INSTALLATION OF THE COUNTY OFFICIALS - ORGANIZATION OF THE TOWN OF ROCKBRIDGE - LAW'S FERRY - EARLY DAY SALARIES - FIRST SCHOOL-TAX - FIRST BRIDGE - VALUE OF PROPERTY IN 1851 -DIFFICULTIES IN LOCATING THE COUNTY SEAT - THE FIRST COURTHOUSE - ORGANIZATION OF THE TOWN OF WILLOW -DESCRIPTION OF RICHLAND COUNTY IN 1855 - THE FIRST NEWSPAPER, THE RICHLAND COUNTY OBSERVER - ORGANIZATION OF TOWN OF AKAN - POST-OFFICES IN 1855 - ROAD-BUILDING PROJECTS - OTHER JOURNALISTIC VENTURES - REBUILDING OF THE COURTHOUSE - INCREASE OF POPULATION 1850-1860.
"In pursuance of an act of the state of Wisconsin, represented in Senate and Assembly, 'to organize the county of Richland,' approved February 7, 1850, an especial meeting of the board of supervisors, in and for said county, was held at the house of Alex Smith, in the town of Richmond, in the county and state aforesaid, on the first day of May, A. D. 1850, said first day of May being the day designated in said act, that from and after which the county of Richland should be organized for judicial purposes, and should enjoy all the privileges and immunities of the other counties of the state."
At the time of this organization the county was divided into three towns, and the first board of supervisors who were empowered to handle the reins of the new government were John H. Price of Buena Vista, E. H. Dyre of Richmond, and Adam Byrd, of Richwood. Of this board, the first named was chosen president, and John Rutan, clerk.
It was provided by the act organizing the county that the county business should be transacted at Richmond until a permanent county seat should be located; and as the county had no courthouse, nor place wherein to transact even the moderate amount of business that then occupied the attention of its officers, the board ordered that "'Marvin White be allowed the sum of $90 for the use of a house in Richmond, for one year, for the purpose of the county officials," the same to be considered as the county courthouse until more definite arrangements could be made.
At the June session, 1850, a petition was presented, praying for the organization of a new town, to comprise the congressional townships 11 and 12 north, range 1 east. This petition was signed by Orin Haseltine and others. The board, in granting the prayer, designated the town as above as an election precinct, and ordered that it be organized under the name of Rockbridge, and that the first election should be held at the house of Ira S. Haseltine, then a resident of the village of that name.
The first county road mentioned upon the records seems to have been one from Richland City to Pine river, and was made in accordance with a petition, signed by Ira S. Haseltine and others. The board appointed Orin Haseltine, N. P. Engels and John H. Price as the commissioners to locate the same. This was at the same June session, in the year 1850.
It would seem that from a lack of funds in the treasury, or some other cause, the county officers, in June or nearly a month after their installment into office, were without any books, papers or stationery; and they therefore instructed Marvin White, who was then register of deeds, to act as a special agent to purchase the necessary books and stationery, including the seals -- one for the circuit, one for the county court and one for the clerk of the board of supervisors -- together with ink, inkstands and sand boxes, wafers and stamps, to be paid for out of the first moneys in the treasury of the county, for the contingent expenses of the said county.
On November 20, I850, a new board of supervisors took possession of the helm of government, and the first act of their administration was to authorize James Laws to establish and keep a ferry at Briggstown on the Wisconsin river, and at the same time the board established the following as the rate to be charged for ferriage: two horses and wagon, fifty cents; one horse and wagon, twenty-five cents; one horse and carriage, thirty-five cents; one horse and man, twenty-five cents; cattle, per head, ten cents; each foot passenger, ten cents; hogs and sheep, per head, three cents. The license granted Mr. Laws was for the term of three years, the first year to be free of any charge. The gentleman who was granted this favor, and who for many years was the proprietor of the well-known Laws' ferry, was born in North Carolina in 1801. When he was seventeen years old his parents removed to Illinois and were early settlers in Richland county, that state. He was there married to Lucinda Calhoun, who was born in South Carolina and was a relative of John C. Calhoun. In 1845 Mr. Laws moved .to Wisconsin and located in Iowa county, where he entered and improved land until 1849, when he traded it for the ferry he managed so long. His death occurred in April, 1865, while in Illinois on a visit. An article written by his son, Gilbert L. Laws, now of Lincoln. Neb., gives some interesting reminiscences of this period, and is inserted here.
"Early in 1850 James Laws traded his farm in Iowa county, Wisconsin, to Walter B. Gage, for forty acres and a ferry boat on the Wisconsin river at the point thereafter, and now, known as Laws' Ferry. The family, consisting of James and Lucinda Laws and seven children, Moses, Sarah, Henrietta, Gilbert, Louisa, Lucetta and Caroline, settled on the river bank in Richland county, soon after the trade was made.
