Monday Milwaukee Mystery

Today’s mystery photo takes us to the downtown of the 1950s. This is Wally’s Service station which was a Phillips 66 gas station. The service station had an interesting Meditteranean style and was torn down some time in the late 1960s or early 1970s, Where was the mystery building?

Milwaukee’s German Newspapers

Milwaukee’s German Newspapers; an index of death notices and related items (1844-1930); addenda 1931-1950 / compiled and edited by Gary R. Rebholz.

Milwaukee’s German Newspapers has been set up as a Traveling Data-exhibit and available on a computer at the Salzmann Library since March 1, 2011. This makes the most current data available for researchers searchable by name and browsable by date (Excel Workbook format). There is also a display of some of the notices and articles found in these papers.

The Salzmann Library is located on the grounds of St. Francis de Sales Seminary, in St. Francis (suburban Milwaukee County). It is not the same location as the Milwaukee Archdiocese Archives (Cousins Center). The library staff are not responsible for the data, or for lookups.

This index is the only resource to make these papers accessible to the general public. It is also a comprehensive collection of death notices from all available daily editions published in Milwaukee, 1844-1930. To celebrate the move to the Salzmann library, updates now include entries from 1931-1950 (and later). The data will be updated here every month or so.

What’s the point of all this? The data is available to local researchers.

Property In Public Use – September 17, 1880

This newspaper story from 1880 tells the background of several of the important public squares that were in use at the time. Haymarket Square at 5th and McKinley no longer exists after being part of a city redevelopment plan in the late 1960s. It’s site now houses several buildings which are vacant and a power company substation. Rink Square is now where the Wisconsin Center stands at 5th & Kilbourn. Market Square is where the City Hall stands.

Milwaukee Sentinel, September 17, 1880




In the days when Milwaukee was yet a village, and its present prominence undreamt of, it was frequently the case when a plot of land was added to the city, to reserve a portion for public use, the donor at the time making such conditions regarding their future use as he saw fit. Land was not worth $500 a foot on the banks of the Milwaukee River nor had the wildest dreams of the owners conceived it possible that real estate would ever reach that figure. This fact is mentioned to show that the gift of a block then was different pecuniary matter than a like donation today. Many of the original squares have been enlarged by purchase, while others have been used for a purpose other than that for which they were dedicated. This does not interfere with their eligibility for the use to which they are put. The world wags on apace, and, if the original conditions of the benefactions are forgotten, it is because in the flight of time, their usefulness in the sphere for which they were intended has passed away.

In 1835 there was filed in the City Engineer’s office the map of survey of a plot on the West Side of the river, in which was contained one-half block marked “public,” situated on Third street, between Court and Galena. It was specified that this block was given for the erection of a court house, but no other building should be erected thereon. Moreover the court house must be erected within two years from date, or the property was to revert to the original owners. If at any time thereafter, the county should erect a court house elsewhere, or neglected to hold the courts there for three consecutive seasons, it would then revert as aforesaid. If, on the other hand, the reserve was used for this purpose the proprietors of the estate agreed to set apart one lot elsewhere in the town, eligibly situated for a jail, as soon as the county signified a willingness to erect such a structure. The town decided not to erect a courthouse there, and the reservation was left unenclosed and public until 1870, when the authorities purchased the remainder of the block, having in view the erection of a public school building. the project was carried out and the Humboldt public school is the result.

At the same time three other reserves were made for the public, namely: A block on Fifth street, between Poplar(McKinley) and Vliet, known as Haymarket Square, a half-block on Fifth street, between Cedar(Kilbourn) and Tamarack(State), known as the Rink Square, and a half block on Sycamore(Michigan), between Third and Fourth. In the dedication, the donor specified that no obstruction in the way of buildings should be placed thereon except market buildings, on penalty of reversion to former owners. Hay Market Square is the principal live stock market of the city. The Rink reservation will be utilized, together with the remainder of the block, purchased for the purpose, as a site for the Exposition Building.

In 1836, the Court House Square (then half the present size) was dedicated to the common use, by Solomon Juneau, for the purpose of erecting a court house. No other building could be erected thereon, nor should the lot ever be obstructed in any way. Moreover, it was specified that the space should be enclosed by the corporation. The same year a courthouse was built. In 1866 a remainder of the block was purchased by the municipality and the present stone structure erected thereon, and the grounds beautified by a fountain and other embellishments.

