In 1845, Levi Alden and E.A. Stoddard decided it was time for Janesville to have its own newspaper.
Although the local population was a mere 850 people, Janesville was a bustling place and showed potential for growth.
It already had a watchmaker, saddle and harness maker, barbershop, copper and tinsmith, gunsmith and painter. The city also boasted three grocery stores, three stone-cutters, three millwrights and three schools. Five doctors cared for the sick. Six lawyers attended to legal matters. Two brickyards and two small factories that built agricultural equipment made Janesville an important center of commerce.
Alden and Stoddard were watching the community—and Rock County—grow around them.
The two men bought a Washington hand press from Detroit and had it shipped to Milwaukee. From there, it was hauled to Janesville by a team of oxen.
The publishers promised that politics would be the newspaper's main focus, but topics in the “departments of Agricultural, Literary and Miscellaneous” also would be covered.
In those early days, the front page usually featured a serial story, and long columns were devoted to Whig Party politics. The news was mostly local until 1848, when the telegraph arrived in the city.
Along with reporting the news, The Janesville Gazette was a devoted civic booster. In the early decades of the 20th century, the newspaper usually published an end-of-the-year edition looked back at the number of new houses and businesses built during the year.
In the middle decades, that boosterism evolved into special sections celebrating significant milestones: the opening of new schools, the growth of businesses such as Parker Pen and General Motors, and the city's centennial and sesquicentennial. In 1967, The Gazette even ran a special section celebrating the 1 million square yards of concrete pavement.
Before the arrival 24-hour cable news stations and then the internet, The Gazette was a reliable source for national, state and local news. Sunday classifieds were a lucrative source of income and a valuable asset to bargain hunters, job seekers, real estate agents and car dealers.
In those days, newspaper carriers strained under the weight of the Sunday edition, and a newspaper hit a reader’s porch with a satisfying plop.
Now, the sound of the news is more likely to be the double click of a mouse.
One thing hasn’t changed: The Gazette remains committed to local news and local people.
Here is a sampling of the people and issues we’ve reported on over the years.
In their first issue of the newspaper, Levi Alden and E.A. Stoddard introduce themselves to the 850 residents of Janesville: “To the Citizens of Rock and Walworth Counties: No apology, and but few remarks are necessary, in laying our Prospectus before the pubic. This community, by the lively interest it has already taken in the enterprise, has virtually demanded the establishment of a Press at this place; and it is but to meet this demand, that we have been induced to undertaking that which might otherwise seem extremely hazardous.”
Subscriptions are $2 a year. A 14-line advertisement costs “50 cents for first insertion, and 25 cents for every subsequent insertion.”
Construction is completed on a dam and raceway, giving the city water power.
Thrice-weekly stagecoach routes are established between Janesville and Milwaukee.
Capt. Ira Miltimore builds the first Monterey Bridge.
Janesville’s population hits 1,485.
The “Big Mill,” located on the Rock River just north of the Milwaukee Street Bridge, is finished, giving local farmers a place to bring their grain.
Local investors fret over the arrival of the telegraph line.
The Gazette reports, “Col. Speed and Mr. Cornell met here last evening to confer with the stockholders of the Telegraph. Col. Speed authorizes us to say that not withstanding all reports to the contrary, he is going on with the construction of the line with the same vigor as ever …”
By November, the telegraph company opens an office on East Water Street.
William Pitts, the author of the popular hymn “The Church in the Wildwood,” or the “Church in the Vale,” settles in the town of Union.
Telegraph lines arrive in Janesville.
Capt. Ira Miltimore builds the Monterey Dam. Residents complained that the blasting of stones and general construction made it sound like the "Battle of Monterey.”
James Sutherland opens the first bookstore in the Lappin Block at the corner of Main and Milwaukee streets.
Wisconsin becomes a state.
Mail service between Janesville and Milwaukee is established.
Donations are solicited to build a “School for the Education of the Blind.” Capt. Ira Miltimore donates 10 acres of land, part of which is still in use. The school starts in a house owned by Miltimore and later moves to a larger place on Jackson Street.
Janesville’s population reaches 3,100.
Payne, Hastings and Co. builds the first woolen mill in Janesville.
Work begins on a building for the State School for the Blind. Students move in in 1852.
The first Wisconsin State Fair is held east of Upper Courthouse Park and is sponsored by the Rock County Agricultural Society and the State Fair Association.
The Oak Hill Cemetery Association is formed.
The state takes over the School for the Blind, which previously had been operated by private individuals.
The Southern Wisconsin Railroad is founded at Stevens House.
Mount Olivet Cemetery is dedicated.
The railroad has arrived in Janesville, with the first train pulling into a depot on a bluff east of the gas works, The Gazette reports in a Jan. 8, 1853, story.
At least 800 people are there to greet it.
“For an hour before the cars arrive, a dense crowd had collected round the depot, and when the train came in sight, an intense excitement pervaded the assemblage, which broke out in repeated cheers stopped in front of the depot,” the story said.
After a ceremony at the depot, a procession travels from the depot to Stevens Hotel.
“Soon every public house was filled, and private houses were liberally opened for the accommodations of guests,” according to the story.
At the hotel, local businessmen celebrate the event with speeches and toasts to “the Union of the United States,” “the agricultural interests of Wisconsin” and “the press of Wisconsin.”
The reporter writes that he was unable to attend the entire celebration because of deadlines. He ends his story on this hopeful note: “It was a great event in the history of our town; a thriving era; destined in its immediate results to enhance its business felicities and foster its growth more than any and all others that have yet transpired.”
Janesville also incorporates as a city in 1853.
On Aug. 26, The Gazette reports, “About twelve o’ clock (cq) at noon to-day, (cq) a fire broke out somewhere near the livery stage of S.B. Davis and spread rapidly from there. … The fire department was immediately on the grounds; but all attempts to save any of the buildings were ineffectual, and ashes and bare walls are now all that remain of one of the most valuable blocks in our city …
"Our own loss extends to the consumption of all our presses by the devouring element, including a Northrup power press, together with a new steam engine which we were just putting up, and which had never run, much furniture of a printing office and a great amount of type standing on stones and standing galleys, which could not be removed before the flames reached the office.”
Janesville’s population is now 7,018.
David Mayberry is lynched in Courthouse Park. He had just been convicted of the murder of Andrew Alger and sentenced to life in prison when a “wild mob” carried him from the jail to the park, according to a Gazette story.
First fire department is established.
Joshua C. Gray establishes Gray’s Bottling Works at 52 Locust St.
The Gazette’s hand press is replaced by a Guersey Press. This press would be replaced again in 1861, 1873 and 1889.
Charles Holt buys the Janesville Free Press and combines it with The Gazette, establishing the Daily Morning Gazette.
The city begins building a new high school. Its location is described as “on a hill in the Third Ward where the cemetery had been abandoned.”
Chester Arthur, who later becomes America's 21st president, stops in Janesville on a prospecting trip. He stays at the new Hyatt House, which recently was completed.
The Hook and Ladder Company forms.
The YMCA is established.
City Ice Company opens its doors at 475 N. Main St., where it remains today.
The first high school senior class graduates. It has three students.
Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co. is founded.
Abraham Lincoln visits Janesville as the Republican candidate for president. He stays at the home of William M. Tallman and attends services at First Congregational United Church of Christ.
The second high school senior class graduates with a total of six students.
The courthouse is destroyed by fire.
Harris Manufacturing Co., the forerunner of Harris Ace Hardware, begins making farm equipment.
Stephen A. Douglas, a candidate for president, speaks in Janesville.
Peter Myers builds the Myers Hotel.
The Civil War begins. Camp Tredway, located near what is now the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds, and Camp Cameron near Springbrook are set up as recruitment centers. By the end of the war, Janesville had sent nine volunteer companies to the war, three cavalry detachments, one complete regiment, a 60-man artillery battery and a draft of 125 men.
Carrie Jacobs-Bond is born in Janesville. She later becomes a nationally known songwriter, perhaps best recognized for the songs "I Love You Truly," "Just Awearyin' For You" and "A Perfect Day."
Janesville regiments fight in the battle of Iuka, Mississippi.
Fox Hall is destroyed by fire.
Central Bank of Wisconsin organizes as First National Bank.
Janesville’s quota for President Abraham Lincoln's first draft is 125 men.
On Sept. 7, The Gazette reports, “Most of our readers are probably aware that Wisconsin is to have a State Fair this fall and that Janesville is the point fixed upon by the Executive Committee of the State Agriculture Society at which to hold it. Such is the fact, and workmen are already busy in preparing the necessary buildings for the great show that is to be. The great cloud of the draft will then have passed away … and people will be ready to turn their thoughts and attention to other matters besides those connected with red-handed war. Ceres and Flora must be worshipped as well as Mars.”
On Sept. 15, the newspaper reports that it received a call from Dr. Henry Palmer, "well known to many of our citizens as a genial warm-hearted gentleman as well as an excellent surgeon. The Doctor left the State with the Seventh Wisconsin Regiment, but was soon transferred to take general supervision of the large Government Hospital in York, Pa.”
