Lake Five Local History

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Little Old Lake Five through old photos

This “Little Old Lake Five” series of Retrospect will be illustrated with postcards from about 100 years ago, plus a 60- and a 30-year-old set of pictures.

Lake Five is on the border of the Town of Lisbon in Waukesha County and Washington County. An important part of this lake is skirted by Highway Q/County Line Road as it goes west from the new state-of-the-art roundabout that goes north-south on the nearby Highway 164, and east-west on Highway Q. It is not complete, but already it seems to have solved a problem that bedeviled users last year when at times there would be half-mile backups at rush hour.

Meanwhile, this roundabout seems to be a cure for the horrendous accidents that have periodically occurred at this intersection. There might still be accidents with the roundabout, but they will likely be fender benders, usually noninjury accidents.

The postcards illustrating this four-part series come from the archives of the Sussex Lisbon Area Historical Society research section of the museum.

The name “Lake Five” goes back to the 19th century when people talked of “sections,” half-sections and quarter-sections. A section is one square mile. The settlers and later farmers knew that a section had 640 acres, a half-section was 320 acres and a quarter-section was 160 acres.

The Town of Lisbon originally had 36 sections, or 36 square miles of land. These sections were numbered 1 through 36. It was the habit of settlers and early farm owners to name things after the section number. Thus the lake, at the north top border of section 5, is called Lake Five.

Similarly, Lisbon had both a one-room public school and a church that was on Section 16, with the school known as “Sixteen School” and the church as “Sixteen Church” (Lisbon Presbyterian). Meanwhile, Hillside Road became known in early times as “Sixteen Road” as it went by Section 16.

Continued next week.

Little Old Lake Five through old photos, Part 2

The Town of Lisbon was shortchanged by the glaciers, as there are no lakes left in the original 36 square miles of the territory. The lone exception is the southern shoreline of Lake Five; the vast majority of Lake Five is in Washington County.

Lisbon does have a man-made water impoundment, the Bark River Dam site, which again, Lisbon shares with another community and the Village of Merton. Lisbon is considered part of Lake Country, even though it has no lakes and is also short of good waterways and rivers. Three rivers start in Lisbon: the Bark River, the Menomonee River and the lower Fox River. The Bark River is the biggest waterway in Lisbon. It starts just south and east of Lake Five, with a prominent crossing of Highway 164 south of Hickory Road.

When the pioneers came in 1836-37, John Andrews and Lymon Hamilton Grover were the original Lisbon Lake Five shore owners, paying $1.25 per acre for their homestead purchase of 160 acres ($200 total). However, they did not retain these land masses on the southern shore of Lake Five for very long.

The early settlers of Lisbon were attracted to the Lake Five area by the level land available. Most of these early immigrants were from either England or Ireland, and proximity to the lake was a chance to vary their diet with fish, plus the geese and ducks that were about. However, it was farming that was going to be their living and wealth generator. They chopped down the oak forest and made log cabins, then used the cleared land to plant subsistent first acres, and later went into true farming and animal husbandry.

Lake Five acquired a blacksmith shop, and for the Irish Catholics, a church at the corner of present day Highways 164 and Q, named St. Columbia’s. It appeared on the map in the early 1850s.

The next thing built was a school house for the area. It had to cover a big enough area to serve enough children who needed schooling, plus the tax base to support a “free school.”

The school which resulted was Lisbon No.3 School, a log cabin building organized in 1843. The initial class ranged from ages 4 to 20. The school was in the area of the present-day roundabout, but soon a replacement school was built down on Hickory Road. Today it is gone without a trace. It was exactly three-fourths of a mile west of Highway 164 and again exactly three-fourths of a mile east of Lake Five Road, on the south side of Hickory Road.

In 1890 it was rebuilt on the same site. In 1961 a second room was added, and in the fall of 1970 it was incorporated into the Merton School District, which closed it down. In March 1973, just days before it would be sold at auction, the now three-room structure was destroyed by a fire. Arson was suspected.


Little Old Lake Five through old photos, Part 3

A village of sorts grew up around the southern shore of Lake Five and the adjacent County Line Road, half of the community and village was in Waukesha County, while the majority of the lake surface was in Washington County.

The first settlers came to the area in the late 1830s, and by 1855 the community had grown, having a blacksmith shop, a church and a cemetery. A U.S. Post Office was established, and Patrick McGovern was appointed postmaster on May 28, 1855. The office was discontinued on Oct. 13, 1860. However, a month later, on Nov. 13, 1860, Patrick McGovern was again appointed postmaster.

Cottages about 1911

This post office was south of County Line Road in Lisbon. Six years later, the post office moved from the Town of Lisbon to Washington County’s side of County Line Road. On Feb. 14, 1866, Michael Higgins was the new postmaster. The Lake Five post office lasted until the office was discontinued on March 28, 1895. The mail was then sent to the Colgate post office. Then it was re-established at Lake Five on Jan. 13, 1896, with Patrick McCartan as the postmaster. The Lake Five post office was finally discontinued for good on Jan. 14, 1904, and the mail was sent to Menomonee Falls.

