ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Watertown Democrat


Daniel W. Ballou

b. 1824, d. 1876

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Daniel W. Ballou

Watertown Historical Society Collection  



The “Watertown Democrat,” the first number of which was issued on the eighteenth of October, 1854.



07 19       AN EXPLANATION

To prevent any misunderstanding, we wish to state that in publishing in our last paper, resolutions purporting to have been passed by a meeting of over 1000 Germans, which reflected injuriously on the characters of Mr. H. Mulberger and Mr. Tigler, we did so at the special and repeated request of a committee who were appointed to wait on us.  Mr. Mulberger and Mr. Tigler claim that these resolutions do them great wrong and are calculated to create impressions abroad not warranted by an impartial statement of facts.  We did not then, and do not now, wish to have anything to do with disputes of a purely personal nature, with which newspapers ought not to meddle.  We are entirely willing that the parties claiming to have been injured in reputation by the publication, should freely use our columns to repair any wrong done by us.   WD



03 31       Anonymous correspondents who send communications   WD

06 23       Editor is out of town   WD

09 16       One of the best weeklies in the state.  Edited by D. W. Ballou, Jr., it is sufficient evidence of its ability to say, that since its establishment five years ago, five other papers—and I don’t know but more—have had their day and passed from the stage, leaving the Democrat alone in its glory.  One of the principal reasons of its success, I think, is that Mr. Ballou gives more attention and space to local matters than is usual with country papers.  That department, well conducted, is always appreciated.   Milwaukee Sentinel



History of the Press in Watertown — No. 3.

Watertown Democrat, 07 12 1860


This week we conclude the series of letters relating to the history of printing in this city with one written by the Editor of the Democrat.  As a composition, it probably has less interest and fewer facts than either of the others.  All we are disposed to claim for it is the merit of giving a full and impartial account of the different attempts to establish newspapers in this city.  Having added two or three sentences to the original communication, so as to bring it down to the present time, we have taken the liberty of changing the date.  If any one hereafter should ever have occasion to write on this subject, the substance of all that has taken place will be found in the three letters we have inserted.



Watertown, June 20th, 1860.


The year 1847 was the last of my apprenticeship in the office of the “Niagara Democrat”—a weekly journal then and now published in the village of Lockport, New York, and of which I was afterwards editor during the period of four years.  One forenoon, in the early part of April—I well remember it was a bright and cheerful day of that month of clouds, sunshine and showers—while setting type at the case, near an open window, my attention was arrested by the appearance of a tall, serious-looking gentleman, who approached me, and in a very deliberate tone of voice inquired, “If the proprietor was present?”  I replied, by pointing out to him Mr. Orasmus Turner, the editor of the paper, who was sitting at a table on the opposite side of the room, and engaged in writing.  After exchanging the courtesies usual at the meeting of persons wholly unacquainted with each other, the stranger, in a manner at once brief and direct, made known his business by remarking that “He had seen an advertisement in the ‘Democrat,’ offering two fonts of type for sale, and, if convenient, he would like to see them.”  His request was immediately complied with, and after a very careful examination, a bargain was closed, and the two lots of half-worn long primer and bourgeois were his. 


Taking off his coat, and calling for a composing stick, he went at the work of putting his newly-bought type in a condition to be safely packed, and sent away; nor did he stop, leave the office, or allow anything to interrupt him for a moment, until near sunset, when every letter had been taken care of, the last nail driven, and the boxes plainly and neatly marked “J. A. HADLEY, Watertown, Wisconsin”—and himself ready to return to his home, at Rochester, on the evening boat—for it was in the palmy era of packet lines, on the Erie canal, when one could glide through the hours of the night and sleep as soundly as under his own roof, and be fit for something on the morrow. 


This was the first time I learned my transient companion’s name and destination, though from occasional conversations during the day, I ascertained the nature of the enterprise he had resolved to undertake, in the distant territory beyond the chain of great lakes, which was then just beginning to allure to its fertile prairies and primeval forests the largest share of eastern emigration.  Thither the shrewd and wide-awake Yankee was going to mend his broken fortunes—thither the restless and disappointed politician was looking to get another start in the career of public life—thither the industrious and intelligent German was slowly wending his way to create a new home in the land of promise—thither the eyes of all classes and conditions were turned with a gleam of hope, that there they might at length find what they had vainly sought for in the clime of their nativity—wealth, success and fame.  It so happened that my generous and respected employer, Mr. Turner—who always had a word of kindness, admonition, or encouragement, for all who came within the circle of his influence—was the pioneer printer and editor in Niagara county, and here was another man, who was about to assume the same character in a recently begun and rising village, a thousand miles distant. 


Mr. Hadley had not as yet visited the scene of his future labors, and knew nothing of its country or people, except from report; but Mr. Turner, in the spring of 1836, had made a rapid trip to the west, and touched a few of the best points in Wisconsin.  I had often heard him repeat the incidents of his solitary journey on horseback from Chicago to Racine, where he found only one log hut and a cow—thence to Milwaukee, then vigorously commencing that career of prosperity which has made it the fair and beautiful city we now see it—thence to Janesville, where he could scarcely obtain shelter from a drenching storm—then up the valley of Rock River, which he described as the Genesee of the west, so nearly, in his view, did its soil, climate, productions and capabilities for improvement resemble that one far-famed portion of central New York; and finally onward, as far north as Lake Winnebago. 


