Photo taken by J.R. Manning

Waukesha’s Most Haunted

Here is the historic Putney House. The man whole built it in 1901 was Frank Putney. Frank was born in Rockford in 1841, but he made his mark as one of the city leaders in late Nineteenth Century Waukesha.

In Frank’s obituary, it is mentioned that his family can trace their history back to the original settlement in Salem, Massachusetts. And indeed, we found that his ancestor John Putney Junior was mentioned in the records of the Salem Witch Trials. For our purposes, it wasn’t for witchcraft or as the victim of sorcery unfortunately, but he did receive a painful punishment.

See, the Puritans and Quakers didn’t mess around when it came to punishing bad behavior. Sure, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Hester Prynne might have had to wear a Scarlet “A” on her clothes for cheating on her boring old husband, but poor old John Putney Junior got something a little more permanent.

Here’s a contemporary description that a Puritan wrote of how they branded their criminals like cattle:

“He was branded on the forehead as high up as possible. This was usually done by a hot iron in the form of a letter designating the crime, which was held on the forehead of the criminal till he could say the words “God save the king.”

John Putney Junior got a “B” for burglary on his forehead. 

Now, Frank was a few generations removed and was a pillar of the community. Frank studied law at Carroll College here and then served in the Union forces during the Civil War, where he fought in the Siege of Vicksburg and the Battle of Atlanta. Putney was even part of Sherman’s March to the Sea, the brutal campaign that helped demoralize the South and win the war. When he returned to Waukesha, he would go on to become president of the village, the postmaster, and even the county judge. 
When Frank died in 1914, the *Waukesha Freeman* called this house “possibly the finest in the city”. It would eventually pass through Frank’s family and in 1990 served as the home for the Waukesha Chamber of Commerce. A huge portrait of Frank Putney used to hang in the house’s dining room, which served as the staff conference room. 

Photo by Kenneth C. Zirkel

And Frank may have been watching them in more ways than that. While the Waukesha Chamber of Commerce had its office here, people would hear strange voices coming from rooms where there was no one there. Footsteps would go up and down the old staircases that didn’t have any human feet attached. Employees would lose belongings for weeks at a time only to find them in the same place they left. They said they felt a mischievous presence here. Could it be Frank staying involved in the affairs of the town that was so important to him, even if it was just to keep the Chamber of Commerce on its toes?