Recently I question a fellow blogger about an image of a house in Neenah. He told me he'd seen a picture of the house in an album compiled by William Waters Jr. and that the book was held at the Wisconsin State Historical Society. I called the archivist to confirm the existence of the collection and by the description given to me, I felt sure it was what I was looking for. I went to the archive in Madison, accompanied by my wife and after filling out the requisite paper work the file was brought to us. What was in the file wasn't the photo album I had anticipated but some thing just as exciting.
Before me were the pages of a once bound agricultural journal. Upon the pages young William Waters Jr. or "Willie" as he was known had pasted discarded drawing done by his father or J. P, Jensen. It was evident to me that it was the work of a child for the haphazard nature of organization and mounting. There were some engravings of building not designed by his father and perhaps included just because the boy liked them. Most of the pages were filled with small pencil drawings: elevations, floor plans and details of residential, religious and commercial structures. The majority of the sketches were from 1876 as some of them were dated, Willie would have been seven. One can speculate about the books creation; perhaps it was a summer day, the boy went to the office with his father and took up the project as a way to keep occupied. This was a difficult time for Mr. Waters and his family, their infant daughter had died in April of 1873 and Mrs. Waters past away in October of 1875. The disastrous Oshkosh fires of 1874 and '75 had kept the office busy as well as forcing Waters to find new office space.