History

Told by Bob Kennedy, Sr.
November 1997

In 1913, we started a railroad grading business. Matthew, my grandfather, had 50 or 60 hand-held scoops, or fresnos as they were called. The railroad would move these and a large tent that would hold 75 to 80 horses. When the railroad dropped them at the end of the line, the tent was erected and they would go out in the area and hire a man and his team of Belgians, Percherons or comparable big, strong horses, usually at the rate of $1.50 per day and board and room for the horses and man.

When this section was finished, the railroad would move them to the next job wherever it might be, and they would repeat the same procedure at the new location. This work took them west, mostly through Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.

After World War I, around the 1920s, my dad's brother, Max, came home from the service and they formed a partnership which included grading. They had a small crusher and would put the gravel base on, which was usually the last surface. In 1925, Herman Bush, dad's brother-in-law, became a partner in the business. At this time, they were just starting to replace horses with motor vehicles. They would set up camp for each job. They had sleeping trailers, each with eight bunks, kitchen trailer, and a dining trailer. They would hire a local husband and wife. The husband worked as a laborer and the wife was the cook and housekeeper. Things went quite well until 1929 and the Depression. They were forced to sell some of the equipment and work under the W.P.A. Act set up by President Roosevelt. This was merely a means of living, but everybody was in the same boat, so it was just the same for everyone.

In 1933, Herman Bush went to work as Highway Supervisor for the Rock County Highway Department, leaving William J. Kennedy and Max as owner/operator. In 1939, William J. ran for Rock County Highway Commissioner, losing a close election to the Assistant Commissioner.

In 1940, Max Kennedy joined the Rock County Sheriff's Department, so dad was the sole operator. From the days of horses, dad had a farm with he liked to run better than the road business. The business consisted of four dump trucks, a pull-type grader, and a Wisconsin Foundry crusher and Northwest shovel, which was owned by Drew & Garry of Evansville. They decided that it was better for them to lease it to dad and that was the way they operated until 1951. Drew & Garry had both died and dad became ill. I was in the G.I. Bill at UW Whitewater after flying 33 missions with the 100th Bomb Group 8th Air Force in Europe. I left school to help wind up business for dad and he asked me to stay. At that time, it was necessary to enlarge the business and expand. Dad died in 1955 and I purchased is 50% from the estate. The company became William J. Kennedy & Son, Inc.

There was a lot of work, due to nothing being done during the war. Also, there were a lot of contractors waiting for it.

The company kept the name William J. Kennedy & Son, and expanded into Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, Kentucky, and Tennessee following the Interstate program.

During this time, the company bought the original 100 acres on U.S. 51 and Townline Road, built a shop and office, and started mining some of the best gravel in southern Wisconsin. A washed sand and gravel plant was set up, furnishing local ready-mix plants. In the 1960s, a subsidiary was formed, called Bituminous Materials, Inc., and we were in the asphalt business. In 1977, the company bought Rock Road's Wisconsin Operations and formed Bituminous Materials and Rock Road into Rock Road of Wisconsin. Then in 1986, the company bought Rein, Schultz & Dahl Asphalt Company at Rockford, Illinois, folding that into Rock Road of Wisconsin and Illinois.

In 1994, Robert J. Kennedy sold the companies to his three sons, William E. Kennedy, Stephen M. Kennedy and Robert J. Kennedy, Jr. They have since put the operations in one company called Rock Road Companies, Inc.