Welcome to the Plymouth Historical Society
Plymouth Wisconsin USA
Plymouth Wisconsin USA
Building History Our current home, built in 1876, was owned by William Sebald, and built of cream city brick. In its early beginnings Sebald sold root beer and ale’s on the east side while raising his family and living on the second floor. In the lower level was a cistern which was utilized to keep the beverages cool as well as a summer kitchen and dining room. Gus Knauer operated a meat market on the west side (pictured above). Over the years other businesses have included the Plymouth Reporter, a podiatrist office, dress shop, cookie store, and a barber shop. In 2006, the society purchased the Sebald building and undertook extensive renovations. Today the first floor, which is handicapped accessible, is home to many changing exhibits of local interest. The lower level is home to the Plank Road Trail and Vintage Kitchen exhibit while the upper floor is utilized by museum staff and the Jim Stahlman Library.
In the lower level we have created the Plank Road Trail, a street scene of downtown Plymouth. In 1869, a photographer had mind to take a photograph from the east bank of the Mullet river, looking into the settlement of Ta Quit Qui Oc, an Indian name for ‘crooked river.’
Local artist Allan Pape created a historical birds-eye-rendering by painting a mural in the lower level of the historical society museum, preserving this look in time. A livery stable, carriage shop, grocery & tavern, sawmill, flour mill, churches, schools, railroad and stagecoach line, once dotted the community and may be found within the mural. A few of these buildings still stand today!
Construction of the Plank Road began in 1851 and was completed in 1852. This allowed settlers to travel from Sheboygan to Fond du Lac on a somewhat paved roadway. Tolls were 2-cents per mile for every vehicle drawn by 2-animals; 1-cent for every horse and rider; one-half cent for every animal driven loose. There was no toll for anyone going to or from a religious meeting, funeral or military gathering. Oak planks, as would have been present on the original Plank Road, begin your journey visiting shops and storefronts of downtown Plymouth. A millinery, pharmacy and general store, familiar to Mill street, have been recreated with furniture, fixtures and local artifacts.
The 20th century section features Dr. Spiegels optometrist office, toy store, furniture shop, a church display with stained-glass windows salvaged from St. John the Baptist Catholic church, a pump organ, and a barber shop, with a local barber chair and a colorful barber pole.
Plymouth was first surveyed in 1835 and was called Ta-quit-qui-oc, or Crooked River by local Indians. Plymouth’s first settler, Isaac Thorp, arrived in 1845. The Thorp family built a log home, cleared land, and within a few weeks planted crops to sustain themselves. Shortly after, Henry Davidson, and his son Thomas came from Hartford, Connecticut. They were attracted by the natural beauty of the area and settled on land near a cold spring. Henry wished to name the settlement Springfield because of the cold spring. However, Thomas, who had just lost his sweetheart, decided to name it Plymouth, after the Connecticut city where she had lived and died.
Plymouth is located in the center of Sheboygan County and has been known as Hub City because of its central location and for the manufacture of wooden wagon wheel hubs used in early transportation. Plymouth was also popularly known as the Cheese Capital of the world for its numerous cheese plants. Until 1955, the Cheese Exchange in Plymouth helped to establish and influence national cheese prices.
The William Sebald building, pictured about 1910. Gus Knauer operated a meat market on the left side, while the Shoe Doctor was located on the right. Note a large ladies boot which hung on the building. The historical society acquired the building in 2006 and completed extensive renovation.
The late Jim Stahlman, organized the historical society in 1990, and was instrumental in the rehabilitation and development of the museum. An official dedication was held November 25, 2006.
During rehabilitation, the original front center doors were found hidden away in the basement. Through the generosity of the Richardson Foundation, the doors were brought back to life, reinstalled and dedicated, October 9, 2008.
For decades, a mural graced the east side of the museum. Murals such as this were a common sight in rural America advertising a variety of products. Though faded, research found the original mural advertising Cream of Wheat Flour. Dedicated in 2009, this lead to the Wall Dogs coming to Plymouth in 2011, designing and painting 21 murals on various buildings throughout the community.
