Because Princeton did not have a newspaper until it was nearly 20 years old, local historians have difficulty tracing the community’s development between 1849, when the first store opened, and 1867, when Thomas McConnell rolled out the Princeton Republic.

We know the lumber trade in Princeton began almost as soon as founder Royal Treat and other early settlers made their first trips on John Shaw’s road to “the Pinery” to buy or trade produce, furs, and wheat for lumber. Treat listed his profession as lumberman in the 1850 census.

Lumber later arrived via the steamships plying the Fox River as buildings sprung up on Water Street and across the village in the 1850s and 1860s and by railroad beginning in the 1870s.

The earliest editions of the Republic include advertisements from J.H. Hubbard selling lumber, timber, boards, joists, shingles, etc. He opened the Hubbard House in 1874 at the southeast corner of Water and Washington streets, today the Princeton Garage Antiques lot.

Princeton Republic, May 15, 1869 – “A new lumber yard by (Charles) Briggs & (John) Jarvis is announced. Their lumber is arriving. They mean business.”

Princeton Republic, Nov. 27, 1869 – “We understand August Thiel has purchased Briggs & Jarvis lumber yard.”

Thiel’s wagon-making operation was based on Farmer Street, north of the brewery, but I do not know where the Briggs & Jarvis yard was located. Jarvis operated the Jarvis House at 444 West Water Street.

Another wagon maker, August Swanke, sold lumber from his operation at the corner of Main and Second streets on Princeton’s west side in the 1870s, and Hiram H. Harmon had a significant lumber yard at his furniture and undertaking business in the 400 block of Water Street in the 1880s.

Yahr lumber yard

German immigrant Ferdinand T. Yahr, who arrived in Princeton in 1861, became the young village’s leading farm implement dealer. He also bought and sold wheat, lumber, lime, coal, and salt, and co-founded a bank.

Yahr and Teske Bros. built a warehouse east of the Fox River and north of Main Street in 1871. Yahr built another warehouse, primarily for wheat and produce, in August 1872 near the new Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Railroad depot that nearly straddled Main and Mechanic streets. Silas Eggleston built another warehouse nearby in September 1881. All of these warehouses would eventually become part of the Frank J. Yahr lumber yard.

Samuel Fairweather arrived along with the railroad in 1872.

Known as Sammy to his friends, Fairweather was a popular veteran conductor on the first route connecting Princeton with the railroad world. He was promoted to station agent in Princeton in April 1873. He made a career change in 1875.

Princeton Republic, Oct. 2, 1875 – “Mr. S. Fairweather, who has acted as station agent here for the last two or three years, has resigned the position to go into the lumber trade, and as a beginning has bought out Mr. F.T. Yahr’s lumber yard at the depot.”

Fairweather initially operated the business from the depot but moved his office to the railroad’s elevator on the river north of the bridge when he took charge there. Like Yahr, he also dealt in lime, coal, and salt.

Princeton Republic, November 6, 1875 – “We have two good lumber yards now in Princeton. Mr. S. Fairweather and G. Green. Both yards have full stocks and are selling piles of lumber.”

(Gardner Green, who also co-owned a lumber yard in Marquette, operated about half a block east of the depot in a yard that stretched from Main to Water Street. He erected the frame building at 630 West Water Street, today the Princeton Historical Society museum, in 1876 as part of his lumber yard and farmer’s emporium. The society falsely claims the building was moved here from St. Marie.)

Fairweather went out of business three years later, with the operation reverting to F.T. Yahr.

Princeton Republic, Dec. 12, 1878 – “We are much pained to have to announce the failure of Mr. S. Fairweather, dealer in lumber, etc., who made an assignment on last Saturday for the benefit of his creditors. Mr. Fairweather, or ‘Sammy’ as he is familiarly called by everyone, has been a resident here for five or six years past, and has made many warm friends by his uniform courtesy and business integrity. The closeness of the times, the consequently difficulty to collect money, and the exceeding small margins realized on trade in his line during the past two or three years, made it impossible for him to meet his obligations; he therefore assigned to F.T. Yahr, that the creditors shall have the benefit of all that remained of the business. Liabilities only about $3,500 and assets about $2,500, so the loss will not fall heavy on any one creditor.”

