On the grounds of the Sheboygan County Historical Society campus there are four buildings available to tour. Your $4 museum admission fee includes a docent led tour of each of these buildings which tell stories of life in 19th century Sheboygan County. On the day of my visit, I was the only one looking to tour these buildings so I was treated to a personal one-on-one experience with Dale . . . my guide for the 45 minute stroll around the grounds.
Our first stop was the Taylor House. Built in the 1852 by David Taylor, an attorney who moved to Sheboygan from New York. Taylor and his family resided in this home, which is original to the property, for many years. As his legal career flourished, he moved from Sheboyban to the state capitol of Madison in 1870. At that time, he rented the house to the Pape family. They lived in the house until the passing of Taylor, when his heirs gave the property to Sheboygan County in 1909. The county used the house as the jail from 1915 to 1936. Gee I wonder if that is what the family had in mind in terms of how this stately home would be used?
The house was later lived in by the caretaker of nearby Taylor Park. In 1949 it was leased to the Sheboygan County Historical Society. They opened it as a museum in 1954 and remained in that use until the new museum building was built and opened in 1997. Taylor house was listing on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1976.
The house has seen a variety of uses and occupants, but today it appears largely as it would have when David Taylor and his family lived there. It is a home of affluence and not typical of the farmers and other residents of Sheboygan in the 19th century. The rooms are beautiful decorated and furnished with actual items from that period in history. Dale told me that they receive donations from local residents and have been able to tell the story through their museum and the accompanying buildings that comprise their complex.
Three other buildings on the property include the 1862 Weinhold Log Cabin, the Julius Bodenstab Cheese Factory (circa 1867) and a barn that formerly occupied the land directly across the road where a large mall is today. Each of these three buildings were brought to this complex as part of the historical society's mission to "collect, preserve, and educate about the history of Sheboygan County."
The Weinhold cabin is a good depiction of how most farmers lived in rural Wisconsin in the late 1800's. As immigrants to America, they lived a modest existence off the land. Their furnishings were the simple necessities to raise a family. The log cabin itself was built using the German style of construction using flat log planks rather than the round logs that were used by other builders of the day.
Dale explained how the trees were cut and scaled down to make the flat sides as seen with this cabin. He also explained how the cabin was completely dismantled to be moved and then reassembled there on the historical society's property.
Of course, if you've read my other journals in The Wisconsin Series, you know I have been intrigued by the history of cheeesemaking in Wisconsin. The old Bodenstab Cheese Factory is probably one of the best preserved cheese factories with authentic relics that have been collected to tell the full story of cheesemaking in Sheboygan County. Back at the turn of the 20th century, there were more than 200 cheese factories dotting the countryside.
Back before transportation of milk was made easier by motor vehicles, farmers had to take their fresh milk for processing on a daily basis by horse drawn wagons. Cheese factories cropped up on many crossroads to enable farmers an easy trek with their milk. As transportation means improved, farmers were able to haul their milk a greater distance and competition grew for their raw product. Today most of these farm based cheese factories have become obsolete. Their buildings have largely fallen to ruins, so to have this one relocated here to the Sheboygan County Historical Society campus is very special.
The last building on the grounds available for viewing is the large red barn. It houses a number of farm implements and tools, many dating back to the founding of Sheboygan. For visitors who have never seen the inside of a silo, they have a nice old wooden silo that can be viewed from the base, inside the three story structure.
Also found out on the lawn is an old-school stump puller. It was used by settlers to clear land and an example of farm equipment that was shared throughout a community. It was powered by horse, mule or oxen that walked in circles driving down the cork-screw like apparatus into the core of the stump. Once secure into the stump, it was pulled over and hauled away by the animal's strength.
If you are planning a visit to Sheboygan, I would encourage you to plan for an hour or two here at the Sheboygan County Historical Society's property at Taylor Park located at 3110 Erie Avenue. They are open seasonally, so you will want to check out their website for hours of operation and the availability of a guide. Their website is: http://www.sheboygancounty.com/government/departments-f-q/historical-museum .