"A license was granted by the county board authorizing James Laws to run a ferry and collect specified fees for conveying men, wagons, buggies, oxen, horses and other domestic animals over the Wisconsin river at that point. He was protected by the 'Charter' from competition for a number of miles either way up and down the river. A house was built, thirty by forty feet, two stories, sills of oak ten by ten, girths and plates eight by eight, joists four by eight, rafters and studding four by six, all hewed out of pine trees, floated down Pine river from Rockbridge and vicinity. The shingles were split and shaved in the pine forests of that county by W. H. Joslin, then a noted shingle weaver there. A lumber yard was established across the river from Laws' Landing in Iowa county, where most of the lumber manufactured at Holstine's Mills, Rockbridge, and rafted down Pine river, was marketed. Here was also sold a small quantity of oak, ash and basswood lumber, sawed at Thorpson's Mill on Ash creek, hauled across the divide and traded for flour and other necessaries. This lumber, at that date, with ginseng and elm bark, like the whitening bones of the buffalo on the plains of Nebraska, 'helped out' in early days when the 'sound of the grinding was low,' because there was little to grind, and 'the grass-hopper was a burden' because he was not a few.
"The first general celebration of the Fourth of July held in Richland county was at Laws' Landing in 1851 or 1852. Ira S. Haseltine was the orator of the day. Delegations were in attendance from Franklin (Highland), Peddlers' Creek (Linden), Muscoda, Orion, Richland City, Rockbridge and intervening territory and aggregated several hundred people. A cannon, cast on the ground out of two pigs of lead, shipped from Galena for that purpose, voiced the patriotic sentiment of the day and heralded the approach of arriving delegations. A notable event promised as an attraction of the day was the arrival of the steamboat `Enterprise,' a flat bottomed stern wheeler that tried to make weekly trips between Galena, Illinois, Dubuque, Iowa, Prairie Du Chien and Portage, Wisconsin, carrying passengers and freight. The steamer arrived, but not until the morning of July 5. She blew her whistle, made her landing and put off a sack of sugar, and what else is not stated. Perhaps the great attraction of the day's celebration was the dance which began early in the afternoon and was not interrupted until the arrival of the `Enterprise.' The music for 'the dance was furnished by a quartette from Madison at an expense of $50.
"The proposed change in the county seat awakened a lively interest between Orion and Richland Center and was the cause of some bitter estrangements among old friends and neighbors, as such contests always are. On the theory that Richland county would remain as then constituted and that the convenience of the public would be best served by locating the county seat as near the center of the county as possible, all the votes that Laws' Landing could control were cast for Richland Center. About 1857 the Asiatic cholera reached some of the villages in Grant and Iowa counties, causing many fatalities. The settlers along the Wisconsin valley became alarmed, and, taking their families with them, fled across the Wisconsin river into the hills north of Bogus Bluff and camped at a noted big spring, where they remained until assured that they might safely return to their homes.
"Hugh Calhoun, a cousin and school-mate of John C. Calhoun, planted the orchard on the ground now occupied by Riverview and where he was, at his own request, buried under a large maple tree just north of the orchard, where, he said, he could see the rogues who came to steal his apples. Till the end, at over eighty, he never abandoned the labor he loved, planting and caring for trees. Hugh Calhoun was an able man, an honest man and a hater of all shams and frauds and deceits. [His sister, Lucinda L., was the mother of Gilbert L. Laws, whose recollections of the early days supplement several chapters of this history. -- Ed.] John Mainwaring, a pioneer of '49 or '50, a Welshman, lost his fortune at home as a railroad contractor and sought a new home in a new country, beginning life over again. He brought with him his two sons, John, Jr., and Daniel, and settled in the hills near the river, west of Laws' Landing, buying the land of John Matthews, who was the first sheriff of Richland county. After a few years Daniel died and John, the elder brother, returned to England, where he married and again came to America. John Mainwaring was an educated man, a philosopher and a friend. William Dooley, `a good man and true,' a Richland county pioneer, with others, took provisions to the Rockbridge mills up Pine river in a canoe. Later was Honorable Robert Akan, and later yet Reverend Father Knapp and John Caldwell, each of whom have left families to perpetuate their names and emulate their virtues.
"A tradition came to the oldest settlers that `Bogus Bluffs' had been used as a place of concealment by a band of counterfeiters, but careful research made at different dates by the curious has failed to disclose any indications that such use was ever made of the cave at the top of the bluff. `Bogus Bluffs' was a noted landing for fleets of lumber with which the river was lined, an expensive and wasteful method of transporting Wisconsin river lumber to market, a means long since abandoned for the newer and cheaper method by rail."
The weather growing chilly and the board not wishing to retard the growing greatness of the juvenile county by freezing out its officers, at this same session instructed John J. Matthews, the sheriff, to make the purchase of a stove and pipe.
As an instance of the difficulties of traveling at that time, it is recorded that, it being necessary for the county to send a man to Milwaukee on business, the time occupied by him on the journey there and back was twelve days, the mode of traveling being by horseback.
Salaries in those early days seem to have been so small that it is a wonder that men should have sought political preferment. As an instance, it is noted in the minutes of this session of the board that J. W. Coffinberry, the county judge, was allowed the munificent salary of $10 a year. The board also authorized him to procure the necessary record books for his office at the proper expense of the county. The same board made an allowance of $50 per year for the salary of the prosecuting attorney, The ferry from Richmond to Muscoda was also licensed, and the rates of ferriage established, by the same board, Matthews & Smith being the proprietors. It was during the same session that the board of supervisors appointed J. W. Coffinberry a commissioner for said county, to supervise the preparation of the application and proof of claimant for bounty lands granted to the soldiers and their heirs. James H. Wallace was also granted the right to establish a ferry at Richland City, across the Wisconsin river, on the same terms and at the same rates of ferriage granted the other parties.
