103 West Main Street
Allen-Meredith Funeral Home
Researched and Written by Ruth Ann Montgomery
The Allen-Meredith Funeral Home has been used as both a residence and a place of business. Before it
became a funeral home in 1930, the house served as an elegant residence, and in an earlier time, a
cooperative restaurant and laundry known as the Evansville Cooperative Home.
The residence/funeral home at 103 West Main stands as one of the architecturally significant buildings in
the city. It is an excellent example of the Greek Revival style of architecture that was popular in the early
The land was originally purchased in 1846 by Lewis Spencer and some believe that he built a house on the
site. However when Spencer sold the property in February 1857, he sold two lots and part of a third to
Mary A. Quivey, wife of Dr. William Quivey, for $400. This is a small amount to pay for two lots that included
even a small house.
It is more likely that the Quiveys built the house after they borrowed money for construction. In April 1858,
Mary took out a mortgage on the property for $479.58. She borrowed the money from Eliza A. Grannis. An
1858 map of the city shows a house on the site belonging to Quivey.
Quivey had come to Evansville with his mother and father in 1839 and had apprenticed to Dr. John M.
Evans as a physician. He attended Rush Medical College and practice in Evansville until the 1860s when
he moved to Corvallis, Oregon.
The Quiveys sold the house to Isaac Bennett for $2,500 in March 1861 and moved to a small house the
Quiveys purchased from Hiram Griffith, located on the site of 129 West Main. Mary and William intended to
build a larger house on that property.
The Bennett family lived in the house at 103 West Main for more than 20 years. Bennett was an early
settler in Evansville. He was born in Schoharie County, New York in 1824 and at the age of twenty got the
"western fever" and decided to move to Wisconsin.
Isaac Bennett came by way of the Erie Canal to Buffalo, New York and around Lake Erie to Milwaukee.
From Milwaukee he walked to John Winston's home, six miles east of Evansville. His life savings of $250
was sewn in his belt for save keeping. He arrived in Wisconsin with hopes that he could purchase a quarter
section of land near his relatives, the Winstons who lived in Center township in Rock County.
Bennett's mother was a cousin of Amanda Winston, John's wife. John and Amanda invited the young
pioneer to make his home with them and he worked on their farm until he could buy land of his own.
Isaac Bennett and his cousin, Nelson Winston, traveled to the land office in Milwaukee to purchase the
property. Winston had gold and Bennett had paper money and when they got to the city they discovered
that the government land office would not accept the paper money. Bennett had to change his paper
money for gold.
After making the money exchange, Bennett found that he was seventy-five cents short of the cash needed
to purchase land. His cousin, Nelson Winston, loaned him the money so he could make his land deal. It
was the beginning of a number of business dealings that would bind the cousins together for many years.
During the winter of his first year in Wisconsin, Isaac Bennett taught school at Union, just three miles north
of Evansville. The following year, he and his cousin, Nelson Winston, opened a general store in the village
of Oregon, Wisconsin.
In 1847, Bennett married Elizabeth A. Kierstead, a native of New York state. She died in 1860, leaving
Isaac with four small children. Seeking a mother for his children and a companion for himself, Bennett
In September 1861, Hannah Pettigrew, the daughter of a prominent Evansville farmer, became the bride of
Isaac Bennett. Just a few months before his marriage to Hannah, in March 1861, Bennett purchased
Quivey's house on West Main Street.
That same year, Nelson Winston and Isaac Bennett sold their store in Oregon and purchased the general
store at 1 West Main. Their store in Evansville, known as the Winston & Bennett Store. Winston's father,
John, and his brother, Rueben, also had a general store in the next block on East Main Street.
Isaac Bennett played a prominent role in organizing the little settlement along Allen's Creek into an official
political unit. Although it had been platted as a village in 1855, Evansville remained part of the township
government. To separate itself from Union township, the village of Evansville was chartered in 1867 and at
the first election held in Swager's hall the following March, Isaac Bennett was elected a village trustee.
Isaac and Hannah had a daughter and with the four children from his earlier marriage, there were now five
children in the household. The Bennetts decided to enlarge their house.
