Winnebago County, Illinois
To prevent as far as possible the history of Rockton from being lost to coming generations, has been the chief motive in writing this book. Aside from the information obtained from various records, the author is greatly indebted to a number of old settlers, who have furnished very many facts which would have been lost to the next generation. To all such the author would return very grateful thanks, especially so to William Halley, W. F. Packard, Mrs. Jesse Blintz, Seely Perry, Mrs. David Carpenter, Mr. and Mrs. W.F. Merrill, E. J. Chase, T. M. Coons, Geo. Royden, E. W. Martin, N. B. Kincaid, Mrs. S. Stevens, J. J. Clover, E. J. Veness, W. H. Farmer, D. Newell, J. C. Truman, Leonard Thurston and many others.
To gather all this material from a great variety of sources, has taken much time and some expense, but it has been undertaken more as a labor of love, than from any pecuniary benefit the author may derive from the sale of the book.
If the citizens of Rockton and those who have formerly lived here appreciate the effort to faithfully preserve the history of the town and its people, the author will be very thankful. Respectfully submitted, Edison I. CARR.
HISTORY OF ROCKTON
Rockton, one of the northern tiers of townships in Winnebago county, Illinois, is beautifully located in the famous Rock river valley, and unsurpassed for its fertility of soil and the intelligence and integrity of its inhabitants. Little was known of this desirable section of the country, prior to the Black Hawk war of 1832. After the close of that war in 1833, the men who had composed the army of some 3,000 soldiers, mainly drawn from the southern part of the state, very readily acquainted their neighbors of the rich and desirable lands of the north part of the state, and quite an emigration thereto was stimulated, and also from the eastern states.
Previous to this time this section had only been visited by some enterprising Indian traders, who could see quite a business speculation in trafficing with the natives for their rich products of furs. The best known of these Indian traders in this vicinity was Stephen Mack, who on the advent of the first white settlers in 1835, lived with his Indian wife with a tribe of Winnebago Indians in the grove about two miles down the river, which was subsequently known as Bird's grove, on lands now owned by Caleb Bentley, Esq., of this town. The remains of the old fire-places where this tribe was encamped so many years are still distinctly visible.
The following paragraph was kindly contributed by Cornelius Buckley, Esq., of Beloit, who has made the early history of Rock river valley a study for years:
Stephen Mack the Indian trader had the honor of being the first white man who settled in Rockton township, and probably in Rock river valley. He was born in Poultney, Vermont, in the month of February, in the latter part of the past century. He attended Dartmouth college, in New Hampshire, for a time, but seemed to have left the college before he graduated. He came west to Detroit with his father's family, soon after the close of the war of 1812, where his father held some position under the government, and might have had some connection with the fur trade business. Ambitious to start out in life for himself, and prompted by his love of adventure, Stephen Mack joined a government expedition, around the lakes from Detroit to Green Bay. While there he came in contact with some fur traders, and learning from them that the Rock river country would be a good place to establish a trading post, he accordingly struck across the country with an Indian pony, and arrived on Rock river near the place where Janesville was afterwards located. He then followed down the river until he came to an Indian settlement then known as the Turtle village near the present Beloit junction. Here he learned of the Indian camp at Bird's grove, and started out to find it from such directions as he could gather from the tribe, but taking the wrong trail he went on down the river until he finally reached a Pottawatomie village at Grand Detour. Here he located and for two or three years traded with the Indians there, taking their furs in exchange for his articles of traffic, and carrying his merchandise to and from Chicago on the backs of Indian ponies.
Mack's relation with this tribe was not productive of the best of feeling; and although he had taken the chief's daughter, Ho-no-ne-gah, for his wife, still his life was in danger, because he refused to sell firearms and liquor to the tribe. During one of his trips to Chicago with three of his ponies, a plan was fully matured to dispose of him on his return and take possession of his effects. His Indian wife learning of their intentions, was on the lookout for her husband's return, and meeting him far out from camp, apprised him of his danger. It was quick work for her to mount one of the ponies, and together they started out for the Winnebago tribe at Bird's grove, where they were gladly welcomed and promised protection. It became their future home for a number of years.
His Indian wife was a very faithful and devoted woman. She was largely absorbed in the care of her home and children, save when sickness of the early settlers called for her kind and skillful care and attention. Then with her supply of nature's remedies which the Great Spirit had so kindly spread out all around her, she would seek out the afflicted and bring sunshine and relief to many a suffering one who fell a prey to the ills of a new country. The high tribute of respect to Mack's Indian wife was genuine and sincere, and although of a dusky hue, she possessed a noble soul and did all she could to make those around her comfortable and happy.
Not only in sickness were her many virtues shown in a marked degree, but the poor and destitute around her incident to the struggles of many an early settler, shared of her provisions in a generous manner. She delighted in doing good. Only once was she known to assume the garb of her pale-face sisters, and then it was by great solicitation; but she felt so ill at ease, and afraid to make herself conspicuous, she soon laid it aside and for ever after was content with the costume of her tribe. Mrs. Jesse Blinn who was a near neighbor, says of her: "She was very skillful in ornamenting her clothing. She made herself for extra occasions an Indian dress of fine blue broadcloth, with a border five inches deep all around it, worked with various colored ribbons; her taste in blending colors to have a pleasing effect was very fine, and her needle work almost perfect. Many articles about her home bore witness of her skillful handiwork. Being a Pottawatomie, she like her tribe, felt above the Winnebagoes in skill, and showed much ability in fashioning many articles of merchandise."
Mrs. Mack's relatives from Grand Detour, often came to visit her, and on such occasions she would array herself in her best garments, visit their tents and for a brief time be a child of nature again. She died in July, 1847, leaving a child about a year old. She was the mother of eleven children, two of whom died in infancy.
Mack was living in peace and quietude with the Indians at the breaking out of the Black Hawk war. After the battle of Stillman Valley, when that renowned chief visited this tribe to induce them to follow him on his journey northward, Mack used his influence against such a movement; and although Black Hawk was very angry with the white trader, the little tribe remained on their old camping ground, and the great chief marched on without them.
It is said that the feeling was so strong against Mack during the visit of Black Hawk, that the chief of the tribe advised him to go away for a time for personal safety. Accordingly he privately went to an island in the river, now known as Webber's island, where he was supplied with food by his faithful wife until it was safe for him to return. This may be an actual fact or a romance, but it is given for what it is worth.
In accordance with a treaty made with Gen. Scott, in Rock Island in the fall of 1832, the Indians were to be removed from the state in 1833, which was officially done by the war department at a cost to the government of $50,000. In speaking of this outlay of government funds, Mack used to say that he could have done the job for $10,000. Several roving bands of Indians remained in the state for years afterwards, but they had no fixed place of abode.
With the indications of a speedy settlement of Rock river valley, Mack conceived the idea that the bluff at the mouth of the Pecatonica river would be a good place to locate a town in view of river navigation, and was in correspondence with a Mr. Bradstreet, of Albany, N. Y., on the advent of the first white settlers in 1835. It was then considered that the Pecatonica river was a navigable stream for one hundred miles from its mouth, and Rock river one hundred and fifty miles up into the territory of Wisconsin. With this large prospect in view, the mouth of the Pecatonica river was a very desirable location for a town.
Accordingly Mack took possession of this tract of land in the fall of 1835, and permanently resided there until his death in 1850. The place took the name of Macktown, which it still retains, although the once flourishing settlement has entirely disappeared, save the substantial farm house which he built there in his lifetime.