On November 19, 1850, the board ordered that a tax of two and one-half mills on the dollar be levied in the county for school purposes. This was the first levy for such a fund in the county, and deserves special notice as an instance of the early attention paid by the former generation to the educational status of the county. The entire levy of tax for all funds was seventeen and one-half mills on the dollar.
The first bridge built by the county, of which any record exists, seems to have been built by James Laws across Merriman's creek, costing $17, and it was finished and the bill ordered paid, November 20, 1850.
At the May, 1851, session of the board of supervisors, it was found that the quarters occupied by the county officers were too contracted, and two rooms were rented of R. Barnes, in the town of Richmond, for the officers' accommodation, at a rental of $5 per month.
At the fall session of the same year the sale of delinquent taxes was ordered, and this is the first record of such transaction in the county of Richland.
On a petition, signed by R. McMachan and others, being presented to the board at this session, the order was made that all of town 10 north, range 1 east, except sections 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 and 36, of said town, be attached to the town of Rockbridge, as a part and parcel of the same.
The value of property in the county; as returned by the assessors for the year 1851, was as follows: Buena Vista, $44,023; Richmond, $45,111; Richwood, $14,801; Rockbridge, $3,500; total, $107,435. Of course this was much below the actual value, but some idea can be gained by these figures of the amount possessed by the early settlers in the way of worldly wealth. The tax levy for that year is given as fourteen mills for county purposes, three mills for state purposes, two and a half mills for school fund, or nineteen and a half mills on the dollar for all funds.
A very important duty in connection with county affairs at about this time was that of locating the seat of justice in the newly-organized county. As is more fully explained in the chapter on "Settlement and Organization," the "session law" which defined the boundaries and authorized the organization of Richland county, provided further that at the general election held in November, 1851, the votes of the people should determine the location of the county seat. There were four voting precincts in the county--Richmond, Richland City, Richwood and Rockbridge. The number of votes polled at Richland City on the county seat question was 108, of which 103 were in favor of Richland Center, and five scattering. At Richwood there were forty- eight votes polled, twenty-four being for Richland Center and twenty-four for Richmond, and at Rockbridge sixteen votes were polled, all being in favor of Richland Center. The number of votes cast at Richmond is unknown but it is claimed that in the whole county Richland Center received a majority of forty-eight votes. But here arose a difficulty. The session law provided that the place receiving a majority of the votes should be declared the county seat, but it did not state who should canvass the votes. However, John Rutan, clerk of the board of supervisors, by virtue of his office, called to his assistance two justices of the peace as canvassers, choosing A. B. Slaughter, of Richmond, and O. L. Britton, who resided near Sextonville. These gentlemen met and after receiving the returns from the various precincts, canvassed the vote and made the following report:
" We have received the election returns of the different precincts Richmond. Richland City, Richwood and Rockbridge--and they are so informal, both in form and substance, that we cannot ascertain the true will of the people, and we hereby declare that there was no election held pursuant to law."
Such a report as that, as will be readily seen, did not please Ira S. Haseltine, the proprietor of the new village of Richland Center, and he requested John Rutan to get the returns from A. B. Slaughter and bring them to Haseltine's residence, which was done. Mr. Haseltine copied the returns and the report of the board of canvassers in full, and had John Price, chairman, and John Rutan, clerk of the board of supervisors, certify that his copies were true and correct copies of the originals. Mr. Haseltine then went to Madison and left his certified copies with William A. Barstow, secretary of state. These were presented to the state board of canvassers, with the request that they make a statement of the result, which they did. This statement was presented to the legislature at the following session, and after a strenuous contest, in which the competing villages were well represented by lobbyists, an act was passed, entitled "An act to declare the county seat of Richland county," and in accordance therewith Richland Center became the authorized seat of justice. It is humorously related that Ira S. Haseltine, during his tireless efforts in behalf of the village which he had founded, resorted to a species of bribery, which, however, in these latter days of legislative corruption, would be looked upon more as a juvenile act than as a high crime or even a misdemeanor. Securing a barrel of toothsome winter apples, he caused the same to be placed in a convenient spot, anterior to the legislative halls, and with Chesterfieldian grace, which only those who knew the indefatigable Ira can appreciate, he kept the members well supplied with the luscious fruit. Whether this barrel of apples, so generously distributed, was the deciding factor in the bitter struggle is probably hard to determine, but certain it is that Mr. Haseltine returned home with the laurels of victory upon his brow, a happier, and with prospects of being a wealthier man.
But another obstacle yet remained to be overcome. The county supervisors, four in number, were divided in their opinion and allegiance, and only two of them could be persuaded to meet at Richland Center. As three were necessary for a quorum, no business could be transacted until a constable was sent after a third supervisor. After some delay, however, they all met, and after viewing the location, expressed themselves as highly pleased, saying the place had been misrepresented to them as a frog pond. At their meeting, held July 26, 1852, they had entered upon their minutes that "It is unanimously decided by this board that Richland Center is the proper place for transacting the business of the county." The same day the following resolution was spread upon the minutes:
"Resolved, That the board accept of twenty village lots, and also a certain building, to be used for county purposes, of Ira S. Haseltine, in the village of Richland Center, in accordance with a bond, dated October 24, 1851, held by the county of Richland against said Haseltine. And it is also ordered that all the county business of Richland county be hereafter transacted in the said village of Richland Center, and the officers thereof shall forthwith repair thither for that purpose."
