ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Louis Herman Cordes

1852 – 1922


Cordes Brick Co







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




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






Louis H Cordes, b. Jul 29, 1852, d. Mar 2, 1922.  Buried in Oak Hill Cemetery

Joachim C Cordes, saloon and billiard hall, Main, W 3rd, res same, 1875-76 Watertown City Directory





Established Large Brick Industry in This City

Also Instituted Electric Lighting Plant

Funeral Will Be Held Saturday


Louis Herman Cordes, a leader in the business life of Watertown for almost half a century and a citizen of great nobility of purpose, died at St. Mary’s hospital yesterday afternoon about 3 o’clock.


Mr. Cordes went to the hospital about three months ago and submitted to an operation for bladder trouble.  It was entirely successful and he was preparing for a second operation, which was decided upon by the surgeons.  In the meantime, he was taken ill with pneumonia and the operation was abandoned at the time.  He recovered from the attack of pneumonia and on Wednesday underwent the operation.  The result was pronounced very successful and attending physicians and members of the family entertained high hopes for his ultimate recovery.  However, it was soon discovered that his general debilities were such that recovery was questionable, and the gradually sank until the final dissolution.


The deceased was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joachim Cordes, who came to this country from Canen, Hanover, Germany, in 1846.  The family settled on a farm in the town of Farmington, Jefferson County, where the subject of this sketch was born.  In 1860 they came to Watertown.  The father died a number of years ago, but the mother, whose maiden name was Minnie Hoefer, is still in fair health at the age of 93 years, her residence being at 417 Seventh Street, in this city.


Mr. Cordes was united in marriage to Miss Mary Staats of this city, on November 28, 1889.  She died July 4, 1909.  The couple had no children.  He is survived by his aged mother, one brother, Ernst Cordes, for many years railway station agent at Sparta and four sisters, Mrs. Edward Specht of this city, Miss Minnie Cordes, who resides with her mother here, Mrs. William Winkenwerder and Mrs. George Winkenwerder of Chicago.  The deceased was prominent in social and fraternal affairs, being a charter member of the Elks, and holding membership in Watertown Chapter No. 49, F and A. M. and No. 11, R. A. M., and Olivet Commandery No. 18 K. T.  Another fraternal affiliation was the Modern Woodmen of America.


Mr. Cordes took a deep interest in everything that pertained to the welfare of Watertown and was generous in dealing with the public and his fellowmen.  He possessed a kind hart which moved him to the performance of many deeds of kindness and charity.  Loyal in his friendships, he was in turn loved by a large circle of personal friends who mourn his death.


The deceased was for twenty years a director of the Merchants National Bank of this city.


Mr. Cordes may be truly classed as one of the foremost builders of Watertown, having during his lifelong residence here, contributed much to the industrial advancement and civic improvement of this community.  He was for over forty-five years actively identified with various business enterprises of Watertown, where he had carried on his operations honestly and prosperously during that time.  Believing that the success of a business should redound to the benefit of all connected with it, Mr. Cordes paid good wages and was always regarded highly by those in his employ.


Born upon his father’s farm in the town of Farmington, Jefferson County, Wisconsin, on July 29, 1852, where he spent his youthful days, Mr. Cordes came to Watertown with his parents in 1860.  He attended the public schools and his natural inclination to acquire knowledge of a beneficial nature, caused him to progress rapidly in his studies.  After leaving school he decided to learn the trade of a tinsmith and entered the employ of the D & F Kusel Co, of this city, in which he continued until 1872, a period of five years.


Leaving Watertown, he went to Oshkosh where he was employed at his trade and later went to Appleton where he secured a more remunerative position.  After a few years, finding a still more lucrative job in Chicago, he went to that city.  In about the year 1878, Mr. Cordes decided to enter upon a business career of his own, and returning to Watertown, associated himself with William Schulte in the handling of farm implements.  At that time his father, the late J C Cordes, was in engaged in the general store, grocery and saloon business in Main Street (the present location of Otto G. Schott’s place). [ 116 E Main ]


Mr. Cordes, Sr. was anxious to retire and the son bought out and took charge of the business and conducted it until 1881 when he sold out to Wenzel Cech.  Speaking of his intentions at the time, Mr. Cordes said that he had satisfied himself that the brick business, properly managed and developed, would become a great industry and he was determined to adopt the enterprise.


