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Charles Straw




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.




Chas. E. Straw has made the first contribution of books to the public library, being a handsomely bound set of Stoddard’s works.  This is in addition to a handsome cash donation by Mr. Straw.




The following communication was received by a well known citizen yesterday:


Mr. Chas. Straw;


By direction of mayor and common council at the last meeting, I was instructed to tender you a vote of thanks as per resolution, for the interest you took and your help during the repairing and testing of our Silsby fire engine.  Enclosed find copy of the resolution passed.


H. J. Eilert

City Clerk, Oconomowoc.


Resolved. By the mayor and common council of the city of Oconomowoc that the city clerk tender a vote of thanks and enclose a copy of his resolution to Mr. Charles Straw of Watertown, Wis., for his interest and help during the repairing and testing of our Silsby engine.


Mr. Straw replied as follows:


"I hasten to acknowledge receipt of something from your hand that was unexpected and not looked for.  In consequence I am that much ahead, and can assure you that it is more than appreciated.  I had 'my fun' out of the job and in that way 'got my quarter back.'  Please mention this to Mayor Bartlett and his brother, Engineer Hubbard and any of your fire boys and other I may know."


Charles E. Straw.


There is little doubt that if a fire breaks out and "rips a hole in the night" in the pretty city on the banks of LaBelle lake, their fire fighters will roar and darkness will prevail soon after the water signal is sounded," for engineer Hubbard has the ways and make-up of a man who would not be alarmed at anything in the line of fire biz.




Mankato, Minn., Jan. 9, 1913.


Friend Jim:  The Watertown colony here seems to be well and happy.  I tell you Jim it was a sad surprise to hear of my friend Charley Straw's death.  When I was down home last July he came to see me every night and we talked of the days gone by when we ran "mit de spritz" [reference to fire department] and of our town here; of its being a large educational center and of the large buildings going up for more schools, and of other items of interest.  He seemed cheerful and almost promised to come up and see us, and the next thing we heard he had crossed over to the other shore.  Lots of the boys away from home will miss him, as he sent around many items of interest here, there, and everywhere.


Yours truly, H. J. Kuhn.    WG






Watertown Gazette, 10 10 1912

Death of Charles E. Straw


One of Watertown's Most Benevolent and Best Known Citizens.

A Well Spent Life Has a Sad Ending.


Editors of newspapers in the course of their career have many sad things to write about and at times it is difficult for them to find suitable words to express their own sorrow and regret on the subject of which they write.  During our 38 years experience in the newspaper business we have been many times assigned the unpleasant task of writing the obituary notice of a near relative and a dear friend, but at no time have we undertaken such a mission with greater sorrow, all things considered, than at the present when we put our thoughts into print on the death of our dear and true friend, Charles E. Straw.


We have known him intimately in boyhood, in young manhood and in his riper years, and during our 32 years as tenant in his office building had daily occasion to judge of his true worth.  But few days passed during all these years that he did not visit The Gazette office morning, noon and evening, and he always had a cheerful greeting and a kindly word and generally had some kind act to relate to us that he interested himself in. 


He kept busy every day in finding some new way to make his fellowman happy, and no one but his most intimate friends knew that he had suffered greatly for years with a complication of ailments, any one of which might lead to despondency and to the sad end to which he came.


As far back as 1874 while railroading he became ruptured in two places and several years ago he contracted an aggravated case of eczema, which caused him great pain and trouble, and he suffered greatly for many years with bowel and other troubles and finally cancer of the bowels and la grippe.  Leading the isolated life that he lived in his old home since the death of his mother several years ago, we must not judge too rashly of his last act — self destruction.


His final illness confined him to his home about eight weeks, and he died at 3:45 o'clock on Friday morning, October 4, 1912, following an attempt on his life the previous evening between 7 and 8 o'clock.  During the day a number of his friends called on him, and among them the editor of The Gazette, who visited him shortly before noon and found him lying on his couch apparently very weak and suffering greatly.  That evening the boy who daily brought him his meals was given instructions by him to bring him some cream of wheat and he said that was all he cared for – after the boy brought it, he told him to tell a neighbor that he wanted to see him and when said neighbor called at about 7:40 o'clock that evening, he found Mr. Straw on his couch with a bullet wound in his head, close to the right ear.  Written instructions were pinned onto the lapel of the coat he wore:  to the press to use no scare heads on his obituary notice regarding his death, the manner he wished his funeral conducted and several other things.


