The village of Elm Grove is a community of around six thousand human being in eastern Waukesha County. It borders the town of Wauwatosa come the east and also the City the Brookfield in all various other directions. The was component of the town of Brookfield until 1955. The is administer by a seven-member volunteer board. All trustees, consisting of the village president, are chosen to two-year terms.

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<1> Elm Grove is component of the college District the Elmbrook and also has an elementary school school and also a middle school.<2>

In 1836, Robert Curran became one the the an initial permanent white settlers in Elm Grove. Most at an early stage residents were German Catholics, and also German Lutherans come in the 1840s. Elm Grove’s very first post office opened in 1842. Then, in 1848, area residents started laying much more than 650,000 white oak timbers and planks to construct the fifty-eight-mile Watertown Plank road to affix Milwaukee come Watertown. Toll gateways were put up at constant intervals. The road remains the village’s key thoroughfare. Rail tracks were laid in the 1850s. Follow to legend, the neighboring trees motivated the village’s name. A new depot was developed in 1864. Various other services common of railroad stops such as a basic store because that residents, an inn and tavern for travelers, and also a mill were also established.<3>

Roman Catholic establishments were influential in Elm Grove’s history. Sixteen family members organized St. Mary’s Parish, the Church of the Visitation the the Blessed Virgin Mary, in 1848, and also a church was put up in 1851. In 1855, a group of nuns led by mom Caroline Friess that the college Sisters that Notre Dame traveled west top top Watertown Plank Road trying to find a suitable place to develop a convent. Follow to the local story, the equine pulling your wagon suggested the spot to settle when he stopped and could not be persuaded to relocate again. Mom Freiss subsequently purchased twenty acres of floor for your convent, school, and orphanage. The orphanage closeup of the door in the 1940s, but the convent and also school continued to be there in 2017. The sisters continue to carry out outreach work with at-risk youth in Milwaukee and assist in humanitarian efforts in Latin America.<4>

Elm Grove’s very first twenty residential lots were platted in 1869. Through 1880, Watertown Plank Road and the rail had carried enough settlers that Elm Grove was taken into consideration an unincorporated community. In the 1920s and also 1930s the auto made it feasible for human being who functioned in Milwaukee to move to Elm Grove. Then, finally, Elm Grove experienced fast suburbanization during the Baby boom after world War II. The town incorporated in 1955, at about the same time together the surrounding City the Brookfield. These protective incorporations were component of the effort of Milwaukee’s suburbs come stave turn off absorption through the city. Elm Grove’s populace was simply shy of five thousand occupants in 1960.<5>

Elm Grove’s zoning legislations require residences to be built on big lots, which helps preserve a countryside character, but likewise makes it complicated for low-income persons come live there. According to the U.S. Census, Elm Grove had about six thousand residents, and the median family income was $119,512 in 2016.<6> Elm Grove prides itself on a “small town” picture with locally-owned businesses, civic organizations, and a neighborly feeling.<7>



Uncovering historical Inaccuracies

When american write neighborhood history, they often highlight the name of the very first white settler together the founder of the area. In Southeastern Wisconsin, they additionally tend to point out the place of the very first mill and maybe also a next street that provided to be a plank road. These core pieces of info are usually the many well researched and well documented pieces of regional history. Local historic societies and libraries room assumed to be the government on this straightforward information. So, as soon as I was asked to evaluate the validity the the first white settler named in a breeze of the village of Elm Grove entry, i was definitely surprised. It’s virtually an assumed preeminence that such research had been excellent years earlier by local historians. However, as soon as embarking on a task with a limit as big as the Encyclopedia the Milwaukee (, exception to the ascendancy are inevitable.

To totally follow this thread through me, it is an initial important come understand exactly how entries in the Encyclopedia are processed after they room written and edited. Every entries posted in the go with the procedure of fact-checking. To be brief, an editor reads the entry and also highlights names, dates, or statistics that have to be verified. She then sends the highlighted file to a fact-checker come process. That is in this phase the one particularly daunting research job emerged. A problematic introductory line in a paragraph around the background of the town of Elm Grove claimed that the very first white settler was called William Howe and he had actually received a presidential land give for what is now Brookfield and also Elm Grove in 1820. Point out the problem? land in what is currently Brookfield and Elm Grove was not accessible for purchase until ~ the 1833 contract of Chicago, when the Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and also Odawa yielded land west that Lake Michigan to the united States. In 1820 william Howe can not have actually been granted land that was no even available to it is in granted. The straightforward introductory sentence sparked a research study task to locate the beginning of a historical inaccuracy.

