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The Apple Orchards of Oak Creek

Have you ever wondered why the Drexel Avenue bridge over I-94 is adorned with the likeness of an apple or why the street signs near 27th and Puetz Rd. are named “Orchard Way”, “Apple Creek Dr.”, “Honadel Blvd.” and “Cortland Dr.”?

The southwest corner of Oak Creek was the home of thriving apple orchards for much of the 20th Century.  Whether it was the Honadel’s Orchard Market, Mahr’s Hillside Orchard or the Meyer’s Orchard, customers had the choice of locally grown apple varieties and farm produced apple cider.



Johann George and Margaretha Honadel arrived in this country from Alsace-Lorraine in 1830. After a few years in New York State, they traveled to Wisconsin in 1840 to begin a farmstead. The first 80 acres of land purchased in Franklin in 1840 was the northwest corner of 27th Street (then known as the Kilbourn Road) and Puetz Road for $175. The area was known as Painesville.


Family legend has it that the Honadels brought the first span of horses to this part of the country. Farmers in the area worked the land with oxen. They bought “Maud and Barney” in Buffalo and brought the two horses here on a boat. They stayed overnight in Milwaukee at a livery stable. There they were robbed and had no money to continue to Painesville. Julius Kroeger, owner of a dry goods store on Grove Street, Milwaukee, befriended them and loaned them money to continue the journey. They continued the friendship for years to come.


Elroy Honadel, Sr. began an apple orchard on the farm in the late 1920’s.  At one time, the orchard included 20 acres with 2,200 trees. For many years, the orchard and retail store were a well-known attraction in Oak Creek. Elroy Honadel, Jr. (Past President of Oak Creek Historical Society and former Mayor of Oak Creek from 1972 to 1974) was the 5th generation to live on the property. He succeeded his father in 1949 and ran the orchard until the 1990’s.



Henry Mahr and the Mahr’s Hillside Orchard in Oak Creek were well known in the 20th century.  The farm was begun by Henry Mahr’s great grandfather, William Mahr in 1852, one of two brothers who came to America from Prussia.   Successive generations ran the farm until the late 20th century.    Henry and Violet Mahr were the last of the Mahr family to own the land.  They managed the orchard with the help of their children: Betty, Karen and Kathleen.  The Mahr operation started as a dairy farm. The orchard dates to the 1930s.  Cherries and raspberries were grown alongside the apples.


In addition to his work in the orchard, Henry had a lifelong interest in music.  He learned the violin from band leader Steve Swedish and played in a mixer band at school with Liberace, who later became the world-famous pianist.  Henry also played with the Milwaukee and Racine symphonies. Henry was also very active in the community. He was an Oak Creek Alderman for many years. He played a key role in the formation of the Oak Creek Historical Society and was its first president. He was Executive Secretary of the Wisconsin Apple and Horticultural Council. He also ran the apple booth at the Wisconsin State Fair until his retirement and death in 1988.


Joseph Meyer, a cabinet maker from Switzerland came to New York state in 1834.  He met Jacob Rohr and his family of eight children on the ship as they crossed the Atlantic.  After living together in New York, the combined family moved to a 225 acre farmstead on the northeast corner of Ryan Rd. and south 27th St. in 1846.  Joseph married Jacob’s daughter, Anna.  The Rohrs lived on the 27th Street farm while Joseph and Anna owned a 150 acre farm in Franklin adjacent to the current location of the County House of Correction.   They lived there until 1872 when Jacob Rohr died.  At that time, Fred Meyer (Joseph’s son) purchased and moved to the 27th St. farm.  Successive descendants of Joseph and Anna Meyer ran the farm. Alfred (Fred's son) ran the farm as a dairy with other general farming and a small home orchard. In 1929, the family began the first mass plantings of a commercial orchard.

Leroy (Alfred's son) expanded the operation into a well-known Oak Creek orchard including a retail outlet at the farm. Apple, pear and cherry trees continued to be planted. By the 1970s, the orchards became the mainstay of the farm. Barry Meyer (Leroy's son) managed the orchards, farm market and the Homestead Cabin craft co-operative at the farmstead site.

Leroy Meyer was President of the West Allis Kiwanis Club, a member of the Oak Creek school board for 25 years and President of the Oak Creek Historical Society. He compiled a museum of old farm artifacts and enjoyed volunteering to teach children about the farming lifestyle.

Honadel 1966
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