Historical Information of the Town of Polk
Polk’s original boundries were established by the United States Government around 1830.
At the time of its incorporation, Town resident Densmore W. Maxon suggested adopting the name of Polk in honor of President James K. Polk, who was then in office. The Town was officially incorporated on January 21, 1846 and consisted of just 21 voters and 5 taverns. In September, 1846 the first town evaluation done. Polk was assessed at $20,039. The first town meeting was held on April 7, 1846. The Board of Supervisor’s first meeting was held May 5, 1846. The minutes of May's meeting state that John Rix was reimbursed $1.50 for house rent, light, and stationery for holding the April meeting at his home.
Early diaries and letters to relatives back home relate interesting events as well as enthusiastic attitudes about life in Polk. Settlers speak of trading their farm produce for venison, goose, duck and wild turkey with the Indians. Bread made with mill-ground flour became a particular treat for the Indians and an occasional loaf left on a settler’s window sill helped forestall a possible raid. Wild strawberries, blackberries, and black raspberries grew abundantly. The Town's land adapted to farming and grazing. Many rocks and boulders, along with the kettles created by the ice age, proved challenging to the local farmer.
Polk was also known for its hardwood forest, consisting of white and red cedars, four types of oaks, two species of sugar maples, hickory and other nut trees.
Unknown to many Town of Polk residents, a subcontinental divide winds through the township along State Highway 41. Then between section 6 and 7 the water flows in opposite directions. The town's Cedar Creek, which flows out of Cedar Lake, is one of the largest tributaries of the Milwaukee River. Its water then flows into Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and finally into the Atlantic Ocean.
The Town of Polk also has several marshland areas from which creeks flow into Pike Lake, and follow into the Rock River, then the Mississippi River, and onto the Gulf of Mexico.
By 1846, 14 families lived in Cedar Creek.
The Government registered a purchase of 160 acres in section 28 on February 2, 1843 to Theophilus Haylett.
William Williamson registered 40 acres August 7, 1843.
Densmore W. Maxon and father, Ethan, registered 40 acres more in March, 1845. The Maxon’s 40 acres ran along Cedar Creek where they built and operated one of the first sawmills in the area.
Ethan Maxon was appointed Cedar Creek’s first Postmaster. His red brick house across from the tavern/dance hall served as a small store and post office. It stands today as a private home.
Another early settler was Chief Kewaskum, head of the Potawatomi Indian Tribe.
John Rix as another early Polk inhabitant. The first white child born in Polk (1845) was his son Barnett. The Rix’s, too, operated a mill about one half mile down the Creek from Maxon’s.
The Village of Cedar Creek developed because of the good water source and construction of the sawmill and flour.
The Bibinger family built on a tavern and dance hall overlooking the Maxon mill in 1846. Later, this establishment was named Schwai’s, and is now named Bibinger's for its original owners.
The Town's first travelers from Milwaukee traveled along the countryside was by foot, oxen team or stagecoach. Several stage stops existed along the Cedar Creek Station (Ackerville) to West Bend run.
The railroad became an important alternate means of transportation. Many preferred their comfort and swiftness. Ackerville again played an important role because of its location. The stage station soon became the train depot serving the Milwaukee Railroad Line for Polk and surrounding townships. The stage station/depot housed the original general store and post office, was later a hotel, then a private club called the Blue Room, and is now Sheryl's located on HWY 175 in Ackerville.
The first school house in Cedar Creek held its first class in April of 1847. John Rix is given credit for construction of the school at a cost of $49.00, with local settlers assisting in its construction in the old fashioned "barn raising" style of neighbors helping neighors. Records show that the teacher received a salary of $10.50 per month, and lived on a rotating basis, for a few weeks at a time with each student’s family. The school house is now a private residence.
Another school, the Polk Dairy school, was located on old HWY 60 which is now Sherman Road. The first class was held in October of 1853. Its teacher’s salary was $16.25 per month. The school year was for six and one-half months with two months off during the summer so pupils could help their family with the planting and harvesting of crops.
In 1865, a new stone school was constructed with the help of families and neighbors. Total cost of this school was $6.38. In the construction of this school, there was one requirement of the Town's residents: All farmers owning 80 acres or more must deliver one wagon load of stone to the school site, while those with 40 acres or less were responsible for one half wagon load. Another new school building was constructed in 1916 and the Polk Dairy school remained in operation until 1962 when it was closed by the Slinger School District.
The Polk School District received no state, county or town aid until 1861. Town and county aid that first year, was $99.60. State aid began in 1909.
By 1880 The Town of Polk reported ten school houses valued at $8,600. Its 14 teachers instructed 680 scholars. The total expenses for education in the Town were $2,900. German was taught in all of Polk's schools, and later was omitted from the curriculum in 1899.
Cemeteries and Churches
The Cedar Creek Cemetery was started in 1853 and is located just one-fourth mile north of Cedar Creek on County Hwy Z.
Many of the first Ackerville settlers came from Germany. The first Evangelical church (St. Paul’s) is believed to have been built by these settlers around 1844. It was a simple log structure on Fond du Lac Road. In 1874 a brick church was erected on the same road one quarter mile north. The congregation of St. John’s Evangelical and Reformed Church built a log structure in 1854, and by 1894 their present brick church was built on what is now Slinger Rd and County E.
Other Historical Facts
The Washington County Fair was held in Cedar Creek on October 8th, 9th and 10th in 1862.
In 1861, 800 Indians in the Horicon area went on the warpath. When news of the danger reached Cedar Creek, the settlers in the area hid in the ravines along Silver Lake until the danger was past. This uprising never did reach the Town of Polk.
Early settlers built log homes measuring twenty feet by twenty-two feet, and having a small loft area. Building supplies such as nails and tools, were brought from Milwaukee by ox team or carried by pioneers on their backs.
During the Civil War bank representatives met at Cedar Creek and decided that wheat and other produce should be sold only for gold.
Densmore Maxon was Polk’s first elected representative in the Wisconsin state legislature.
January 6, 1880 the West Bend, Polk, Richfield Mutual Insurance Company was organized. As the towns insurance company it served as protection for business and homesteads.
Polk Dairy Company was incorporated in 1907 by several farmers hoping to sell dairy products commercially. Milk then sold for $1.52 per 100 pounds.
Densmore Maxon had hoped that Cedar Creek would become the hub of the Town of Polk, so in the summer of 1846 he supervised the surveying of town roads, and designed them so all sections of the township had access to Cedar Creek.
The Town of Polk Board organized a town Board of Health in May, 1883. In the 1800's many needy families lived along the countryside. Usually, established settlers were called on to donate flour, potatoes or other staples to these families to help out.
Around 1878 Julius Schleisinger operated a wildcat brewery in section 22. Two underground vaults were dug in a small, rounded hill and were well hidden. With the coming of the railroad, the revenue men came looking for illegal stills and homemade whiskey.