ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Cole & Bailey

Yellow Mill

same as

Blanchard Mill


Later site for City Waterworks



Cole, Bailey and company erected what was known as the old yellow grist-mill on the east side of the river.

Located across the Rock River from the Globe Mill,

on the west side of South First, between Dodge and Spring streets


1842       Yellow Mill constructed

East side of river, Yellow Mill


Click to enlarge


1848       YELLOW MILL OPERATION UPGRADED from water power to steam power

Notes within parentheses ( ) were part of the original article. Note with brackets [ ] added at this time.


Our Village – It is gratifying, and speaks well for the preserving industry and enterprise of our citizens, to see the extensive preparations that are being made to “go ahead” in almost every department of improvement, in every quarter of our village.  Lumber and brick – don’t start Milwaukee!


We have got real bona fide Watertown brick, just as good as – It’s a fact.  True, we have not built up a “Queen City” here yet, but if the manufacture of brick can elevate a place to majesty (which of course you will not deny).  Watertown is already a princess royal.


Lumber and brick, we say [see], are piled high upon a great many hitherto vacant lots, and a number of active laborers are at work, “digging into the bowels of the earth,” not in search of “villainous salt-peter,” but for the peaceful purpose of excavating cellars. 


The number of buildings which will be erected during the current year will be greater than during any former two or three years; and many of them will add much to the appearance of our village.  Among them will be the steam grist mill [a grist mill is a building in which grain is ground into flour] of Messrs Cole and Bailey, which has already ‘broke ground,’ and is advancing on the most modern and approved “progressive principles.”


In connection with this contemplated steam mill, we would state a singular fact which ought to be known to the curious and philosophical, as it shows conclusively that rivers may be actuated by that spirit of rivalry which sometimes prompts to deeds which, but for its influence, would never have been thought of.


The “south flowing Rock,” during the greater part of last fall, was very low – strikingly dejected indeed.  The effects of grief are unquestionably prostrating and probably the cause of the lowness exhibited by her, (Wisconsin rivers are all beautiful and, of course, feminine), was the deep concern with which she had looked upon the wide traces of civilized man’s dominion and improvement which so frequently mar the wild natural beauty of her banks.  She has seen the ruthless axe of the improving pioneer laid to the root of many a noble forest monarch, whose broad arms and impervious umbrage had long shielded her from the ardent gaze of the “powerful King of day.” 


The light canoe of the forest’s children no longer moved gracefully over her rippling bosom.  The birds that sang freely and joyously upon her once shady banks were gone – gone for ever; and the intruding and utilitarian white man, as if determined to thwart her every wish, dammed her to stay here and at every other place from which, by natural inclination, she would have hurried with rapid precipitancy.


In consequence of all this ungallant and rude treatment, her dejection was such that her friends began to entertain serious doubts of her ability to meet their expectations, and the Messrs. Cole and Bailey, although she had labored long and faithfully in their service [reference to their 1842 water-powered mill], began to talk, (Oh! This ungrateful generation!) of calling to their assistance her rival power, steam.  For some time she bore it patiently, thinking probably that it was nothing but talk, and unwilling to believe that those to whom she had given power in the days of her strength, would turn ungratefully from her to another in the day of her dejection. 


But alas!  It was even so.  Men soon forget past benefits and turn from rivers with as little concern as they turn from one another when the interests of self can be no longer subserved.  One might suppose however that the Messrs. Cole and Bailey, in consideration of the feelings of their old helpmate, would have built their steam plant at some distance from her; but no, her rival is to be placed by her side. 


Already the piles of brick and lumber throw their morning shadows over her joyous breast.  For now she is joyous.  She is no longer dejected – no longer low.  When she became fully convinced that she was slighted, she showed her temper.  She rose high, higher, and at this moment she is dashing over the dam, in a wide continuous sheet, in utter contempt of the two grist mills, the two saw mills, the wagon shop, the shingle manufactory, and the woolen factory with its adjuncts and appurtenances, all going, and all endeavoring us “use her up,” but without the remotest symptom of success. 


May she long continue to show her “spunk,” and gladden the hearts of her friends; who although many of them are tee-totalers, wish to see her continually high.