Frank J. Yahr, born in Watertown in 1856, moved to Princeton to work with F.T. in the lumber business and bought out his half-brother about eight years later.

Princeton Republic, Feb. 12, 1886 – “Frank Yahr, having become sole owner of the Yahr lumber yard, is still the recipient of a magnificent business that is continually increasing. Some thirty loads of lumber were loaded on wagons at Frank’s yard last Friday.”

Princeton Republic, Feb 3, 1890 – “Frank Yahr must be pushing business down by the depot, as his sales of lumber for last Saturday amounted to over $1,100.  … In as much as there are two other lumber yards in Princeton, each doing good business, it is evident our town is the right place in which to purchase lumber.”

The 1892 Sanborn fire insurance map shows the Yahr, left, and Herman Warnke lumber yards on Main Street. J.F. Warnke’s warehouse, right, is just west of the Pearl Street intersection.

Yahr was a stockholder in the Princeton State Bank when it formed in 1893 and stockholder and on the board of directors of First National Bank of Princeton when it formed in 1901. He was among Princeton’s early car owners.

The 1898 Sanborn fire insurance map shows the Yahr lumber yard growth since 1892.
1904 Sanborn fire insurance map.

Yahr built a new office for the lumber yard in 1907 and in 1909, according to the newspaper, “a commodious, modern residence” on the northwest corner of Water and Farmer streets which he occupied with his second wife, Martha, and family. (The property at 404 West Water Street today is home to Martha’s retirement home.)

Princeton Republic, June 20, 1907 – “The Yahr lumber company have started to build a new office and to move the scales up the hill about two hundred feet to get away from the difficulty they have had with ice and water in the spring and summer.”

The former Yahr lumber office at 708 West Water Street was built in 1907.
This photo is dated 1910. It shows Victor F. and Frank A. Yahr in the Yahr Lumber office building at 708 West Water Street. The Warnke family leased the building to the Princeton Historical Society, which envisioned the space as a tourist information center and permanent home for artifacts and photographs, in 1987 and then the Chamber of Commerce, which uses it today as a Visitors Center.

Yahr operated the lumber yard until 1912, when he sold to J.F. Warnke & Sons. He owned lumber yards in Neenah and Dalton for a couple years after that before retiring. (Yahr’s son and grandson, Victor F. and Victor A. Yahr, operated dime, clothing, and grocery stores in Princeton for many years. Yahr’s Supermarket, 441 West Water Street, closed in 1979.)

Princeton Republic, Dec. 24, 1919 – “Mr. and Mrs. F.J. Yahr will winter in Los Angeles with their daughter, Mrs. F.W. Siegmund, and family.”

Frank Yahr passed in February 1935. His obituary in the Princeton Republic noted, “Mr. Yahr was rightly regarded as the grand old man of Princeton. He was a man of convictions – clear in opinion and firm in attitude. The right with him was always supreme.”

He was entombed in the Princeton City Cemetery. Following the death of his first wife, Emma, in 1904, Yahr built an 8.5-by-14-feet mausoleum 12 feet high of cut and fitted Lannon stone with an iron gate and marble door in the Princeton City Cemetery. It accommodated six caskets.

The Chicago & North Western Railroad sold the triangle lot with the lumber office to J.F. Warnke & Sons in July 1937 for $250 (Deeds, Volume 143, Page 605). Warnke heirs still own the triangle lot and building in 2023.

