204 West Main Street
Researched and written by Ruth Ann Montgomery
Reprinted from the 1900 Glimpses of Evansville
There was a building boom in Evansville in 1893. “A hasty look over town, shows quite a number of building
improvements begun or will be commenced on as soon as the weather becomes a little more favorable,” the
Evansville Review reported in early April 1893. Lansing Mygatt was one of those who intended to build a new
Mygatt was born near Coxsackie, Green County, New York on April 14, 1831. He arrived in Evansville in 1871 and
became a partner with Caleb Snashall in the hardware business located on East Main Street. The new partners
purchased an adjoining store and began enlarging and improving their property. They added more stock to their
hardware business, including revolvers, cutlery, stoves, farm implements, tin, copper, sheet iron and coal. They
also advertised the Seneca Falls Iron Well Pumps and offered to install the machines in wells.
In February 1873, the Mygatt and Snashall joined Allen S. Baker, William Smith, Almeron Eager, Levi Shaw to form
the A. S. Baker & Co. The company advertised general machine work and the production of a rotary steam
engine that Shaw and Baker had invented. Caleb Snashall became the first president of the firm that would later
be known as the Baker Manufacturing Company. The firm became known world wide for its windmills.
While Baker started manufacturing the rotary engine, Snashall & Mygatt continued to operate their hardware
business. They began to manufacture cheese factory implements for new factories that had started operation in
the Evansville area. The Baker foundry and machine shop manufactured the vats, heaters, hoops, and cans that
the hardware merchants shipped to cheese factories in neighboring communities.
The following year, Snashall and Mygatt became the general agents for the Monitor windmill manufactured by the
Baker Company. They reported to the Evansville newspapers that the sale of the windmill was meeting with
success “far beyond any expectations the owners of the firm may have had.” The windmill proved a successful
product for both the manufacturer and merchants.
Lansing Mygatt also invested in real estate and in 1879 purchased Lot 8 and Lot 9, Block 4 and land extending
north to the mill pond, also known as Lake Leota for $3,300. Mygatt also loaned money for others to purchase or
In 1883, Lansing Mygatt's health was failing and he dissolved his partnership with Snashall. He also decided to
collaborate with his neighbor, Levi Leonard to open the land north of their Main Street properties for residential
building lots. They called it the Leonard and Mygatt Subdivision.
The two men extended a street that was named Park Street. Today it is North Second Street. Mygatt and
Leonard sold part of their subdivision to the Village of Evansville for the first park land ever purchased for public
The July 10, 1883 issue of the Enterprise announced the sale of Leonard’s land and the Village Board’s
negotiations with Mygatt. “And now we will give you some news which will no doubt please you all. Second street is
to be opened through to the pond and the Village of Evansville has bought of Mr. Levi Leonard, a piece of land
lying along said street and running back to the pond, eleven rods wide and fifty-one rods long. Price paid $675.
Mr. Leonard also received $50 from Mr. Mygatt for opening the street. The town is also negotiating with Mr. Mygatt
for a strip of land eight rods wide and fifty-one long adjoining the above named piece, making in all a piece of land
19 x 51 rods for a public park, where us boys may play ball without breaking window lights or damaging anyone's
private property. This is an improvement to our beautiful village which has long been needed, and we think that all
good, true citizens will acquiesce with us in saying so. Now if our citizens will open a street running parallel with
Main street, opening up some of the most beautiful and desirable residence lots to be found in this city, we shall
feel quite well satisfied with the improvements for 1883.”
Within two years there were only a few lots in the Leonard & Mygatt addition that were still for sale. On Leonard’s
side of the street, the east side, seven new houses had been built and on Mygatt’s side of the street, the west side,
there were four new houses.
Mygatt and his neighbor, Levi Leonard, were both retired and listed by the tax collector as two of the richest men in
the village. Mygatt and his wife, Cecilia, spent their winters in Georgia, as did Levi Leonard and his wife, Sarah.
Mygatt became an invalid, and for the last few months of his life was bedridden. Despite his illness, Mygattt
decided to build a large house on the northwest corner of Main and Park Street. The new home would give his
wife Cecelia, a modern and comfortable place to live and to entertain.
His former partner, Caleb Snashall was chosen as the contractor for the house. That same spring, Snashall was
also remodeling his own home at 349 West Main; building the Calkins grocery store at 18 East Main; and building a
small hospital for Dr. Evans, at the south end of the Pioneer Drug Store, 8 South Madison.
The construction of Mygatt’s house began in April 1893 with the excavation for the basement. By the end of May,
Mygatt’s basement was ready for the stone masons. The house progressed through the early summer with the
carpenters ready to enclose the first story of the house in July. The roof was to be covered with California
redwood shingles and the flooring was purchased in Chicago.
When J. C. Kelley arrived from Belvidere, Illinois and announced he was a plaster contractor, he was able to obtain
several contracts for work, including the Mygatt house. However, within a few weeks, Kelley left town, abandoning
the work he had promised.
Before the house was finished, Lansing M. Mygatt died on Saturday August 26, 1893. He was 62 years old. The
funeral was held in Evansville and members of the Masonic Lodge accompanied his body to his burial place in the
Catskills of New York.
His obituary said, “Mr. Mygatt was an honest, straight forward businessman; was one of the men who started our
successful Baker Mg. Co. that is in paying operation now. He was ever ready to take a helping interest in any work
for the good of the place and was always found a true friend to any one in need. Socially, he was well liked and
highly esteemed by all who came in contact with him, beloved by his friends and neighbors.”