In 1867, the local newspaper, the Evansville Citizen, reported that Mr. Bennett had a large pile of bricks in
his front lawn to make an addition to his house. Modern day owners report that one interior wall of the
house is more than a foot thick and is believed to have been part of the 1867 remodeling project.
The Winston & Bennett mercantile business continued to grow and they soon took in a new partner. In
1870, a competitor, L. T. Pullen merged his mercantile business with that of Winston & Bennett.
Because the Winston and Bennett store had one of the strongest safes in the little village, farmers often left
money for safe keeping with the merchants. After the merger, the men made plans to charter Evansville's
Bennett also invested in land in the Rocky Mountain country of Colorado. His sons, Willie and Jay,
graduates of the Evansville Seminary, operated the land for their father. In the spring of the year, the
Bennetts purchased sheep from Evansville farmers and shipped them by rail to their ranch. An Evansville
Review item published in 1873, note that the Bennetts leased two railroad cars and shipped 400 sheep and
100 lambs, a mower and other machinery for the ranch.
Bennett was an active volunteer in the community. He served on the boards of several community
organizations. He was a member of the Evansville Seminary board for many years, during its administration
by the Methodists in the 1860s and continued during the administration of the school by the Free Will
Baptists in the 1870s.
For a number of years in the late 1870s the Evansville Seminary was closed. Bennett was instrumental in
getting the legislation passed that created the charter for a new organization of the school. When the
school was reopened under the care of the Free Methodists in 1880, Bennett served on the board.
Bennett's business partner, Nelson Winston, also served on the Seminary board and in the 1880s, another
partner, L. T. Pullen served as treasurer of the school's board of trustees. Bennett was also active in his
church and served on the board of St. John's Episcopal Church.
By the 1880s, Bennett's owned a substantial amount of land in Colorado and Wisconsin. According to
Wisconsin census records, he owned 400 acres of land near Evansville. He had decided to retire from the
banking and dry goods business and entered the rapidly developing livestock business.
In the spring of 1880, the local census taker reported that Bennett owned 600 sheep and had sold 3,000
pounds of wool during the year. Only eight of the 400 acres he owned was under cultivation crops. The
rest was pasture for his livestock.
His partner in the livestock business was Reuben Johnson. They shipped livestock to markets in Chicago
and to livestock yards in the western territories. One newspaper report noted that Bennett and Johnson
chartered an entire train of twenty-six railroad cars and shipped 1,300 head of yearling cattle to sell in
Bennett's life was not without tragedy. His oldest son, 31-year-old, Edwin A. Bennett, died after a short
illness in November 1882. Edwin's two younger brothers were summoned from Fort Collins, Colorado and
the funeral was held in the Episcopal church, across the street from the Bennett home.
Following the death of his son, the sixty-year-old Isaac Bennett decided to retire from an active business
and civic life. In 1884, Bennett, his wife, and daughter, announced they were going to sell their beautiful
home on West Main Street and move to the south. They traveled extensively and especially enjoyed the
city of Atlanta, Georgia.
Later they decided to purchase a home in Chicago and maintained a summer home at Lake Beulah.
Bennett died in 1908, the same year as his business partner, L. T. Pullen. His obituary described Bennett
as a man with a "dignified and austere appearance, but to those who knew him, he had a kind demeanor
and offered wise counsel".
In April 1884, Bennett's home was purchased by a newly formed group of Evansville citizens for $2,100.
Incorporated under the name, Evansville Cooperative Home, the group used the home as a restaurant and
laundry for members and invited guests.
The idea of "The Home" was attractive to many families. It was an attempt to relieve the work load of the
women in the household and to save hiring housekeepers and cooks. Several prominent Evansville people
joined the Cooperative Home.
The members drew up a charter, elected a board of directors, established rules for the organization and
brought furniture and other household items to furnish the house. The Cooperative paid an additional $600
for land on the west side of the home to use as a garden. Members shared the in the gardening chores,
growing food for their meals. Others brought in supplies or items from their own homes.