Mack had his town platted as he owned all of section twenty-three south of Pecatonica river and sold many lots. In the height of his prosperity he valued a corner lot near his store at $1,000. When told that his land was too uneven for a town, he said "it is far better than Milwaukee."
He established a ferry across Rock river about 1838, and it was run for a time by William Hulin, who afterwards became quite a prominent man in the county. This ferry was then bought by Jesse Blinn and carried on by him till the building of the Mack bridge, and licensed under the regulations of the county commissioners' court, which allowed the ferryman to charge for wagon and two horses, 62½ cents; single wagon and one horse, 37½ cents; man and horse, 25 cents; and each footman 6¼ cents. A ferryman who exceeded these charges was liable to have his license revoked for which he had paid $10.
About 1842-3 Mack built a bridge in the place of the ferry, mostly at his own expense. This was the first bridge across Rock river in the state. After going through various stages of repairs from damages by ice and floods, it was entirely carried away in the great freshet Sunday morning, June 1st, 1851, and was never rebuilt, as another bridge had been previously established a mile farther down the river which so changed the course of travel and Macktown was left so far to one side of the road to neighboring towns that its growth was greatly retarded. As Rockton with its developed water power began to grow, Macktown correspondingly began to decline in prosperity. Many buildings were taken down and moved across the river to add to the general growth of Rockton.
Mack was a man who had received a good education, and possessed a large share of executive ability. He took an active part in the formation of the new county and its development. By Indian treaty stipulation with the government, half-breed children had a certain amount of land or its equivalent in money. By a settlement with a government commissioner Mack received about $5,000 on account of his children by an Indian mother. This amount of money at that early day enabled him to employ men and make a good deal of improvement, and to possess himself of a large quantity of land. He also loaned money to many an early settler to enter his land. At the time of his death he owned besides his large Macktown farm, land in section twenty-six, and all of section twenty-eight south of the Pecatonica river, amounting in all to about one thousand acres. On the latter tract lie built a house and established a dairy farm which was in charge of a man by the name of Stocker. A son of this man married Mack's daughter Mary.
Mack kept the first store and was patronized by the first settlers as well as by the Indians, bringing his goods from Chicago on Indian ponies before the advent of wagons. This traffic must have been very remunerating in those early times, especially so with his Indian customers. In later years he associated his cousin, Merrill E. Mack, with him in his store.
Although Mack had taken his squaw wife under the Indian form of marriage, but to put to rest any question of legality on this point and make his children full heirs-in-law he and his wife were remarried September 14, 1840, by William Hulin, justice of the peace.
Mack was elected associate justice in 1819, and held the office as long as he lived. He was appointed the first township treasurer of the school fund, and at this time Wait Talcott, Henry O. Brown and William Halley were township trustees. On the adoption of township organization in 1850, Mack was a candidate for the first supervisor, and was only beaten by a few votes by his popular rival, Sylvester Talcott.
Some time after the death of his Indian wife Mack married a Mrs. Daniels, of Harrison, for a second wife. The marriage was performed in Beloit. He died very suddenly on the 10th of April, 1850, and was buried on his own farm beside his Indian wife who had been his faithful companion for so many years.
Mack had eleven children by his Indian wife, two of whom died in infancy. The oldest living child was Rose, a mute, who was sent to the deaf and dumb asylum at Jacksonville. She afterwards married a mute and became a teacher there.
Mary married Charles Stocker.
William married Julia Stocker, sister of Mary's husband, and had two children before he left Macktown. He assisted in settling up his father's estate and showed considerable business talent. He carried on a brick yard for a time in Macktown, in connection with his brother-in-law Charles Stocker.
Louisa attended the Rockford Female Seminary for a time, but confinement was too much for her free, untamed nature. Whenever she took a notion to come home, she would start off without giving notice, and walk the whole distance. She married L. L. Curtis. They now live at Glenn Flora, Chipawa Co., Wis.
Thomas and Edward are the names of two other boys. There was one by the name of Henry, who died in 1847, about nine years of age.
Matilda and Caroline were the youngest of the family. Caroline was but a babe when her mother died, and about four years of age at the death of her father. Matilda had a part of section twenty-eight allotted to her on the settlement of her father's estate. This tract was subsequently platted and is now known on the assessment book as "Matilda Mack's subdivision." Shortly after the settlement of their father's estate, the children all left Macktown, some settling in Minnesota and some in Wisconsin, where they now reside.
The remains of Mack and his Indian wife were buried on a part of his farm and the lot surrounded with a fence. Thirty years after when the graves were sadly neglected, they were removed to the Phillips cemetery, near Harrison by some of Mack's old friends. The following extract from the Rockton Herald, of May 21st, 1880, will explain this transaction:
"The remains of Mack and his Indian wife were removed on Wednesday from where they were buried on the Mack farm over thirty years ago, and interred in the Phillips cemetery in district No. 3. The bones were in a good state of preservation, even the hair and comb of Mrs. Mack were little changed, but the coffins were so badly decayed as to easily crumble to pieces when disturbed. It is intended to erect a suitable stone to commemorate their remains. A glass bottle was deposited with the remains containing a printed paper as follows:
"If in the course of time this paper should meet the eye of any person, be it known that the remains buried here are those of Stephen Mack and his Indian wife, Ho-no-ne gah.
"Stephen Mack was born in Poultney, Vermont, February 1799 [some think this is not correct, for he must have been from ten to fifteen years older when he died than this date would make him], and settled in this county about 1822 as an Indian trader, and continued as a resident until his death in 1850. Mrs. Mack having previously died.
"At the time of Mack's death he owned all of section twenty-three in this township south of the Pecatonica river, and resided thereon at the time of his death. He was buried not far from where he lived by the side of his wife on his own land. Soon after his death, his children sold the land and went to Minnesota with their mother's friends, and at this time there are no relatives of Mack here.
"The place where he was first buried being in a large field, and the land under cultivation over his remains, the undersigned friends of Mack and his wife in their lifetime, have moved the remains to this place, and placed a tombstone over the same. This is done out of respect and friendship for our departed friends.
"Stephen Mack was the first permanent white inhabitant of Rock river valley. He was a good citizen, a generous friend, a gentleman in deportment anti an honest man. J. R. JEWETT, WILLIAM HALLEY, R. H. COMSTOCK. Rockton, May 19th, 1880.
Henry Lovesee, now of Roscoe, tells when working for Mack in the fall of 1837, of taking a load of corn with an ox team to lake Koshkonong to Thiebeau, an Indian trader, and returning with a load of furs. There was only one settler on the entire route. On his return the weather became extremely cold, and his only provision some corn bread was frozen so hard that he had to break it up with a hatchet into small bits and thaw it out in his mouth. Tired, cold and hungry he arrived at Mack's late at night.
Here we close the brief life sketch of Stephen Mack. In many respects he was a remarkable man. Born of sturdy New England parentage, cradled among the green hills of the old Green Mountain state, his youthful spirit struggled for a larger scope than the narrow environments of his humble home. What could have prompted a man of his ability to hide away so many years from civilization may never be known. One has it that death had robbed him of the idol of his manhood's cherished affections, and he sought for solace away from the scenes which had brought him so much sorrow. Others say an insidious appetite was creeping in upon him, when he aroused himself and fled from the haunts of civilization, choosing rather the home of the children of nature. And again through a keen foresight he may have caught a glimpse of the wonderful development of the west, and wanted to be first to see the rising sun of civilization and prosperity spread all over the great prairies. How far his great aspirations were realized cannot be told, yet he succeeded in being a man of prominence in his time, and his name will be handed down in the annals of Rockton as a man of many virtues, of strict integrity and of unquestionable honesty of purpose.
