ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


O. E. Carlson

Brick Manufacturer



Our Village – It is gratifying and speaks well for the preserving industry and enterprise of our citizens, to see the extensive preparations that are being made to “go ahead” in almost every department of improvement, in every quarter of our village.  Lumber and brick – don’t start Milwaukee!


We have got real bona fide Watertown brick, just as good as – It’s a fact.  True, we have not built up a “Queen City” here yet, but if the manufacture of brick can elevate a place to majesty (which of course you will not deny).  Watertown is already a princess royal.


Lumber and brick, we say [see], are piled high upon a great many hitherto vacant lots, and a number of active laborers are at work, “digging into the bowels of the earth,” not in search of “villainous salt-peter,” but for the peaceful purpose of excavating cellars. 


The number of buildings which will be erected during the current year will be greater than during any former two or three years; and many of them will add much to the appearance of our village.  Among them will be the steam grist mill of Messrs Cole and Bailey, which has already ‘broke ground,’ and is advancing on the most modern and approved “progressive principles.”


- Rock River Pilot, 03 29 1848




Building – Judging from the piles of brick lying around in different parts of the city, considerable building will be carried on here during the present season, notwithstanding the high price of wages, lumber and materials generally.  Dwelling houses are in great demand.  In fact, we do not know of an unoccupied tenement of any kind within the limits of the corporation [city].  Though the war has taken away many of our citizens our population is as large as ever and is undoubtedly increasing.   WD




In 1866 two Watertown brickyards employed 109 mainly seasonal workers, more than any other industry except the St. Paul Railroad.  They produced ten million bricks each year and exported seven million.  Visible reminders of this once thriving industry are the downtown brick buildings, the hundreds of brick houses scattered throughout the city and the two little lakes near the south end of Third Street.  They were once filled with the clay used in making bricks.  Mr. O. E. Carlson operated the last brickyard in Watertown between 1925 and 1935, with an annual production of three million bricks.  The use of cement blocks in the construction industry made such inroads into the brick business that Wisconsin, which once had 30 brickyards, now has only one at Oakfield, near Fond du Lac.


Kiessling, Elmer C., Watertown Remembered (Watertown: Watertown Historical Society), 1976, p 177.



         The old swimming hole called Lake Oscalo.  Back in 1866, when the old brick yard was digging clay to make bricks, the pit filled up with sparkling spring water from the many springs.  This water furnished a wonderful swimming hole for many old timers who will remember the happy days at the old clay quarry in the seventh ward.  In 1936 Mr. and Mrs. Oscar E. Carlson purchased the brick yard property and made this portion of their land a beauty spot for many of their friends who enjoy swimming, fishing, and picnicking. 


Lake Oscalo was named after Oscar and Loda Carlson and was registered with the State Conservation Dept under that name.  Today Lake Victoria.  Loda Carlson was a corsetiere.








Joseph Terbrueggan, W. J. Toussaint and L. H. Cordes established the Watertown Electric Light plant; disposed of in 1906 to the John I. Beggs interests.



05 11       L. H. CORDES & Co. began making brick at their brick yards in the 7th ward on Monday with a force of 75 men.   WG




Our good friend, Charley Straw, has at length discovered that "Watertown is on the map."  He is in receipt of a copy of The Trade Bulletin from Fond du Lac, in which appears an advertisement listing "Watertown Brick and Limburger Cheese."  It is perhaps needless to say that Watertown is famous for its cheese as well as geese.



-- --           WATERTOWN BRICK YARD





Three remonstrances were presented to the council [at the last council meeting] from residents on Church Street protesting against the proposed paving of that street with brick and urging the use of macadam paving material.  They are opposed to brick for several reasons.  First, because of the high grade of that street; second, because brick is too noisy for a residence street; third, because brick paving is too expensive and would prove a burden to the tax payers.  The communications were filed in order that the parties may have an opportunity to be heard.