I began by evaluating the resource the writer of the entrance used. The City that Brookfield website has actually a history tab, and it was here that the writer obtained information about William Howe being the first white settler throughout the fact-checking process, this same website was supplied to check the claim around William Howe; when the info was not individually verified, we did understand that the author did not misquote his source. V no note or citations on the City website, that seemed choose I had hit a dead end. Well no quite. Much more accurately, I uncovered myself at the start of a new thread. One that would, together is typical in historic research, command me to more questions than answers. Not deterred by mine failed mining that the Brookfield website, I began searching ~ above the U.S department of soil Management’s virtual database.<1> complete with an interactive GIS map and intuitive queries, this database permits anyone with accessibility to the web the capacity to search documentation associated with soil plats in the United claims down come the township, range, and section. The outcomes of my find for Elm Grove and Brookfield? No william Howe. Nothing in what is currently Elm Grove. Nothing in to be is now the whole township the Brookfield. The earliest floor patent that I might find was one granted in 1850 to Harvey Birchard, an early Milwaukee actual estate agent, under the authority of the Land plot of 1820 (3 Stat. 566). Another dead finish right? Wrong. What to be revealing about this info was not just that william Howe’s surname was nowhere to be found, however that land grants were provided with the year of the act that authorized the sale of the land. My first assumption after looking at the Land administration website was that William Howe might in fact have had actually land in the Brookfield Township, but maybe his land give was signed much later and also just under the government of one 1820 law.

Since the department of Land monitoring database could provide me v no other valuable information, I complied with the subject closer to the source, to the Waukesha ar Historical culture Archives. If a document of wilhelm Howe existed, it to be going to be there. When I arrived because that my study appointment, the archivists had actually prepared everything they could find ~ above the an initial land grants for the Brookfield Township, and anything related to a “William Howe.” none of the sets of at an early stage land plat maps, compiled by regional governments and previous regional historians, noted William Howe as very early settler that the area, let alone the first. At this point, ns assumed again this thread had also reached the end. Ns guessed that the City that Brookfield website must have actually been the source of this inaccuracy and also it had actually made its way into a breeze for the but that was no the case.

With no critical answer as to where, if at all, wilhelm Howe fit into the early background of Elm Grove, i turned my attention to the other files that the archivists the the Waukesha ar Historical culture had pulled because that my research appointment. During the 1950s and also early 1960s, researcher at the Waukesha ar Historical society compiled brief biographies of all the at an early stage settlers that the area in a catalog called Pioneer Notebooks.<2> among the names in this extensive catalog was one william Howe. The little faded page in the coil-bound booklet read:


Township Settled: Brookfield Date: 1840s

Occupation: Farmer-Pioneer

Death: day 1911 Place: Milwaukee, Wis.

Where Buried: Fair view Mausoleum

Items of Interest: Pioneer

Veteran of war of 1812. One of first land grants. Blue Mound come West Brookfield. Elm Grove to Moorland Roads. SW edge of town of Brookfield. To be a significant farmer in Elm Grove Section.

Based top top this page it showed up that william Howe was undoubtedly one that the earliest settlers of the area, albeit not rather as beforehand as the Elm Grove entry claimed. But why did his surname not show up on any kind of of the early land plat maps? It transforms out, this web page was chin the victim of several historical errors. Straightforward math and also knowledge the normal human being lifespans imply that the info on this page is questionable. Two days on the paper did not add up. If william Howe to be a veteran of the war of 1812 and also died in 1911, as the Waukesha ar Pioneer claimed, he would certainly have had to have been at least 117 years old on his deathbed. Together if the wasn’t enough, ns ran a search on Fair view Mausoleum and found the it had come to be decrepit and also was razed in the 1990s.<3> all the people interred over there were transferred to Graceland Cemetery, and also the entire procedure was completely documented; the documentation itself was eventually digitized by the Milwaukee publicly Library. After ~ scrolling through every solitary name on the list, I uncovered no evidence of a william Howe ever before being interred at Fair watch Mausoleum. It transforms out that i was close up door in on the origin of the inaccuracy that ended up in the breeze of the entry.

One the the last files the archivists in ~ the Waukesha county Historical society showed me was a page from the 1959 Centennial execution of the Waukesha Freeman. Inside this hardcover special publish was a quick piece around the building of a new segment of interstate 94 that passed through old farm land. And also who supposedly provided to very own that farm land? william Howe, the veteran of the battle of 1812 who died in 1911. That’s right, the quick piece in the Waukesha Freeman to be verbatim the same information as the handwritten story in Pioneer Notebooks. The archivists and I concluded that the local historian who composed up the brief biography of wilhelm Howe in the catalog must have copied the information from the short short article in the neighborhood newspaper. Due to the fact that the newspaper post had no source for where the information came from, my ideal guess is the it was the product of indigenous of mouth and also local lore. In the late 1950s, together the landscape in Wisconsin was drastically transforming with the introduction of major freeway systems, an article that put farmland when owned by a founding settler in the path of construction and modernization would have actually been timely and also widely review in the community. Apparently, it to be widely sufficient read to inspire a local chronicler to copy the information into your institutional records. Documents that likely were referenced by researchers compiling information for the City the Brookfield website. Wilhelm Howe virtually made his method into The Encyclopedia that Milwaukee through a object of perpetuated historical inaccuracies that originated in a 1959 newspaper article.

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While us assume that basic aspects the local history have been well researched, we have to remember the there are constantly exceptions to the rule. Background is dynamic, constantly being made, constantly being reassessed. If functioning for The Encyclopedia the Milwaukee has taught me anything, it’s that us cannot i think that core pieces of local history are set in stone. In fact, perhaps it is time for local historical institutions come dust off your old plat maps and pioneer biographies and also reassess what castle think are historical facts.