ORGANIZATION -- SURFACE AND NATURAL FEATURES -- SOIL -- FIRST SETTLER -- BUILDING OF THE FIRST WALL -- SKETCHES OF PIONEERS -- FIRST SCHOOLHOUSE.
The surface of the town of Rockbridge is much broken, and hills, rocks and abrupt breaks are quite common, the scenery being varied and interesting. Among the more prominent natural features of interest is the rock bridge spanning the Pine river, an account of which appears in the general history of this work. Immense ledges of rock, forming sometimes a perpendicular wall of great height, rise abruptly from the highway, beautiful springs of pure, limpid water gush from the hills, and playfully leaping from terrace to terrace, furnish ever-flowing streams, gratifying to both man and beast. So abundant are these never failing fountains that hardly a quarter section of land is without its unstinted supply.
Formerly this town was abundantly supplied with a heavy growth of most excellent timber, but her forests have been reduced by the woodman's ax until good timber is becoming scare and correspondingly valuable.
The soil of the town is variable, from a dark loam to a light sand in a small part of the town, but in most places there is a mixture of the proper consistency to furnish most excellent farming lands, so that agriculture is the main pursuit, the stock industry being a leading feature among agriculturists. The soil is very fertile, and produces heavy crops of all kinds of cereals, and all the land of the town is made to yield profitable returns to the owners. Stock raising and fruit culture receive considerable attention, and these afford good margins of profit.
Samuel Swinehart was the first permanent settler in the town of Rockbridge, he making the first move in that direction in 1844, when he made a claim on the present site of the village of Rockbridge and built a cabin of poles. He sold this claim to Harry Coles, a resident of Galena, Ill., and in the spring of 1845 the latter gentleman hired some men at Galena to come to the place and build a saw-mill. The names of the men were William Dooley, James Baxter, David Pettie and Mr. McCann, all single men, and David Currie, with his wife and two children. The latter was expected to board the other men. The single men started with one team and wagon, and Mr. Currie and family with another. They drove to Muscoda and crossed the river to the present site of the town of Orion. The following day, accompanied by Captain Smith and Thomas Matthews, they started to cut a road to Rockbridge. They attempted to follow a ridge, thinking it would prove a continuous elevation, but in this they were disappointed, and had proceeded but a few miles when they found themselves on the point of a bluff, where they camped for the night. In the morning Coles, with two or three others, started out to find a passage, but as none could be found they took the back trial, following the road they had cut the day before back to the river. They then concluded to leave the teams and make the trip by water, and accordingly embarked in canoes, as they were called, but, more properly speaking, they were "dug-outs." They thus proceeded up the Wisconsin river to the mouth of the Pine, thence up that stream to their destination. It took them a week to make the trip. The first thing done after their arrival was to build an addition to the Swinehart cabin, then work commenced on the mill. Captain Smith and Thomas Matthews were employed to get out timbers for the frame, and a team being a necessity, the first road up the river to the natural bridge was cut. It was on the west side, and winding around the bluffs and swamps, was much longer than the present one. The mill was not completed for nearly a year, and soon afterward Coles sold to Moore & Akan. He then went away and his whereabouts became unknown, but it was supposed that he went to the Mexican War.
William Dooley, who is mentioned above, was one of the first explorers of the Pine river valley. When he came to Richland county to assist in building the mill mentioned, he was but eighteen years old, and was thus starting life, full of vim and energy and bent upon securing fortune if possible, or at least a competence. He was promised eighteen dollars per month for his services, and faithfully performed his part of the contract for one year, when to his dismay he found himself cheated out of every dollar so honestly earned. This was discouraging for a beginning, but with characteristic pluck he commenced work in the woods getting out lumber and rafting down the river. By this sort of perseverance and with commendable economy under adverse circumstances, he succeeded in accumulating enough money, so that in 1848 he was able financially to enter some land, and at once sought a location, making selection on section 32, town 9, range 1 east, now known as town of Orion, where he soon was in the full enjoyment of a nice home, honestly and fairly gained.
After a space of about four years, Orrin Hasseltine and his son Ira came from Waukesha county, and purchased the mill property and some land in that vicinity. There Orrin made his home until the time of his death, and Ira is frequently spoken of in other parts of this volume.