Lakeside cabins circa 1910

Plat maps of 1857 showed that the Calkins family became major land owners on the southern shores of Lake Five. The 1873 map showed B. Driscoll and F. Staus, along with the extended Calkins family as the big land owners. In 1893, G. Bourman owned a critical 38 acres that started on Hickory Road and extended a half mile north to the central lake shore while Fred Staus and the James Driscoll families controlled about 285 acres.

The 1902-era map showed B. Reilly and J. Reilly owning a combined 178 acres, J. Seidl with the 33 center acres and M. Staus with his 149 acres.

Cabins on the higher shoreline, circa 1910

The map in 1914 showed that the Staus family had given way to the ownership of Jacob Schlafer with the extended Staus family immediately west of the Schlafer farm and west of Plat Road. There was some land development of small lots on the lake, but the Seidl and Reilly families were still entrenched where the Sennott family took over along with W. Dunn.

Meanwhile, the Pfister Vogel Tanning Company, a leather company, acquired some large Washington County land holdings on the north side of the lake.

Piester’s Boat Landing, Lave Five, circa 1915

Today many of the old cottages are being either torn down and replaced or substantially remodeled.

Patriotism has not been wanting in Lake Five as Mike Dunn and James Sennott served in the Spanish American War and reportedly knew Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders. Francis Sennott, son of James, served in World War I.

Little Old Lake Five through old photos, Part 4

The unincorporated village of Lake Five currently has a half-mile penetration from the Town of Lisbon, south of the actual lake to Hickory Road. It starts east of Highway 164 and goes west on Highway Q with the Plat Road, going north off Highway Q as its western boundary. This is all called Lake Five, but there is a fine line as to what is in Waukesha County (Lisbon) and what is in Washington County (Richfield Township).

The general rule of thumb is anything north of the straight line Highway Q is Washington County and anything south is the Town of Lisbon, but there is an exception, as the roadway loops south for a while and then back north as the waters of Lake Five gently push into Waukesha County. The cornerstones of this loop are two lake roads to the north called East Lake Lane and West Lake Lane, both in Washington County.

In 2009, the eastern landmark is the new, partly occupied County Line Plaza, which includes the Skin Tight Med Spa & Salon, the Snap Fitness center and the Westbury Bank, near the Lake Five roundabout.

The remnants of the now abandoned St. Columba’s Catholic Church property are on the north side of the roundabout, and have been sold to business interests. Across and west of Highway 164 is the St. Columba Cemetery. The church and cemetery go back to the 1850s, and now the church’s congregation is part of St. Gabriel’s in Richfield.

The former F&M Lake Five Bank is on the south side, but it has been an Associated Bank affiliate since the 1990s. A little further west is the Lake Five Mobil service station, which includes a mini market. A long block west is the tavern, usually called the Lake Five Tavern, but currently named Uncle Johnny’s Bar and Grill. The old Lake Five Boat Livery is on the shore as the lake appears.

Koch Bros. Hotel circa 1910. Was the Roadside for many yrs, but currently named Uncle Johnny’s Bar and Grill

A saw sharpening service is advertised at the former Little Store run by Lois and Mel Fast, which started around 1973 and closed when the couple retired. The Lake Five Emu Farm is a prominent farm on the south side of the road. You know you’re at the western end of Lake Five when you hit the Robert Straus and Family farm, house and barns at the intersection of Highway Q and Plat Road.

Plat Road is one of Wisconsin’s scenic road gems. One must take this road at least once each way during the four seasons to appreciate it. Only a little ways north is the ghost town of Plat, with only an active grade school going.

Cottages pop up around Lake Five in the 1800s

A recent donation to the Sussex Lisbon Area Historical Society’s research center is a one-of-a-kind book that tells the story of Lake Five and the surrounding area.

Much of the community of the unincorporated Lake Five is in the Town of Lisbon, but a majority of the lake is in Washington County. Also, many of the homes around the east, north and west shores of the lake are in the Richfield area of Washington County. Thus, there is political divide in the community. The general rule, but not always, is anything north of Highway Q-County Line is not in Waukesha County.

The reason the lake is called Lake Five is because the extreme southern lake water and beach are in Section 5 of the Town of Lisbon.

The Lake Five book of memories tells of the first cottage on the lake owned by Joseph Wiethaup in 1895. The second was owned by the Ripple family soon after the Wiethaup’s and then there was a crescendo of additional log cabins and wood-slat cottages added and by 1905 there was a community.

By WWI, the major portion of cottages were completed. Prior to the cottages the homes there were first built by the pioneers then by the farmers that owned the land and intensely farmed it. World War II and its aftermath of a shortage of homes caused many of the cottages to be either torn down or winterized into the community that is around the lake today.