Market Square on East Water street, was about the same time given for a public market. This reserve has never been improved much, and stands sadly in need of improvement. A fountain should be placed there, and other innovations brought about, tending to transform a dusty street into a pleasant lounging place. Some such measure introduced would add much to the attractiveness of the Market, and entail good on the neighborhood.

“It is a just remark,” said a gentleman, “that no large public park near the centre of the city is a lack to be regretted, and, although it cannot be well remedied, the regret may be in a measure mitigated by improving the small public squares and making them attractive.

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

This is an illustration of a hotel building constructed downtown. This view shows how it looked in the late 1950s after it was remodeled and an adjacent building was torn down. This picture looks south. Where was this mystery building located?

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

Here’s a good mystery photo for this Monday. This picture looks north somewhere downtown at a block of buildings. The two near ones are gone but a few others in this block are still there. Any guesses as to the block of buildings shown?

Monday Milwaukee Mystery

Any guesses where this early Milwaukee view of the National Spencerian Business College was? This was somewhere downtown and we are looking sort of northeast. The building was replaced in the 1920s. Sorry eddie, no cars although the wagon looks like it could be a 1879 Dorsch.

Octagon House History Book

Author and historian, Ellen L Puerzer has a new book out. I’ll let her explain:

To anyone interested in octagon houses (50 were built in Wisconsin of which 27 remain)

My book has been published. It contains photos and histories of the 900-some octagon houses that were built in the US and Canada.

Information about ordering the book can be found here. Some sample pages are shown on the website and it looks like a great volume listing all of the surviving octagon houses and many that are demolished.

Downtown Milwaukee Building History Updates

There have been quite a few recent updates to the Downtown Building Database. This is a great resource for anyone interested in learning about downtown’s architectural history and includes buildings long demolished. I try to continuously update the database with newly found information and links to building information on other websites.

Some of the updates are links to images from the Wisconsin Historical Society’s newly updated Architecture and History Inventory (AHI). Make it a point to stop by their website to learn about other buildings in Milwaukee and the rest of the state.

William Hatten – Scrooge of Wisconsin – Part 1

This interesting three part story which ran in the Milwaukee Journal in April 1940 tells a story of a man who could easily find his home back in the Wisconsin of today. He was a stingy lumber baron that made his fortune at the expense of the people that worked for him. Every opportunity was taken to earn a few extra dollars at the expense of every one – even his family.

Part 1

This is the first of three stories about the late William. H. Hatten, mystery man millionaire.

Of The Journal Staff

NEW LONDON, Wis. The final chapter in a great tragedy will be written here next May 1 with the closing of the William H. Hatten Lumber Co.

The lending man who so longt strode the stage will not be on hand for the final curtain because he lies under a small cement marker in the cemetery.

On the marker is his name: William H. Hatten, Aug. 24, 1856—Mar. 30, 1937.

Not a single flower lies on his grave; nor are there any tears shed here at the mention of his passing.

If any man was ever stamped with the irony of fate, that man was William Hatten, for all he strove to keep from happening in his life, happened when he died.

And he left behind a heritage of misery to those who gave their lives so he could make his millions — a list of promises he never kept.

He Made Millions

William H. Hatten in his early manhood was a tall, fine looking man with reddish sandy hair and blue eyes, a full mustache and those human characteristics which often mark a man set apart to do big things — a prominent aristocratic nose, large ears, large feet.

William H. Hatten did big things in an unbelievably small way. He made money. Millions of it. Great golden piles which he put into banks; into timber and mills and lumber, where it multiplied tremendously.

To the men who helped him make his fortune he paid what they call here “miserable” wages, but the big man had a fine mind and a commanding personality, and when the little men came to ask “What of our future,” the big man answered:

“You folks think you’re working for me. I’m working for you. The money you make goes back into this mill and one day it will all be yours.” They asked him many, many times to put his words in writing so it would hold before the law, but he always turned away and spoke — as only he could speak — of other things. A cold, proud man, he was obsessed with a belief that he would never die, and as age crept deeper into his hollow cheeks, the once great mind wandered aimlessly away and his inborn miserliness became a mania.

He would not set his hand upon a piece of paper because in the writing of the words “I give,” a seed was taking root whose flower he could not bear to contemplate.