Soon after the Haseltines made their appearance, Francis M. Stewart became a settler. He lived at Rockbridge awhile and then settled on the southeast quarter of section 8. In 1854 he sold out and afterward lived in different parts of the county. Isaac Talbot arrived in 1851 and located on section 32. He made his home there until after the breaking out of the Civil War, when he enlisted and died in the service. W. K. Smith came from Kentucky in 1854, and bought the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of section 30. He also enlisted and died in the army. Thomas Gray and his son Daniel came as early as 1853, and settled on the southeast quarter of section 6, where they remained until the breaking out of the "Great American Conflict," when the old gentleman went to Minnesota, and Daniel, who was by profession a clergyman, returned east. In 1850, Seth Butler, a native of New York, came and made a selection on the northeast quarter of section 19, where he remained over 20 years, when removed to Richland Center and died there.
Budington Kinyon, another of the pioneers of Rockbridge, was born in the town of Richmond, Washington county, R. I., Aug. 19, 1800. He made his home with his parents until twenty years old, when he went to Connecticut and engaged in farming, stone-cutting and mason work in New London county until 1832, when he went to Illinois and purchased prairie and timber land in Edwards county, where he improved a farm, which he sold in 1855. On May 1 of that year, in company with his family, he started with a team for Wisconsin. On June 3 he arrived in Iowa county and remained until August, when he came to Richland county. He purchased the northwest of the southwest section 6, town of Rockbridge, built a log house and cleared a part of the land, living there two years, when he bought the south half of the southeast, and the southeast of the southwest of section 6.
Donald Smith, a native of Scotland, came in 1854 and purchased land on section 18, making that place his home until the time of his death. Zenas and Ossian Satterlee were originally from Ohio, but came here from Illinois in 1851. Zenas entered land on section 20, where he made some improvements and remained about two years, then returned to Illinois. Ossian entered land on section 18, and lived there until 1854, when he sold to Donald Smith and went to Henrietta. The season that he made that move, J. H. Little came and entered the west half of the northwest quarter of section 6, where he improved a farm and remained until about 1870, when he removed to the town of Marshall, and later to the town of Bloom, where he died. In 1855, Hugh Booher came, and settled on the northeast quarter of section 8. In 1860 he went to Pike's Peak and spent the summer, then returned and soon afterward removed to Green county. In 1854 James Coffin arrived and made settlement on the northeast of the southeast quarter of section 17. He remained until the early sixties, then removed to section 16, and a few years later to "Steamboat Hollow," where he died in 1882. Lyman Creed was an early settler and made selection on the south half of the southwest quarter of section 30, but he afterward removed to the town of Richland. The same season, section 31 received a settler by the name of Thomas Castello. In 1855 Jonathan R. Fullington, a native of Vermont, entered land on section 3, which he sold one year later to Morris Freeman and took up his abode on section 1.
Robert Monteith came from Richland Center about the same time and located on section 3, where he remained but a few years, then sold out and went north. In 1854 another Vermonter made his appearance, by name of Samuel Coleburn, who selected a home on the northeast of the southeast quarter of section 9. He was noted for telling remarkably large stories. He remained a number of years, and at last accounts was in Iowa. J. L. Spears was from New York, and came during the fall of 1855, settling in the village of Rockbridge, and later on section 10. John Hoskins was a prominent early settler, who came as early as 1850, from Illinois. He located on the northwest quarter of section 28. He served during the war in Company F. Second Wisconsin cavalry, and later died in the Mendota asylum for the insane. Jules Preston, a native of New York state, came the same year and settled on section 29, and remained two years. He was a very hospitable man and travelers were always welcome at his home. He sold that claim in 1852 to John Poole, and returned east. In 1851 William Dary came from Illinois during the summer and entered land on sections 28 and 29, where he cleared a farm and lived until the early sixties, when he sold out and went to Sylvan, where he still resides.
Daniel McDonald, another of the pioneers of Rockbridge, was born in Columbiana county, Ohio, in 1813. He was of Scotch descent, his parents having both been born in Scotland. Daniel was reared to agricultural pursuits, receiving his education in the pioneer schools of his native county, where he remained until 1855, when he came to Richland county. He had previously, in 1852, visited the county and entered land on section 19 in the town of Rockbridge, and had employed one of the settlers to build a log house for him. He immediately commenced to cut a farm out of the heavy timber, and undertaking of considerable magnitude, requiring energy and perseverance. At first he made a specialty of raising grain, but in a few years added a sheep husbandry, and later turned to the raising of horses and cattle.
