boilers, each of the 75 h.p. capacity, made by the Miller & Reichardt Manufacturing company of this city. 



These boilers are perfect in every particular, standing the highest hydrostatic test, and reflect great credit upon their makers.  The engine and dynamo room is a model of its kind.  The engine Is of the Corliss type, made by the Weisel & Vilter Manufacturing company of Milwaukee, Wis. and is in every respect a perfect piece of mechanism.  It rests upon a bed as solid as is possible for nature and art to make it, being composed of concrete, capped with the finest quality of brick laid in cement, which in turn is mounted with heavy blocks of limestone, and the whole mass of structure resting upon the bedrock 12 feet below the surface.  It is not surprising, after what has been stated, that this engine of 142 indicated horse power manifests no perceptible tremor anywhere in its most immediate neighborhood.  In connection with the engine a Berryman feed water heater and Knowles pump are doing good work and are giving excellent satisfaction.  The lighting plant was furnished by the Thomson-Houston Electric company and consists of one arc generator of 50-light capacity, and one alternating machine of 650 lights, respectively, furnished with the usual complement of regulating and indicating apparatus.  The dynamos are run from shafting, the pulleys of which are furnished with Hill friction clutches.  The plant was contracted for last July.  Work was immediately begun upon the power house, under the supervision of the able master mechanic F. W. Ghores, who mounted the engine and did not leave the post until the arc lights were turned on Dec. 2, 1889.


The electrical work was done under the supervision of the Thomson-Houston company’s expert, Mr. Geo. Morine, and the entire work, from the setting of the first pole to the placing of the lamps in their sockets, is alike a credit to himself, his assistants and his company. 


The success of the local company has been most encouraging, nearly the entire capacity of the arc machine being already absorbed, and at the present writing wiring is fast being completed for over 450 lamps.  The indications are that it will not be long before the capacity of the incandescent machine will be taken up also.  The engine and dynamo are operated by Aug. Hanson.    The Electrical World, Feb 8, 1890.




The water in Rock river is at high water mark, being as high as it was in 1881 when the old bridge and several buildings were swept downstream.  Part of the Rough and Ready dam gave away Wednesday, so great was the water pressure.   WG




Willie, the seven-year-old son of Henry Lemmerhart 1st ward, fell into the mill race on the east side on Friday last, and would have drowned but for the assistance of the young son of E. A. Mendenhall, who happened to be nearby.  After being fished from the water it was several hours before he recovered consciousness.




           Oconomowoc Ave bridge in distance








Saturday night a section in the Rough and Ready dam gave way and the water since has been rushing through in a perfect flood.  The break is about twenty feet wide and unless soon repaired will leave but little water above that point.  On the other hand it has tended to perceptibly raise the water down the stream, and the river is now higher than it has been for several years.  The copious rains, however, had considerable to do with this condition of things.   WR







09 13       DAM REPAIRED

The Rough and Ready Dam is being repaired, and the water in the river above the dam is lower than it has been in years.  When the gates were opened up to let the water out thousands of fish went through and the fishing between both dams now is excellent. WG










The new arc electric lights burned all night for the first time Saturday under the new contract with the city.  The power at present is furnished from the Rough & Ready dam for both arc and incandescent lights and this power will be utilized during several of the spring months.  A new governor to control the lights when a heavy load is on will be put in which will make the incandescent lights more steady than at present.  New machinery will also be placed in the power house on First Street to be used when the water supply is short.  People who have occasion to be up during the hours after midnight until dawn appreciate the new lighting system.



Last Friday morning Frank Boelter, who resided in North Montgomery Street, was killed in the power house of the Watertown Electric Co. at the Rough and Ready Dam.  Boelter was employed by the company as a laborer, and with a number of other men had been at work at the power house putting in position a governor for the water wheels. 


Sometime before the accident Boelter put a strap around the driving shaft and attached it to the governor to see how the governor worked.  Superintendent Utley remonstrated with him, stating at the same time that it might damage the machinery.  Mr. Utley left Boelter and a short time after the accident occurred.  It is supposed his arm caught in the strap he adjusted and he was revolved around the shaft.  One of the workmen, noticing the accident, started to stop the machinery, but Boelter dropped to the floor from the shaft before he could stop the machinery. 


A physician was immediately summoned but it was found that nothing could be done for him.  His body was badly crushed and one of his legs and an arm were broken.  He lived only a short time after the accident.  Deceased was a brother of John Boelter, who has worked for the Electric company for many years.  He leaves a wife, three children and three step-children.   WG


      Cross reference note:  Buried in Oak Hill cemetery  










05 31       Last Saturday the senate at Madison passed favorably upon the bill allowing the raising of the so called Rough & Ready Dam in the city of Watertown.  Much opposition was offered to the original bill by those residing in the vicinity of the dam.


