Lisbon Plank Road School History & Reunion

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Nineteen years ago on Aug. 12, 1990, about 200 people attended the all-school reunion of the very first Town of Lisbon school, Lisbon Plank Road School that opened in 1841, (possibly 1839), and close in June 1951. Back then, there were approximately 110 to 125 alumni of the stone, one-room school house that today is a stone museum at Halquist Stone Company. In the past 19 years, a lot of the 1990 reunion attendees have passed away, but former students Sonny Mehringer with his wife, Mae, Perry Halquist and event suggester, Mary Rockett Lewis staged the second reunion Sept. 11.

This time, 57 attended, 35 of them former students, all from the era of 1938 to 1951.

The first order of business for the local reunion was a visit to the Halquist Stone Company, and a trip through their old school which now serves as a historical building Halquist uses as a visitor center and mini rock museum. The school visit was followed by a meal at the Silver Spring Country Club and story telling by the former students.

Story time was heavy on the little rubber hose teacher Miss Viola Martin kept discipline with – especially for the boys – plus the outhouse humor as the school never had indoor toilets.

One student said Miss Martin was so exasperated one day, she told him, “All you will ever amount to will be a garbage man.” He admitted that he took this to the bank and got a job in Milwaukee as a garbage man and he boasted, “I earned $17.50 per hour and retired to a nice pension and social security payments.”

Alumnus Judge Neil Nettesheim chided his classmates that he had never seen any of them involved in his court room prosecutions therefore, they must have turned out pretty good. Nettesheim did have a brother, Sergeant Bruce Nettesheim, who did not attend the reunion because he died in Vietnam.

Lisbon Plank Road School was built, according to the 1880 History of Waukesha County, as early as 1839, but was definitely in place in 1841 by most reports. It officially began on May 16, 1842, but that may be untrue as the Town of Lisbon had its organizational meeting at the school on April 5, 1842, with David Bohnham elected as the first Town Chairman. Bohnham was convicted of murder in 1845 but received a pardon and left the area for Empire Prairie and King City, Mo., and became an important man there as a Union soldier and officer and later as a state-elected politician.

This first stone school house served until 1868. By then, the area was a major stone quarry and stone from there was used by the school board to construct a new school with a corner stone in the south apex marked, “1868.”

The school served as the Lisbon Town Hall for many years until in 1866, a proper Lisbon Town Hall was built for $1,100 (land included) in today what is the Sussex Family Practice medical office.

The students for Lisbon Plank Road School came from the southern part of Lisbon and northern fringe of the Town of Pewaukee. Much of this area, including the Pewaukee fringe, is in today’s Hamilton School District.

Paul Evert, a 1948 Lisbon Plank School graduate, said, “I liked it,” when asked about his one-room, eight classes grade school. “Everyone knew everyone else and the upper grades helped teach the lower grades. We had a great baseball team, beating Duplainville and Marcy schools.

“I also remember making baked potatoes on the top of the old iron coal and wood-burning stove as part of our brought-from-home bag lunch,” Evert said.

Fred Dahlke, like the rest of the students and who was in fifth grade when the school closed down in 1951, went to Sussex Main Street school to finish graduating in 1953.

Lisbon Plank Road School was named after the green-white oak tree planks that were laid to build a plank road from Milwaukee to Oconomowoc. This toll road was a financial bust as the farmers who used it worked out a system to miss paying the tolls and meanwhile the green-white oak rotted as did the road. However, in the 1930s, Mehringer said that when Lisbon Road was rebuilt, old buried oak planks were unearthed ahead of the Mehringer farm.