Whitefish Bay Historical Society

Website for the historical society of the Village of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.

Stories of Whitefish Bay

People of Whitefish Bay: Kaestners, Leus and Mohrs

Posted on April 10, 2012 at 8:50 PM

Kaestners, Leus and Mohrs - Early Settlers and Farmers of WFBThe Mohr Family

The Kaestners, Leus and Mohrs were early farmers in the area that is now the Village of Whitefish Bay. They farmed land that is located in the southwestern portion of the Village. Their homes represent some of the earliest surviving homes built in Whitefish Bay, and good examples of 1880 farm houses.  In addition to farming in the same area of the Village, all three families became intertwined through various marriages. 


John Mohr is shown in the 1850 census as a farmer, age 48, originally from Germany, living with his wife Ava and children Philip and Andreas. Records indicate that John Mohr died in 1852. At the time of his death, he had 20 acres of land.


John and Ava's son, Philip Mohr, married Dorthea (Doris) Rose, daughter of Johann and Anna Marie Rose, who farmed land located just north of the Mohr family, in 1861. Philip was 21 at the time. The 1880 census shows them with 9 children. Their first son, John, married Alvina Leu, daughter of Ludwig and Rosa Leu. They moved into Alvina’s parents home, still standing at 400 East Hampton Road. Their daughter, Adelaide, continued to live in the residence as late as 1992.


Philip and Dorthea Mohr’s son William eventually became Whitefih Bay’s first lamplighter.


At least 17 Mohrs are recorded as buried in the Town of Milwaukee cemetery.


On September 25, 1925, the Shorewood Radio (forerunner of the Whitefish Bay Herald) reported that, “Philip H. Mohr, 88 years old, has lived on his farm on Washington Avenue (now Henry Clay Street) for 61 years. The farm is about three blocks east of the Port Washington Road. His father came to this country 61 years ago from Germany, bought this farm land and lived there until his death, when it went to his son and grandson, in turn.” The interview goes on to report how the Mohrs hunted bears and wolves on their property, hauled loads of cordwood to the City and sold them at the marketplace – now the site of Milwaukee’s City Hall.


Philip Mohr’s obituary (March 8, 1929) reported that he used to help his father bring farm produce and wood to the market in Milwaukee via oxen drawn cart. It was necessary to ford the Milwaukee River at a spot in what is now Lincoln Park.


The Kaestner Family

George Kaestner came from Germany and in 1849 married Mary Mohr, daughter of John and Eva Mohr. They farmed land south of Henry Clay. Their son, Henry and his wife, Alvina, built the house at 106 W. Henry Clay St. It originally stood on the south side of the street. Henry and Alvina’s daughter, Clara, married Fred Mohr, a greatgrandchild of John and Eva Mohr, and moved the house across the road to its present location.




The Leu Family

Julius Leu came to Milwaukee with his parents in 1865, married Pauline, and farmed near Lancaster St. and Santa Monica for 20 years.



Picture of Julius and Pauline Leu


Julius and Pauline's son, Ludwig, built the house at 400 E. Hampton Rd. on the south side of Hampton in 1886. It was moved to the north side in 1889 and was later occupied by Adelaide Mohr, a granddaughter of Ludwig’s, and her nephew and his wife, the Gordon Mohrs. Adelaide lived in the home until 1992. Ludwig also built the house at 519 E. Hampton Rd. in about 1890.


Vegetable Farmers

On census reports all three families were listed as vegetable farmers. It is believed that their produce was sold at various farmers’ markets in the City of Milwaukee. The photograph below shows workers (unidentified, but presumably members of the Mohr family) in the field on Fred Mohr’s farm land.



Harvesting from Fred Mohr's vegetable farm.  Workers are not identified but are likely members of the Mohr family.


In addition to building classic, sturdy homes, all lovingly maintained by their current owners, the three families contributed to the village’s civic history. Julius Leu was a village trustee from 1896-99 and from 1908-17. He also served as the village’s Street Commissioner and headed its Department of Public Works. John and Eva Mohr’s son, Andrew, became the Treasurer of the Town of Milwaukee, and his son, William, was the village’s first lamplighter.


Their four homes are among 15 properties in the southwest part of the village that had bronze medallions placed in their sidewalks in 2010 in recognition of their placement on the Whitefish Bay Architecture and Historic Inventory (AHI). A walking tour of this portion of the Village has been prepared and is available at the WFB Library and Village Hall. 


The full list of the more than 125 properties on the AHI is on the village website, www.wfbvillage.org.

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