Mystery Place: Hollister family started farming tradition

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Ginny Hall | October 7, 2016

The farm on County Highway 89 just north of Hollister's Corner is located on the east and west sides of the road. It is in sections 4 and 5 in the town of Darien.

Sections are a measurement used by surveyors. Each township in Walworth County is six sections square, or 36 sections. Each section is a mile square. Walworth County is unique in that Elkhorn, the county seat, is exactly in the middle of the county.

Section numbering begins in the upper northeast corner of each township. The next row goes west, the row after that goes east and so forth until No. 36, which is in the lower southeast corner of the township.

I know this town of Darien property as the former Don Behlman farm. Alice, Don's wife, came to the county in 1945 as Alice Gillette and was the first home demonstration agent for our county with the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Three years later she married Don.

In those days a married woman could not continue in this job. So, Priscilla Warthman came to the county and took the job. She later married Vern Hargraves, but by then it was possible for her to continue as the Extension home economist.    

The property is listed on the 1857 plat map as being owned by Grenna Hollister. In the 1873 plat book the owner is listed as C. Hollister. In 1891 this changed to the C. Hollister Est.

The 1882 “History of Walworth County” indicates that Cyrenius Hollister was a retired farmer.  Most of his 700 acres were in the town of Darien. He came to this area June 10, 1839, from New York along with brothers Lemuel and William and sister, Lillian.

Uriah, Cyrenius' oldest child, was born in New York before they moved to Wisconsin, where they lived in Section 5 in the town of Darien for 27 years before moving to Delavan.

Six children were born in Darien township: Kinner N., Eugene B., Helen L. (who died in infancy), Lillian, Warren C. and Elmer L.

Albert Beckwith's history lists Warren's name as William.

Uriah moved to St. Paul, Minnesota. Eugene married Nellie V. Jones and lived in Delavan. Lillian married A.H. Kendrick and lived in Delavan. Warren worked for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad.  In 1882 Elmer was a student at the Chicago Medical College.

The 1907 plat book shows the owners of the farm as K.N. & Warren Hollister.

An 1882 biography states that Kinner Hollister spent his boyhood on his father's farm. When he was 20 he started a hardware store in Delavan. In 1864 he enlisted in the Union Army and was given a captain's commission. He spent the winter of 1964-'65 in Nashville, Tennessee. When he returned to Delavan he turned to the patent medicine business. 

He helped organize the Delavan Cornet Band in June 1868 and served as its first president. It soon was known as the best in this part of the state. It continued until 1876 when it disbanded, though it was reorganized in 1880.

Kinner married Frances M. Tilden, a Delavan teacher, in 1870. Their children were Kenneth, Margaret, Warren D. and Ned.

In 1930, ownership of the farm changed to Mrs. K.N. Hollister.  She is shown as owner in the plat book labeled “after 1937 and before 1942.”

Curtis Stebnitz is shown as the next owner in the 1948 plat book.  By 1961, the owner is Don Behlman, who continues ownership through the 1986 plat book.

In 1990 the part of the farm in Section 4 is owned by Dale and Barbara Wheelock. 

By 1988 the farm was owned by Watso Corp., which continued ownership of the part in Section 5 until the 2002 plat book shows the ownership had changed to Jacob Gredanus.

Ginny Hall, a Delavan historian, is author of the “Walking around ...” and “Meandering ... ” books, which highlight the history of Walworth County communities.




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