ORGANIZATION - FIRST OFFICERS - LOCATION - WILLOW CREEK, BEAR CREEK, OTHER STREAMS - CHARACTER OF SETTLERS - SKETCHES OF PIONEERS - ORGANIZATION OF ST. MARY'S (CATHOLIC) CHURCH - BEAR VALLEY UNION CHURCH - LUTHERAN CHURCH ORGANIZED IN 1862.
The town lies in the eastern tier of Richland county's sub-divisions, and comprises the territory of township 10, range 2 east. Unlike most of the towns in the county, originally there was but little timber in Ithaca. The Indians, when this was their home, set fires yearly that stripped the surface of its vegetation, and what timber there was in The town was at the head of the smaller valleys, or "pockets," except some scattered along on the banks of the streams. Since the advent of the whites a flourishing growth of timber has sprung up and now covers the unimproved lands.
The town is well watered by Willow Creek and its tributaries. The creek enters the town from the north by way of section 4, and flows in a general southwesterly course across the surface of the town, to finally make confluence with Pine river. Little Willow, the main branch of the creek just mentioned, enters Ithaca from the north by way of section 6, from thence it passes through sections 7 and 18, a corner of 19, to section 20, where it flows into the Willow. The celebrated Bear creek passes through the southeastern corner of the town, section 36, on its way to the town of Buena Vista. There are several tributaries to this beautiful stream, fed by springs.
Ithaca is one of the best towns of Richland county. It was settled with an enterprising and thrifty class of people who took hold of such industries as the county seemed to them to be best adapted. An instance of this is found in the dairy industries, in which Ithaca leads most of the towns in the county. Some of the best land was first thought to be unfit for agricultural purposes on account of its wet and marshy appearance. Especially was this the case in the Little Willow and upper part of Big Willow and Bear valleys. These lands have been sufficiently drained by cultivation, and here, at the present time, are to be found some of the best farms in the town.
The first settler within the limits now comprising the town of Ithaca was James Bank, a native of England, who came here in 1849, and settled on the southeast quarter of section 31. On July 19, 1852, he sold this farm to Dr. Sippy and moved to Bear Valley, where he located on the southwest quarter of section 2. In 1855 he sold out again and removed to Sextonville, where he opened a hotel and also contracted to carry the mail. He died there a few years later. A Mr. Whelpy was the first settler in that part of Bear creek Valley now included in Ithaca. He came here as early as 1849, and settled upon the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 36. He erected a log cabin and covered the roof with sod, and remained until 1857, when he sold to H. L. Burnham and left the country. In the fall of 1848 Thomas Derrickson and John Walker came from Indiana. Mr. Derrickson located a land warrant obtained for services in the Mexican War, on the southeast quarter of section 30, and he still continues to live there. John Walker entered the northeast quarter of section 31. He was a Methodist exhorter, and for a number of years he preached in the neighborhood and tilled his farm, then sold out and moved to La Crosse, and afterward to Dakota. Samuel Metcalf also came from Indiana in 1849. He entered the northeast quarter of section 30, lived there until 1853, and then sold to Anthony Thomas and removed to Illinois. F. G. Robinson came here from Indiana at about the same time as did Metcalf, and settled on the southwest quarter of section 20. He made that his home for about one year, when he sold his place to Rolland Bush and returned to Indiana. Jacob Enos came here from Green county in 1849 and claimed the southeast quarter of section 17. He sojourned here but a few years, selling out at the expiration of that time and removing to California. William Butler, an Indian half-breed, from the reservation in Onondaga county, N. Y., came in 1849 and claimed the northwest quarter of section 9. He soon sold that claim and entered the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 29. In November, 1852, he traded this land to Isaac P. Welton, receiving therefor a pair of horses, harness and wagon, and $45 in gold. In December of the same year he moved to section 16, where he spent a few months, and then moved to the town of Willow. In the history of that town will be found an account of the settlement there. John Lawrence, a native of New York state, and a son-in-law of William Butler, came with the latter and entered the north half of the northeast quarter of section 17. In the fall of 1851 he sold to Amasa Grover and moved to the town of Richland. He lived there a few years, then returned to Ithaca and lived on section 18 for a time, when he went west. A man named Hademan came at the same time as Butler and Lawrence, and lived with Butler until 1852, when he started with Enos for California, and died on the plains.