Meet the Warnkes

The “Industrial Review of Princeton, Wisconsin” published in 1897, newspaper articles in 1942 and 1948, the Princeton quas qui centennial booklet published in 1973, Elaine Reetz’s “Come Back in Time, Vol. II” published in 1982, and a Princeton Historical Society article published in 1997 all state that John F. Warnke began doing business in Princeton in 1872.

No surprise – I disagree!

I think the 20th century historians all simply relied on the “Industrial Review” for their information. I will, instead, go with 1873, the year of Warnke’s arrival in Princeton, according to his obituary. Warnke went into business in Germania about 1871, but I found no mention of the Princeton business in the newspaper until 1874.

Princeton Republic, July 2, 1931 – “Quietly, peacefully, as if sleep had come to him, the spirit of John F. Warnke passed from earth in the afternoon of June 26. … Mr. Warnke became a resident of this city in 1873 and was active in various fields of business, of late he was engaged in the lumber and produce vocation.”

You might be tempted to say, “Hey, Bartel, he might have had a business in Princeton before he lived here.” You might be right. But I don’t think so. Be patient. I’ll explain in a minute.

Johann Frederick Warnke – known as John and most often referred to as J.F. Warnke in the newspaper – was born in Germany in 1851, son of “landed gentry” Johann Friedrich Warnke and his wife, Susanna, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1856 with their children and settled near Germania.

“Johann (Friedrich) was a big man, approximately seven feet tall, muscular and husky, facing the wilderness without fear,” Reetz reported. He died at age 50.

His four sons tried assorted paths to make their fortunes.

John, Julius and Mike Warnke often did business as Warnke Bros. in Princeton. Julius also owned a shoe store in Westfield and later operated a bank there. August learned the miller trade in Princeton and with Mike purchased the Germania Company Flouring Mill in 1886. According to Reetz, the mill – Warnke Brothers & Matz – “did a thriving business hauling rye and wheat flour to Princeton where it was shipped by railroad.”

(The Germania mill burned in July 1899. Articles about the Warnkes often mention that they kept an open barrel of whiskey in the office, with a cup nearby, for customers to take a free drink during their visit and a “poor box” filled with tobacco, in Reetz’s words, for the “convenience and pleasure of the old fellows who congregated around the stove in the center of the store.” The Warnke mill’s rye was coveted by Kentucky distilleries, according to family lore.)

John Warnke clerked at the Germania Company store before striking out on his own.

Princeton Republic, February 3, 1872 – “There are but few persons who have not visited Germania that have any idea of the amount of business they are doing. … About half a mile west of the village is yet another dry goods and grocery store, Warnke & King proprietors. They have in all appearances a well-selected stock, although, if we had the arrangement of things, we would make some changes.” – L

Here’s the series of events that convinced me Warnke opened his business in Princeton in 1873 rather than 1872:

John Warnke married Emma Koenig on March 7, 1873. The Princeton Republic reported lightning struck a barn on Warnke’s farm about a mile west of Germania on March 15, 1873, destroying the building and 27 head of cattle. He had $200 in insurance. On March 22, 1873, the Princeton Republic reported Warnke & King had sold their stock of goods at Germania to R.W. Parker, who also purchased Warnke’s farm. John and his new bride moved to Princeton. What a month!

(Warnke oral tradition claims John’s first store in Princeton was on Main Street, just west of the Merrill Livery, today Pulvermacher Enterprises, at the north end of Washington Street. I cannot verify or refute that.)

The newspaper reported in May 1874, however, that the Warnke & King store and rooms were in the Thiel block (508 West Water Street, today Loading Dock tavern).

After the Thiel block, Warnke occupied one of August Swanke’s buildings on the west side in 1874. He sold his interest in the dry goods operation with King in April 1876 and partnered with Julius to open a general store in the H.H. Hopkins frame building at 501-503 West Water (today site of River Bank Dry Goods) in September.

Warnke Bros. moved across the street, to a frame building at 502 West Water (today site of Theda Care office), in July 1877. Julius sold his interest in the business in February 1879.

