Thursday, June 14, 2018

Tire shopping in Elmo


This tire advertisement from Elmo ran in the Cuba City News Herald one hundred years ago, on June 21, 1918. According to directories of the time, business owner Albert Haug was a blacksmith, wagonmaker, and postmaster in Elmo, and his wife, Bertha, ran the general store.


Photo of Bertha and Albert Haug courtesy of Melinda Howell.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Tyler House

The Tyler House was a stage coach stop located between Cuba City and Hazel Green on what is now Highway 80.  The nineteenth-century hotel was built by Augustus Tyler and is owned today by Dave and Lois Kuhle.

Image courtesy of Google Maps.


 The Tyler House is visible in this 1868 "New Map of Grant County," made available by the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

 Augustus and Elizabeth Tyler were from New York State, and they settled in the Hazel Green area in 1846. According to census and newspaper records, Augustus Tyler was a lumberman, farmer, and hotel keeper. Tyler built what a Platteville Witness article called “a fine, large brick hotel” where the stage coach would stop and change horses between Platteville and Galena. The value of his land was an impressive $11,000 in 1860. That would be around $300,000 today.

  Advertisement from The Wisconsin Farmer, and Northwestern Cultivator, 1858. This ad includes a testimonial from the Tyler House's owner, Augustus Tyler.


 In addition to being rich farmland, it seems that the Tyler property was also rich in lead. Augustus Tyler reportedly discovered the deposits when he was digging a well soon after settling at his home, but he waited until several years later to investigate. Initial newspaper reports in February 1866 indicate that Augustus Tyler moved to Platteville and rented his hotel and farm to a Mr. Van Vleck, who struck a rich lead deposit. The following was published in the Galena Gazette*:
Mr. Van Vleck, the present proprietor of the Tyler House, beyond Hazel Green, recently struck a rich lead of mineral within a few rods of his house. He thinks he will soon be able to take out from 2,000 to 4,000 per day. The ground belongs to Mr. Tyler, of the Union house, at Platteville, who receives one-sixth of the mineral as ground rent. The remaining five-sixths will probably make Mr. Van Vleck as wealthy as it is necessary for any man to be.
The Platteville Witness** reported later that month that Augustus Tyler sold his house and farm to a mining company and a large scale mining enterprise was planned.

Later proprietors of the Tyler House included Joseph Atkinson and Tom Wilcox. Wilcox made it in the newspapers for competing in pigeon shooting contests. These competitions were serious business with prizes and large crowds. In April 1877, the Hazel Green correspondent to the Galena Daily Gazette called Wilcox “a young disciple, but a dead shot.”

During its lifetime, the Tyler House provided lodging, dining, and entertainment. In July 1877, there was a “grand reaper trial” at the Tyler House farm. Several hundred people turned out to watch two pieces of farm machinery--a McCormick and a Woods self-binder--compete.  (The McCormick won.)

Tom Wilcox also threw popular balls to celebrate George Washington's birthday. The following is a description of the 1876 event as described in the Galena Daily Gazette:

The Tyler House, two miles north of here, was the scene of a merry party on Thursday the 22d, which was an entire and surprising success. Messrs. Breen and Wilcox furnished the music, which was excellent, giving entire satisfaction to all present. Prompting was well done by Mr. Cullen, assisted by Mr. Smitheram. Near 12 o’clock the dancers repaired to the spacious dining hall, where their eyes beheld a feast of good things, but in about fifteen minutes things didn’t look as they did at first. The Hall was appropriately decorated, and many of the dancers were becomingly arrayed for the occasion. Numerous spectators were present—so many that the dancers were often hard up for room wherein to hump themselves aright. The participants in the dance were a motley and pleasing throng. Withal they danced becomingly, danced energetically, danced well; in fact we left them on the floor footing it away as deftly as anything.

 *As printed in the Madison County Courier, Edwardsville, Ill. (Feb. 8, 1866)
**As printed in the Wisconsin State Journal (Feb. 15, 1866)


Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Whithams' Junction House in Elmo

The Junction House, a nineteenth-century stage coach stop, stood just a few miles north of Cuba City, in the area that would eventually be known as Elmo. The hotel was an important stopping place because it was located at the “junction” of the Galena, Mineral Point, and Platteville roads, and passengers could transfer coaches at this point, depending on their destination.

 The Junction House is visible in this map of the Elmo area from 1868. The "New Map of Grant County" was made available by the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.

The inn was built by Emanuel Whitham in 1854 and was described as “a huge frame structure” in the 1881 history of Grant County. Whitham and his family came to the United States from West Yorkshire, England, settling in Pennsylvania for several years before moving to Wisconsin. 

By 1870, the elder Whitham had moved to Galena, and his son, Emanuel Whitham, Jr. was running the inn. The following excerpt from the Galena Daily Gazette (Feb. 1, 1876) gives a colorful description of the inn and its proprietor:

“The hotel here is an old institution, having been here in days of yore, and well and favorably known as the Junction House, and now kept by Emanuel Whitham, Jr., more commonly addressed as “Bub,” who is ever and anon ready to satiate the appetite and quench your thirst with any or all the beverages he has on hand; and should you be the owner of a refractory or unmanageable equine Bub will go for you and give you a good trade, having your interest second only to his. He can beat any man in the county pitching horse shoes, tossing coppers and cracking bon mots, and can do it without digressing the code of morals.”

By the mid-1870s, news that the railroad would be traveling through Elmo caused quite a stir. In the summer of 1875, a railroad depot was built near the Whitham’s hotel and the small community would soon see a store, post office, and harness and blacksmith shop. 

Map excerpt from the 1877 Atlas of Grant County.

“Bub” Whitman, enterprising young man that he was, had a survey done for a village site, and acquired 40 acres, laying off 200 lots that he would enthusiastically try to sell. In 1876, advertisements were placed in newspapers to entice people to purchase lots in the “promising young village.” 

Advertisement from the Galena Daily Gazette (February 19, 1876)

Interestingly, Whitham also put his stables and hotel, now officially called the “Elmo House,” up for sale at this time. By May 1877, he had sold the hotel that had been in his family for over 20 years to D. J. Wright of Elk Grove. Though the inn had changed hands, Bub Whitham planned to stay engaged in business at Elmo and was drawing up plans for a new home that would likely be built on one of his lots.

Many members of the Whitham family stayed in the area and are buried in Elk Grove, not far from Elmo.

Gravestone of Emanuel and Isabella Whitham. Elk Grove Cemetery.

Gravestone of Emanuel Whitham, Jr. Elk Grove Cemetery.

The Junction House still provides dining and entertainment today under its most recent name, the Elmo Club.