Initially started in 1856 with the construction of a sawmill, Watertown was surveyed and platted by Eli F. Lewis in 1858.
The new community was platted on both sides of the South Fork of the Crow River. Its location on the river and the abundant supply of water from six area lakes provided the source for the growing settlement’s name. Watertown
Lewis and his brother, Isaac, later purchased the first sawmill. The two brothers moved the sawmill and added a gristmill to their operations.
Watertown was well-known for its mills during the early years. Producing 50 barrels of flour per day, the mill was patronized by many settlers within a 50-mile radius.
Other early industries included a plow factory and a bell foundry. The plow factory produced 1,000 plows and 200 cultivators each year. Between 3,000 and 5,000 bells were cast annually at the bell factory.
Watertown was incorporated as a village on February 26, 1877. By 1880, besides the industries mentioned above, the community contained three general stores, a hardware store, a brewery, three hotels, and three churches.
Today, with a population of 4,205, Watertown’s economy rests on a diversified, non-industrial base. The city’s largest employers include the Watertown-Mayer School District, a nursing home, and food service or sales.
Farm equipment, feed, and fertilizer dealers provide service to area farms, while banking, retail trade, a medical clinic, and manufacturing fill out today’s economy.
Services for trail users are readily available in the downtown district paralleling the river, which has a traditional “Main Street” feel that should appeal to visitors on a day trip.
Watertown bills itself as “the heart of the Luce Line Trail” and has worked to strengthen ties to the Luce Line. It hopes to enhance both the potential for economic development benefits from trail visitors and additional recreational amenities for residents.
The trail crosses the South Fork of the Crow River just a block off the main commercial district of Watertown. A plaza and picnic shelter on the west bank of the river offers spots for trail users to take a break. Parking for trail users is available in two municipal parking areas sited along the trail, just behind the downtown area on Lewis Avenue.
The Luce Line links to a city trail along the east bank of the river, which winds through wooded areas to a shore fishing deck overlooking the river. Six parking spots at this site, called Old Mill Park, would also be available for trail users.
Long-range plans by the city include additional recreation facilities, camping sites, lodging, facilities for horse trail users, trail links to potential new residential developments, and additional trail user parking near the trail.
Between Watertown and Winsted, the trail crosses Hollywood Township (population 1,060).
The trail crosses this rural farming township in a straight east-to-west line for six miles.
The name of this Carver County Township was not derived from California cinema but from an early Irish settler who, in 1856, mistakenly claimed that this land was thick with holly like his native land.
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