Princeton Republic, Jan. 29, 1880 – “A good many people were surprised on Tuesday morning to hear that the store of Warnke Bros. had been closed by the sheriff. We understand that the firm owe about $9,000, $2,450 of which is to one Matz, a brother-in-law, and $1,000 to Julius Warnke. Several Milwaukee parties interested have been looking over matters, but the result is not known. A forced sale the stock of goods will not realize more than one fourth of the indebtedness.”

The firm’s assets were listed at just over $4,000. John Warnke, who had been in Minneapolis, quickly returned to Princeton to reorganize the firm. The firm’s inventory was sold at sheriff’s auction in March, and the Otto Lichtenberg drug store, displaced by the great fire that destroyed 11 buildings on Water and Short streets in 1880, replaced the Warnkes in the corner store.

The Warnkes moved down the block and partnered with dry goods merchant G.J. Krueger for their next venture. Warnke Bros. & Krueger opened in March 1882 in the building at 532-536 West Water Street (today a vacant lot). They moved to Gardner Green’s new building at 621 West Water Street (today a residence) in July 1883, then Fred Schendel’s building at 538 West Water Street (today east half of Blue Moon restaurant) in October 1886.

Princeton Republic, Aug. 16, 1888 – “John Warnke has sold out his interest in the dry goods business of Warnke & Krueger to Mr. Eph. Mueller, Mr. Mueller, or probably his son, Eric, entering into partnership with Mr. Krueger. It is rumored that John Warnke will go to Germania and go into business there.”

Warnke, however, continued to operate clothing and grocery stores on Water Street through the 1890s.

He built a new house in 1892. Warnke Bros. for a time owned adjacent lots on the northeast corner of Farmer and Harvard streets and northwest corner of Clinton and Harvard streets. They sold the former August Thiel residence, built by early merchant Richard Tucker, at Farmer and Harvard to farm implement dealer L.E. Leighton, who had run the mill in Germania.

Princeton Republic, Sept. 28, 1893 – “L.E. Leighton, of Germania, is making material changes in his Princeton property, corner of Farmer and Harvard streets. He has sold the barn, which will be moved off from the premises next week. The barn, as well as the house, has stood there many years. Both buildings were erected by Mr. (Richard) Tucker, remembered as a resident many years ago. The barn was built when Princeton did not cover as much ground as now, and the property was pretty near the suburbs, and much stock ranged over the country, and the villagers, especially the businessmen, required more barn room in those old times than is now required. Hence this barn is too large for a village lot, and this is one reason, among many, why Mr. Leighton sells it, and thus removes another old landmark that binds that part of the village to the past.”

Meanwhile, John Warnke erected a home on the lot to the east.

Princeton Republic, May 5, 1892 – “John Warnke has commenced the erection of that fine residence on block M. A substantial stone foundation is almost complete.”

Princeton Republic, July 14, 1892 – “John Warnke has got the frame of his new house up, and the general outline of the building so far bespeaks the ultimate completion of a pretty fine residence. He is pushing the work with four or five hands in his employ.”

Princeton Republic, Sept. 15, 1892 – “That is a beauty of a home John Warnke has just about completed. The erection of a barn and other buildings is an indication that John proposes to be ready to live when he moves into his new home.”

John Warnke built a home at the northwest corner of Harvard and Clinton streets in 1892. The family sold it in 2019.

Warnke did business in the east room of the W.F. Luedtke building at 542-544 West Water (today east part of the Parlor House hotel) for at least 10 years beginning in October 1893. When Albert Graf opened a grocery in the front of the building in 1895, Warnke retained the rear section for his “commission business” dealing in butter, eggs and produce. He bought the Graf grocery business in April 1897.

“As a dealer in fancy groceries, he is able to suit all demands with a stock of staple and fancy goods which contains everything choice offered by the market,” the “Industrial Review” reported in 1897. “In fact, the rarities of the seasons can be found in his store as soon as offered in the metropolitan trade. Mr. Warnke is one of the heavy shippers of produce; in fact, he has done as much to promote this interest as any man in town. He is a representative man in every respect.”