In explanation of this action, it would seem, the next day the board passed the following:
"Whereas, Ira S. Haseltine has donated to the county of Richland, in the state of Wisconsin, a certain house situated on village lots Nos. 3 and 6, in block 6, in the village of Richland Center, in said county, to be used for a courthouse and other purposes as said county board may direct, for and during a term of five years, from the first day of May last: Therefore, it is ordered that said house be, and is, hereby designated as the said county building, for the use and purposes as above specified. Also, it is ordered that a notice be served on the various county officers to remove the books and papers of the county forthwith to Richland Center, the county seat of Richland county. Also ordered that the county raise $100 to furnish the new courthouse."
The seat of justice having been located at Richland Center, the first requisite in the embryo town was buildings in which to hold court and house the county officials. The want was temporarily supplied by the offer of Mr. Haseltine, he furnishing temporary buildings for the purpose; but the house in which court was held was too small for the purpose intended, owing to the rapid increase in population and the consequent swelling of the volume of business done at the county offices. Hence, new buildings were erected, but as may readily be inferred, they were simple and in keeping with their surroundings. The courthouse was built in 1856; it was a frame structure, two stories high, having a frontage of about twenty-eight feet and a depth of about thirty-six feet. The court and jury rooms were on the upper floor, while the offices for the county official's were below. It was a commodious and airy building, a model one for its size, well built and nicely finished both within and without, and it presented a very good appearance. It was erected by Ira Andrews, and was in continuous use until destroyed by fire, in April, 1860. The jail was built the same year. It was an unpretentious, though substantial wooden building, one story in height and constructed of hewed red-elm logs, thoroughly spiked with nine iron bolts through every log, and each bolt running through three logs. Although built of wood, there was never an escape from it on account of its weak construction, and it housed the county's criminals until 1868, when it was succeeded by a stone structure. Then it was torn down and the logs were used as fire-wood.
When the board of supervisors met at the annual meeting, in November, 1854, the first business transacted was the organization of towns 11 and 12 north, of range 2 east, into a separate town and election precinct, under the name of Willow; the first election to be held at the house of R. B. Stewart. Mr. Stewart was another of the pioneers of Richland county, locating there in 1849, when he entered land on section 19, of town 9, range 2 east, now included in the town of Buena Vista. He made some improvements and remained there until 1854, when he sold out and removed to what is now known as the town of Willow, purchased land on section 22, and in company with E. M. Sexton platted the village of Loyd and erected a saw-mill. He operated this saw-mill two years, and then sold out and engaged in farming in Willow creek valley, which occupation he followed the remainder of his life.
By further order of the board at the above mentioned meeting, sections 1, 12, 13, 24, 25 and 36, of town 10 north, of range 1 west, were set off from that town (Richmond) and attached to Richland. It seems, from the records, that this was all the business that came before this board, except the auditing of the various bills and claims against the county.
William Ogden, whose name is mentioned above, and who was the first settler of the town of Sylvan, was born in Onondaga county, N. Y., in 1822. In 1830 his parents moved to Niagara county and there lived until 1837. In that year he enlisted in the regular army of the United States, and remained in the service until 1841, when he was discharged and returned to, the state of New York. Soon afterward he went to Genesee county, Mich., where he remained until 1848, then moved to Rock county, Wis., and there engaged in farming until 1852; thence to Grant county, where he lived one year, and then he removed to what is now the town of Sylvan, April 27, 1853. He entered one hundred and sixty acres on sections 18 and 19, which was his home the remainder of his life. Upon the breaking out of the Civil war, in 1861, he enlisted in the Twelfth Wisconsin Infantry and was discharged the following year. In 1865 he again enlisted, in Company H, Forty-sixth Wisconsin, and served until the war closed.
The following article, written by an old pioneer, was published in the Platteville Independent-American, in March, 1855, and is a very good description of Richland county, as it was at that time:
"Richland county lies on the north side of the Wisconsin river, and includes a territory of twenty-four miles square with the addition of some small fractional townships bordering on the river. To the stranger it presents an appearance anything but inviting settlement and cultivation.
"In 1848 I explored the wild parts of Sauk and Richland counties, in the latter of which hardly a section of land had been entered, although it had been in market for four or five years, and, after passing through the entire county from south to north, came to the same conclusion which had been reached by `the rest of mankind.' Before that time the major part of the county was a fit dwelling-place for everything, from bears to rattlesnakes, except `humans,' to inhabit.
"The county, filled with almost insurmountable hills, and barren sand rock protuberances, seemed like a conglomeration of the fragments of creation, and to have been so little thought of by the great Architect of Creation that there is no provision made by which the sun can possibly shine upon some portions of the huge compound.
"The entire population then would not have exceeded a dozen families, and most of these were composed of the sons of Nimrod who had retired from the busy haunts of men to pursue the chase and enjoy the charms of solitude, and who had none but the wild beasts and the red man for companions.
