Mill Site No.1 never developed any businesses that were wholly dependent on the river for existence. Tax records, starting in 1863, show that each site was carved up into pieces and sold separately. The corner of River and Main Street was in the center of the village which meant that the lots were prime locations for mercantile or service businesses.
Businesses operating before tax records can only be identified through newspaper narratives, ads, and property records. Property owners were not necessarily the business operators.
There are two buildings shown on the accompanying 1858 map found at the Racine County Historical Museum. Property records show that Frederick A. Weage, owned the property on the southeast corner of Main and South River Street. He leased it to Ole Heg and his brother-in-law, A. Christensen, since Weage had a mercantile store diagonally opposite on the north side of Main Street, a few buildings west of North River Street. Pioneer settler Weage was an investor in a number of Waterford’s early businesses. Weage owned this property until 1875. The other building shown is a blacksmith shop, probably owned by B. Hollenbeck.
HEG & CHRISTENSEN Dry Goods and Grocery Store before the 1873 fire.
The earliest property tax records from 1863 show Mill Site No.1 property owners were F.A. Weage, Iverson & Co. and Nelson Palmer. Significant increases of valuation of the property from year to year would signal the existence of a new building or business. A blacksmith shop is shown located on both sides of the river on the south side of the bridge. Water would be used for quenching metals in the hardening process
The early lineage of Mill Site No.1 starts with Chapman/Barnes selling land to S.C. Russ wherein he has the land surveyed into streets and lots. Three Moulton brothers bought Mill Site No. 1 from Russ. In 1850, it was passed to James Gibson per Register of Deeds documents.
The following lineage is reprinted from the December 6, 1923 edition of the Waterford Post: “Two years later (in 1852), Nelson Darling bought it. To him belongs the credit for erecting the first building on the lot. This was a two-story building which was used as a wagon and paint shop until it was destroyed by fire in 1873, when in the possession of Barnard Holenbake, who had purchased it of James Iverson and Silas Erickson, two well known business men of this village for many years.
“Among others who owned the property after the wagon shop was built to the time of the fire were F.A. Weage, James Iverson, Noah and Odle Crabb, James Iverson, Amassa Harden and Silius (sic.) Erickson
“At one time Wenzel Raymond used part of the first floor of the wagon shop for his harness shop. It was there that William Schenkenberg, the present (1923) postmaster of Waterford, learned his trade. He was with Mr. Raymond at that site for three years.”1
In 1873, as related in an article in the Waterford Post, January 8, 1925, L.W. Carr Remembers, “The first big fire in town started in the blacksmith shop at the west end of the bridge, destroying several wooden buildings, between that and the brick store on the corner, the upper story of which was rendered unsafe and had to be taken down afterwards. Aside from the property loss, it was fortunate that there was no loss of life or accidents worthy of notice…Ole Heg was conducting an (sic) general store in the brick building on the corner and living in the second house south on River Street.2
In an 1874 letter to the editor in the Racine Argus, the writer states in part, “Owing to the great fire which occurred here in Sept., and which destroyed F.A. Weage’s store, A Christenson’s boot and shoe shop, C. Holenbakes blacksmith shop, A Harden’s carriage & wagon manufactory, considerable building has been caused, and wages have been high.
“Following the fire of 1873, Mr Holenbake sold the lot to Nelson Palmer, who according to the records, sold to Henry Naber, father of H.J. Naber of this village. At the same time, John Rein, then a young man of twenty, came from Burlington and bought the lot where the blacksmith shop now stands. The two lots were bought for $150 apiece. ‘Mr. Naber furnished the money’, says Mr. Rein, ‘as well as the money for the two buildings we erected the same year – his wagon and paint shop and my blacksmith shop. These two buildings, the wagon shop, a two-story building, cost in the neighborhood of $150 each.’3
“For six years, Mr. Naber operated his wagon shop after which he sold it to William Auterman. Eighteen years later, Henry Hegeman became the owner. He enlarged and remodeled the building and used it for a livery barn. Kinney & Best operated a livery barn there for a while and later Joseph DeGilleke ran a garage until called to the Colors during the late war. (WWI) Michael Deneen bought it of Mr. Hegeman. Edward F. Kortendick purchased it in 1919, tore down the building and used the material in the construction of a barn on his farm. The same year he sold the lot to Charles Apple.
Time moves on, the new replaces the old. The automobile takes the place of the wagon and the modern garage has made of the livery barn only a memory”4
In addition to the commercial business he operated in the brick corner building, Ole Heg had a strong interest in printing. Heg occasionally printed “The Waterford Times”. It was not a regular publication and only two editions are known to exist. His equipment was later sold to C.M. Whitman who started the Waterford Post, which is still published weekly.5
Two articles of interest were published in the Burlington Free Press in August and September of 1873 detailing the “Fire of 1873”. One tells a filtered story of what was lost and the other is a comical response from a spectator’s viewpoint.