Union cemetery was established in the 1850's and here you will find many of Plymouth's earliest settlers. Nestled in a park-like setting, many of the monuments are works of art. Through society research, we are able to offer self guided tours to enjoy at your leisure. A new walk is being planned for 2021.
Band concerts in city park have been a decades long tradition. Long lasting memories are made visiting with friends or making new, enjoying a variety of music, but more importantly, the iconic cake & concession stand. Held June, July & August, we offer brats, hamburgers, potato salad and beans, at one or two of the concerts. And save room for those home-made cakes! Food is available at 5 p.m. with music beginning at 7 p.m. The forested park is located on Grove street on the north side of Plymouth. Take outs available.
A decades long event, once known as Sidewalk Sale, our downtown is filled with vendors galore, from one end of Mill street to the other, selling all kinds of goods. Stop by for a grilled cheese sammitch and check out the museum. We also offer a variety of reasonably priced publications and Plymouth mugs. It's usually hot and the museum is air conditioned!
A long standing fund raising event. Beautifully decorated tables, fine linens & china, afternoon tea, tea breads and sweets, with good company and conversation. Past programs have included presidential first ladies such as, Dolly Madison, Mary Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, as well as Laura Ingalls Wilder, and others. An entertaining and educational event for young and old alike.
The museum is beautifully decorated and open Thanksgiving weekend for our annual Christmas cookie sale. A variety of homemade, one pound assortments, as well as a variety of raffle baskets, await your arrival. The city's night-time Christmas parade begins at 7:00 p.m. Friday with the arrival of Santa Claus.
Brief business meeting & election of officers followed by our program – And Then it Rained Fire; The Peshtigo Fire 1871. Home to the country’s largest woodenware factory, sawmill’s, sash and door factories, swollen by the influx of laborers. A landscape stuffed with debris from logging, a village built of wood, weather abnormalities, a prolonged drought and the arrival of a dry cold front all combined to form a recipe for disaster.
Music! Music! Music!
An Afternoon with so much entertainment your toes will be sore from tapping! Family friendly event. Located at the Stayer Park pavilion, in the heart of the downtown, along the banks of the Mullet river. 3 to 9 p.m.
Food & refreshments!
2nd Saturday's Program - History of Plymouth Hospital with Dan Buckman The dream of Rev. Martin Schmidt of St. John Lutheran Church, the Plymouth Hospital opened in 1917 in a former cow pasture at the south end of Selma Street, three years after Rev. Schmidt began marshaling community support for the project. After additions in 1927 and 1956, continued growth and demand led to construction of an all-new hospital to the south, connected to the original hospital by an underground passage, which opened in 1970. The facility is no longer a hospital, but still serves as an acute care center and outpatient clinic. 2nd Saturday’s is sponsored by the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center and is held at the Plymouth Art’s Center. Program begins at 9:30 a.m. – free & open to the public
While downtown shops will be selling their wares, the Historical Society will be holding a book sale and offering grilled cheese sandwiches! A large variety of books for your reading pleasure are priced to sell. Stop by! We are air-conditioned! This is a great fund raising event for the society.
The society will be hosting the concession stand in forested City Park. Brats & hamburgers, Sheboygan hard-rolls, homemade German potato salad, and baked beans. And don't forget to save room for those homemade cakes! We begin serving at 5 pm. Eat in the park - take-outs available.
Jenny Appleseed, fictional sister of Johnny Appleseed, takes you on a journey through American Folklore. Relive stories you heard as a child. Learn stories and legends that perhaps you missed. Along the way meet such memorable characters as Rip Van Winkle, Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan and John Chapman.
-Stay tuned for ticket information-
Thanksgiving weekend Friday - Saturday.
One pound boxes of assorted homemade delectable cookies $7.00
Fri. 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Downtown Christmas Parade 7 p.m. Sat. 10 to 4:00 p.m.