STEPHEN MACK'S WILL
Know all men by these presents, that I, Stephen Mack, of Pecatonic, Winnebago county, and state of Illinois, being of sound health in body and mind at this time, but knowing the uncertainty as to a continuation of these blessings, and believing it the bounden duty of every man of family so to settle and arrange his worldly affairs as to render needless all litigation and contention about his estate after his decease, as well as a supreme law of God and Nature, that the father shall provide to the best of his ability for his offspring.
Therefore be it known, that I do hereby revoke all former wills and that I do now and forever will and decree, that whenever it shall please the Almighty God to recall my spirit from its earthly tenement, my funeral charges shall be paid, that all just debts be paid, and that all property of which I may die possessed, and that shall remain after the above-mentioned payments are made, shall be equally and equitably divided among my wife and children, whose names are as follows, viz: My wife Ho-no-ne-gah, my children Rose, Mary, William, Louisa, Thomas H. and Henry C. Mack, to each and every of them an equal share, or one-seventh of the whole, and that should any one or more of them die before attaining to maturity, his or her share shall he equally divided among the survivors.
I do furthermore will and decree, that my administrators, if not appointed by me before my decease, shall be appointed by the proper court of probate, and they shall be appointed with a view of their acting as guardians to my children during their minority, or until some one of them shall be competent to act for him or herself, at which time the administrators and guardians shall account with him or her for all the property they may have received from my estate, reserving to themselves a fair remuneration for their services as guardians and administrators, and that the child, be it he or she, first attaining to competency and receiving the property from the administrators as above designated, shall from that time become the sole guardian for the others, and shall apportion to each and every of the others, brothers and sisters, their equal and just share as fast as they become competent to manage for themselves.
It shall be the option of my wife at any time to withdraw her share from the rest and conduct for herself or to leave it in the hands of the guardians with the children. It is furthermore my will that my children be well educated and that their guardians pay particular attention to this subject, also that they have all reasonable support and allowance during their minority.
From a probability of many changes in my property from sales and purchases, &c., I refrain from designating any portion of it at this time, but a reference to my deeds and to the records will show in part of what my property consists, the balance is known to my wife.
I hereby appoint the Rev. William Adams and Merrill E. Mack, both of this place, my executors and administrators, and guardians of my children; and I require of them a true and faithful fulfillment of all and every part of this my last will and testament, should they survive me. Should I survive both or either of them, or should I have other causes to alter this part of my will by time appointment of others in their stead, I shall do it with a codicil appended hereto. Should the place of guardians to my children become vacant by decease or otherwise, after my decease, the court of probate will appoint suitable persons to fill the vacancies.
Now therefore, praying that the Great Ruler of this vast universe may prolong my days in peace and happiness, and that he may continue his watchful care over my wife and children forever; that he may never suffer them to depart from the path of rectitude, truth, honor and integrity, and that he may lead them in the path of the true religion of Jesus Christ, I in the presence of God and the subscribing witnesses hereunto set my hand and seal, at Pecatonic, Winnebago county, and state of Illinois, this fourth day of April, A. D. one thousand eight hundred and forty. STEPHEN MACK [SEAL]
Witnesses: MERRILL E. MACK, JESSE BLINN.
By the decree of God, changes having taken place in my family since signing and sealing the above will, I do hereby make the following alterations, namely: Whereas three additional children have been born to me since the making and signing the above, viz: Edward, Matilda and Caroline, and whereas Henry C. has departed this life without issue, therefore, I do now will and decree that all of my children, now eight in number, shall share equally in all the property which I may leave at my decease, and all under the form and manner set forth in the foregoing will; and whereas my former wife, Ho-no-ne-gah, having departed this life, and I having taken to myself Isabella, my present wife, the said Isabella shall stand in all respects in the manner and have the same interest that my former wife, Ho-no-ne-gah, would have had, had she survived me. I do hereby appoint as my executors of this my last will, David Jewett and . . . . . . . . .
STEPHEN MACK [SEAL]
Pecatonic, Feb. 14, 1849.
John M. Hulett and Bela Shaw were appointed administrators by the probate court.
The first permanent white settlers of Rockton, with the exception of Stephen Mack, were William Talcott and his son Thomas B. Talcott. They came from Rome, N. Y., and made the journey all the way with a horse and wagon. Arriving at Chicago they concluded to make a trip to Milwaukee, and look over the country in that direction. On their journey to Milwaukee Thomas B. Talcott commenced to keep a journal of each day's adventures, and this he continued to do until the time they arrived on Rock river. Through the kindness of J. A. Merrill, we found this valuable record among Mr. Talcott's old papers, and give it here entire just as he wrote it, as follows:
"Friday, July 10th, 1835. Left our Indian tavern this morning after breakfast. Had about four miles of prairie and then came into timber land. The timber is of various kinds such as oak, walnut, beech, maple, ash, elm, basswood, etc. Came to Root river about twenty miles south of Milwaukee. After crossing the river and going a few miles we came to bad going. Our horse got mired and we had to loosen him from the wagon and help him out, and then got out the wagon the best way we could with handspike, etc. Went about two miles and got fast again in the mud, and had to go through the same process to get along. After awhile we came to where the woods were more open and the road rather better, and had some hopes of getting there by night; but the road was so bad we were yet obliged to walk all the way. We passed over several hills where the Indians had formerly raised corn. The shape of the hills remained but were covered with grass and bushes. We came to Milwaukee a little after sun down, turned out our horse on the commons, got some pork and bread for supper and went to bed.
"Saturday, July 11th. Rose this morning not much refreshed, for we had to sleep on the floor. Pork and bread again for breakfast. We stopped on a point of land that ran down into a marsh to the river where the Menomonee comes into Milwaukee. We crossed the river and went up about half a mile to the principal village. In the spring there was not a frame house here; now there is a store at the mouth of the river, one at Walker's point, two at the upper village, besides an Indian trader and a grocery, and several other frame buildings. Went up the river about two and a half miles to a saw mill; here is the first falls on the river, and boats of considerable size can go up to the mills. About three miles farther up is another saw mill, but the falls at either place are but a few feet. Coming down the river from the mills we ranged off a little in the woods between the river and the lake, found the land rather rough and stony. The river runs along parallel with and about three miles from the lake for twenty-five miles. Took up our quarters this evening three-fourth of a mile up the river at Paul Burdick's, Had passable fare and a bed to sleep on.
"Sunday, July 12th. Rained last night and continued raining most of the forenoon. Went down to the meeting, had preaching, in the forenoon and bible class in the afternoon. The minister is a young man who was sent out on a mission among the Indians at Green Bay, but left there and came here on account of his health. He is a little tinctured with the spirit of speculation.
"Monday, July 13th. As yet we have had no news from home. Concluded to stay here till Wednesday evening waiting for mail. Was a little disappointed in the place. Did not expect to find such an extensive marsh about the mouth of the river. There are several hundred acres of wet marsh, all in one body covered with high grass, and so wet that a person cannot travel through it from Walker's point about a mile from the mouth of the river. It is seven miles to walk around the marsh to get on the other side while it is only two miles across.
"Tuesday, July 14th, There are three important points on the river, at least deemed so by those who have claims on different points. Walker's point is occupied by Juno, and on the opposite side of the river by Cleveland & Fowler. There are not more than three of the claimants who have been on them long enough to have a pre-emption right to the land at the minimum price, but they are forming a combination to protect and defend each other in their claims against anyone bidding on them.