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church is completed.
A “great fire” starts at Wheeler’s Liquor Store at the corner of Main and Wall streets on Dec. 12. The fire burns all buildings on the east side of Main Street south to the Carle Block. The fire department has only hand engines, which freeze up, so little can be done to stop the blaze.
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church is founded.
Works starts on a new Congregational Church.
Another State Fair is held in Janesville.
The Gazette reports that a government survey “finds river navigation practicable."
Hyatt House, one of the city’s main hotels, burns to the ground. Hotel employee Maggie Burns dies in the fire.
The Young Men’s Association is formed and begins collecting books for a city library. Those books become the foundation for Janesville’s first public library.
The Baptist Society builds a meeting place on South Jackson Street.
The School for the Blind outgrows its quarters, and ground is broken on a new building.
All the stores over the raceway from West Milwaukee Street to River Street are lost in a fire.
In April, Dr. William Duvall advertises his services in The Gazette: “Call on Dr. Duvall, or send a three cent stamp for his supplement, which is replete with the most wonderful cures on record.”
By August, Duvall is in jail and charged with murdering his fourth wife. His third wife, Catherine, had died suddenly on July 11, 1868.
“It may here be stated that Catherine, before she was married to the doctor, had been living with him during the lifetime of his second wife as governess to his ten children,” The Gazette reports.
It is unknown “what happened to his two former consorts.”
Duvall later spent his the rest of his life in the Waupun Correctional Institution.
The First Ward School is built. Its name is later changed to Washington School.
The first courthouse is finished at a cost of $75,000.
Peter Myers builds an opera house on Milwaukee and Bluff streets.
Big Mill, a business on the west side of Milwaukee Street, burns down.
Morris C. Smith begins to build a brick block on the northeast corner of Main and Milwaukee streets.
The North Western railroad passenger depot, the John Roethinger Brewery and the ice skating rink at South Main and Second streets all burn to the ground.
On July 1 in a column listing “To-day’s Advertisements" is this item: "$10 reward is hereby offered for information which shall lead to the arrest and conviction of any person or persons who may be guilty of breaking one or more of the city street lamps. By order of the Common Council, James Sutherland, Mayor.”
Just below it is another plug from the council, a timely reminder about the upcoming July Fourth holiday: “Notice is hereby given that any and all persons who shall fire any Cracker, Torpedo, Squib, Powder, or Fire-work in any form, in the city of Janesville are liable in an action for the damages that may result therefrom.”
James Sutherland and the Common Council are back at it.
At the top of the Jan. 2 front page is this: “PROCLAMATION. The citizens of Janesville are respectfully reminded that there is an ordinance of the common council requiring every owner or occupant of a store or lot in said city to keep the sidewalks in front of same free from snow, under the penalty therein imposed. Many, I find, disregard this ordinance … A few minutes labor upon the part of those who are required to perform this service will contribute very much to the comfort of the travelers thereon, and that of the ladies.”
Rock County Municipal Court is established.
Norwegian Lutheran Church is built on Madison Street and what was then called West Bluff Street, now Laurel Avenue.
It’s a bad year for fires. The McLean Woolen Mills at Monterey, the Notbohm Woolen Mills at Monterey, Cairns Bros. Dry Goods on Milwaukee Street and the H.A. Doty Feed Mill on North Main Street all burn down.
The Webster School is built to ease overcrowding in other city schools.
The Wisconsin School for the Blind's main building is destroyed by fire. Money is raised to rebuild it.
Col. Burr Robbins establishes the winter quarters for his circus, Burr Robbins & Colvin's Great American and German Allied Shows, on what The Gazette calls the “old Doty farm."
“Cpt. Macloon went to White water the present week, thinking to purchase a lot of whiskey barrels for the pickle factory. He never thought about the temperance question, and after ransacking the town, returned without a barrel, finding only one or two empty ones in the whole place. He got nearly 500 here," The Gazette reports Oct. 6.
On Oct. 15, the newspaper reports, "If our people desire, to see a beautiful sight, let them get a good view of the cotton factory from the hills in the third or second wards, when it is lighted between six and seven o’clock p.m. It looks like an illuminated village over a grand Republican triumph."
The old Congregational Church burns down during May 1 snowstorm.
Merchants and Mechanics Bank is organized with David Jeffris as president.
The city builds a west-side fire station.
St. Mary Catholic Church is organized to meet the needs of the growing number of Catholics in Janesville.
According to the Janesville City Directory, “Main and East and West Milwaukee Streets are her principal business thoroughfares on either side of which magnificent and substantial blocks and buildings are erected, which not only do credit to Janesville, but which would do credit to a city of much larger size.”
James Harris forms Harris & Smith to manufacture his new invention, a safety oil lamp. The business is one step in Harris’ successful career as an entrepreneur. His and his descendants run a successful series of business, including the Janesville Barb Wire Company, the Janesville Fence and Post Company and, of course, Harris Ace Hardware stores.
An east-side fire station is built.
The Oriental Lodge No. 22, Knights of Pythias, is chartered. The fraternal order is a philanthropic organization, but it’s probably best known for being mentioned in the 1930 Marx Brothers movie “Animal Crackers.” In the movie, Groucho recounts his recent trip to Africa to hunt big game: “The principal animals in Africa are moose, elks and Knights of Pythias."
David Jeffris builds the Grand Hotel on West Milwaukee and High streets.
Janesville’s population climbs to 9,018.
The Wisconsin Telephone Company opens its first exchange in Janesville, and 16 people sign up.
The Chicago and North Western railroad builds a Janesville-to-Afton line, and Milwaukee Road railroad builds a Janesville-to-Beloit line.
A massive snowstorm makes county roads impassable, and Janesville is “blockaded” for three days, The Gazette reports.
Another snowstorm blasts the city in March. The snow melts quickly, and spring flooding follows.
The Young Men’s Association goes bankrupt, and its assets—including a library—are put up for auction. A Public Library Association is hastily formed in an effort to gather books for a free library. (Most people paid subscription fees to access a circulating library.)
George S. Parker arrives in Janesville to attend the Valentine School for Telegraphy. At 19, he is hired as a telegraphy station manager for a company in the Dakotas. After a short period, he returns to Janesville to teach at the telegraphy school.
Floods carry away parts of the upper dam. The downtown business district is flooded.
The first electric lights are installed in downtown stores.
Howard F. Bliss gives up his saddlery and hardware business to buy The Janesville Gazette plant.
The Public Library Association opens its free library. On April 3, Janesville residents vote 1,209-39 in favor of a free library supported by the city. The library association sells its collection of books to the city for $1 on the condition that it they continue to be part of a free public library.
The Janesville Businessman’s Association is formed with Dr. Henry Palmer as president.
Ryan Inc. Contractors opens its doors as Patrick Ryan Grading Contractors.
Fires take their toll on the city again, destroying the Cold Spring Brewery and Baptist church. The church is rebuilt.
G.A.R.—the Grand Army of the Republic—encampment held in Janesville.
The city has three—count ‘em, three—rollerskating rinks.
The Janesville Street Railway Co. is granted the franchise for a horse railway. The line was electrified in 1892.
John and M.J. “Rash” Nelson establish Nelson Brothers Livery and Undertaking on the west end of the Court Street Bridge. When John dies in 1887, Rash buys the Kimball Funeral Home and operates the Kimball-Nelson Funeral Home. In 1922, Rash’s son takes over the business from his father. Neal Schneider becomes a business partner in 1960 and eventually the sole owner, making Schneider Funeral Directors one of the oldest businesses in the city.
John P. Cullen, a local carpenter, works on a new 400-foot wooden bridge over the Rock River. Cullen will go on to found JP Cullen and Son, arguably the most successful company in the city’s history. The Cullen family’s philanthropic efforts are responsible for improving the city's landscape and residents' lives.
Free mail delivery starts in Janesville.
The Fourth Avenue bridge opens.
Fire damages the Wisconsin Shoe Co.
George S. Parker establishes his pen business. His first location is on the upper level of the Myers Theater and Opera House.
Peter Myers, a leading city businessman, dies.
The city's fire department reorganizes as the “Janesville Fire Police.”
The Young Ladies Seminary, Women’s Industrial Exchange and Women’s Suffrage Association are formed.
On Feb. 22, The Gazette reports, “Since the disastrous fire of Wednesday afternoon by which the magnificent Myers opera house was laid in ruins, there has been much talk and private speculation concerning the building of a new house. So far, no one has come forward with the necessary bank account to talk business, and in all probability such speculation will end up in talk.
"Ed. F. Carpenter, Esq. who has charge of this building, was seen this morning by a Gazette reporter, and in reply to questions, that gentleman said … I was sorry to see it go down, because it was a magnificent place; and, it being run on the percentage plan, our people were given an opportunity to see the best companies without the expense of a trip to Chicago …”
The opera house is a $40,000 loss.
