Collection: Racine County Wisconsin History

Biography of John A. Beecher

John A. Beecher, a prominent and influential citizen of Norway Township who owns and operates a farm on section 26, was born in that Township March 12, 1883, his parents being Jacob and Rachel (Dalzell) Beecher. He is a representative of one of the old pioneer families of this County, where his father was born in 1843. His paternal grandfather was a native of Germany and on coming to America first located in New York State. At a very early day in the development of this County he came west and took up government land here, continuing to reside thereon until his death. Jacob Beecher grew to manhood in this County and was married in Norway Township to Miss Rachel Dalzell, a daughter of James and Anna (Anderson) Dalzell, honored pioneers of Racine County. In 1848 Mr. Dalzell purchased one hundred and twenty acres of government land here but was not long permitted to enjoy his new home, for he was killed by lightning in 1851. His wife was a native of Scotland. Jacob Beecher made farming his life work and became the owner of the old homestead of one hundred and twenty acres and after his father’s death also purchased sixty acres more. He supported the Democratic Party at the polls and was called upon to fill several local offices. His death occurred in 1907. His wife held...

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Biography of Ezra R. Burgess

Ezra R. Burgess, a member of the Racine bar, practicing as a partner in the law firm of Gittins & Burgess, was born in Mount Pleasant Township, this County. September 13, 1873, and is a representative of an early New England family. His grandfather was Benajer Burgess, of Vermont, who in early manhood removed from the Green Mountain state to New York. After residing there for some time he arrived in Southport, Wisconsin, in 1836, and there operated a sawmill on Pike Creek but was not permitted to enjoy his new home, his death occurring soon afterward. His son, Alonzo Burgess, was born in Bennington, Vermont, and accompanied his parents on their removal to the Empire state. Following the arrival of the family in the west he engaged in the brick manufacturing business in Kenosha and afterward located on a farm in Kenosha County. At a subsequent date he removed to Mount Pleasant Township, Racine County, where for a number of years he successfully carried on general agricultural pursuits, but in 1880 retired from active, business life and removed to Racine, where he spent his remaining days in the enjoyment of a rest which he had truly earned and richly deserved. In early manhood he wedded Mary A. Buswell, a native of New Hampshire and a daughter of Ezra Buswell, of the Old Granite state, who in the spring...

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Biography of Walter G. Shumway

Walter G. Shumway has been a lifelong resident of Raymond Township, where he still makes his home and where he was born February 12, 1867. He is a son of Lyman and Mary (Ellis) Shumway, both of whom were natives of Massachusetts. The paternal grandfather, Walter Shumway, was also a native of New England and became one of the pioneer residents of Wisconsin, arriving in Racine County in 1838, long before the admission of the state into the Union. The work of improvement and development had scarcely been begun in this district and such was the unsettled condition of the country around that even Chicago had been incorporated as a city only the year before. The greater part of the land was still in possession of the government and Walter Shumway purchased four hundred acres of such land, upon which he built a log cabin that the family occupied for a number of years. They experienced all of the hardships and privations of life on the frontier, but their industry and determination at length brought changed and improved conditions. Lyman Shumway was a young man of about nineteen years when he accompanied his parents on their removal to this state and took up the occupation of farming in connection with his father. His life thereafter was devoted to the work of tilling the soil and in time substantial harvests...

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Biography of Frank Kellogg Bull

The name of Bull has been associated with the development of Racine’s greatest industry and one of the most important manufacturing enterprises of the country-the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company-since 1S63, when Stephen Bull assumed financial management of the enterprise. He was succeeded in the presidency of the company by his son, Frank Kellogg Bull, who remains in active connection with the business at the present time as chairman of the board, and in all the years his developing powers have proven adequate to the demands made upon him in the control and development of this gigantic concern. Mr. Bull has been practically a lifelong resident of Racine, although his birth occurred at Spring Prairie, in Walworth County, on the 7th of May, 1857. His ancestry is traced back to New England, he being a descendant of one of the Mayflower Pilgrims. His paternal grandparents, De Grove and Amanda M. (Crosby) Bull, established the family within Wisconsin’s borders and spent their remaining days as farming people of Raymond Township, Racine County, where both reached advanced age. Their son, Stephen Bull, who was born in Scipio, Cayuga County, New York, March 14, 1822, was accorded but few educational or other opportunities in his youth, mastering only such branches of learning as were taught in the subscription schools, but learning such lessons of life as could be gained through actual...

