250 West Main
Researched and Written by Ruth Ann Montgomery
The Moses Vervalen house at 250 West Main was built before 1858. Vervalen was a brick mason and undoubtedly
built his own house with brick manufactured by Jacob West, in brick yards near Allen's Creek on East Main Street.
In the 1850s, locally made brick sold for $5.00 per thousand if the brick was of average quality brick and $7.00 per
thousand if it was the best quality. The highest quality brick was baked in the arches of West's kiln.
Brick was a cheap building material, when lumber had to be hauled from Milwaukee, or other Lake Michigan ports.
The first Evansville Seminary building, Dr. Evans' home and drug store, the Pullen bank, the Montgomery house on
Montgomery Court, and other local buildings were built with West's brick during the 1850s and 1860s, according to
his son, J. R. West, who worked in his father's in the brick yard. The brick from West's kiln was also used for
foundations and chimneys.
When the 1860 census taker recorded families living in Evansville, he noted that Moses Vervalen was 50 years old.
His wife, Eliza, was 47. They had three children living at home, Ellen M. age 15; John D., age 11, and a second
daughter, Adell, age 2.
Vervalen was the only person listed as a mason in Evansville and would have been responsible for building many of
the brick homes and buildings in the 1850s and 1860s. The last building he is known to have worked on in
Evansville was the Methodist Church when it constructed on South Madison Street in the fall of 1866. Final work on
the building was completed in the spring of 1867.
The year that he finished the church, Moses and his family decided to move to Marysville, Missouri, a new
community growing alongside the junction of two railroad lines that would later be immortalized in song, The
Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe and the Wabash, St. Louis and Pacific.
Vervalen sold the house and ten acres of land to Henry R. Colman, principal of the Evansville Seminary in 1867.
Vervalen died three years after moving out of the area. His family returned to Evansville. His daughter, Ellen,
married William Morgan, a carpenter, and after building several houses in Evansville, Morgan and his family moved
to Holdridge, Nebraska in the 1880s. John Dempster Vervalen moved to California. Only Eliza Vervalen and her
daughter Adell remained in Evansville.
Henry Colman had taken command of the Seminary in the winter term of 1863 and remained at that post for four
years. In the late 1860s, the first public high school was organized in the village and this caused a drop in enrollment
in the seminary. When Colman left his post in 1867 there were 100 students in the Seminary, This dropped
dramatically after the public high school opened in 1868.
When Colman decided to move to Clinton, Wisconsin and become pastor of the Methodist Church in that village, he
put the house and land up for sale. "On Main Street, in the village of Evansville, a good brick house with cellar,
cistern, well and other conveniences and about 10 acres of land with barn, fruit trees and shrubbery", read the
advertisement in the Evansville Review.
Colman also described the house's convenient location, within a pleasant walk from the depot, post office and
churches. Today, a sign would read "For sale by owner", but in the language of the day, Henry R. Colman asked
interested parties to "inquire about the property on the premises".
It took several years, for Colman to find a buyer. In 1876, he finally sold the house to John N. Lange, a tailor, who
mortgaged the property through L. T. Pullen's bank and then found that he could not make the payments. Just two
years later, the house became the property of the bank and Pullen was looking for a renter for the house.
Pullen persuaded James Bullard, a Union township farmer to purchase the house and took Bullard's farm in trade.
Bullard was not a newcomer to the Evansville business scene. He had operated an auction service with Jacob West
in the late 1860s. The two men held auction sales of livestock in the stock yards near the depot.
After Bullard moved to Evansville he decided to open a new business selling farm machinery, feed and flour. He
purchased a building on East Main Street and advertised the Waupun Wind Mill and "the famous Schutler wagon",
as some of the farm implements available. He also placed weekly advertisements in the Evansville Review giving
farmers the latest local market prices for farm products.
When new land sales opened in the Dakota territories, Bullard decided to try his hand at homesteading. He
purchased land near Bridgewater, Dakota and moved his family, including his wife and daughter, Minnie, to the new
Bullard rented his property to a Mr. Clapp who owned a hardware store in Evansville.
A few months later he rented it to a Mr. Crummy.
When Bullard made the decision to remain permanently in the Dakotas, he advertised his Main Street property, "for
sale cheap" in the December 1884 issues of the Evansville Review.
The house and land sold quickly. Ashbel Charles Thorpe, a local grocery store owner, purchased the house for
$1,800. The additional ten acres of land that had been part of the original property owned by Moses Vervalin was
sold to a Mr. Rodd for $500.
Thorpe and his wife, Hannah, decided that the house needed some improvements and he gave Mr. Crummy until
March, 1885 to vacate the house. In the next three years, Thorpe made several changes. He removed an old
porch and in its place had smaller porches, called porticos, placed over the doors. He also put on a new roof.