Janesville’s population reaches 10,836.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturns a legislative act that prohibited buildings over the Rock River. Building starts immediately.
On Feb. 23, The Gazette reports, “The council faced about last night and voted unanimously to erect no more wooden bridges. The clerk was requested to send a request to Assemblyman Winans to secure the passage of an amendment … permitting the council to issue bonds not exceeding ten thousand dollars for the purpose of building a bridge at Monterey. The council then voted to make the bridge of iron…”
Alderman Rowe presented an ordinance granting H.A. Doty a franchise for an Edison incandescent electric plant in the city.
George S. Parker incorporates the Parker Pen Co.
The rebuilt Myers Opera House opens.
Chambers and Owen is established in Milton.
Horse-drawn street cars are replaced with electric cars.
Some $400,000 invested in new buildings in the city.
President Grover Cleveland appoints Gen. J.B. Doe of Janesville as assistant secretary of war.
Janesville’s Elks Lodge is founded.
A newspaper advertisement appears for the Geo. S. Parker Fountain Pen, which “means much where clean fingers and pleasant thoughts are desired. Not only does it feed the ink perfectly, it prevents soiled fingers.”
The city’s “insane and poor residents” are moved to a new county farm north of the city. The building and land cost $100,000.
The local trades council is formed.
Janesville's population sits at 12,971.
The YMCA building is completed at West Milwaukee and High streets.
On Dec. 2, The Gazette reports, “The person who managed to walk the length of Milwaukee Street without being struck with a snow ball was considered in luck yesterday, but in the future, it will be different. Chief Acheson has his eye on a number of boys who have been too free with the use of the beautiful, and the next young man caught throwing now in the business streets will become either acquainted with the 'hickory uniform” or Judge Phelps.”
Later on Dec. 20, The Gazette writes, “Pretty soon Rock County will be dotted with creameries, and it is well that she should. Plans for building of another are now being made. The enterprise will be the joint property of the residents of La Prairie and Harmony.”
The Sinnissippi Golf Club is formed. It will later be known as the Janesville Country Club.
Two men suffocate in Gray’s cesspool on Locust Street.
The Rock County Medical Society is founded.
Woodruff Buckle Factory on North Franklin and Ravine streets is damaged by fire.
Judge Phelps of Hanover, who owns a large dairy and stock farm, plans to drain the nearby swamps and grow celery. His initial experiments with the crop have resulted in celery that is “said to be much superior to the Kalamazoo celery.”
On May 31, The Gazette reports on Memorial Day services. “Valiant deeds of valiant men were commemorated by Janesville People this afternoon. While muffled drums throbbed and banners waved, the process move to the cemetery where lie the soldier dead. Over the mounds ‘neath which the clay of heroes rest, patriotic services were held.”
A new North Western railroad depot is built, replacing the dilapidated structure on Academy Street.
Company A, First Regiment, leaves Janesville for Camp Harvey, Milwaukee, and then travels on to the Spanish War.
The Lappin and Jackman blocks are remodeled into office buildings.
The National Gideon Society is founded in Janesville.
Janesville’s population is now 13,185. Rock County farmers almost double their production of butter and cheese.
The Rock County Jail is finished at a cost of $25,000.
Free mail delivery begins.
A subscription to The Janesville Daily Gazette costs 12 cents.
Women at the Janesville cotton mills strike for higher wages, but management refuses to budge. Within three days, all three women are hired by local tobacco warehouses.
The Wisconsin Carriage Company on Wall Street burns down, and the company rebuilds at 600 W. Milwaukee St.
The Janesville Daily Gazette gets its first linotype machine.
Andrew Carnegie gives the city $30,000 for a new library on South Main Street.
The Milwaukee Road freight depot on North Main Street opens.
J.P. Cullen and Bros. start work on the Janesville Public Library, 64 S. Main St. Most of the money for the project comes from Andrew Carnegie's $30,000 grant.
St. Mary’s Catholic Church is built.
Hough Shade Corp. moves to Janesville from the East and eventually becomes Hufcor.
A moving picture show is shown at the Myers Opera House.
Electricity from the Rock River power plant is used to power Janesville’s streetcars.
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church is founded.
On March 24, The Gazette reports, “Danger From Floods: Rock river is at the danger point and a careful watch is being kept to protect the bridges. The Rockford-Janesville interurban line has been forced to suspend service (due to a) to a complete washout of the tracks.”
The Gazette's Jan. 5 edition features this headline: "George Parker Secures Patent: Local Pen Manufacturer Has a New Design of Feed for His Pens."
On Jan. 27, the newspaper reports, “The American Cigar Company plant is in operation in Brodhead. Over 125 men and women are employed in the big warehouse, which is one of the most modern in the state."
The Gazette becomes a member of The Associated Press.
Cargill Methodist dedicates a new church at the corner of Franklin and Pleasant streets.
Janesville Cement Shingle Co. is founded by a group of investors. By 1910, it has changed its name to Janesville Sand & Gravel.
On March 9, The Gazette reports, “Over fifty farmers from various sections of the county assembled at the courthouse this afternoon. … The purpose of this meeting was to organize a county and city branch of the American Society of Equity. … The society proposes to bring about a method of marketing its own crops by co-operation as well as governing the so-called over-supply.”
North Western railroad builds a round house and siding.
Gazette correspondents begin to call in their news by telephone.
North Western railroad opens a freight yard in what is then known as “south Janesville.”
President-elect W.H. Taft briefly visits Janesville, speaking to people from the back of a rail car.
The Gazette installs a new press.
An electric company buys the Indianford Dam and power plant.
Janesville’s population is now 13,894.
Shurtleff Creamery builds a two-story, red-brick building on South Main Street.
The Salvation Army buys a building on North Main Street for its headquarters.
A Nov. 11 headline in The Gazette reads, “Cyclone hits county, 9 reported dead”
“Alf Austin was in the barn when the storm hit … upon seeing his auto start out without him he made for the house, but before he could get there the house was taken and carried about a quarter mile where it landed in T.G. Godfrey’s woods, a total wreck.
"One of his three children, a little girl named Helen, was picked up dead, and Mrs. Austin and another child were injured. Mrs. Austin’s sister, Miss Elizabeth Huma, had all the fingers cut off from one of her hands.”
The city of Janesville hires visiting nurses.
On Nov. 1, The Gazette reports, “One of the principal duties of the new visiting nurse will be the medical inspection of school children with the especial purpose of discovering cases of tuberculosis and other contagious disease, the visiting of homes where there are cases of tuberculosis and giving instructions for the care of the disease and the prevention of contagion. …”
The Gazette has this to say about the dedication of the new Mercy Hospital on Oct. 2: “Beds for forty-eight patients are provided and sixteen of the rooms have been furnished by society and private donors. … The hospital is not only fire-proof, but practically noise-proof. All floors and tile and concrete so no noise is communicated through them. The corridors are carpeted with cork linoleum. All walls are finished and smooth and there are no angles and corners to gather dirt as they are carefully rounded.”
Janesville High School’s basketball team wins the state tournament.
Matthew Kennedy and William Kennedy open what is now Rock Road Company, which began as a railroad grading company.
E.H. Damrow opens a chiropractic office in downtown Janesville.
On April 1, a fire destroys eight businesses on Janesville's Milwaukee Street Bridge. Firefighters from the west-side station respond within a few minutes, but the fire has already taken hold.
On April 2, The Gazette reports, “By this time, great volumes of dense black smoke were pouring from under the bridge and the windows in front of the Archie Reid store were cracking and forced out by the heat with the sound and rapidity of rifle fire.”
The bridge was impassable for fire vehicles “as the horses could not be forced through the dense smoke that hung over it.”
The fire chief orders that electric power be cut, and the whole downtown is plunged into darkness.
“In order to give firemen light to work by, three large automobiles were drawn up to the edge of the bridge, and their powerful head lamps were turned on the scene,” the story said.
The cause of the fire is never determined.
The new Milwaukee Street Bridge opens.
The semi-weekly Gazette consolidates with the daily paper.
Booker T. Washington, a leader in the African American community, speaks at First Congregational Church.
The Janesville fair is established after “years of agitation,” according to The Gazette.
A mile of concrete pavement is laid down in the city, and Rock County spends a record $100,000 for highways.
The unsightly tangle of electrical poles and wires is removed from downtown, and decorative lighting is installed in its place.
The Janesville Country Club absorbs the local golf association. The club spends $3,000 on remodeling.
The Townsend Tractor plant moves to Janesville.
A large milk factory moves to Janesville. L.A. Markham becomes the first agricultural agent in the county.
On March 1, The Gazette reports, “The agricultural departments of the high schools in Rock county have organized a quadrangular debate on the question, “Resolved, that the Holstein cow is the most profitable cow for the Rock county farmer.”
After war is declared in April, Company M is mobilized. The company reports its first death Dec. 6, when Private Ben Johnson dies of pneumonia.
Of the 604 men who took the physical examination, the Janesville Draft Board picks 243 to enlist.
Hough Shade builds an addition to its plant.