Levi Leonard served as the first president of the organization and according to his diaries, he also provided
potatoes and wood for the home. During the summer months, Leonard also mowed the lawn. Other
notable members of the "home" were the original owner of the property, Lewis Spencer, Almeron Eager, T.
C. Richardson, and Charles F. P. Pullen.
Members of the Home could invite guests or potential members to share a meal. In September 1884, the
Evansville Review editor and his wife, Mr. & Mrs. Isaac Hoxie, were invited to join the members for a noon
meal. They found a Mrs. Ames in charge of cooking, along with her daughter and four "girls".
The tables were set in two rooms connected by folding doors. Dishes and eating utensils were set on long
tables occupied by family units. Each diner had polished china and white napkins. According to Hoxie, the
bread was "snowy", moist and delicious and the steak was reported to be "tender, well cooked and
exceedingly juicy". Each person paid $2.50 a week for their meals
When Mrs. Ames quit, Mrs. James Powles was hired as matron of the Home and supervised the staff who
cooked and served the meals. Often there were 40 to 60 people eating the noon and evening meal.
Problems in maintaining the "Home" were sometimes reported in the newspapers. According to one report,
the group soon discovered that the fees for meals did not meet the expenses and the officers of the group
had to ask for a special assessment of $15 from each of the members. It was also difficult to keep the staff
at the home. The lack of sufficient help caused Mrs. Powles to resign. She was replaced by a former
When the problems became overwhelming the members voted to disband the organization. The
Cooperative Home experiment lasted just three years. In the spring of 1887, the company sold the property
at a loss of $500. Members declared they were glad to get out of the Cooperative Home business. The
group held one last meeting at the house to divide up the kitchen utensils. The rest of the household
goods were sold at public auction.
C. B. Morse, a jewelry store owner, purchased the property from the Cooperative for $2,500 in April 1887.
His wife was delighted with the house and told the local newspaper editor that she was now living on "Grand
Avenue". The editor agreed that it was a pretty place and one of the finest residences in town.
The Morse family, included his wife and daughter, Cora. They lived in the house for only two years and
then Morse sold his real estate, including his jewelry store and contents. The family had decided to move to
The house was sold to David Stevens and his wife. Stevens did hire a Mr. Billings, a builder from Janesville,
to raise the roof on a portion of the residence and make “other improvements” according to a newspaper
report in the July 31, 1897 issue of the Badger.
David Stevens was a long-time resident of Evansville, having moved to the area from Fort Covington, New
York in 1861. He was a grain and livestock buyer who traveled the countryside purchasing products from
farmers and shipping the livestock and grain to Chicago for sale.
Stevens had married Amelia Little in 1867. Amelia died a year later, after giving birth to a daughter, May.
Four years later he married Winifred Regan and together they had seven children, four sons and three
daughters. Bessie, the youngest daughter, was just a year old when the Stevens moved into the house.
Stevens was a well established business man by the time he purchased the house. In 1867, Stevens,
Reuben Johnson (a former partner of Isaac Bennett) and Samuel Norton purchased a warehouse to store
the grains they purchased from farmers. By 1875, the men enlarged their warehouse to store the grain for
shipment to the Chicago Grain Exchange. The company office was in the warehouse.
In the 1870s, David and his brother, William Stevens, opened a stock yards near the Evansville depot to
hold the livestock they purchased from local farmers. The cattle, sheep, and pigs were brought into the
yards on wagons, or in the winter on sleds. Sometimes they were herded into the village on foot. The
Stevens brothers then shipped the livestock to Chicago's livestock yards.
The stockyard was operated the entire year. Business was heaviest in the spring and fall. In the summer
and winter, Stevens traveled to the farms to inspect the animals and make a contract with the farmer for
purchase. David became well-known to members of the Stock Exchange in Chicago as one of the best
buyers and shippers of stock in the area.
Stevens also began to raise Aberdeen Angus cattle and showed them at the Rock County Fair at the turn of
the century. He was active in business until a sudden illness ended his life in December 1903. His funeral
was held at the Methodist Church and was one of the largest ever held in Evansville. Several members of
the Chicago Stock Exchange attended the services.
