Watertown is a city in
Dodge and Jefferson Counties in the U.S.
state of Wisconsin.
Most of the city's population is in
Jefferson County. Division Street, several blocks north of
downtown, marks the county line.The population of Watertown was
21,598 at the 2000 census. Its 2007 estimated population was
is the largest city in the Watertown-Fort Atkinson micropolitan area, which also includes
Creek and Jefferson.
The 2005 estimated population of the
micropolitan area was 79,328.
Watertown was first settled by Timothy Johnson, who built a cabin
on the west side of the Rock River
in 1836. A park on
the west side of the city is named in his honor. The area was
settled to utilize the power of the Rock River, which falls in two
miles (two dams). In contrast, the Rock River falls only upstream
from Watertown. The water power was first used for sawmills
, and later prompted the construction of
two hydroelectric dams
, one downtown (where the river flows south) and one
on the eastern edge of the city (where the river flows north). The
Watertown economy remains heavily reliant on light industry.
In 1853, a plank road
was completed from
Milwaukee to Watertown. After plank roads were no longer used, the
route was replaced by highway (Wisconsin Highway 16
) and a railroad. A
street named "Watertown Plank Road" survives in Milwaukee. It is
referred to in the "Plank Road Brewery" family of beers, produced
by Miller Brewing Company
The downstream of Watertown's two
dams, with a portion of downtown in the background
from Milwaukee to the Watertown area
was once planned, but was replaced by railroad
before any work had been completed, other
than a dam in Milwaukee. The territorial legislature incorporated
the Milwaukee and Rock River Canal company in 1836, but the plan
was abandoned in 1848. The canal would have provided a waterway
between the Great
Lakes and the Mississippi
River, but even if completed, it may not have seen much success
because railroads had already become the preferred mode of
The city grew slowly at first, but an influx of German
immigrants increased the population to over
10,000 in the late 19th century. The city is the home of the first kindergarten in the United States, started in 1856 by Margaret Meyer Schurz, wife of
statesman Carl Schurz; the building that
housed this kindergarten is now located on the grounds of the
Octagon House Museum in Watertown.
Growth of the city was substantially hampered when Watertown issued
almost half a million dollars in bonds
support the building of two railroads
to town to encourage further growth: the Chicago & Fond du Lac
Company and the Milwaukee, Watertown & Madison Road. The
success of the plank road convinced residents that a railroad would
be even more beneficial, and bonds were issued from 1853 to 1855.
The Milwaukee and Watertown Railroad, as it was called before it
extended to Madison, was completed in 1855, only the second line in
Soon after, the two railroads went bankrupt in the Panic of 1857
. The bonds were sold by the
original investors to out-of-town speculators at a small fraction
of their face value. Since the railroads were never built and did
not produce revenue, the city was unable to pay off the bonds.
Moreover, the city did not feel compelled to do so because the
creditors (those who held interests in the bonds) were not only
from out of town, but weren't even the original holders. Yet the
creditors exerted so much pressure on the city to pay off the bonds
that Watertown effectively dissolved its government so that there
was no legal entity (the government as a whole or officers) that
could be served a court order to pay or appear in court.
was not resolved until 1889, when it had risen all the way to the
Supreme Court of the United
States, which essentially dismissed the case of the
A small amount remained to be paid, and this was
not paid off until 1905, half a century later.
Geography and climate
is located in Southeastern Wisconsin, approximately midway between
Madison and Milwaukee, at (43.193066, -88.723774).
the United States Census
, the city has a total area of 11.3 square miles
). Small communities in the immediate area
(e.g., within the school district), include: Richwood, Lebanon, Old Lebanon, Sugar Island, Pipersville, Concord, Ebenezer, and Grellton.
The Rock River
flows through Watertown in
a horseshoe bend before heading south and west on its way to the
. The city
originally developed inside the horseshoe, though it has long since
grown beyond. Silver Creek adjoins the river in the city, as does a
short creek on the west side.
The most notable geographical feature is a high density of drumlins
, long hills formed by the glaciers
of the Wisconsin glaciation
as they retreated
northwards. Hills in the area are elongated in the north-south
As of the census
of 2000, there were 21,598
people, 8,022 households, and 5,567 families residing in the city.