Brick making

    Main, E, 100, 1909c but pre 1935, L H Cordes & Co., brick mfg. 

    Main, E, 100, 1913, Cordes, L H & Co, brick mfgs


In that year Mr. Cordes acquired the brick yards on Utah Street and was preparing to take charge, when the late Joseph Terbrueggen became interested in the venture and offered to become an equal partner, which proposition was accepted.  Together they operated the yards for six years and then purchased the present yards at the foot of Third Street, near the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway depot, and the two businesses were joined and operated together for sixteen years.  During that period the firm also secured by purchase the Boomer and Quentmeyer yards nearby and for five years of this period, the same was operated in conjunction with the other two.


Two years ago this month Mr. Cordes sold his brick yards and business to Omar Gaston, the present successful proprietor.


In conversation with a Times reporter not long ago, Mr. Cordes spoke feelingly of his long business connections with his late partner, saying that they were entirely agreeable and satisfactory.  The first brick was manufactured in 1882 and it marked the beginning of a successful enterprise.  The product was of recognized and established high quality and found a ready market.  The firm had regular customers in six states outside of Wisconsin and turned out an average of 4,000,000 bricks a year.  The St. Paul Railway Company got most of the brick from the Cordes yards, and the material for its big railway shops in Milwaukee were furnished from here.


The sale of the yards marked the retirement of Mr. Cordes after thirty eight continuous years in the brick business, during which time it developed steadily.  The firm furnished employment to a large number of men, sometimes the pay roll of the month containing the names of eighty workers.  A number of the men were with Mr. Cordes during all of the time he was in charge of the business.


Started Electric Light Plant


Mr. Cordes became greatly interested in electric lighting, a subject which he studied with great enthusiasm.  Coming to the belief that Watertown could support a plant, the partners secured a franchise from the city of Watertown on May 27, 1889, and at once proceeded to install.


Business men and the public generally know little about electric lighting systems and rather doubted its success in a town of this size.  However, they did not allow themselves to become discouraged and went to work to secure contracts from business men and others.  The city contracted for twenty street lights, and a number of business men agreed to take a few lights, the late Joseph Salick, the jeweler, being the first to commend the lights and signing a contract for a substantial number of lights.  Most of the business men were indifferent but became convinced of its feasibility as soon as a few were put in use.


Miss Louis H. Cordes [Mary]

1860 – 1909

Watertown Gazette, 07 09 1909


At 8:30 o’clock on Sunday morning, July 4, 1909, Miss Louis H. Cordes died at St. Mary’s Hospital in this city.  The previous Wednesday she went to the hospital and on Thursday a Chicago specialist operated on her for a tumor.  The operation was performed successfully, but complications set in that weakened the heart action and resulted in death.  On learning of her death our people were greatly shocked, for only a few of her intimate friends knew of her illness, and expressions of sincere sorrow were heard on all sides.  A peculiar coincidence in connection with her death was that she died on her birthday anniversary.


Mrs. Cordes was born in Watertown July 4, 1860, and has always made this city her home.  She was a daughter of the late Christian Staats, and was universally esteemed here, for she was a lady who possessed a kind heart and a pleasant and agreeable disposition, her presence adding sunshine and pleasure wherever she chanced to be.


Her death is the first that has occurred in the family circle, hence it all the more keenly felt by the other members of the family. 


She is survived by her husband, her mother, Mrs. Mary Staats of Milwaukee, Max and William Staats, Mrs. N. Simon, Mrs. Gustav Schemmal, Mrs. William Jaedacke and Mrs. Belle Staats of this city, and Edward Staats of Merrill.


Wednesday afternoon her funeral was held from the family home, 406 Third Street, and her remains were interred in Oak Hill Cemetery.


In the death of Mrs. Cordes Watertown has lost a most excellent citizen and her husband a devoted wife and companion.  Her presence will be greatly missed in Watertown and all our people mourn sincerely with the afflicted family.


Cross references:

                Fire at L. H. Cordes’ home on Third Street

                70th birthday anniversary of Joseph Terbrueggen


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





Table of Contents 

History of Watertown, Wisconsin