He told Mr. Hadley he had chosen a place that would one day be among the most prominent of the interior villages of Wisconsin, and thought he knew exactly where it was situated, as he believed he had been compelled to pass a night alone in the woods within its limits. 


Another coincidence in the lives of the two men was the fact that Mr. Turner had printed his first paper on a Ramage press and Mr. Hadley was about to take another with him for the same purpose—probably the first and last of dimensions sufficient to strike off an ordinary sized newspaper that ever has been, or ever will be, seen in this state.  That old, discarded and forgotten variety of the mighty engine for the “diffusion of knowledge among mankind” had then ceased to be manufactured and this was some surviving relic or specimen of a clumsy style of press, that in its age had done good service, and can now only be seen in an illustrated history of the great art, which is not only the preservative of all other arts, but also of freedom and civilization themselves.


I kept an eye on the exchanges, and about the first of the following July I found, among the mails on the table, the first number of the “Watertown Chronicle,” and really admired the fine appearance of the old types I had handled a thousand times, made in the west; for the new paper was well printed, well edited, and highly creditable to the talent, taste and skill of its owner.


Little did I then dream that in a few years I should follow that chance acquaintance to his intended destination, and, like him, be the founder of a newspaper of my own, and for a while, as I am now, be the publisher of the only English journal in that same city of Watertown, surrounded by an active and enterprising population of more than eight thousand inhabitants—but so it is.


I have thought it might not be appropriate, in complying with a polite request, to give an account of my connection with the press of Watertown, to preface my narrative with a statement of this incident.


I made my first visit to Wisconsin during the summer of 1852.  My excursion was confined to the northern part of the state, and, if my memory is correct, very few of the places I then passed through could boast of a newspaper.  At any rate, neither Appleton, Menasha, or Oconto had any; and at Sheboygan, only a job office was to be found—though I think a newspaper had previously been published in that village, so pleasantly located on the lake shore.


In the autumn of 1853 I became associated in the editorial management of the “Green Bay Advocate,” and for nearly a year discharged the labors of that position—its able and popular editor, Mr. Charles D. Robinson, having been elected Secretary of State—and the duties of his office demanding most of his time and care at the Capital, and his brother, Albert C. Robinson—the prince of printers and best of good fellows—having an inveterate disinclination to wield the pen, though he has since shown that he can do so with power, readiness and effect.


The return of C. D. Robinson, at the expiration of his official term, to his “old arm chair” in the editorial room, as a matter of course dispensed with further occasion for any aid I could render, and hearing that there was a desirable “opening” for another paper in Watertown, Jefferson County, I resolved to go and see for myself.  The result was the establishment of the “Watertown Democrat,” the first number of which was issued on the eighteenth of October, 1854, and has been regularly published ever since, without the failure of a week, or any apology for a half sheet.  When I started the Democrat, three papers were in existence in this city, viz:--the “Watertown Chronicle,” the “Watertown Register,” and the “Watertown Anzeiger.”  The Chronicle was conducted by Theron Minor, and after passing into, and out of, different hands in quick succession, finally ceased to be—its latter days being very little like its first.


Perhaps it should be stated that in the summer of 1855, while Cullaton & Rose were its proprietors, they undertook to publish the “Daily Chronicle,” and for the space of about one month the citizens of Watertown enjoyed the luxury of having a daily paper, when it suddenly ceased to appear.


The Register, owned by E. B. Quiner, was published only twice after the Democrat came out.  The Anzeiger, a German paper, published by Blumenfeldt & Kopp, had been going but a few weeks, and has since been stopped.  In the village of Jefferson, the “Jeffersonian” had recently been started by William M. Watt, the first number of which was issued on the 4th of May, 1854, and it still lives. 


To complete the list of newspaper enterprises in this county, so far as embraced within the period of my own observation, it will be necessary to record the beginning and the end of several efforts to set up new journals that have not yet been mentioned.  The first attempt was made by William T. Butler, into whose possession the old Register office had fallen.  On the 22d of March, 1855, the “Watertown City Times” laid claim to public patronage.  Though the name was not given, it was understood that George Hyer was the responsible and working editor of its columns for two or three weeks, when the appointment of Register of the Lake Superior Land District called him away.  On the 28th of the next September, the “Times” announced its own discontinuance.  The materials with which it was printed were taken to the village of Jefferson; and on the 23d of October, in the same year, Hoyt & Sanborn started the “Jefferson County Republican,” and maintained its publication for a few months, when it shared the fate of its immediate predecessor, and was no more—the whole office having been sold and taken north.  On the 31st of January, 1856, Cullaton & Brinkerhoff published the prospectus of the “Western Citizen.”  It was to be printed on a quarto form of eight pages and in mechanical appearance equal to any paper in the state.  Its story can be told in one sentence—but one number appeared, and that was both its first and last.  The next trial at this rather uncertain business was made by L. H. Rann, now of Whitewater, who, on the 30th of January, 1858, started the “Representative,” carried it on for some months, and then gave it up as a hard job. 


