THE BOYD-LEHNERER STORY
By Alice McCombe Block, March 14, 2001
This article is written by Alice McCombe Block, who lives in Corvallis, Oregon with her husband, John Block. Much of Alice’s knowledge about her family’s history comes from her mother, Charlotte Boyd McCombe who wrote for The Landmark in the 1960s.
The 150-year-old, two-story limestone house located the Busse Rd., not far from Interstate 94, has a story to tell. Some chapters are connected to my family, the Boyd-Lehnerer Family.
In 1880, my great-grandparents, John and Janet Boyd, purchased a 140 acre farm from William and Wilhemina Hembd. (Location is in the NW Quarter of Section 26 and the SW Quarter of Section 23, Township of Pewaukee.) The farm was built on the site of a former sawmill and chair factory which was powered by Pewaukee River water. Across the road there was a small village of log cabins known as Bucknerville. By the early 20th century, all that remained was the millrace, the dam site and a very old small house which can be seen in the picture behind the big stone house. The oldest house was constructed of hand-hewn boards and plastered on the inside with mud and twigs. There was an unusual French-styled brick oven in the kitchen. A fire was built in the oven until the bricks were hot. Then the coals were removed and the bread was put in to bake. Could the house have been built by an early settler with the French name of Beau? Our family found six small maple chairs in the loft of this old house. Possibly these chairs were made in the local chair factory. Today, two of those chairs sit in our Corvallis, Oregon livingroom.
John and Janet Boyd were first cousins, children of immigrant brothers, James and Thomas Boyd who came from the Parish of Slamanan, Sterlingshire, Scotland in 1846 and 1849 respectively. They followed an older brother McNair Boyd who came in 1842 and settled near Prospect Hill. Descendants of Thomas Boyd continue to live in the area today. James Boyd’s son John, born June 22, 1849, and Thomas’ daughter Janet, born May 12, 1850, were married March 11, 1873 in Prospect Hill. I have a prize possession: Janet’s three-piece olive green silk wedding dress complete with tassels and a bustle.
My grandfather, James Thomas Boyd, born March 30, 1876, was named for his two grandfathers. His sister, Jessie May, was born April 1, 1880. About eight months later, the parents bought the Hembd Farm and resettled with their two young children. John Lehnerer came as the hired man.
Now the drama thickens. On October 30, 1881, small Jessie May died from pneumonia. I have a poem of lament written by one of her grieving parents. There is a small stone in the far NE corner of Prairie Home Cemetery marking her grave. On December 5, 1881, John Boyd, at age 32, was stricken with a ruptured appendix and died a sudden and painful death. He was buried next to his infant daughter. His wife, Janet, left with a 5 year old son and a 140 acre farm, did the most practical thing a woman could do in those days, she married her hired man, John Lehnerer on December 18, 1883. His family also came from the New Berlin area. He and Janet along with hired help, worked hard to earn a living and paid off the farm mortgage.
Grandpa Lehnerer, as he was known by my mother and her siblings, was a good grandfather and a steward of the land. He practiced crop rotation. In the early years, wheat was the main crop, requiring much hand labor. Quantities of potatoes were also raised and sold door to door to Milwaukee customers. The Lehnerers always kept a productive garden and a bountiful apple orchard with many varieties. Mother claimed there were very few wormy apples prior to the advent of pesticide sprays. The farm supported chickens, hogs and a mixed breed herd of milk cows. Grandpas Lehnerer liked horses and usually kept four or five before he acquired his first car. An interesting fact: in 1925, he traded one horse, two heifers and $400 to Davies Brothers for a new Model T Ford coupe.
When my grandfather, James Thomas Boyd married Lucy Miller, a former teacher at the Quarry School, September 5, 1900, he was given 33 acres from his father’s estate on the north side of the Pewaukee River. Lucy’s brother, Henry Miller, who was a master carpenter, built the house and barn (originally with a cupola). Later about 20 more acres were added to the farm. It was a struggle to make a living on limited acreage. This is the place where my mother and her two sisters and brother were born and raised. Over the years the family raised turkeys, chickens, Shropshire sheep, Chester White pigs and a fine herd of Guernsey dairy cows. Most profitable was honey production and market gardening during the Depression years. The current farm owner, Jean Jones, sends yearly Christmas Greetings to all I-94 travelers with a lighted display on the roof of the old honey house.
Janet Boyd Lehnerer died from breast cancer on May 12, 1923. John continued to work the farm with hired help until 1938. His hired man, Joe Leitinger, purchased the farm. Even though it was reasonably priced, James and Lucy Boyd were cautious about taking on a mortgage during Depression times. Grandpa Lehnerer lived his remaining years with his brother George, who had been a builder of many barns, with cupolas, around Waukesha County. John died at age 85 on February 14, 1943.
It should be noted for posterity that three Indian mounds were once visible in a field along the Busse Road on the Boyd-Lehnerer Farm in the early 20th Century. Every spring, as the fields were turned by horse and plow, fine specimens of Indian arrowheads were uncovered. My grandfather had an amazing collection!! Today, subdivision ranch homes are located on top of those once sacred mounds.
Until the 1960’s, only the peaceful Pewaukee River flowed through this once Indian campground and later farm land. Today, I-94 traffic roars day and night through these same lands. It is called progress!!