Updated date:

History of Honey Creek, Wisconsin

Paul lived on a farm just north of Honey Creek for many years in the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Two of his passions are history and genealogy.

History of Honey Creek

Wisconsin Central depot at Honey Creek in the early 1900s.

Wisconsin Central depot at Honey Creek in the early 1900s.

In 1957 when I was 12, my parents purchased a 116-acre dairy farm one-half mile north of Honey Creek, Wisconsin. At that time, Honey Creek had two food stores, a feed mill, a filling station, a school, and one Baptist Church. It also had an unoccupied bank building. I never paid attention to Honey Creek's history, however, until just recently.

map of Wisconsin with counties listed

map of Wisconsin with counties listed

Where is Honey Creek Located?

The village of Honey Creek is located in Walworth County in the southeastern section of Wisconsin. Specifically, it is situated in the eastern part of the county on the county line separating Walworth County from Racine County. Honey Creek is 60 miles east, southeast of Madison, Wisconsin's capital. It is 85 miles north, northwest of Chicago, and 37 miles south, southwest of Milwaukee.

An aerial view of Honey Creek and surrounding areas.  The village of Honey Creek is in the middle bottom part of the  photo.

An aerial view of Honey Creek and surrounding areas. The village of Honey Creek is in the middle bottom part of the photo.

Founding of Honey Creek and Origin of its Name

By 1832, the Native Americans living in Wisconsin had been subdued and driven westward. With land grants available from the federal government, Benjamin and Joanna Hoyt came from Vermont in 1835 to claim farmland that would be ready for occupancy in 1836. After living in nearby Rochester in 1836, the Hoyt family settled in Honey Creek in 1837.

With their sons Gilman and Avery, the Hoyt family-owned land was half a mile west of Honey Creek in Walworth County. Son Avery eventually owned 414 acres.

It is said that Reuben Clark discovered a bee tree filled with honey near a stream of water in 1839 or 1840. The name Honey Creek was then coined.

Honey Creek History —1839–1879

The 1832 Black Hawk War ended the last serious Indian or Native American threat to settlers. After Congress created the Wisconsin Territory in 1836, the U.S. government started issuing land grants. In addition to a land grant claimed by the founder of Honey Creek, the Hoyt family, Calvin Earl also received a land grant in 1839. In that same year, he built an upright of his house and a barn on a farm very near and east of Honey Creek. The roof of his house was made of twisted marsh hay until he could get shingles. Where his house stood was in a direct line of the Indians' path between ponds across the road from the Earl farm and ponds on the P.G. Warmington farm.

In the 1840s, many families started arriving from Germany and New York. According to newspaper articles cited by the Burlington Historical Society, there are references to farmers raising corn and pumpkins on Honey Creek land. As the community and surrounding areas of Honey Creek grew, a probable Baptist Church, stores, and a blacksmith shop were built.

In 1855, there was a resolution against slavery introduced by Reverend VanAmrings/VanAmringe at a quarterly conference at Honey Creek.

Young men went off to fight for the Union in the Civil War during the early 1860s. In 1864, Good Templar Societies advocating total abstinence from alcohol and drugs were organized in Honey Creek and surrounding villages. 1865 saw Honey Creek farmers organizing a Wool Growers Association.

During the 1870s, there is the first mention of a Honey Creek school that was established in 1860. In 1870, J.H. Rodgers was appointed Postmaster at Honey Creek. In the next year, 1871, D.C. Bourn offered his blacksmith shop at Honey Creek for sale. In 1877, a Free Baptist Church is mentioned. Another news article notes that Albert Geppert of Honey Creek sold the rights to the corn cultivator which he invented and patented to J.I. Case in 1878. Finally, in 1879, the German settlers built a meeting house three miles west of Honey Creek.

history-of-honey-creek-wisconsin

History of Honey Creek — 1880–1910

The establishment of the Wisconsin Central Railroad Company in 1871 and its laying of tracks from Chicago north into Wisconsin spurred the development of Honey Creek in the 1880s. An 1885 Burlington newspaper article revealed that the Wisconsin Central was planning a line from Chicago to Schleisingerville (now known as Slinger) west of Milwaukee that would pass through Honey Creek. The Honey Creek station was known as Fairview.

