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Click HERE to see what the Wisconsin Historical Society has to say about “An American Downton Abbey.” You can also read about our inclusion in the society's 2010 publication, "Wisconsin's Own: Twenty Remarkable Homes," by clicking on the book's cover on the right below.

Jen Zettel's story for Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers generated a huge increase in page views! See what she wrote and follow the links to view clips of the interview HERE.


The Millionaires

The daughters of John R. Davis Jr. (from the left), Emily, Myra and Ellen. Exquisite as these little girls are, they all came to sad ends. Emily and Ellen both committed suicide (Emily by carbon monoxide in the garage of her Oshkosh home) and Ellen using laudenum in  Chicago. Myra, the wife of my grandmother's cousin Charles Babcock, died of pancreatic cancer at age 44.

Nettie Hewit Kimberly, shown here about 1888 with her four children, (from the left)  Augustus, Daniel (still in the traditional skirt) , Mabel, and Henry. Two years later Nettie and her husband Lucius were in train wreck while visiting her brother in Oregon. Lucius was paralysed and died two years later following surgery performed in their East Wisconsin Avenue home.

Ella Reese Smith, wife of Henry S. Smith, with their daughter Julia. Ella would divorce her husband, suing for abandonment and cruelty when they were in their 70s.

Emma Kimberly, John Alfred Kimberly's younger sister, still fashionably à la mode in her mid-50s, about 1895. My great-grandfather, Havilah Babcock, proposed marriage to Emma but she turned him down and never married. Although she claimed that the man she loved had been killed in the Civil War, she continued to fancy Havilah long after he married a cousin from Troy, New York.

D. W. Bergstrom began his merchantile career as a clerk in the Kimberly & Babcock Dry Goods Store. He slept under the counter and took his meals at the home of Havilah Babcock's brother Wheeler, where he met his first wife, Wheeler's sister-in-law. He became Havilah's close friend and protégé, and when D. W. and his brother George purchased a local stove works, Havilah acted as their financier. Years later, after the brothers parted company, Havilah was planning to provided the same service with the formation of the Bergstrom Paper Company when he died of a heart attack.

A traveling salesman before settling in Neenah, Franklyn C. Shattuck was something of a player in his day. One of the four founders of Kimberly-Clark Corp.,  he was also one of the principal investors in a race track operated on Doty Island, and included a billiard room on the first floor of his second, more opulent home on East Wisconsin Avenue. The table was subsequently remove (if ever purchased) and converted to a music room when his younger son Arthur was discovered to be prodigy, much to the delight of Shattuck's wife Clara.

F. J. Sensenbrenner began his career at Kimberly-Clark as an accountant and quickly became the most trusted member of the staff. Assuming the presidency after J. A. Kimberly, Sensenbrenner went on to become one of the state's richest and most powerful men. He was thwarted, however, in building a home on the Neenah point by Kimberly's daughter Helen, who purchased some of the key parcels needed for the project and donated them to the city for a park. The two had been next door neighbors and Helen hated Sensenbrenner, most probably for his supplanting her husband W. Z. Stuart as her father's successor.

Helen Cheney Kimberly of Logansport, Indiana was the wife of J. A. Kimberly. Her father was Judge James Cheney, one of the financiers of the transatlantic cable and a personal friend of Jay Gould and Cyrus Field. She was also the great-aunt of Carole Lombard, who got her big film break in "Twentieth Century," a film directed by Howard Hawks who grew up across the street from the Kimberlys.

Henry Hewitt Sr. was one of the principal contractors hired to build the locks and canals on the Lower Fox River. When that work was done he turned to banking, in which he was joined by his sons, one of whom became the founder of Everett, Washington and a partner with John D. Rockefeller's investments there. Hewitt's daughters, meanwhile, married into the Kimberly and Syme families, while his granddaughters became wives of a Bergstrom and a Menasha Wooden Ware Smith, and a widowed daughter-in-law became the second wife of George Whiting.

Henry Sherry was one of Wisconsin's leading lumbermen and perhaps best known for declaring bankruptcy in the 1890s for more than $1 million. Almost equally scandalous, his son Ed married Laura Case of Prairie du Chein, an actress.  They ultimately settled in Milwaukee where Laura was founder of the Little Theatre Movement and her salons attracted no lesser literary lights than Carl Sandburg and Amy Lowell.

C. W. Howard and his wife Euphemia had three children (from the left), Bernice, Neal and Helen. Neal drowned in the Fox River while still in grammar school, while Helen became the mother of Hollywood film director Howard Hawks and Bernice made her own mark in Wisconsin history as the first woman to fly over the state in a plane.  

Jane Smith, daughter of Menasha Wooden Ware founder Elisha Smith, scandalized the community when her husband Elmer divorced her in the early 1900s for having a lover and beating up the complainant when he complained about it. Her second husband, Edward Haskin, a yachtsman and tennis player, was considerably younger than she was. The house where they lived in Menasha has been demolished, but the high wall that shielded their lives from public scrutiny is still standing.

Margaret Smith was the daughter of Henry and Ella Reese Smith. Photographed here in the conservatory of her parent's East Forest Avenue mansion, she eventually married Dan Kimberly, whose father was killed in the train wreck. Her parents were none too happy about the match, certain that Dan's financial prospects were not as strong as his Kimberly cousins. Finding herself pregnant within weeks of their marriage, Margaret arranged to have the baby in Chicago, fearing what the public would say if the baby was born in less than nine months time.

If anyone was the human personification of Ebenezer Scrooge it was John Robbins Kimberly, one of the two brothers who came to Neenah in the 1840s and established two branches of the clan. When Kimberly's only son Alfred wanted his financial help in establishing a paper mill, the senior Kimberly refused, citing the area's establishment as one of the premier flour-producing areas of Wisconsin. Instead, Alfred got the necessary funds from his father-in-law, an investor in the transatlantic cable.


1 comment:

  1. This is soooooooc cool! Thanks for sharing! I would have never known!