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Placard recognizes one family's role in early Greenfield wilderness

Jan. 4, 2013

Greenfield - It might be hard to imagine now, but the fertile land that rolled gently from Howard Avenue south past Cold Spring Road was once the pride of a hard-working family from Bavaria.

The John Kerler family carved out a prosperous farm in the Wisconsin wilderness in 1849. Based on an 1858 map, the 135-acre farm spread from about 100th to 108th streets starting a little north of Howard. In fact, Kerler built a fine home in which to raise his six children at that north end on Beloit Road, said Bob Roesler, president of the Greenfield Historical Society.

The local historians don't want the heritage of that area to be forgotten, so one of 10 historic plaques the society will place this year around the city will go up at 104th Street on the old farm.

Roesler said Kerler must have been quite a dynamic figure in his day.

Among other noteworthy achievements, he was the first president of St. John's Lutheran Church, a congregation that dates back to 1846. The church remains at 68th Street and Forest Home Avenue.

It was certainly an industrious the family. Roesler noted that the family earned money in various ways. For example, it took advantage of the fact that the Root River flowed through the southern portion of the farm by hiring two men to cut reeds and weave them into basket, which were then sold at hardware stores in downtown Milwaukee.

Some 90 years after the Kerler family carved out their farm, four of Kerler's descendants began cutting up the farm for homes. In 1938, Kerler Acres was born on part of the farm east of 104th Street, Roesler said.

The historical society's placard took that history in consideration when it decided to raise a placard marking Kerler Acres, he added.

- Jane Ford-Stewart

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