Winifred Stevens was left with three children still at home, Ralph, Anna and Bessie. Mrs. Stevens and her
daughters often spent the summers with other Evansville residents at Camp Kegonsa near Madison. When
her children had finished school, Winifred sold the house to Jay Baldwin and moved to Pasadena, California.
When he purchased the house in June 1910, Jay Burdette Baldwin was the first native-born Wisconsin
owner of the home. His parents Anson and Eleanor had farmed on Jug Prairie, west of Evansville. Jay was
born in November 1876 on their farm. After attending the Evansville Seminary and graduating from
Evansville high school in 1895, Baldwin attended the University of Wisconsin, graduating in 1899.
For ten years he taught school and was superintendent of schools in Reedsburg before moving to
Evansville. He married Meta Selle of Poynette in August 1900 and they came to Evansville in 1908. The
Baldwins had three children, Orrel, Betty and Robert.
After he purchased the house on West Main Street, Baldwin commuted from Evansville to Chicago by train
and worked as a salesman for the Laurel Book Company. He lived in Chicago during the week and took the
train home on weekends. As he continued to be successful in the business, Jay Baldwin became a
manager of the company and later president and general manager.
The Baldwin children attended the local schools and many happy family events were held in the home.
Plays and other social events where held in the large rooms on the first floor of the Baldwin residence.
Orrel attended the University of Wisconsin. After her graduation, she married James Noble, a member of
the Noble & Noble publishing firm in New York City. Her wedding took place in the family home at 103 West
Main in June 1927.
The wedding notice appeared in the local newspaper and described the event in some detail. The bride
was dressed in an Ivory satin gown and carried orchids and lilies of the valley. She had five bridesmaids,
including her sister, Elizabeth. Little Richard Eager was the ring bearer and his grandmother, Gertrude,
played the wedding music. Following the ceremony, 150 guests were served a buffet supper.
For their honeymoon, the young couple took a world cruise on the ship, the Empress of India. They sailed
from Vancouver, British Columbia and circumvented the globe landing at the docks in New York City. For
many years they made their home in New York.
The younger daughter Elizaberth (Betty) Baldwin attended the University of Wisconsin. Twice she was
chosen queen of the U. W. prom, first in 1928 and again in 1929. She was also a member of the drama
group, the Wisconsin players. Betty majored in speech and planned to become a drama coach.
When the children left home, Jay and his wife spent their winters in Chicago where they were closer to his
work. For several years, he was secretary and treasurer of the Laurel Book Company and in 1929 was
named the company's president. The couple began making plans to move permanently to Chicago.
The house was sold to Malcolm Allen in August 1930. Allen purchased the home for living quarters and
intended to open an elaborate funeral parlor. He had received his professional education at the Western
School of Embalming at Chicago and graduated in August 1927. He served as an apprentice at the
Bigelow-Roderick furniture store and funeral parlor on East Main Street in Evansville.
When he decided to go into business for himself, Malcolm borrowed money from his uncle so that he could
purchase the Baldwin residence and convert it to a funeral parlor. Many of the home’s former residents
were buried from the establishment including, Anna Stevens, Jay Baldwin and his wife, Meta.
Though it has been home to several owners, there has been constant care given to the home. Malcolm
Allen once said that not a year went by without some repairs, replacement or painting being done on the
In an interview that was later made part of a video program about Evansville's Historic District, Malcolm
described the maintenance of the egg and dart decoration under the eves. When the wooden pieces were
taken apart for repair and painting, square nails used by carpenters in the mid-1800s were found, indicating
the age of the building. Malcolm's efforts preserved this historic home as a showplace in the community.
Malcolm's widow, Carolyn, continued to live in the home and operate the business for a few years and then
sold the property to Tom Meredith, a native of Evansville, who also operated a funeral home in Racine.
Meredith installed new cement drives, and a ramped entrance to the south side of the home. The building
is one of the show pieces of Evansville's architecture.