History of Watertown, Dodge County, Wisconsin
From: Dodge County, Wisconsin Past and Present
By Homer Bishop Hubbell
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago 1912


Probably but one third of the city of Watertown lies within the county of Dodge but it is of importance to make some mention of the place here, from the fact that some of the very early settlers of Dodge county located in or about that portion of Watertown which lies in the town of Emmet Timothy Johnson is said to have been the first settler on that part of Rock river now within the limits of Watertown and the place was known for some years as Johnson's Rapids. Johnson was a native of Connecticut, and after traveling over and living in many parts of the south and cast, he arrived in the village of Racine, in the fall of 1835. In January, 1836, undeterred by the severity of the winter storms, so Mr. Johnson writes in a narrative of his early experiences, he continued his march westward, struck the Rock river valley in the vicinity of Janesville and going to Rockford, Illinois, for a supply of provisions, he renewed his journey, following the course of the river northward. Stopping about two miles below the present site of Jefferson, Mr. Johnson erected a small log shanty. He occupied his time by clearing a small spot of ground and in making short excursions about the country. During one of these exploring expedi tions he discovered what was soon afterwards known as Johnson's Rapids. or Watertown. Here eventually he staked out a claim of about a thousand acres, whereon the principal portion of Watertown now stands, and on June 18, 1836, he purchased a fresh supply of provisions at Milwaukee, also a yoke of oxen and a wagon. He returned to his shanty on Rock river, bringing with him Philander Baldwin, Reeve Griswold and Charles Seaton. During that summer they cut a road from Johnson's shanty up the east side of the river to the rapids and soon afterward built a log cabin on the west side of the river below the railroad junction. Sending word to his family in Ohio, they joined Mr. Johnson in the woods on the loth of December, 1836.

Early in the winter of 1837 George J. and Charles F. Goodhue came up the Rock river from Beloit and purchased the claims of Timothy Johnson and others on the other side of the stream. They were joined in March, 1837, by James Rogan and two or three men with families. Importing millwrights, mechanics and others, the Goodhues built a double log mill and put a dam across Rock river in May, 1837, and this dam was the first ever built on that stream either in Wisconsin or Illinois. The mill began turning out lumber in December. At this time the inhabitants in the neighborhood numbered about seventy persons.

In 1841 James Rogan erected another sawmill, on the west side of the river. In the fall of 1842 the property on the east side of the river was purchased by Cole, Bailey & Company, who erected what was known as the old yellow grist mill. By that time a part of the city was laid out in blocks and lots, Milo Jones, of Fort Atkinson, being the surveyor.


In the spring of 1853, Watertown was incorporate as a city and contained at that time between three and four thousand inhabitants. There were six dry goods stores, eleven groceries, two drug stores and three hardware stores. The town was well supplied with saloons, having fifteen. There were two bakeries, three meat markets, two livery stables, a tobacconist, seven blacksmith, six wagon and two cabinet shops, two jewelry stores, fourteen shops, one chair factory, one machine and five shoe shops, one fork and hoe, one plow, one door and sash and one salaratus factory, three flouring and four sawmills, one fanning mill and two harness making shops, two book stores, two barber shops, one gunsmith, one tannery, one furnace, one pottery, one carding machine, one oil mill, one rake and cradle factory, one woolen and yarn factory, two printing offices, six schoolhouses, two select schools and one bank.

It seems by the records that some time previous to the year 1844 a school district had been set off in Watertown and one or more terms of school had been held. At a meeting held in A. Huffman's shop in October, 1844, Timothy Johnson was appointed moderator, and Jacob J. Enos, clerk. School officers were chosen as follows: John C. Gilman, Michael Murphy and Haven M. Morrison, trustees; John Gibb, collector; Jacob J. Enos clerk. The school year was divided into two terms, called the winter and summer terms. Two thirds of the public money was applied to the winter term and one third to the summer term. At a similar meeting held in April, 1845, the trustees were instructed to hire a male teacher for five months and if necessary, to employ an assistant female teacher.

Watertown has a number of excellent schools. The Northwestern University was founded in 1864 by the Lutheran synod of Wisconsin, which put up a large brick structure on the east side of the river within the limits of Watertown, at a cost of $24,000, and opened the institution on the 1st of September, 1865. There is also an excellent Catholic educational institution, and the Lutherans, Moravians and Catholics each early began to support well disciplined parochial schools. The city is also one of many churches, manufacturing concerns, hotels, banks and newspapers.

In that part of Dodge county in which part of Watertown is situate, comprising wards 5 and 6, there are 2,305 inhabitants. The total population of Watertown is 8,830.

Watertown's officials in 1912 were: Mayor, H. G. Grube; clerk, Frank S. Weber; assessor, Herman G. Krueger; treasurer, Emil Tauck.

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