The bill as passed and amended carried with it the provisions that the approaches to Oconomowoc Avenue bridge must be kept passable and that the sum of $500 shall be paid to the city by the Watertown Gas Electric Company to assist in building the new bridge at this point at any time.  It is also claimed that under provisions of the bill the Gas Company will have power to condemn the land, as it is a corporation furnishing light to the city.


The height of the present dam is 8 1/2 feet and it is proposed to raise it three feet.  Sluiceways will be provided so that the water in the river will not be allowed to go higher than it has been this year.  WDT


06 18       The bill allowing the raising of the Rough & Ready Dam, owned by the Watertown Gas and Electric Company, which passed the senate recently, was refused concurrence by the assembly.  The bill was successfully fought by adjacent owners of property whose lands might be flooded.  They were represented by attorney John G. Conway.  Both sides had a hearing before the senate and judiciary committee of the legislature.  The amended bill was acceptable to the city council, but not to the owners of land near the dam.  Another measure for the construction by the company at the Boomer site was withdrawn because of the strong opposition. WDT



Watertown Daily Times, 06 27 1905


All members of the city council were present at the adjourned meeting of that body Wednesday evening.  The following communication was read and placed on file:


Gentlemen: It has come to our knowledge that statements have been made at a meeting of your body indicating and insinuating that the influence of the common council of the city of Watertown has been sold out in favor of certain proposed legislation in regard to the Rough & Ready water power in this city. Said charges reflecting upon the honor and integrity of the members of the council and upon the standing of our company and the members thereof, we respectfully request that a full investigation of such charges be ordered to determine the facts and place the responsibility for the circulation of such reports.


Respectfully submitted,

Watertown Gas and Electric Co.,

W. C. Stone. President



All members of the city council were present at the adjourned meeting of that body Wednesday evening.


Ald. Lehmann introduced the following resolution, which passed unanimously:


WHEREAS, Charges have been made that the mayor and the common council of the city of Watertown has sold out to the Watertown Gas and Electric company in the matter of the raising of the Rough & Ready Dam and


WHEREAS, The mayor and common council are also accused of appearing before the legislature at Madison for the purpose of forcing the passage of the bill for raising said dam: be it


RESOLVED, That the mayor appoint a committee of three aldermen to investigate the matter and try to trace the origin of said charges and report its findings to this council as soon as possible for further action.


The mayor appointed Ald. Kessler, Lehmann and Ryan as such committee.   WDT




At a special meeting of the common council held at the city hall Thursday evening, a resolution was adopted demanding that Dr. A. Hartwig should retract in writing the statements it is claimed he made last winter assailing the integrity and honesty of the members of the common council, and was given thirty days in which to file such retraction with the city clerk, and should he fail to file such retraction within the time specified in the resolution, charges would be preferred against him as a member of the council.


President: It is alleged, that statements were made during the last session of the legislature when a certain dam bill, (with which the people here are familiar) was under consideration and was to the effect that the council sold out to the Electric Light and Gas Company for the sum of $500.00.


The writer knows nothing of the controversy, but has learned that the company offered to give the city the sum of $500.00 in case the bill passed and the dam was built to repair a certain bridge which would be damaged to some extent by raising the water in the river ... If the doctor made the statements as alleged and they were untrue, he should make the amend honorable. If he did not make such statements as alleged, he should stand pat and demand that the common council adopt a resolution exonerating him from the charge as set forth in the resolution adopted Thursday night.   WDT




To the Mayor and Common Council of the city of Watertown.


Gentlemen:  In response to the report of the committee adopted by your honorable body at a special meeting held July 27,1905, a copy of which was served on me, I have only to say that said report purports to refer to so-called “derogatory statements made by myself at the meeting of the common council held June 20,1905,” and claiming that the same “reflected upon their honesty, integrity and good character of the mayor and common council of the city of Watertown.”


The said report nowhere sets forth the language or so-called derogatory statements complained of.


I am unable to find in any language or statements made by myself to which said report can refer, and I am therefore at a loss to know with what I am charged, or what is desired that I should retract or apologize for.


I am satisfied, however, apart from any records kept by the common council, that the complaint against me arises from my attitude upon Substitute bill No. 388 S, considered by the recent session of the state legislature . . . This bill sought to authorize the Watertown Electric Co., its successors, and assigns to raise the height some three feet of the dam across the Rock river in the city of Watertown, known as the Rough and Ready dam . . . The records . . . will show that . . . a petition was made petitioning said council to oppose the raising of the dam, and to protect the interests of said property owners . . . Thereupon a committee was appointed which made oral report to the common council March 14th setting forth various advantages and protections which the Watertown Electric Co . . . I have no apology to make for my opposition to bill No. 388s; I know its defeat was generally desired by my constituency...


