Fred H. Keller | Retrospect
The Water-filled swimming quarry in Templeton
In July 1980, two local Sussex area divers, Mike and Carol Fosdick, spent 90 minutes on the bottom of the Sussex Quarry swimming hole. In the depths below the high dive, which was over 20 feet down, they found a boys bicycle and a silver plated fruit compote bowl. Sussex trustee and Park Board member Carl Senger is attempting to land the retrieved treasures. Photo by:
The sister village of Sussex, Templeton, came into being in the later part of 1886, with the arrival of the first railroad to bisect Lisbon, the Wisconsin Central.
This led to Olde Sussex (Maple and Main) losing part of its leadership and business. Most notable, a prominent Sussex leader, James Templeton, left his post office and general store to go to the emerging new community of Templeton" with James Templeton moving the post office successfully from Sussex to his namesake village.
Quickly, there was the conversion of two adjacent farm fields into quarries, that produced as their main product, burned lime by the use of 35-foot high kilns. One was east of the Wisconsin Central tracks, and only lasted a few years, but the one in downtown Templeton southwest of the intersection off Main and Merril Streets was started in 1890, with the coming of the second railroad to Lisbon, the Bug Line. This was a big success, and initially had a name of the William Elliott Quarry. It lasted for 26 years, until a disastrous fire in 1916. It grew to employ 50 workers, who earned between 12 and 15 cents per hour, quarrying stone, hauling it to an inclined railroad that arched up out of the quarry to the top of first three and later six lime kilns.
Considering that the track was about 20 to 30 feet into the rock and the kilns were 35 feet tall, there was a lift of near 60 feet before the gondolas of stone could be pushed along the brink of the top of the fire belching kilns where it was dumped into the inferno.
Wood lengths of northern hard woods mainly were fed into the kilns 24-7 to make a continuous operation during a sort of 9-month cycle from mid-March to mid-December.
Now after 26 years of operation in 1916, a disastrous fire destroyed the wood piles, warehouses, kilns and the pump house. The business was dead, never to be revived. In 1918, the Kraemer family bought the now-rundown acreage, and the water filled quarry for a reported $5,000.
In Sept. 1920, the Mammoth Spring Canning Co. was built and it operated until its last shipment out in March, 1996. By the turn of the century, the buildings were being torn down. Sussex had some grand plans to redevelop the site, but nothing came of it for 17 years.
Then a developer, Art Sawall, had a groundbreaking June 24, 2013, and 2014 should see the first two completed massive upscale retail buildings takin in tenants, with further development to follow.
Meanwhile, through all these years, since 1916, the water-filled quarry has remained, and from 1916 to 1991, it was a community gathering area for swimmers in the summer, and ice skating in the winter. During the early years, it was a place to gather ice blocks for refrigeration locally.
In 1980, during the height of the municipal swimming season, there was a volunteer couple that did some snorkeling in the quarry to ascertain the depth, clarity and what had happened to the bottom of it.
Village Trustee Carl Senger was present as Mike and Carol Fosdick spent well over an hour at the depths of the quarry.
They found that the deepest part was toward the west and was 30 feet deep. There was a layer of decaying leaf residue that covered the depths, and when disturbed, it clouded the water. They also found barrels of pan fish present.
Most interestingly, there was the still intact rail line east to west in place on the quarry floor.
The quarry continued as a swimming hole until it was closed in 1991 because of the American Disabilities Act.
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