Neighbors and friends were immediately notified and there was general regret and grief expressed on all sides.  He lingered between life and death till 3:45 o'clock in the morning.  His body was taken to the undertaking rooms of Schmutzler & Oestreich, and on Sunday morning to the Masonic Lodge room, from where the funeral was held at 2 o'clock in the afternoon to Oak Hill Cemetery, his remains being interred beside those of his father and mother.  Services were conducted by the Masonic body and Rev. N. C. Daniell, pastor of the Congregational Church, delivered a short funeral sermon.


He said that he did not believe that all the high respect which Charley Straw had earned, and all the good things he had done in the past 61 years of his life, should be lost because of one rash act — that we know not the conditions nor the facts which led to this act and that we should only speak well of the dead and that we can only regret that he has died in such a way.


The Masonic Lodge and the Watertown Fire Department attended his funeral in a body, and the fire bells tolled as his remains were taken to their last resting place.  A delegation of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers was also present and a large number of friends and relatives from outside the city, besides hundreds of citizens.  His pallbearers were George W. Webb, J. C. Seager, Chas, MacKay, W. R. Thomas, George W. Nellins and Theodore Kusel.


Deceased was a son of the late Drew Straw and wife, and he was born in Watertown October 21, 1851.  After leaving school he was employed as a painter by his father until 1869, when he became a locomotive fireman on the C. M. & St. P. Ry.  In about two years he was promoted to locomotive engineer and he continued in that service till 1874, when he entered the employ of Straw & Murphy as a bookkeeper, and later managed the oil department of the firm.


In 1876, when the city purchased the Silsby fire engine, he was appointed engineer of that engine and was one of the best fire fighters Watertown has ever had, and the Phoenix Fire Company owe much of its efficiency and good work in the past to Charley Straw.  He made a life-study of mechanical engineering and was one of the best-posted men in the northwest on fire engines, locomotives and stationary engines and the proper methods of firing boilers, and his advice was sought from far and near.


He was a public-spirited citizen and always contributed liberally to every enterprise that tended to the uplift of the city, and in a private way we believe he did more for charity than any other resident of Watertown.  He represented the Fourth ward one term in the city council and refused a re-election. He also served for a time as a member of the board of park commissioners.


He was a great favorite of the newspaper men and was ever on the alert to give them a good item of news and made frequent visits to all the newspaper offices in the city, and never failed to meet with a hearty reception from the newspaper men.  Very few men enjoyed the esteem and respect of his fellow-citizens at large as did Charley Straw. He was an enterprising, upright citizen, with a heart as tender as a child's, and his hand and purse were ever ready to help those less fortunate than himself, and his ties of friendship were as strong as iron and as lasting as life everlasting.


His friends were in all walks of life, in all creeds and in all nationalities.  He was by nature an everyday man and his friends could always safely rely on his friendship.  His loyalty to friends and a dislike he possessed for enemies were the two great extremes of his life. He cared but little for half-way grounds.


There are few men in Watertown who had as wide acquaintance than the subject of this obituary, and there are none who has more warm personal friends.  He made friends easily and he invariably kept them to the end, for he was true to every obligation of friendship.  When he had an opportunity to do a favor, he did not stop to consider how the act would affect himself.  He did what he believed to be right and took his chances.  As to the esteem in which he was held by his friends, we publish below a beautiful tribute from his old friend and former Watertown citizen, Gus McCabe.


Milwaukee, Wis., Oct. 5, 1912.  James Moore, Editor Watertown Gazette.

Dear Jim:  It was a very severe shock to read of the sad ending of my old friend Charlie Straw. 


What more valued trophy can a man win in life, than the love and respect of all who ever came in contact with him?  Always a gentleman, a man with the simplicity of a child, all honor without envy, kindly in words and deeds to all who ever knew him, such a man was Charlie Straw.  He has built for himself the most beautiful monument that can be erected, with the epitaph of an honest man engraved upon it.  All Watertown and all who ever knew him, must mourn at the sad ending of one so loyal and lovable. 


When south winds echo the riffle of old Rock River over the mounds of Oak Hill Cemetery, they will sing a lullaby to the soul of honest Charlie Straw.


- Gus McCabe.



Among those in attendance at his funeral from abroad were:  George Barrett, C. McCullum, T. F. Carroll, Tom Carroll, John Sprague, John Tong, Al. Urtubees, (all engineers), Frank Lothhamer, Ned Evans and wife, the Misses Jennie and Margie Evans; Edw. Moore and wife, Milwaukee; Bert Straw and daughter of West Allis; Mrs. A. Osborn of Oshkosh; Peter Norton and wife, Gomer Evans and E. M. Wood of Chicago; Mrs. C. W. Washburn and son Walter of Portage; Mrs. Amelia Hope, George Hope, Jr., and wife and Ben. Hope of Fond du Lac, George Fox and wife of Jefferson.


