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Ask NOW: Who were the Ebles and what did they want for their land?

Back row: Grace, Katherine, George and Della Eble. Front row: Jule, Emery, Roy, Florence, Elsie and Julia Eble.

Back row: Grace, Katherine, George and Della Eble. Front row: Jule, Emery, Roy, Florence, Elsie and Julia Eble.

March 5, 2014

Is there a rumor you'd like tracked down? Rory Linnane answers some of the mysteries of life in Brookfield and helps solve everyday problems.

What did Florence and Roy Eble want for their property?

Question: The land on the northeast corner of Bluemound and Janacek roads now belongs to Waukesha County and is home of the Eble Ice Arena, but it supported a family farm for many decades. The county is preparing to demolish the barn on the property, which has some people wondering how the Eble family would feel about the change.

Answer: The written history of the Eble family goes back until at least May 23, 1882, when the Waukesha Freeman noted the wedding of Emery and Julia Eble, who would later raise 12 children, including the two youngest who donated the property more than a hundred years later: Florence and Roy. Emery's mother had purchased the land three years earlier, after her husband was killed deer hunting, according to the Elmbrook Historical Society.

Emery and Julia had renowned success with the farm. A writer for the Waukesha Freeman noted in 1985, "Supervisor Emery Eble and family are comfortable domiciled in the finest home in town, just finished by contractors Sommers and Galabinski." The Freeman stories appear in Thomas Ramstack's book, "Brookfield: A Fine and Fertile Land."

In 1909, the paper remarked at the success of the farm: "Emery Eble has a rye field that is among the top notchers. The stalks measure 6 feet and 5 inches in length."

When Blumound Road divided the family's land, the Ebles were undeterred, as illustrated by a quote from Don Lussendorf in Ramstack's book: "Each day, three family members drove the milking herd across the road to pasture after milking, and the sheep would follow."

But in 1956, the Ebles sold half their cattle, and 1964, they sold half their 180-acre farm, according to the historical society.

Roy Eble died in 1987. That year, when Florence Eble donated the rest of their property to Waukesha County, the primary use of the land was still marked on the deed as agricultural. The value of the real estate at the time was stated at $1.1 million.

The deed dictates that the county "shall forever maintain the property conveyed as a public park." With Florence's permission, the county later added to this provision that the park could include an ice-skating arena, Waukesha County Director of Parks and Land Use Dale Shaver said.

Another provision specifically mentions the barn. It says the county must provide the Eble family access to the barn and maintain the existing flower beds until Florence died. She died in 1995.

Although some town of Brookfield residents have said they thought the Ebles wanted the barn to stay, Shaver said the county has not wavered from its signed agreement.

"Ms. Eble was a very sharp woman," Shaver said. "It's very clear she only cared about the house and the barn while she resided there. Once she and Roy were no longer there, those provisions went away. If she had wanted those buildings to be there, she would have spelled that out. What she really wanted is, she wanted that land to be an open space or a park oasis along what was becoming a very busy Bluemound corridor."

But town officials are not convinced the barn should go. Town Board Chairman Keith Henderson said he plans to send Shaver a letter asking the county to complete its master plan for the park before demolishing the barn, to keep open the possibility of rehabilitating it. County officials say it would cost $89,000 to fix structural issues and repaint the barn, which they have deemed an unfit use of tax dollars.

The county already conducted pre-demolition inspections of asbestos and lead paint. County Parks Program Specialist Ginny Bocek said the inspection results will determine when the barn comes down.

Submit your question for Ask NOW by sending an email to Rory Linnane at rlinnane@jrn.com.

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