Princeton Republic, Jan. 30, 1902 – “The past week W.F. Luedtke has had the room occupied by J.F. Warnke’s grocery store painted and calcinated, giving it a neat, fresh appearance.”

Other business interests

Jewelry store: J.F. Warnke & Sons operated a jewelry store in the west room of the bank building at 501-503 West Water Street (today River Bank Dry Goods), built in 1901 for at least ten years before relocating to the west room of the brick building at 603-605 West Water Street (today Renard’s European Bake Shoppe). Orlo Warnke, who had attended a watchmakers school in Milwaukee and conducted the jewelry store for over 15 years, erected a “wireless telegraph” (radio) receiving station – the first in Princeton – at the jewelry store in the bank building, running a wire from the roof to a tower across the river.

Princeton Republic, March 9, 1922 – “J.F. Warnke & Sons have recently installed a wireless in their jewelry store and receive messages from Washington, Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Madison, etc. Daily they receive the exact time of the day and the latest market reports. In addition to this, concerts, including the larger symphony orchestras of the East, are listened to. The writer was offered an opportunity last week one evening and listened to a speech which was held on income tax in Detroit. Also did we hear several violin solos rendered by noted musicians. Although their outfit is in excellent condition in regard to taking messages, yet they contemplate a number of improvements. The time of day comes to them at 11 o’clock and Messrs. Warnke will gladly furnish the correct time to anyone calling them on the phone or in person. Their phone number is 11W.”

The jewelry store closed about 1923.

Auto garage: Warnke purchased the Princeton Tub Company property and machinery in 1915 and opened an auto garage.

Princeton Republic, Jan. 2, 1919 – “The new garage which has been under construction by the J.F. Warnke & Sons has been completed by contractor Wm. A Gorr and crew. The building is located on the west side and adjoins the tub factory. Carl Warnke Jr. in charge.”

Carl A. Warnke, 41, died of inflammatory rheumatism and a “complication of diseases” in July 1920. I have found no other information regarding the garage’s fate.

Buying and selling

John F. Warnke and his brothers were among Princeton’s more prominent shippers following the railroad’s arrival.

Princeton Republic, Dec. 4, 1875 – “As an article of commerce in this market, white beans begin to assume some importance. So far this season, Warnke & Co. have bought 2,000 bushels; E. Teske Bros. bought about 1,000 bushels; and Parker, Eggleston and Luedtke Bros. each about 200 bushels; besides others have handled smaller amounts.”

Princeton Republic, July 16, 1891 – “Hon. G.H. Brickner, of Sheboygan Falls, is in town this week. He has purchased of J.F. Warnke about 4,000 pounds, of S.M. Eggleston about 14,000 pounds, and of Chittenden, Morse & Co. about 40,000 pounds of wool, and is now engaged in sorting and packing the same.”

Princeton Republic, June 23, 1898 – “It is presumed there are other markets for wool in other near towns, but their showing must be slim compared to the business the wool market assumes in Princeton. Our buyers, E.D. Morse and Yahr & Warnke, seem to be getting about all there is to sell near here. They have been taking thousands and thousands of pounds, and it is said further they are bidding a little higher than the best at other places, and the result is our buyers get the wool. … Our warehouses are being filled to the top with wool. Let it come.”

Warnke built a second warehouse to handle his growing business in 1904.

Princeton Republic, June 23, 1904 – “John Warnke will build a large potato and grain warehouse. The workmen have already begun work on the foundation. It will be the largest of its kind in Princeton, being 54 by 80 feet. Princeton is fast becoming one of the best markets for the farmers’ products of any town in these parts.”

The warehouse was located southwest of Pearl and Main streets, on the north side of the railroad tracks. Their smaller first warehouse stood on the south side of the tracks.