Respectfully submitted,


A. H. Hartwig   WDT


12 03       A petition signed by 103 of the voters in the Second ward protesting against the action of Mayor Wertheimer in suspending Alderman A. H. Hartwig from office on the 11th inst., and asking him to revoke such action and to reinstate Alderman Hartwig, has been presented to the mayor.  What action the mayor will take in the matter has not been made public, but it is presumable that he will adhere to the course he has already adopted.   WDT


12 06       Sometime ago, a committee of three was appointed at a meeting of the common to investigate certain reports and statements made by Alderman A. H. Hartwig effecting the honesty and integrity of the members of the council, which duty was performed and report made to the council in which it was stated in their findings that such reports of statements had been made by Alderman Hartwig and a retraction demanded of him by the council.  He made a retraction which was not satisfactory to the council and charges were subsequently preferred against him, the same committee being appointed for that purpose, and he cited to appear Friday before the council acting as a court of impeachment and answer to the charge.  The court met at 10 a.m. at the council chamber, each alderman being in his place and answering to his name, A. C. Kading, city attorney appearing for the city, and Gustave Buchheit of this city and Ernst N. Warner of Madison appearing for the accused alderman.  After considerable delay had been experienced in offering motions which were over-ruled by the mayor, the court got down to business and the taking of testimony began upon the part of the council.  Letter being read from Lieut. Gov. J. O. Davidson and oral testimony given by Senator Breach and others as to the matter in controversy.  When the committee rested rebutting was given by the accused and others and at the close the council took a vote at 11:30 p.m. finding Alderman Hartwig guilty and suspending him for 60 days as alderman of his ward.   WDT


12 08       The common council of this city sitting as a committee of the whole on Friday last on the case of alderman A. H. Hartwig, charged with saying that he had heard members of the last legislature say that the council of this city had sold out by exacting the sum of $550 to be paid to the city of Watertown Electric Co. the in the event that the bill for raising the Rough and Ready dam passed the legislature, found him guilty, and suspended Alderman Hartwig for 60 days.   WDT


12 23       At the regular meeting of the common council held Tuesday evening at the council chamber, the following demand which had been filed with City Clerk Frank S. Weber was presented, read and referred to the grievance committee consisting of Alderman L. A. Knick, John P. Humphrey, and M. J. Burke:


The undersigned, Adolph Hartwig, the newly elected alderman of the Second ward in the city of Watertown hereby demands that said common council at its meeting to be held on this 19th day of December A.D. 1905 rescind its actions whereby it attempted to suspend the undersigned from office as such alderman and repeal the resolution passed by it to that effect and demand that the mayor and said common council recognized him, as such alderman and that the city clerk place the name of the undersigned upon the role of said common council and call such name at the meetings of said council.


ADOLPH HARTWIG, Alderman second ward, City of Watertown, Wis.   WDT



1907       In 1907 a new concrete electrical dam was constructed just downstream from the old earthen and timber dam.  The older still remains but is submerged in the pond of the new dam.  The "Rough and Ready Dam," as the structure came to be called, produced power for the electric railway that ran from Watertown to Milwaukee.






Large Volume of Business Going to Cooney That Naturally Comes Here


American Malting Company Losing Much Barley


Farmers, Merchants Complain


The closing of the Rough and Ready bridge (Oconomowoc Ave bridge) is bringing to many of our citizens a realization of the fact that the city is losing considerable business as a consequence.


The bridge was condemned by the city council early in November and it was expected that the repair of the bridge or the construction of a new one would receive the immediate attention of the council.  There was a delay till many of the farmers began to complain and the council took action insofar that a resolution was adopted instructing the public works and the committee on streets and bridges to procure plans.


Since that time, no action has been taken, as far as is known.


Many of the merchants and businessmen are beginning to join the farmers in their complaint and are desirous of urging upon the council the necessity of immediate action for the reason that quite a large volume of trade that naturally comes to Watertown is now going to Oconomowoc.


Many farmers were obliged to travel a roundabout way, crossing the Smith bridge, the road leading to the same being in horrible condition.  Some of these farmers have quit coming to the city, while others have marketed their produce at Oconomowoc ever since the bridge was condemned.


As a result of the closing of the bridge the American Malting company (William Buchheit Malting Co) has lost over 5, 000 bushels of barley, which has gone to Oconomowoc,


What is true of this concern, is true of many others.  This is an important matter that should be delayed no longer and the city council should act quick.



Prof. D. C. Jackson of the State University, and W. B. Jackson, constituting the civil engineering firm of Jackson & Jackson, Madison, are engaged in surveying the area that would be overflowed and the amount of damage caused should the Rough and Ready dam be raised three feet.  They are here in the interest of the Watertown Gas & Electric Co. which is anxious to deal fairly with all who may in any manner be damaged by raising the dam, and pay each and all a fair price for such land as may be overflowed and rendered useless for agricultural purposes.  As has already been said, the raising of the dam means more industry for this city, an increase in population and an addition to the value of all other real property.  The company is disposed to act fair and just in the matter, and should be met at least half way and every proposition within reason received the consideration to which it is entitled.   WL


03 23       The question of the proposed raising of the Rough and Ready dam was broached [at the council meeting Monday night] in the introduction of a resolution by Alderman Lutovsky which was to the effect that the bill to raise the dam from 8 1/2 to 11 1/2 feet would be a detriment to the city and would involve an additional expense in the construction of the proposed new bridge and approaches, and would also flood certain streets. It was also embodied in the resolution that in view of the fact that there is to be a hearing at Madison in the near future that a copy of the resolution be sent to the committee at Madison. It voiced the opposition of the council to the bill, setting forth that the Gas and Electric Company had not considered the interests of the city in the matter; also providing that the city attorney appear in opposition to the bill.


