Houses: Rodgers / Meissner History

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This Old House

by Linda Schafer, 1985

Reprinted with permission of the author

    Except for four months of his life, my grandfather , Willard E. Schafer, had lived all of his 78 years in the same house.

     That beautiful old houseis the subject of this paper which I would like to dedicate to my grandfatherbecause of his long fruitful life lived in it.

Because the house was builtfor the original settler, Archibald Rogers, it will be referred to as the”Rodgers House”. Built in 1867, only two years after the Civil Warended, it is a beautifully built two-story limestone building with squaredcorners, many squared windows, finished limestone window sills and lintels andflagstone doorsteps. Today, 117 years later, it has an elegant charm.

Linda Schafer with the Rodgers House               Fred H. Keller Photo

   It’s not possible to be sure where the stone for the house was quarried.Limestone or dolomite crops out on the farm only a few hundred feet from thehouse and on the farm to the north less than a quarter of a mile away. Neitheroutcrop has been significantly quarried, however, raising the possibility thatthe stone was cut, roughly shaped, and transported to the building site fromanother quarry in the area.

   The basement walls are approximately 18″ thick, and the walls at the secondfloor level are 12″ thick. One can sit on the inside window sills! Theexterior window sills and window and door lintels are cut from solid pieces oflimestone. The corners, cleanly cut about an inch from the edge, look as if theywere done by machine rather than by hand.

   Although I have searched for the identity of the builder, I have not beensuccessful in finding him. I have come across some interesting information,however, that would make it possible to make some assumptions.

   There are two other houses in the area that, while different in floor plan, havesome of the same characteristics. The first is the “Davidson House”,owned by Steve Babits at S64 W23420 Main Street in Sussex, in what wasoriginally Templeton. The second is the “Weeks House” located onCounty Highway VV near the western edge of Lisbon Township. The Rodgers House isabout a half mile west of Sussex at N67 W25395, also on Highway VV.

   While talking to Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Dinkel, present owners of the Weeks House,Mr. Dinkel said that Allen Weeks, from whom he bought the house, had mentionedto him that the house was built in 1860 by a Mr. Davidson. The first of thesethree farmhouses was owned by Andrew L. Davidson. The quarry and the house werelocated on the same farm.

   Only four years after the first land claimers set down their stakes in LisbonTownship, quarries were opened in 1840-41, by Andrew Davidson, William Grave,and JamesWeaver. It is probable that Andrew L. Davidson was the builder of allthree houses.

    A smallgraveyard exists on the northwest corner of the property associated with theRodgers House. Mr. Davidson is buried there along with his wife. Their tombstonereveals that he was born on September 8, 1822, and died May 2, 1904.

   Archibald Rodgers was the first owner of this property, from 1846-1889. BornSeptember 23, 1809, in Perthshire, Scotland, he had come to the Town of Lisbon,then part of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, in 1841, and resided there for therest of his life. Rodgers was one of the first members of a small Scottishcolony, formed around 1840, along with Robert James, Alexander Harris, and JohnSmall.

    Rodgersmarried Augusta (Agnes) Templeton in1850, after her first husband died in 1846.Agnes had two children by her first marriage, James and Andrew, who were raisedby the Rodgers. Archibald and Agnes had four children: George, Agnes, Jeanette,and Isabel. Agnes died in 1876, and Archibald in 1891.

   Rodgers was an owner of 95 acres of well-improved land at the time and was oneof Lisbon’s well-to-do and energetic citizens.

   James Templeton, stepson of Archibald Rodgers, was brought to Wisconsin in 1843from New York at the age of 6 months, and was four years old when his father died.His mother married Rodgers three years later.

   Templeton served in the Civil War after being apprenticed to a Pewaukee miller.He was elected to be Waukesha County Sheriff in 1895-96 and to many othertownship and county posts. At one time he was postmaster of Sussex and later anew village to the east of Sussex that he named Templeton after himself. Hebuilt an elevator-mill on the Wisconsin Central Railroad (today’s Soo Line) anda huge white house in the emerging village. Started in 1886 with the coming ofthe first railroad to Lisbon, the new village was taken over by Sussex in the1924-25 incorporation of the Village of Sussex and the name Templetondisappeared from the map. The ornate Templeton home was destroyed by fire in1937.