Alexander Black, another early settler of the town of Ithaca, was born in Montgomery county, Va., Feb. 17, 1800. His early life was spent on a farm, and through his own efforts he succeded in obtaining a good education, holding the office of county surveyor in his native state for many years. His oldest son, Harvey, was a soldier in the Mexican War, and subsequently graduated in the medical department of the University of Virginia. In 1849 or 1850 the latter went to Chicago, purchased a horse and on horseback went to Green Bay, thence to Mineral Point, purchased land in Richland county, after which he went to St. Joseph, Mo., and then returned through the southeastern states to Virginia, the entire trip from Chicago being made on horseback. In 1854, Alexander Black, accompanied by another son, Oscar F., who is mentioned elsewhere in this volume, came to Wisconsin to see the land which Harvey had purchased. They were intending to go to Texas, but on arriving in Richland county they were so well pleased with the location that Mr. Black purchased a large tract on Willow creek, soon afterward moving his family from Virginia, and engaged in farming until his death, which occurred Sept. 17, 1872.
James M. Cass was also a pioneer and was born in the town of Stanstead, province of Quebec, Canada, March 24, 1808. There he grew to manhood, obtaining his education in the common schools, and remained until 1835, when he came to the states. He located in Ohio, near the Pennsylvania line, and there formed a partnership with a mill owner, operated a flouring mill three years, then moved to Wellsburg, where he engaged in the same business. From there he went to Crawford county, and in company with a cousin built a mill, which they operated successfully about three years. He then sold his interest, and in 1847, accompanied by his family, started with teams, overland, for the territory of Wisconsin. After thirty days' travel they arrived in Sauk county and settled in what is now the town of Spring Green. Mr. Cass was chairman of the first board of supervisors of that town, and gave the town its name. In 1851 he came to Richland county and purchased a claim on section 3, now in the town of Richland, and as soon as he got fairly settled he commenced building a saw mill on Pine river. He constructed a stone and brush dam, procuring a fall of six and a half feet, and after operating the mill four years sold it to William Bowen, and purchased a farm on section 21 in the town of Ithaca, where he lived the remainder of his life.
Alfred H. Bush and James H. Boyd came in March, 1850, being both natives of New York state. Bush bought land on section 20, and lived there for a short time, then moved to section 30. In 1872 he moved to Franklin county, Neb. He was a school teacher by profession, and had served as superintendent of schools in Lewis county, N. Y. He was prominent in town and county affairs and served as county treasurer. After removing to Nebraska he represented Franklin county in the state legislature, and also served as mail agent on the Burlington & Missouri River railroad. Boyd took a claim on Little Willow creek and erected a board shanty. He spent the summer there, then disposed of the claim and afterward bought the south half of the northwest quarter of section 5, town 9, range 2 east, and lived there until 1881, when he sold and moved to Jackson county, Joseph Post, a son-in-law of Charles Devoe, came from Walworth county in 1850 and entered land on section 4, where he made his home until the time of his death. He was well liked and had the confidence of the people, filling most of the various offices in the town, and was chairman of the board for several years. Lucius Campbell, a native of Vermont, came in 1849 and entered land on section 6, but in 1852 he sold out and returned to Jefferson county.
In 1850 James Goodrich came, with the intention of opening a store, but he remained only a couple of years and then removed to Nebraska. John Perry, a native of New York, came in 1850 and entered land on section 17, which included the mill privileges. He remained about five years, then sold out and went to Iowa, where he died a few years later.
In the fall of 1850 Mr. Rowley, an Englishman, came to the town of Ithaca and squatted on the northeast quarter of section 5. He made no improvements, except putting up a log cabin, and in 1852 accompanied the Enos party to California. Roland Bush, a native of Hampden county, Mass., came here from the state of New York in 1850 and purchased 320 acres of land, afterward locating on section 19. He became a well-to-do farmer and was one of the foremost citizens, reliable and whole-souled. He was looked upon by the community as a just and upright man, and he lived to be nearly ninety-five years of age.
