MORSE, GIESE LUMBER YARDS

In the early days of Old Princeton, mostly barns, horse sheds and outbuildings for Water Street businesses and residents lined the 500 block south of West Main Street (today home to Gagne Ford).

There were even fewer significant structures across Main Street, on the north side, where the Teske brothers in 1874 erected a two-story frame building for a German Lutheran school that became a paint shop in 1882 when a new Lutheran school was built on the west side. The Merrill & Jackson livery sat east of the German school, at the north end of Washington Street (today home to Pulvermacher Enterprises).

The arrival of the Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Railroad in 1872 changed everything. The tracks ran on the north side of Main Street and crossed the street near the depot at Mechanic Street. Warehouses sprung up along the tracks. New buyers came to town, including grain merchant T.J. Chittenden & Son, of Berlin. T.S. “Sayles” Chittenden moved to Princeton and dealt in potatoes and beans, wool and pork, and lumber.

While Chittenden was establishing his business, Civil War veteran Elmer Morse, who enlisted when he was 16, had opened a restaurant at about 502 West Water Street (today ThedaCare clinic) and erected a large barn at the back of the property on Main Street.

Princeton Republic, September 23, 1871 – “Our friend and townsman E.D. Morse has opened a restaurant in the corner rooms just west of the hotel, known as Treat’s old stand. Elmer will keep a first-class institution. He has fitted up in good style and proposes to keep a nice clean place, where ladies and gentlemen may lunch on oysters, pig’s feet, canned fruits and confectionery, cakes, coffee, etc.”

Elmer Morse, circa 1905

Morse began investing in real estate on Water Street and then buying and selling produce. He and Chittenden became partners about 1875. Chittenden also managed the Ripon Arcade Mill.

In 1886 Chittenden & Morse hired 15-year-old Frank Giese, son of a local jeweler who had moved here about 1878, as a “chore boy” for 10 cents per week.

The 1892 Sanborn fire insurance map showing the north side of the 500 block of West Main Street.

Princeton Republic, May 18, 1893 – “Frank Giese had an exciting experience with a rat last Friday. He sat on a box with his feet in another box. The rat jumped from a windowsill down inside the box in which his feet were placed. Frank threw a hatchet at him, when the rat jumped up on him and when about up to his breast, he succeeded in knocking him off. This time he fell in the box where Frank’s feet were, and the rate took refuge in Frank’s pants’ leg and was making rapid progress upward when Frank seized him by the neck and pinched the life out of him. Who said Frank was scared?”

Giese was still there in 1897 when the firm of Chittenden, Morse & Co. dissolved, with Chittenden moving to Ripon and Morse remaining in Princeton.

Morse sold the lumber business in 1897.

Princeton Republic, Feb. 25, 1897 – “Negotiations that have been pending between E.D. Morse, of this city, and the Brittingham & Hixon Lumber Co., of Madison, for the past few weeks, for the sale of Mr. Morse’s large lumber yards here, were closed this week, Mr. Morse selling the yards at a good figure, beside receiving a round sum for good will, patronage, etc. The Brittingham & Hixon Lumber Co. are large lumber dealers, having twenty odd branches in the state. The yards will remain in Princeton, as the purchasers have leased the sheds and lots for five years, with the privilege of ten. The new company will take possession April 1st, but Mr. Morse has been retained at a salary to look after the interests of the yards.”

Giese went out on his own a few months later, joining Brittingham & Hixon and Frank J. Yahr as Princeton’s lumber merchants.

Princeton Republic, Aug. 27, 1897 – “We are to have a new lumber yard in Princeton. Frank Giese has leased grounds of J.S. Pahl fronting on Water and Mechanic streets. The location is conceded to be an excellent one for such business.”

The 1898 Sanborn fire insurance map shows the F.L. Giese Lumber Yard between Water Street and the Fox River.

Princeton Republic, March 23, 1899 – “Hollander Bros. of Oxford hauled six loads of lumber from Frank Giese’s yard last week, each of which contained more lumber than any other load that had ever been hauled out of Princeton. The six loads contained 18,000 feet of lumber and 33,000 shingles.”

Giese closed his yard sometime prior to 1904. Morse, who had bought his old yard back from Brittingham & Hixon in September 1898, employed Giese as his foreman.

The 1898 Sanborn fire insurance map shows the Brittingham & Hixon Lumber Company on Main Street.
It is the Morse Lumber Yard in the 1904 Sanborn fire insurance map.