Peter Waggoner, of Pennsylvania, came from Ohio in 1854 and entered land on section 32, where he cleared a farm and lived a number of years, dying in January, 1883.
Alden Haseltine, formerly from Vermont, arrived in the town of Rockbridge in 1853, and entered the northwest quarter of section 15, also buying four lots in the village of Rockbridge. He made his home in the village until the time of his death, which occurred in February, 1883. He was always enterprising and active in all the interests and improvements of his own town and the county generally, and held various positions of public trust and responsibility.
John S. Scott, another of the pioneers of Rockbridge, was born in Erie county, Penn., July 5, 1806. His parents died while he was in infancy, and he then went to make his home with an uncle, in Erie county, where he was well cared for and given an opportunity to obtain an education. When he was but fifteen years old he went to New York and worked on the Erie canal, at Lockport, one summer. He then returned home and labored at farming for two years; then went east, labored and taught school one year in Herkimer county, N. Y., visited Philadelphia and other places and taught school in Northampton county, Penn., and acted as bookkeeper for a contractor on the Mauch Chunk & Schuylkill Railroad for over one year. After an absence of five years he returned home and engaged in the mercantile trade in Erie county two years, then went to Erie City and clerked two years. He then engaged in an iron foundry as bookkeeper and general manager until 1843, when he came to Wisconsin and visited different parts of the state. In the spring of 1844 he went to Walworth county and purchased land in the town of Hudson, where he built a house, improved a farm, and lived until 1848, when he sold out and removed to Dane county, purchasing land in the town of Oregon, where he improved another farm. In 1854 he sold out there and came to Richland county.
The following resolutions on his death were adopted by Rockbridge Odd Fellows' Lodge, of which he was a worthy member.
"The Supreme Ruler has seen fit to remove from our midst, our worthy and beloved brother, John S. Scott, who departed this life Feb. 26, 1897, aged ninety years, seven months, and twenty-one days."
The history of Richland county published some few years ago contained a sketch of his life and favorable mention of his sterling qualities and usefulness in the early settlement of the county. He was one of the prominent men in the vicinity in which he lived and had been since 1854. A person who has lived to the age of ninety years and has faithfully performed the duties of life, should receive more than a passing notice.
"Brother Scott had lived under every president except Washington and John Adams and voted at every presidential election from 1828 to 1892. He was unable to attend the polls in 1896. He was an ardent politician and always deeply interested in the affairs of his town, county, state and nation. He took every means to inform himself and had a great desire to advocate sound views and right principles, not for the purpose of being in harmony with the majority, or the honor or spoils of office. His incentives were of a higher order, patriotism and a tenacious love of right impelled him to fearlessly advocate his views.
"Brother Scott was born in 1806 in Erie county, Pa. Left an orphan in infancy, he acquired a common school education and taught school in Herkimer county, N. Y.; was bookkeeper for a contractor, building a railroad in Pennsylvania, and engaged in the mercantile business. Discipline and order were observed in the every day affairs of life, he well knew the value of time and made use of every moment. He kept a debit and credit account of his daily transactions while farming and knew at the end of every day how his financial account stood. He exacted just what belonged to him and no more, and was very prompt in meeting every obligation and fully performing every duty toward his family, his country and his fellowman. He turned none away that called for assistance. In case he received ill treatment he condemned the act in no uncertain terms and the offender would be kindly considered if he asked a favor the next day. Hatred, envy nor malice had any place in the soul of John S. Scott.
"The stranger as well as his friends and neighbors were received with a welcome greeting and every attention given to make his home pleasant and agreeable. He took a great delight in discussing state and national affairs and as he was able to do so, he attended the weekly meetings of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows of which order he had been for many years an honored member. As the years roll by, those who knew him best will call to mind his noble life worthy of imitation and truly say he acted well his part, Therefore be it
"Resolved, That in his death this lodge has lost a worthy member, his wife a kind husband, his daughter an indulgent father and the community an honest and upright citizen, for of Brother Scott truthfully could be said, he was the noblest work of God, an honest man.
"Resolved, That we extend to his wife and daughter our heartfelt sympathy in the hour of their affliction.
"Resolved that these resolutions be spread upon the records of this lodge, a copy furnished his family; also published in the Republican Observer and that our hall be draped in mourning for the period of three months.
"M. H. B. Cunningham, "E. G. Fullington, "Alex McCauley, "Committee."