"Wednesday, July 15th. Think the place will eventually be a place of considerable business, but will not grow up as rapidly as Chicago. At present the inhabitants think of nothing but speculation. Not one in the vicinity of this place thinks of raising anything on the land, but make claims as fast as they can by going on and cutting a few trees, spade up a little ground, and perhaps plant corn. They are just as likely to plant now as at the proper season. The mail came in this evening without any letters for us. We wrote home and concluded to start in the morning.
"Thursday, July 16th. After breakfast commenced looking for our horse. Found it about eleven o'clock, and started for Jombeau's, twenty-five miles up the lake towards Chicago. Found the traveling bad, our horse poor, and had to walk all the way, arriving there about nine o'clock in the evening very much fatigued. Our Potawatomie landlady prepared some supper for us, and we ate and retired to rest to dream out whether we should go to Prairie village or to Chicago.
"Friday, July 17th. Swapped away old sorrel this morning with our landlord for a roan horse and paid $7.50 to boot. Concluded we would go to Chicago, leave our wagon, buy another horse, and then go to Rock river on horse back. Started after breakfast and had to cross a very large prairie, traveled all day without seeing any inhabitants, arriving at Sunderland's before sundown, and put up there. There were nine horses and fourteen pair of cattle put out here to-night. Had to sleep on prairie feathers.
"Saturday, July 18th, Started this morning for the Des Plaines river across the prairie through high grass without any trail, intending to cross it and go to Mancel Talcott's. We traveled about five hours before we came to the river, part of the way through wet prairie and part of the way through timber, and then came to where a man by the name of Cooly had made a claim on the river, a part of which was the best bottom land I ever saw. He was mowing grass almost as high as his head. Where we crossed the river the water was so high that it came into our wagon. We went down the river about three miles and stopped at Mr. Steels', and had some bread and milk for dinner. After baiting our horse we started on. We had sixteen miles to go and calculated to reach there about sunset, and did not hurry much; but about five o'clock the heavens began to show indications of a shower, which finally came up and gave us a good ducking before we got here.
"Sunday, July 19th. Stopped at Mancel Talcott's and found them all well. * * * Elder Talcott, a Methodist man was expected to preach at a neighbor's house. Went over about eleven o'clock, but he did not come, consequently there was no meeting.
"Monday, July 20th. Went to Chicago to purchase a horse and apparatus for going to Rock river. Found our Rome friends here, and received a letter from home, the first since we left, containing pleasant news. * * * Succeeded in getting a horse and rig for our journey, and shall leave town in the morning.
"Tuesday, July 21st. Crossed the wet prairie between Chicago and the Des Plaines, arriving at Mr. Talcott's a little before noon. After dinner we went out hog hunting, and after a three mile ride succeeding in shooting one, which was taken home by attaching a rope to one of the horses and drawing the hog. We had fresh pork for supper. * * *
"Wednesday, July 22nd. Started this morning for Rock river, crossing the prairie west of Mancel Talcott's to Barnes' grove seven miles, then struck across another five miles, came onto an Indian trail to Fox river, which we supposed was about twenty miles from where we started in the morning. We traveled till six o'clock without finding any house, and then found no one at home. We crossed the river and went down a mile and a half looking for inhabitants, for we did not like to lie out as we had nothing to eat. We took only a small piece of cake with us in the morning, expecting to find plenty of inhabitants on Fox river. We turned about and recrossed the river, hoping to find some one at the house by this time. When we got there we found two men, but they did not belong there, and were going across as they lived a mile and a half up the river from the ford. We went home with them and found that they came from Virginia to settle here.
"Thursday, July 23d. Filled our pockets with provision expecting we should have to camp out one night, and then we should come to Kishwaukee river where there were inhabitants. About noon we caught a young grouse tangled in the bushes so he could not fly away. Picked off the feathers and carried it along for supper. Passed three inhabitants in the forenoon on a beautiful prairie of first rate land. Made our trip a little before night, built a fire, roasted our grouse and with raw pork, and biscuit made our supper. Mosquitoes were troublesome.
"Friday, July 24th. Left our camp about five o'clock after taking our breakfast of raw pork and biscuit. Most of the forenoon we traveled through, bur-oak openings. About nine o'clock we came to a beautiful little lake and an old Indian village, called Big Foot lake and village. There were no Indians there for most of them were wandering in the woods towards Chicago, to be ready for their payment from the government, which comes next month. We were here somewhat puzzled to find the right trail as there were so many which put out from the village. We finally made up our minds to go west south-west, but found the trail bearing to the south, followed on and came to a small creek meandering through, a line strip of bottom prairie which looked like the bed of some ancient river that was very large. The weeds and grass high. It was now nearly night and no signs of inhabitants, and it looked like showers. We came to an old Indian camp and made us a shelter of barks and poles, struck up a fire and ate our pork and bread. [To a person acquainted with the location of the land he can readily see that this Indian camp was the Turtle village deserted in Black Hawk's time, and by recrossing the Turtle creek and following down its south bank, out travelers would soon come to Rock river, which they crossed to the high banks on the west side. The Indian they followed took them down to the Goodwin ford and then to Mack's in Bird's grove.]
"Saturday, July 25th. After we stopped last night we saw several Indians cross the flat and one came over to us to beg some whisky. He was a Pottawatomie, and we learned from him that there were white folks within a few miles. We took his directions and started along, crossing the stream again. When we had got down a little way we came to a large river which an Indian had just crossed. We saw where he went out and started in after him. Soon found the water so deep that it came up almost to our horse's back. We turned around and tried again, found shallow water, crossed and went up onto the bluff to a camp of Indians, but could not understand them much. One of them took a tin kettle and started and motioned for us to follow him. We did so, came to the river and forded it again, crossed a small prairie, went into the woods and came to Stephen Mack's Indian trading establishment, and once more put up with a white man who had a squaw wife. Found we were on the bank of Rock river, two miles below the mouth of the Pecatonica and six miles south of the line of Wisconsin territory. We also learned that there was no dependence to be placed on our maps. Our map placed the mouth of the Pecatonica twenty miles south of Wisconsin, when it was but four miles. Rock is a beautiful river, said to be navigable 150 miles above this place, and the Pecatonica 100 miles. The land is very good and at the mouth of the river is in the hands of Mack and Bradstreet, of Albany, N. Y., where they calculate to lay out a town, and I think the prospect is fair for a large place to grow up here. There are no buildings at present.
"Sunday, July 20th. Slept last night on the floor with blankets under us. Shall stay with our friend Mack to-day. There are no inhabitants in several miles except the Indians, who come around and Mack trades with them to-day as much as any day. All days are alike to the children of the forest. Mack is in the employ of the American Fur Company, and has been all his life time. The Indians have confidence in him and he has no trouble."
This is the end of the diary, but a little later Mr. Talcott further adds: "We stayed with Mack and went out and looked the ground over and concluded to locate here and made our claims. Father was rather looking for water power, and thought that by cutting across the bend in the river, it would give a pretty good water power, and to test it, he made a trough to hold water for a level, and made his straight edges with his jack-knife and took a level across the bend, and it did not vary but a trifle from the government survey that was taken a year later.
