Remembering Franklin’s Only Wooden Silo

It was the only wooden silo on a Franklin farm and for years it was recognized as a landmark because of its unusual construction. It was stamped with the dates 1903 and 1914 and made of wood that went horizontally around the outside while the wood on the inside was constructed vertically. It was also not made of the usual brick or concrete like the other silos that were located on other farms in Franklin.

The last owners of the silo were George and Alice Shaughnessy, who had the farm on the southwest corner of 27th St. and Puetz Rd. The farm had been in their families since the 1840’s and the only information that they had concerning the silo was that it was built by the Independent Silo Co. of St. Paul, Minnesota, a company no longer in business.

The land that the silo stood on was originally part of a land grant by the United States of America to Byron Kilbourn from 1839. By 1851, 80 acres of it were sold to Philip Kiefer and his wife Salome (nee Honadel). It was the Honadels who owned large tracts of land on both the east and west sides of 27th St. (then Kilbourn Rd.) The Kiefers built a home on the land using 8” x 8” handhewn timbers joined with wooden pins. Years later a lean-to was added, giving the home a salt box effect.

Salome’s brother, George Honadel bought the property years later. When his daughter Matilda married Patrick Shaughnessy in 1892 Honadel gave the 80 acres to the newly married couple as a wedding gift. It was in the years following that the silo was probably built. Because Patrick was not a farmer, tenant farmers worked the fields and lived in the home.

Patrick was a teacher at the Oakwood School which was located on 27th St. south of Ryan Rd. Later he became the principal at Wisconsin’s first rural high school which was located on the second floor of the Oakwood School. The school remains standing today but is now occupied by a private business.

In 1928 Patrick’s son, George Shaughnessy and Alice Miller were married and after George’s father died in 1943 they chose to move to the farm. Extensive remodeling was done on the homestead. The roof, windows and doors were replaced as well as a basement excavated. The exterior was painted red with white trim. Over the years passers-by would stop and take photographs of the old house — especially at Christmas. Candles were lit in each window and it reminded people of a New England farm house –just like those in the Norman Rockwell paintings.

George Shaughnessy was an appraiser for the Probate Court and even though he did not farm he loved his horses. Both he and Alice loved to ride and many a passer-by could see his horses grazing in the pasture. Their neighbors often remarked that they wished they were one of George’s horses because they were all very loved and pampered!

In 1950 the Shaughnessys decided to sell the west 40 acres (mostly wooded) to the Boy Scouts of America for a camp, leaving about 39 acres of the original 80 acres. In 1970 the Shaughnessys were informed that the Wisconsin Department of Transportation would be buying the remaining acres of the farm for an I-94 by-pass that would be an outer loop around the City of Milwaukee. The project was known as the Belt-Line Freeway.

By 1971 the State of Wisconsin became the new owner of the property. Although the house was well built and was for sale, no one bought it because of the high cost of moving it. The silo and the barns also remained. Eventually the state abandoned the highway project and the Shaughnessys were allowed to stay on the property until George’s death in 1982. Alice later moved to Tudor Oaks in Muskego.

As the years passed the buildings fell into disrepair and deemed too far gone to save. In 1985 a bit of Franklin history went up in smoke as the Franklin Fire Dept. burned the barns, including the old wooden silo, as a training exercise. Two weeks later the Shaughnessy house also fell victim to the flames. It had been 133 years old at the time and had seen generations of family history within its walls.

Eventually the Boy Scouts of America sold the camp to the City of Franklin and it is now a city park called “Franklin Woods”. Residents now enjoy walking the paths through a woods full of a variety of trees while children enjoy the playground that was erected by the city on the property. The state owned portion of the property was eventually sold to a developer and now a subdivision named Yorkshire Grove is located there. New generations of families now live on the Shaughnessy farm, minus the farm homestead, the pastures and, of course, the wooden silo.

– Judeen Scherrer