Cheese Capital of the World
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
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.
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 offers a carriage shop exhibit. The 1880 August Schmidt bathhouse was relocated next to the barn. The building was once used by local Civil War veterans until 1905. This area is north of the museum on Main Street. Now closed for the season, the Bade barn will reopen in the summer of 2024.
Union cemetery was established in Nov. 27, 1854 with the first burial occurring 2 years prior, in 1852. Many early settlers' repose in this tranquil 4 acre parcel. High school drama students will share information at different burial sites. Walk at your own leisure. Brochures available at the Division St. entrance, north of St. Paul's Episcopal church. 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Open to the public - free of charge. Suggested to wear comfortable shoes.
Our program - Recollections of life during the depression. Presented by Bev Schellhaas. A brief business meeting & election of officers begins promptly at 10 a.m. Program to follow.
First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1405 S. Milwaukee St. Lite refreshments will be served. Open to public!
Celebrate our cheese heritage. Cheese themed parade, cheese eating contest, cheese cooking contest, cheese wedge race in the river, cheese history presentations, followed by a family music festival at Stayer Park. The Historical Society will be serving grilled cheese sandwiches. Bring a lawn chair and comfortable shoes to toe tap to the great music. Located at the Stayer Park pavilion, in the heart of the downtown, along the banks of the Mullet River. Plenty of parking adjacent to Stafford St. Parade at 10:00 a.m. Music & food noon to 9 p.m. Stop by the historical society tent for grilled cheese sandwiches.
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. Proceeds benefit the museum.
Plymouth celebrates Fallooza with a Side of Kraut. Mill Street will be host to music, food & vendors. The Historical Society will present its newest addition, the Bade Barn Carriage Shop, located behind the museum with an Octoberfest celebration. This 1850's barn has been rehabilitated and is home to its original intent, the C.H. Bade Carraige Shop. Carl Laack orchestra, German food, games, vendors, and much more. 11:00 to 5:00 p.m. Plenty of gemütlichkeit!
Stop by the Huson Tower on Collins Street during Plymouth's annual trick-o-treating. Take a peek inside and do not forget to say "trick-o-treat!" 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Begin the holiday season with a visit the museum. Decorated for Christmas with entertainment by Pete Schuerman. Enjoy a selection of wines and light appetizers. Cash bar. Fantastic gift giving baskets available through silent auction. 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Open to the public - free of charge.
An on-line address to visit the auction will be announced.
Silent auction closes at 4 p.m. Nov. 26
Thanksgiving weekend Friday - Sunday. One- pound boxes of assorted homemade delectable cookies $7.00. Fri. 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Downtown Christmas Parade 7 p.m. A chili cookoff is being held at participating downtown businesses Friday.
The museum is open Sat. & Sun. 11 to 3:00 p.m. An on-line address to visit the auction will be announced.
Silent auction closes at 4 p.m. Nov. 26
Membership dues support our mission, to educate, preserve, advance and disseminate knowledge of the history of Plymouth. As an all-volunteer organization we do not receive government funding. We rely on your interest and financial support. A variety of donation levels are available for you to choose from.
Individual - $20
Sustaining - $35
Family Sustaining - $25
Sustaining Family - $65
Business Professional - $65
Sustaining Business Professional - $100
Check payable to Plymouth Historical Society. Please mail your name, address, city, state, and zip code to: Plymouth Historical Society, P.O. Box 415, Plymouth WI 53073. While we do offer a paper format newsletter, an email address will allow us to send you a newsletter electronically. We will not share your information.
The society newsletter is published 6-times a year, offering interesting articles, vintage photographs, and stories from local research. We offer an on-line version for easy access as well as a paper copy for those who are not computer savvy.
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 exhibits are permanent including the Civil War, WWI, WW II, the collections of the Gritt family, Billy Bergin, Hattie Crogan paintings, cheese history, vintage kitchen, and the Plank Road Trail. New exhibits include the Bemis family, William Sebald and Ullrich families.
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. The tower will be open Oct. 27, 2023, from 3 to 5 p.m.
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.
Through research of local newspapers, we have compiled a 2024 calendar filled with information from 1924. This is not your usual calendar. This is a snapshot of what life was like in Plymouth and the surrounding area, each day offering a glimpse of life 100 yrs. ago. A card party at Dipple's Hall in Parnell, a new teacher at Dye Rd. School, operations at Plymouth Hospital, Miss Caryle coaching a high school play at the Opera House. Pictures of Mill St., news & events, ads, and so much more. A perfect gift that will be remembered throughout the year. Calendars are available at the museum, Chamber of Commerce, 647 Walton Dr., and Over Easy Flipping, 220 E. Mill St. Cost $20. We will mail to the lower 48 states for an add'l $4. Check payable Plymouth Historical Society. Address: P.O. Box 415 Plymouth WI 53073.
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 1854. Here you will find many of Plymouth's earliest settlers. Nestled in a park-like setting, the cemetery offers interesting monuments and inscriptions, many dating to late 1700's and early 1800's. Through society research, we are able to share history, with the help of students dressed in period costume. Union cemetery walk is held the 3rd Sunday of May, from 1:00 to 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon.
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 or a Chicago style hotdog 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 Christmas fundraiser. Start off the Christmas Season with cheese toasting, great music, wine & beer. Complimentary cheese & snacks, cash bar, a wonderful selection of silent auction baskets for gift giving or keep for yourself. The museum is open 4:00 to 9:00 p.m. Open to the public, free of admission.
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. On Friday evening, a chili cookoff is held at various businesses along Mill 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. A "Streets of Plymouth" exhibit offers stores once present along Mill Street. Peer through the windows and image what life was like so long ago.
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.
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 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 which 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. During prohibition the Pabst Brewery produced cheese in its Milwaukee plant. After prohibition they resumed beer production and moved their cheese making equipment to Plymouth. Meanwhile Kraft bought the Sheboygan Cheese Co. and moved its operations to Plymouth. 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.
The pictured locomotive was originally #39 and was purchased by the Milwaukee & Northern Railroad in 1890. The Milwaukee & Northern was the railroad through Plymouth to Green Bay. In 1890 it was controlled by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul. They bought the Milwaukee & Northern in 1893 and the Milwaukee & Northern name disappeared. When the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul completed the sale of
Workers installing street car tracks though the city of Plymouth. This was a popular line between Sheboygan, Sheboygan Falls, Plymouth and Elkhart Lake. A passenger could transverse to the eastern shores of the United States on this line. The railroad bridge was the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul rail line. The line provided passenger and cargo service to Green Bay and points farther north. Pho