Groat & McKenzie
A newspaper article from 1878 sites; “Groat & McKenzie, in the large brick store on the west side of the river, carry on a general hardware business. Their store is well filled with everything in the hardware line, and arranged in the most tasty manner. Mr. McKenzie, a practical tinner, superintends the work in that department, while Mr. McKenzie is always ready to sell a stove or a pound of nails, to suit the purchaser.”6 It operated until 1896 when the business was sold George Foxwell.
John Rein – Blacksmith
John Rein Ad – Waterford Post.
John Rein, carrying on his trade as blacksmith, owned the property by the river from 1880 until 1940. “Mr. Rein purchased his business of Barney Giesing a few months since and by close attention to business has already built up an enviable trade. His work easily betrays the secret of his success. He is a genial and accommodating young man, and merits a liberal share of the public patronage. In the rear of the building occupied by Mr. Rein, Barney Giesing is engaged in the manufacture of wagons, buggies, etc… He is well known as a good mechanic and sends out a class of work that always pleases the customer”.7
Peter Hatlestad – Shoemaker
Peter Hatlestad Ad – Waterford Post.
A shoemaker and repair shop were also located on this site, next to John Reins blacksmith shop, detailed as follows: “PETER HATELSTAD – Mr. Hatelstad came to Waterford a few years since, emigrating from Norway. He makes custom work a speciality(sic), and endeavors to deal justly and honorably with all with whom he comes in contact. An examination of his work will convince and one that he understands his business, and after learning his prices you are sure to give him an order.”8
The Hatlestad home can be found in the HERITAGE HOMES section of this website listed under 218 South Jefferson St., Geo and Emily Sproat Home.
Picture from Waterford Post Article, December 6, 1923.6
Oscar Graf, born and raised in Milwaukee, trained as a machinery mechanic moved to Waterford in 1917 when he heard of opportunities for his skill and a chance to own his own business. His business was started in the old Moe Store building, today, known as Mike Webb’s Flooring . It lasted only a few years when he was kicked out by his landlord, Mr. Hamm, who wanted to start his own machinery repair business.9
Forced to find new quarters, he temporarily relocated his business with another repair business and bought the vacant corner lot from Mr. Charles Apple. In 1921, Graf started building a 48 by 72 foot, three story structure made of flame-proof steel and concrete blocks with a brick face.
Considered the basement, the lower level was used primarily for vehicle storage and utilities. Repair work and storage was on the first floor. Highlighted on this level was Waterford’s first Ladies Rest Room. It was the first dedicated facility where women and their daughters could wait while the men did their business in town. It had several large windows overlooking the Fox River and Ten Club Park. Graf’s business expanded over the years into Mill Site No. 2.11
The Graf family continued to own this property at least through 1985 based on available tax records. At some point, the building was torn down and a small village park – River Bend Park, was established.
The complete history of Graf’s Garage can be seen HERE.12
Topp and Bryant Grocers
Topp and Bryant Ad – Waterford Post.
Looking closely at the above picture of the Graf building shows another building which stands to the right. In 1896, George Foxwell had a mercantile business which he operated until 1906 when the building was sold to A.J. Topp. The complete history of the Topp business can be see HERE.13
Referring to the picture at the top of the page, Topp would operate his general mercantile business at this location until July, 1921, at which time he formed a partnership with junior member Raymond Bryant and moved across the street to the building now known as Marty’s Diamond.
John Steinke c. 1890, Wisconsin Digital Collection, wpl00167l.
In the late 1920’s, the building transferred ownership to plumber John Steinke, and has remained in the family at least through 1985 based on available tax records.
Since 1986, 107 West Main Street, houses Waterford Family Dental S.C. while the south end of the building houses a local contractor’s business.
Lead Researcher: Robert E. Gariepy, Sr.
NOTE: Should the reader have further documentation to enhance the content of this web page, please contact the Lead Researcher through director@ExploreWaterford.com. We are particularly interested in pictures or historic artifacts that may be shared. Credit will be given.
- Waterford: Stories of our Business Places, Waterford Post, December 6, 1923 edition.
- L.W. Carr Remembers Waterford Post, January 8, 1925 edition.
- Letter to Editor – Waterford, Racine Argus, January 8, 1874 edition.
- Waterford:Stories of our Business Places, Waterford Post, December 6, 1923 edition.
- Waterford: Stories of our Business Places, Waterford Post, July 26, 1923 edition.
- Waterford. One of the Live Business Towns of Western Racine County, Waterford Post, February 21, 1878 edition.
- Waterford. One of the Live Business Towns of Western Racine County, Waterford Post, March 28, 1878.
- Waterford: Stories of our Business Places, Waterford Post, December 6, 1923 edition.
- Waterford: Stories of Waterford and Its Busy Life, Waterford Post, 1923 –http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/WI/WI-idx?type=article&did=WI.WPLStories.i0037&id=WI.WPLStories&isize=M
- Waterford: Stories of Waterford and Its Busy Life, Waterford Post, 1923 – http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/WI/WI-idx?type=article&did=WI.WPLStories.i0018&id=WI.WPLStories&isize=M