Thorpe was born in Warsaw, New York in 1839. He moved to Sharon, Wisconsin with his parents in 1845 and when
he was eleven years old, his parents died. He came to Evansville to live with his sister who had married John
McMillan, an early settler in the area. John's father, Charles McMillan, was credited with building the first log cabin
near Union in 1839 and John's sister, Hannah, who would later become A. C. Thorpe's wife, was said to have been
the first girl baby born to pioneer parents living in the part of Rock County west of the Rock River.
During the 1860s, Thorpe left his sister and brother-in-law's home and moved to California. He was in California
when the Civil War broke out and he joined the Second California cavalry. During the war, the Northern leaders
feared that California would become a slave state and secede from the Union. Thorpe was assigned to secret
service duty to prevent agitation from those interested in having California join the Confederacy. His commanding
officer gave him credit for halting an uprising of a rebellious company of soldiers at the California state capitol in
Sacramento, where secession agitators were especially active.
After the war, he returned to the Evansville area and married Hannah McMillan in 1870. Hannah was reported to be
the first white female born in Union township. Her father, Charles McMillan came to Union township in 1839 with the
first group of settlers.
A. C. Thorpe was active in a number of businesses. He was in the grocery business until 1883 when he sold his
store and made plans to move to Dakota. However, he decided not to live there and remained in Evansville.
Thorpe purchased the house on West Main Street in 1885. During the time that he and Hannah lived in the home at
250 West Main, he operated a livestock business with David Stevens, buying livestock from farmers in the Evansville
area and shipping them to Chicago's Stock Yards.
Thorpe and his wife lived in the house until her death due to cancer in 1890. They had no children. He married
Antoinette C. Porter in 1891 and they continued to live in the house until 1902 when they moved to Janesville where
Thorpe once again went into the grocery business.
In 1902, Bert Baker, a partner in the F. A. Baker & Co. hardware store, purchased the house. Bert Baker was an
Evansville native. He was born in 1878 and after attending Evansville schools went to work in his father's hardware
business as a clerk. He was 18 years old when he joined his father, Francis A. Baker in the hardware business.
In 1899, Bert had married Rissa Tuller, but their marriage lasted only a few years. After the marriage was dissolved,
Rissa kept the house and in 1914 she married Ray Hyne, who owned a local automobile dealership. Hyne had one
of the first car dealerships in the city. He and his partner, Bruce Townsend, sold Ford cars that arrived in pieces
that had to be assembled in their garage. Hyne and his father bought out Townsend and changed their business to
a Buick dealership, known as Frank Hyne and Son.
When Rissa and Ray Hyne moved out of the house is not known. In the 1930s and early 1940s it was a rental
property. An advertisement in October 1933 and January 1934 Evansville Reviews lists a four-room apartment with
bath at 250 West Main Street. “Rent reasonable, Inquire of Herman Tucker.”
In the late 1930s, the Edward O. A. Johnson family lived in the house. Johnson was an electrician. Johnson and his
family had first moved into the Brown School district, east of Evansville and had lived there for six years before
moving into Evansville. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson were members of the Goodwill Community Club.
In the 1940's the Bernhard J. Bakke family lived at 250 West Main. The Bakke children were very talented
musicians. They were active in the high school band and also in musical activities at St. John's Lutheran Church.
Colette Bakke played tenor saxophone, bass clarinet and piano and Sigrid, played trombone, baritone and piano.
Their little brother, Bernhard, played saxophone.
Edward Krebs, a local pharmacist owned the house in the 1950s. A large barn that was on the property was torn
down and a smaller garage was built after the Krebs family moved into the house.
Krebs also made an addition to the east of the original structure. He had found grape iron work that he liked while
the family was on a trip to the south. He took a picture of it so that when they had the addition made, the builder
could duplicate the design on the new addition and the front porch. Mrs. Krebs had grapes on her good china and
some other antique dishes and the idea for the grape work on the exterior was an extension of her love for the
The builder removed a porch on the east end of the house and added the addition which included large glass
windows and a fireplace. The addition was built in 1955 and Edward Krebs had only a few months to enjoy the new
addition. He died in December 1955, his widow put the house up for sale. In November 1956, the house was sold to
Tom Rennels who operated an insurance office out of an area converted to office space in the garage that Krebs
had built to the west of the house.
In 1979, the house was up for sale and Rennels sold it in the early 1980s to Burton and Donna Wheeler. The
Wheeler family lived in the house until the mid 1990s when it was sold to Eric J. Knudtson and Erik R. Gye, the
current occupants of the house. It has been beautifully landscaped and painted in a buff color.
In 2003, the house is once again for sale. Moses Vervalin's house has stood the test of time. The brick made of
local clay has been covered white paint to protect it from the elements and an addition has been made to the east
side of the house and a date for that addition has yet to be determined.