The foreman became an owner in 1911.

Princeton Republic, August 3, 1911 – “On last Monday the transfer of E.D. Morse’s property and business in general produce and lumber business was completed and Dahlke & Giese are in possession. … The inventory was completed last week, and the final papers were drawn Monday which made Dahlke & Giese owners of the E.D. Morse lumber and produce business. They have been learned in the business from the bottom by the slow but sure and good school of experience. Frank Giese started in the yard as a mere chore boy and steadily was advanced and put in charge of the business. Chas. Dahlke has been a prominent citizen and leading businessman of Neshkoro for the past ten years. Both members of the firm are well posted in the business and are prepared to give former and new customers the best of service.”

Morse had added an elevator to his complex by the 1914 Sanborn fire insurance map.

Charles T. Dahlke began buying and shipping stock in Princeton in the 1890s. He purchased S.A. Hake’s large stock ranch northwest of Princeton in 1901, about the same time he bought 10 lots in Princeton and 14 acres adjoining the village limits. He and Morse had been partners in ventures in Neshkoro and Spring Lake prior to Morse’s retirement.

Dahlke’s home on Princeton’s west side was among the first to have electricity when Teske & Zierke started their power plant in 1901, and he was the leading figure in development of a power plant in Neshkoro a few years later. He was one of the original directors of Princeton State Bank in 1893 and was named president of the Neshkoro bank when it organized in 1908. He secured right-of-way agreements for expansion of the Chicago & North Western Railroad west of Princeton in 1900-1901.

Princeton Republic, July 17, 1913 – “In the joint horse and mule race on Wednesday for a 300-yard dash between street sprinkler Edward Mattes and Otto Witt, driver for Dahlke & Giese, Witt won the race by a neck.”

(Editor’s note: Witt worked for the lumber yard for more than forty years.)

Dahlke & Giese purchased the Merrill Bros. livery barn and lots in November 1920. The agreement enabled the Merrills to use the property to store vehicles and house horses until the following spring.

The 1927 Sanborn fire insurance map shows the Dahlke & Giese Lumber Yard. The former livery became a feed center before being torn down in 1931.

Princeton Times-Republic, March 29, 1931 – “A landmark in this city, the old livery barn built by F. S. Merrill and Peter Jackson nearly 60 years ago is to be demolished within the next week to make room for an automobile service station. The livery barn, a wooden structure, has been in disuse for the past number of years. Of late years the property was owned by Frank L. Giese and in a deal recently consummated Henry Freitag, of Montello, became owner of the lot. The new proprietor has completed arrangements for the construction of a fine 100×100 automobile service station and sales rooms for automobiles. Mr. Freitag informs us the building will be of either concrete or tile blocks and the front will be of red brick.”

Henry Freitag built a Chevrolet garage on the site of the former Merrill livery at 500 West Main Street in 1931.

After Dahlke passed in 1931, his son Arnold partnered with Giese for another 12 years. Giese was also elected to succeed Dahlke as president of the Princeton State Bank; Arnold succeeded his father on the board of directors.

Giese removed the old livery erected in 1872 in April 1931 to make way for Freitag’s auto garage. He also built a new office building on Main Street in 1935 and sold the old 16-by-18-foot office building in 1936.

Frank Giese in the lumber yard office, date unknown.

Princeton Times-Republic, Dec. 9, 1943 – “One of the most important business deals of recent years in this community was concluded Monday when Frank L. Giese of this city became the sole owner of Dahlke & Giese, lumber, fuel, feed and grain business enterprises here and at Neshkoro, having purchased Arnold Dahlke’s interest in the business. … Mr. Giese becomes the sole owner of a business with which he has been identified for nearly sixty years, first as an employee of Chittenden & Morse, E. D. Morse and finally as a partner in the business when he and the late Charles Dahlke bought out E. D. Morse in 1911.”

Charles Marks continued to manage the Neshkoro yard for F.L. Giese Lumber Yards.

Photos courtesy of Kristine Giese Bond.

In 1945 Harold Giese became a partner in the lumber yard with his father.

Princeton Times-Republic, July 22, 1948 – “Princeton has quite a number of business enterprises that date back to the early days of our little city. … The Giese Lumber Yard is also a pioneer business, originally founded by T.S. Chittenden and later owned by E.D. Morse. It came under the ownership of Dahlke & Giese in 1911, however, Frank Giese had been in the employ of previous owners for 26 years prior to that time. The business is now owned by Mr. Giese and his son, Harold. The senior Giese well remembers when beans brought only 55 cents a bushel and hogs sold for 2 1.2 cents a pound, and yet ‘farmers made money,’ says Mr. Giese.”