Billy Bergin once walked the Sheboygan Marsh and nearby farm fields. Over the decades he collected Indian arrowheads and artifacts covering a time line of Indian life, from the Early Paleo period of about 10,000 BC, to the Late Woodland people up to 1600 A.D. We are proud to have his collection on exhibit.
A few of our exhibits are permanent while many others change throughout the year.
Beginning in 2007, the Historical Society & City of Plymouth have honored historically significant properties, local landmark status. Plaques placed on these properties provide details and information. A walking/driving brochure is available at the museum, Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, and other businesses in the community.
Henry Huson, an early settler, and second mayor, built a home on Collins street. A water tower, built in 1886, provided fresh water for his home and barns before municipal water was installed. In 1964, the Huson family donated the tower and land to the city, creating the Henry H. Huson Park. Fire destroyed the tower in 2015. The historical society and City of Plymouth had an exact replica built with the historical society providing financial support for the windmill.
Plymouth resident, Hattie Crogan, was an acclaimed artist, whose career began in the late 1800's. Born in 1871, Hattie attended a boarding school in Beaver Dam and later studied at the Chicago Art Institute. In 1893 Hattie and her husband moved to Plymouth and opened an art studio in their home. Hattie provided lessons while also working at a chair factory in Sheboygan. Many of her paintings were acquired at auction by a local resident and donated to the historical society.
The C.H. Bade barn dates to the 1850's and is one of the oldest remaining buildings in Plymouth. It has been relocated to the museum grounds and is undergoing renovations. Once completed, the barn will offer a carriage and blacksmith shop exhibit. The 1870's Settler's Club building, a meeting place for Civil War veterans, will be moved to the grounds to compliment the barn. This area is north of the museum on Main street.
The Plank Road was an early wooden road that traversed through the wilderness from Sheboygan to Fond du lac. Early settlers traveled by foot and carriage on this road as they settled in Sheboygan county and elsewhere.
One of the stores on the Plank Road is a general store. This was the first store in the area (then called Quic-Qui-Oc), selling goods to early settlers and trading with Indians.
In 1876 the lower level of the museum housed a summer kitchen and pantry. On display is an 1880's wood range, 1920' electric range, and 1930's gas stove. Other early kitchen pieces and utensils, as well as a stocked pantry, make for an fun filled exhibit.
This photo, taken in 1952, was a Kraft Company summer picnic, held in City Park. Attendees enjoyed brats and hamburgers and an afternoon of Schopskoff (sheepshead - a card game!) We welcome donations of local vintage photographs for our archives.
We would rather display artifacts than store them, so there are a few permanent exhibits within the museum. To provide new experiences for our guests, many of exhibits change throughout the year. You will always find something different and leave knowing something new.
The society aims to remain fresh and interesting throughout the year. A variety of activities and entertainment are held for members and non-members alike.
Seven months in the making, Finding Isaac Thorp tells the story of Plymouth, WI’s first settler and his family, and attempts to unravel the modern-day mystery of Isaac’s final resting place. The film (DVD) traces the family through the 1845 Wisconsin wilderness, the Civil War, across the rough plains of 19th century Kansas and showcases key national events and their effects on Plymouth’s people and on its history.
In addition to the Thorp’s, the film also loosely documents the lives of three of Plymouth’s other early pioneering families, the Davidson’s, Taylor’s and Smith’s.
$15 plus $3 shipping.
Mail request & check payable to:
The Plymouth Historical Society, P.O. Box 415, Plymouth WI 53073
Membership dues support our mission, to educate, preserve, advance and disseminate knowledge of the history of Plymouth. We are an all volunteer organization with each individual providing their special talents. We do not receive government funding and rely on your interest and financial support.
The museum is open 12-months a year, free of admission.
Private group tours may be scheduled by contacting the museum.
We also offer a variety of educational programs and fund raising activities for young and old alike.
The society newsletter is published 6-times a year, offering interesting articles, vintage photographs, and other research. We offer an on-line version for easy access as well as a paper copy for those who are not computer savvy.
Your membership helps to achieve our mission: to educate, preserve, advance and disseminate knowledge of the history of Plymouth. At this time we do not offer on-line membership, but will make this as easy as possible for you.