The resolution was unanimously adopted. It seems that it is a move to show that the city “stands its hand” and intends to stay in the game. It is understood that the hearing which was to have been had at Madison tomorrow has been postponed till sometime next month.   WDT


04 24       Friday, April 25, is the time set for the hearing before the senate committee on bill No. 500 A, requesting right to raise the Rough and Ready dam three feet. The hearing was to have been given Tuesday, April 16, but an adjournment was taken to give the mayor and city council time to engage the services of a hydraulic engineer to determine the damages that might rise to the city by reason of the raising of the dam. These necessary facts have now been procured and it is now assured that the city’s interests will be backed by facts and figures and not go on theory, a fear that was expressed by the mayor in arguing to engage the services of the engineer. Prof. Smith of the State University has taken the measurements.


05 04       At the meeting of the joint committee of the city council on judiciary and streets and bridge, held last evening, decided to report unfavorably on the proposition of the Watertown Gas and Electric company in the matter of raising of the Rough and Ready dam.  The decision of last night makes it imminent that at the hearing at Madison on May 9th, there will be some lengthy arguments before the senate committee when bill 600A comes for hearing, the measure being in the nature of a request to raise the Rough and Ready dam three feet.  Of course it depends upon the action of the council at its meeting next Tuesday evening, but it is safe to say that that body will adopt the report of the joint committee and that further plans will be made for carrying on the opposition to the bill now before the legislature.   WDT




Last Tuesday afternoon C. H. Pfeiffer of Milton, who has been but a short time employed here by the Watertown Gas and Electric Co., came near being killed while at work on an electric light pole in Western Avenue.  He was working on a lead wire from the power house at the dam and he placed his arm on another wire, making a complete circuit, voltage of 2300 passing through his body.  He was rendered unconscious and was held suspended from the wires.  A fellow workman went to his rescue and jerked him from the wires.  His hand and arm were terribly burned.  At this writing it is thought he will recover from his injuries.   WG



There are two dams located in the City of Watertown; the lower, a masonry dam, located a few blocks above the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad bridge, and the upper dam, one and one-half miles above this.  The bed of the river at both dams and probably the entire distance between, is in the Trenton limestone.  The upper day, usually called the “Rough and Ready” dam, is built of timber with masonry abutments.  It is 250 feet long and develops a head of 9 feet.  One 45 and one 55 inch turbine are installed, rated at 225 horse-power.  This power is owned by the Watertown Electric Company and is used for electric light and power.  As the left bank is low the present head represents the maximum head which can be developed.  Indeed there have been some complaints of illegal flooding at times of high water.  The dam is in a fair state of repair.  The legislature of 1906-07 granted the owners the right to raise the crest of dam 2 feet, provided all payment should be first made for all damage so caused.


The lower dam [Globe Mill dam] was reconstructed three or four years ago, the present concrete dam replacing an old style timber structure.  The present dam is 250 feet long and furnishes a head of about 10 feet.  This head cannot be increased as the dam backs the water to the dam above.  The lower dam furnishes power to four different concerns, two on each bank.  On the right bank are located the Bee-hive and Box Factory owned by G. B. Lewis Company and the Globe Milling Company with installations of two 30 inch and two 40 inch turbines respectively.


On the left bank are located the R. P. Koening Company flour mill and the A. R. Wien Brush Company factory with an installation of 60 inch and 30 inch turbines respectively.


The mills run 18 and the factories 10 hours per day.  The owners report that for 8 or 9 months in the year the turbines develop their full power but that during the remainder of the year steam power has to be to a large extent substituted.  For this purpose the above flour mills have the following steam power:  The Globe Milling Company 200 horse-power; R. P. Koenig Company 85 horse-power; G. B. Lewis Company 225 horse-power, and the A. R. Wiens Company 25 horse-power.


The head on the turbines is reported to vary between 12 and 6 feet.  With water to the crest of the dam the head is 10 feet.  Complaints of illegal flooding by this dam have been made side the reconstruction of the dam.