Died Without a Will

And so, as he died without a will, the mill he had so often promised the men — that mill is being closed. It stands here now, an empty, sorry sort of thing — a grim reminder of a thoughtless man. The $3,000 which his 200 men got every Tuesday is gone forever.

Hatten’s mill on the Wolf river here once had the reputation of being about the smartest producer in the United States. The old man knew how to get the most boards out of his logs and he knew that every pinch of sawdust saved was another red copper in his well worn jeans.

When Hatten died, aged 81, there were 15,000,000 feet of lumber piled high in his yards. But that has been sold. Most of the horses, too, have been sold, all except a couple of teams that still stand in their stalls. Selling a horse that has worked a long time for you is tragic enough but there’s always someone around willing to buy. But you can’t sell an old man.

If one of his employes — in the office or in the shop — had the offer of a better job, Hatten would say “I’ll take care of you,” or to some of his top executives whom he paid $100 a month “I’ll make you a rich man if you stay.”

Intentions May Have Been Good

Wouldn’t you, too, have stayed and believed? Maybe Hatten did have, good intentions, but dead men’s intentions don’t amount to a damn before the law.

The men in the mill stayed with him, too, because he kept his mill running day and night, good times and bad. He could do that because he had money — lots of it in the bank when the other fellow had none.

When hard times came and other mills had to shut down because nobody wanted lumber, he kept his saws buzzing.

He’d walk out into his yards, point up to the sky and say: “We own up there as far as you can see. So pile it up!”

When good times came again, and closed mills reopened, the old fox on the Wolf was always two jumps ahead of the other follow. He had all thr lumber anybody wanted to buy.

Maybe he wanted to keep his men busy; maybe he wanted more money. Read on; judge for yourself.

A Mystery Man

In his lifetime, Hatten had always lived in silence about his early years. No one knew where he came from nor did he ever mention his family.

After his death, it was established that the mysterious millionaire was born in New Lisbon, N. Y., on Aug. 24, 1856, the son of Francis Hatten, a poor stonemason, and Ellen Huet, both natives of Ireland.

The father had been naturalized in St. Lawrence county, New York; his other children were Ellen, Robert, Thomas and John.

William Hatten’s mother died in August of 1867 and was buried the day her son was 11 years old.

The father brought the family to Fond du Lac, where a sister, a Mrs Holcomb, was living. Little is known of the family from then on except that Francis Hatten married Ann Murphy, the widow of a saloon keeper, on Aug. 17, 1873.

The establishment that Francis Hatten and his second wife ran had an ugly reputation. The father drank to excess and his children drifted away; his second wife died at Taycheedah, was buried there.

Ran Away From Home

Long before that tragedy took place, young William Hatten ran away from home. He appeared about 1869 at the home of David and Harriet Woodin, town of Lamartine, five miles west of Fond du Lac.

The lad knocked at the Woodin door, his worldly belongings tied up in a red handkerchief.

The history of his later years seems to establish the fact that the boy had three things definitely in his mind even in those early years.

He was determined to work hard, to learn what he could and to obliterate the memory of his unhappy Childhood. David Woodin, impressed with the boy’s eagerness to get ahead, gave him his first school books and enough time off to attend district school.

That school was taught by the late John H. McCrory, the man who later became the law partner of Judge Ryan Duffy’s father In Fond du Lac.

William Hatten for a brief period also attended Daggett’s business college at Oshkosh, where the Woodin family moved, having sold their farm in Lamartine.

For a time, the family, including Hatten, lived in Chicago, but in September of 1875 they moved back to Wisconsin, settling in a little white house off the main street in Manawa. Hatten was then 10.

Got Job With Lumber Firm

Woodin had been married twice before and Mrs. Woodin once; each had had children of their own, but of that marriage one girl, Effie, was born, and for Effie, William Hatten apparently had a streak of affection, a characteristic rare in his later life.

William Hatten for a time was assistant postmaster at Manawa and some say the tall, handsome lad in those days wore a Prince Albert coat and top hat. Certain it is that he worked hard.

His first job was at the J. M. Rounds Co., a Manawa, lumber firm. He kept the books; impressed the people for whom he worked.

Although there are stories afloat that he had an affair or two, girls were a luxury and luxuries were expensive. He never went to dances never played cards, never drank never smoked.

Maybe he “beaued” a girl around a bit and then stopped off to have supper at her home. That was cheaper than paying for his own meals.