F.L. Giese & Son opened a new display room in February 1951.

Frank Giese died in March 1959.

“In the passing of Frank Giese, the community has lost one of its staunchest supporters, and one who was ever ready to help to promote any worthwhile cause for the betterment of the residents of this area,” his obituary noted. “Mr. Giese played a vital role in procuring the Community Hall and in the development of the parcel of land known as the airport and now to be used for the new school building. He served as president of the Princeton State Bank and was deeply interested in the consolidation of the Farmers-Merchants National Bank at a time when he felt that it was better to have, as he called it, one strong bank than two weak ones. During the war years, he served on the Green Lake County Draft Board – a thankless job, but one which was very necessary at the time. He was an honorary member of the Princeton Rotary Club, and while he was able, regularly attended the meetings of the club and took an active part in all its programs.”

Harold succeeded Frank and brought his son Glen into the Giese Lumber Yard. Glen handled the firm’s designs and blueprints, while Milo Bierman and Alan Weir handled the construction work. Longtime employees included Leo Knaack, Hilbert Krueger and John Mashock.

Princeton Times-Republic, Dec. 12, 1968 – “The Giese Lumber Yard is owned and managed by Harold Giese and his son, Glen, and is one of the oldest established firms in this locality. … At one time beans, potatoes, grains, and farm seeds were a large part of this operation. Due to the changing times all of these products have been discontinued, with many new lines of building materials having been added.”

The business passed to Glen Giese following Harold’s death in 1971.

Freitag, meanwhile, had sold the garage in May 1952 to H.J. “Red” Buelow, who owned it for about three years before selling to Bob Miller, of Cedarburg. Miller built a new garage on state Highway 23-73 on the east city limits in 1960, held a grand opening in March 1961 and departed the Main Street location.

Glen Giese turned the former Freitag garage into a show room and office.

The Giese Lumber Yard remodeled the former Freitag Chevrolet garage into an office and show room in 1973.

Princeton Times-Republic, March 29, 1973 – “The former Freitag Garage, which is part of the Giese Lumber Yard, is taking on a new look as workers put on a cedar shake roof extension in the front. Glen Giese plans to move the office and displays into this building when remodeling is complete.”

Princeton Times-Republic, July 19, 1973 – “The Giese Lumber Yard moved into its new location east of the former office on July 1. The new appearance to the former Freitag Garage is a nice addition to Main Street.”

A grand opening was held in August. Bigger changes were on the horizon, however, after Glen Giese purchased a supper club at St. Germain, Wisconsin.

Princeton Times-Republic, July 1, 1976 – “The Giese Lumber Yard, a family tradition for 65 years, ended on July 1, 1976, when Ron Peabody and Wes Erskin assumed the assets of the firm and changed the name to Princeton Lumber Company Inc. Mr. Peabody, formerly of Janesville, will serve as president of the company and Mr. Erskin of Elkhorn as secretary.”

The lumber business closed for good three years later.

Princeton Times-Republic, Nov. 29, 1979 – “One of Princeton’s oldest businesses has become a victim of inflation. On Dec. 1, business will stop at the Princeton Lumber Company at 500 W. Main Street. On June 1, 1977, King Group Inc., of Elkhorn, bought the business which was in the well-known Giese family for at least 65 years. It was first owned by Frank Giese, then by his son, Harold, and finally by Harold’s son, Glen, before the corporation purchased it. Glen, who now owns a supper club in St. Germaine, moved the business to its present location in 1973. An employee stated that the company has found it unfeasible to continue operations even though the past year saw an increase of business and profit. Five employees will be seeking employment elsewhere. Prior to the decision to terminate the business, Ron Peadody resigned as manager. An auction will be held on Saturday, Dec. 8, to dispose of the remaining inventory.”

Pulvermacher Enterprises, which grew from the frozen locker plant at 523 West Main Street that Norman and Alice Pulvermacher purchased in 1954 to include commercial and residential electrical and refrigeration services, purchased the former Freitag Garage and Giese Lumber office in 1980, did extensive remodeling and have occupied it since that time.

The 500 block of West Main Street, north side, in 2022.

Please let me know if you have any corrections or suggestions.

Thank you for caring and reading about local history.

This 1947 photo shows the Giese brothers; from left, Herman, Alfred, Frank and Frederick.

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