Wm. Schroeder, 1201 Rockwell Street, teamster for the McGolrick Fuel Co., was killed in a runaway accident this morning near the 3d Street railway crossing.  He was hauling a load of brick with his team from the Cordes brickyard, and when near the 3rd Street crossing his team got scared, ran away and threw him to the ground, the wagon passing over his head and crushing it, causing death almost instantly.  He leaves a wife and family.   WG




The proposal to have the city purchase the 15-acre tract at the old brick yard, the pool of which has been used for swimming over a long period of time, and convert it into a swimming pool and general recreation grounds is being debated these days, ever since the question was revived at the last meeting of the city council. 


The council has taken the matter under advisement and expects to act definitely on the offer made by the Koehler family, owners of the property, when it meets on September 18.  The offer, if it is not acted on now, will be withdrawn.


The pool in question is two miles from Main Street.  In the last few days scores of interested persons have visited the grounds to get a clearer picture of it and to discover for themselves if the proposal should be considered.  Every alderman and other city officials have been instructed to visit the place in order to gain firsthand knowledge of the site.


Opinion is divided on the subject.  Some contend the pool and grounds is in too hidden an area and others assert it can be acquired now at a price reported to be around $3,000 and that it can be developed at some future time, if not now. 


Others claim it would be an ideal project to develop with government aid, being pointed out that some form of public works program will be continued by the federal government as part of the Roosevelt administration.


With such a project ready to be carried out, Watertown could present it when the proper time comes and men could be put to work on turning it into a natural pool and developing the surrounding grounds, those who support the idea assert.


Spokesmen for Seventh ward residents also point out that the ward, which has grown and developed more quickly in recent years than any other section of the city, has no playground for its children and that while other parts of the city have parks and playgrounds the people there have been neglected in the matter of such projects.


The council has taken the matter over as a committee of the whole and will bring it up at the next meeting.





150,000 Bricks Being Salvaged from Ruins of Hartig’s Brewery


At least 150,000 bricks will be salvaged from the old Hartig brewery building which is now being demolished to make room for a modern supermarket, it was announced today by O. E. Carlson, local fuel and brick dealer at 1501 South Third Street.  Mr. Carlson said that under ordinary circumstances the salvage would run to around one million bricks, but because of the process of demolishing the building, which is taking speed into consideration, most of them will be useless.


Mr. Carlson said the bricks are being hauled to his yards and will be cleaned there.  He said some of the bricks will go into a new church at Palmyra.


The bricks used in the brewery came originally from the same brick yard which Mr. Carlson now occupies.


The bricks used in the brewery are in good shape, some as good as any used today and some even superior in quality to present day manufactured bricks.


Mr. Carlson said that most of the bricks and rubble are being used to fill in the old cellars which lined the site of the brewery and hence are of no use to him.  But he is taking as many of the bricks as he can get and after they are sorted and cleaned he expects to have about 150,000 for future use.


Some of the walls in the brewery are four feet thick, Mr. Carlson jointed out.


Much of the brewery is now down and the remaining walls will come down shortly, as the work proceeds.  Bulldozers and a crane re being used in the process.  The 50 foot chimney came down some time ago.


The brewery site will be occupied by the supermarket which is to be operated by. the National Tea Co. stores.  The market will be built by Bay Kern, local business man who acquired the property from the Merchants National Bank of this city some months ago.  He has completed arrangements with the food chain to occupy the market.  In addition to the modern market, there will also be room on the site for parking 100 cars.





The old Carlson cottage on what is now Lake Victoria . . . the brickyard.


Assessor note:  10 05 1981:  Cottage town down.  Now part of Lakeside Meadows.



05 13       “THE BRICKYARD”

Lake Victoria and Heiden Pond will keep their names

The committee approved renaming the area around Heiden Pond “The Brickyard.”  The name “The Brickyard” is a reference to the heritage of Watertown and the brickmaking business historically done in that area.  Eventually a sign will be put up made out of Watertown bricks recognizing that history.     WG


05 13       LAKE VICTORIA



05 13       HEIDEN POND




Cross References:

Chadwick Brick Company

Chapter on Watertown Brick

Third, S, 406        1912, Home of L H Cordes

Sprague brickyard, 1899 mention of 

John Koehler associated with company





Last week we talked about the old brickyard ponds on the south side of the city and then moved into the brickmaking business that at one time flourished in our community.