A little known fact about Lake Five is its postal history. The initial post office was established on May 28, 1855, with Patrick McGovern as the post master. It was discontinued Oct. 13, 1860, but then re-established with McGovern again as the post master. It moved to the Washington County side of the county line on Feb. 14, 1866 with Michael Higgins as post master. The office was discontinued March 28, 1895, and its papers sent to Colgate three miles east. Again it was re-established on Jan. 13, 1896 at Lake Five with Patrick McCartan as postmaster. However, it disappeared all together on Jan. 14, 1904.

Early travel to Lake Five was usually only in spring, summer and fall. Winter travel there was out of the question for most Milwaukee County residents who would take Fond du Lac Avenue to County Line Road by horse or buggy with a load of supplies for their stay at the cottage. It was usually important to stop at every tavern on the way out to rest and water the horses.

Then with railroads going in by 1886, one could take the Milwaukee Road Railroad to near Slinger and at Ruby Junction transfer to a southern going Wisconsin Central train to Colgate. Here one would hire a willing local farmer or his son to take them west three miles to Lake Five.

Then with the coming of the automobile after WWI and road improvements, travel became much easier using County Line Road or Highway J (today 164). However it was not good to take these roads in the winter.

WWII gasoline rationing caused Lake Five cottages to see little use. Gas had to be conserved as an average of 15 miles to the gallon allowed only 45 to 60 miles a week. Coupons at different times allowed 3 to 4 gallons per week for a car. So if you lived in Milwaukee at 27th and Capitol Drive, 20 miles from Lake Five, and there is a return trip for a total of 40 miles, 67 percent of your weekly gasoline allotment was used with only 20 miles worth of gas left for the rest of the week.

Lake Five, a speck on the Wisconsin map

In last week’s Retrospect we introduced a history of Lake Five, a split community centered on the only lake in the Town of Lisbon The majority of the lake actually is in Richfield in Washington County.

As Lake Five matured in the time after World War I, and just before WWII, there were a variety of add-ons to the community.

Probably the biggest was in the mid-1930s when the Lake Five Advancement Association organized through which the community could work to maintain and improve the lake community. The organization incorporated on July 15, 1942 and had a membership of 39 in 1994. It was funded by dues, donations, community gatherings and other fundraising events.

The Lake Five Advancement Association’s biggest improvement was to cut or chemically treat the lake weeds. However, after discussing the adverse effect of chemically treating the weeds, a weed cutter was purchased. There were two cuttings per year by Siggy Esser and his son-in-law Kurtz. Later, Jack Rintelman operated the cutter from 1943-45.

This in turn led to a community push for an annual shoreline cleanup. This led to the eradication of Purple Loosestrife and precautions against zebra mussels. They also monitored the lake water quality for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, installed fish plantings and aerators from 1975 to 1990. There was also a push to enforce the speed limits.

A spin off of the advancement association was the formation of the Lake Five Volunteer Fire Company in 1960. Fundraising began and by 1961 more than $2,000 was raised and there was a push by association President Oscar Jeskewitz and association Treasurer, Don Hassler, to get started. Fire Chief Joe Riehle of the Menomonee Falls Fire Department had a meeting with the association fire department and the first purchases were for hose, pumps and nozzles as the group relied on lake water for the most part to fight any fires. There was other equipment including flares, a commando light, dry chemical extinguishers and a small siren purchased in September of 1961. A home for the equipment was found with Ed Rintelman Sr. who was the first chief.

Next was a 1946 Ford truck purchased in 1965 with a 600-gallon water tank and equipped with a 150 gallon-per-minute pump. The Lake Five Fire Department attached itself to the Richfield Fire Department and the LFFD was officially incorporated on Nov. 24, 1969. In time, the fire company had five different trucks including a rescue vehicle. In 1969, the officers were Dale Sutherland, chief and William Hensler as assistant chief. There were 20 active members and later a women’s auxiliary formed. Meanwhile the advancement association had separated from the fire department.

In 1975, the Lake Five Volunteer Fire Department consolidated with Richfield FD at their Station No. 2 three miles north of Highway Q on Highway J which today is 164.

Beyond the fire department there was Lake Five School that dates back to the pioneer days. It was on Hickory Road a half mile south of Highway Q. Started in 1843 as the Lisbon No. 3 School it taught a variety of local students, but mainly those from the Lake Five area. In 1843, there were 25 students; 13 boys and five girls. A new school was built in 1890 and remained a one-room school until 1961 when a second classroom was added. In 1970, it became part of the Merton School District and shortly after the students were shifted to Merton School and Lake Five School closed.

In March of 1973, the former school house was up for auction, but the night before the auction the schoolhouse was destroyed by fire. Arson was suspected.

A third part of Lake Five community history unearthed in a recent inquiry to the Sussex Lisbon Area Historical Society is next which tells of drowning deaths. A dead horse is at the bottom of the lake. Also in Lake Five history is the story of a stolen snowmobile whose driver narrowly escaped plunging into frigid lake waters when the snowmobile broke through the ice.