ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Ellis Abner Mendenhall



A Sketch Of My Life

by Ellis Abner Mendenhall


[Dodge/Jefferson Counties Genealogical Society holding; unknown contributor]


I was born in Huntington, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 7, 1840, of Quaker parentage.  My father's name was Abner Mendenhall and his father’s name was Abner.  My ancestors settled in Penn. eight years after Penn located the colony.  Father was born in Lavern Co. Penn, in 1794.  In 1808 he went to learn the millers trade when he was 14 yrs. of age.  After finishing his trade, he went to work in the same mill until 1832.  Then with a chum companion he started west.


They came afoot across the Allegany Mts. until they came to Lake Michigan.  There they got a fur trading boat across to Milwaukee.  There they went out deer and bear hunting and were gone 6 days.  When they returned their boat was gone.   The Captain told them that he would be there at least 12 days.  There were no more boats that summer.


They stayed in Milw. until late in the fall.  Then they bought 2 ponies and rode them to Fort Howard and wintered there with the soldiers.  In the spring of 1833 they came back to Milw. and got a boat across the lake and went home and to work again in a mill. 


In 1836 my father married Martha Manville.  Her ancestors had come from Scotland in 1812, settled first in Connecticut but a few years later they moved to Penn.  Father ran a mill for several years in the town of Huntington where I was born in 1840.  I had a brother and a sister, twins born in 1838, and a brother born in 1843 who died and was buried there the next year.  Later that year father bought a nice team and wagon and we all started for the west.


I very well recollect several things that happened while we were crossing the Allegheny Mts.  We left Bloomsburg the 10th day of March and drove over the mts. and around Lake Michigan to Chicago and on to Beloit, arriving there the 12th of Aug.  The next day we went 8 miles east and settled in Jefferson Prairie, now Clinton Junction.  Ed Murrey and Powers had improved a 3 hundred and 20 acre farm which father rented and we lived there 3 yrs.  When 1 was 7 yrs old I dragged all day with a span of horses and the hired man drove the oxen and father sowed the grain.  We had one hundred and 20 acres of wheat. My brother Willie died in 1846.  We had to walk 3 ˝ miles to school.


In 1846 father bought a 100 & 60 acre farm about 3 quarters of a mile from Clinton.  He broke 80 acres of it that summer and that winter he built a house on it and we moved in.  Father dug a well and built one mile of rail fence.  He had to haul the rails 3 miles.  I helped put in the crops on 70 acres, and that fall I plowed 40 acres with the oxen while father hauled the grain to Milw., 65 miles.  Mother helped me yoke the oxen every morning and I would go to work early. 


In the spring of 1849 father rented the farm and took the team and wagon and went to Calif. in a covered wagon over the Rocky Mts.  He joined a company of our neighbors, 21, and when they got to Omaha they joined a company of emigrants, 1200 in all, to guard against the Indians.  Our nearest neighbor, Edwin Lacy was scalped by the Indians on that trip.


Father left Clinton on the 10 of March and got to Sacramento the 20th of Aug.  He and his brother, Uncle James, went to work on a grist mill, the first one ever built west of the Rocky Mts.  They worked there 6 weeks and when they had the mill started they left for the bank of the American River to look for gold.  When they had a lot of dirt thrown out of the mine they built a sluice to wash it in.  Father went into the river, took cold and died in about 36 hours after he came out of the river. Uncle James buried him there, marking the grave with a wagon wheel. Uncle then came home around the Cape.


This happened in the year 1849 - the year the wheat crop was a complete failure. We had to mortgage our farm for 1000 dollars [10.00?], drawing 15% interest. Mother could not pay the interest so we lost the farm. We lived that winter with my Aunt Margaret.


In the spring of 1850 we moved into the house of Charles Tuttle, and I worked for James Vanderlyn for $1.00 a week.  I drove a team and plowed and dragged, planted corn and potatoes and cultivated corn.  At harvest time I went to work for Winkley and got 50 cents a day raking after a cradle and another man followed and bound up the grain.  That fall I worked for Murrey Brothers for $5.00 a month.  The next winter of 1850-1851 I lived with Milton Warner and did chores for my board.  Mother moved in Henry Tuttle's house and my sister worked out. In the spring  I commenced to work for Murrey Brothers and worked for them all summer. I came home and went to school in the fall.


Mother moved into G. Warner’s house.  I could scarcely read at that time.  Sister came home and went to school that winter.  In the spring I worked for Ed Deen 2 months, and then went to work for Murrey Brothers and worked all summer.  During haying and harvest time I milked 22 cows and the helper milked 25.  They had 47 cows and 35 colts and they had 11 men working for them.  They would go into the field at 4 o'clock in the morning and work until 8 in the evening.  Minner and I would get up at 4 and get the cows milked and then turn them out and go into the field at 9, all through the haying and harvesting.