Watertown is a growing city of 9,000 inhabitants.  It is a trading center for a large and rich agricultural region.  The city is on the main line of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad between Milwaukee and St. Paul and also on the Madison branch of the same railroad.  The city is also served by the Chicago and North-Western Railroad between Beloit and Green Bay.  Between Watertown and Lake Koshkonong, a distance of 29 miles, the river flows almost due south and with reduced windings.  The river varies in width from 150 to 250 feet wide, with banks sloping gently back to a height of from 10 to 20 feet.


The total fall between the foot of the lower Watertown dam and Lake Koshonong is only 18 feet of which only a third is used.   [Bulletins – Geological and Natural History Survey (Wis.), 1908]




The Watertown Gas and Electric Co. is building a new concrete dam a little to the north of the old dam, 11 1/2 feet high, and a power house at the Rough and Ready Dam site, men being employed day and night on the job.  The power house will be of brick and concrete 38 x 94 feet and will be 85 feet high from the river bottom.  It will contain two large water wheels, and a generator for local use and a transformer and a generator connected with the power from Kilbourn dam for use on the interurban street railway line.   WG







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01 21       SUES FOR $5,000  /  Work-related accident during construction  

Papers were filed with Clerk William H. Rohr on Monday in the case of Fred Schertenleib vs. William Wolf.  It is an action brought under the Co-Employee Act and Schertenleib sues Wolf for $5000 damages.  The plaintiff and defendant were at work on the construction of the [upper] dam at Watertown of the Milwaukee Light, Heat and Traction Company.  The plaintiff was sitting on a plank sawing and the defendant was to hold the plank.  He let go with the result that the plaintiff fell to the ground sustaining minor injuries and a permanent injury to the spine.  Mistele & Smith are attorneys for plaintiff and O. C. Hahn for the defendant. — [Jefferson Banner]   Watertown Gazette, 01 21 1910







        Famous Watertown flour mill was stated 11/2/1847


The old Rough and Ready Flour Mill which stood for many years on the site now occupied by the gas and electric company substation, was started just 64 years ago, on 11/2/1847.


John R. Beynon of this city was one who helped in the work on the first day, he being then 9 years old, but active enough to sweep out and dust, continuing with the mill in other capacities many years.  It was not the first mill in Watertown as the old Yellow Mill in 1st Street was built 5 years previously.


The Rough and Ready Mill was owned by Heber Smith, Luther Cole and John Richards, all of whom are now with the silent minority.  The millwright who built it was Edwin Bailey and the capacity was 100 barrels in two runs daily.  Mr. Beynon says that at the time there was no shop where gears could be made this side of Buffalo, New York and that work had to be done by hand.  The late Patrick Norton, who died here some years ago, was a pattern maker but was handy with other tools and he fashioned by hand the pinions and core gears in use at that time.  The cogs were filed out, a tedious process, but the only one available. 


Time has worked wonders in the milling business since the Rough and Ready began grinding and Mr. Beynon is a living connecting link between the two, as he has kept posted on the milling process since the infirmities of age compelled him to retire many years ago.







              Viewed from Oconomowoc Avenue







John and Everett Taft narrowly escaped death last Monday at the substation of the T.M.E.R. & L. Co. at the Rough and Ready Dam.  The younger man, Everett Taft, an electrician employed by the company, pointed with his lead pencil to a part of the apparatus in the station to call the attention of his father to it, who was assisting him in his work, and getting his hand too close to the high tension coils, both received a severe shock and they were thrown violently against other machinery in the place.  Other men at the station went to their rescue and found them in an unconscious condition.  They were taken to St. Mary’s hospital for treatment.  The father is burned on both arms, and one of his legs is broken.  The son had his hand and foot badly burned and was cut on the chin and had several of his teeth knocked out.  Both men will recover, but may be crippled for life.             WG



      Viewed from Oconomowoc Avenue







Three Bathers Get A Lecture


The lid was clamped on a nude bathing party here Monday afternoon before anyone in the vicinity could find a soft spot on which to fall down in a faint.


It was strictly a stag affair and the three participants, all boys aged about 12 years, were taken to the office of the police department and given a lecture on the necessity of proper grab when one wishes to splash in Rock river.  They were later released.  The three boys were swimming in the vicinity of the "Rough and Ready" dam a la natural when the performance was halted.


Cross reference to c.1895 skinny dipping image 






          < sledding on hill can be seen 



09 07       A LEAK IN THE DAM

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The low level of the water at the Concord Avenue power dam in recent days is not entirely the result of the dry spell in the city the past few weeks.  William Rathert, manager of the Wisconsin Electric Power Company office in Watertown, said the low level was caused partially by the lack of rainfall and also by a leak in the dam.  He said the water level dropped to approximately two feet below the crest of the dam before the electric company crews found the problem.  When the water level drops below the crest of the dam, all sluiceways and openings are closed to keep the river level from dropping more than 18 inches below the crest of the dam.  When the employees shut off the waterways, some water still rushed through.  The problem was in an area of the dam where two turbines for the generation of electricity were placed.  The turbines, no longer connected to generators, are used to force water through them and then below the dam when the water is high in the spring and after a heavy rainfall.