Warnke reorganized his company as J.F. Warnke & Sons in 1911, bringing sons Carl, Henry, Ewald, Edmund and Orlo into the business.

(Mike Warnke passed in 1908, Julius in 1928, August in 1929 and John F. Warnke in 1931.)

Warnke lumber yard

J.F. Warnke & Sons announced in February 1912 that it was leaving the grocery business and buying Frank Yahr’s lumber yard. The Warnkes also handled coal, lime, feed, and farm produce.

They installed a planing mill in the lumber yard in 1913. The firm also operated a sawmill on the bank of the Fox River before selling it to William Grahn in December 1920.

The 1914 Sanborn fire insurance map shows the size of the Warnke lumber yard.

Family lore says Warnke in 1921 bought the first truck used for delivering lumber from a Princeton yard, a 1914 Sampson made in Janesville.

The Warnkes stopped buying and selling farm produce about 1950.

J. Franklyn “Frank” Warnke, son of Orlo and grandson of the company’s founder, purchased the family business from Orlo and Henry Warnke in 1960 and changed the name back to J.F. Warnke & Sons. He had a master’s degree in education and had been a private school principal in Milwaukee.

The new owner added a mill to grind feed in 1962.

Princeton Times-Republic, July 19, 1962 – “A member of the Princeton business community for the past 90 years is branching into a new industry with the opening of the J.F. Warnke & Sons Feed Mill, located on Main Street. Warnke’s Lumber Yard ad Feed Mill has been owned by J. Franklin Warnke since January of 1960. He has now permanently moved to Princeton with his wife and four children. … The mill located in a former produce warehouse is now in operation and a grand opening will be announced soon.”

Warnke sold the milling business in July 1965 to Fischer’s Mill in Markesan operated by Clem Fischer and sons Larry and Bob. Larry Fischer took charge of the Princeton mill.

Princeton Times-Republic, July 6, 1967 – “Princeton’s newest industry is the manufacture of pre-built trusses by the J.F. Warnke and Sons Lumber Yard. All trusses are calculated in accordance with minimum property requirements of FHA and the hydraulic press applies heavy gauge truss plates under many thousand pounds of pressure. The advantages of the pre-built truss are they are stronger than the conventional, use less lumber, the clear span reduces foundation cost, eliminates the need for double top plates on partitions, allows lighter constructed partition walls, partition wall openings may be single-framed.”

In 1972 the Warnkes built a new office, display building and storage sheds across Main Street from the former office located on the triangle at the intersection of Main, Water and Mechanic streets.

Princeton Times-Republic, March 9, 1972 – “An extensive building program is underway at the J.F. Warnke & Sons Lumber yards at Princeton. … The business was 100 years old in 1971 and it was the first time in its history that the million-dollar mark was reached and surpassed in business transactions, according to Frank Warnke, owner. … Three new storage sheds have already been erected on the east side of Mechanic Street and two more will be built on that side in the spring. In May, construction will begin on a new office on the west corner of Mechanic and Main streets, directly across from the present office. The building will measure 64 feet by 120 feet. On the west side of Mechanic Street, four storage sheds have been torn down and two were moved.”

The grand opening of J. F. Warnke & Sons’ new Home Building Center was held in May 1973 as the firm celebrated by its count 102 years in business. (Warning: The article published by the Times-Republic on May 24, 1973, celebrating the open house is filled with inaccuracies regarding the Warnke business history.)

Warnke built a 110-by-50-foot addition in 1974 and then a 62-by-40-foot addition in 1977. In 1978 the firm erected an 80-by-120-foot pole building for the storage of building materials with plans to add another 120 feet in 1979.

The Warnke Building Center installed the city’s first teletype machine in August 1977 and entered the computer age in October 1979.

