The Sheehan-Godsell Cabin
Franklin's first non-native resident was Michael Sheehan who arrived from County Cork, Ireland in 1834. Two years later, he was joined by his brother Patrick, his wife, Bridget, and two sons, William and John. Together, Michael and Patrick constructed Franklin's first European-style log cabin at the 10600 block of St. Martins Road. A two-story addition was attached to the cabin during the 1850s and it remained a Sheehan residence until the family sold the farm to Michael Godsell in 1911.
Michael Godsell and his wife raised five children, including a son, Tom, who bought the farm in 1920. Tom Godsell married Mary Wallace in 1921 and they continued to live on the farm with their seven children until 1967. By that point in time, Franklin was gravitating from a rural to suburban lifestyle and aging farms became attractive to real estate developers. During the 1970s, the Godsell farm was transformed into the Mission Hills subdivision, but fortunately, the original Sheehan-Godsell cabin was recognized as a historic landmark. Through a cooperative venture by the Franklin Historical Society, the City of Franklin and the Bicentennial Commission, the Godsell cabin was detached from the farmhouse and towed to Legend Park in 1975. In a detailed, labor-intensive reconstruction project, the cabin was completely dismantled and reassembled with new timbers in 2004 to preserve its historic integrity.
Old Town Hall
The structure and function of town government was established by legislation passed in 1841. Accordingly, Franklin held its first town meeting April 5, 1842 at the home of J.C. Loomis with 37 individuals listed as voters. For the next 40-plus years, town meetings were held in private homes or public buildings. In November 1884, the township administrators decided a permanent structure was needed. They pledged $900 to build a Town Hall along Ryan Road (Hwy. 100) just west of S. 76th Street and on April 6, 1886, they began holding government activities there. In August 1956, Franklin residents went to the polls and voted to incorporate as a city. That October the City of Franklin elected its first mayor, Robert MacDonald, three aldermen and two justices of the peace.
As the population increased a fourth ward was created in 1961 and by 1970 fifth and sixth wards had been added. In 1962, Franklin was still 80 percent farmland, but the population had more than doubled over the past decade to 10,000.
The Town Hall took turns functioning as the community's engineering department, police department and justice court until a new city administration building opened at 9229 W. Loomis Road in 1970. The Town Hall was moved to Legend Park by the Franklin Bi-Centennial Commission in 1976 and was turned over to the Franklin Historical Society to serve as its office and museum in 1980.
The Whelan School was one of seven schools that sprouted up during the latter part of the nineteenth century to educate Franklin's farm children. Others were Stargard, Riverside, Green Valley, Willow Edge, German School and Oakwood High School. Whelan was built on land secured from Patrick Whelan in 1852. Electors authorized $173 for construction of a one-room school measuring 24 feet long and 16 feet wide. Orlando Hill was hired to serve as the first teacher for a three month term at a salary of $24.
In 1878, a new school was needed and Johannah Whelan, the daughter of Patrick, donated land at the corner of Puetz Road and Hwy. 100. A loan of $389 was secured to build the Whelan School and it, along with the Stargard, Riverside and Green Valley schools, continued to serve the community until the school district purchased 10 acres from the William Ludwig farm along S. 76th Street in 1951. In 1953, Whelan, Stargard, Riverside and Green Valley were consolidated and closed when Ben Franklin School opened to serve grades one through eight. The brick Whelan School was purchased by the Franklin Historical Society in 1969 and became the first historic building moved to Legend Park. It is now a living museum, offering classes from Franklin and surrounding districts the opportunity to receive a one-day education in a rural setting of olden days.
St. Peters Chapel
The St. Peters Chapel was built in 1869 on grounds next to the St. Peters Cemetery on S. 68th Street, just south of Loomis Road. The congregation was founded by the William Boldt, Fred Mueller, Gustave Wendt, John Brown, Charles Spies, Albert Neske, Ernest Kelm and Bertram families who chose to break away from St. Paul's Lutheran Church on S. 51st Street. In 1874, the typical Sunday collection was 13 cents. The church also served as a school for a time with Rev. Blankenhein, who had living quarters above the Chapel, acting as pastor and teacher.
Since its inception in 1869, the cemetery maintenance was overseen by Fred Mueller and his son who kept records of everyone buried there. The last funeral service held in the Chapel was for Ernest Kelm in 1925. From June 1939 to May 1940 the Chapel was rented by a Hales Corners Lutheran congregation until construction of their Whitnall Park Lutheran Church was completed.
For approximately 25 years, St. Peters Chapel maintained a quiet vigil north of the cemetery. Finally in 1983, the Chapel was recognized as a Franklin landmark, moved to Legend Park, and restored to its original state of the 1860s. Heated by a pot-bellied stove and lit by kerosene lamps, the Chapel is the scene of nondenominational Christmas services each December. The Chapel is also available for weddings and other special events through the Franklin Historical Society.