Company M arrives in France.
Richard Ellis, a member of Company M, dies fighting overseas. After hearing of his death, Ellis’ brother, Lyle, immediately announces that he is leaving for Chicago to join the Navy.
“There is nothing for me to do around Janesville anymore and I am going to Chicago to join the Navy. … I hope that soon I will have a chance to get a few of the Huns that killed my brother,” Lyle Ellis tells The Gazette
Janesville’s first American Legion Chapter is named after Ellis.
Rock County contributes $17.5 million to Liberty Loans.
Janesville celebrates the end of World War I. On Nov. 12, The Gazette reports, “Janesville citizens went wild, simply wild, over the news of the armistice signing yesterday morning. … Women and men, young and old participated in the celebration and never before in the history of the city of Janesville were such scenes enacted. Every noise making devices obtainable from the dishpan to the base drum was in evidence on the downtown street. Kaiser Wilhelm was burned, hung, electrocuted and drowned in effigy. Bon fires were started in the morning on downtown corners and for several hours the people participated in a snake dance around the fires.”
Harry H. Bliss takes over as publisher of The Janesville Gazette.
John Woodman opens a produce stand, beginning his Janesville-based grocery empire.
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church builds a new school.
The American Legion is organized, as is the Rotary Club.
The Beloit-Janesville concrete highway is opened.
A post-war boom results in 200 new homes being built.
Janesville's population is reported to be 18,293.
The Janesville Chamber of Commerce hires renowned city planner John Nolen to create a plan for the city.
Mercy Hospital expands.
Parker Pen starts work on a new building on Court Street.
First Christian Church is built on South Third and Water streets.
Elmer Burtness opens Burtness Chevrolet.
A headline in the Feb. 15 Gazette reads, “Parker Buys 30 Acres on River Road for Home."
"The purchase of a 30-acre tract of land up the river by George S. Parker for a home is believed to have started a movement in the city of building homes outside the city, as several families have already signified their intention of moving,” the story says.
Parker Pen's new building opens.
The Janesville City Council creates two new wards, bringing the total to seven.
The YWCA opens on the third floor of The Gazette building.
Fisher Body and Chevrolet, both under the General Motors umbrella, announce that they will build in Janesville.
“A plant of the Fisher Body company, a controlled corporation of the General Motors, is to be built in Janesville," The Gazette reports Oct. 3. "With this announcement Tuesday, authorization also was given to start immediate work on a new building for Chevrolet Motors Corporation, a member of the G.M.C. organization. … The Fisher building will be 600 feet by 160 feet, containing 96,000 square feet of floor space. … The Fisher company will produce 100 to 150 closed bodies; daily operations to start soon after equipment can be installed."
Parker Pen opens a plant in Toronto.
Chevrolet and Fisher Body begin production.
A new $900,000 high school is finished.
The MacDowell Glee Club is formed.
The Janesville Fire Department is now “completely motorized,” meaning it no longer depends on horses.
The local electric company enters into a business agreement with Wisconsin Power and Light Company.
On May 2 and 3, The Gazette reports on the popularity of the automobile.
“Disappearance of many launches that navigated Rock River few years ago, when upward of 50 boats could be seen on most any Sunday afternoon, has been caused by the increasing popularity of the automobile, old-timers in the sport say. Several years ago, during the time a launch club was organized here, between 50 and 75 people owned launches, but now not over half a dozen are operated on the Rock River. The rows of boat houses that lined both shores near the city and the docks up river have been destroyed or left dilapidated on the bank.”
On May 11, The Gazette reports, “Automobile dealers here express opinions that one of the paramount problems in traffic requiring a solution is parking. Increased use of the automobile in every-day life has resulted in a decided congestion of parked cars with the business district practically 16 hours out of every 24.
"'You will find that business houses of the future will have basement or floor devoted to the parking of cars,' declared D.J. Stewart, plant manager of the Chevrolet Motor company, Janesville.”
A new $400,000 YMCA is dedicated.
Fisher Body finishes a $200,000 addition, and a Chevrolet parts and service unit is started at a cost of $100,000.
A 90-minute parking ordinance is approved.
Hough Shade builds a $30,000 factory addition.
The Janesville Woman’s Club building opens at 108 S. Jackson St.
The Lions Club buys Goose Island, in what is now Traxler Park, as a gift for the city.
The Rotary Club buys land for a boys camp.
The Janesville Airport on Beloit Road is dedicated.
St. Paul’s Lutheran School opens on Academy Street.
Pinehurst Sanatorium, near the county farm and poorhouse, is dedicated.
A new St. Mary Catholic School is built on North First Street.
A remodeled Myers Theater reopens to show movies.
The Janesville Floral Co. builds five new greenhouses on what is then known as Milton Road.
Janesville Little Theater is organized with M.P. Mouat as its first president.
Janesville's population is now 21,628.
Chevrolet opens a truck assembly plant.
The Monterey Bridge is finished. The top headline in the Sept. 20 Gazette is splashed across the front page in a font size usually reserved for a declaration of war: "ALL HAIL BRIDGE OPENING TODAY." The opening ceremony starts with a parade from the high school to the bridge, a march of about 1.5 miles.
The Monterey Hotel opens.
Janesville's Memorial Armory is built on Dodge and South High streets.
The Allan-Westphal & Co. Machinery Company is founded. Today, the company is known simply as Westphal & Company.
The Community Chest, which evolved into the United Way, is organized.
Traffic signals are installed.
A Parker ink factory opens.
Monterey Park, athletic field and stadium are finished. The Oct. 10 Gazette reports, “The greatest improvement has been made in the marshland along the Rock River at Western Avenue. …Tons of sand and gravel have been poured into the marsh to raise it above the high water mark. Over this has been spread a top dressing of dirt. A football gridiron has been built and will be in excellent condition for the games next spring. … A stadium seating 3,000 persons is now under construction.”
An estimated $400,000 is spent to help counties blunt the effects of the Great Depression.
The Chevrolet and Fisher Body plants close in September because of declining auto sales and what the company calls an “adverse tax situation in Wisconsin.”
The Richard Ellis American Legion Post opens a job bureau to help the large numbers of unemployed residents.
A large illegal distillery is found on the Frances Willard estate. Willard, one of the founders of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, would not have been pleased.
Members of the 32nd Tank Company and 121st Field Artillery Band are mobilized in response to a statewide farmers’ milk strike. The strike was called to protest low milk prices. A local boy is badly beaten by one of the strikers.
Amelia Earhart speaks to the Janesville Women’s History Club.
The Chevrolet and Fisher Body plants open after being closed for more than a month. The whole city celebrates.
The Chevrolet and Fisher Body plants announce that workers’ hours will be cut to 36 hours a week, but wages will be increased.
The Janesville Gazette hosts its first cooking school.
A measles epidemic in Janesville sickens 937 people, most of them children.
Ossit Bros. Furniture Company moves to Janesville. It later becomes Ossit Church Furniture.
Janesville celebrates its centennial with parades, pageants, a kitten ball tournament, a “Mardi Gras Night” in the business district, band concerts and a ball. Businesses, including the Chevrolet and Fisher Body plants, close for the parade.
The Gazette reports on the highlights of the pageant: “One of the most beautiful scenes of the history pageant … will be that of episode 10, the ballet of beauty and fertility. The ballet will denote the passage of time from 1860 to 1880 as a period devoted largely in this vicinity to agricultural pursuits. … Jan Sarasy will appear as the sun in the ballet. Other dancers will symbolize sunbeams, corn, wheat, the rain and a rainbow.”
Other scenes from the 14-episode pageant include the Indian Period and Black Hawk War, Norway group before emigration, Civil War, first train, first county fair, first social wedding and something referred to as the “Mme. Modjeska scene.”
The Chevrolet and Fisher Body plants employ 3,000 people. A record 115,301 cars and trucks are built at the plants.
Gerta Odegaard is chosen as the “healthiest girl” at the Rock County 4-H Fair. She also took home the prize for handicrafts.
Chevrolet and Fisher Body employees build 139,957 vehicles, beating last year’s record.
The Rock County Board approves hiring motorcycle deputies to patrol the rural roads. At a meeting the same month, the board repeals the dance hall ordinance that bans dancing in taverns and alcohol at dance halls.
Four additional officers join the Janesville Police Department. As a result, the department moves to three eight-hour shifts.
Joseph A. Craig donates the 35-acre county fairgrounds in trust to local agricultural groups, including Rock County’s 4-H clubs.
Sidney H. Bliss and his brother, Robert W. Bliss, become publishers of The Janesville Gazette.
A roundup of health news for 1937 shows “a marked decline in scarlet fever, which was epidemic here during 1935 and 1936,” The Gazette reports. A smallpox outbreak was stopped when “emergency measures were taken by the health department and acted in accord with state law and barred all unvaccinated children from school for two weeks or until they were vaccinated. Within a few days, 2,116 school children were vaccinated.”
An advertisement for Milton College promises, “Eternal vigilance to insure proper health and morals among the student body—supervised, inexpensive dormitory for girls.”