"So much for '48; how is it in '55?
"Directly on the Wisconsin river are Richland City, Richmond, and Andrewsport, all flourishing towns, the two former comparing favorably with many towns in other parts of the state of ten years' growth, and the latter giving good promise of future importance.
"In the interior are Eagle, Richland Center, and Sextonville, all important points. Here is certainly a great change within seven years. That untiring energy and perseverance which so generally characterize the American people, have sufficiently developed the resources of this county to show that our first impressions were entirely erroneous, that this county possesses all of the elements of a great and important county, and is destined to form one of the richest, healthiest, wealthiest and pleasantest counties in the state. In proof allow me to enumerate some of the advantages of this once repulsive locality.
"Since 1848 the population has increased from thirty souls to about two thousand, and vet, notwithstanding the exposure and hardships incidental to its settlement, sickness has been almost an entire stranger.
"The water-power of the county is immense, as there are crystal streams, supplied by pure, gushing fountains, running through the county in every direction. Richland creek, Bird's creek, Eagle creek, and Bear creek rise near the north and run to the south line of the county, all affording more or less hydraulic power, and are filled with a great variety of fish, from the largest catfish to the delicious speckled trout. But these are mere brooks compared with the majestic Pine river, which originates from innumerable springs in the northern and western part of this county. Each, after winding through and watering farm after farm, uniting with others as it journeys down this magnificent valley, combines in forming this notable Pine river, which empties itself, near the southeast corner of the county, into that important tributary of the Father of Waters, the Wisconsin river. This Pine river and its tributaries equal in extent and magnitude all the other streams within the county, and if you add to these the Baraboo, which flows through and waters the northeast corner, and the Kickapoo in the northwest corner, it will readily be seen that we have one of the best watered sections in the world.
"So much for water. As to wood, which, besides water, is a chief object of the emigrant's search, it is sufficient to say that one-half of the territory is a dense forest, affording as great a variety of timber as can be found anywhere in this climate. Not infrequently at the bottom of the hideous bluffs of which we spoke, a choice mill site is to be found, or at least a fountain of cool and living water, worth more than double the amount of smooth prairie land so much admired by the casual observer.
"The variety of soil, in some portions vegetation coming forward much more rapidly than in others, is favorable to the pasturing of stock. The grass appears first, very early in the spring, in the low bottoms. As the season advances the cattle change their pasture, approach the higher lands, until they ascend the highest land, where vegetation remains green for at least two weeks after the grass in the level sand country has become dry and useless. It is hardly necessary to add that the varieties of soil are as well adapted to the production of the different domestic grasses, so essential to the success of the dairyman or stock raiser, as to these spontaneous grasses.
"Some evidences of the peculiar adaptation of this country for stock raising have fallen within the writer's observation. We give one instance:
"In the spring of 1849, a lot of an inferior breed of sheep, such as usually yielded from one and one-half to two and one-half pounds of wool, were driven from Rock River valley to Richland county. In 1854, although somewhat advanced in age, the identical carcasses produced an average of six pounds of wool each, and this without any effort on the part of the owner. This prosperity is not confined to the brute creation, for but few men, who dared to locate in this remarkable county, have not greatly increased their wealth, and there are very few who will not say that they have received the full reward of all the toil and privation they may have endured in consequence of turning their backs upon everything that was near and dear, and hazarding their all with the hope of securing an independence and preparing a home in the far-famed West. Thus far the labors of the husbandmen of Richland county have been rewarded by bountiful harvests. In regard to improvements, for the short period that the county has been settled, few sections of the Northwest can successfully compete with her.
"Her flourishing villages, before spoken of, are as promising as any in the state, as will be seen by a brief description:
"Richmond is situated on the fourth principal meridian, directly north of Platteville, and on the Wisconsin river opposite the thriving village of Muscoda, at which point the great Milwaukee and Mississippi railroad is about to establish their depot, and its location being in the geographical center of the southern line of the county, it will no doubt become a town of no little importance.
"Richland City is situated at the junction of the Pine and the Wisconsin rivers, eight miles east of Richmond, being the natural point of crossing both rivers, and at the foot of the fertile valley of the Pine, having a site well adapted for building up a town, it must necessarily prosper, and if the Milwaukee and Mississippi railroad makes a point there, as there is every inducement to do, will be second to few towns in the interior of the state. Isaac H. Wallace, the father and founder, put up the first log cabin late in the autumn of 1848, with scarcely a penny in his pocket, his entire capital consisting of an untiring energy and unflinching determination to succeed, with full confidence in the resources of Richland county, ultimately to sustain its several business points. Thus far he has been amply rewarded. The town is already the most populous in the county, can boast of five or six good stores, a good steam saw-mill, and, thanks to the energy of Henry Rowell, Esq., has one of the best steam flouring-mills in the state of Wisconsin.