"We made our claims, and then went to Chicago and purchased oxen, wagon, plow, and the necessary implements to commence a bachelor's hall. Came back and BUILT A SMALL CABIN on the point between the two rivers, and for a while had it all to ourselves and the Indians; but during the summer and fall others came and we had neighbors. George Stevens, John F. Thayer, John Lovesee, and a Mr. Robertson located on the east of Rock river opposite the mouth of the Pecatonica. Robert J. Cross located in the bend of the river below the Bradley grove. The Adamses, Mr. Fox and brother Henry came in October, but there were no ladies. We were a nice lot of bachelors and all keeping bachelor's hall, doing our own cooking and house work of all description."
The following beautiful lines from the gifted pen of Mrs. Mary (Hooker) Streckewald, describes this stage of Rockton's history in an able manner:
" 'Twas years ago, when the wild glowing west,
Wore bright-hued blossoms on her emerald vest,
When dusky Indians roamed the forest glades,
Or built their wigwams 'neath its leafy shades;
There came one evening, just at set of sun,
Two travelers, a father and a son.
Here were the level prairie's fertile brim,
Kissed by the waters of your rippling streams,
Fringed its fair banks with tall and stately trees,
That waved their branches to the gentle breeze,
While thickets of the plum and bending willows
Surged here arid there, their softly swelling billows,
Green plumes and banners mixed with gleams of silver
Revealed the whiling pathway of the river.
Here said the father let us settle down,
Send for the rest and found a TALCOTT town.
They made their claim and built a cabin small,
With logs and clay to form its solid walls,
With a rude window and a ruder door
And roof of hark over its hard clay floor."
Thomas M. Coons visited Rockton this same year. He with four others started out with a team from Joliet in harvest time to make a trip in this direction to see the country. They carne as far as Rock river and stopped and took their dinner about where the guard locks are now situated. Three of the party were opposed to going any farther, so they returned to Joliet. They did not see any one while here, either white or red men. Mr. Coons did not settle in Rockton till some years later.
The summer and autumn of 1835 closed with the following settlers who had come to Rockton:
Isaac Adams, Pearley P. Burnham, George Stevens, Darius Adams, C. J. Fox, Thomas B. Talcott, David A. Blake, John Kilgore, Henry W. Talcott, Ellison Blake, John Lovesee, John F. Thayer.
William Talcott went back east to settle up his business before moving his family out here. Mack had moved from Bird's grove to the bluff at the mouth of the Pecatonica river, and Robert J. Cross, who had located a claim down the river which he had purchased of a Frenchman by the name of Lavec, was living in Mack's old house in Bird's grove. A few settlers who had come with Cross located in Roscoe.
On January 10th, 1836, the legislature passed an act to create the county of Winnebago. The boundaries then given embraced all of the territory of Boone and Winnebago counties, and two tiers of townships from the east side of Stephenson county. A subsequent act reduced the county to its present size of sixteen townships. The county was named after the Indian tribes who inhabited its territory. This Indian word means a tribe of "fish eaters," or a people who lived mostly on fish. With the great abundance of fish in Rock and Pecatonica rivers, the red men of the vicinity could draw largely from these rivers for their supply of food.
The first election held in the county was on the first Monday in August of this year. Germanicus Kent, of Rockford; Joseph P. Briggs, of Cherry Valley; and Robert J. Cross, of Roscoe, were appointed judges of election. All voters scattered over a territory of 1152 square miles, had to go to Rockford to vote. At that election one hundred and twenty votes were polled and the voters from Rockton were: Isaac Adams, David A. Blake, Pearley P. Burnham, Daniel Fairchild, John Lovesee, Thomas B. Talcott, Henry W. Talcott, and John F. Thayer. Thomas B. Talcott was elected one of the county commissioners. Of all the men who met that day and voted to put the local machinery of government in motion sixty-two years ago, probably not one of them is living now.
The first official act of the county commissioners was to divide the county into election precincts. Rock river precinct embraced the present town of Manchester, in Boone county, and the towns of Roscoe, Rockton, Shirland, Harrison, and the north half of the town of Harlem and Owen, in Winnebago county. Going to election in those early times meant something, and most of them undoubtedly made a full day of it.
The county commissioners ordered an election to be held in each precinct to elect justices of the peace and constables, which was held in Rockton, Aug. 27th. Sylvester Talcott and Robert J. Cross were elected justices of the peace; and John P Parsons and David A. Blake constables.
The location of the county seat was fixed by a commission appointed by an act of the legislature, composed of Robert Stevens, and Rezin Zarley, of Cook county, and John Phillips, of Jo Daviess county. The place was known in that early day as Winnebago, and situated on the west side of the river about two miles north of the present court house. Thirty acres were set aside for the county buildings. The location of the county seat did not give general satisfaction, and it was the subject of an exciting controversy in the county for several years, until an act of the legislature gave the people the right to settle the question by vote, which resulted in its present location.
The presidential election in this precinct was held Nov. 7th, in Isaac Adams' house. The judges of election were Robert J. Cross, Stephen Mack and Isaac Adams. The names of the twenty voters on that occasion were: Isaac Adams, John Langdon, Ariel Robinson, John Allen, Samuel P. Langdon, Sylvester Talcott, Frederick Bird, John Lovesee, Thomas B. Talcott, E. Lee Bird, Stephen Mack, Henry W. Talcott, Elijah H. Brown, Chauncey Mead, John F. Thayer, Pearley P. Burnham, William Mead, C. W. Williamson, Robert J. Cross, George Patterson.
The political complexion of these voters showed their previous training and convictions, and nineteen whigs and one democrat very forcibly told how party lines were shaped. Mr. Williamson might have felt a trifle lonesome as the solitary follower of Andrew Jackson, but we presume his neighbors did not try to boycott him on account of his political convictions. The same political sentiment has predominated in Rockton from that early date to the present time.
THE POLISH CLAIM
Another important event which had a great influence on the future destiny of Rockton, transpired this year. This was known in those early days as the Polish claim. In 1834, congress granted thirty-six sections of unclaimed western land to a colony of Polish exiles, and the agent of this colony, Gen. Klopiski, came to Rockton in 1836 with the purpose of locating his claim on lands in Rockton, Owen and Rockford. He was informed that this locality was not unclaimed public land, and therefore he could lay no claim here. He promised to go away and locate his claim elsewhere, but he did not do so, and held to his claim on a part of Rockton and other towns. After about seven years effort, and after congress had been frequently petitioned, the claim of the Polanders was set aside by the act of April 14, 1842. During this stay of years to get a title to the land then occupied, many came here to locate on account of its superior natural advantages, but learning the condition of things, went away and settled elsewhere. Some of the people who went to Beloit came here first, and also James Thompson, who built a woolen factory in Roscoe; but finding that no one could sell them land or water power and give a clear title, they did not stay. How much Rockton suffered in development from this unjust claim cannot be told. The news had flown eastward that "Pecatonic," with its navigable waterways and splendid water power was likely to be a second Cincinnati, hence the tide of emigration that turned this way. Had all of the conditions been favorable it is hard to imagine what might have been the destiny of Rockton as a great industrial center.
We quote from a communication by William Hulin, published in the Winnebago Forum, of 1843, for further particulars on this subject: "Suffice it to say, that after the settlers had by their petitions, for several successive sessions, called the attention of congress to the subject, an act was passed and became a law on the 14th of April, 1842, removing the incubus and authorizing the entry of the lands in these two townships, (Rockton and Rockford,) by pre-emption, like other government lands.