Because of the recession, General Motors lays off 200 workers at the Chevrolet plant. Both Chevrolet and Fisher Body adopt a four-day, 28-hour work week.
The Rock County 4-H Fair’s grandstand burns down. The county agrees to buy part of the land.
Jim and Art Walsh of Janesville lead the University of Wisconsin boxing team to a national championship.
The Rock County Sheriff’s Office starts using radio dispatch.
The Janesville Sportsman Club is organized.
Company A of the 192nd Tank Battalion is mobilized.
Chevrolet and Fisher Body employees manufacture 124,398 vehicles.
On Dec. 8, The Gazette reports, “The American-Japanese war was not an hour old when Janesville suffered its first casualty early Sunday morning. He was Pvt. John Fletcher, 32, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Fletcher, 727 Milwaukee avenue. Mrs. Fletcher received a telegram Sunday night from the war department stating that her son had been killed in the line of duty in the Hawaiian Islands.”
The Fletcher family received a telegram later that month from the Red Cross, telling them that their son had not actually died.
Company A of the 192nd Tank Battalion arrives in the Philippines.
Rock River Woolen Mills, Ossit Church Furniture and Parker Pen all begin doing defense work for the war effort.
A massive fire on the Milwaukee Street Bridge takes out five buildings. Unlike the 1913 fire, the bridge was not destroyed, but several businesses were lost.
Members of Company A become the city’s first prisoners of war.
The local Fisher Body and Chevrolet plants are converted to make artillery shells.
J.P. Cullen & Son wins the contract to expand Camp McCoy’s facilities.
Of Janesville High School’s 327 graduates, 26 are already serving in the military.
Parking meters in downtown Janesville are ruled unconstitutional.
Work is underway at the new Rock County Airport on Highway 51.
An estimated 250 German POWs are brought to Janesville to help pick and can vegetables from local fields. They are housed in tents at Camp Janesville at the corner of Rockport Road and Crosby Avenue.
John P. Cullen, founder of J.P. Cullen & Son, dies at age 77. His son, Mark, takes over the family business.
“World War II Ends!!" The Gazette trumpets Aug. 15. "After days of waiting, the announcement of the final surrender caught thousands in the city without warning at 6 p.m. Tuesday, but automobile loads of celebrators reached the business district within a matter of a few minutes, and the blare of car horns, whistles and bells filled the air from then until well into the night.
"Celebrating crowds brought with them every type of noisemaker known, and pressed into service some which had never been known before. Confetti, colored paper hats, paper ribbons, horns and whistles turned the city into a carnival surpassing the wildest New Year’s eve celebration ever imagined.”
Bob Hiller of Rollin Pin Bakery fame buys Parkview Bakery in Milton.
Mercy Hospital completes a $662,000 addition.
Janesville sprays playgrounds and beaches with DDT in an effort to kill flies. The spraying is part of the city’s polio-prevention program.
Sam Van Galder starts a taxi service, VETS Cab. Within five years, Van Galder buys two school buses and three motor coaches, and the company eventually becomes Van Galder Bus.
Fire destroys almost all of Lima Center. A private home, lumberyard, feed mill, store and post office are consumed by flames.
The Gilman family sells its interest in Gilman Engineering and Manufacturing to Parker Pen executives.
Staff members of The Gazette and WCLO radio unveil their plans for a “powerful new class B (FM) metropolitan radio station that will be located in Janesville." The chief engineer tells radio dealers about the difference between AM and FM. The story predicts that at least 1,000 more FM broadcasting stations will be on the air, throughout the country, in the next two years.
“Pastor Calls for More Good Will for Negroes" reads a headline in the Feb 26 Gazette. "Given the opportunity for education, the negro will contribute his full share to American culture, the Rev. H.C. Kimmel, First Congregational Church, told members of the American Association of University Women at the February meeting at the home of Mrs. Walter Craig, 117 S. Division Street. …While Janesville has no race problem, never-the-less there are prejudices in the community which must be overcome, the speaker declared.”
The city buys 50 acres of land on Randall Avenue for a new high school.
The new Racine Street Bridge opens.
The local General Motors plant churns out 150,000 vehicles, a new record.
Janesville’s population hits 24,899.
The Janesville City Council passes an ordinance barring beer sales to anyone younger than 21. Tavern owners object.
Wisconsin Central Airlines starts passenger service at the Rock County Airport.
George K. Tallman dies, leaving his home to the city.
Eight local men die in Korea.
Five people die from polio.
Janesville High School wins its first cross country championship.
Some 274 Rock County men are drafted for the Korean War, and another 168 volunteer. But the war takes a toll: 11 local men have been killed, and six are missing in action.
The 80-year-old Luther Valley Church, which is being remodeled, is destroyed by fire. The congregation raises enough money to rebuild the church, and it still stands today.
Lewis Knitting closes.
High school graduation is held at Monterey Stadium for the first time.
St. William Catholic Church opens.
Arrow Park, Parker Pen’s new headquarters, opens on what is now Parker Drive.
Fisher Body and Chevrolet plants both add second shifts, and the total number of employees reaches 3,700.
St. William Catholic School opens.
Janesville residents approve borrowing $3.75 million to build a new high school on Randall Avenue.
Frances M. Ford, a Rock County native, is recognized as the author of the children's book “The Little Engine that Could,” according to a Time magazine article published Oct. 5.
In 1854, a young Frances Wiggins arrived in Janesville with her family. They lived on a farm out past what is now the Janesville Country Club. She married in 1919 and went to live in a “little house across from the First Trinity Church that is now used by the Helgeson Implement Company,” according to “Janesville’s Early History.” When her husband became ill, Frances went to work as a reporter. She wrote “The Little Engine that Could” sometime between 1910 and 1914.
Bar hours are extended to 1 a.m.
Parker Pen begins selling its first ballpoint pen, the Jotter.
The Milton House opens its doors as a museum.
“Janesville’s sixth polio case of the year was reported today to the city health department," The Gazette reports Oct. 3. "… Dr. Fred B. Welch, city health officer, today recommended to school authorities that the morning kindergarten at the Garfield School be closed for a seven-day period."
On Oct. 7, The Gazette reports, “A complete schedule for administering of the Salk antipolio vaccine in Janesville schools was announced today by Dr. Fred B. Welch, city health commissioner.”
Bert and Claude Blain open Farm & Fleet. The first store is located in the 300 block of Milwaukee Street.
A new high school opens on Randall Avenue.
St. Elizabeth’s Home for the Aged opens its doors at 502 St. Lawrence Ave. Run by the Sisters of Charity, the home cares for 12 women.
The Chevrolet plant reaches 35 million vehicles built.
The Green Bay Packers play an exhibition game at Monterey Stadium. Bart Starr, a “newcomer,” is the standout.
Mercy Hospital builds a four-story wing, giving it a 240-bed capacity.
Janesville opens its Central Fire Station on Milton Avenue. Another fire station at 906 W. Racine St. will open later in the year.
The first parking ramp is built on North Parker Drive and Wall Street.
Fisher Body and Chevrolet now employ 4,900 workers.
Frank Silha starts Frank Silha Excavating.
Employment reaches 5,000 at the Fisher Body and Chevrolet plants.
Creston Park Shopping Center opens, as does Sunnyside Shopping Center on what is known as West Court Street.
Janesville’s first McDonald’s opens on Milton Avenue.
Gene Autry performs at the Rock County 4-H Fair.
A March blizzard drops 10.4 inches of snow. That and record-breaking cold spells make the winter of 1958-59 one of the worse in decades. In April, residents living in low-lying areas near the Rock River and Turtle Creek have to be evacuated because of flooding.
Sen. John F. Kennedy speaks in Janesville.
El-Ra Bowl opens with 16 automatic lanes.
Fireman William Finnane, 26, dies while fighting the Schlueter plant fire.
The Rock County Humane Society opens its doors at 222 S. Arch St.
Janesville’s population hits 35,164, jumping more than 10,000 in the past decade.
Bobby Kennedy stops in Janesville to campaign for his brother, John F. Kennedy, who is running for president. JFK also makes a stop at the General Motors plant.
Daniel Parker, grandson of George S. Parker, becomes president and chief executive of Parker Pen.
Cargill United Methodist Church opens.
The Lone Ranger and his horse, Silver, appear at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds.
Workers at the Fisher Body and Chevrolet plants undergo intermittent layoffs because of the recession.
In September, members of United Auto Workers Local 95 in Janesville go on a wildcat strike over unresolved grievances.
Franklin Junior High opens.
After more than 100 years in operation, Rock River Woolen Mills shuts its doors.
Janesville High School wins the state’s cross country championship.
In 1963, the three major companies in Janesville are Chevrolet, Fisher Body and Parker Pen. They employ nearly half of all workers in the city.
The parking lot over the Rock River between the Milwaukee and Court street bridges opens.
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church opens a new school on Ringold Avenue.
The Janesville School Board approves spending more than $40,000 to buy land off Mineral Point Avenue for a second high school.