In 1886, the first public telephone was put in the McIntosh Store. Wilbur Lumber which had started a lumber yard in Honey Creek in 1883 built a telephone line from Honey Creek to Mukwonago a few miles away. In that same year, there was also a reference to mail delivery.

In addition to the lumber yard, there were other businesses in Honey Creek. In 1884, a cheese factory was built by C.B. McCanna. Merrick was the cheesemaker. The Millis Bros. General Store had a grand opening in 1886 and in 1887 C. Kent opened a meat shop.

In 1886, a new church hall was dedicated and by 1888 the Honey Creek Town Hall was finished.

During the beginning of the 1890s, additional businesses opened in Honey Creek. In 1892, a new creamery was built and by 1895 there was mention of the Honey Creek Co-operative Creamery. In 1886, butter was being made and shipped to Chicago for use. There was a large supply of milk from neighboring dairy farms.

In 1893, A.P. Davis applied for a saloon license and there were plans for a hotel, saloon, and livery stable near the newly built train depot.

At the close of the 19th century, Dr. Dodd was practicing medicine at Honey Creek in 1897. A band had been organized and Honey Creek had a baseball team that played games against Burlington and other surrounding villages.

At the advent of the new millennium in 1900, a new hotel was being built next to the train depot to replace the Hotel Baldwin that was destroyed by fire in 1899.

In 1903, the Burlington, Rochester, and Kansasville Telephone Company increased its capital stock and was able to extend lines to Honey Creek and Waterford.

Local businessmen were very active in Honey Creek. William Kingston bought the Co-operative Creamery and also had a new store in 1907. In 1906, Walter Babcock built another store south of the Kingston Store.

On April 6, 1907, Walter E. Babcock, Henry B. Miller, Mrs. E.D. Page, and William Kingston filed a notice of incorporation and the State Bank of Honey Creek was formed.

A new Honey Creek Baptist Church replacing the original one destroyed by fire was dedicated in 1906. The Honey Creek Hall Association also voted to build a Community Hall in 1908.

In 1904, a rural mail route was started of Honey Creek. The Honey Creek School originally built in 1860 added the 9th grade in 1910. By that same year, Honey Creek also had a barber and a dental practice.

Honey Creek had four noteworthy people from 1900-1910. Clarence Ginger Beaumont a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team bought the Babcock farm near Honey Creek. In 1907, a patent was issued to John Wood and Martin Hamm for a corn husking roll used on a cornhusker. Finally, in 1908, Leroy McDonald owned the first automobile in Honey Creek.

history-of-honey-creek-wisconsin

History of Honey Creek — 1910–1930

By the end of the second decade of the twentieth century, Honey Creek had reached the height of its development.

Old Burlington newspaper articles reveal that articles of incorporation were filed for the Honey Creek Electric Company in 1913. During the following year, 1914, electric lights were turned on at Honey Creek on February 25. By March, 11 homes were wired for electricity and 17 street lights were in use.

As to new businesses, the third creamery was built in 1915. In that same year, the Wisconsin Condensed Milk Company bought a tract of land adjoining the Soo Line Railroad tracks at Honey Creek. In 1917, the Wisconsin Condensed Milk Company bought the Honey Creek Pasteurization Plant.

In 1916, there was a news article about the condition of the stockyards next to the Soo Line Depot. On August 15, 1918, George Wilbur built a flour mill near the lumber yard. Finally, by the end of the decade in 1919, the Wisconsin Condensed Milk Company sold its interest to the Nestle Corporation.

There were also some newer small businesses such as a barbershop and ice cream parlor.

Regarding the education and life of the people, the original Honey Creek stone school built in 1860 was torn down and a new school was built in 1915. Electric lights and a motion picture machine were also installed at the People's Hall in 1915. By 1916, Honey Creek already had 46 automobiles and the community was able to purchase a chemical fire engine with hoses.

In 1918, home nursing classes were organized at Honey Creek, and in 1919, a Civic Improvement Association was formed with 12 members.

During the 1920s, Archie Fraser opened a garage at one of the old creamery buildings. There was a public library at the post office in 1921 and also a reference to a blacksmith shop still in Honey Creek during that year.