In April 1982, Warnke ran an advertisement in the local paper to refute rumors that the business would be sold. “J.F. Warnke & Sons in Princeton has not been sold. It will not be sold. It has not been given away. It will not be given away. Chapter 7 has not been declared. Chapter 7 will not be declared. We are prospering. We will continue to prosper because … Jesus is Lord.”

Stock Lumber

The Warnkes’ run as Princeton’s oldest continuing family business ended in 1987 at 114 years; 115 if you accept the “misguided” and undocumented 1872 start date.😊

Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 13, 1987 – “Stock Lumber, an aggressive supplier of building materials to the retail and contractor markets, just purchased the J.F. Warnke yard in Princeton. The manager of the yard will be Jerry Weber, who was promoted from the purchasing department of our Appleton branch. Stock Lumber opened in Princeton on August 3rd, making the acquisition Stock Lumber’s fifth building center, with the corporate office in Green Bay and other locations in Appleton, Stevens Point and Oconto.

Stock Lumber held a weeklong grand opening in April 1988.

Princeton Times-Republic, May 8, 1997 – “With a new display area, new products and improved service, Stock Lumber of Princeton will be holding a grand reopening to celebrate their new remodeling project. As part of the project, the business has added several display areas that give customers several different products to see. … Stock Lumber will be having their grand reopening on May 15th.”

I envision Volume II of my history of Princeton will end at 1990 (possibly 2000), but here’s what I found among the 21st Century clips.

Ron Calbaum, president of the chamber of commerce, announced in his Chamber Chat column on February 1, 2007, that “it has come to our attention that Stock Lumber will be closing its Princeton location.”

The property sat vacant after Stock’s departure as the city debated expanding a Tax Incremental Financing district to help rehabilitate and develop the site. A national retailer indicated an interest as early as March 2009 but wanted to buy only one acre of the property.

“Since Stock will not sell one acre, the city TIF district has to step in and buy the entire five acres if they want this development to happen, (City Administrator Joshua) Schoenmann said,” the newspaper reported. “The $700,000 purchase price would be paid through TIF bonding, he said.”

The city eventually made the deal to sell about 1.35 acre to Dollar General on the northeast corner of Main and Mechanic streets. Storage sheds erected in 1972 were removed.

Princeton Times-Republic, Sept. 10, 2009 – “All the former Stock Lumber buildings east of Mechanic Street are slated to come down following Tuesday’s City of Princeton Common Council meeting. In closed session, City of Princeton officials voted unanimously to take bids for the project.”

A developer for a time considered the Stock Lumber buildings west of Mechanic Street as a possible site for an assisted-living facility. The plan, expected to start in spring 2011, never materialized.

Princeton Times-Republic, Aug. 23, 2012 – “Imagine being able to buy or sell homes, hunting land and other outdoor properties, buy the items you need to maintain your property so deer and other wildlife approach more frequently, and buy hunting and other outdoor apparel all in one place. Now image being able to do it in the small city of Princeton. In early 2013, this idea will become a reality with the relocation of Mossy Oak Properties, Outdoor enthusiasts will not have to travel long distances to pursue these opportunities any longer. Since 2007, Mossy Oak Properties has been located on State Highway 23 coming into Princeton but is limited to just the real estate component of the popular outdoor company. Earlier in 2012 Joel Braun, owner of Princeton’s Mossy Oak Properties, approached the City of Princeton, He was interested in relocating Mossy Oak to the old lumber building next to Dollar General in downtown Princeton. Braun was not only interested in the larger space for the properties component for the company, but rather several parts of the company. The new location will feature Mossy Oak Properties, Biologic (specializes in food plots for deer, turkey, waterfowl, fish, and upland birds) and Mossy Oak apparel.”

Princeton Times-Republic, Sept. 4, 2014 – “The Princeton Ambassador Committee is making the rounds to ensure they greet all new businesses coming into the Princeton area or recognizes businesses reaching milestones in their service to the area. On Saturday, August 30, the committee visited J & A Archery located at 101 Mechanic Street in Princeton to perform a ribbon cutting with Josh Tuinstra and his girlfriend, April Thoney. J & A Archery opened in mid-April and is the perfect place for hunters and camo lovers alike. As customers step through the door, they are greeted with many racks of Mossy Oak apparel from fashion camo to hunting jackets, hats, and much more.”