Had Himself Adopted

Even in those early years, he was shrewd at business. On Feb. 9,1877, the company for which he was working went into bankruptcy and, for some reason that has never been fully explained, young Hatten requested that C. M. Bright of Waupuca, Wis., be appointed his guardian. The boy was just under 21.

Feb. 10, 1877, was a Saturday. On the following Monday, William H, Hatten was legally adopted by the Woodins — an unimportant little act then, but one which, just 60 years later, was to be of tremendous moment when Hatten died a millionaire.

Why Hatten had himself adopted — being a young man who could obviously take good care of himself — has never been explained but it is believed that he had wages coming from the bankrupt firm of J. M. Rounds and that, being still a minor, his real father’s creditors might have got hold of the money; and that would have been a tragedy.

Father Hatten had drifted into worse and worse habits with the passing of the years, and his smart business son was taking no chances on losing one hard earned cent.

William Hatten – Scrooge of Wisconsin – Part 2

Part 2

Hatten and one James Meikeljohn, who had helped him, took over the bankrupt Rounds property and formed the partnership of Meikeljohn & Rounds.

By July of 1884, Hatten, at the age of 28, was rich and smart enough to buy the property from his partner and a few years later the old mill on the banks of the Wolf river here in New London also passed into his hands.

The poor boy was well on the road to riches and nearer his god — the Almighty American Dollar.

In the meantime his sister by adoption, Effie Woodin, had been married to a poor railroad engineer, Frank Lathrop. The marriage took place on Mar. 34, 1878, and one of the witnesses to the ceremony was William Hatten, who then went by the name of William Woodin.

Woodin Died in ’89

For a time he took his adopted father’s name but he soon again signed himself “Hatten” or “Hatton” and, for some mysterious reason his adoption papers disappeared from the files of the county courthouse at Waupaca.

Hatten’s adopted mother had died in May of 1878 and Woodin, who later took his fourth wife, moved to Lincoln county in what is now the state of Washington. At the time of Woodin’s death in 1889 Hatten was named an heir.

His relationship to the Woodin family, after Hatton’s death, was a major factor in the fight over the large Hatten estate.

But in those early days the man who felt that he would never die was farther than ever from the thought of death.

The state’s lumber industry was still a mighty one and a leading actor in the drama of the woods and rivers of Wisconsin was William Hatten.

His main mill here where he had his offices, took a new lease on life after he got hold of it. It had changed hands often after the United States originally granted the land on which it stands to Charles Terence in June of 1853.

The tall thin man whose aristocratic nose could smell a good business deal a thousand miles away, acquired big tracts of lumber and large mills in the south,

Owned California Redwoods

He and Effie’s husband, Frank Lathrop, who enjoyed life to the full, made millions in Alabama in the Lathrop & Hatten Lumber Co.

At Philipp, Miss, (named after the late Gov. Emanuel Philipp of Wisconsin), Hatten owned the Tallahatchie Lumber Co. The Ingram-Dey Lumber Co. was another of his creations.

He had other holdings in Wisconsin and properties in Tennessee and Louisiana, in Oregon, Washington, Michigan, Minnesota and British Columbia.

He owned one of the finest stands of redwood left in California, which he often said should be owned by that state but about which he so characteristically never did anything.

He owned large pieces of real estate in downtown Chicago, not far from where his real sister lived in abject poverty. He had millions in securities; hundreds of thousands in cash.

He owned half a million worth of Bankshares Corp. at one time; was an owner of stock in and a director of four other banks in Wisconsin. In Oshkosh, they tell the story of his attending bank meetings there, getting his $20 in directors’ fees and then spending the night in a Turkish bath to save the price of a hotel room.

In the booming twenties, he was worth between $15,000,000 and $16,000,000, according to the top men who worked in his office for $200 or less a month.

The depression cut that fortune in half. While his dollars were piling up, Hatten was active in politics — for Hatton.

Francis McGovern, who was then governor, remembers him as a brilliant and constructive thinker; determined, straightforward — and tight.

Would Buy a Lunch

He drafted — in long hand as he shunned modern office equipment — the state’s railway legislation and served two terms in the state senate but was defeated by Isaac Stephenson for the United States senate in 1907 and for the governorship of Wisconsin in 1914 and 1916.

That he was defeated is not surprising.