"In the midst of our rejoicings over the most righteous results, let us not lose sight of the important fact that our business might have been buried beneath the mass of unfinished congressional matter for years to come, but for the kindness of the Hon. O. H. Smith, of Indiana, the Hon. Robert J. Walker, of Mississippi, and the Hon. Richard M. Young, of this state, senators in congress, who well informed of the facts in the case, and satisfied of the justice of our cause, most generously gave us the benefit of their efficient aid, by which the affair was finally disposed of to the satisfaction of all parties, as well as ourselves, and ample provision was made for the benefit of the real exiles from Poland, and these unfortunate and meritorious countrymen of Kosciusko had no occasion to question the honor and good faith of a government which some of the most illustrious patriots of Poland had bled to establish."
The land in the township was surveyed this year, by Don Alonzo Spaulding. He was elected county surveyor the same year. Part of the land in Rockton did not come into market and subject to entry till 1844, for the reason before given.
Sylvester Talcott came Feb. 26, of this year, finding his way over the trackless prairie by the aid of a pocket compass, and crossed the rivers on the ice. In the fall of the same year he was elected the first justice of the peace. He also had the honor of performing the first marriage ceremony in town. The contracting parties were Robert Logan and Miss Eliza Blake, and the date of marriage was July 10th, 1837.
Mr. and Mrs. David Carpenter came to Rockton this year, performing the journey from the state of New York with horses and wagon, arriving July 15th, late in the day just as a big shower was coming up. They found shelter in the log cabin of George Stevens, near where the Osgood stone house was afterwards built on the flat opposite Macktown. The cabin gave them protection from the storm for a time, but when the sod chimney, after being soaked with rain, caved into the fire place, the smoke became so unbearable that the inmates had to leave the cabin, preferring the downpouring of the rain to being suffocated with smoke. It was a dismal night for our travelers, and no doubt they thought of the comfortable homes they had left in the east and wished they had stayed there.
Finding they could not stay there with any degree of comfort, they got up their team and started for some other habitation. They were guided to the humble home of Isaac Adams, situated near the south-east corner of Main and Bridge streets, where they found a shelter for the night.
As Mr. Carpenter could not find any land the next day in the vicinity but what had already been claimed, he hired Mr. Stevens at the expense of a dollar, to ferry them across the river to the Talcott cabin between the rivers, and there they lived for four weeks until Mr. Carpenter could build a log house on his claim west of the river.
It was a lonely time for Mrs. Carpenter in those early days, as she was the first and only white woman in the new settlement, and frequent spells of being homesick would force themselves upon her. Thomas Talcott would read one of Dr. Lyman Beecher's sermons on a Sunday to make the day seem less lonesome and dreary; while Sylvester Talcott would try to say encouraging words, telling her that she would soon hear the glad sound of the church bell, and not many years would pass before a railroad would come this way, but to these bright prospects she would only sorrowfully say, "Not in my day, not in my day."
How little did she then realize that fourteen years hence, the church bell would be a reality, or only a few years later that the shrill notes of the iron horse would electrify the whole country with its beneficent results.
When left alone in her humble home she was in constant fear of the lawlessness of the roving bands of Indians that passed near them. One day a company of them came along and one of their number rode his horse as far into the house as possible, demanding some whisky. She was nearly frightened to death, and only had strength of voice to say there was none. When the Indian saw how he had frightened the lone woman he was greatly amused and quietly departed.
One rainy day in the fall of the year when Mr. Carpenter was at home, four Indians returning from a duck hunt, walked into his house and took possession of his stove to cook their ducks on. Their manner of cooking was most repulsive, and when they got through with their meal, the top of the stove and the feathers on the floor was a sight to behold. Mr. Carpenter scolded but they only laughed at him. When they departed they laughingly made their bows by way of thanks and went away.
Mr. Carpenter felt the need of a boat as he frequently wanted to cross the river, so he bantered an Indian for a nice black walnut canoe. He held up a dollar and indicated with three fingers that he would give three dollars for it. The Indian in turn held up five fingers as the price of the canoe. A compromise was effected by the Indian holding up three fingers with one other turned down at the middle joint. Thus the canoe was purchased at the cost of $3.50. Every Indian respected the ownership of the canoe, and not one of them molested it.
For three months Mrs. Carpenter stood the great strain of pioneer life with the haunting fear that she might be killed by the Indians at any moment, until Mr. Carpenter concluded to take her back to Chicago and stay there until such times as other women came to settle near them. They planned to start the next morning when just at night a team forded the river and came to their house for a night's lodging. It took but an instant for Mrs. Carpenter to discover that the travelers were her father, Dea. Luman Pettibone, and his family. Of course he contemplated journey to Chicago was at once given up. Although their house was only large enough for two, the grim old logs seemed to possess remarkable elastic properties when called upon to enfold an additional family of seven. Mrs. Carpenter's gloomy fears soon passed away in the care of her enlarged household, and in the consciousness of being surrounded by her relatives.
Mr. Pettibone stayed there through the winter, and in the spring located a claim on a part of the Goodwin place, to which he removed.
One of the gang of prairie bandits by the name of Baker, who like his comrades in crime, was a terror in those early days, came to Mr. Carpenter's one day when he was away from home, and wanted their canoe to cross the river as he was in a great hurry. Mrs. Carpenter could not let the canoe go, so she was obliged to set him across the river. He offered no pay for her kind act, and not even thanks. It turned out afterwards that this man had stolen a gold watch from Thomas Grout, of Shirland, which accounted for his great hurry.
Mr. Carpenter brought money enough with him to enter his land, but as he had to wait nearly eight years to do so he loaned his money until such time as he might need it. The investment proved to be a total loss to him by the death of one party and the bankruptcy of the other; and he was obliged to hire $300 at a high rate of interest to enter his land, which by the strictest economy took him seven year s to pay up.
Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter lived on their farm west of the river from 1836 to 1865, when their son Luman Carpenter bought a place for them in town after he came home from the war, to which they soon removed.
This place was first known as the "mouth of the Pecatonic." Some cut the name down to "the mouth," while on the other hand the majority adopted the simple word "Pecatonic," or more properly Pecatonica, which by common consent became the name of the town for several years, until it was changed to Rockton by an act of the legislature of the session of 1846-7. The name was suggested by Thomas B. Talcott. It may be interesting to know why such a musical name as Pecatonica, was discarded. Its Indian meaning is crooked or winding river. Those acquainted with the sinuous course of the river will readily see that the name was very appropriately applied. The impression had gone forth in those early times that it was very unhealthy along the Pecatonica river, and as the town was named after the river, the inference to outsiders would very naturally be that the town was in an unhealthy locality. To counteract such a wrong impression, the name was changed by a petition of the citizens to the legislature. At the same time the location of the public park was changed from block twenty-seven to block twenty-five. A few years later, an enterprising town sprang into existence several miles up the Pecatonica river, and they very wisely adopted the name for their town which Rockton had ceased to honor.
Some increase was made in the number of settlers during this year, which materially enlarged the area of settlers' claims. A few additional log cabins were erected, and some effort was made to cultivate the soil, The wants of the settlers were few and simple and communication with friends limited. Thus the year of 1836 closed down on the little settlement of Rockton.
The first tax levied and collected was under the order of the county commissioners, March 7, 1837. No real estate was then assessed as the land had not come into market, except the town lots of the first town of Winnebago. The land on which these lots were located had previously been sold as it was an Indian reservation or "float." The order for the levy read as follows: "That one-half per cent. taxes he levied on the following description of property: Town lots, horses and mares, neat cattle above three years old, watches, carriages and wagons; and it is likewise ordered that one-fourth per cent be levied on stock in trade."
