Kemah Farm, Residence of Albert W. Harris
East Delavan - Once a Prosperous Community
Today East Delavan is little more than a blip on the map but in the 1800s it was a bustling community.
In the early 1840s farmers Samuel Utter. Truman Pierce, along with Pierce's sons-in-law Kirkland G. Wright and Calvin Carrington built a store and shops at the intersection of Delavan and Geneva Roads. (Now Theatre Road and Highway 50).
By 1845 the community had added a log school-house. On February 24, 1845 17 members of the community met in the schoolhouse along with invited guest Reverend Henry Topping of Delavan to organize a church. The congregation of the Delavan and Geneva Baptist Church held their Sunday services at the log school house. Church members built their first church building in 1846 on land donated by Chauncey Woodford, who had also donated the land for the school. By 1868 the congregation of the Baptist church had outgrown their building and began construction of a new wood frame building. At about this same time East Delavan School District No. 2 had replaced the log school.
The new white wood church was completed in 1869 at a cost of $2,327. The church building was dedicated as East Delavan Baptist Church on February 16, 1870, only days before the 25th anniversary of the formation of the church. East Delavan Baptist Church would be served by this building for the next 100 years.
During its heyday, East Delavan had about a school, church, horse doctor, blacksmith chop owned by Chauncey Woodford, a town hall with a library, a post office, a creamery, and about a dozen homes with 50 residents. The post office built in 1872 was on the Star Route (mail carrier) between Elkhorn and Harvard. The first post master was Zina Cotton.
Since East Delavan was the closet community it is likely that early residents of the area around Williams Bay travelled to East Delavan to attend church services, for supplies, and to have farm and wagon equipment repaired at the blacksmith shop. And it was documented by early settlers that the road to Geneva was impassable for part of the year.
According to Albert Beckwith's History of Walworth County (1912), Kirkland Wright served as a town associate supervisor in 1849 and 1851. Samuel Utter served as town supervisor in 1850, 1855-56, 1860, and 1862.
The creamery which stood on the northwest corner of the intersection burned in June 1911. The creamery was rebuilt and continued operation, producing about 3,500 pounds of butter per month.
Over time better roads made travel easier to other area communities with more resources and the arrival of the Chicago & North Western train to Williams Bay in 1888 brought the village opportunities for growth and business. As one room schoolhouses became obsolete students from the area around East Delavan were bussed to other school districts including Williams Bay.
East Delavan would become a destination again when two investors from Illinois purchased 22 acres and built an drive-in theater in 1950. The outdoor theater featured a 38 x 55 foot movie screen and was capable of holding 850 cars. The theater premiered on May 26, 1950 showing the movie Cheaper by the Dozen starring Clifton Webb, Myrna Loy, and Jeanne Crain. The drive-in closed in the 1980s and was demolished in 1992. Today it is a compost management site.
Today only a few signs remain of the once prosperous community.
Past Stories - Click on a link below to read.