I went home and went to school that winter about 4 weeks.  Then my eyes gave out and I was confined to a dark room for over 6 weeks.  I was at Milton Warners while I was sick and Mrs. Warner took care of me.  Mother was not well enough.


In the spring I went to work for Mr. Warner and worked all summer and part of the winter.  I got 8 dollars a month, this was in 1853.  In the spring of 1854 I went to work for Murrey Brothers and worked 8 months at $8.00 a month.  In the spring of 1854 John Kimball came out from Vermont and bought the farm that Mother had lost after father had died.


Mr. Kimball was a widower with 3 children and Mother went to work keeping house for him.  In the spring of 1855 Mother and Kimball were married.  I worked for my stepfather all summer and went to school in the winter.  In the spring of 1856 I worked for Sidney Allen 3 months and the rest of the summer I worked for Dr. Tinker.  When I worked for Allen I drove 5 yoke of oxen on a breaking plow all alone and had to take care of everything.  I broke ninety acres of prairie sod in section 16.


In the spring of 1857 another young man and I rented a farm.  We had 5 acres of potatoes and the next spring I sold all of my share for 7 dollars.  They were a complete failure all over the West.  Corn also was a failure that year.  Wheat and oats were good. I went with another man to Racing [Racine] and bought a thresher of C. I. Case and I ran it 8 weeks.  Then I sold out and went to school that winter.  The next spring I went to work for Mr. Warner. I worked for him until the 1st of Sept.  Then I went to school to Milton Academy, 4 terms.  I had saved 160 dollars and spent all of it going to school.


The spring of 1858 I bought a span of colts and worked a small piece of land and worked at carpenter work.  The spring of 1859 I worked 40 acres and at carpenter work until fall.  Then I rented the Kenedy farm, 160 acres. 130 acres of plow land and I plowed 90 acres that fall.


On the 18th day of October Artimisia Babcock and I were married in the Milton Seventh Day Baptist Church after the church service, by Prs. W. C. Whitford.  That winter we lived with her folks at Milton and hauled wood and hay to Janesville.  The wood and hay I bought of [from] the farmers.  In the spring of 1863 we moved on the Kenedy farm.  I plowed 90 acres that fall before and had 100 and 10 acres of plow land and sowed it all to wheat and oats.  I did all the work myself with one team. I would get up early and sow enough by hand before breakfast to keep me dragging all day.


Charley Kimball helped me one day with his team.  I had 3 men to work all through harvest and threshed early in Sept. and sold my wheat for 68 cents per bushel. 


The last of Sept. we moved to Milton and Edwin Babcock and I rented Father Babcock's store and stayed one year.  In the fall of 1864 I rented father Kimball's farm and worked it one year.  That summer went to Farina and bought 50 acres of land. 40 acres was broke and a small house was on it; 10 acres was timber.  We moved down there the fall of 1865 and lived there 2 yrs.  Then I traded my farm for 300 and 20 acres up near Westfield, Wis. and moved back to Clinton and I went to work on the R. R. Bridge one year and then I worked at carpenter work for 1 yr.  Then I was sick 2 years.  It cost me all that I had saved. I had to sell my land to pay my debts.


My sickness came from an injury received several yrs. before when the team I was plowing with ran away, dragging me by the lines.  An abscess came where the knot in the lines hurt my back, twice before, and this time I was in bed almost a year.  The surgeon took out 2 pieces of my backbone.  When I got able to walk, with 2 canes, I went to work selling eave troughs until time to collect taxes. 


I was elected deputy sheriff for 1 yr.  The next year I bought a well drill.  I ran the drill 1 yr. at Clinton then moved to Milton as my work seemed to drift that way.  I lived in Milton 2 yrs.  Stillman Babcock and I bought another well drill that we ran over in Stoughton and Albion. 


Work with my first machine drifted towards Watertown, and I was up there most of the time for 2 yrs. before I moved my family there.  I sold my ˝ of the 2 machines to Stillman, and then commenced to sell pumps and wind mills and tanks.  We framed all our mill towers and made all our own tanks.  The 1st well I drilled in Watertown was for Mr. Bucheit [Buchheit] — 406 feet with my light drill.  I built a home on the corner of First & Milwaukee St. [*] and built a shop and stables and drilled an artesian well.


[*]   Editor’s note:  The 1880 Watertown City Directory lists Ellis A. Mendenhall, well driller, west side 1st, north Milwaukee; residence the same.   Today this northwest corner of South First and Milwaukee streets is the parking lot of the Senior & Community Center.