The population density
1,974.1 people per square mile (762.3/km2
). There were
8,330 housing units at an average density of 761.4/sq mi
). The racial makeup of the city was 95.90%
, 0.25% African American
, 0.03% Pacific Islander
, 1.69% from
, and 1.13%
from two or more races. Hispanic
of any race were 4.94% of the
There were 8,022 households out of which 34.9% had children under
the age of 18 living with them, 56.2% were married couples
living together, 9.5% had a female
householder with no husband present, and 30.6% were non-families.
25.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.1% had
someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average
household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.07.
In the city the population was spread out with 26.0% under the age
of 18, 10.3% from 18 to 24, 29.6% from 25 to 44, 19.4% from 45 to
64, and 14.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was
35 years. For every 100 females there were 93.9 males. For every
100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $42,562, and the
median income for a family was $50,686. Males had a median income
of $34,825 versus $23,811 for females. The per capita income
for the city was
$18,977. About 4.6% of families and 6.7% of the population were
below the poverty line
, including 7.8%
of those under age 18 and 6.9% of those age 65 or over.
The school district serving Watertown is the Watertown Unified School
. Watertown has one public high school, Watertown High
School. Its mascot is the Gosling, a reference to large quantity of
once produced in the city by
. Completed in 1994, it is
located on the northwest edge of the city on approximately . The
public middle school, Riverside Middle School, is on the eastern
edge of the city. There are four public elementary schools in the
city: Lincoln, Schurz, Douglas, and Webster. An additional public
elementary school in the Watertown district is in Lebanon. One more
existed in Concord, but was closed in 2004.
The campus of Northwestern
, which closed in 1995 after 130 years of higher
education, is now part of Luther Preparatory School
affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical
(WELS). The college merged with Martin Luther College in New
Four of the WELS churches have elementary
schools, as well as the two Catholic churches, St. Bernard's and
St. Henry's. Maranatha
Baptist Bible College
and Maranatha Baptist Academy are also
located on the western side of Watertown.
Business and industry
The corporate headquarters of Bethesda Lutheran Homes and
, located in Watertown, is the largest employer in the
Primary automobile transportation is provided via Highways 19
. Highway 19 begins in Watertown
and runs westward. Highway 16 runs east-west across Wisconsin
from Milwaukee to La Crosse, passing around Watertown via a bypass.
Highway 26 runs north-south through the center of the city.
Highways 26 and 16 provide access to Interstate 94
. Highway 16 provides
access to the Milwaukee metro area and highway 19 provides access to the
Madison metro area.
aviation is provided by the Watertown
passes through, but does not stop in, Watertown. The
Milwaukee to Madison leg of the Midwest Regional Rail
is planned to pass through Watertown.
Notable people from Watertown
- R. D. Blumenfeld,
journalist, editor of the British Daily
Brandenstein, former NASA astronaut, veteran of four space shuttle
- Joseph E. Davies, the second Ambassador to represent the United States in the Soviet Union.
- Charles A. Kading, U.S. Representative.
- Robert Kastenmeier, U.S.
- Mary Lasker, health activist,
recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
and Congressional Gold
- Fred Merkle, a first baseman in Major League Baseball.
- Carlotta Perry, poet
- Ben Peterson, Olympic gold and silver medal winner
- Meinhardt Raabe, actor, The Wizard of Oz
- Theodore H. Rowell, pharmaceutical industrialist and
- Carl Schurz, U.S. Secretary of the
Stone, Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin
- Upper Rock River Basin - WDNR
- Watertown Historical Society
- Geo. W. Peck. Wisconsin: comprising sketches of counties,
towns, events, institutions, and persons, arranged in cyclopedic
form, Madison, Wis.: Western Historical Association,
- City Government 101
- M. Wyman. The Wisconsin Frontier. Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1998.
- Milwaukee and Watertown Railroad
- Bethesda Lutheran
Homes and Services
Wallman, Charles J. The German-Speaking 48ers: Builders of
. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press