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Biography of P. Walter Petersen

P. Walter Petersen. a speculative builder of Racine whose activities have constituted an important element in the improvement and development of the city, particularly on the west side, was born in Odense, Denmark, March 31, 1878, as son of Soren and Maren (Hansdatter) Petersen, who spent their entire lives in Denmark. P. Walter Petersen is one of a family of seven children and four of the number are yet living in their native country. He was reared in Denmark and pursued his education in the Danish, English and German tongues. In early life he served an apprenticeship in a grocery store and he also had commercial training through attendance at a business college. He left Denmark when twenty years of age and, attracted by the opportunities of the new world, made his way to the United States, becoming a resident of Racine, where for five years he was employed by the Bee Bee Manufacturing Company. He had not been with them long before he was given charge of a department and throughout his connection with that firm he was entrusted with much responsibility as a department manager. He afterward embarked in the retail meat business on Sixteenth Street and Packard Avenue and after continuing in the trade there for four years he turned his attention to the building business in which he has since been actively engaged. He has...

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Biography of Charles Freeman

Charles Freeman is numbered among the successful business men of Racine, being active in the ownership and conduct of a mammoth manufacturing plant, his interests being conducted under the name of the S. Freeman & Sons Manufacturing Company, of which he is the president. This has become one of the important productive industries of the city and throughout his entire business career Mr. Freeman has been associated with the undertaking, starting out in this line when a youth of fourteen. He was born in Washington County. Illinois, March 17, 1858, and is a son of Stephen and Elizabeth (Willich) Freeman, the former a native of Wales and the latter of Pennsylvania. The father came to the United States in 1856 and settled at Centralia, Illinois, where he worked in the boiler shop of the Illinois Central Railroad Company, occupying the position of foreman. The following year he removed to Cairo, Illinois, and was engaged in the boiler business there with John O’Brien. With the outbreak of the Civil war he put aside all business and personal considerations and in 1861 became connected with Admiral Porter’s fleet, having charge of the boilers of the fleet, in which capacity he served for two years. Becoming ill, he was ordered north and in the fall of 1864 made his way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where his ability soon won for him the position...

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Biography of Edward H. Wadewitz

Edward H. Wadewitz, secretary, treasurer and general manager of the Western Printing & Lithographing Company, is prominent among the alert, enterprising and successful business men of Racine, whose efforts have been a substantial factor in the city’s growth and prosperity as well as in individual success. Honored and respected by all, he occupies an enviable position, not only by reason of the success to which he has attained, but also owing to the straightforward business methods which he has ever followed. In the conduct of his interests he has displayed marked initiative, as well as executive force. A native of Wisconsin, Mr. Wadewitz was born in Fredonia, February 22, 1878, a son of Henry and Augusta (Muehlberg) Wadewitz, the latter a native of this state, where her parents located in pioneer times. The father, Henry Wadewitz, a mason by trade, also came to Wisconsin at an early day and eventually removed to Iron Mountain, Michigan, where he passed away in 1892. His wife remained there for a number of years and is now in Racine. Edward H. Wadewitz removed to Port Washington, Wisconsin, about 1890, and in 1894, when a youth of sixteen years, came to Racine, where he was afterward joined by others of the family. He was one of four sons and there was also a daughter in the household. He obtained a common school education and...

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Biography of Vilas H. Whaley

Among the well known and prominent members of the Racine County bar is numbered Vilas H. Whaley. Although he is yet a young man, he has attained in the profession a position which many an older member of the bar might well envy. Mr. Whaley was born at Benton, Wisconsin, October 28, 1886, his parents being Frank and Mary (McDonald) Whaley, who were also natives of Benton. The former was a son of Patrick Whaley, a native of Ireland, who in early life crossed the Atlantic to the new world, settling in Lafayette County, Wisconsin. There he reared his family and became one of its pioneer farmers. After arriving at years of maturity Frank Whaley engaged in the grocery business in Benton and since that time has been prominently identified with the business enterprise and development of the town. He has also been interested in lead and zinc mining and is still the owner of mining properties in Lafayette County. Vilas H. Whaley attended school at Benton and also at Platteville, Wisconsin, entering the normal school of the latter place, from which institution he was graduated with the class of 1906. In the fall of 1906 he came to Racine and accepted a position as principal of the Harvey grammar school, thus continuing until 1909. In the fall of the latter year he matriculated in the law department of...