    Isabel McKerrow,daughter of Archibald and Augusta (Agnes) Rodgers, was born on July 14, 1858. Anative of Waukesha County, Isabel was of Scottish ancestry. On September 26,1877, she was married to George McKerrow, one of the leading stock breeders anddealers of the state at that time. Also a Scottish native of Waukesha County, hewas born April 1, 1852, the only child of Gavin and Elizabeth McKerrow.

    Although there is not sufficient information about Alexander Will, I do knowthat he bought the Rodgers House and land in 1889 from Archibald Rodgers for$5,775, and changed the farm business. Apparently grain had been the main cropup to that time. An 12891 map of Lisbon shows the farm named “Spring MeadowStock Farm”. The emphasis had shifted from grain to cattle.

    Alexander Will married Editharound 1900, and is probably the father of Charles Wills, who was well known inLisbon Township.

    On October 24, 1904, Alexanderand Edith sold the house and farm to John and Lydia Schafer, Milwaukee, whomoved into their new home with their first two children, Lucille and four-monthold baby Willard, my grandfather. Grandfather once said his mother told him thatthey brought him to their new home on a pillow in a box! Two other children,Pearl and Florence were born in the house.

    When Willard married EstherMeissner in 1929, his parents rented the farm to them, sold the personalproperty and moved to Waukesha where they lived the remainder of their lives.After paying for the personal property (cattle, equipment, etc.) Willard andEsther bought the house and farm, February 28, 1939. Two children blessed theirmarriage, Barbara and Mark.

    My grandparents continued todairy farm until they sold to Daniel Meissner of Hickory Hill Farm, (whose landadjoins the farm to the west), in April, 1975. The house was separated from thefarm at that time and the Schafers continued to own and live in the house. OnNovember 14, 1982, Willard passed away at the age of 78. A year later, the housewas sold to Hickory Hill Farm and joined again to the rest of the farm.

    Scott and Beth Meissner, (DanMeissner’s eldest son), now occupy the Rodgers House and lovingly care forit.

    I am very thankful that thishouse, which has given me many fond memories, has stayed in the hands of myrelatives for the past 80 years. The house is historic and beautiful, and shouldbe listed among the most historical houses of the Town of Lisbon and WaukeshaCounty.

(About the author: Linda Schafer, Merton, wasa freshman at Hartland Arrowhead High School when she wrote “This OldHouse”. She is the daughter of Mark and Gail Schafer.)

    Editor’s notes: “This Old House” originally published in the Sussex Sun newspaper, 1985, and the Landmark,Combined Spring and Summer 1985, Vol. 28, Nos. 1 & 2.

    Hyperlinks added within theabove article to additional information.

    After marrying Isabel Rodgerson Sept 26, 1877, George McKerrow and Isabel lived in her father’s house at least until 1880. The 1880 Census lists them and their daughter as living on Archibald’s farm. George’s step father, William Simpson didn’t die until 1891. Archibald also died in 1891. Since the Rodgers farm was supposed to be sold to Alexander Wills in 1889, George may have taken over operation of the Simpson/McKerrow homestead between 1880 and 1889. Archibald may have moved with them there (?).

    “The Meissners haveagreed to sell the 540 acres they own to Bielinski Development Co. early nextyear and will phase out operations over four years. Sussex has just annexed 300of those acres, and Village Administrator Chris Swartz said development of up to300 homes over 10 years will likely begin with the arrival of sewer service inabout 2006.” Source: Journal Sentinel, “County will lose its biggestdairy farm”, by Laurel Walker, Sept 19, 2002

    From the Tuesday, October 14,2003 edition of the Sussex Sun has a page 1 article by Peter Abbott,Staff Writer that states “The Meissner family has sold its historic HickoryHill Farm – located on Silver Spring Drive one mile west of Highway 164 – toBielinski Custom Homes of Pewaukee.”…”Meissner is by no means givingup…”…” In the meantime, the 37-year old farmer will continue towork the Lisbon farm with his father until Bielinski moves them out. Ouragreement requires a one-year notice, Meissner said.”

    Commercial development (?) of the house/farm property is expected to begin in 2005.