Amasa Grover, one of the pioneers of the town of Ithaca, was born in the town of Hume, Alleghany county, N. Y., and had an eventful career. When he had arrived at a seasonable age he was sent to the district school, where he acquired a fair education. His father was a miller by trade, but did not always have occupation at that business, and at times engaged at riving and shaving shingles, and Amasa when not in school, assisted his father at such work. When he was thirteen years old his father rented a mill in Cold Creek village and Amasa was placed in charge of it. He operated that mill one year, when the family removed to Cold Creek village, and two years later the father died and the family removed to Erie county. Amasa there engaged in farming three years and a half, then returned to Alleghany county with the family and engaged in teaming, drawing coal and iron from Rochester, a distance of sixty miles. He followed that business one summer, and then purchased a lot in Mixville and built a house for his mother. He then engaged with a blacksmith to learn the trade, and after serving two years bought the shop and carried on the business one year. He then went to the town of Pike, which was in that part of Alleghany that is now Wyoming county, opened a shop at Patch Corners, where he worked at his trade two years, then went to Loon Lake, Steuben county, and run a shop two years, the opened a shop in Cohocton, where he remained until 1851, when he determined to go west and try farming. He started in September of that year for Wisconsin, departing with his wife an three children from Danville on a canal boat, going to Buffalo and thence on a steamboat to Milwaukee, where he hired a team for twenty-five dollars to take his family and household goods to Richland City, where they arrived on October 17. There he rented a cabin, moved in, and with his rifle on his shoulder started on foot in search of land. He went up Pine river to Fancy creek, followed that stream up some distance and then went across the country to Rockbridge, then down the river to Sextonville without finding a place to suit him. At Sextonville he met James Goodrich, who informed him that he had a desirable piece of land to sell, and wanted him to go and see it. To this he assented and they started on foot. It was the Lawrence place, located on section 17, the north half of the northeast quarter, and there was a log cabin on the place and twelve acres improved. Mr. Grover was pleased with it and made the purchase, paying for it $300. He was, however, obliged to go to Beloit for the deed, and he and Mr. Goodrich hired a team together for this purpose, returning by the way of Janesville, where they bought a stock of provisions for the winter. Mr. Grover then moved to his new home with his family and arrived in November. He immediately started a blacksmith shop, the first in that part of the county north of Sextonville, and engaged in farming and work at his trade. He raised grain and stock, and also carried on the business of blacksmithing until 1880. He was a man of more than ordinary intelligence, a great reader and well-informed on the current events of the day. He filled offices of trust in the town, having been elected assessor for the town of Buena Vista in 1853, which at that time include territory extending from the Wisconsin river to Vernon county. He afterward was elected to the same office in the town of Ithaca, and was also a member of the board of supervisors.
William Cratsenberg, another of the early settlers of Ithaca, was born in the town of Denmark, Lewis county, New York, in August, 1821. He was reared there and received a liberal education in the public schools. When quite young he commenced to work in his father's tannery, learned that trade, and a few years later the trade of boot and shoe making, but in early manhood he purchased a farm of one hundred acres and engaged in dairying. In 1851 he sold out and started west to seek a home. He came on the lakes to Milwaukee, and then with one horse and a wagon started for Richland county, coming directly to the town of Ithaca, and entered land on Willow creek, on section 18, where he commenced building a log house. He harvested wheat on the shares and that same fall had to haul his grain to Iowa county to find a mill for grinding. The following spring he moved into his new house, and raised his first crop of corn in 1852, in the fall of the same year going to mill at Black Earth, Dane county. The year following he sold that place and moved to Sextonville, where he purchased town property and engaged in the boot and shoe trade. Two years afterward he purchased the tavern, well know as "The Ark," and conducted the same until 1858, when he sold out and bought timber land on section 28, town of Henrietta. There he built a log house and stables and immediately commenced to clear a farm.. Mr. Cratsenberg assisted in the organization of the town of Ithaca, and proposed the name which it still bears.
William Richardson came in 1851 or 1852 and settled on section 17. He lived there three years, then removed to La Crosse valley, and later to Ohio. In 1851 Oscar Briggs, a surveyor, came from Sauk county and located on section 6. He died there in 1852 and was buried upon the place.
Samuel Simpson, a native of Delaware, came from Illinois in 1851 and settled on section 29, afterward removing to the town of Willow. His father, Joshua Simpson, also a native of Delaware, came in 1850 from Carroll county, Indiana, and stopped for a time with his son. He bought land on sections 17 and 20, but did not settle there at that time, as he went to Richland City and engaged in mercantile trade. A few years later he settled on the land, erected buildings and opened a farm, but afterward removed to Avoca.