Before Justice Stacy on Friday a coroner's jury, composed of Nic. W. Murphy, J. B. Murphy, A. E. Baumann, Wm. Spear, Thos. J. Davies and John Coughlin returned a verdict of death by his own hand by shooting himself with a pistol.






I, Charles E. Straw, of the city of Watertown, county of Jefferson and state of Wisconsin, being of sound and disposing mind and memory, do make, publish and declare, this my last will and testament.



I direct that my funeral expenses, the expenses of my last sickness, expenses of administration and all my just and lawful debts be paid out of my estate.



I direct that my executors pay to the Oak Hill Cemetery association $50 for the perpetual care and maintenance of the Nathaniel Straw lot in said cemetery.



Directions regarding monument and cemetery lot.



I direct my executors to pay to Charles A. Skinner and Nicholas Thauer, the sum of $5 per year computed from Jan. 1, 1893, to the time of my decease, as compensation to them for space in their vault which they have permitted me to use.



I give and bequeath to my friends, Frank E. Woodard, Charles A. Skinner, Nicholas Thauer and William H. Woodard, the shares of the capital stock of Fifth Ward Improvement Co., if any I own at my decease.



Cancel mortgage bond No. 123 issued by Watertown Lodge No. 49, Free and Accepted, in the sum of $500.



Interest on $1650 to be paid to J. B. Murphy annually, if accepted, and after his death to go to Watertown Public Library.



$240 to be paid to J. B. Murphy.



Paul's Protestant Episcopal Church $500.



Watertown Fire Department $100.



Home for Aged and Disabled Railroad Employees of America, located at Highland Part, Ills., $300.



To Division 66 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, located at Milwaukee, $200.



$2000 in trust and to be invested and one-fourth of the income to be paid to each of the following named persons so long as they survive:  Mrs. C. W. Washburn, Portage; Mrs. Emilie Bursinger, Mrs. Emiline J. Vokes of Watertown and Miss Leona Wood, Unity, Wis.  Said trust fund less expense of trust to go to Watertown Lodge No. 49.



Mrs. Josephine, nee Valenta, present address unknown, $25.

Mrs. Tessie Kress, Watertown, $25.

Lizzie Raash, Watertown, $25.

Agusta Johnson, last known address Litchfield, Ills., $25.

Laura Block, Watertown, $25.

Adelia Kresinski, Watertown, $25.

Millicent Traeumer, Watertown, $25.

Ben Eales, St. Paul, Minn., $25.

Matthew Kelly, Watertown, $25.

Mrs. S. Race, Baraboo, $25.

Arthur Bursinger, Watertown, for finding the “Blow”, $50.

Guy Wood, Unity, Wis., $100.

Carl Wood, Racine, $100.

Mrs. Johanna Eckner, Watertown, $100.

Mrs. Julius Bartlett, Watertown, $100.

Mrs. Fred Gohres, Watertown, $100.

Mrs. John Mawson, Watertown, $100.

Dr. F. B. Hoermann, Watertown, $100.



To Emeline Straw, daughter of Bert Straw, West Allis, Wis., $100..



To Nicholas Murphy and Charles McKay, Watertown, $150 each.



To the Wisconsin Home and Farm School Association, $100.

The Wisconsin Consistory Home Association, $100.

To Children’s Home Society of Wisconsin, $100.

To Salvation Army, 669 State Street, Chicago, $100.

To Associated Charities, Watertown, $500.



To Frank C. Straw, brother of Artemus Straw, address unknown, one hundred cents.



Any books or pictures in my house suitable for public library to go to same.



To Stafford Bay, Fond du Lac, my watches and all silverware in my home.



To Stafford Bay, Fond du Lac, Bert Straw, West Allis, Wis., household effects

To Nicholas Murphy, garden tools, oil stones, etc.



All the rest, residue and remainder of my estate to following named persons in equal parts:


Alonzo W. Straw, Milwaukee, Miss Jennie Wyckoff, Detroit, Mich., Mrs. Amelia Seaman, Detroit, Mrs Sara Sears, Harpster, Ohio, Mrs. Iva Harpster Bones, Harpster, Ohio, or Watertown, N. Y., Stafford M. Bay, Fond du Lac, Sallie Bay, Iowa Falls, Iowa, Artemus Straw, LaRue, Ohio, Mrs. S. B. Cobb, Gray, Maine, Bert Straw, West Allis, Wis.



