525 WEST WATER STREET

This 19th-century wood cut shows the building at 525 West Water Street in Princeton built in 1875 by Ferdinand T. Yahr as a hardware store. He operated his bank out of an office in the corner of the building.

The City of Princeton’s Historical Walking Tour plaque for 525 West Water Street (now the Daiseye store) is among several in the historic downtown district that contain critical errors. At least the construction date of 525 is correct, however, unlike plaques on some of the other older buildings downtown.

The error on the plaque at 525, as in the First National Bank plaque at 501 West Water (now the RiverBank Dry Goods store and discussed in a previous blog post), can be traced to a lack of research of Princeton’s banking history.

Yahr did not found Princeton’s first private bank in 1893. He sold the bank, which he co-founded in 1875, in 1893.

The Montello State Bank of Princeton operated briefly in Princeton about 1859-60, but the first local bank was the Yahr, Thompson & Co. Bank founded in 1875.

Princeton Republic, Oct. 2, 1875: “An institution long needed in Princeton has at length been supplied. For years past our businessmen have talked about the necessity of a bank to the business interests of our growing village, but no permanent steps were taken until recently, when the Messrs. F.T. Yahr, J.M. Fish (attorney) and A.E. Thompson (attorney and co-publisher of the Republic) … took hold of the matter.”

Yahr bought out his partners in 1881 and operated it for the next 12 years as the private banking house of F.T. Yahr.

Princeton Republic, Oct. 27, 1881: “An arrangement was recent consummated by which F.T. Yahr becomes sole proprietor of the bank.”

Yahr sold the bank in 1893 when it organized as Princeton State Bank. He issued the following announcement on May 4:

“To my friends and the patrons of the Bank of F.T. Yahr: A meeting of the business men of Princeton, Wisconsin, has this day been called to organize a State Bank in place of the private bank owned and operated by myself and Eugene F. Yahr and known as the ‘Bank of F.T. Yahr.'”

Now, some people involved with the walking tour and historical society might say, does it really matter if a business was founded in 1875 or 1893?

My answer remains a resounding YES! When dealing with our most historic buildings and businesses, accuracy certainly matters!

We’ve corrected seven of the downtown plaques already in this blog, and there are more to come.

7 comments

  1. Hi Roger, I am Richard A. Yahr in Milwaukee. I want to find out how F.J. Yahr ( my great grandfather ) is related to F.T. Yahr. Can you be of assistance? Dick Yahr b. 6/26/1945 414-351-5142 ariar4062@yahoo.com

    1. Hi, Richard, I am so sorry it took so long to respond. I’ve been on the road a lot lately and neglected the blog. I believe they were brothers, although I remember somewhere they were referred to as half-brothers. I have not checked this on Ancestry or anywhere else, but I believe they were both sons of Ernst Yahr but might have had different mothers. (Oct. 23, 1884, Princeton Republic: In response to a telegram announcing the death of their father, F.T. and Frank Yahr started for Woodland Tuesday to attend the funeral. … Also … April 30, 1885: A.P. Tyler has charge of Frank Yahr’s lumber yard while the latter was absent attending the burial of his mother in Hustisford, Dodge County – no mention of F.T. attending) Ferdinand T. Yahr made his money in Princeton selling farm implements, primarily to new German immigrants (he also sold passage tickets from Germany to U.S.), and hardware before being a part of the village’s first bank. He and Frank also operated a lumber yard, though I am not sure I know when it opened (I think in the early 1870s; I’ll check my notes later). A note in the newspaper indicates Frank took sole possession of the lumber business in 1885-1886. F.T. later also sold his interest in the hardware store and bank and concentrated his business interests in Milwaukee, where he and son Eugene became top executives with a drug company (Chas. Baumbach Co., later the Yahr & Lange Co.). I hope that helps.

      1. Thank you Roger! Lots of new info for my family records. If you give me your e mail address I will send additional info to you. Regards. Richard A. Yahr

Leave a Reply to rogerbartel Cancel reply