Alabama Gov. George Wallace speaks in Janesville. He is greeted by supporters at the airport and protesters at the speaking venue.
Parkview High School opens in Orfordville.
St. John Vianney Catholic Church and Faith Lutheran Church open their doors.
“Janesville’s teachers at a meeting Wednesday afternoon voted 230 to 9 to withhold contracts until three days before they are due as an expression of dissatisfaction with the board’s compromise salary decision which those the meeting accepted ‘very reluctantly,’” The Gazette reports March 11.
On March 23, The Gazette reports that the Rock County Board approved a "countywide mapping and soil survey, important to health, agriculture and population growth problems."
Jackson and Madison elementary schools open.
Employment at the General Motors operations hits a new high of 5,709.
Classes start at the new two-year UW-Rock County campus.
William Grudzinski 20, becomes the first Rock County resident to die in the Vietnam War.
The 100 millionth General Motors vehicle made in America rolls off the line at the local plant.
Jack Pregont opens Prent Corp.
Members of the International Typographical Union Local 197 strike at The Janesville Gazette. The strike lasted for 105 weeks.
Construction delays mean that Parker High School can't open in fall as planned. As a result, students have to attend Craig High School in two shifts.
Monroe Elementary School opens.
Parker High School opens.
The new Janesville Library opens at 316 S. Main St.
The new Janesville City Hall is dedicated.
General Motors places Fisher Body and Chevrolet under its new general assembly division. Employment reaches 7,000.
The Vietnam War continues to take a toll, with another 10 Rock County men reportedly killed.
Pfc. Leslie Bellrichard of Janesville, who threw his body on a live grenade and saved other soldiers' lives, is posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Eight more Rock County men are reportedly killed in the war.
Van Buren Elementary School opens.
Dutch Elm disease continues to decimate the city’s urban forest.
After the shooting of four students at Kent State, student protests erupt across in nation. In Janesville, about 60 people march in front of the armory. Among them is Phil Parrish, a member of the Janesville 99 and one of few members who survived the Bataan Death March.
Janesville residents perform a massive cleanup on the Rock River.
The Meals on Wheels program starts.
Harrison Elementary School opens.
Don and Gerry Hedberg open their new business, Science Related Materials, on River Street. The company eventually becomes Lab Safety Supply and later Grainger.
The United Auto Workers union dedicates Walter P. Reuther Memorial Hall.
Edison Junior High School opens.
Montgomery Ward department store opens in what will eventually become the Janesville Mall.
Three churches open: Our Savior Lutheran, Southside Baptist and Wesleyan Methodist, now called Wesleyan Church.
The Parker boys basketball team wins the state basketball championship.
Dana Corp. buys Highway Trailer in Edgerton.
The Rock County Health Care Center opens at a cost of $5.5 million.
The Janesville City Council repeals the age restrictions on pinball. Previously, players had to be 18 years old.
Blackhawk Technical Institute buys an 83-acre site between Janesville and Beloit.
The Janesville Mall opens.
For the first time, Janesville’s eight elementary schools begin serving hot lunch.
Creston Park Mall is enclosed.
Janesville’s first Taco Bell opens.
The energy crisis hits, and General Motors lays off 3,400 employees for two weeks in January. They return to work for about two weeks before being laid off again.
The Kiwanis Club raises money and members donate their time to build some of Janesville’s first hiking and biking trails.
JC Penney announces that it is moving from its downtown location to the Janesville Mall.
The Janesville Ice Arena opens.
The Craig High School football team has a 9-0 season.
Loretta Lynn performs at the Rock County 4-H Fair.
In January, the ongoing recession, energy crisis and other factors force General Motors to lay off the plant’s 2,100 second-shift workers on the car line and another 600 on the truck line. Most of the laid-off workers return to work in July.
Under a new contract, Janesville teachers receive 10.25% raises and cost-of-living adjustments.
Speaking of raises, the Janesville Police Union seeks a 10% pay raise for its members, while the firefighters union wants a 15% raise.
The Wuthering Hills subdivision is under development.
Leonard Duckworth opens Minuteman Press.
Janesville’s Jim Fitzgerald, along with a group of other businessmen, leads a group that buys a majority interest in the Milwaukee Bucks.
Milton Avenue becomes three lanes in both directions.
Bicentennial celebrations are held by just about every church and service club in the community. The Janesville Bicentennial Committee’s premiere event is a costume ball at the Janesville Mall. The $5 ticket includes “elegant hors d’oeuvres, a presentation by Janesville's own Bicentennial Fife and Drum Corps and a bronze commemorative keepsake medallion that is sure to become a collector’s item,” according to an ad in The Gazette.
Music for the event is provided by the Howie Sturtz Orchestra.
On Aug. 6, The Gazette reports, “The Myers Theater execution began Friday afternoon with a crew from R.T. Madden Co., Janesville, wielding the steel ball and merchants and employees from nearby buildings looking on. The first demolition blow was struck at 3:45 p.m. A heavy rain fell as workers began the destruction job that sent the building’s walls tumbling to the blocked-off street. The East Milwaukee site will be used as part of the Rock County National Bank’s Expansion."
The Gazette runs an Aug. 13 story about Sears leaving the downtown. “Rumors of the Sears Roebuck store leaving downtown Janesville gained credence Friday when a Milwaukee-based real estate company confirmed it had been hired to dispose of the Sears lease. Sears reportedly has a seven- or eight-year lease remaining on its central business district property."
The Janesville Police Department hires two female police officers, and the Rock County Sheriff’s Office hires its first female deputy.
Janesville’s Labor Day parade, “the parade of champions,” is canceled because of a lack of sponsors.
After a lackluster regular season, Parker High School's baseball team goes on a winning streak and takes the state championship.
General Motors employs more 7,100 people, a new record for the plant. The annual payroll is $128.5 million.
Janesville records nearly 70 inches of snowfall in the winter of 1978-79, breaking all previous records for snowfall.
Six people die in a fire on North Main Street, the worst fatal fire in Janesville history.
Parking meters are removed from downtown streets.
Fred Holt retires after 19 years as the Janesville School District superintendent.
Tammy Wynette and Kenny Rogers perform at the Rock County 4-H Fair.
The J.M. Bostwick and Sons department store in downtown Janesville is slated to close at the end of the year. The store's local roots date back to 1856.
St. John’s Lutheran Church takes in refugees from Cambodia.
Parker High School students hold a “Unity Day” in support of the hostages in Iran.
Barbara Mandrell, Ronnie Milsap, Loretta Lynn, the Oak Ridge Boys and Dr. Hook perform at the Rock County 4-H Fair.
After a series of rolling layoffs at General Motors and businesses that support the plant, Rock County’s unemployment rate hits 17%.
Janesville builds its fourth fire station on East Milwaukee Street.
Simmons USA, a mattress company, comes to Janesville.
Dawson Ball Fields open.
Parker Pen completes a renovation of its headquarters on Court Street.
The Janesville School Board decides to close Rock, Happy Hollow and Hill Crest elementary schools because of declining enrollment.
Chubby Checker performs at the Rock County 4-H Fair, as do the Lennon Sisters.
The Janesville General Motors plant makes its 10 millionth vehicle.
UW-Rock County builds the Kirk Denmark Theatre and a gym.
The unemployment rate is still at 17% as the year opens. The second shift on General Motors' car line remains out of work while the company retools.
After retooling is complete, the local plant starts to make Chevrolet Cavaliers and Cadillac Cimarrons.
Rockport Pool opens, and Milton College closes.
Work starts on the Crosby-Willard Bridge.
Mercy Hospital gets its first CAT scan machine.
Ken and Diane Hendricks found ABC Supply.
Craig High School wins the state baseball championship.
In a move that’s ahead of the curve, the Janesville Public Library puts its card catalog and circulation information on a computer.
Clinton native Craig Knutson becomes Rock County administrator.
Plans are announced to transform the old cotton mill buildings along the Rock River into apartments.
Janesville’s sewer rates rise for the first time since the late 1960s. As a result, many households see their rates almost double.
A new amphitheater opens in Lower Courthouse Park.
General Motors announces it will not make pickup trucks in Janesville after model year 1986.
The Craig baseball team wins another state championship.
Construction starts on a new Rock County Jail at the corner of highways 14 and 51.
Janesville celebrates its sesquicentennial with a variety of events, including a Civil War reenactment and concerts by Chuck Berry and Tommy James. A parade featuring 11 marching bands and 40 floats is the most popular event.
Parker Pen announces it will sell its pen business, the Writing Instrument Group, to London-based investors. The investor group says it plans to keep production going in the Janesville plant, but more than 100 workers have been laid off by the end of the year.
The Plain Brown Wrapper adult bookstore in downtown Janesville is closed. “Economics appears to have accomplished what scores of anti-pornography advocates failed to do for nearly a decade," The Gazette reports Oct. 15.