The Rock County Court granted Cecelia Mygatt administration of the estate and when the estate was settled in
July 1894, the house was placed in her name. It was valued at $4,000. She also inherited the stock held in the
Baker Manufacturing Company and the real estate. Mrs. Mygatt owned the home until her death in 1915.
The house was featured in a fold-out set of Evansville pictures in 1900. The photographic series was called
“Glimpses of Evansville.”
Cecelia Mygatt put the house on the market in 1911. The advertisement offered the property “for sale at a bargain
on easy terms.” The home did not sell.
In May 1915, Cecelia Mygatt died at the age of 85. She left an estate of more than $90,000, including shares in
the Baker Manufacturing Company. The house was willed to her brother, Elmer Garrett. She also gave $10,000
to the Evansville Seminary to be used in their general fund and for scholarships.
Her will was contested. One bequest was thrown out immediately. Cecelia had wanted $4,000 to go to her friend,
Cynthia Bucklin. However, Bucklin had signed Cecelia’s will as a witness and therefore could not receive any
benefit from the estate.
Lansing and Cecelia Mygatt had no children. There were several nieces of Lansing who claimed that Cecelia’s will
did not follow the wishes of her husband disposition of his estate.
Harriet Hayner, a niece of Lansing Mygatt and her husband, an attorney, brought a lawsuit against Cecelia’s
brother. Other plaintiff’s in the suit were Ellen Mygatt, Ann Mygatt Bedel, Furwin Mygatt Powell, and Mary Mygatt
Russ. The Hayner’s lawsuit ended in the United States Court of Appeals in Chicago in October 1917 and was
settled in favor of Elmer Garrett.
Garrett sold the house in February 1919 to two widowed sisters, Ada J. Johnson and Eva Freuchen for $7,000
described as lot 9, except the West 7.5 ft. of Block 4, original plat of Evansville.
Another part of the estate included Mygatts original home, just west of 204 West Main, described as Lot 8 and the
west 7 ½ feet of lot 9 of Block 4 of the original plat of Evansville. Garrett sold this property to Roy Reckord for
Eva Freuchen and Ada J. Johnson lived in the house at 204 West Main. They were daughters of Mr. and Mrs.
Henry Elwood, prominent Union township residents. The sisters were educated in the country schools in Union
township and attended the Evansville Seminary.
Ada was widowed twice. Her first husband was Locke W. Brigham. They had one daughter, Blanche. Five years
after Brigham died, Ada married Lyman H. Johnson of Brooklyn, Wisconsin. Johnson was a widower with children.
After Lyman’s death, Ada decided to move in with her sister and they purchased the large Mygatt house on West
Ada Johnson was the second woman to serve on the Evansville Board of Education, She also served on the library
board and was one of the charter members of the Woman’s Literary Club. The sisters often entertained the club in
their large and comfortable home.
Ada died in February 1922 and her funeral was held in the home at 204 West Main. Eva continued to live in the
Eva Freuchen’s husband was a native of Denmark and a cousin of the celebrated author and film maker from
Denmark, Peter Freuchen. A well known explorer, Peter Freuchen was the author of two books about the Eskimos
of Greenland. He served as a guide and technical expert with W. S. Van Dyke, the director of the film “Eskimo”
created in 1934.
The film was based on two books by Freuchen, Storfanger (1927) and Die Flucht ins weisse Land (1929). It was
the first feature film with a sound track with Native Americans speaking Inuit. The film crew captured the Inuit men
on whale, walrus and polar bear hunts. The film was seen in many United States movie theaters, including the
Magee Theater in Evansville in 1935.
When he made speaking tours in the United States, Peter Freuchen often visited his cousin’s wife in Evansville.
Eva Freuchen was delighted to have the famous visitor and always made sure that his visit was noted in the local
On February 19, 1944, Eva Freuchen held an auction at her home. The antiques in the home were to be sold
first, according to the advertisement in the Evansville Review. Other items featured in the sale were a Frigidaire,
Westinghouse Electric Range, Coleman Oil Burner, radios, rugs, electric appliances and all other household
In March 1944, Eva A. Freuchen sold the property to Charles L. and Fannie A. Peterson for $5,300. The Peterson
owned a farm northeast of Evansville. They retired to Evansville and sold their farm to their son, Vaughn.
They lived in the house at 204 West Main for nearly 30 years. Their daughter, Gladys became a 6th grade teacher
in Evansville in 1946 and later an associate professor at the Whitewater State College.
Charles Peterson sided the house and removed the decorative trim around the windows and doors. Over the
years, the redwood shingles on the roof were also covered with new roofing material. The original interior
woodwork of the home, the elaborate pantry with built-in cupboards and drawers, and the hardwood floors were
Charles and Fannie Peterson celebrated their 60th Wedding anniversary on December 31, 1971 in their home at
204 West Main Street.
Charles L. Peterson died in 1972 and Fannie A. Peterson in 1977. Their daughter, Gladys Peterson became the
owner of the house. She maintained two households, her home in Evansville, on the first floor of the house at 204
West Main and a home in Whitewater.
Gladys rented the upstairs apartment. When her brother, Vaughn and his wife, Ruth retired from farming, they
lived in the apartment on the second floor of the Main Street home.
Gladys was an active member of the Methodist Church, assisting with dinners and other activities. Her homemade
doughnuts were featured at bazaars and other fund raisers for the church. She held several offices in Eastern
Star organization and the Evansville’s Woman’s Literary Club.
Gladys died in 2009 and a household auction was held that included the furnishings from her home on West Main
Street and the home in Whitewater. The house is currently for sale. (October 2009)