Under the first constitution of the state, the county treasurer was the assessor and the sheriff was the collector. Robert J. Cross, the first county treasurer, made the complete county assessment in fifteen days, for which he received $30. The sheriff, Daniel S. Haight, did the collecting. The whole amount of taxes collected on personal property was $280.29, and on non-resident lots $264.30. Thus it will be seen that the first tax ever collected in the county amounted to $553.59.
The first jury for the county was selected at a meeting of the county commissioners' court, April 20, 1837. Of the twelve jurymen selected, two were form Rockton, David Carpenter and David A. Blake. The jurors then received seventy-five cents a day for services.
Capt. William Talcott moved his family from the state of New York to Rockton this year. After making his claim in 1835, he went back home, settled up his business, and then brought out his family. They built a house on the south-west corner of block sixteen, which was at that time the most substantial dwelling house in the little settlement. It was built of logs, but when they got the saw mills running, a framed addition was joined to it. Some traces of the old cellar and well are yet visible, but the best land mark is a large tree growing there, which was planted when a mere twig under the buttery window by Mrs. F. W. Packard when a young girl. It would seem very appropriate for the descendants of William Talcott to put up some durable mark on that corner to tell where the father of the town first lived. A large boulder with the name of Talcott cut on it would be very appropriate and lasting. This family made quite an addition to the place, as it was the third white family to settle here. They were soon followed by a number of others.
A government commissioner this year located "floats," or land set apart for the benefit of half-breed children, on sections 27, 28 and 30, along the south side of the Pecatonica river. A Frenchman by the name of Hamel, who had a squaw wife secured section 27. S. and A. Gibson had a claim on section 29, and induced the government commissioner to pass them by and not take their claim for a float. It is said that the Gibsons had a political pull on the commissioner. Dr. Lippitt who settled in Shirland, came west in 1830, and bought a claim on section 30, paying for it a pair of horses, $80 in cash and gave his note for $40. When he brought his family here the next year, he found his claim worthless by reason of a float having been laid on the section. He then crossed the Pecatonica river and made his s permanent home in the town of Shirland.
Rev. William M. Adams carne to Rockton at the solicitation of William Talcott, in September, 1837. He organized the Congregational church here, March 23d, 1838, and for four years he preached in Rockton and Beloit. He organized the first Congregational church in Beloit, in 1839. He built the first framed dwelling house in Rockton in 1838, and moved his family into it as soon as it was enclosed. This building formed a part of the house now occupied by F. W. Packard. Mrs. Packard, a daughter of Rev. Adams, has lived in this house just sixty years, and never enjoyed the luxury of house hunting or moving. We doubt if there is another such case in the town or county even. Rev. Adams had a claim on land which has since been known as the Winsor farm. He also had a timber claim on the, north side of the Pecatonica river, which has since become a part of the Blodgett place, but this claim was "jumped" by other parties and he lost it.
After his four years of ministerial labor in Rockton and Beloit, while suffering many of the privations of frontier life, he went to Mineral Point, Wis., where he labored in church work for about a year. During this time his family remained in Rockton, but he had made arrangements to move to Mineral Point, when he was taken sick and died there March 12th, 1842. His widow lived in the same house in Rockton until her death which occurred Sept. 11th, 1869. The claim on the Winsor farm was lost with but little compensation to the family, by unjust dealings of grasping land grabbers.
John G. Taylor was one of the pioneers who came this year with his mother and step father, Mr. Ackerman. After a time he settled on section 20 and owned 240 acres of it. He enlisted in the union army, Sept. 30, 1864, in company D, 74th Illinois volunteer infantry, and was honorably discharged June 10th, 1865. He was an industrious and prosperous farmer. Dec. 23d, 1881, while attempting to board a train at Rockton station to go to Rockford, he slipped under the wheels while the train was in motion, and both legs were crushed below his knees. He was taken home where both legs were amputated. He died the following Monday.
Rev. George R. Rudd, a brother of Mrs. Luman Pettibone, preached the first sermon in Rockton. The meeting was held in C. J. Fox' house, in 1836.
A ferry was established across the river near where the Carpenter bridge was afterward built, by a man by the name of Jones in 1837 or 38. There was a ford farther up the river.
During the month of April of this year, the first steam boat came up the river as far as this place. The name of this pioneer steamer was "The Gypsy." Stephen Mack heard the steamer's whistle as she came around the bend in the river, and hurried down to the shore to drive a stake for them to tie up to on his side of the river. George Stevens, just across the river, heard the steamer also, and seeing what Mack was doing, hurriedly drove a stake on his side, and was greatly pleased to have the boat tie to his stake, which the steam boat men thought was the best landing place. The boat went still farther up the river, and some think as far as Janesville. A. T. Hart tells of riding on this steam boat from Janesville to Jefferson where they could not go any farther up the river on account of the dam already built across the river. On their return they got stuck on a sand bar within ten miles of Janesville, and Mr. Hart hired a team to take him home.
It was then thought that the steam boat trade was going to build up the river towns, and the mouth of the Pecatonica especially. The coming of this boat created considerable interest, and some money was subscribed by the river towns to buy a steam boat for local trade. It was understood that such a boat was purchased, but it never came up the river as far as Rockton.
David Jewett came to Rockton this year and was part owner of one of first saw mills built on the water power the next year. He was connected with the mill for about five years and commenced to build a house in Macktown, when he sold out his property here and located in the town of Harrison, where he lived the remainder of his life. He laid out the village of Harrison in 1848.
During the summer of 1837, Hiram Bellows and L. B. Fisher came through from Chicago with an ox team. They stopped two or three weeks with George Stevens, until they could look around and locate claims. They were induced to come here by Martin P. Ormsby, who had already settled in Rockton. Mr. Bellows made his claim on the south-east quarter of section thirty-one, and Mr. Fisher located his claim in the town of Owen. After Mr. Bellows had built a small log house on his claim, he and Mr. Fisher went back to Chicago after Mrs. Bellows and a five or six year old son of Mr. Fisher. Mr. Fisher's wife had previously died in Ohio.
During the winter of 1837-8, Bellows and Fisher, with true Yankee enterprise, went to work to manufacture ox sleds and what they termed hollow ware, which consisted of peck and half bushel measures, for which they found a ready sale. Like many other of the first things that we claim for Rockton, this most certainly was the first sleigh and measure manufacturing establishment in Rock river valley. Mr. Fisher was a genius in the mechanical line. He made a rude steam box to facilitate the bending of the hoops for his measures, which he had carefully shaved out by hand. The bottoms of the measures were prepared in the same rude way, which must have taken considerable time, but as close competition was then an unknown quantity, it helped to while away the long hours of winter, and add something to the depleted exchequer of the establishment.
In 1841 when a mail route was established from Rockton to the Mississippi, it ran by Mr. Bellows' house and on through Lee's grove, so he was appointed postmaster, and the name of the office, which was kept in his house, was called Leesburg. This office he held for about two years and then gave it up as it did not pay him for the trouble to attend to it.
Mr. Bellows worked at his trade as a moulder, in St. Louis, during the summer of 1844. He went to California in 1860, and returned in 1864. He sold his farm to Jesse Blinn, except ten acres which he sold to Capt. Urquhart, and moved into town, buying a stone house on the south side of the river of Caleb Bentley, which he lived in for a number of years. It is now the property of Martin Kelley.
After the death of his wife a few years ago, Mr. Bellows went to Winnebago to live with a niece, where he at present resides in his 93rd year, and is as active as most men at sixty.