Isaac Johnson, Sr., another pioneer of the town of Rockbridge, was born in Virginia, June 9, 1800. While he was quite young his father died and he was apprenticed to a miller to learn the trade. At the age of twenty-one he went to Fredericksburg, where he was employed in a flouring mill, and in 1830 was married to Elizabeth Calhoun, second cousin of John C. Calhoun. They resided in Culpepper county, where he was engaged in running a flour mill on the Rappahannock river, nine years. They then went to Ohio and settled in Logan county, where Mr. Johnson bought a farm, and lived till 1856, when they came to Wisconsin and settled on section 32, of the town of Rockbridge. Mr. Johnson purchased timber land and cleared a farm, living on the same until the time of his death, July 15, 1873.
In 1854, Richard Poyser, who was also on the of the early settlers of Rockbridge, purchased the southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of section 2, town 11, north of range 1 east. Mr. Poyser came from Somersetshire, England, and first located in the eastern part of Wisconsin where he opened a farm, but later he sold out there and, coming to Richland county, purchased the tract of land referred to above. Mr. Poyser was a very unique character. He was a highly skilled painter by trade, having commenced to learn the trade while in his "teens," and he worked in and about the city of London for twenty-five years or more, during which time he worked with the foremost house painters and became a skilled artisan. After locating in Rockbridge he spent most of his time in house painting, in Richland Center and in other parts of the county, devoting his time and talents especially to inside work. He did most of the inside painting of the best dwelling houses in that day. From his youth he showed a high purpose to better his condition and that of his comrades and fellow workmen. It was then the custom of workmen to indulge extensively in the drinking of beer, but Mr. Poyser became a strong temperance man and adopted the habit of drinking milk, which practice he followed up to the time of his death. He formed a club and induced many of his comrades to discontinue the drinking of beer. At the age of twenty he was unable to read or write, but when not engaged in work he devoted his time to study, became a constant reader and kept well advised of the general news of the day. In after years he organized a reading club for the purpose of purchasing papers, and after he came to America he took a great interest in political affairs, although he never asked for or held an office. He was a great lover of truth and justice, and he joined the great reform movement that swept over England during the years from 1825 to 1850. He proved to be a true patriot and reformer, throwing his mind and body, time and money into the great crusade by the people of England in demanding of the government recognition of their natural rights. One of the demands made by the people was for the abolishment of the "rotten boroughs," and when a bill for that purpose was rejected by the House of Lords, the Bishop, the Tories in the House of Commons and the Duke of Wellington, the latter had the windows of his dwelling smashed by a mob. But the desired reform was afterward granted, and half a million voters were added to the franchise list. The people's charter demanded universal male suffrage, the ballot system of voting, annual sessions of parliament, the abolition of property qualifications for parliamentary candidates, and the repealing of the obnoxious "corn laws" which levied high tariff taxes on breadstuffs, and other needed reforms. Mr. Poyser lived to see these great principles, for which he so faithfully labored, enacted into law and the beneficial results thereof enjoyed by the English people, who were ever dear to his heart. He held King William in high esteem for the aid given by the later in the reform movements, and he revered Charles O'Connor, the Irish patriot, as the "uncrowned king of Ireland." Mr. Poyser was deeply religious, and he generally contributed to the support of his Christian faith. Upon the granite monument at his grave, in the Richland Center cemetery, is inscribed, "Richard Poyser, born 1806, at Donisshorpe, Derbyshire, England. Died April 26, 1902."
Richard Hampton, a second cousin of General Wade Hampton of South Carolina, located with his family in the town of Rockbridge in 1856. The next year he moved to the adjoining town of Marshall and opened a farm on which he lived until the time of his death in 1862.
Mr. Hampton was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1807. His so, Richard Wade Hampton continued to reside upon the old home farm until 1900 and located in Richland Center where he now resides.
Samuel Holloway was quite an early settler, and died in April, 1855. John Poole, a native of Pennsylvania, came in 1852 and located on section 29, where in 1857 he died.
From Vermont in 1854 came Hiram Austin, who was born in Franklin, Vt., May 9, 1822, and there grew to manhood. When a young man he learned the trade of blacksmith, at which he worked in his native state until 1854, when he came west to seek a home. He came to Richland county and purchased land on sections 21 and 15, town of Rockbridge, and immediately commenced to clear a farm, upon which he made his home until the time of his death, Mar. 14, 1869. He was a natural mechanic and could do almost any kind of work, but a great part of the time he worked as carpenter and joiner. He met his death by an accident. While hauling logs a chain broke, allowing the logs to roll upon him, crushing him in a frightful manner.