Typical of his campaign tactics is the following: In one of his campaigns, his political admirers here organized an automobile procession. Hatten who never personally owned an automobile, rode with somebody else. The boys all paid for their own gasoline and one generous soul donated a band.

When the procession stopped for lunch that noon, the Hatten boosters expected that their candidate would buy them a lunch at least. But Hatten had slipped off by himself — was lunching in a second class restaurant for 20c.

When he ran against Stephenson both candidates were in Stevens Point on the afternoon of a ball game. Stephenson bought 1,000 tickets; Hatten sat by himself in the bleachers for 25c.

Throughout his life, Hatten was deeply, though never lavishly, interested in education, and there are rumors afloat of the thousands he dished out anonymously to Ripon and Lawrence colleges.

But a careful check of those two colleges reveals that the millionaire gave Ripon about $20,000 and Lawrence $29,000, some of which sums were collected with the greatest difficulty after they had been promised by Hatten.

Broken Promises

As he promised to remember his men in the mill, he also promised to remember those institutions on whose boards of trustees he had sat so long — but they got not a cent when he died.

But grimmest of all was the case of the high school here. The man who was so loquaciously interested in education wouldn’t give a cent toward building the school, and when it was finished he asked: “Can you learn more in an expensive building like this than you can in a log hut?”

His “active” interest in education was limited to small sums to a niece and some slight help to a nephew who struggled through Lawrence.

He knew and often talked with many of the leading educators of the state if the topic were not endowments. He knew, too, the members of the state supreme court, although he hated lawyers and took care of most of his legal work himself.

He had a hand in drawing up the federal reserve system of the United States and he knew well many of the business leaders in this part of the northwest. He had a great respect for learned minds but an even deeper admiration for anyone who had brains enough to make money.

Looked Like Rockefeller

Hatten was delighted when someone told him that he looked very much like John D. Rockefeller when both were young, but he never handed out a dime to kids in the neighborhood.

Once upon a time he gave $500 to the library, but when New London needed a new hospital, the following took place:

The committee in charge of raising the funds sent the Rev. F. S. Dayton to see Hatten.

Rev. Dayton said: “In this work we are really following out Christ’s teachings.”

Whereupon the rich and learned Mr. Hatton replied: “Well, I’ll tell you, reverend. Christ also said ‘Feed the poor.’ That’s what I’m doing out here keeping the mill running.”

And that was Hatten’s donation to the hospital.

Hatten was an omnivorous reader — especially economics and philosophy, but nothing lighter than the classics. He was also an indefatigable worker.

Hatten, who had no home and never married, got to his office early in the morning and often stayed until late at night. His employes were expected to do the same. As he took no vacations, they didn’t get any either — in spite of the fact that some of them worked for him for 50 years.

Hatten never drank, smoked nor chewed – not even gum. His employes were expected to follow his example and he could see no reason why they should play golf, as he didn’t.

Strange methods, too, characterized his routine office work. The man, who was many times a millionaire, handled most of his affairs himself and for years had no filing cabinets and made no carbon copies of hia vast correspondence.

Saves Scratch Paper

All his letters he tied up in little bundles. His desk was a forest and his office a mountain of papers. He kept the backs of envelopes and those parts of letters on which nothing had been written.

When his subordinates supplied Hatten with filing cabinets, he filled them with empty honey jars, half empty packages of breakfast foods, paper bags, whatnot.

For years he walked down the main street here, carrying a bottle of milk, a few crackers and some raw carrots in a bag and then he’d eat by himself in the office.

Empty milk bottles he’d return to the store for a refund, and if he had two empty bottles, he’d ask for a full bottle in exchange.

He lived for more than 40 years in a room in the Hotel Elwood here. A spotless, elegant little hostelry in itself, the room Hatten occupied was so crowded with old books and older magazines and junk in general that his bed had to be moved into the middle of the floor. In his earlier years he frequently had people in to Sunday dinner, but that stopped as he grew older, although he always enjoyed a good meal if someone else paid for it.

His Kindly Side

Hatten would never harm a living thing, and when, upon rare occasion, some of his acquaintances went fishing, Hatten wandered off into the woods by himself and gathered mosses, ferns and flowers. That was a kindly side to him, but it also had its business aspects.

In the fall Hatten gathered brightly colored leaves, took them to his hotel room, pressed them in a book. When Christmas came, William H. Hatten got out his leaves, pasted them on cheap bits of paper, delivered many of them in person, which saved the postage.