A Kohler firm, already leasing a dam in Sheboygan Falls, is seeking to purchase the Upper Watertown Dam on the Rock River from the Wisconsin Electric Power Company, the president of the company confirmed Friday.  Elaine Hitchcock of Hitchcock and Associates of Kohler said all the terms of the sale have been finalized with the exception of the approval of sale by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  The DNR can approve the sale without conducting a public hearing if it does not receive a written request within 30 days to do so.  Hitchcock said she did not foresee any problems in gaining the DNR’s approval.   WDT


12 20       A Kohler, Wis., woman says she has the financial capability to successfully operate the Upper Watertown Dam, the primary concern of two parties who have requested a public hearing on her plan to purchase the Rock River dike.  “I have sent the (state Department of Resources) a showing of my financial capability. I don't see it as a problem,” Elaine Hitchcock said in an interview.  Hitchcock wants to obtain the dam from the Wisconsin Electric Company for the purpose of producing electricity and possibly opening a new restaurant or condominium at the site.   WDT




A state hearing examiner says he will issue a decision within three weeks on the Wisconsin Electric Power Company’s request to sell Upper Watertown Dam for the purpose of generate electricity.  Michael Schwartz of the State Department of Administration concluded a public hearing Wednesday in which attorneys from the city of Watertown and the Rock River Landowners Association (RRLA) challenged the sale to Elaine Hitchcock of Kohler, a self-acclaimed “entrepreneur” who wants to produce electricity at the site.


07 05       50-YEAR LEASE TO THE DAM

A long family history of producing electricity has led the owner of one of the area’s largest industries to try to generate some kilowatts from one of Watertown’s two dams.  “There is still a lot of work to do,” said Tom Reiss, who gained the Watertown Common Council’s approval of a 50-year lease to the dam.  The lease of the dam was approved by a 10-1 vote, the only dissenting vote being cast by Alderman Walter Nuernberg, who said an “act of God” phrase describing natural catastrophes was grossly inappropriate.  Tuesday’s resolution calls for Reiss to pay rent of $1 per year for the life of the lease. He will also pay the city 5 percent of any profits arising from the dam’s power generation, beginning after its third year of operation.   WDT



The purchase of the upper Watertown dam has been finalized and the Kohler woman who now owns the facility is hoping it will be able to produce electricity within one year.  Elaine Hitchcock said in a telephone interview Friday that her initial plans will be general cleanup of the powerhouse, followed by a thorough inspection of the structure’s equipment, including the turbines.  That work, she said, should take about two months.  Hitchcock purchased the dam from the Wisconsin Electric Power Company and the deal was closed earlier this month.  The acquisition was approved by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources after a December 1985 public hearing in which inquiries were made by city officials and the Rock River Landowners Association as to Hitchcock’s financial capability and knowledge of dam operations.   WDT


09 17       A Kohler woman who has acquired her third dam says she's convinced it will return to power — and eventually profit - as soon as repairs and modernization are completed.   Elaine Hitchcock is one of a growing number of entrepreneurs buying up old hydroelectric sites.   They are taking advantage of federal law that requires utilities to purchase power from private operators.  Mrs. Hitchcock, who Ieases dams at Sheboygan Falls and on the Eau Galle River in Dunn County,  recently bought the Rock River dam and the power plant that goes with it on Watertown's east side.  She received little from Wisconsin Electric Power Co. Aug. 15 after her bid of $3,122 was accepted.  WDT



12 26       A Kohler woman plans to begin generating electricity from the upper Watertown dam sometime in 1988.  Elaine Hitchcock, who purchased the dam from the Wisconsin Electric Power Company in 1986, said that she hoped to receive approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission within a month.  “We should be able . . . to start generating within the year,” she said.  Hitchcock said she has applied for an exemption to licensing because her proposed operation will generate fewer than 5 megawatts and have a maximum capacity of 300 kilowatts.  WDT



07 28       Although the process has taken longer than she expected, a Kohler woman hopes to begin generating electricity from the upper Watertown dam on the Rock River in about one year.  Elaine Hitchcock, who purchased the dam in 1986, said structural and electrical engineers are working on the acquisition of new turbine generating equipment for the historic dam, which was built in 1909.  “I would say once the equipment is chosen, I believe it would be one year (before electricity is generated),” Hitchcock said.  She said her firm, R & R Hydro Inc., received a federal license to generate electricity at the dam in March of 1989, almost three years after buying the property from Wisconsin Electric Power Company.   WDT


