Reproduction of photograph from Fox Valley Memory, used with
permission of the Appleton Public Library.
Theodore Conkey built his mansion in 1849 at 433 W. Prospect Ave.
Theodore Conkey and his wife Cynthia are well known names in Appleton history. Conkey platted the city of Appleton, named Outagamie County, served in the Wisconsin State Senate and General Assembly and was a colonel in the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry in the Civil War.
Conkey is described in The United States Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of eminent and Self-Made Men; Wisconsin Volume, (Chicago, 1877):
COLONEL THEODORE CONKEY, APPLETON
"THEODORE CONKEY has been a resident of Wisconsin for more than thirty-five years, and was one of the original surveyors of the land on which Appleton now stands. He is a native of New York and was born in Canton, St. Lawrence county, December 11, 1819. His father, Asa Conkey, a farmer, was a soldier in the second war with England; his mother was Mary Nash. He received an academic education, and remained on the farm until 1841. Removing to the West at that time he stopped a few months at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. In the spring of 1842 he went to Madison, where he taught a school for nearly two years. He then engaged in civil engineering, and followed it steadily for about seven years, making United States government surveys, mainly in Wisconsin, and largely from Appleton northward and eastward to the Michigan line; his home during this time being at Fond du Lac. At first he worked under General Ellis, an older man and more experienced surveyor, carrying the chain. Being slender in form at that time General Ellis expressed doubts about his being able to endure the hardships and mosquitoes of the Wisconsin swamps, but in a short time the General was quite willing to surrender the compass into the hands of Mr. Conkey at least half the time.
His settlement in Appleton dates from July, 1849, when the place contained only seven or eight families. It needed not much of a prophetic vision to see, at that time, that enterprising men would gather around the Grand Chute, utilize the water-power, and build a city. Here Mr. Conkey built a saw-mill for himself, and then, from 1852 to 1857, was interested in the construction of the Fox and Wisconsin river improvements, operating in connection with Morgan L. Martin, now of Green Bay. In 1859 and i860 he was engaged alone in filling a contract to build a lock and improvement at Rapid de Croche. Prior to taking this contract he had built a flouringmill at Appleton with three sets of burrs. This property he disposed of in 1861, at the opening of the rebellion, and raising a company joined the 3d Wisconsin Cavalry (commanded by Colonel Barstow) as captain of company I. He served with his regiment in the southwest and on the plains nearly four years, and was mustered out of the service at the close of the war as lieutenant-colonel of the regiment. He was a bold, dashing officer, and richly merited his promotions.
Returning to Appleton in November, 1865, Colonel Conkey repurchased his old mill property, added four more sets of burrs, and has now (1877) one of the best mills in his part of the State, and is producing from fifty thousand to sixty thousand barrels per annum.
Colonel Conkey was in the State senate in 1851 and 1852, and in the general assembly in 1857. In politics he has always been identified with the democratic party.
He attends the Episcopal church.
Mrs. Conkey was Cynthia F. Foote, of St. Lawrence county. New York. They were married in June, 1848, and have had four children, three of whom are now living. The eldest child, Alice F., is the wife of A. J. Reid, of the Appleton 'Post.' Colonel Conkey has from the start been thoroughly identified with all local projects which he considered would be for the benefit of the place. He takes great pride in the prosperity and beauty of his early adopted home.
In stature he is five feet ten inches high and weighs fully two hundred pounds; he has a ruddy complexion, a very healthy look, and although much exposed in middle life in surveying through swamps dams, often in the water from morning till night, he hardly knows what illness is. As a business man he is cautious, shrewd and plucky, and has been very successful. He owns a large frame dwelling which stands on the high bank of the Fox river, and has a commanding view of one of the most picturesque valleys in northeastern Wisconsin. He has a little deer park adjoining his premises, and surroundings comfortable enough for a prince."
An obituary from an unnamed source, probably from 1880, appears on the Wisconsin Historical Society's Wisconsin Local History & Biography Articles.
An article on the Conkey family and their homes (including an early image) appears in the Summer 2000 issue of the Old Third Ward Neighborhood News.