Tales of the First Settlers by Jessie Sprague | Chapter 2


Tales of the First Settlers

By Jessie E. Sprague, written in 1925

When the town was platted, a lot was donated to John L. Dixon, on condition that he build a store on it, which he did, in 1856. This was the first store building in Brodhead. It stood on Center Street where the Matt Putnam meat market is now. The original building was destroyed by fire and has been replaced. Here the Sherman Brothers and Henry Clinton kept the first general store in Brodhead. Edson Clinton had a hardware store in the same building.

Martin Mitchell moved his stock of goods from Decatur in 1858, and opened a store on the North Side, afterward known as the Wheaton Store.

Exchange pre-1895 | Brodhead, Wis.

Two hotels were built on the North Side in 1856, while the Manley House was in process of construction on the South Side. The Clinton House, a large two-story frame building, was north of the business section, on Thomas Street, now known as Race Street, but at this time there was no Race. After a few years the owners realized that the Clinton House was located too far from the business section to be profitable, and it was sold to the Sugar River Valley Railroad Company, who took it down and moved it to Cresco, Iowa, and the Framer's Hotel, now known as the Sennett House, was also built in 1856.
Public Hall | downtown, Brodhead

The first brick store building in town was the three story double building now standing on the west side of Center Street. It was built by Laird & McLaren, in 1856-7. They, being of Scotch descent, named it the Caledonia Building, and the large double hall in the third story was known as Caledonia Hall. Here the young people went to dances. There were dances, too, in the ballroom of the Clinton House and in the Manley House and in old Keith Hall on the South Side.
Public Hall | downtown, Brodhead

The McLarens lived where Frank Skinner lives now. Mrs. McLaren, who was a sister of the Lairds, died in March, 1857, and was buried in a cornfield, south of the Russell Day place. This was the first death in Brodhead. Her body was afterward moved to a burying ground south of the old Rose Farm. The rows of hard maple trees that stood there until a short time ago were planted around the borders of this old cemetery.

Mrs. McLaren's infant daughter, Helen, was perhaps the first child born in Brodhead. Mr. McLaren built the brick house where Oswald Koller lives now, about 1860. It was long known as the old McLaren place. Mrs. McLaren was a sister of Mrs. Blanchard and of Mrs. Harvey Moore.
Harvey Moore

The fine old residence of Deacon Clinton, now known as the Peter Taylor place, stands at the end of Thomas Street. It was built in 1856, and was long a family center of hospitality. The beautiful old Sherman place, across the corner, was not built until later.

Gradually the business section of the town changed to the North Side. The Halsted store was moved up to the corner now occupied by the Bank of Brodhead, where it was known as the Cole building. Clarke & Towne's drug store occupied the first floor and Cole's Hall on the second floor was used at various times for religious services, lectures and other meetings.

The old town well stood in the Square, where the drinking fountain stands now. The well was stoned or bricked up, as there were no driven wells in those days, and it must be there now, under the pavement. There was an old wooden pump, where the horses drank.

There were no sidewalks during the first years, even in the downtown district. The sand was many inches deep and old residents tell of wading through it from one little shop to another. There were wooden steps in front of the shops and long open spaces between buildings.

On the corner where the Jones Filling Station is now, there was a dwelling, the Larkin residence. There was a porch on the south side, and a dooryard. The nearest business building on the south was the Monell building, now occupied by Mr. Everson. One of the several maple trees that were planted around this dwelling still stood in the side walk in front of the corner, until the present cement walk was laid, when it was cut down. Another dwelling, the Dunbar residence, stood on the opposite corner, west.

The settlement was not incorporated as a village until March, 1870; but the school district of Brodhead was organized in 1857, and from that time a school has been maintained here.
Taylor Swann's 1839 Schoolbook

During the winter of 1859-60, I.F. Mack, Jr., taught a select school of young ladies and gentlemen in the Spencer building, opposite the Commercial House.
Studies from 1839

Mr. Spencer had a wagon factory where the Laube & Durner shops are now. The Spencer building was afterward moved to Goodrich Street and remodeled into the residence now occupied by Dr. Darby.