Mystery Place: La Grange's Bromley family farmed, served in local government

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Ginny Hall | February 3, 2017

The Bromley Woodland Trust lands are located in sections 10 and 15 in the town of LaGrange. It is on both sides of Greening Road, although most of the property is on the north side. According to the 2010 plat book, the Kettle Moraine State Forest runs along three sides of the northern-most 40 acres.

According to “Century Farms of Wisconsin,” William and Martha Bromley came to this area in 1844, homesteading 120 acres. He was born in Yorkshire, England, the son of Thomas Bromley. Thomas and William worked in a textile mill before coming to America in 1839.  William married Martha Taylor in 1836. Martha's brother Joshua accompanied the Bromleys to America.

They first settled in New Hartford, New York, where William worked in a cotton mill.  After five years, William, Martha, sons Samuel and George and Thomas came to the area via the Erie Canal. 

They chose land that was next door to Joshua and Betty Taylor. Joshua had come to Wisconsin a year earlier. The Bromleys lived with the Taylors until their house was built. During this time,  daughter Sarah Bromley was born. The Bromleys had two more sons. Edward was born in 1846 and Frederick in 1851.

The Bromleys brought fruit trees and shrubs with them from New York. They also purchased evergreen trees from the Delavan nursery. The bur oaks on their land were cleared so they could plant wheat. When this was harvested it was taken by horse and wagon to Milwaukee. After the railroad came to the area, first to Eagle, then Palmyra and finally Whitewater, the grain got to Milwaukee via this method. They also sold wool, apples and hogs. 

They switched to corn and oats when the wheat field became infested with cinch bugs. They also began keeping more dairy cows. William served as town assessor and treasurer.

Sam returned to the family farm when William died in 1887.  Sam and Sarah never married and bought the farm. Sam died in 1896. With hired hands, Sarah continued operating the farm.  Later she rented out the property. 

In 1930 Edward's son, Fred G., rented the farm. When Sarah died in 1934, Fred and his wife, Ruth,  bought the land. In 1959 they sold the farm to their son, Fred W., and his wife, Barbara. 

The Prairie Farmers Directory of Farmers and Breeders indicates that Fred and Ruth also had two daughters, Elizabeth and Phyllis. They raised Jersey cattle and White Leghorn hens. Fred drove an Overland car. He had an International tractor and there was a concrete silo on the farm.

Beckwith's History of Walworth County indicates that Edward was an associate town supervisor in 1882 and 1898. George H. was an associate town supervisor 1875–'77, 1893, 1896 and 1901-'05 and was town treasurer in 1869. Fred W. was town treasurer in 1872-'76. William Bromley was justice of the peace in 1904-'05 and 1907-'08.

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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