10 07       KOHLER (AP) — Elaine Hitchcock, a tenacious housewife who five years ago began purchasing or leasing idle dams in Wisconsin, has endured the doubts of friends and cut through the red tape of government.  Mrs. Hitchcock leased a dam on the Eau Galle River in west central Wisconsin and bought the Rock River dam and its power plant in Watertown in southeastern Wisconsin for $3,122.  Licenses were recently granted.  “I have a great deal of commitment and tenacity,” Mrs. Hitchcock said.  “I made a choice to see these up and running and they will be. I won’t’ give up . . . . We plan to be up and running in 1991.  We have the right to generate electricity forever and forever,” she added, proudly noting the success of her $180,000 struggle to win licenses from the government.   WDT




The owner of the upper dam on the Rock River is seeking $136,400 from the city of Watertown for the alleged interference by city officials with the operation of the facility.  R.&R. Hydro Company of Kohler has filed a notice of claim with the city for interference and defamation.  The Watertown Common Council Tuesday denied the claim and referred it to the city attorney's office.  According to the claim, "Various city of Watertown officials have on various dates, negligently or purposefully interfered with third parties to deny the appropriate licensing of an electrical generating facility at the Upper Watertown Dam."


09 04       RENOVATION

Renovation of the Upper Dam in Watertown should get started next week following a drawdown of the Rock River, a DNR engineer said.  Rich Vogt said plans call for the construction firm hired by the dam’s owner to begin work Tuesday.  “They are going to start construction next week,” said Vogt, who said he was informed of the start date by Virgil Van Asten, a contractor with Lunda Construction.  “He indicated to me that they have drawn (the river) down as far as they needed for completing construction.  They anticipate moving in with their equipment next week.”   WDT


10 15       POWER HOUSE TOUR

The Octagon House neighborhood harked back to days of old on Friday when vintage Willis Overland cars parked in the streets.  The cars, manufactured between 1903 and 1941, lined the streets while the drivers and passengers toured the Octagon House as part of regional meeting activities of the Willis Overland Knights Register, an international club.  Tours were also given at Reiss Industry Inc. and Watertown Table Slide by owner Tom Reiss, who owns an Overland car which is being refurbished.  The group also toured the power house being restored by Reiss on the lower dam of the Rock River.  Co-chairmen of the regional meeting are Connie and Carol Holcomb of Watertown, who have a 1920 Overland touring car, and Ward and Chris Bruhn of Concord, who have a 1917 Overland touring car.   WDT



03 19       DAM CONFLICT

How can a repeat of last year’s conflict between the owner of the Rough and Ready dam and local and state officials be avoided this spring?  There appear to be two conflicting opinions.  Elaine Hitchcock, the owner of the upper dam in Watertown, said officials can stay away from the dam.  She said there won’t be any problems if they mind their own business.  “These are people that shouldn’t be dictating to me that have jobs of their own and they shouldn’t be going about trespassing on other people’s property.”  But a DNR official says it is their business to make sure compliance within the permit for the dam is met.  Robert Hansis, of the DNR’s Water Regulation and Zoning, said if R& R Hydro, Inc., followed compliance levels there would be no conflict.




07 22       A sheriff's sale for the Watertown Upper Dam has been canceled, according to an attorney representing the mortgage holder, Bank One of Beaver Dam.  Eric L. Becker of the law firm Quincey, Becker & Schuessler of Beaver Dam said the owner of the dam, R&R Hydro Inc. and Elaine R. Hitchcock, received a stay of proceedings from the United States Bankruptcy Court, Western District, in Madison.  The firm has filed for Chapter 11 reorganization with the bankruptcy court.  As a result, the sheriff's sale for the upper dam scheduled for July 31 has been canceled.   WDT



07 11       Owners ordered to cease operations; fish kill and damaging vibrations   WDT




A federal commission has recommended ceasing the operations of the hydroelectric generating project at the Watertown upper dam [Rough & Ready dam].  The dam's owner has a pattern of noncompliance with orders since the hydroelectric project began, a report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stated.  An exemption for the hydroelectric operation granted to R&R Hydro, owned by Elaine R. Hitchcock and based in Kohler, should be revoked, the report said.



A commission is recommending shutdown of the upper Watertown dam's power generating operations and revocation of its operator's license.  An environmental assessment by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has concluded that if safety measures on the dam are implemented and the tailrace channel keeps a minimum flow, shutdown of the dam will restore run-of-river conditions.  Shutdown would provide the greatest level of environmental protection and enhancement and would resolve most concerns voiced by Watertown residents and the state's Department of Natural Resources, the study said.



07 30       The foreclosed upper Watertown dam will be sold to the highest bidder Sept. 6.  The Jefferson County sheriff will offer the Rock River dam, owned by Rough & Ready, Inc., in a public auction at 10 a.m. in the lobby area of Jefferson County Courthouse.  Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge William F. Hue ruled May 10 to grant the foreclosure in a case between Rough & Ready and Halsted Construction, Inc. of Chicago.  Halsted had loaned Rough & Ready $220,000 to mortgage the dam in 1998.  The corporation now seeks a judgment of $214,884 from Rough & Ready.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is currently conducting a revocation proceeding that would strip Rough & Ready, owned by Elaine Hitchcock of Sheboygan, of its operating license.   WDT



01 27       Jefferson County Sheriff Orval Quamme sold the upper Rock River dam for $220,000 to the highest bidder this morning.  Halsted Construction, Inc., of Chicago submitted the only bid in the auction at the Jefferson County Courthouse.  In 1998, Halsted loaned Rough and Ready, Inc., which has owned the dam for several years, $220,000.  Halsted obtained a judgment of $214,884 from Rough and Ready.  Halsted intends to sell the dam to a responsible owner.  Quamme said confirmation of the sale is expected today.   WDT


10 12       After months of private discussions, the Watertown Common Council is prepared to move ahead with purchase of the upper dam in Watertown and turn it over to local businessman Thomas Reiss for repair work and ultimately for generating electricity. Reiss already has a lease on the lower dam in Watertown and is generating electricity there. Mayor John David told the Daily Times today that he has called a special meeting of the Watertown Common Council for Tuesday at 7 p.m. to discuss the proposal and receive input from residents.  He noted the owners of 64 properties within the city limits which have frontage on the Rock River and above the dam will be given written invitations to attend the meeting and offer their input.   WDT


10 28       A lease agreement for the city to purchase the upper dam from Tom Reiss, once repairs are complete and the dam is in working order, was approved by common council members Tuesday night. Cost to the city is not to exceed $550,000. Reiss is currently operating the dam for Halsted Construction and has offered to purchase the dam for $200,000 and complete an estimated $350,000 in repairs. Reiss and his Rough and Ready Water Power Company Inc. are interested in returning the upper dam to top working order, eliminating vibrations felt by the property owners along the upper dam and generating electricity.   WDT



07 25       The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced its intention to revoke the exemption from licensing for operation of the upper dam in the city of Watertown.  The commission is the agency that regulates operation of dams throughout the country.  It has determined that the current owner of the dam, Halsted Construction of Chicago, Ill., is not in compliance with rules for its operation.  The order, signed by Magalie R. Salas, secretary of the commission, states that the exemption will be revoked 30 days from the date of the order which was July 18.   WDT


11 16       The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted a rehearing and reinstatement of the exemption for owners of the city’s upper dam.  The reinstatement of the exemption paves the way for a change in ownership of the dam, which has been plagued for years with failure to comply with mandatory regulations.  The commission announced in July its intention to revoke the exemption from licensing for operation of the upper dam in the city.  The exemption was expected to be revoked 30 days from the July 18 date.  Current owner Halsted Construction Inc. and prospective owner Rock River Power and Light Company requested rehearing the commission’s July 18 order revoking the exemption for what is officially known as the Upper Watertown Dam Project No. 9974.    WDT




Two turbine blades at the Concord Generating Station outside of Watertown are scheduled to be replaced at the end of January, according to Terry Coughlin, manager of air quality at We Energies.  All that stands in the way now of the blades being replaced is the issuance of air permits by the state Department of Natural Resources for the two units, Coughlin said.  “We have been working very hard to get the air permits by the end of the month so we do not delay the outage because the units have to be overhauled and returned to service for summer peak electricity needs,” Coughlin said.   WDT



Workers continue reconstruction efforts on the upper dam this morning in anticipation of a November completion date of the project.  The million-dollar-plus project, which began with a drawdown of the Rock River south of the site this summer, features a complete refurbishing of the structure, a regraded spillway and the placement of large rocks at the base of the dam to reduce vibrations.



Waters of the Rock River have crested over the upper dam as reconstruction efforts at the site near completion.  Levels of the waterway returned to normal Wednesday after a drawdown of the river began in July to allow for work on the structure.  In addition to a reinforcement of the dam itself, several steps were taken to minimize noise and vibration factors formally associated with the facility.  A rounded cap eases water flow over the dam, while large rocks placed at the base of the wall disperse the river’s force.   WDT




The finance committee of the Watertown Common Council reviewed the status of the upper dam repair project at a meeting Tuesday evening.  Tom Reiss, who is leasing the dam from the city for power generation, explained to the members the work on the project which remains to be completed.  It appears the city has overpaid Reiss by about $22,000 more than was authorized and to resolve this situation Reiss, Mayor John David and City Clerk Mike Hoppenrath agreed to meet and prepare a spreadsheet on costs and payments and present that to aldermen.  Some work needs to be completed on the downstream side of the dam, including some fencing and also some concrete work.  That work is estimated at $25,000 and will be factored into the agreement with Reiss.   WDT




          Video clip       



04 24       SPRING FLOW, facebook video








Julius Benkendorf, interest in Rough and Ready Flouring Mill

J. H. (Heber) Smith, connected with Rough and Ready dam and milling operations

Nicholas Bickner employee (mill)

John Beynon, employed at the old Rough and Ready mill. 

Barry Adams article, 05 26 2024



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History of Watertown, Wisconsin