I nominate and appoint Charles A. Skinner, Nicholas Thauer and William H. Woodard, Watertown, executors and trustees.


Dated the 13th day of August, A. D. 1912.




Watertown Gazette, 10 10 1912



I, Charles E. Straw, of the city of Watertown, county of Jefferson and state of Wisconsin, being of sound and disposing mind and memory, do make, publish and declare, this my last will and testament, dated the 13th day of August, 1912, and comprising nine (9) typewritten pages and fifteen (15) lines, in manner following, that is to say:



I give and bequeath to Saint Agatha's Guild of St. Paul's Parish of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the city of Watertown, Wisconsin, the sum of one hundred dollars ($100) and the receipt of the treasurer of said guild shall be a full and sufficient discharge of my executors for the payment of said sum.



I give and bequeath to St. Bernard's Congregation, a corporation of Watertown, Wis., the sum of one hundred dollars ($100) to be used by it for the purpose of constructing a suitable stairway as a means of access to the clock in the steeple on the church maintained by said congregation in the city of Watertown aforesaid.



I have a lively recollection of the stirring times in this city during the campaign for the election of Abraham Lincoln as president and a vivid recollection of how men in those days were aroused to active interest in civic affairs by a fife and drum corps, of which my father was an active member.  Desiring to perpetuate that memory and hoping to stimulate patriotic impulses in the youth of our city and those who may be students at the Northwestern College, of Watertown, Wis., where I attended in my youth, I direct that my executors named in my last will and testament confer with the proper officials of said college and propose to present said college with a fife, piccolo, four snare drums and one bass drum, said bass drum to be played by beating both ends, all of suitable size, conditioned upon their agreement to encourage the use of said instruments by students who shall from time to time be in attendance at said institution.


For the above purpose I direct my executors to expend not to exceed one hundred fifty dollars ($150.00) to be paid out of my estate.



I give and bequeath to the First Congregational Church, $50 in the name of Jennie Straw Wyckoff; I also give and bequeath to said church the respective amounts and in the names of the respective persons below indicated, that is to say:


$10 in the name of Mary Woodard.

$10 in the name of Alice Woodard.

both daughters of my friend Frank E. Woodard.


$10 in the name of Margaret Woodard

$10 in the name of Marshall J. Woodard.

$10 in the name of William H. Woodard,

the last three named being children of my friend William H. Woodard.



I give and bequeath to the Division of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers located at Portage, Wisconsin, the sum of $100.



In addition to the amounts bequeathed by me in my last will and testament to James B. Murphy, Nicholas Murphy, Matthew Kelly and Mrs. Emeline J. Vokes. I give and bequeath to them, if living at my decease, as follows:

Jas. B. Murphy, Watertown, $150.

Nicholas Murphy, Watertown, $150.

Matthew Kelley, Watertown, $25.

Mrs. Emeline J. Yokes, Watertown, $100.

If either of the above amounts fail to go to either of the above named persons by reason of either of them predeceasing me, then, in that event, I give and bequeath the amount or amounts so failing to the Board of Directors of the Watertown, Wis., Public Library.



I give and bequeath to each of the following named persons, if living at my decease:

Olive Dornfeld, Watertown, Wis. $10.

Lucile Dornfeld, Watertown, Wis. $10.

Laura Stapleton, Watertown, Wis. $10.

Willie Calhoun, Watertown, Wis. $10.

Payment of the respective amounts may be made directly to the persons so named.



I give and bequeath to my trustees named in my said last will and testament, $1000 in trust, nevertheless, for the following purpose:  To invest the same and pay to my friend, George Barrett, of Milwaukee, Wis., the income thereof, annually during his life time.  If he shall predecease me I bequeath said $1000 to board directors of Watertown Public Library.



I give and bequeath to Edmund J. Seifert, of Watertown, Wis., the sum of $50.



I give and bequeath to my cousin, Stafford Bay, of Fond du Lac, Wis., the plain gold ring which I now wear.



As soon as practicable after my decease I desire to have floral decorations placed upon the graves of each of the following named persons, to-wit:


C. W. Washburn, late of Portage Wis.

Henry Moore, late of Milwaukee

P. M. Arthur, ex-Grand Chief of' the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers

James P. Teller, late of Seneca Falls, New York.

Ans. Farrand, late of Oshkosh, Wis.

To expend not to exceed $5 in each case.


If the wife of C. W. Washburn shall be living at my decease I direct that the sum of $5 be paid her for floral decorations for the grave of her husband.




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