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Biography of John S. Hart

John S. Hart, secretary and treasurer of the Racine Woolen Manufacturing Company, was born January 16, 1885, and was the youngest of the three sons of Sands M. and Stella. M. Hart. The eldest brother, Lucius S. Hart, mentioned elsewhere, was accidentally shot while out hunting in California. The second brother, Harold H. Hart, is the president of the Racine Woolen Manufacturing Company. On another page of this work is given a complete history of both the paternal and maternal ancestry. After leaving the high school John S. Hart entered Dartmouth College, from which he was graduated in 1907. He spent a year and a half in Central America and was engaged in banana cultivation in Costa Rica. Upon his return to the United States he went to Minneapolis, where he became interested in the flour trade as a representative of the Washburn-Crosby Company and later he was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with the H. W. Johns-Manville Company, manufacturers of asbestos goods. In 1912 he returned to Racine to join his father and brother on the reorganization and reincorporation of the Racine Woolen Manufacturing Company, of which he became secretary, and following the death of his father in 1915, his brother, H. H. Hart, became president of the company and John S. Hart secretary and treasurer. The two brothers now concentrate their efforts upon the further development and extension of...

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Biography of Richard W. McCracken, M. D.

Among the successful and progressive physicians and surgeons of Racine County is Dr. R. W. McCracken, who has engaged in practice in Union Grove for a number of years. His birth occurred in Daviess County, Indiana, on the 4th of February, 1872, and his parents are Hiram and Sarah J. (Williams) McCracken, the former born in that County in 1842 and the latter in 1843. The father devoted his life to farming and dealing in stock and through good management has gained financial independence. He is a democrat in politics. The mother is a member of the Christian church. They have two children: R W. and J. O., who has engaged in the practice of medicine since 1905 and who is married and lives in Kenosha. The history of the McCracken family has been traced back to Alexander McCracken, who immigrated from the north of Ireland to the United States about 1622. Dr. McCracken’s great-grand- father, John McCracken, who was one of a family of five sons and two daughters, was born in the east but removed to Indiana where he passed away. His son, Richard McCracken, was born in Maryland, in 1787, and received his education in the east and in Kentucky, but in 1816 became a resident of Daviess County, Indiana. He took up various tracts of land in that state, the patents to his farms being...

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Biographical Sketch of Henry C. Miller

In pioneer times the Miller family, of which Henry C. Miller is a representative. was established in Racine and from that date to the present the name has figured prominently in connection with the development of the city’s manufacturing interests. Henry C. Miller, now one of the partners and officers in the J. Miller Company. has been identified with the shoe manufacturing business from the age of seventeen years. He was born in Racine, August 27, 1862, and supplemented his public school course by study in the McMynn Academy. When seventeen years of age he entered his father’s shoe manufacturing establishment, acquainted himself with the business and worked his way upward until he became superintendent of the factory. Later changes in the personnel of the company have occurred and for several years he has occupied the position of vice president, giving his attention now to administrative direction and executive control. On the 20th of June, 1900, Mr. Miller was united in marriage to Miss Cozie Clarke, a daughter of John J. and Margaret (Harter) Clarke, of Waukesha, Wisconsin, and to them has been born four children: John Clarke, Noel, Richard and Camille. The family is communicants of the St. Rose Catholic church and Mr. Miller is identified also with the Knights of Columbus. In politics he is independent, but is interested in the welfare and progress of his city...

