Town History

Recollection by George Reitmeyer

Native Americans once occupied what is now Manitowoc County, in which the village of Cato is nestled. The French laid claim to this land but passed it on to the British in 1763 as a result of the Seven Years’ War.

Cato was initially called “Nettle Hill” because a weed called nettle grew plentifully in the area. A man by the name of Hickok later renamed the village “Cato” because it so resembled Cato, New York from where he hailed.

Some of the early residents of Cato were: John Kirch, Michael Fitzgerald, Albert Yohanek, George Abb, Anne Boehm, Henry Garski, Joseph Kohlbeck, Emma Cooper, Dave Morgan, Joseph Rappel, John, Walter and Sherman Killen, Herman Klann, Pat Scanlon, Clarence Sittman, Pete Gosz, Clarence Carbon, Dan, Jim and Kate Cooney, Lovell Brennan, Doctor John Kelley and the Williams’s.

In 1863, construction of the railroad was halted at Branch because materials used to build the road were needed for the Civil War effort. Following the war, in about 1870, the road, which originated in Manitowoc, was completed through Cato. The railroad agents were Hank Erdman and Tom Kodelka, along with a few substitutes. At times there were as many as eight trains that passed through Cato each day. They usually consisted of two passenger trains, two rail units, two trains carrying freight and two special trains. The trains operated between Manitowoc and Forest Junction. Railroads carried the vast majority of freight in those days.

Please click here to read the full history of Town of Cato.

About George Reitmeyer
by Marcy Shavlik

When Cato was “wiped off” the map during restructuring of Highway 10, many people were forced to relocate. George Reitmeyer was one of them. He and his wife, Betty, moved to Whitelaw after 50 years of operating the “tavern on the hill.”

George, 79, was born in Cato and lived his entire life there except for 4 ½ years in military service. He is a talented painter of wild life, landscapes, and scenery. He has always been a sign painter and did lettering for farms, busses, autos, and businesses. Besides wall pictures, he paints scenes on saws, jugs and miniatures.

A graduate of Lincoln High School, he had two semesters of art and attributes his talent to “Granpa Yohanek” and his Czech heritage. His parents had nine children and they had many interesting experiences growing up in the thriving village of Cato which had a feed mill, cheese factory, dance hall, bank, hatchery, school, post office, general store, a doctor, and two bars.

In 1933, a fatal car accident happened and after that several people hit the cement posts on the porch of the tavern because of its close proximity to the highway.

The Reitmeyers have three children and have been married over 50 years. They continue to be active in their community.