The newspaper also runs a story Oct. 15 about early attempts at recycling: “The Janesville-Rock County Landfill is experimenting with recycling. Residential users of the landfill who separate newspaper and aluminum cans from their trash now can put the recyclable material in (a) receptacle, … If enough materials are recycled during the month-long experiment, the landfill will sell the material."
A federal program offers to buy farmers’ dairy herds. In exchange, the farmers must promise to give up dairying for five years. More than 100 Rock County farmers sign up for the offer, but only 30 are accepted.
General Motors employees approve changes—and make concessions—in their contracts in an effort to lure another product to the Janesville plant. About two months later, GM announces it will build commercial-grade pickups at the plant for two years.
The Trax Complex, which housed bars and restaurants at 120 Academy St., burns down. The cause of the fire is arson, but despite a $6,000 reward, the case is never solved.
A major fire shuts down the Creston Park Shopping Mall just before the busiest part of the holiday season. The shopping mall doesn’t reopen until the next year.
Janesville's Downtown Plan and Revitalization Strategy reminds people of what they already know: “The presence of the Rock River and a substantial number of historically and architecturally significant structures along Main Street and Milwaukee Street help define the image of the city and contribute to the urban fabric of the downtown.”
The Rev. Jesse Jackson speaks in Janesville as part of his campaign for president.
The Gazette begins publishing a Sunday newspaper.
Glen Oaks, a school for children with physical and cognitive disabilities, closes its doors. The students are integrated into Janesville’s public schools.
Tom and Sandy Metcalf host Wisconsin Farm Progress Days on their farm east of Janesville. Despite torrential rains, about 100,000 people visit the farm over the three-day event.
Javon Bea becomes the top leader at Mercy Hospital when Sister Mary Michael Berry announces her retirement.
Sidney H. “Skip” Bliss becomes publisher of The Gazette. Robert W. Bliss continues to work as publisher until 1992, when he retires.
General Motors announces that the Janesville plant has been picked to manufacture sport utility vehicles, including Suburbans, Tahoes and Yukons.
The Janesville School Board bans the use of tobacco on school grounds and in school buildings.
Dr. Robert Yahr and the city’s two Rotary Clubs begin construction of Rotary Botanical Gardens.
Lab Safety Supply, the company that began its life as Science Related Materials on River Street, moves into its new headquarters on Wright Road.
Lear Seating builds a factory off Wright Road.
Franklin Lanes, previously known as Franklin Gardens, 18 N. Franklin Street, is demolished to make way for a parking lot.
The Salter Report reveals that the Rock County Social Services Department is failing to protect children from abuse. The report's author, Anna Salter, blames competing ideas on how to handle child abuse and bureaucratic groups that are competing with each other.
“In a choice between loyalty to each other, to other professionals in the field, to other adults and abused children, we must speak for the children,” Salter says.
Local National Guard units prepare to go to Fort McCoy and then to Saudi Arabia as part of a ramping-up of military forces during the Persian Gulf War.
On Jan. 17, The Gazette reports on the personal aspects of the Gulf War: “At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the clock stopped for Toni Powers. Only minutes before, she called her mother-in-law to say she didn’t think anything would happen in the Middle East anymore today. Then she heard the news. The U.S. attack against Iraq was under way. Suddenly, the startling reality that Toni feared for months was real. Toni’s son, Rick Noggle, was at war."
Scott Angus, who has worked at The Gazette for more than a decade, takes over as editor of the paper.
J.J. Smith, a downtown jewelry store since 1910, closes its doors.
George and Nancy Parker create a $100,000 endowment for library programs. The Parkers' philanthropic efforts are evident on donor boards in hospitals, libraries and other organizations throughout Rock County.
A series of Ku Klux Klan rallies leaves a permanent stain on the city’s reputation—and brings TV personality Geraldo Rivera to Janesville. Ken Petersen, a local member of the Klan, tells a Gazette reporter that he’s the one who has suffered discrimination.
Gillette Co. buys Parker Pen for $561 million. The company says it has no plans to close any plants. The Janesville plant employs 650 people.
A Janesville police officer now works full time in both of the city’s high schools.
Construction starts on Rock Theatres, a seven-screen multiplex on Newport Drive.
Janesville police officers begin enforcing an anti-cruising ordinance.
Johnny Cash performs at the Rock County 4-H Fair.
The Parker High School girls basketball team wins the state championship.
Miracle the white buffalo is born on the Heider farm in Janesville. She is considered the first white buffalo born since 1933, and the event draws crowds of visitors, particularly Native Americans, from around the world.
The Gazette reports May 4 that “Janesville police are warning area bartenders to watch out for counterfeit $100 and $50 bills. The funny money should be easy to spot: it’s black and white. ‘They’re black and white off a copy machine,’ said Richard Thurner, Janesville police crime prevention specialist.”
On May 25, The Gazette runs a story about a failed proposal to open a school day care for the babies of Craig High School students. “I have a philosophical problem with day care in school,” said Susan Jacobson, a Janesville School Board and personnel committee member.
Curbside recycling starts in Janesville.
The Wisconsin Badgers win the Rose Bowl. “This ball game ranks up there with the birth of my kids as one of the best times of my life,” a jubilant Jim Terrill says in a phone call from the Rose Bowl.
Beloved educator Ken Bick dies.
The Janesville City Council approves a fifth fire station on Newport Avenue.
Local developer Jim Grafft buys the Monterey Hotel for $350,000.
The Janesville City Council agrees to spend $2.3 million to help expand and remodel the downtown YMCA and Boys & Girls Club. The money is primarily used to demolish properties and improve traffic flow.
The House of Mercy Homeless Center opens.
Marshall Middle School opens.
By 31 votes, Janesville School District voters approve a referendum to build a new elementary school—later named Kennedy Elementary—on the city's northeast side and expand Wilson and Lincoln elementary schools.
The two-story Sears store celebrates its grand opening in the Janesville Mall.
Janesville police start bicycle patrols.
The pop band ‘N Sync performs at the Rock County 4-H Fair before rocketing to global superstardom.
Kay Kuffer dies of starvation in her Janesville home.
A horrific van crash on Interstate 90/39 kills seven young members of a traveling magazine sales crew.
Crawford Gates retires after 45 years of leading the Beloit Janesville Symphony Orchestra.
The Milton School Board agrees to retire the high school’s nickname, the Redmen.
Rock County’s nursing home, Rock Haven, announces plans to downsize.
A hurricane-like thunderstorm passes through the county in early August, tossing trees through roofs and across roads, flattening crops and cutting off electricity to 18,000 homes and businesses. Emergency management officials say it’s the worst storm in 35 years.
Despite strong opposition from unions, the Rock County Board votes to downsize Rock Haven, the county nursing home. The facility will drop from 320 patients to 180 patients over two to three years. The nursing home cost taxpayers $6.6 million in 2000.
Choan Lane, the leader of a traveling magazine sales crew involved in a March 1999 van crash that killed seven people near Janesville, is sentenced to two years in prison plus 21 months in jail.
Parker High School's girls basketball team wins the state championship for the second time in eight years.
Race car driver Stan Fox dies after a head-on car accident in New Zealand.
Local residents huddle around their televisions for days, trying to glean any scrap of information—or understanding—about the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Mercy announces plans to close Mercy Manor, a nursing home in downtown Janesville. The home’s residents are transferred to other nursing homes and short-term care patients are moved to Mercy Hospital. Federal, state and local officials ask Mercy to reconsider, citing the shrinking number of nursing home beds in Rock County.
Parker High School's girls basketball team picks up its second straight state title.
Jim Halbach opens a nude strip club/juice bar across from the General Motors plant. Some people speculate that his motivations have less to do with entertainment and more with getting back at the city council, which denied him a liquor license.
Edgerton officials rejoice when Save-A-Lot announces plans to build a warehouse in the city's industrial park.
The city contributes $1 million to redevelop the old Marshall Middle School auditorium downtown into the Janesville Performing Arts Center. Project organizers have raised $4 million, and a groundbreaking is held in November.
Janesville’s Travis Kvapil captures the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series title on the last lap of the last race of the season.
Hedwig “Heddy” Braun, 88, is abducted from her home in the town of Troy. The kidnapper demands $3 million. Braun is found four days later, locked in a small trailer on the property of a family friend, Reinier Ravesteijn. When officers find her, Braun asks, “What took you so long?” Ravesteijn is sentenced to 18 to 45 years in prison.
President George Bush visits Janesville as part of his re-election campaign. John Kerry appears in Beloit.
General Motors says it will sink $175 million into its Janesville plant for the continued production of full-size trucks.
Miracle, who was born a white buffalo and who later became sort of brownish, dies. Her birth in 1994 brought in visitors from around the world.
Tony Bennett performs at the Janesville Performing Arts Center's opening weekend.
The Iraq war claims the lives of Army Pfc. Sean Schneider of Janesville and Marine Pfc. Andrew Halverson, who was born in Janesville and went to school in Clinton.
Janesville residents vote to keep the city manager form of government.
“Residents of the city, county and state breathed a sigh of relief in November upon learning that General Motors has no immediate plans to close its truck assembly plant in Janesville,” The Gazette reports in its year-end roundup.