Today we want to continue a bit on that theme.


We talked a bit about the famous Octagon House and the hundreds of thousands of bricks that had gone into its construction. Most all of those bricks came from Watertown brickmakers with the exception of the facing brick which John Richards, the home’s owner, determined should be of Milwaukee’s “Cream City Brick” which he felt had a better look. A lot of people would disagree with that notion, but he was the man paying the bills, so he got what he wanted.


But another fine example of Watertown brick is the Ferdinand Hartwig home which is now part of the Mary Knoll Subvision adjacent to the Watertown High School and Brandt/Quirk Park properties.


Hartwig was an early pioneer and first settled in Ixonia and worked in a brickyard there for 25 cents a day. One time when his employer failed to pay him, Hartwig took his compensation by being paid in bricks.


He later moved to Watertown and became a breeder of pedigreed Durham cattle and later Holsteins. A short while later he built and operated a lime kiln on his property for his own exclusive use. That led him in 1864 to construct his brick home in that area and it remains there today. Way back in 1864 the home cost $6,000, a tidy sum.


The home has had several owners over the years but we remember it well when it was known as the Herb Lunde farm. Lunde was quite a character and always tinkering with something. Herb’s son, Steve, was a classmate of ours and a friend to this day. We remember being at that Hartwig and later Lunde farm many times. Back then, Herb had purchased a wrecked Thunderbird dating back to one of the earliest years of production, probably from the early 1950s, and completely restored it. We took some rides with him in that classic car and it was pretty nifty, but today we can’t imagine what a car of that vintage and model would be worth. We remember the home was so large it had a pair of staircases to the second and third floors which we always thought to be quite unusual. But, it gave an idea of the size of the home.


Watertown’s last brick manufacturer was Oscar Carlson, who with his wife, Loda, operated the brickyard where the ponds are now located.


In 1925 he purchased a controlling interest in the Watertown Brick and Tile Company. He moved to the city from Menomonie when the purchase was completed.


He bought the company from Kusel and Gaston. In later years he recalled to the Daily Times that he believed the business was originally owned by a Mr. Terbigen (Terbrueggan?)


The Carlson pit, now the two lakes we’ve been writing about, was equipped with a cable car to transport the clay some feet to his shed where the clay was machine pressed into molds and then placed in the nearby kiln. Gradually that pit grew until some parts of it are over 20 feet deep. Once brick-making ended, the pit gradually filled with spring water and it is now Lake Victoria and the adjacent soon-to-be Brickyard Pond.


After the brickmaking business ended in Watertown, Oscar moved into a slightly different direction. He was involved with a lot of old building demolition work and would bring piles of bricks to his property south of Clark Street where he’d hire young people to knock off the mortar and stack the bricks on pallets to be used again. That business continued into the early 1960s.


Oscar and his wife, Loda, lived at 1016 S. Eighth St., not all that far from the brick business.  They also built a cottage off the shore of Lake Oscalo, now Lake Victoria, where they enjoyed many spring, summer and fall days.  Back then it was a pretty quiet neighborhood.


We don’t know when it ended but in the heyday of making bricks, a spur line from the old Milwaukee Road tracks went all the way to the brickyard where it branched into two sidings where bricks were loaded on cars and sent on their way. That siding went past the Sealed Air plant (years ago the old shoe factory), past Reiss Industries, through the Wisconsin Energy property, past the open field, part of which today is a large water detention pond, across Clark Street, along the now parking lot of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, and on to the pond.  The southern portion of the tracks are long gone, but the spur coming off the main line for some blocks is still in place.  The actual connection from the main line to the spur was disconnected about a year ago because of a lack of use and costs to maintain it.


The brickmaking business was a huge one in Watertown for decades, but as society changes so do the businesses and industries.    - TLS


Above derived from WDTimes article  




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin