Chapter 27 - Town of Willow.


    Willow is one of the three towns formed out of the territory that originally was included in the town of Buena Vista. The date of its creation was at the annual meeting of the board of supervisors, in November, 1854. It was originally the northeastern corner town of Richland county and extended twelve miles north and south, but at the formation of the town of Westford, all of town 12, north of range 2 east was taken from it, thus reducing the area of Willow to thirty-six square miles. There is considerable waste land in the town, on account of abrupt breaks, but in this particular it compares favorably with other portions of the county. It is principally an agricultural town and has many good farms, both in the valleys and on the ridges.

    The town was noted in early times for its abundance of wild animals, and was a favorite hunting ground for the Indians for many years after the cession of the land to the whites. By general consent, they were permitted to make annual visits, which they seemed to greatly enjoy. There were bears, panthers, wolves, and wild cats in great numbers, while deer and wild turkeys furnished the principal meat foods to the early settlers. The larger wild animals were of course for many years a source of annoyance and danger.

    The town of Willow was not settled as early as many of the towns in Richland county. The first settler was undoubtedly John Hoke, who entered his land in the month of June 1852, and moved thereon. It is found that he built a cabin on his purchase, in section 4, and made his home there for a number of years, and then removed to Sextonville. He was a very prominent man with the first pioneers, and was very influential in all the affairs of the town. He was prosperous in all his business ventures and bore well the hardships incident to early life in a new country, his home being an asylum for the distressed and unfortunate. Mr. Hoke was an active man and performed his full share of labor in the developing of the town in its very primitive days, holding the plow to break the first piece of land, and building the first cabin of which there is any record.

    Among the early settlers who came to the town in 1852 was Benjamin Smith, who came for the first time when Mr. Hoke moved here with his family, and he settled land on section 23.

    Following the settlements of 1852, there was a large accession to the population. D. O. Chandler, who afterward became a prominent and representative man of Richland county, settled in the town of Willow in March, 1853, and was there engaged in farming until 1858. He then established a mercantile business ay Loyd, and carried on the same with marked success. In 1865, in order to increase his business, he removed to Richland Center, erected a store building and engaged in the hardware trade. He also owned a half interest in the Park hotel property, and considerable real estate in town lots and farming lands. As a business man he was energetic and enterprising, and those characteristics, coupled with good judgment, caused him to make good investments, and thus his business career proved successful. He was a native of the state of New York, born in Hamburg, Erie county, on April 10, 1828. He was educated to the mercantile business, and in 1853 migrated to Wisconsin and settled in the town of Willow as before stated. He was often elected to local offices and always discharged his public duties with honor to himself and satisfaction to the people. He was always a public spirited man and a citizen such as benefits a town and county in which he resides.

    Another settler of 1853 was Henry Cushman, from England, who settled in Hoke Hollow, remained a short time and then went to Iowa. Jacob Fellows and Byron Telfair came the same year and settled in section 2, where they erected the first cabin in the north part of the town. They made some improvements, and in 1854 sold to Ephraim Moody. Fellows moved to Loyd and bought an interest in a sawmill, in which place he died a few years later. Telfair was a lawyer, settled in Buena Vista, enlisted in the army and contracted disease, from the effects of which he died a few years later. The next year, 1854, Russell Carpenter came from New York state and settled at Loyd. He was by trade a clock-tinker, and kept a boarding house, but in 1864 he removed to Sauk county. Another settler of this season was Ephraim Moody, a native of Ohio. He emigrated from Green county and settles on section 2. He was a land speculator, and was elected county sheriff, removed to the county seat and died there in 1861. From the same county, about the same time, came August Lampher, who was located on the northeast corner of section 1. In 1859 he removed to Kickapoo, and in 1861 enlisted in the army, serving until the close of the war, after which he removed to Nebraska. Section 10 received a settler the same year in the person of Doctor Hitchcock, from Greene County. He was a practicing physician and quite an elderly man. He sold out to Joseph Stout, a native of New Jersey, and in 1855, removed to Reedsburg. During the winter of 18854-5 Alonzo Burdick came from Dane county, N.Y., and settled on section 2, where he died in 1868. Edward C. Walker came from Greene county, N.Y., in 1855, and bought land on the northwest quarter of section 1, where he cleared a farm. James French, a native of Ireland, came in 1855 and bought land on section 23, where he lived a few years and then moved west.

    Valentine Stoddard, another of the pioneers of Willow, was a native of Connecticut, born in Litchfield, July 25, 1810. When he was five years old his parents emigrated to Ontario county, N.Y., where his father purchased a farm in Richmond, and there Valentine grew to manhood. In 1855 he came to Richland county and settled on section 31, in Little Willow valley. He first built a log cabin and then began clearing his farm.

    Daniel Stoddard, also a native of Connecticut, came from New York in 1854 and settled on section 30. He was a bachelor and by profession a school teacher, and he lived on his farm until his death, in February, 1868. Philip McNamara was a settler of 1855. He was a native of Virginia, came from Iowa, and lived first on Mill creek, then, in 1855, came to Willow and settled on section 19. The next year, during the month of September, Watson A. Hatch came from New York state and settled in the village of Loyd. Amos Stafford also came in 1856 from Chenango county, N.Y., coming in the fall and spending the winter in Loyd. The following spring he settled on section 26, where he lived a few years and then traded his farm for 40 acres on section 15. He there built a mill, put in a turning-lathe and manufactured household furniture. He was a natural mechanic, a good workman, and continued in that business for some time, besides clearing a farm, where he died in the early sixties. John Rosenbaum and Aaron Bowman came from Ohio in 1856 and located on section 1, where they made a little improvement and remained a few years, then moved to Westford.

    David Wildermuth was also one of the early settlers of Willow, having moved there with his family in the spring of 1856. He was born in Fairfield county, Ohio, Jan 17, 1803, and in his native county he grew to manhood, receiving his education in a subscription school, as that was before the day of free schools. In 1835 he started overland with horse team for the then far west, and located in Coles county, Ill., which was at that time on the frontier. There he purchased land which he improved, remaining until 1845, when he again loaded up his goods, and driving to Wisconsin settled in that part of Iowa county that is now known as Lafayette county. He purchased land in what is now known as the town of Fayette, engaged in farming and mining, and lived there until 1855. He then moved to the state of Iowa, where he remained until the fall of that year, and then returned to Fayette and lived in the latter place until the spring of 1856, when he started with ox teams for Richland county, where he had entered land.

    New York state furnished another settler that year in the person of Daniel Graves, who made settlement on the southeast quarter of section 10. He enlisted in the army, contracted a disease, from which he died soon after his return.

    Edward M. Alwood, another of the settlers of Willow, was born in Morris county, N.J., in 1821, and there his younger days were spent in school and on the farm. While quite young he took charge of a boat on the Morris canal and engaged in freighting between the Lehigh coal mines and New York city, and continued that business for some years. In 1853 he came to Wisconsin and entered land in what is now the town of Willow. However he did not settle there until 1857, when he erected a log house and stables.

    Bartholomew Shea was a native of Ireland and came in 1855, locating on the southeast quarter of section 20. Samuel Fuller was from Ohio and came from Greene county in 1855, settling on section 5. Ralph Ward, an Englishman, came to Willow as early as 1854 and settled a home on section 9. After a few years he removed to Iowa, but later returned and took up residence on section 7. Another early settler was William Butler, a half-blood Indian, formerly from Onondaga county, N.Y. He came from Ithaca, probably about 1853 and settled on section 31. He was quite an elderly man and had a white woman for a wife. He was a good farmer and quite industrious, but, in common with all of his race, was very fond of hunting, and among his exploits during one winter killed seventy deer. He cleared quite a farm and remained on it a number of years. He was quite a character in his way, served in the War of 1812, drew a pension during his declining years, and lived to the mature age of ninety-nine years. He had but one child, a daughter, who died a number of years ago. Another settler was Jefferson Shaver, a native of Kentucky, and of African descent. He first came to the county in 1852 and lived in the town of Ithaca for two years. In 1854 he came to the Little Willow valley and bought eighty acres of land, one-half of which was in the town of Willow and the other half in Rockbridge. He first built a house on the town line, but later took up is residence on section 31, in the town of Willow. David Wood arrived in 1854, and settled on the southwest quarter of section 29, where he died. Two of his sons entered the army and sacrificed their lives in the cause of their country.

