History of Elm Grove

Elm Grove Beginnings

Our Village, once part of the 36-square-mile Town of Brookfield, has retained not only its footprint since its incorporation in 1955 but much of its small-town charm as well.

Early settlers, including members of the Reusch, Reinders, Sanders, and Ramstack families, were first drawn to this fertile agricultural area during the mid-1830s. In 1848, the year of Wisconsin’s statehood, some industrious people decided to start laying more than 650,000 white oak timbers and planks to make it easier to travel the 58 miles from Milwaukee to Watertown. That is how our Village’s main thoroughfare, Watertown Plank Road, began.

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In 1856, the railroad, later to be known as the Milwaukee Road, laid a track line which intersected the plank road, thus giving rise to even greater community development. Railroad officials charged with choosing a name to designate the stop apparently took one look at the vast growth of trees and said, “We’ll call it Elm Grove.” Before long, a U.S. Post Office, inn, train depot, general store, mill, and tavern were in operation.

An often-repeated tale describes the late-1850s journey of a group of nuns led by Mother Caroline Friess. These members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame happened to be traveling west on Watertown Plank Road when the horse that was pulling their wagon refused to budge from his spot near Juneau Boulevard. Considering it to be a divine sign, the sisters immediately purchased twenty acres from a local farmer and set about fulfilling their mission to build a convent, school, and orphanage. The rest is history. Learn more about 21st century Elm Grove.