"As the traveler leaves Richland City, to explore the interior of the county, he is compelled to go north (all routes of travel here either follow the ridges or the valleys of the streams), and after traveling about a mile, a road from the east comes in and adds to the travel. Passing on a mile further, another road finds its way round the base of the bluffs from the southeast. Soon the traveler finds himself hemmed in with bluffs and tamarac swamps, with appearances ahead decidedly unfavorable, until he has gone about five miles from Richland City, when, to his astonishment, he finds himself beyond swamps, the bluffs fall back and give way to a respectable stream on the east, Willow creek on the north, the Pine river from the northwest and Ash creek from the west forming a fertile basin of five miles in extent from east to west, and three miles from north to south, in the center of which the flourishing village of Sextonville bursts upon the sight of the traveler, strongly contrasting with the region of swamps and bluffs through which he has passed. Nature has bestowed upon this point great advantages. Its water-power, located as it is at the junction of so many streams, is of immense value, though as yet only improved to a limited extent. A saw and grist-mill is owned by Jacob Krouskop, the grist-mill with one run of stone in successful operation and the second nearly completed. Another saw-mill is owned by D. T. Eastland.
"The other institutions of the place are a sash factory, owned by Dow & Hubbard, a wagon shop, two blacksmith shops, two respectable dry goods stores, one grocery and provision store, one confectionary establishment, one boot and shoe store, one shoemaker's shop, an extensive tin and sheet-iron manufactory, owned by H. A. Larned, one land and two law offices, two public houses and a livery stable.
"The healthiness of its location, its great water-power, and the facilities of access to it from every direction, the varied nature of the land in its vicinity, comprising both prairie and timber, upland and bottom land, and its advantages as a business point, have attracted the attention of a number of capitalists, some of whom have already invested, and others are preparing to invest considerable sums in improvements the coming season. This place is bound to go ahead. It has an advantage over Richland City, in the fact that owing to the shape of the country, travel from the south and east will not necessarily pass that point to get to other points in the center and northern portions of this county, and in Bad Axe, LaCrosse, and Adams counties, where the travel sooner or later must be immense, while nearly all this travel must pass through Sextonville.
"Seven miles above Sextonville, on the Pine river, is Richland Center, already a flourishing little town, and the county seat. It has a good water-power, and although deprived by nature of many advantages possessed by other localities, its central position and the fact that it is the `seat of justice' of this great county, invite settlement and improvement, and its future prosperity is almost certain.
"Rockbridge, nine miles above Richland Center, and sixteen above Sextonville, with one saw-mill and a turning-lathe, does not progress as fast as those nearer the Wisconsin river. Still it is not without its attractions. A natural bridge of a perpendicular sand rock, forty or fifty feet high, across the west branch of the Pine river, with two or three dilapidated buildings, render it a desirable spot for those who entertain exalted ideas of the charm which sages tell us they have enjoyed in their solitary abodes.
"Ash creek affords considerable water-power, and a small saw and grist mill, owned by William Thompson is already in successful operation. This point contributes considerably to the support of the business done at Sextonville, as its location is in the same valley and only three miles distant. It remains to speak of the most important tributary of the Pine, viz., the Willow river. This stream, affording numberless water-powers, is now settled more or less for some fifteen miles north of Sextonville. Mr. Perkins has a saw-mill on this stream five miles north of Sextonville, and Messrs. Sippy and Gwinn also have one, seven miles from Sextonville. Twelve miles up the Willow, Messrs. Sexton and Stewart have built a saw-mill, and founded the town of Loyd, of the ultimate success of which, allowing time for it to develop its resources, there can be little doubt. It is in the geographical renter of Willow township, in the midst of a fertile country abounding with the best of timber, with water well distributed, and which is rapidly settling up with a moral, industrious and enterprising class of inhabitants, never excelled and rarely equaled in the pioneer settlements of the west. With a good water-power and owned by liberal proprietors, of some experience in buildings towns, it can hardly fail to succeed. There is a good opening here for merchants, mechanics, grocers, tavern keepers, doctors and lawyers. The two latter might possibly have to resort to the crystal brooks and practice trout-fishing for a livelihood, trout being plenty and the country distressingly healthy, and the people remarkably honest. Hence the providential provision of trout, that all may be able to sustain themselves by laudable avocations.
"Bear creek is a stream which rises in Sauk county, waters one of the pleasantest and wealthiest prairie valleys in the region, and empties into the Wisconsin, in the southeast corner of this county, and near where the Milwaukee and Mississippi railroad crosses that river, where a large business town will be likely to spring up and be sustained by the surrounding portions of Sauk and Richland counties.
"In the western part of this county are several points with whose present condition the writer is not sufficiently acquainted to do them justice, but he would say that for agricultural purposes that part of the county is fully equal, if not superior, to the eastern part. In the western part of the county the level land is generally rich, and covered with timber as well as the bluffs. In the eastern section the bluffs occur more frequently and afford less timber, while the level portion consists of sandy soil and is almost destitute of timber. On the whole, the two parts of the county are about equal, as the Pine river and its numerous branches afford the eastern section more waterpower than is possessed by the west.
"Of the different locations spoken of the writer has a decided preference for Sextonville, over any other point whose natural resources are sufficiently developed to determine its future prospects. Yet the county is so peculiarly situated that Richland Center, Sextonville, Richmond and Richland City must all succeed, and no one can swallow up the others. The latter points may be, to some extent, injured by the fact that towns, situated as they are, are exposed to the various bilious and contagious diseases which follow large water courses.
"Having briefly described Richland county, portraying but a few of her many advantages, although confessing myself her enthusiastic admirer, I have only to say that I stand ready to prove all my assertions, and invite those disposed to doubt to come and see."