Phineas Janney, a native of Virginia, came in 1852 and entered land on section 12. He built a cabin and remained during the summer, when he sold to David Eastland. Mr. Eastland was a native of the state of New York, but came here from Mississippi. Willard H. Thomas paid a visit to the county in 1851, and the following year came with his family. He shipped his goods to Milwaukee, where he bought ox teams and came the rest of the way overland. He entered land on sections 8 and 9, where he lived until 1855, when he removed to Sextonville and engaged in trade. In 1858, in company with E. M. Sexton and R. C. Field, he went to Trempeleau county and platted the village of Osseo. He was engaged in mercantile pursuits at that place until the time of his death, in 1877. He was a prominent man in public affairs. Isaac P. Welton, an Ohioan, came on July 10, 1852. The following autumn he bought forty acres of land of section 21, and entered the south half of the northeast quarter of section 3, and the north half of the northeast quarter of section 10, and the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 21. He settled on the Butler quarter and lived there for two years, after which he made his home in the town of Buena Vista. Joseph Sippy, a native of Maryland, came from Indiana in 1852 and bought the southeast quarter of section 31, and also entered the south half of the southwest quarter of section 4, and the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of the same section. In addition to these tracts he bought land in the neighborhood amounting in all to six hundred acres. G. W. Mathews, a native of the state of New York, came to Richland county in 1852. In 1854 he settled on section 17, and lived there the remainder of his life. William Hibbs came from Indiana in 1851 and entered land on section 30. He owned the place for several years, and then sold out and returned to Indiana. Paul Andrews was the first settler in "Simpson Hollow," taking up his residence there in 1851. Two or three years later he sold out and moved to Sextonville, where he remained a short time. James Beebe came in 1852 and entered land on section 2. In 1856 he sold out and went west, but later returned east.
In the fall of 1852 James King came here from Watertown and entered the north half of the southeast quarter and the south half of the northeast quarter of section 5. He erected a log house which was soon afterward destroyed by fire and he at once erected another. In 1857 he sold out and removed to Trempeleau county, and later went to Minnesota
Peter W. Haskins, a native of the state of New York, came from Richland City in 1853 and settled on the southeast quarter of section 25. He bought the south half of the southeast quarter and the east half of the southwest quarter of that section. There he laid out a village called Petersburg, started a blacksmith shop and built a sawmill, in which he put one run of stone for grinding corn. He sold out several years later and moved to the town of Buena Vista, where he started a blacksmith shop and worked at his trade for a number of years. He later went to Dakota. William Atwood, a native of New York state, was also one of the arrivals in 1853. He settled on the northwest quarter of section 2, where he lived for a number of years and then removed to Sextonville. He was a blacksmith, and followed his trade for several years at Sextonville, after which he removed to Orion. Richard Woodcock, a native of New York, arrived during the same year. He settled on the southeast quarter of section 26, where he lived for several years and improved a farm, dying on that place. John Smith, an Irishman, came as early as 1853 and settled on the west half of the northwest quarter of section 18. He erected a board shanty, broke a few acres of the land and remained four or five years, when he sold to John Young and left the country. John Jaquish, a native of New York state, came in October, 1853, and entered land on section 15. He lived there until in March, 1882, and then removed to the village of Ithaca. Joseph W. Jaquish, a native of Pennsylvania, came at the same time, entered land on sections 10 and 11 and put up a shanty. He settled upon the place in 1854 and continued to live there during the remainder of his life. His father, David Jaquish, came with him in 1854 and made his home there for several years, dying at Madison in 1875. He was a native of New York state, had served in the war of 1812, and was a pensioner during the last few years of his life. Anthony Thomas, a native of Connecticut, came in 1853 and bought land on section 30, where he remained until 1860. During that year he removed to Trempeleau county, where he lived until the time of his death.. Colby Cass, a Canadian, also came in 1853 and settled on section 20, where he lived until the time of his death.
The first German settlers in the town were William Lunenschloss and Rudolf Grassman, who came from Dodge county in June, 1854. The former bought one hundred and twenty acres of land on section 16, where he lived the remainder of his life. The latter bought land on the same section and lived there until 1871, when he sold out and removed to Monroe county, where he died. William Irish came in 1854 and made his home in the town for a number of years. He afterward became a Methodist minister and served as presiding elder of the Portage district. Daniel Earl, the first settle in Four Spring Hollow, came in 1854 and entered the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 36, which place remained his home until the time of his death.