Individual - $20
Sustaining - $35
Family - $25
Sustaining Family - $65
Business Professional - $65
Sustaining Business Professional - $100
Please mail your name, address, city , state and zip code. An email address will allow us to send you a newsletter electronically. We will not share your information.
Check payable to: The Plymouth Historical Society
Mail to: Plymouth Historical Society, P.O. Box 415, Plymouth WI 53073
Hours: Thursday, Friday, Saturday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Located in the heart of Sheboygan county.
15 miles west of Sheboygan - 13 miles west of Kohler - 25 miles east of Fond du lac - 50 miles north of Milwaukee - 60 miles south of Green Bay.
The first floor of the museum is handicap accessible and there is no admission fee.
Location: 420 E. Mill street, Plymouth, Wisconsn 53073
The historical society is solely operated by a great group of volunteers, from the board of directors, to those who help in day-to-day operations. Our greatest need is for volunteers to be present while the museum is open. Visitors come from near and far, from many states, and countries across the globe. If you enjoy meeting people we would welcome you to become a volunteer! Your role is to welcome visitors as they begin their self-guided tour. Hours for 2020 are Thursday, Friday, Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. You choose how little or how often you wish to volunteer. If you have a few hours to spare, we would love to hear from you!
Historical Society research - In Search of Isaac Thorp
Santa Steam Train
Welcome to Plymouth
One Sunday afternoon in October of 1946, a 16-year old Plymouth boy sat on a fender of a car and fired at a sparrow perched on the wheel of a contractor’s wagon. That shot hit a wagon and exploded more than 1,000 pounds of nitroglycerin dynamite that Dynamite Bill had stored there.
The blast shook a half dozen counties and Plymouth streets were awash with shattered glass. One Plymouth resident was just about to sit down to listen to the radio. The davenport rose to meet him. Everyone rushed outside to see what had happened. All that could be seen was a hole in the ground 10 to 12 feet deep and 15 to 20 feet across. The wagon and the sparrow disappeared.
This photo certainly has a story to tell. Work jackets advertise the name R.H. Hand Lumber Co. and the horse, Keifer & Witkopp Furniture and Undertaking. Note what the gentlemen are holding. A saw, hatchet, hammer, level, and two with a mug of beer, one holding a mug and a bottle. All appear to have arms, legs, fingers and toes intact.
The Hotchkiss-Puhlman Mill bustled with activity and was important in the development of Plymouth. Farmers arrived from surrounding counties with wheat to have ground into flour.
In 1966 the mill was torn down and a commercial office building was constructed onto its foundation.
In the early 1900's, Plymouth residents utilized trolley cars for transportation. The trolley line operated from Sheboygan to points westward with a trolley station right here in Plymouth. Car 26, at one time a common site, now operates at the Trolley museum in East Troy, Wis.
October 2014, volume 24, no. 5
On the south side of Plymouth there was once a thriving business area known as “Cheeseville.” Located along the rail line, Cheeseville included warehouses, cold storage facilities, and processing plants. This area was located from the present day Borden facility north to Reed street. In this bustling center cheese was collected, stored, aged, graded, packaged and shipped.
Why Cheeseville? One only needs to look back to the dairy history in Sheboygan county. In 1871, there were 20 cheese factories in the county, 125 by 1905 and down to 91 in 1936. But as the number of cheese factories declined those remaining produced larger quantities of cheese. The problem which presented itself is that cheesemakers did not have facilities to store their product.
Early on cheese dealers would purchase cheese from the cheese factories and hold it until suitable buyers could be found. As the industry grew, professional buyers would travel from cheese factory to cheese factory to purchase their cheese. This however fell from favor as the cheese factories often received pennies on the dollar.
In 1912, farmers became dissatisfied selling their milk to cheesemakers who in-turn sold their cheese through dealers. Farmers thought they would be better off establishing a co-op of their own cheese factories, or at least force the cheesemakers to sell to a Federation which the farmers would own. This would bypass the cold storage warehouses and other dealers who bought cheese.
