The Van Brunt family was well known in Horicon and Willard A. Van Brunt made a fortune in the manufacturing of the seeders and drills. A. A. Washburn worked in what was called the Monitor Factory. One of the buildings in Horicon was later known as the Cocking Locker plant and the upstairs held a Paint Shop. Since there was no side tracks at the time the men had to haul the freight from the plants to the railroad depot and they made about $1 a day for ten hours.
A. A. Washburn worked under Hank Matthes and Gus Roper and he hauled the seeders to the depot and hauled a load of pig iron back to the plant. The pig iron came in two foot bars and had to be broken in two parts to be used in the furnace which was just east of the locker plant. They had a cannon sunk in the ground and it took a few strong men to pick up the iron bar and strike it on the cannon to break it. A Mr. Williams was the engineer of the old Monitor works and Guy Williams was in charge of the Van Brunt Furnace.
Willard Van Brunt and his brother-in-law, Spence Davis, own the Monitor works. Then in the 1890’s Van Brunt sold out and then Mr. Davis moved the plant to St. Louis Park, near Minneapolis, where it eventually became part of the present Minneapolis-Moline concern and it still manufactured farm implements.
Washburn bought the Horicon Reporter in January of 1900 when it was at 224 E. Lake St. and later it moved again to 115 S. Vine St.
Van Brunt like to stop in and visit the business locals and he would stop at the Report quite often. He knew a lot of the leading men in the state so politics was a regular topic.
Now the Pan American Expo was held in Buffalo, New York in 1900 and President McKinley later in 1901 was assassinated in Buffalo. Wisconsin had a building at the Expo and our government contributed a sum to erect and furnish the building until after the exposition was over.
Governor Schofield appointed Willard Van Brunt to take charge of Wisconsin’s part in the expo. Willard applied himself to the task with his genius to economical business. There was more money that came in for a creditable representation at the expo and a large sum of money was turned back into the state treasury.
It was commendable so Mr. Washburn wrote an article for the paper complimenting Mr. Van Brunt on the great example of how good business principles should be applied.
A Mr. Martin Rich, well-known resident, read the article and took it to Willard. Mr. Willard told Rich that if he went back and bought up every copy of the Reporter and burn them up, he would give him $1,000. Later in the week Willard came to the Reporter office and talked with Washburn. He never said a word about the article but he handed A. A. Washburn a paper and it was a check for $200.00 which was quite a bit of money then.
Later, this man, Willard, was also the one to give to the head of each family that had worked for the Van Brunt Company for 25 years, the sum of $3000 in good U.S. Government bonds. About 100 families were blessed with the money that was also deeply appreciated since it was in the depth of the terrible depression.
Before this, Mr. Van Brunt’s stepmother had left in her will a provision for every employee of the factory, who had worked for 25 years would get $1000 and every employee that had worked 20 years would get $800.00 from her estate.
Her estate also provided $75,000 towards a new school.