Henry Waggoner, of Ohio, came from West Virginia in 1855 and made selection on section 32, where he cleared a farm and still resides. During the fall of 1854 Richard L. White arrived from New York state and entered land on section 3. He spent the winter in Avoca and made a settlement on his place in 1855. In 1851 Jacob Dury, of Virginia, came from Illinois and located on the northeast quarter of section 29, where he lived about ten years, then sold and removed to sylvan, where he afterward died. The year following came among others Nicholas Pool, who was born in Ohio. He came direct from Illinois and bought land on section 29.
George W. Hancock, a native of Pennsylvania, came from Dane county quite early in 1850, and first lived on the southeast quarter of section 19. In 1852 he bought the northeast quarter of section 17 and cleared a part of the land. He continued to live there two years and then moved to the southeast quarter of section 8, where he lived a short time, then went to Vernon county, where he afterward died. Reuben, a son of the above, came from California during the fall of 1852. He was not married and at first made his home with his father. In a short time he took unto himself a wife and settled on the northeast quarter of section 17, built a log house and erected the best frame barn in the town, and probably the first in the northern part of the county. That was in 1853, and he died the year following, being buried on the farm.
In November, 1851, German and Hiram Tadder, natives of Vermont, came from Dane county and settled on Fancy creek. At the outbreak of the Civil War, in 1861, German joined, upon its organization, the company known as the "Richland Plowboys," which afterward became Company D of the Eleventh Wisconsin volunteer infantry. He remained with the command until compelled by disease to get a discharge, but during his service he took part with the regiment in the campaign in Missouri and Arkansas, in the summer of 1862. After his discharge he returned home and again took up the pursuits of civil life. For a number of years prior to his death, which event occurred on Nov. 18, 1881, he was unable to do any kind of labor, owing to disease and infirmities. He was an honest man -- lived respected and died regretted. Hiram first settled on section 20, but later moved to section 21.
Zenas Satterlee, a native of Indiana, came from Illinois in 1851 and located on the southwest quarter of section 20. He entered the land, made some improvements, remained two or three years and then sold out and returned to Illinois. Zadok Hawkins bought the farm and lived on it a few years, then purchased land on section 29 and 32, which he occupied until 1875, when he died. In September, 1851, Abel P. Hyde of New York state, came from Dane county and first settled on section 25 of the town of Marshall. Two years afterward he removed to Richland Center and remained there until 1855, when he made his first settlement in Rockbridge on section 21, afterward making his home on section 10. The same year, 1855, Morris Freeman, formerly of Herkimer county, N. Y., came from Waukesha county and settled on section 3. He died in the village of Rockbridge in 1879. In 1854 another settler came in and made a settlement on the southeast quarter of section 8. His name was Samuel Marshall and he was a native of Jefferson county, Ohio. Daniel Hineman came from Dane county in 1855 and located on section 28, afterward removing to the town of Millard, where he died. Henry Leatherberry, from Jefferson county, Ohio, came in 1854 and located on section 20, where he lived two years. He then moved to Henrietta, where he had bought land on section 8, and he died there on Dec. 19, 1882.
Daniel and James Snow, natives of Jefferson county, N. Y., came from Dodge county in 1857 and settled on section 1. When Daniel was but eight years old his parents migrated west and settled in Dodge county, Wis., where the family was among the pioneers, and where Daniel grew to manhood, receiving his education in the public schools. In December, 1857, in company with his brother, James, he stated with an ox team for Richland county, and after eight days of travel, they arrived at Rockbridge and entered land on section 1, of that town. They were both single men at the time and kept "old bach," in a log house with a "shake" roof, which they erected on the southeast of section 1, until 1859. James moved to the village in 1868, conducted a hotel for a number of years, and is now engaged in the mercantile business at that place. About 1857 others came in from various sections of the country, but enough has been given to show the general character of the early settlement.
The first house built for school purposes was erected by Zenas Satterlee. Jane Haseltine, John Lewis and Adelia Haseltine were early teachers. As the inhabitants increased, schools were opened from time to time, and there are now a number of buildings devoted to school purposes within the bounds of the town. These are good brick or frame structures, equipped with modern appliances, and the schools therein are conducted by well qualified teachers.
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