Jacob Krouskop, one of the pioneers mentioned in the above article, died at the residence of his son-in-law, J. L. R. McCollum, in Sextonville, February 7, 1878. He was born in one of the eastern states in 1800, and passed the most of his early life in Bellefontaine, Ohio, from whence he came, in the spring of 1851, with a large family, to Richland county, and settled at Sextonville. With characteristic energy he erected a saw-mill there, the first in that region, and soon afterward a grist-mill. At that time the entire region where Richland Center now is was an unbroken wilderness. Bringing with him the experience and fruits of a laborious life in Ohio, Mr. Krouskop was prepared to lay more broadly the foundation of a goodly estate here, and the result was far more satisfactory than has fallen to the lot of most men. His prudence and sagacity were crowned with ample success.
No community in these days can be said to have reached the progressive state until that infallible index to prosperous conditions--a newspaper--makes its periodical visits to an intelligent constituency. But it was not always thus. Fifty years ago "journalists" were not so plentiful as they are today, and the appetite for printed news was not sufficiently keen to cause one to endure martyrdom in attempting to "fill a long-felt want." So, at the time of its organization, Richland county could not boast of a newspaper, published within her confines. In November, 1855, however, a sheet, six-column folio in size, made its appearance in Richland Center with the expressive title, Richland County Observer, under the management of Israel Sanderson, who continued its publication with varying success until 1858, when the office and paper were sold to John Walworth. Mr. Sanderson removed to Platteville, Grant county, where he established the Grant County Witness, remained connected with that paper a year or two, and then drifted into southern Illinois. He was a man of ability, and a clear and forcible writer. John Walworth remained in charge of the paper until about 1864, when J. H. Waggoner became editor and proprietor, and the subsequent history of the publication is given in a succeeding chapter.
At the annual meeting of the board of supervisors, in November, 1855, town 10 north, of range 2 west, having asked for a separate organization, the prayer was granted, the town named Akan, and the house of Martin Munson was designated as the place of voting, at the first election.
Martin Munson died at his residence in the town of Akan, October 21, 1879. He was born March 1. 1817, in Norway; immigrated to this country in 1849, and in 1850 settled in the town of Akan, Richland county, where he lived until the time of his death. His early days here were a life of toil and hardship. He, with two other families drove their teams as far as Port Andrew, and from there carried their household goods, including stoves, some seven or eight miles, as it was impossible to drive the teams through the woods. Mr. Munson was held in high esteem, not only by his own countrymen, but by all who knew him.
The assessed valuation of the entire county for the year 1855 showed a marked increase, being $399,185.83.
According to the first number of the Richland County Observer, there were thirteen postoffices in the county in 1855, the names of which are given here for the satisfaction of the curious, together with the respective postmasters: Richland Center, Leroy D. Gage; Orion, B. Ferris; Richland City, C. B. Pearson; Sand Prairie, H. M. Miller; Sextonville, E. M. Sexton; Loyd, B. Hilencock; Cazenovia, A. Perkins; Neptune, J. Sippy; Siresville, M. Satterlee; West Branch, D. Barrett; Fancy Creek, Josiah McCaskey; Forest, R. J. Darnell; Sylvan, A. Savage.
Among those early postmasters none had a more remarkable career perhaps than Joseph Sippy, the first postmaster at Neptune. He was one of the pioneers of Richland county, and was born near Harper's Ferry, Va., in March, 1791. His father was a native of France and came to America with La Fayette during the war for independence. He left home without the consent of his parents, and was not mustered into service until his arrival in America. After the declaration of peace he settled in Virginia. When the subject of this paragraph was seven rears old his parents moved to Pennsylvania and settled in Beaver county, where he grew to manhood, receiving his education in the subscription schools. He was a stirring patriot and volunteered in the War of 1812, serving but a short time when he was honorably discharged. Soon afterward he was married to Martha Cogswell, whose mother was a sister of General Gates, of Revolutionary fame. In the year 1813 Mr. Sippy and wife immigrated to Ohio, making the trip with one horse, without a wagon, packing upon the back of the horse their household goods, including bedding and camp kettles. They made their way to the Cuyahoga river, in Cuyahoga county, and remained a few months. It was at that time an unhealthy country and consequently Mr. Sippy moved and settled in the town of Granger, Medina county, where he was an early settler. He lived there a few years and then moved to the town of Hinkley, in the same county, where he commenced the practice of medicine, and also, having purchased eighty acres of land, carried on a farm. In 1836 he sold out and again started west, and this time settled in Fulton county, Ind., where he was again a pioneer. In Indiana he made his chosen profession a business and had a lucrative practice. That country also proved to be somewhat unhealthful, and in 1852 he concluded to again change location, and accordingly made a visit to Richland county, coming from Indiana on horseback. Thinking this would be a desirable, healthy country, he returned to Indiana, and in September of that year returned with his family and settled on section 31 of what is now the town of Ithaca. He later selected three forties of land--the south half of the west quarter of section 4, town 9, range 2 east, and the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 4, and he afterward bought additional land near by until his place was increased to six hundred acres. He lived on section 31 two years, then removed to section 4 and commenced improvements on his land. He laid out the village of Neptune, erected a saw-mill, and made that place his home until the time of his death, which occurred in September, 1870. He had quite an extensive practice in the county, and was well and favorably known.