    Harvey Wells and Henry Short came in 1855 and settled in Wheat Hollow, where they improved farms and lived until 1870, when they removed to Nebraska. Preserved Wheat came from Michigan in 1855, and located on section 28. The valley in which he lived took his name and is called Wheat Hollow. But about 1870 he sold out and removed to California.

    A man from New York state, Henry H. Butts, came in 1856 and located on section 23, where he still lives. Mrs. Jane Warren came from the same state in the same year, and died here in 1862. In 1855, John drought, a native of Ireland, came from Jefferson county and settled in the village of Loyd, having purchased land on section 15. S.V. Carpenter was a native of New York state and came during the winter of 1854-55, settling on section 11.

    In 1856 a Vermonter by the name of Joseph Marden settled in "Marden Hollow." Charles Herzing, Sr., a native of Germany and a weaver by trade, settled in the village of Loyd in 1856, where he operated a small factory and died in 1881. His son Charles settled on section 27, where he cleared a good farm, and in 1870 removed to Nebraska. In 1853 there was a settler came by the name of John Romack. He made his selection on section 25, where he cleared a farm and lived for some years, dying on the place. The same year Joseph Stout came from New Jersey and settled on section 10, where he died. Myrus Ramsdale, a native of Vermont, was also a settler of 1855, and settled the southwest quarter of section 10. He was a blacksmith, worked at his trade and cleared a farm, dying about 1872.

    Another settler was Romine Shaw, a native of Allegheny county N. Y., who located on the northwest quarter of section 15, where he remained until 1864, and then returned to New York state. An earlier settler was I. A. Chandler, a native of Erie county, who came probably as early as 1853, and made a claim on the southwest quarter of section 9. In 1855, he sold out and worked at his trade of carpenter at Pike's Peak, and later removed to Texas.

    Loyd is the only village in the town of Willow. It is located close to the center of the town, and of course is in the eastern part of the county. R.B. Stewart and E.M. Sexton were the original proprietors of the village. It is pleasantly located on elevated and relatively level ground. In 1854 there were but one or two small clearings in the forest, but each year thereafter new settlers were attracted to it, and while Loyd had no phenomenal growth, its progress was steady and substantial. The population had been nearly stationary for the last twenty years.

    For a number of years after the settlement of the town of Willow religious exercises were conducted by the traveling ministers of various denominations, usually at private houses or in the schoolhouses of the town. There is one United Brethren church, which was built in 1884, which has a large membership. There is also one Christian church which has a fair list of members.

    Willow is one of the most wealthy and prosperous towns in Richland county. Agriculture being the principle industry, and in fact almost the exclusive occupation of the people, it has received careful and thoughtful attention, and the farmers are equipped for the varied branches of agricultural pursuits, including extensive stock-raising and fruit-growing. Early attention was given to the introduction of a high grade of domestic animals, and this has proved a source of pleasure and profit. The well-tilled farms, with their substantial residences of modern design, or the old and well-built mansions of more ancient days, together with an occasional log house or unpretentious cabin, all evince the varying degrees of prosperity attained by their owners. The inhabitants are a class of intelligent, public-spirited people, who, in several instances, trace their lineage, with just pride, to the founders of the great republic whose perpetuity they are ever ready to defend.

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