Rock River Pilot, 03 29 1848




Wales Emmons, Esq., of Watertown, was found dead in the Rock River, in Watertown, just above Cole & Bailey’s dam, on Wednesday morning of last week.  Two young ladies – Miss Eliza J. Morrison and Mrs. Wilson – were also drowned the same night in the mill race but a short distance from where the body of Mr. Emmons was found.  The darkness of the night was Egyptian.  It was not known how Mr. Emmons fell into the water – but the ladies were in a buggy with George Calph and the horse wandered from the road and suddenly plunged into the race where the water was ten feet deep.  Mr. Calph succeeded in saving himself and struggled in the cold water to save the ladies, but his efforts were unavailing.  The horse was also drowned.  Mr. Emmons has left a wife and family of children who deeply mourn the loss of a king husband and father, upon whom they relied for support, and the city has lost an able expounder and defender of the law.  - Burr Oak [News], Juneau





05 20       VULCAN IRON WORKS DESTROYED / Blanchard mill race destroyed

On May 20, 1855, at about a quarter after midnight, the cluster of buildings known as the Vulcan Iron Works, situated on South First St, were discovered to be on fire.  As soon as the alarm was given, citizens hurried to the spot, doing all in their power to put the fire out and save as much property as possible, all the while performing their role as protective neighbors and a hastily assembled crew of amateur firefighters.  Notwithstanding these strenuous exertions and good intentions, the most that could be done was to rescue a portion of the machinery belonging to the iron works company and to prevent the heat, which at times was intense, from setting surrounding buildings on fire.


The race through which water flowed for the operation of the City Flouring Mills, owned by H. W. Blanchard, was also destroyed.  The loss of the race prevented the running of the mill for about ten days. 


Mr. Blanchard made it possible for the Vulcan Iron Works to set up two lathes in the old Yellow Mill, which were in working order later the same week.


06 21       New Sash, Door and Blind Factory -- Messrs. Wrisley, Simpson & Co., has just started a new sash, door and blinds factory in the old yellow mill.  They are now engaged in manufacturing these articles for dwellings, in large numbers.  The work they turn out is in all respects as good as can be produced anywhere in the state.  Their machinery is of the best kind and being themselves practical and experienced mechanics, we see no reason why they should not be entirely successful in their new enterprise, as we have no doubt they will   WD



10 26       Body of male infant found in race leading to Blanchard mill   WR



01 09       LUMBER!  [Advertisement]

The subscriber will pay cash for saw logs delivered at his saw mill in the city of Watertown.  Logs that will make clear lumber, consisting of white or burr oak, hard or soft maple, white ash or basswood will be received and the highest price in cash paid.  H. W. Blanchard.   WD




The Old Yellow Mill on the east side of the river has been enlarged, refitted, repaired and supplied with new and improved machinery and is now in the most complete working order for doing custom work of all kinds.  It is under the charge of L. S. Carr, well known as one of the best millers in the state.  Custom work always done promptly and in the best manner.


N. Blanchard     WD



Yellow Mill, N. & M. [Nathaniel and Milton] Blanchard, proprietors, w s 1st bet E Dodge and Spring, Watertown City Dir, 1866-67.



Blanchard would fall off the roof of his Yellow Mill in 1870 while watching the Empire Mill burn and his injuries would prove fatal.  The Blanchard Mill burned in 1880.




A sad and shocking incident of the disastrous fire on Wednesday night, Dec. 28th, 1870, was the terrible accident which befell Mr. Nathaniel Blanchard, injuring him so fatally that he survived only twelve hours.  During the great excitement and alarm, manifested by all, and especially by those having property placed in jeopardy by the fire, Blanchard ascended to the roof of his mill, situated on the opposite side of the river from the fire, intending to be on the alert to protect the property from burning cinders which were flying, and thus, perhaps, prevent the building from taking fire.


He been in this position but a short time when he lost his foot hold, and there being nothing to grasp to arrest his downward course on the roof, he fell a distance of about forty feet on the hard ice, striking in an almost perpendicular position, breaking both legs and arms, and receiving painful and fatal injuries internally.  Among those who first saw him fall was his young wife, who happened to be witnessing the conflagration from one of the windows of the mill.  To fly to his assistance was but the act of a moment, and she was soon by his side, ready to soothe his dying brow and administer words of consolation.  Through the agency of kind friends he was conveyed to that home, which but a short time before he had left in the strong vigor of manhood.  His terrible fall was soon known to all present at the fire, and the awful intelligence cast an additional gloom of sadness over the otherwise calamitous scenes transpiring.


Doctors Spaulding, Cody, and Williams were at once called to the aid of the sufferer.  On examination Mr. Blanchard was found to be injured so seriously that no hopes could be entertained for his recovery, and he gradually sank under the severity of his wounds, until nine on Thursday morning, when death ended his suffering.


Mr. Blanchard was born at Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, July 10, 1842, and came to this city with his parents in the year 1854, when scarcely twelve years of age, so that it may be said of him that he grew up in our midst.  At an early age his father died leaving the care of a large amount of property to him and a younger brother, Mr. Milton Blanchard, he soon showed evidence of those thorough and active business qualifications which afterwards so characterized him in all his proceedings.


The funeral of Mr. Blanchard took place at the Congregational Church, Saturday afternoon last, and the large number of mourning relatives and friends present on the sad occasion, was a most fitting tribute of respect to the memory of him who had been so suddenly taken from our midst, and had received the irrevocable summons to meet his God.


His family have the sympathy of our entire community in their sad bereavement, and we can only offer to them the comforting words that "the Lord doeth all things well."     WR




On Monday night fire broke out in the south end of the old Blanchard Custom Flourishing Mill in the First ward and before the fire department reached the ground for duty the flames had made such rapid headway that all the efforts made by the two steamers to stay the fire were unavailing.  Fortunately, the mill was not very heavily stocked; but Mr. Pritzlaff’s loss was heavy notwithstanding, as the place was only insured for $3,000 and the machinery and contents alone were valued at $15, 000.


In the destruction of this mill one of the oldest landmarks of Watertown was removed, it being the first mill in this locality.  The fire was one of the most disasterous which has ever visited the place and resulted in the destruction of a plant which the people could ill afford to lose.     WR




At the meeting of the common council last evening a selection of the site for the waterworks was made, the Globe Milling Company's plant [Globe had purchased the former Yellow/Blanchard mill] on First Street being the one chosen.  The price of the property is to be $8,000, and all the milling machinery will be removed.  There has been considerable of a fight over the decision of this matter, all parties offering sites being anxious to sell, but it is hoped the question has been amicably settled . . . While nominally $4,500 dearer than the Kennedy site, yet the difference is almost if not entirely wiped out by the advantages the former possesses over the latter in the smoke stack, foundation walls, brick, excavations which would be useful in building a reservoir, and water privileges, all of which can be utilized , leaving out of the question the fact that a better head of water by several feet, from artesian wells, can be obtained there than at a higher point.  The location is central, and with a frontage of 532 feet there is ample room for the pumping station, a large reservoir, and all buildings that may be required in the future.   WR



H. W. Blanchard

A Silver Wedding



Mrs. H. W. Blanchard             H. W. Blanchard


Watertown Democrat, 01 23 1862

Last Tuesday evening, January 21st, 1862, H. W. Blanchard and his Lady, gave a Silver Wedding party at their residence, in this city, in commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of their marriage.  We believe this is the first time this beautiful and impressive custom — more frequently observed in the old world than the new — has been celebrated in our city.


A quarter of a century is a large portion of human life, and after the joyous nuptial hour, such a period carries us a long way through the years that lie before us.  And what changes have taken place within and around us, and how busy has been the unseen hand that has been recording and sealing our destiny.  As we thoughtfully pause a moment at one of these far-separated milestones in the journey of life, and look about for the familiar faces that then greeted us with warm expressions of good will, when they stood by our side at the marriage altar, we find few are left to congratulate us, after we have wandered through nearly a generation.  Most have fallen by the wayside, and those who have come along with us are scattered far and distant — hardly one lingering at the household shrine where they were born.


The early companions we fortunately meet are so different that we can scarcely trace in the mature form and care-worn countenance the lineaments of the self-same features we knew when lit up with youth and hope in the “bright morning of life."


With how little confidence can we convince ourselves that we have strength enough to carry us forward over another similar revolution of the moving circle of time — the broken arches in the bridge of life are so many — and enable us to hail the dawn that brings us to the rarely witnessed event of the Golden Wedding — standing almost alone in a new order of things, strangers in the midst of friends.


Watertown Democrat, 01 23 1862


The Evening Before Marriage

[from the German Zschokke]


“We shall be certainly very happy together,” said Louise to her aunt, on the evening before marriage.


“Alas!” sighed her aunt, “thou dost speak like a maiden of nineteen, on the day before her marriage, in the intoxication of wishes fulfilled, of fair hopes and happy omens.  Dear child, remember this – even the heart in time grows old.  Day will come when the magic of the scenes shall fade.  And when this enchantment has fled, then it first becomes evident whether we are truly worthy of love.  When custom has made familiar the charms that are most attractive, when youthful freshness has died away, and with the brightness of domestic life more and more shadows have mingled, then, Louise, and not till then, can the wife say of the husband, ‘He is worthy of love;’ then first the husband say of his wife, ‘She blooms in imperishable beauty.’  But truly, on the day before marriage, such expression sound laughable to me.”


Cross References:

Globe Mill




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin