††† ebookHistory of Watertown, Wisconsin


Pioneer Store

SW corner Main and Second streets

117 E Main Street


First business establishment built in Watertown,

erected in the summer of 1841 by Luther A. and John W. Cole


E. W. Hilke

1832 - 1865






03 08†††††† HILKE & MOORE†† /†† Pioneer Grocery & Dry Goods Store

Just received from New York the largest and most complete stock of dry goods, also groceries of all kinds, which we shall sell during the next 20 days cheaper than anyone else can sell them in this city.Call and examine our stock and we shall suit all who wish to purchase.


Hilke & Moore

Corner of Main and Second Streets†††† WD




Hilke has left the Pioneer Store and moved to the store recently occupied by Mr. Millard, in Coleís Block, but he has no desire to leave his Pioneer customers, or have them leave him.  He is as ready and willing as ever to accommodate and please the public with dry goods and groceries. He has a large and well assorted stock, and cordially invites all to give him a call at his new place.†† WD




Sunday night, the 15th of January, at about midnight, a fire broke out in the wooden building, known as the Pioneer Store, on the southwest corner of Main and Second streets.The structure was totally destroyed by the winter blaze. The loss was total as there was no insurance on either building or contents.


At the time of the fire the building was owned by Mrs. Cordelia Gilman and had been occupied by Henry Vaudel as a saloon.


The adjoining building [115 E Main], owned and occupied by Frederick & Henry Meyer as a shoe store, was considerably damaged and would have been also lost if it were not for the strenuous efforts of citizens.


Jesse Moulton and M. Welsh [Welch] both removed the contents from their grocery stores in the two buildings to the west [113 and 111 E Main?] , as they were also threatened at the time.


As is too often the case, the Water Witch proved to be of little value.After it had been pulled to the scene it once again was found to be out of order.And once again Brewmaster Joseph Bursingerís force pump was hurriedly conveyed to the scene of the fire and performed well in arresting the flames.


In fact, had it not been for Bursingerís pump, the loss of business property and inventory on Main Street would have been much more serious and extensive.


On display, Pioneer Engine No. 1 is splendid, but when real service is required, for some reason or other, it is never ready when most wanted and generally proves to be a nuisance when around.


It is high time this city had an efficient and reliable Fire Department.


Some hour this city may pay dearly for the continued neglect of so necessary a precaution against the desolation and ruin of the devouring flames.It is far better to be wise, active and fully prepared in season.


The destruction of this building removed one of the landmarks of the city.The Pioneer Store, as it was called, was the first business establishment built in Watertown.It had been erected in the summer of 1841 by Luther A. and John W. Cole, who came here soon after Timothy Johnson, the first settler of Watertown, took up his permanent residence here in 1836.


The two Cole brothers cut the timber in the surrounding forests and sized the timber so to construct their wood frame store.The labor was strenuous and much was involved by these two pioneers to finish and then furnish the first place of commerce in the settlement, situated in the midst of the surrounding wilderness.


The inventory of the Pioneer Store consisted of a stock of necessities, goods and groceries.It was the place for citizens and area farmers to patronize and at the same time exchange the latest news and gossip.


To be sure, at the time, it was also the only place for conducting such exchanges.†† WD


11 02†††††† DEATH OF E. W. HILKE

Mr. E. W. Hilke died at his residence in this city the 26th of October, 1865.For several years Mr. Hilke has been an active business man in this city and acquired considerable prominence as a merchant.He was energetic and industrious, cheerfully giving his aid to all enterprises having for their object the improvement of the place.He was liberal and benevolent and none gave more freely according to their means.In his death the community has lost a good citizen and his family a kind and watchful guardian and protector.†† WD


Buried in Oak Hill Cemetery:Hilke, E. W., b. May 27, 1832, d. Oct 26, 1865



Cross References:

Pioneer Store, 1861, Hilke moved out of

Pioneer Store, Watertown Anzeiger, 1853-1855, pg 8


†† Later photos of SW corner Main and Second




Table of Contents

History of Watertown, Wisconsin