The Village of Richfield, originally the home of the Menomonee and Potawatomi people, is located in the south-central Washington County. These areas were ceded by treaties ratified in 1831, by the Menomonee and 1833, by the Potawatomi to the United States. The areas were then surveyed under the auspices of Garret Vliet, who was appointed United States deputy surveyor in 1835.
The first landowner of record in the Village of Richfield was Samuel Spivey, a surveyor with Vliet’s group, who purchased 160 acres in 1841, although he did not settle there, but bought it for land speculation. By 1846, a formal township government had been established; and by 1848, most of the township land had been purchased by German (primarily from Hesse-Darmstadt), Irish, and a few scattered English immigrants where conditions in the homeland made it ripe for emigration to America. Most early settlers came with the intention of farming, but they brought with them skills which would prove useful in frontier living.
The settlers found the land in Richfield fertile and well suited to agriculture (early subsistence farming, wheat production, and later the milk cow) as well as well-watered due to its small creeks and streams; the two largest being the Bark and Oconomowoc which, as part of the Rock River System, flow south through Illinois to the Mississippi River. The village also has several lakes within its boundary – Bark, Amy Belle, Little and Big Friess, Lake Five and small Lake Chief Heineker a.k.a. Mud Lake.
Not only did Richfield have fertile, well-watered, scenic land; but it was serviced by two railroads early in its history. This gave rise to commercial as well as passenger traffic on its way to summer lake activities and Holy Hill. The Village of Richfield became a bustling center with two hotels and a full complement of commercial establishments.
Other crossroads communities within the township borders – Colgate, Plat, Hubertus, and Pleasant Hill developed as centers of activity providing services on a smaller scale to the surrounding families. With the advent of the automobile, Richfield’s thriving commerce was redirected. Farming and agriculture, however, remained the dominant economic activity until rather recently.
With desirable, scenic, well-watered land with proximity to Milwaukee, the Village of Richfield has seen much development associated with urban sprawl. Despite the disappearance of many family farms and the sleepy state of its crossroads communities, one can today still view many historic remnants of the thriving agriculture and commerce of an earlier age set against a stage of unusual scenic beauty. We invite you to take a driving tour of the village.