March 2008 Newsletter

March, 2008                                                                                             Volume 5       Issue 4 


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

7:00 p.m.

Lakefront Community Building

Whitewater Street, Lakefront Park




Old World Wisconsin and Its Walworth County Buildings

The Whitewater Historical Society is proud to present a program from Marty Perkins, historian at Old World Wisconsin, who will speak about the buildings that are located at that site that have a connection to WalworthCounty.  He will present images of these buildings and talk about their relationship to families in the area. 


One of the most notable buildings at Old World is the Civil War era Sanford house, originally from nearby Heart Prairie.  Near the Sanford house is the Peterson Wagon Shop moved from the Town of Whitewater. 


The buildings at Old World Wisconsin have been restored and preserved as they would have been seen in the nineteenth century.  It was important in 1975, when Old World was founded, to preserve historic buildings representing Wisconsin’s settlers.  They are a window to the history of the Whitewater area as well as being a window to the state’s history. 


Donors Generous in 2008

Last month’s membership renewals came in quickly and the society thanks each and every person who renewed their membership.  We would also like to recognize those donors who added a donation to help the society maintain the museum, send the newsletter, and promote local history.


Up to $25.00

Karen Coburn

Russ Fero

Marilyn Kienbaum

Richard & Bobby Landsee

Linda Loomer

Wilfred & Joyce Nass

Jerry & Nancy Wendt



Ed & Kay Drexler

Gaylon & Hannah Greenhill

Donna Henry

John & Arlene Newhouse

Ben & Flo Rhodes

Jim Stewart

Kristine Zaballos



Kevin & Nancy Brunner

Jim and Ginny Coburn

Commercial Bank

Dawn Hunter

David and Lolita Kachel

Alan & Connie Marshall


The society appreciates any and all donations and especially thanks the above for their generosity.


Society Business

The board of directors will bring the following information to the membership at the March meeting. 


First, the board has received the bids for the roof project.  President Ellen Penwell will submit the results and a proposal to the membership for a formal vote.  For those who don’t remember, the depot roof is over 30 years old and this repair will keep the building “topped off” for at least another 30 years, perhaps longer. 


Second, the board has discussed a proposal with the City of Whitewater regarding the future use, maintenance, and interpretation of the Stone Stable.  Ellen will also have information about this issue for the members to consider.


Third, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has again funded (with money from the Federal transportation fund) transportation grants for renovation of historic transportation-related buildings.  We applied for a grant in 2006, but came just short of receiving one.  With the help of the City of Whitewater staff, we are working on a new grant proposal, due April 15.  Carol Cartwright will be giving an update. 


The board is also excited to present a proposal to partially fund a documentary about the Esterly Company, Whitewater’s premier industry in the nineteenth century.  Bo McCready, student at UW-Madison and son of Anne and Ben McCready, has written a thesis about this company and the economy of Whitewater.  He is also finishing a publication on this topic (information later). Working with Alan Luckett, Bo would write and help edit this documentary.


We hope as many members of the society as possible can remain after the program to consider these important business matters.


New Book About Whitewater

The Arcadia Press (the same publisher who printed Fred Kraege’s photo book on Whitewater) is publishing Bo McCready’s new book on the Esterly Company.


The Esterly Company was Whitewater’s most important industry of the nineteenth century.  It thrived in the city between the mid-1850s until 1893, when it abruptly closed and announced a move to Minnesota.  It produced wheat harvesters during the period when wheat was the largest crop produced by Wisconsin farmers, along with other agricultural implements and products.  It was recognized at the time as an innovator and important regional producer of agricultural implements. 


After the 1880s, wheat growing had largely moved to northwest Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas and a move of the Esterly Company to Minneapolis made sense economically, but its quick demise once it relocated was a surprise. 


McCready looks at the Esterly Company in depth, discussing its importance in the overall economy of Whitewater while it was located here.  He takes it a step further, though, and examines the factors that caused the rapid demise of the company after it moved to Minnesota. 


This fascinating story will be illustrated by many photographs of Whitewater from the depot museum collections.  Almost all the photographs in this new book were not printed in Fred’s book, so it gives us another interesting look at our community. 


Watch for further news on the publication of this important book. 


Depot and Stone Stable Park of the Arts Festival

This year’s Fountain-to-Fountain Arts Festival on April 26 will include a stop at the DepotMuseum and the Stone Stable.  The DepotMuseum will be open and we will showcase our collection of Leon Pescheret’s prints, as well as an oil painting of Whitewater from the mid-twentieth century. 


At the Stone Stable, the society will have a special display about Whitewater’s pioneer artist, Henry Rile.  Henry Rile was a Yankee immigrant who lived in Whitewater between 1856 and 1862.  He was a talented sketch artist who drew many early Whitewater buildings.  In the mid-twentieth century, these drawings were given to the Whitewater Historical Society and almost 20 years ago, the society printed a book illustrating the Rile drawings accompanied by Rile’s pre-Civil War Whitewater diary.


By the way, there is a fountain in front of the depot museum that is of interest.  Unlike the stylish Birge Fountain in front of the Arts Alliance Building, which was given as a “monument” to the community, the fountain at the depot is practical, although beautiful in its own right.


This fountain is known as a “horse” fountain.  These fountains were common in communities and allowed farmers and others to water their horses when they came to town.  The large bowl at “horse height” was perfect for the horses and added a decorative touch to the downtown.  After automobiles replaced horses, these fountains all but disappeared from the scene. 


So, don’t forget to check out the depot fountain as you enjoy the festival.


Society Notes:

In May, the Society holds it annual pot-luck dinner.  This year it will be held on the 28th of May.  Put it on your calendar.


We need help to man the museum on Sunday afternoons from June 1 until August 31st  and on Thursday evenings from June 19 to August 14 for the Lakefront Park family fun nights and concerts.  Please come in March and May to sign up.  


If you cannot attend our next two meetings, but would like to volunteer at the museum on a Sunday or Thursday, please contact Carol at 473-6820 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


If you are interested in serving as Secretary for the Society, please let us know.  We are desperate for someone to volunteer. 


If you have not send in your membership dues, you still have time.  Just use the easy coupon below. 



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Send to:  Carol Cartwright

                W 7646 Hackett Rd.

                Whitewater, WI  53190



W7646 Hackett Rd.

Whitewater, WI  53190


Dates to Remember

Wednesday, March 26, 2008, 7 p.m.

Lakefront Community Building Meeting


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fountain-to-Fountain Arts Festival

Depot Museum Open 

Henry Rile Display at Stone Stable


Officers of the Whitewater Historical Society

President:       Ellen Penwell (2006-2008)

VP:                   Carol Cartwright (2007-2009)

Secretary:       Bobby Landsee (2006-2008)

Treasurer:      Gregg Gauger (2007-2009)

Board:             Richard Landsee (2005-2008)

                          Kathleen Lashley (2006-2008)

                         John Newhouse (2006-2009)

                         Mariann Scott (2007-2009)

                         Michele Smith (2007-2009)