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Biography of John T. Gittings

John T. Gittings, a well known lawyer of Union Grove. is giving particular attention to the probating of estates and has built up a large practice in that line. He also has extensive business interests, being secretary of The Greenhouse Company, which is capitalized for thirty thousand dollars, and vice president of the firm of John Meter & Company, owners of a sauerkraut factory. His birth occurred in Caledonia, this County, August 9, 1870, and he is a son of William and Elizabeth (Gittings) Gittings and a grandson of William Gittings, of Utica, New York. The father, born in Wales, came to the states, and in 1855 purchased land in Caledonia Township, and soon afterward was joined by his father and the other members of the family. William Gittings, Jr., devoted his active life to agricultural pursuits and gained a competence which enabled him to retire during his last years. He resided in Racine for some time, but his death occurred when he was visiting in Wales in August, 1911. The family came to America from that country, but is of English origin. To Mr. and Mrs. William Gittings, Jr., were born seven children, namely: Katharine, the wife of Captain John Pugh, of Racine; William G., who is manager of the Gold Medal Camp Furniture Company of Racine; Mellie, who became the wife of Charles E. Kittinger and died...

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Biography of William A. Walker

William A. Walker is a member of the board of supervisors of Racine County, while his business interests are those of a manufacturer. He is devoting his attention to the making of railroad anchors and has developed a business of a very substantial character. Mr. Walker was born in Windham, Ohio, July 28, 1850, a son of John B. and Ellen (Whiteley) Walker, who were natives of Yorkshire, England. When eighteen years of age the father came to the United States with his eldest brother, landing at New Orleans, whence they made their way northward to St. Charles, Illinois. After a short time John B. Walker went to “The Phalanx.” a community settlement at -Windham. Portage County, Ohio. When this disbanded he purchased the farm and in connection with its cultivation and improvement operated a sawmill and wool carding machine. He also made ties for the first railroad between Cleveland mid Youngstown. Ohio, and there he lived for nine years, afterward removing to Leavittsburg, Ohio, about seven miles south. At that place he turned his attention to the woolen manufacturing business and after spending seven years there removed to Youngstown, Ohio, where he founded a larger manufacturing plant and continued to manufacture woolen goods, being identified with the business interests of that locality for a decade. In 1871 he removed to Girard. Ohio, and opened a woolen manufactory there,...

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Biography of Harold H. Hart

Thorough technical and scientific training as well as broad practical experience well qualified Harold H. Hart for the conduct of the important and extensive business which he is conducting as president of the Racine Woolen Manufacturing Company, whose output of Indian blankets makes theirs the foremost establishment of this kind in the country. Mr. Hart is a native of Racine, born July 3, 1882, and is a son of Sands M. and Stella M. (Blake) Hart. A history of his parents and of both his paternal and maternal grandparents is given in this volume, showing him to be descended from two of the oldest and most prominent families of the County. At the usual age he became a public school pupil and after leaving the high school he attended Racine College, from which he was graduated with the class of 1902. His business career pointing toward woolen manufacturing interests, his education was further directed toward preparation for that line and he entered the Philadelphia Textile College, from which he was graduated in 1905. He afterward served as superintendent of three different mills in the east, the largest being that of the Cocheco Woolen Manufacturing Company of Rochester, New Hampshire, where he remained until 1909, when he returned to Racine and has since been connected with the Racine Woolen Manufacturing Company His previous scientific and technical training and broad, practical...

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Biography of Hon. W. H. Bell

Hon. W. H. Bell, whose operations in the real estate field have contributed much to the development of the city, has also been prominently connected with the upbuilding of Racine through his activity in the political field, doing important work as a member of the city council, while upon the legislative records of the state he has left the impress of his individuality. A native of England, he was born in Liverpool on the 8th of August, 1863, and is a son of John and Ellen (Rushton) Bell. The father was a native of Dumfriesshire, Scotland, and after removing to England was married in Liverpool. He continued his residence in that country until his death, which occurred about twelve years ago, and his wife passed away about nine years ago. Reared in his native city, W. H. Bell there attended the public schools until 1880, when he determined to try his fortune in the new world and crossed the Atlantic to America, settling in Racine. Here he entered the employ of the J. I. Case Threshing Machine Company, with which he continued from 1881 until 1889. He was afterward with the Racine Hardware Company until 1892, when he turned his attention to the real estate business. In this field he has since operated. He largely handles his own property and he has opened up the Hamilton addition, making this...

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