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Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin


1850 Census (Partial)
1862 Town Plat Map*
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Civil War Veterans Credited to Town of Empire
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Empire Methodist Church Membership List, 1895-1919

Empire, Township 15 north, Range 18 east, originally was a portion of Taycheedah, and it is difficult, therefore, to separate the early history of the former from that of the latter. Gov. Doty entered the first land in Empire and caused to be built the first frame house in Fond du Lac County, on what is now the Wells farm, on Section 7 - possibly on Section 8, in 1838. This house was mostly built by the Piers and Joseph Olmsted. The first schoolhouse in the county was also built in Empire, but never was used for school purposes, owing to a greater number of scholars living at Taycheedah. The building was of logs, and erected by G. de Neveu and others. The first permanent settlers were probably Mr. de Neveu and his hired help - the family of A. T. Denniston, who worked the large de Neveu farm, unless one of the La Bordes had taken up a residence within what is now Empire a few months earlier. But all this time Empire belonged to Taycheedah. In March, 1851, the Legislature passed an act erecting all of Township 15, Range 18, except Sections 1 to 6, both inclusive, into the town of Empire, the first election to be held at the Meiklejohn schoolhouse. The town, therefore, contains only thirty sections; but the west tier of sections overruns to the extent of about one hundred and eight acres, making the town contain 19,308 acres. The southeast portion was originally heavily timbered. Fond du Lac prairie laps on to its northwest corner. The "Ledge" extends the whole distance across its west side. The east and some of the south portions abound in hay marshes, and the balance is composed of oak openings. The soil is warm and quick. Springs, some of them very large, abound in great numbers, especially along the "Ledge." A very large one exists on F. M. Phelps farm; another on the farm of G. de Neveu; one or more on David Giddings farm; a very large and peculiar one on the old Henry Conklin place, and another on the old John Westervelt farm. Streams in the east flow through Sheboygan River to Lake Michigan, while those from the west flow into Lake Winnebago. Stone quarries and limekilns abound, and the surface is broken in many sections where the ridge of limestone crops out, being too rough and barren for cultivation. These localities are, however, profitably used as sheep pastures, or as sources of wood, building-stone and lime. On Section 17 is a woolen-mill, whose machinery is turned by water. It is near G. W. Carpenters residence; is known as the Empire Woolen Mills, and turns out an excellent quality of goods. It is now the only factory of the kind in Fond du Lac County.

A beautiful sheet of water, known as de Neveu Lake, named after G. de Neveu, who first purchased it of the Government, lies in Sections 30 and 31 of this town. It abounds in bass, perch and pickerel; has had other fish put in by artificial means, and is a resort where thousands "camp out," or have good summer-houses during the heated term.

In 1847, Miss E. Maxwell taught a school near the Lyons place. In 1854, the town contained three schoolhouses, and in 1880 it contained seven; all modest structures, but in good repair. Peter Vandervoort, an authorized Methodist exhorter, who settled in the adjoining town of Eden, held the first religious services in Henry Conklins very large log house. The first births were not far apart, in 1839, in the families of G. de Neveu, A. T. Denniston and Luke La Borde. They were the very first, except John A. Bannister, in the county.

In addition to plenty of hardwood fuel, good building stone, and good brick-clay, Empire has rich peat beds, though none of them were ever worked. No town, unless it is Calumet, in the eastern portion of the county, is more favorable for apples, grapes and other fruits. The different Chairmen since 1851 have been: F. S. Crans, John V. Westervelt, J. E. Fisher, John Berry, A. T. Germond, John Meiklejolin, James H. Haight, G. S. Wilson, Edward Ray, Edward Colman, James Laferty and John Wiley. The Town Clerks have been : A. S. Wilson, James A. Fisher, G. S. Wilson, George Keys, James Laferty, John Campbell, A. H. Carpenter and Alexander Campbell.

Empire has no railroads, and but one post office and one church edifice.

Rienzi Cemetery. the finest in the county, is in this town, on Sections 18 and 19.

The first grist-mill in the county was erected in Empire, on Section 22 by Henry Conklin.

Empire M. E. Church. On the 6th of March, 1850, the Methodists of the town met to devise means for building a church. Logs were hauled, but the enterprise ended at this point, the timber rotting on the ground, on the site of the present edifice, Section 33. In 1866, the project was revived. Theron Berry donated the ground, and a donation of $200, by Hannah Thorne, of Lockport, N. Y., was followed by liberal subscriptions from others in Byron and Empire, and the edifice, costing $3,000, was built. Dedication took place July 28, 1867. The first Pastor, who also aided greatly in securing the erection of the building was Rev. J. W. La Fever. The first Trustees were John Berry, A. T. Germnond, H. Westervelt, B. White, R. Willis, Thomas Mayhew, L. H. Jennings, W. M. Dusenbury, John Vinton. The first Stewards were J. Berry, W. M. Dusenbury and William Edwards. The church never was in debt.

Empire Cemetery. This Cemetery Association was organized July 10, 1852: John Berry, Sr., President; T. J. Dougherty, Secretary, and E. Vincent, Treasurer. One acre of land was bought near the M. E. Church, of J. V. Jewell. A few years later another acre was purchased, and in 1879 two acres more were added. It is tastefully platted and decorated. T. Berry is President, A. T. Germond, Secretary, and H. Westervelt, Treasurer.

History of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin,
Western Historical Company, Chicago: 1880

* From W. T. Coneys, Map of Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, Bogert & Haight: 1862 (Copied and Indexed by Sally Powers Albertz, Wisconsin State Historical Society library Pam 93-3904 Mss Sect)

** Like many similar publications of the period, Western's 1880 history relies heavily on interviews with early residents conducted many years later. Narratives were subject to selective, sometimes creative recollection, and the resulting work should be appreciated for the historical publication that it is but viewed with a critical eye as a history. We caution viewers to verify the data contained in these early stories.

Appreciation to Ron Friedel for transcribing the text.

Last updated 3/4/99 This site represents an ongoing effort to collect information related to the history of the town of Empire. If you have information to share, please contact Bob Schuster by email at rmschust@facstaff.wisc.edu or at 6020 Kristi Circle, Monona, Wisconsin 53716 (608) 221-1421.