Four of the most prominent businessmen in Lake Geneva during the 1940s, 1950s and earlier were two sets of brothers, Lyle M. Traver and Edwin “Muggs” Traver, and Sturges P. Taggart Sr. and Frederick H. Taggart.
Sturges Taggart Sr. and Lyle Traver both served terms as the mayor of Lake Geneva.
Lyle Traver was born in Linn Township on July 27, 1894, the son of Mr. and Mrs. William Traver. Traver School, south of Geneva Lake, was named after his father. Lyle grew up in Lake Geneva and graduated from Lake Geneva High School. On Oct. 20, 1915, he married Ayleen Nelson of Racine, and they were divorced in the early 1950s. He entered the automotive business in 1912 after graduation from high school, working as a mechanic for his father, who had established the first Ford agency in Lake Geneva in 1912 and ran it until 1917.
In 1918, Lyle and his father became partners in a shop repairing Fords. Lyle Traver also acquired the Firestone agency in 1918. In 1920, Lyle and his father obtained the Dodge-Plymouth dealership in Lake Geneva and ran it together until 1921, when Lyle bought out his father’s share in the dealership. From 1920 to 1948, Lyle’s automobile garage was located at the southeast corner of Broad and Geneva streets, where the McCullough’s drugstore was later located.
In 1948, Lyle Traver had a new building for his Dodge-Plymouth dealership constructed at 720 Geneva St. around the corner from his original building. A Lincoln-Mercury dealership was opened in Traver’s building in the mid-1950s.
During his career as an automobile dealer, Lyle Traver was also very active in civic and community affairs in Lake Geneva. He was a leading member of the Lake Geneva Chamber of Commerce and twice served as the chamber’s president, his second term running from 1940 to 1942.
Under his leadership, the chamber persuaded the John L. Cheney Instrument Co. and the Belvidere Pottery Co. to move to Lake Geneva. He also wholeheartedly supported the annual Venetian Festival and played a key role in initiating the promotion of Lake Geneva as the “Switzerland of America.”
Lyle Traver was also a member of the Zor Shrine, the Masons, the Methodist Church and the Good Roads Commission of Wisconsin, and he was an ardent bowler. But it was as the mayor of Lake Geneva that Lyle Traver made his mark on the city. He was first elected mayor in 1942 by an overwhelming majority in the largest turnout — 1,513 voters — in Lake Geneva’s history up to that time. He was re-elected in 1944 and in 1946.
During the last years of his life, he spent his winters in Florida. After a long illness, he passed away on April 28, 1955, at the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison. He was 60 years old. His survivors included his second wife, Margaret Baumbach, whom he had married on June 25, 1953; his sister, Mrs. Harry Taggart; his half brother, Edwin A.(“Muggs”) Traver; and his two daughters, Mrs. Raymond Wauters (the mother of one of my high school classmates, Sue Wauters), and Mrs. Lee Clayton, the mother of the well known former resident of Lake Geneva, “Squeaker” Clayton.
Lyle Traver’s half brother, Edwin A. “Muggs” Traver, was perhaps as well known as Lyle as a businessman, entrepreneur and civic activist in Lake Geneva during the 1940s, 1950s, and earlier. Edwin Traver was owner of the Traver Hotel (torn down in February 2016), which was located just north of the Lake Geneva Regional News office where a vacant lot is today. The Traver Hotel was, for many years, the home away from home of commercial travelers (i.e. salesmen), who got off the train from Chicago and walked the short distance to the Traver Hotel carrying their sales satchels.
Edwin A. Traver was married to the 23-year-old Mabel Irene Lemke in Waukegan, Illinois, on July 17, 1933. Edwin and Mabel operated the Traver Hotel for 39 years during a time when the hotel was particularly known for its excellent restaurant. Many Lake Geneva civic organizations held their dinners there. Edwin and Mabel were members of the Methodist Church. Edwin A. Traver died in 1978. Following his death, Mabel moved to Highland Beach, Florida. Their two children, Dr. Myrna Traver Larson and Edwin L. “Clipper” Traver, were both well known graduates of Lake Geneva High School. I knew both of them. Mabel Traver died in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, on June 29, 1997. She was 86 years old.
The second set of brothers who were prominent residents of Lake Geneva during the 1940s, 1950s, and earlier were Sturges P. Taggart Sr. and Frederick H. Taggart.
Sturges P. Taggart, Sr. and Frederick H. Taggart were the sons of Louis H. and Mary Sturges Taggart. Louis Taggart was the founder of Taggart Lumber Co., which was, with the Dunn Lumber Co., one of Lake Geneva’s two lumber yards. It was located east of Broad Street between what were then the railroad tracks and North Street, where the Town Bank is today. It closed in 1962, when the family sold the Taggart Lumber Co. property to Sentry Foods.
Sturges P. Taggart Sr. was born in Lake Geneva on June 14, 1898. He served in the U.S. Army in France during World War I. He married Evangeline Peacock in Lake Geneva on Dec. 5, 1922, the same year that he graduated from the University of Wisconsin’s Law School.
Upon graduation from law school, he entered into a partnership with the prominent Lake Geneva attorney Charles S. French. Their law offices were on the second floor of a store at 743 Main St. He practiced law in Lake Geneva for 39 years and, like Lyle Traver, he was a former mayor of Lake Geneva. He was a member of the Wisconsin State Bar Association and the American Bar Association.
Sturges P. Taggart Sr. died in Lakeland Hospital on Nov. 14, 1961. He was 63 years old. Among his survivors were his wife, his brother, Frederick H. Taggart, and his son, Sturges P. Taggart Jr., who also became a prominent Lake Geneva businessman and member of the Lake Geneva City Council. On Oct. 17, 1968, he married my neighbor, Judie Smith. Sturges P. Taggart Jr. passed away in Lake Geneva on Sept. 6, 2014, at the age of 81.
Sturges P. Taggart Sr.’s brother, Frederick H. Taggart, was also born in Lake Geneva. He married Marjorie Elizabeth Trumbull on Oct. 3, 1929. Unfortunately she died three years later on March 7, 1932. She was only 29 years old.
While Sturges P. Taggart Sr., spent his career as an attorney in Lake Geneva, his brother, Frederick H. Taggart, ran the family business, the Taggart Lumber Co. The feed store at the Taggart Lumber Co. was managed by my paternal grandfather, Bernard F. Quinn Sr.
As the co-owner and manager of the Taggart Lumber Co., Frederick H. Taggart was almost as well known in Lake Geneva as his brother, Sturges P. Taggart Sr. Upon his retirement from the lumber business, Frederick H. Taggart moved to Florida. Frederick H. Taggart’s only son, Frederick T. (“Fritz”) Taggart died in Los Angeles, California, on May 19, 1997. He was 66 years old.
These two sets of brothers — Lyle and Edwin “Muggs” Traver and Sturges P. and Frederick H. Taggart — epitomized the sort of civic and community leaders that Lake Geneva was renowned for during the 1940s, 1950s, and earlier.
Quinn is a Lake Geneva native who is the University Archivist Emeritus at Northwestern University.