Richfield Historical Society
Preserving Our Past for Future Generations
The Mission Statement of the Richfield Historical Society is to discover, collect, preserve and promote the history of the Village of Richfield.
The Vision Statement of the Society is to provide opportunities to connect to Richfield's past.
Richfield Township experienced a great expression of historical interest in August of 1996 as it celebrated its sesquicentennial year. The township supported a private group of individuals in publishing a 500-page book, Richfield Remembers the Past, about the community’s 19th century heritage. As a result of these efforts, enthusiasm developed for establishing an all volunteer historical society which is now in place.
RHS is Born
On September 26, 1996 a group of private individuals decided to organize an historical society under the stated purpose of disseminating historical information concerning the township’s past by holding meetings, providing lectures, papers and discussions. A motion was made to select a temporary chair to appoint a committee to prepare bylaws and incorporation documents.
On November 11, 1996 an organizational meeting was held, and on January
30, 1997 the Richfield Historical Society (RHS) was created and Bylaws
passed. Officers elected under the Bylaws were:
Vice President Donna Schwenke
Treasurer Joyce Jung
Secretary Barbara Nelson
Director Herb Lofy
Director Karleen Kraus
Director Chuck Kugel
Standing committee appointments were made by President, Marge Holzbog, and approved by the elected Board. Each committee chairman became a voting member of the Board. They were as follows:
Museum John Wahlen
Sites Herb Lofy
Membership Karleen Kraus
Programs Donna Schwenke
Fund Raising Joyce Jung
Publicity Marge Holzbog (Interim)
A Busy First Year
In March of 1997, the Richfield Historical Society started with 25 members. These charter members were: Carol Barkow, John & Trish Gardner, Chuck & Marge Holzbog, Joyce Jung, Jeffrey & Arlene Klug, Karleen Kraus, Joan Lanser, Sue Larson, Herb & Sharon Lofy, Barbara Nelson, Donald & Diane Pedersen, Kenneth Schmidt, Orrin & Ruth Schneider, Thomas & Donna Schwenke, Constance Thoma-Villalobos, John Wahlen, Jr., and Ron & Agnes Weix. By June of 1997, membership stood at 59 and from there on continued to grow.
In October of 1997, the Articles of Incorporation were filed which
stated that “the purpose of the organization shall be exclusively
educational and specifically to collect and preserve records and
objects relating to the history of Richfield in Washington County.” It
stated that “the corporation may operate museums, research centers or
historic sites promoting history as prescribed by its bylaws through
membership in the Wisconsin Council for Local History as well as
affiliation with the State Historical Society.” (The Society’s IRS
non-profit designation as a 501(c)(3) was received April 30, 1998.)
The first year (1997) revenues totaled $6,243.28 with expenses of $1,793.80 providing an excess of revenue over expenses of $5,649.48. The Society began meeting on the fourth Thursday of the month (except for July, August and December.) The first program in January 1997 had as its speaker Alan Pape who spoke on “Restoration and Historic Preservation.” He left us with several ideas which stand today: “identify buildings worth saving; look for your cultural resources; consider the market for “historic tourism; and remember that emotional ties are what motivate people to action.” Other following early programs dealt with genealogy and historic photography.
In the Society’s first year, it participated in the Wisconsin Dairy Association “Breakfast on the Farm” and “Richfield Days” and conducted a bus tour of Richfield historic buildings in the fall. As winter drew near, the Society undertook its first major project, the dismantling of the Kuhaupt small bank barn with structural elements stored for future use and meaningful artifacts collected.
The Big Purchase
A Special Town Board Meeting was held in October of 1997 at which the Historical Society (Marge Holzbog & Herb Lofy) made a presentation proposing the purchase by the Town and restoration by the Society of the Messer/Mayer Mill.
On January 15, 1998 at a closed session, John Jeffords moved and Don
Block seconded that the Town Board direct Town Administrator, Jerry
O’Connor, proceed with purchase negotiations with the current owners of
the mill (Kevin & Debra A. Kennedy) – Diane Pedersen, Imogene
Rasmussen, Ralph Schulteis, Don Block & John Jeffords unanimously
On January 31, 1998, the final purchase agreement was signed on behalf of Richfield Township as purchaser by Ralph Schulteis, Chairman, & Joyce Jung, Clerk, and as sellers Kevin & Debra A. Kennedy. The purchase amount was $135,000.00 with all funds drawn from fees that developers were required to pay to the Township Park Fund.
A National, State and County Landmark
The Messer/Mayer Mill is now on the National and State Registers of Historic Places being cited for its extensive original milling equipment and its site where not only the mill but the miller’s house, the miller’s barn, wood shed, smoke house and outhouse all are original and stand in their original locations. The Mill is also cited as a Washington County Landmark.
The Messer/Mayer Mill is located on the banks of the Coney Creek at the headwaters of the Oconomowoc watershed near Pleasant Hill in Richfield Township, Washington County. It stands on a 33-acre parcel now known as the Richfield Historical Park. The Messer/Mayer Mill is a grist mill constructed by Andrew Messer in the early 1870s. Prior to dairy farming in Wisconsin, wheat was the primary farming crop. The farmer took his wheat to the mill for grinding into flour. In 1874, after the untimely death of Andrew Messer in a buggy accident, the mill was sold to the Mayer family and was operated by the Mayers for almost 100 years until the last miller, George Mayer, moved from the property in the early 1970s. Today, the mill stands with few changes, but restoration, from its heyday, complete with all its grinding and sifting equipment. It is under restoration by the Richfield Historical Society and is open for tours during special events and by appointment. It is the main project today of the Richfield Historical Society.