ABNER MENDENHALL born 1769 died at 73 yrs old.

LYDIA CARLTON  born 1772 died at 82 yrs old.


JOSHUA   born 1794, died at 78 yrs.

THOMAS    born 1796, died at 87 yrs.

Mary    born 1798, died at 80 yrs.

Eli       born 1801, died at 86 yrs.

Mark    born 1803, died at 41 yrs.

Martha    born 1805, died at 86 yrs.

Abner       born 1807, died at 43 yrs.

Lydia        born 1809, died at 85 yrs.

James      born 1811, died at 94 yrs.

Samuel    born 1816, died at 79 yrs.


Abner Mendenhall married Martha Manville in 1836

Their children:

ELIZA  born 1838  died at 24 yrs.

WILLIE born 1838  died at 8 yrs.

ELLIS ABNER born 1840, died at 80 yrs.


Ellis Abner Mendenhall married Artimisia Babcock in 1859 in Milton, Wis. Seventh Day Baptist Church.  Their children: Aliza, Willie, Nellie, Adrian, Elmina, Martha, Ellis, Lee, and Cora.





Name    Ellis A. MENDENHALL155,212

Birth      7 Sep 1840, Hunting, Pennsylvania


1             Artimesia BABCOCK155,212

Birth      3 Jan 1844, Lima, Rock Co., Wisconsin

Death    aft 1912

Father   Abel S. BABCOCK (1800-1881)

Mother Lucy Ann HUNTINGTON (1803-1872)

Marriage             18 Oct 1862, Milton, Rock Co., Wisconsin

Children               Martha Alice “Mattie” (1873-1961)

Notes for Ellis A. MENDENHALL

Census: 1880 Watertown, Jefferson Co., Wisconsin: age 39, C.A., well driller

Notes for Artimesia (Spouse 1)

Census: 1880 Watertown, Jefferson Co., Wisconsin: age 36, Artie

Res. 1902 Watertown, WI

of Watertown, Wisconsin in her sister Harriet's 1912 obituary




ID: I101638935


Given Name: Ellis A.

Surname: Mendenhall

Sex: M

Birth: 7 Sep 1840 in Hunting, Pennsylvania

Death: Y

Change Date: 12 Jul 2002 at 22:14




Marriage 1 Artimesia BABCOCK b: 3 Jan 1844 in Lima, Rock Co., Wisconsin

Married: 18 Oct 1862 in Milton, Rock Co., Wisconsin

Change Date: 12 Jul 2002


 Elmira MENDENHALL b: 28 Mar 1869 in Clinton, Rock Co., Wisconsin

 Mattie Alice MENDENHALL b: 9 Dec 1873 in Milton, Rock Co., Wisconsin

 Ellis A. MENDENHALL b: 16 May 1876 in Watertown, Jefferson Co., Wisconsin

 Lee Chester MENDENHALL b: 13 Dec 1880 in Watertown, Jefferson Co., Wisconsin





Drills Deep Well

Watertown Gazette, 11 27 1908

A well 275 feet deep has just been drilled at the Van Camp Packing Co's. plant in this city by E. A. Mendenhall & Son.  The plant consumes from 80,000 to 100,000 gallons of water a day.  Besides using the water from this well the company will continue to use a large amount of the city water.




The Mendenhall Co., Successor to Mendenhall & Mayer.


The Mendenhall Co. is the name of anew corporation which was organized in Watertown yesterday, and the news will create no little interest in local commercial circles.  The new company is successor to Mendenhall & Mayer, plumbers and heating contractors, who conducted business at 315 First Street.


The company has purchased the building at 207 Second Street and will move to that location, which will give greater facilities for the handling of their steadily increasing business.  The Mendenhall Co. took over the holdings of Mendenhall Mayer and has increased the capital stock from $10,000 to $20,000.


The officers are E. A. Mendenhall, Jr., president; it. A. Fuller, vice-president; C. A. Hathaway, secretary and treasurer. These three gentlemen and Joe Lange compose the directorate.


Mr. Mayer, who has severed his connection with the firm, has been suffering from poor health for several months, and will within the next few weeks move to some point in the south where he will no doubt identify himself with some business enterprise.     Watertown Weekly Leader, 11 02 1918




Buried in Oak Hill Cemetery

Mendenhall, Ellis, b. 1876, d. 1944

Mendenhall, Huldah, b. 1879, d. 1958

Mendenhall, Lee C., b. Dec 13, 1880, d. Nov 8, 1955

Mendenhall, Nellie M., b. May 11, 1888, d. Jan 29, 1954




Table of Contents 

History of Watertown, Wisconsin