Towns split off when Williams Bay incorporated

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Ginny Hall
Friday, May 10, 2013

A photo of this Mystery Place is HERE

You have to have an errand in mind to drive past the Williams Bay Village Hall. It is not on the main stream of traffic in the village. It is located at the north end of Williams Street. The village was named for Capt. Israel Williams Sr., a soldier in the War of 1812 when he lived in Connecticut.

In the summer of 1836, he settled on the south shore of Geneva Lake with his family of seven sons. Royal J., Austin, Israel Jr., Moses, Francis and Festus were the only names I could find. Festus was the first director (chairman) of the Williams Bay school board. They built a cabin for Israel just east of the Northwestern Military & Naval Academy and one for Moses around Abbey Springs. Israel Jr.’s son, Henry, was the first birth in the town of Linn.

In 1838, the family moved across the lake to Williams Bay. Their home was located in the park on the lakeshore. Three generations of Williamses lived in that original house until 1924. At one time it had the name of Buckhorn Tavern. Mrs. Williams is credited for being the first cheesemaker in the county back in 1838.

Israel Sr. died in 1849. Mrs. Edward Williams started the first library in her home. This was located where the village fire department is.

Williams Bay was part of the town of Walworth from 1843 until it was incorporated in 1919. Originally the town of Walworth was part of the town of Delavan and then in 1839 became part of Walworth/Sharon Township.

The village settlement began about 1879. According to Albert Beckwith’s “History of Walworth County,” it was around 1893 that this area became a magnet for wealthy Chicagoans. Until the railroad came in 1888, all of the area was farmed by Royal J. Williams. James L. Tubbs platted the village in 1897 for Mrs. Lucretia S. Williams, widow of Royal Joy Williams.

The original plat began to the north at what is now Olive Street going east one block beyond Wisconsin Highway 67. It went west one-half block toward Elmhurst then south to Cherry and west to Williams. It jogged west one lot down to Spring Street and then east to Walworth and continued south to Congress and east to the lake.

A post office was established on April 27, 1892, in the home of Edward and Marie Williams. The first postmistress was Mrs. Marie Williams.

The first regular meeting of the village board was held Nov. 24, 1919, in the public library. The first village president was Storrs B. Barrett in 1920. He served until May 1924, when Mike Peterson took over the office. Paul B. Jenkins was elected in May 1925. At the second meeting of the board, 18 sites for 100-candlepower lamps were established. The first budget was passed Oct. 11, 1920, with a tax rate of $4.20 per $1,000.

Jacob Crane, a Chicago engineer, offered to draw up a master plan for the village for $450. In April 1922, his offer was accepted and he finished the plan in September of that year. In 1923, the village approved plans for the Cedar Point, the Lackey Bros. and the Emery F. Jaeger & Alfred A. Pederson subdivisions.

The official song of the village is “The Moonlight Melody of Williams Bay” (on Geneva Lake), with words and music by Stanford R. Espedal.

In April 1965, the village was hard hit by a tornado. It touched down near Yerkes Observatory and went across the College Camp golf course. It continued across the highway into the residential area and took the roof off of the Sherwood Nursing Home. It destroyed the Peterson Cabinet Shop and Leslie Case Heating Company and then went on toward Lake Como, destroying some barns and homes and picking up a car along the way. It caused more than $500,000 of damage and put 93 telephones out of service.

When the village was incorporated, the Library League presented its building and contents, debt-free, to the village. It was used until this hall was built. That building on Geneva Street incorporated room for the library along with village offices and the police department. The village built the current municipal hall near the field house at Lions Park in 1996. At that point the library took over the use of the village hall portion of the building.

Last updated: 8:46 am Wednesday, July 10, 2013

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