Princeton Times-Republic, May 5, 2016 – “Dave’s Small Engine recently opened its doors at 100 Mechanic Street in Princeton and is home to a variety of services for small engine equipment. … Brother and sister Yancy and Melissa Kimball own Dave’s Small Engine, and both have a different background in small engine repair and retail. Located next to J & A Archery and Mossy Oak Properties, Dave’s Small Engine is a Husqvarna dealer as well as a servicer for all makes and models of snowblowers, lawn mowers, chainsaws, weed eaters, scooters, golf carts, and many other types of small engine repair.”

Princeton Times-Republic, May 3, 2018 – “Princeton’s Thrifty Shed Flea Market is living proof that an empty space is a blank canvas that’s ripe with infinite creative potential. Owned by husband-and-wife team Jim Ray and Tracey Villmow, the indoor flea market at 101 Mechanic Street will extend a warm welcome for shoppers to browse the offerings of over 45 vendors during its opening weekend on Sunday, May 5.”

The Princeton Amish Country Store at 101 Mechanic Street, 2022.

Grizzly Fitness originally opened in Princeton in 2017 but moved to a larger space at 101 Mechanic and held a reopening in June 2021. It moved again months later to the former Gean-Edwards building at the north end of Mechanic Street and was replaced at 101 Mechanic in 2022 by the Princeton Amish Country Store.

The store features Amish-made furniture, outdoor lawn furniture, crafts, gift items, spices, candy, jams and jellies, and more.

The Coil building

There was also a building at 610 West Main Street.

Princeton Times-Republic, Dec. 23, 1965 – “A new real estate office building in Princeton is completed and will be ready for occupancy about the first of the year, according to Paul Coil, owner. The 28×32 masonry structure is located on Main Street (Highway 23-73) downtown next to the office of the Giese Lumber Yard. … Coil has his own building crew, which is engaged in the construction of river cottages, mostly on the Fox.”

Princeton Times-Republic, April 9, 1970 – “Atty. Frank Lisheron recently purchased the Coil Realty Service office building on W. Main Street, Princeton. He expects to be moved by May 1st from the Dreblow building on W. Water St., formerly the office of the late Philip Lehner. Coil’s Realty Service, owned by Mr. Paul Coil, Princeton, will relocate in the Lichtenberg building at 101 E. Main St. just off Hwy. 23-73.”

The property is now parking lot.

Oral tradition

In “Come Back in Time,” Reetz reports, “‘In 1893, grandfather (John F.) Warnke made a business trip to Minnesota and brought back the Princeton State Bank, after having started a banking service at the rear of his store,’ J. Franklyn Warnke said.”

The same wording is used in the 1973 and 1987 Times-Republic coverage of the Warnkes.

With all due respect to Mr. Warnke, who passed in 2007, this is another good example of the difference between oral tradition and local history.

“Grandfather Warnke” was not among the stockholders of Princeton State Bank, much less the organizer, when it formed in 1893. He was, however, among the founding fathers, as stockholder and director, of the First National Bank of Princeton when it formed in 1901 with former business partner G.J. Krueger as president. F.T. Yahr’s private bank, which preceded Princeton State Bank, was located in the rear of Yahr’s building at 525 West Water Street.

Please let me know if you have any corrections or can fill any gaps in my timeline.

Thank you for reading and caring about local history.

UPDATE: This post was updated Jan. 23, 2023, with the construction date (1907) of the office building on the triangle.


  1. The photo of the Yahr’s from 1910 is so interesting. Men dressed more professionaly back in the day. And clothes were so much harder to take care of. Just the thought of ironing!
    Great, informative post!

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