This Day in Wisconsin History
On This Day: March 3
1823 - Eleazar Williams Wedding Anniversary
On this date Eleazar Williams, who claimed he was the lost son of the beheaded Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, married Madeline Jourdain, a young Menominee woman. Williams was a direct descendent of a Mohawk chief on his father's side. He grew up with the St. Regis Indians and helped lead the effort to bring the Oneida Indians to the Fox River Valley in the 1820s. There is some evidence that he hoped to set himself up as the head of a large nation of Christian Indians in the west, and he did work as a Protestant missionary much of his life. Williams spent his last years searching for evidence that he was the "Lost Prince" fathered by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. He managed to persuade enough well-to-do Europeans that the story was true to provide his family with a modicum of support. Williams died on August 28, 1858, his last words concerning an elegant dress which hung on his wall as once being worn by his mother, Marie Antoinette. [Source: Badger Saints and Sinners, by Fred L. Holmes, 1939; pg 51-63]
1862 - (Civil War) Siege of New Madrid, Missouri
Union General John Pope began the siege of New Madrid, Missouri. The 8th and 15th Wisconsin Infantry regiments and the 5th, 6th and 7th Wisconsin Light Artillery batteries took part in this effort to open the Mississippi River to Union shipping.
1875 - Walter J. Kohler Born
On this date Walter Jodok Kohler was born in Sheboygan. An industrialist, Republican politician, and Wisconsin governor, Kohler was noted for conceiving and building Kohler Village, a planned community for employees of the Kohler Company outside Sheboygan. At an early age, he went to work for his father's farm implement company. Upon his father's death in 1900, he and his brothers assumed management of the firm, known after 1912 as The Kohler Co., which grew to be one of the largest of its kind in the nation. It pioneered production methods for plumbing equipment and enamelware, and today supports a museum showing its traditions to visitors. Kohler was also chairman of the board of the Vollrath Co., an officer of the Security National Bank in Sheboygan, and a regent of the University of Wisconsin from 1918 to 1924. Kohler served one term as Wisconsin governor, from 1929 to 1931, but his chances for a second term were defeated when he lost the Republican gubernatorial nomination to Philip La Follette in 1930. Although successful for the bid in 1932, he was then defeated in the general election by Democrat Albert Schmedeman. Walter Kohler was often criticized by labor for his opposition to trade unions. In 1934, when his employees attempted to organize and join the A. F. L., Kohler refused to bargain with them. A violent strike ensued and on July 27, 1934, two people were killed. Kohler is remembered today for his civic services and firm control of one of the state's most successful corporations during the Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression. He is also looked back upon by many conservatives as a predecessor who shared their values before the modern Republican Party had taken shape in Wisconsin.
1887 - Helen Parkhurst born
Educator Helen Parkhurst was born this day in Durand, Wisconsin. Parkhurst graduated from the Wisconsin State Teachers college in 1907, studied in Germany and Italy, and worked with Maria Montessori. Reflecting the progressive spirit of the era, in 1919 she founded the Dalton School in New York City, where her "Dalton Plan" was put into action. The plan emphasized individualized instruction tailored to a pupil's abilities and interests, and the development of independence, social skills, and a sense of responsibility. Students at the Dalton School studied in "laboratory brigades," without tests or grades. Parkhurst served as the school's headmistress until 1942 and her ideas influenced the educational systems of the Netherlands, China and Japan. She also wrote several books and appeared on radio and television before her death in Milford, Connecticut, June 1, 1973.
1936 - Higher Wages in Janesville
On this date a new state code sets minimum wages for construction workers in Janesville higher than other Wisconsin cities: $1 an hour for masons, 80 cents for cement finishers, 85 cents for carpenters and 55 cents for laborers. Accounting, office and clerical workers in construction trades were also guaranteed $14 a week. [Source: Janesville Gazette]