David Carpenter, a native of Herkimer county, New York, also came in 1854. He settled on the southeast quarter of section 2, where he opened a farm and lived until the late sixties, when he sold out and removed to Nebraska. Chester Foote, a native of New York state, came in 1854 and settled on the northwest quarter of section 11. In 1857, he sold to Benjamin Winterburn and removed to the town of Buena Vista, where he lived for a number of years, and later took up his residence in McHenry County, Ill. William H. Davis was another of the arrivals in 1854. He was a native of Vermont, but came here from Canada in October of that year and bought land on sections 28 and 29, where he lived the remainder of his life. James Soules came in 1854 and entered the southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of section 6, but only lived there a short time, soon taking up his residence in the town of Richland, where he died in 1905.
During the following year, 1855, there were many valuable additions to the settlement in the town. Jacob Handel, a native of Germany, came from Waukesha county in that year, entered quite a large tract of land and settled on section 26. He was quite an elderly man, and after remaining there a few years he removed to Milwaukee, where he died. Ira Davenport, a native of the state of new York, came in 1855 and settled upon the northwest quarter of section 25. He sold our several years later and went to Dane county.
William Simpson, another early settler of Ithaca, was born in Chillicothe, Ohio, January 4, 1827, and when he was four years old his parents removed to Carroll county, Indiana, where they were early settlers. His father purchased timber land which William assisted in clearing, and he resided with his parents until 1848. In October of that year he removed to Will county, Illinois, where he rented a farm and lived until 1856, then taking his family and his household goods loaded upon a wagon, started overland for Wisconsin. After traveling nine days they reached their destination in that portion of the town of Buena Vista which is now included in the town of Ithaca. His father several years before had laid out three patents, on one of which William moved. It comprised eighty acres of land on section 30, and his brother had built a small frame house for him, into which the family moved.
William Misslich, another of these early pioneers, was born in the city of Cologne, Rhine province, Prussia, in 1795. There he attended school in his younger days, and later, devoted his time to agricultural pursuits. In 1850 he came to America and settled first in Waukesha county, where he bought forty acres of land, which he improved and lived upon until 1855. In that year he came to Richland county and settled upon section 14, town of Ithaca, where he lived until the time of his death, in 1868.
Eberhard Wallpott, a German, also came with the Misslich party, and bought two hundred acres of land on section 22. He lived there until 1881, when he sold out and moved to Cross Plains. William Perrin came from Sauk county in 1855 and settled on the southeast quarter of section 8. He lived there for two or three years, and then sold out and removed to near Hastings, Minnesota, where he died.
Christian Lasse, a native of Prussia, came from that country in 1855 and bought land of Amasa Grover, on section 26. David Hardenberg came in 1855 and bought the southwest quarter of section 2 from James Banks. He sold out in 1866 and removed to Lone Rock.
Isaac Lawrence, a native of Duchess county, New York, came from New York city in 1856 and bought the south half of the northeast quarter of section 2. He lived there until 1880, when he sold out and went to Nebraska, where he afterward died. James Carpenter, a brother of David Carpenter, a settler of 1854, came in 1856 and settled on section 2. He lived there until the late sixties, then moved to Lone Rock, and later went to Nebraska. David Lane, a native of New York state, came in 1856 and settled on the southwest quarter of section 36. He improved a farm and lived there until 1875, when he sold out and removed to New Jersey.
Henry Emshoff, another early settler of Ithaca, was a native of Germany, born in Hanover, June 26, 1826. He was sent to school until he was fourteen years old, then was engaged in tilling the soil of his native land until the year 1852, when he migrated to America, coming directly to Waukesha county, Wisconsin. There he hired out to work upon a farm, and remained till 1854. In August of that year he started with his hard-earned money to seek a home for himself, and coming to Richland county purchased timber land on section 14, in that part of the town of Buena Vista now known as Ithaca. He then returned to Waukesha county, and returning, traveled by rail to Hanover, Illinois, where he procured a team and finished his journey. With his wife he moved into a vacant log house, in which they lived till spring, then upon his own land he erected a booth, in which they lived while he built a log cabin. He cleared a portion of his land and lived there until 1865, when he sold out and purchased land on sections 14 and 15, town of Orion, where he spent the remainder of his life.
The first mass in the town of Ithaca was held by Father Max Gardner, at the house of William Misslich, in November, 1856, and this finally resulted in the organization of St. Mary's Catholic church, which has since had a very prosperous career. The Bear Valley Union church was erected in 1874, by the people in that vicinity, and adjoining the church grounds is a cemetery, which was laid out in 1860. A Lutheran church was organized in 1862 at the schoolhouse on section 30 by Rev. Simon Spyker, but in 1869 it changed its form of government and became a Congregational church.
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