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September 2014


Fred H. Keller | Retrospect

How Hamilton High School got its name

On what U.S. currency bill can Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) be found? He was the Secretary of Treasury under President George Washington from 1789-1795, and founded the U.S. Mint.

On what U.S. currency bill can Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) be found? He was the Secretary of Treasury under President George Washington from 1789-1795, and founded the U.S. Mint. Photo by:

Just recently, Brian Frantl, one of Hamilton's all-time great football linebackers, saw me on Main Street in Sussex. He came to a screeching halt in his vehicle and caught up to me. He said he had a discussion with some of his high school friends about how Hamilton High School got its name. He added, "I told the guys if anyone knew, it would be Fred Keller."

I told him that there was a contest and Hamilton was one of nearly 50 suggested names. Ironically, Milwaukee at about the same time was picking a name for a new south side high school and Hamilton was also chosen. Thus, there is a Milwaukee Hamilton and a Sussex Hamilton.

As the Hamilton School District was forming and would enroll students from Lannon, Sussex, Butler, parts of Menomonee Falls, Lisbon and Pewaukee, there was an original name, Union High School Joint No. 6. The name represented the union of the six communities.

However, there was a push for a proper name in 1959. Hamilton opened in 1962. The School Board was led by Francis Beaudry who served four years on the board coming from Marcy School District. There were outstanding people on the board including Fred Linstedt and Dan Schnabel of Lisbon, Robert Brisk of Sussex and Roger Robinson representing Willow Springs.

Francis Beaudry, was a big man both in stature and girth which was accented by a booming baritone voice. When he talked it was like a prophet on high. He had a commanding presence, voice and the ability to dominate a group or assembly.

I had known him during another life of mine, the six years I spent at the Wisconsin State Fair. I was that 6-foot, 3-inches-tall kid at age 15 who knew all the different varieties of chickens, ducks and water fowl. I had a pedigree inheritance of chicken knowledge inside me that the state of Wisconsin desired for a certain job — building manager of the chicken show at the fair. When I first reported the State of Agriculture Director Harold King found out I was only 15 years old, but he looked me in the eye and said, "You have to be 18 years old to get this appointment." He eyed me up and down and then added, "You look 18 and therefore, you are 18." And for the next four years I was always 18 years old.

This is where I met Beaudry who was a spellbinding snake oil salesman on midway between the then chicken pavilion and the cattle barn and fair coliseum. With his voice he would draw in a crowd and keep them for 45 minutes or so before the suckers would open their wallets and purses to buy this cure-all vitamin-mineral life preserving item. He almost convinced me.

So this 1959 board of directors held a contest to name the new school. More than 50 entries came in for the renaming of Union High School Joint No. 6. The award was a $25 savings bond which cost $18.75.

As entries came in, they were whittled down to Glacier, Badger State, Liberty, Kettle Moraine, North Star, Eagle Head, Oak View, Northwestern Union, Silver Spring, Little Fox and the eventual winner, named for Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was a Revolutionary patriot secretary to Gen. George Washington and treasury secretary to President Washington. He was born Jan. 11, 1755, on the Isle of Nevis in the British West Indies and came to the mainland to attend King's College (now Columbia University). He rose to colonel during the Revolution. He was a major spokesman for a strong central government.

He is remembered for "The Federalist Papers" that were used to approve the Articles of Confederation. He served in Washington Cabinet from 1789-95. He helped Washington write his famous farewell address. Years later in 1804, he was crucial in deciding to swing the Electoral College behind his old rival, Thomas Jefferson, taking the presidency away from Aaron Burr.

Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel. On July 11, 1804, this duel was fought with Hamilton fatally wounded. Burr lived the rest of his life in disgrace.

The odd part about Hamilton (considered the founder of the Republican party) he assured Jefferson of being president and Jefferson is considered the founder of the Democratic Party. Probably the reason Hamilton is on the $10 bill is that he founded the U.S. Mint.

Incidentally, the contest winner was decided Dec. 7, 1959. Linda Wickland, a St. Agnes Catholic School student from Butler chose the winning name.

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