Senator Henry Kumrey of Plymouth led the effort for the farmers to organize. 1,500 farmers organized the Wisconsin Cheese Producers Federation in 1913. The Federation was located in northwest part of the city on Schwartz street. At its peak the Federation had a membership of 435 cheese factories from many counties. The Federation manufactured “Mello-Crème,” cheese that was aged in wood.
The Federation ceased in 1965 and the buildings were sold to Howard Stoll who developed Plymouth Creameries Inc.
For decades Plymouth has proudly been known as “The Cheese Capitol of the World.” The Wisconsin Cheese Exchange was located in Plymouth with its board meeting weekly to establish the price of cheeses worldwide. We would liken it to the New York Stock Exchange for cheese. Virtually every buyer and seller of American cheese used the proceedings from the Cheese Exchange as a guide to pricing.
The roots of the exchange can be traced back to 1873 when it was known as the Sheboygan Falls Board of Trade. In 1918 the Exchange was established and further changes in 1936 officially created the Wisconsin Cheese Exchange. In 1944 this was the only such exchange in the nation. Membership came from coast-to-coast.
The workings of the board was a simple process. Buyers and sellers convened in a boardroom on the corner of Mill and Stafford streets. A blackboard had the names of cheese factories and quantity and type of cheese they had to offer. Bids were solicited and when the bidding was completed, the board’s secretary would contact each factory, making a check mark on the board if the factory accepted or passed on the bid.
Within Cheeseville, there were two types of warehouses. Cheese assemblers and cheese processers. The cheese factories would bring cheese to the assemblers who would paraffin it and then sell it to the processors. Processors would package the cheese or blend it with other ingredients to make processed cheese or spread.
Some of the assemblers included Bamford Cheese Co., Barber Cheese Co., Blanke Cheese Co., Brookshire Cheese Co., Conover Cheese Co., Dairy State Storage, Davis Cheese Co., and Plymouth Cheese Co. Processers included Pabst-Ett Co. and Kraft Phenix Co. (maker of Philadelphia Cream Cheese), which later became Kraft (maker of the celebrated “Kraft Loaf Cheese”), Borden’s, and Lakeshire-Marty, a division of Borden’s.
Pabst-Ett has an interesting history. Kraft bought the Sheboygan Cheese Co. and moved its operations to Plymouth. During prohibition the Pabst Brewery produced cheese in its Milwaukee plant. After prohibition they moved their cheese making equipment to Plymouth and Kraft opened the Pabst-Ett Co. in 1933. A combination of Pabst, the Sheboygan Cheese Co., and Kraft.
During the 1930’s and 40’s the population of Plymouth was 4,400. 1,000 of those citizens were employed in the cheese industry. In the 1930’s employees worked 12-hour days or longer and 10-hour days on Saturdays. Men earned a starting salary of 35 cents an hour while women earned 30 cents. Women who worked at Lakeshire-Marty were not allowed to work once they married.
Various types and sizes of cheeses were made in Plymouth. Cheddars, twins, daisies, longhorns, squares and loaf. Italian varieties included Provolone, Romano, Asiago and Parmesan. These cheeses were not only sought after in major cities of the United States, but shipments were also made to Montreal, London, Liverpool and Glasgow.
The demise of Cheeseville began when Kraft moved its operations to Chicago in 1949. As cheese factories became larger there was no longer a need for assemblers and cheese was sold directly to processers and wholesalers. Shipping methods also changed from rail to refrigerated trucks and newer, modern facilities, no longer needed to be built along rail lines.
The Cheese Exchange continued operations in Plymouth until 1970 when it relocated to Green Bay.
While Cheeseville no longer exists, a few of the buildings still dot the landscape along the rail line south of Reed street.
Learn something new or remanence some of those old memories. The society newsletter, Hub City Chronicles, is published 6-times a year and shared in an electronic or paper format to society membership. From our archives, we are able to share history through articles and photographs, as well as upcoming news and events.