The Foundry

This photo shows Princeton’s first foundry, left, just west of the overall and shirt factory.

This photo interests me because it shows two of Princeton’s long-gone but historic buildings. Many locals can probably identify the photo second from left as the overall and shirt factory, but I doubt many can identify the building on the far left.

It’s the first foundry in Princeton, started by Jacob Yunker (Junker) in 1868 – 20 years after Princeton was founded – and renovated by Silas Eggleston into a house (rear) and business (front) in 1892.

The following information is taken from the Princeton quasquicentennial booklet published in 1973: “The foundry on the west side of the river was established in 1868 and was located in what is now called McCormick’s pasture. It faced east and would be directly across the road from where the Larry Sauter electric shop now stands. The Yunker brothers, relatives of Clarence Oelke, present city clerk, operated the foundry.” The booklet also includes a map of “Princeton Past” showing the foundry on Second Street/Highway 23.

Both the information in the article and the map are incorrect.

The foundry was indeed founded in 1868, but the Princeton Republic reported it was built at the “corner of West Main and Mill streets” and was “located just across the bridge on the north side of the road.”

You won’t find Mill Street on the map today, but the illustrated map of 1892 shows the road running southeast from the mill, east of the foundry, and then connecting with Main Street.

The foundry is the building on Main Street just west of the bridge. The Yahr mansion is in the foreground.

The building consisted of two parts. The front part, facing the street, was the moulding room. The back of the building was two stories tall and housed the finishing department, which included large grind stones for polishing and a blacksmith’s forge. The iron columns used when the Thiel and Luce blocks (508-512-516 West Water Street) were built in 1870 came from the foundry.

The Sanborn map of 1892 also places the foundry on Main Street and shows how the building was divided.

The foundry operated on an on-again, off-again basis for some years before the building was sold to Silas Eggleston in 1892. A few years later he re-shingled the building and used it as a warehouse.

Joseph Yunker, one of the brothers who had operated the foundry founded by their father, who died in 1896, went to work for August Swanke, who had a manufacturing “complex” at Main and Second streets that included wagon and blacksmith shops.

Princeton Republic, 1896: “During the past season, August Swanke has added several new departments to his already extensive manufacturing establishment on the west side. He has purchased the machinery, patterns and tools of the old iron foundry and has moved them into one of the buildings south of the mill ditch. Jos. Junker, who is an expert moulder and a first-class iron worker, is in charge of this department and is kept busy turning out castings for the various farm machines which Mr. Swanke manufactures.”

Swanke had also built a planing mill, farther south of his shops on Second Street, in August 1883. He later relocated the foundry there, as well, as shown in the 1898 Sanborn fire insurance map. This is the location described and mapped in the quasqui centennial booklet.

The 1898 Sanborn fire insurance map shows the foundry included with
August Swanke’s planing mill (bottom right).

Back on Main Street, Eggleston & T. J. Paull opened a meat market in the old foundry building in 1897 and said they would run delivery wagon to any part of the village. Two years later Eggleston moved his family into the former foundry.

Eggleston filled in the marsh on his property east of the foundry with dredge dirt in 1895 and considered putting an office building there. In 1902 Eggleston’s lot east of the foundry was selected as the site of the new overall factory.

Swanke passed away in 1903. The historic wagon shop at Main and Second streets and foundry building to the south were sold in 1906.

5 comments

  1. Hello Roger I hope you will be working on the 175th anniversary booklet… Fred and Scotty McCormick lived in the stucco (- I think I am remembering that right) house on Canal Street which would have been next to “McCormicks pasture” It does not show it, but I wonder if the foundry used power from the mill ditch. The overall factory and butter tub factory did. I think it’s a good chance that what was the Lenny Wielgosh house is still part of the store and house that were made out of the foundry. I think it was Paul Ladwig Sr. (Eggleston descendant) who removed the rear part of the overall factory and made it into what is the Norb Wielgosh house. The original mill used power from the river before the millditch was made. There was an “oxbow” of the river that curved through the area of the overall factory – it is on a map but I don’t want to dig for it now. I remember a ravine and a railing next to the sidewalk where the Legion Hall now stands. Mashuda’s filled in the area between the Wielgosh home and the river about 1967. Joe

    —————————————–From: “Bartel’s History of Princeton” To: jw123@charter.net Cc: Sent: Wednesday September 11 2019 6:11:36PM Subject: [New post] The Foundry

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    rogerbartel posted: ” This photo shows Princeton’s first foundry, left, just west of the overall and shirt factory. This photo interests me because it shows two of Princeton’s long-gone but historic buildings. Many locals can probably identify the photo second from left as”

    1. Hi, Joe: Thanks for the response. I think foundry definitely capitalized on the water power. I was surprised that Swanke first put Yunker south of the ditch but east of Second – which matches Bill Zamzow’s assertion that there were/are still artifacts of it beyond his garage. Back to the Swanke planing mill/foundry – I think that was where H. Scovil built his distillery in the 1860s, but I still am not 100 percent on that. And you are correct, as usual, Paul Ladwig did fix up the old overall factory building, in the 1930s. I think the 175th booklet is just update from 1978-2023. In my meeting with city several months ago, I suggested the 2023 book include a page of corrections for the 1973 book, but they were not receptive.

  2. Roger, do you know if any connection between the Princeton overall factory and early Oshkosh B’gosh? Also, have you heard of an incident on that property during prohibition involving government agents? Thank you.

    1. Hi, Beth: I am in Australia at the moment and don’t have my notes with me, but from what I recall: The overall factory went through two or three owners. It finally closed for good, according to the newspaper, because the owner could not find enough women to work there. I think he relocated to Oshkosh but not aware if he was one of the founders of B’gosh. I will look into that, though. Thanks! I don’t remember any news there during Prohibition. I do know a man was shot and killed by federal agents busting an bootlegging operation at the old mill site just a short distance from there.

    2. I spoke too soon re: the overall factory and prohibition! I found this: Aug. 4, 1932 – Two “wild cat” breweries were raided and totally demolished by prohibition officers last Tuesday, one here in the city limits in the overall factory, the other on the Bartol farm, town of Princeton.

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