Regarding other businesses, in 1922, M.H. LaFollette installed a soda fountain in a room formerly used as an ice cream parlor. In 1923, Everette Kurtz opened a meat market and ice cream parlor. 1924 witnessed the appearance of a pickle factory at Honey Creek. In 1926, Nestle was hauling milk from Honey Creek, Lyons, and Waterford to Burlington and in 1927, four railroad cars of cabbage were reported shipped from Honey Creek to the Block Bros. in Chicago. Finally, Honey Creek had a filling station in 1928.

In 1921, a new Honey Creek Baptist Church and hall were dedicated and in 1925, Honey Creek had an orchestra.

For entertainment, the people attended Chautauqua activities during the summer of 1920. Chautauqua is an institution that provided popular adult education and entertainment in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In 1922, a new movie machine was installed at the Community Hall and the ladies of Honey Creek gave a minstrel show. People weren't politically correct during the 1920s because there also were two KKK meetings at Honey Creek during 1924.

In 1926, Robert Huggins and George Gerber of Honey Creek were reported to building an airplane. The airplane finally flew on July 27, 1927. In 1928, Harvey Colbo and Robert Huggins capitalized on their success and built two small passenger airplanes having four and six seats respectively.

Minstrel Shows

Honey Creek Baptist Church in probably the 1920s.

Honey Creek Baptist Church in probably the 1920s.

Decline of Honey Creek — 1930–Present

The stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing economic depression of the 1930s hastened the decline of Honey Creek.

On May 9, 1929, Honey Creek abandoned street lights after 16 years of use. Lanterns were used instead.

March 4, 1932, witnessed the State Bank of Honey Creek going out of business.

In 1934, the Soo Line Depot at Honey Creek closed, and on July 5, 1935, the Wilbur Lumber Company closed its Honey Creek yard.

Many other businesses quickly closed during the following two decades. By the time my parents bought a farm just outside of Honey Creek in 1957, the village only had two small food stores, a small filling station, a feed mill, a small electrical appliance store, one school, a church, and a community hall.

As of today, Honey Creek with a population of approximately 400 only has a post office, church, community hall, and an equipment company. Honey Creek School closed in the mid-1960s and the feed mill shut down in 1969.

All of the facts in this article are taken from old Burlington newspaper articles.

Looking from the Honey Creek Bridge east toward the center of the village.  The building sticking out on the left was the location of the bank.  Photo taken probably in the mid-1930s.

Looking from the Honey Creek Bridge east toward the center of the village. The building sticking out on the left was the location of the bank. Photo taken probably in the mid-1930s.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Paul Richard Kuehn

Comments

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on January 01, 2020:

Gary, you are in luck. While doing my family farm research, I have found that James Warmington owned the same land as my father from 1846 to 1855. Send me a personal email message and I will give you the details.

Gary warmington on December 31, 2019:

One of my ancestors family emigrated to honey creek in the 1840’s. James Warmington a farmer. Was looking to see if there was a history of it. Thanks for your research

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 26, 2019:

Thank you very much for your praise of my article. I will definitely edit and improve it in the future.

Liz Westwood from UK on December 26, 2019:

This is a well-researched and interesting historical article.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 26, 2019:

You know, I lived in the Mukwonago area 1954-1957. My folks rented a small farm three miles to the east of the village.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 26, 2019:

It isn't the best history and I hope to improve the article in the future. I discovered interesting things about Honey Creek. Thanks for commenting.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on December 25, 2019:

The Great Depression affected many places all across the USA. It was interesting reading about the rise and then decline of Honey Creek. I grew up as a child in Waukesha County, the county just above the one in which your parents settled.

RoadMonkey on December 25, 2019:

It's interesting to read a condensed history of a town, you get a good sense of how it grew and developed over the years and then declined.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 24, 2019:

Thank you very much. I am pleased that you liked my article.

Paul Richard Kuehn (author) from Udorn City, Thailand on December 24, 2019:

Yes, Honey Creek was really taking off during the first two decades of the 19th century. If you visit my hometown today, you would never guess how thriving it was 100 years ago. Thanks for commenting.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on December 24, 2019:

Very interesting history of a place and brought alive in your article.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on December 24, 2019:

I really like the name of "Honey Creek" as it sounds like a nice place. It grew so nicely until the depression. It is a shame so many businesses had to close. This is an interesting article about your hometown.

Related Articles