Much of this county lying on hillsides, and the wash of rains destroying the traveled thoroughfares, the question of plank roads came to the front in 1856. In answer to several petitions, asking that companies might be empowered to build such roads and enjoy the benefits and emoluments thereof, the board appointed a committee to look into the matter. The report of the committee was favorable to the project, but for some reason the plank roads never materialized.
The importance of the opening of a railroad was early impressed upon the minds of the enterprising citizens of the county, and about 1847, a project, originating with the formation of what afterwards became known as the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad Company, was undertaken to build a road from the city of Milwaukee to the Mississippi river, the terminus to be located in Grant county. In the spring of 1852, Edward H. Broadhead, a prominent civil engineer from the state of New York, was put in charge of the work as chief engineer and superintendent. Under his supervision the work of building was urged onward--reaching Milton in 1852, Stoughton in 1853, Madison the year following, and in 1856 the iron rails were laid to Lone Rock in this county. Although this thoroughfare touched but the southeast corner of Richland county, it was hailed with satisfaction, as it gave the citizens of the county communication with the outside world and brought the farmers in closer touch with the markets.
The first murder committed within the limits of Richland county was that of Arnest Herrlitz, in the spring of 1859. Herrlitz lived alone in a little log cabin in the town of Dayton. He was a married man; but a short time previous he and his wife had separated, and he had commenced proceedings in the circuit court for divorce. On the fatal evening, in the spring of 1859, he was sitting in his cabin, when he heard some one at the window as though they were trying to effect an entrance. He went to the door for the purpose of showing in whoever it was, and just as he opened the door the cowardly assassin shot him. He did not see who did it, but lived long enough to go to his brother's a half-mile distant, and relate the particulars, when death relieved his suffering. 'Squire Durnford was employed to look up the facts and enough was learned to lead to strong suspicions, but not enough to justify the arrest of any one.
The second newspaper venture in the county was made at Richland Center in 1859, which was the establishment of the Richland County Democrat, under the management of William P. Furey. It was a neatly printed seven-column folio, and it continued in existence for about one year, when it died for want of patronage. The material was then purchased by John Walworth and added to the office of the Observer. William P. Furey was originally from Bellefonte, Penn., and was a printer by trade. He came west in 1858 and worked for a short time in a newspaper office at Darlington, Wis. During the winter of 1858-9 he went to Warren. Ill., and worked for a few months in what is now the Sentinel office, after which he came to Richland Center and established the Richland County Democrat. After remaining a number of years in the west, he went back to Pennsylvania and engaged in the publishing business at Altoona. In 1880 his health began to fail, being attacked by that dread disease consumption. In January, 1881, accompanied by his wife, he went to San Antonio, Tex. hoping to benefit his health, but had hardly reached the place before he died. He was a man of a great deal of both natural and acquired ability, and a very able and brilliant writer and speaker.
In the spring of 1860 the courthouse building at Richland Center was destroyed by fire, and the board of supervisors entered into a contract with Ira S. Haseltine for the erection of a new brick courthouse on the site of the old structure. This was a plain but substantial structure, and it was arranged to be used only for court purposes, the county officers' apartments being in separate buildings, on land adjoining the courthouse. These buildings answered the needs of the county for many years.
At the next meeting of the board of supervisors, held in November. 1860, a petition was presented by the citizens of the town of Richmond, praying that the name of that town be changed to that of Orion. This prayer was granted, and the town has ever since been known by that cognomen.
The United States census tells the story of the wonderful progress of Richland county, between the years 1850 and 1860, at least so far as an increase in population is indicative of such movement. In 1850, the enumeration showed less than 1,000 inhabitants, and in 1860, 9,732 -- an increase of nearly 1,000 per cent, in only one decade. The larger part of the population of the county is distinctly American, although there are many who are either natives or the immediate descendants of natives of foreign lands, who have sought an asylum in free America. They have come to Richland county, seeking to improve their home conditions and occupy a country with unlimited possibilities for future advancement. To these foreign residents is due a considerable proportion of the solid, substantial advancement of the country where their homes have been made. Their progress here has been wrought through incessant toil, self-denial, and careful and frugal management.
Speaking of the county in its entirety, however, it may be said that the early settlers were Americans, a large number of them coming from Illinois and Indiana, while others migrated here from the more populous and less advantageous localities in states farther east. But no matter where they came from, mutual desires and interests made them all akin, and by a silent process of "benevolent assimilation" they were converted into a Richland county family. Among them there existed very little distinction in worldly circumstances and modes of life--the disparities in conditions that we now observe having been developed gradually with the country, and emphasized by the frowns and smiles of that giddy dame, Fortune. It was neither the indolent nor the opulent, as a general fact, who sought homes in this region, for none but industrious men of moderate means would care to endure the preliminary privations and encounter the dangers that they knew would attend them while building homes in the almost unbroken wilderness. They came to better their condition in life; to become landowners instead of tenants; to rid themselves of a species of landlordism which prevailed in the eastern states, and to emancipate themselves from a condition of semi-vassalage which threatened a doom of servitude for themselves and children.
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