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Walworth grew after railroad arrived

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Ginny Hall | January 24, 2014

The village of Walworth originally was known as Douglass Corners. The 1882 “History of Walworth County” indicates that at that time the community had a post office, a schoolhouse, a church, two general stores, a shoe store, two blacksmith shops and several homes.

The Seventh Day Baptists had a church in the village, organized in December 1845.  Its seven members were Deacon Alfred Maxson, John R. Maxson, N.L. Bassett, William Davids, Charles W. Dowse, Mrs. Harriet E. Coon and Mrs. Hannah M. Coon. By 1882 its membership had grown to 170; as many as 250 attending services.

Prior to April 1855, most meetings in the township, either business or religious, were held at the Cobblestone School. This building was just west of the Cobblestone Cemetery. That schoolhouse was built in 1845. After April 1855, meetings were held alternately at the village schoolhouse and the Cobblestone School.

The hamlet was platted by Carlos L. Douglass, becoming an official village in 1901.  

According to Albert Beckwith's “History of Walworth County,” the community did not grow to any great extent until the electric railroad was built. This connected it to Harvard, Ill., in 1899. Then in 1901 the railroad was connected to Chicago and Janesville. 

In 1905 the village had gasoline street lights. Water works service began in 1911. By this time the electric railroad extended to Fontana and Geneva Lake. 

Beckwith indicates that the Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Walworth began in January 1878. By 1910 they had insured 461 locations. Beckwith lists the 1912 president as Carlos S. Douglass and Martin F. Schacht as secretary.

Another important building in the early community was the Big Foot Academy. A group of parents wanted education for their children, which was more than available at the district schools. The names of people behind this effort included Bell, Douglass, Coon, Maxson, Bailey, Hull, Church, Randolph, Ayers, Hall and Swinney. The academy opened in the fall of 1857.  Although their building was sold to Charles H. Gilbert in 1861, and he sold it to the Seventh Day Baptists that same year, the academy continued until 1882. Then the property was sold to the village school district.

The Walworth State Bank was incorporated in 1903. Carlos S. Douglass was the president and Frank E. Lawson was the cashier. The village had a newspaper, the Walworth Times, beginning in 1904.  Savery & Alden were the first publishers. 

The early village presidents included William Higbee in 1901, Thomas H. Pugh in 1902 and 1906, Elmer A. Peterson in 1903 and 1908, Hiram S. Bell in 1904 and 1905 and John C. Partridge and Mahlon Colburn in 1907.

The village clerks during those years included Oscar E. Davis, Amos H. Hitchcock and Harold E. Waters. Village treasurers during those years were Gilbert E. Dangerfield and Edgar O. Burdick.       H. Irving Coon served as police justice in 1901 and 1907. Frederick Goelzer served in 1905.
 
Ginny Hall, a historian from Delavan, is author of the “Walking around ...” and “Meandering ... ” books, which highlight the history of Walworth County communities.
 



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