Janesville’s Tucker Fredricks earns a berth in the 2006 Winter Olympics as a member of the speed-skating team.
Rock County Coroner Karen Gilbertson pleads guilty to felony misconduct in office. She admits to police that she stole prescription medicine from death scenes.
Janesville voters pass a $70.8 million referendum for improvements to the city’s two high schools.
General Motors offers buyouts and early retirement packages to workers. About 900 employees, or about 25% of the local workforce, accept the company's offer.
A land swap between Rock County and local businessmen falls through after the county finds out that its land is worth $10.6 million more than the other parcel. The plan would have moved the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds and the Snappers baseball stadium to the town of La Prairie. In exchange, the businessmen proposing the deal would have gotten a piece of land near the Rock County farm. That parcel was considered good for farming and also rich in sand and gravel deposits.
The Walmart Supercenter and Sam’s Club open in Janesville.
A four-year fight over a carriage barn/shed ends when the city demolishes the structure. K. Andreah Briarmoon, the owner, calls the structure a carriage barn and argues that the city is abusing its eminent domain powers. City officials call it a shed and say its dilapidated condition requires removal.
Danyetta Lentz and her two teenage children, Nicole and Scott, are murdered in their mobile home south of Janesville. Neighbor James Koepp is charged in the killings.
Ambrosio Analco of Delavan shoots and kills five other people—his ex-girlfriend, twin sons the couple had together, his ex-girlfriend’s sister and another woman—before turning the gun on himself.
Businessman and philanthropist Ken Hendricks, founder of ABC Supply, dies after a fall in his Afton home.
Workers at the local General Motors plant go on a brief strike over national contract negotiations. The strike lasts 40 hours.
Walworth County residents vote to shrink their county board from 25 to 11 supervisors.
UW-Whitewater wins the first of many NCAA Division III national championships.
The top story of 2008—and perhaps the city’s history—is the end of SUV production at the Janesville General Motors plant. The plant, which had been in operation since 1919, is all but closed by the end of the year. About 50 workers remain into 2009 to work on a medium-duty truck line in partnership with Isuzu.
Between the layoffs at the GM plant and its local suppliers, more than 3,300 auto industry workers lose their jobs. The situation at the plant has a domino effect on other employers, and nearly 900 people are laid off from non-auto industry jobs.
Janesville City Manager Steve Sheifer retires after 21 years on the job.
Snow closes schools for four days.
The Rock River rises to a record level: 13.51 feet in Afton. The previous record, 13.5 feet, was set in 1916. The flooding is caused by a record 70.1 inches of snow in the winter of 2007-08 and a two-week downpour in June that brings 7 inches of rain.
The Gazette describes 2009 as a year “many people want to forget.”
“Page after page of the 2009 newspapers contained stories of area business laying off more workers, companies moving out of the area and the struggles those changes left for former employees,” the story notes.
Heroin makes a comeback in southern Wisconsin. Six heroin- or opioid-related deaths occurred in 2008, and seven were reported in the first month of 2009.
In June, General Motors announces it will produce a new small car at one of three plants that were closed or scheduled to close. The state’s $409 million incentive package to draw the company back to Janeseville doesn't come close to Michigan’s $1 billion offer. The new plant goes to Orion, Michigan.
Kyle Hicke shoots his ex-girlfriend, highlighting the problem of domestic violence.
SSM Health Care and Dean Health System break ground on a new 313,000-square-foot hospital and clinic at Racine Street and Interstate 90/39.
Craig and Parker high schools are remodeled and expanded.
The United Auto Workers Local 95 announces it can no longer continue its tradition of buying and bagging food for needy families. The Janesville School District’s employees take up the cause.
After many complaints about the coroner, which is an elected post, the Rock County Board votes to switch to a medical examiner system. Medical examiners are hired, not elected.
A 13-year-old Edgerton middle school boy dies after overdosing on the prescription drug oxycodone, which he had gotten from a 14-year-old friend. The friend had stolen the medication from a family member.
It’s a good year for Rock County crops. Farmers report getting as much as 50 additional bushels per acre of corn and soybeans.
Local municipalities and the Janesville School District adjust to changes brought about by Act 10, a controversial law that stripped public employee unions of most of their bargaining rights.
Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center opens a new emergency room near Pine Tree Plaza, conveniently close to the new SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital and Clinic opening in January.
The largest dairy in Rock County opens its doors on Highway 14, two miles east of the Walworth County line. Eventually, the dairy will be able to milk 4,600 cows and house a total of 5,200.
The Wisconsin Badgers make it to the Rose Bowl but lose to Texas Christian University.
The Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl.
The Milwaukee Brewers win the National League championship.
Janesville’s own Republican Rep. Paul Ryan runs for vice president with presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Janesville approves a development agreement with SHINE Medical Technologies, which plans to build a facility to produce medical isotopes on the city’s south side.
U.S. Army Cpl. Benjamin Neal, 25, of Orfordville dies in Afghanistan.
The emerald ash borer appears in Rock County, putting the county's ash trees in jeopardy.
The Highway 26 bypass of Milton opens.
The Rock County 4-H Fair sets a single-day attendance record of 30,667, primarily because of a concert by the up-and-coming country band Florida Georgia Line.
The city’s unemployment rate continues to drop after staying stubbornly in the double digits in 2009 and 2010. In October, unemployment in Rock County is at 6.9%.
The Rock River floods—again. Lake Koshkonong's water level reaches 12.4 feet, nearly a foot above major flood stage. The flooding is nowhere close to the historic flood of 2008.
Mark Freitag is hired as Janesville's new city manager. Frietag, a U.S. Army colonel, makes a favorable impression on the city council and resident groups, and he is favored over longtime city employee and Acting City Manager Jay Winzenz. Freitag has never worked outside a military base before.
Debate rages over plans to build a new Central Fire Station, especially after people learn it will mean the loss of 12 homes, 11 of them occupied.
Developer Bill Watson proposes an interchange and industrial park on the Interstate 90/39 corridor and County M. The city of Milton, town of Fulton and other players reject his overtures.
The Janesville Kmart store closes, as does the JCPenney store in the Janesville Mall.
Rep. Paul Ryan becomes the 54th speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
General Motors announces what everyone already knew: The company plans to close the Janesville assembly plant for good and sell the building.
McFarland police officer and Rock County resident Ryan Copeland is killed when his squad car collides with a pickup truck. Copeland was on his way to pick up his canine partner, Boris, when the accident occurs.
Dollar General announces plans to build a warehouse south of the city.
Dick's Sporting Goods and Ulta Cosmetics open up shop in the Janesville Mall.
Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Bernie Sanders visit Janesville during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
Jessica Warner-Reed is sentenced to two years in prison and 12 years of probation for taking an estimated $303,876 from Craig High School’s student activity accounts while she worked at the high school.
Great Lakes Basin Transportation changes the route of a proposed railroad through Rock County. Area residents don't care for the new route, either, and eventually the plan for a new rail line is dropped.
Milwaukee Street is converted to two-way traffic.
Joseph Jakubowski, 33, of Janesville sets off a massive manhunt after he sends a rambling letter to President Donald Trump, takes 18 firearms from a Janesville gun shop and disappears.
Janesville's former General Motors plant finally sells to a brownfield redeveloper, Commercial Development Company.
The heroin and opioid crisis continues to ravage the community.
Rep. Paul Ryan announces his retirement from Congress.
The Monterey Dam is removed.
The ARISE project transforms Janesville's downtown and riverfront, creating a town square and festival street.
Heroin overdoses plague Rock and Walworth counties.
The 100-year-old General Motors plant is demolished. Bricks from the plant are in hot demand and are distributed via a drive-thru format.
YMCA CEO Tom Den Boer departs under pressure.
Embattled Milton School District Superintendent Tim Schigur and Director of Administrative Operations Jerry Schuetz agree to step down with $447,000 in severance pay.
Milton School District voters approve a facilities referendum on the third try. The referendum will make improvements to most district schools, but it does not contain money for a new high school.
Delays plague Janesville's Milwaukee Street Bridge project. The Gazette refers to it as the “Gilligan’s Island three-hour tour” of local road projects.
The Janesville Mall as tapped as a possible location for a sports complex.
Bliss Communications announces that it intends to sell its newspapers, including The Gazette, to Adams Publishing Group and its radio stations to Ben Thompson of Big Radio. The move ends more than 130 years of Bliss family newspaper ownership.
The retrospective for 2020 has yet to be written, but it almost certainly will include the effects of a global pandemic on businesses, government, schools and the community. And The Gazette will be there to tell the story.
Sources: The Janesville Gazette archives; “Century of Stories” by Mike DuPre; “Janesville Public Library: A Centennial History, 1884-1984” by Janice K. Pierce; “History of Janesville Public Schools” by Bernice Cadman; “History of Parker Pen Company” by Les Provisor and Geoffrey S. Parker, originally published in “The Pennant” magazine.