The last experiment of this kind was tried by M. Cullaton, formerly proprietor of the “Dodge County Citizen” and recently editor of the “Waukesha Freeman.”  On the 5th of January, 1859, he launched the “Watertown Transcript” on the full tide of successful failure; and on the sixteenth of March following saw the eleventh and last number of his able and interesting journal, which truth requires me to say, deserved a better fate, as did also some of the others named above. 


I cannot give the exact date, but in the meantime, Thurlow W. Brown transferred the “Wisconsin Chief,” originally the “Cayuga Chief,” from Auburn, New York, to the village of Fort Atkinson, and there continued its publication until August, 1859, when circumstances obliged him to surrender his office to other parties, and his paper, which was a fearless champion of the Temperance cause, went down, to the regret of all who were accustomed to read its columns.  Mr. Brown brought the only steam power press ever used in the county for printing.  His circulation was so large that he found it impossible to work off his edition with any other.  In a few weeks his paper was again started, and the spicy and talented little sheet has regularly appeared ever since.  Associated with Mr. Brown in the management and editorship of the “Chief” has been his sister, Miss Emma Brown, who is both a good printer and an accomplished writer.  On the 1st of September, 1859, S. A. Shepherd commenced the publication of the “Fort Atkinson Standard”—a neatly printed six-column paper which is still in existence. 


The “Volks Zeitung and People’s Gazette,” a German paper, was started through the instrumentality of Carl Schurz, most three years since, and is now published under the editorial management of Herman Lindeman.  In the fall of 1857, Emil Rothe commenced the publication of another German paper called the “Weltburger,” which still remains under the editorial supervision of its original founder, but is now owned and published by D. Blumenfeld. 


Within the space of five years, I question whether any other editor in Wisconsin has witnessed the rise and fall of so many weekly journals as I have enumerated in this hastily written sketch—some of which were of far more than average merit and ability.  As I have invariably commended all these efforts to the favor and liberality of the community, for whose improvement and benefit they were designed, so I sincerely say to the next new comer, who, not disheartened at the bad luck of such as have preceded him in this rather fatal field of enterprise, may a better fortune and ample prosperity reward your self-reliance and labors.


Since the above was written, J. W. Lawton, formerly of the “Delevan Northron,” has established the “Watertown Republican,” the first number of which appeared on the 15th of June, 1860.





09 05       Robert Tompkins, who has been for some months foreman of the Democrat office, leaves town this week to join some company of Wisconsin which has been accepted for the war.  Our friend Tompkins is not only an accomplished printer, but he is a vigorous and ready writer, and we predict that he will prove himself a brave soldier and “go where duty calls.”  To whatever company he belongs, his pen will be found as useful as his sword, and that will always be for the defense of his country, its institutions and Constitution.   WD





08 02       We have a sad and painful duty to perform this week in announcing the decease of Mr. Daniel W. Ballou, for nearly 22 years the editor and publisher of the Watertown Democrat, his death occurring at his residence in the First ward, last Thursday afternoon, July 27th, 1876.  Although his death had not been wholly unexpected by his more intimate friends, yet, we are sure, its announcement will bring surprise and sorrow to many who claim his friendship and esteem.  WR

Buried in Oak Hill Cemetery


08 24       We can only admire with pardonable pride the tender solicitude constantly manifested by the Republican concerning our welfare.  Ever since we came into possession of the Democrat, it has conferred upon this paper a gratuitous amount of puffing which we fear can never be requited, unless, perhaps, it accepts our grateful acknowledgments which are here cheerfully extended.   WD





On Monday evening last a special meeting of the Council was called for the purpose of taking action in regard to advertising for bids to do the city printing the coming year.


Ald. Jones, of deadhead ticket notoriety and his son, feebly assisted by the astute politician, getting wind of the purpose for which the meeting was called, set themselves at work to thwart the wishes of the people; and we are sorry to say they succeeded.


By threatening, coaxing and appealing to partisan prejudice they prevailed upon enough Aldermen to remain away from the council rooms to prevent a quorum from being present.


Some of our city fathers, having no more back-bone than an oyster, became the willing tools of this scheming and sordid junta.


To our mind it would have been much better to have attended the meeting and justified the steal on some ground, than to sneak out of the responsibility the way in which a few of the Aldermen did.


But is it not high time that the taxpayers of this city took some steps to prevent a few men from contributing two or three hundred dollars annually from the city funds to the Jones family [*], in violation of all law, and against the expressed wishes of a large portion of the taxpayers?  If the democratic organ needs bolstering up it would be more honorable in the council to donate to it a certain sum every year.  Then no law would be violated, and the party organ would receive the money it evidently needs to keep it alive.     The Watertown Republican, 07 Apr 1880


[*] Thomas Jones, editor and proprietor, Watertown Democrat newspaper



03 05       SNOW STORM OF 1881





Cross reference:

Mrs. Daniel Ballou



Ballou, Daniel W., b. 1824, d. 1876           

Ballou, Marion D., b. 1827, d. 1905




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin