Historic Village Walk

28 April 2021

Looking for something fun to do with your family? The Eagle Historical Society has put together an Historic Village Walk (or drive) that will take you to memorable sights in Eagle history. The tour is about 1.5 miles long, and you can start anywhere along the way.

You will be thrilled to find nuggets of history as you explore stories, people and places that have made Eagle the cozy place it is today.

Use your smartphone to connect to an online guide by using a QR Reader App and clicking on the QR Code located on page 2. Have fun and enjoy the tour.

(Click on the QR Code in the image above for detailed information on your tour.)

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Courtesy of your friends at the Eagle Historical Society, Eagle Wisconsin!

Eagle Grain Elevator Pt. 1

13 April 2021

The first pioneers in Eagle and the surrounding area spent all their time gathering enough food and wood to survive the cold long winter until the next planting season.  As time went by, farmers cleared more fields for planting, and with the growth of industry in large cities like Milwaukee and Chicago, the demand for grain increased.  By the late 19th century, local farmers produced more than enough grain for their families, and were able to sell their excess to grain dealers. 

Grain Storage

The first grain storage bins were flat warehouses holding grain in sacks or barrels, but by the beginning of the 20th century, the increased demand by cities, and greater production by farmers, required a new way to handle and move large amounts of grain quickly.  Grain elevators were developed to meet the demand to receive, store, and transfer grain in bulk quantities.

A grain elevator is a structure that stores dry grains, handling grain in bulk rather than bags or sacks, and then stores, moves, and sorts grain vertically. Vertical storage proved to be the best method of handling grain because, once elevated, the grain flows by gravity in tall, narrow bins, therefore less power and labor are needed.

Eagle Elevator ca. 1910 Eagle, Wisconsin – courtesy Eagle Historical Society

“Rural” or “country elevators”, like the one in Eagle, were located along railroad sidetracks and received most of their grain from local farmers.  Rural elevators were designed to a standard plan so loading and unloading railroad cars was easy and quick.  That’s why so many of them look similar. 

Next time – “Components and Construction of Grain Elevators”

Early Transportation Part 3 of 3

8 March 2021

The Buffalo Roller

It soon became clear that financial viability and success for communities depended on reliable transportation, so road building and maintenance became priorities for communities across the state of Wisconsin.  Road builders learned that multi-layer roadbeds with a soil and crushed stone base that was compacted by heavy rollers tightened the road and required less maintenance.

Initially, the rollers were attached to teams of horses, but by the second half of the nineteenth century, the steam engine brought new ideas to road construction.  Originally manufactured and sold in Europe, the steam roller made its way to American road construction in the early twentieth century.  The Buffalo Roller was among the first of the steam powered rollers in America.  The company got its start in 1916 as The Buffalo Steam Roller Co. of Buffalo, N.Y., and Kelly-Springfield of Springfield, Ohio.  The roller was positioned on the front and the operator could steer using a heavy chain on each side, attached to a steering wheel.  With large smooth rear wheels powered by a steam engine, these vehicles weighed in at ten tons.  Many of the early steam rollers were in use building highways up until the 1960’s.  Road builders later added tar as a binder and asphalt roads capable of supporting heavy vehicles emerged.  Highway data from 2017 stated there were 4.17 million miles of road in the United States.

(Excerpts from “Early Transportation” by Mike Rice)


Early Transportation Part 2 of 3

22 February 2021

Wooden Plank Roads

Entrepreneurs in the mid-nineteenth century understood the difficulty of travel and realized there was money to be made.  They began building wooden plank roads that were relatively smooth and without obstructions, charging travelers by the mile.  It took a lot of money and hard work to build a wooden plank road in 19th century America.

It started with a survey to find the best route from one location to then next. The roadway had to be cleared and thousands of board feet of lumber cut and milled to start the road. Local farmers and laborers used shovels, hoes, rakes and teams of horse-drawn scrapers, under the supervision of engineers, to level and grade the road surface, requiring many months of manpower, equipment and horses to complete. 

The roads were generally graded to 24 feet wide with the center graded 6” higher than the sides to provide water runoff, and a ditch was dug on each side to keep water drained away from the road.  Milled logs provided the foundation along the length of the road, with 3” thick oak planks nailed crossways for the top layer.  Plank roads were generally well-maintained.  No longer did travelers or merchants have to clear trees, traverse swamps, and suffer the numerous pits and swales that led to delays and many broken axles along the way.   

See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: 1

Locally, Watertown-Plank Road ran from Goerke’s Corners in Brookfield, WI to Watertown, WI, and was one of the longest in the state.  Tolls were set up every five miles, where travelers were charged 1 cent a mile for each animal.  Travel time from Milwaukee to Watertown via the new plank road went from 6 days in bad weather, to 3 days regardless of weather.  Wagonloads of heavy merchandize made their way along the plank roads. Eventually the widespread network of railroads gave merchants a quicker and more reliable transportation option. Though short-lived, the use of plank roads reduced travel time in half, and became great sources for transporting goods and merchandise across the frontier.

(Excerpts from “Early Transportation” by Mike Rice)

(Next time – The Buffalo Roller)

Early Transportation Part 1 of 3

16 February 2021

Pioneer Travel

Good roads have always been the key to travel.  Today’s highways are paved and generally well maintained for high-speed travel.  That was not the case in 19th century America when pioneers made their way from out east to the western frontier town of Eagle. 

Travel back then was difficult because roads were often little more than narrow, Indian trails that were widened enough for a wagon to pass. 

  Roads were rutted from the many wagon wheels that traveled along that way, and often washed out after rainstorms.  It wasn’t uncommon for branches and fallen trees to block roads. In the early days, they were seldom maintained, becoming uneven ruts that turned into mud pits after a rainstorm.  Pioneer travelers often had to clear and repair roads, and ford creeks and rivers along their journeys.

Towns began to grow along way, and townsmen soon realized that the key to their success was to build and maintain roads between nearby towns.  Farm goods and supplies, lumber, hardware and household goods needed reliable roads on which to travel.  Reliable roads also brought new settlers and new money. 

(Excerpts from “Early Transportation” by Mike Rice)

(Next time – Wooden Plank Roads)

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