ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Watertown Historical Society

Notes of Interest



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.



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 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