Mr. Bellows and Mr. Fisher built a log house for Mr. Ormsby on the south side of the river. It was located near where the Penman house was afterwards built, west of B. B. Gates' residence.
Mr. Fisher built a dam from the island below Macktown to the south shore for the purpose of water power, and put in a current wheel, but it did not develop power enough for any practical purpose. He wanted a power for cutting out barrel staves and turning wooden hollow ware, but his wheel would not run the necessary machinery. He also had another project which was never developed.
He proposed to build a boat to float down the river, and expected the motion of the boat would furnish power to run a lathe. With this lathe he was going to turn out wooden butter bowls as he floated down the river, and when his supply of timber gave out to stop and cut some more along the bank and then go on. By this clever little scheme of his fertile brain, he expected to arrive in St. Louis with a whole boatload of butter bowls, all perfected by this newly developed motive power. He abandoned this undertaking on the advice of his friends, but still he claimed it could be done.
After living in Thayer's part of the town for several years, he went to Omaha with his son and died there.
Samuel Gibson and his wife came to Rockton, from Newbury, Vt., in Sept., 1837. They made their home with George Stevens for three or four weeks until they could locate a claim and build a house on it. He made his claim on the south-west quarter of section thirty-two, which is now owned by the Bates family. His brother Alexander Gibson came with them and made his claim on land now owned by H. W. Conklin. Together they made a claim on all of the north half of section twenty-nine south of Pecatonica river.
The following letter from Mrs. Ann Gibson Ruger, the oldest child of Samuel and Catherine Gibson, is so full of interest that we have concluded to give it to our readers, as follows: "I was born in a log house across the road from where the family of Erastus Bates now lives, Jan. 22, 1839. The house is not there now. There were large oak trees all around it. Mr. Bellows was our nearest neighbor, Mr. Urquhart next, and then Thomas Farmer. Across the prairie and in sight, was Mr. Favor, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Hulett and others
"The Indians were friendly and often came to our house, and my mother would always give them something to eat. I remember Stephen Mack and his squaw wife, and of seeing the Indians about there, and Mrs. Mack giving them loaves of bread. The house is still there that Mack built. There was a large barn but is was burned a good while ago.
"Mr. Mack had a store in a log building along the road past his house, and beyond it Mr. Whitman had a store in a log building. It was afterwards used as a dwelling house. Mr. Whitman built the stone store and house that is just up on the road from the river, where the first bridge was built by Mr. Mack. There was only a ferry across the river when my father first came to Rockton.
"Mr. Henry Bates lived in Macktown across the street from Mr. Mack's house. He had a nice framed house and shop and made boots and shoes. There were steps cut in the bank to get down to a spring. They used to come to our house, and would take me home with them for a visit. They had one daughter, Satina Bates, and two sons, Erastus and Jonathan Bates.
"I have been across the river to Rockton to school with Satina Bates and Rose and Mary Mack. Rose was deaf and dumb, but I could talk with her. I have been in a canoe on the river and seen the dead Indian hanging in a tree top - buried they called it - where he could look out on the river from the edge of the bluff.
"A little south of Mr. Mack's house was the Merrill E. Mack house. It was a nice house similar to the one built by Stephen Mack. I have been there and remember Mr. and Mack and their little girl, Virginia. Mr. Mack died in an early day. Across the road from this house was the first school house with a great stone chimney and fireplace. I have been there to school.
"My father used to draw his wheat to Chicago or Galena, and get twenty-five cents a bushel for it. Other people did the same, and in going Galena, the Talcotts and others would stop at our house as it was on the way, and have dinner or supper, or rest or visit. People were not in such a hurry as they are now. They were sociable and would go a long way to visit each other.
"John Gibson, a brother of my father, went to California in 1849, with Mr. Gitchell and others. He was killed by the Indians in 1860. Edwin G. Higby, a cousin of ours, was in the war, and died while in service at Nashville, Tenn., Dee. 7, 1862. He was a son of Adeline Gibson Higby, my father's sister, who married Seth Higby, in Rockton. April 14, 1841. She died and Mr. and Mrs. Bellows brought Edwin up.
"We moved from the farm and lived in the Merrill E. Mack house, until our house was built in Rockton, which was about the same time they built the stone church. Thomas Farmer did the mason work and J. B. Peterson, the carpenter work. My brother John Gibson, was born Aug. 7, 1848, while we lived in the Mack house.
My father went to California in the spring of 1852, in company with Jacob Hyatt and Noah Carpenter, and their families. He returned from that trip, but when he went the second time he remained there until his death.
"The first school house in Rockton was built on the common, opposite the stone church, which is now the park. The first teachers that I remember were Mary Ann Bradley, Caroline Bradley and the Misses Teed. Adeline and William Talcott, Fannie and Mary Hooker, Lucy and Mary Peterson, Ann and Janet Gibson were some of the scholars who attended. Later on the school house was moved down town and used for other purposes.
"About 1854 and '55, my sister Janet and I went to Rockford, to the Female Seminary. Fannie Hooker was there at the time. I married John B. Holmes Jan. 28, 1858, and in the spring of 1860, we went to Pikes Peak, and were six weeks on the road. In the spring of 1861, I came back a widow, just as the war broke out, and came through with the mail coach in six days to St. Joe, Mo. I reached home in safety. I was married to Capt. H. T. Roger, in Rockton, Jan. 1, 1874. He died in the spring of 1890. I have lived in Chicago more than twenty years.
"My brother John Gibson had a store in Rockton, and at one time was town clerk. He closed up his business on account of failing health and went to California. He stayed there with his father three years, and then return to Chicago, where he died Aug. 21, 1892.
"My sister Janet Gibson married Caleb Bentley, in Rockton, in the fall of 1860. She was born June 13, 1840, and died January, 1864. My sister Abby Gibson was born Aug. 21, 1842, and died August, 1870. My mother died May 19, 1896, aged eighty one years. She was buried in Rockton cemetery. My brother Rumsey Gibson and myself are all that is left of our family. He has been in Chicago since 1871."
Alexander Gibson sold his farm to Mr. Bronson and moved to Rockton. He had a lumber yard for a while. He built a fine residence on Center street, which he sold to C. W. Robertson in exchange for land in the south part of the state. This house is now occupied by Dr. Cole. Mr. Gibson died in Missouri a few years ago.
In the early days of the settlement of this section of the country, the first settlers were free to take any unoccupied land for a claim to hold until such time as it came into market To protect themselves from greedy land grabbers, who wanted more than their share of the public domains, they formed themselves into an association, or as it was then called, a "Mutual Claim Protective Society." A book of records was kept, and claims were duly recorded at a cost of twenty-five cents each.
At a meeting of this society, at the house of Thomas B. Talcott, May 12, 1837, the following executive committee was appointed: William Mead, David A. Blake, Elijah H. Brown, Franklin Able, George Stevens, John E. Holmes, David Noggle, Luman Pettibone, Martin P. Ormsby, Henry Able and David Carpenter.
The committee on by-laws and regulations was appointed as follows: Robert J. Cross, Sylvester Talcott, Thomas B. Talcott, Stephen Mack and Walter Warner.
We, copy a few of the records of claims: George Stevens, the north-east quarter of section twenty-three north of Rock river, and north-west quarter of section nineteen.
Stephen Mack; section twenty-three south of Rock river, and west half of section twenty-six.
John F. Thyer; south-east quarter of section twenty-six, and a timber claim on section twenty-eight.
Daniel Fairchild; south-east fractional quarter section twenty-one south of Pecatonica river, and north-west quarter of section twenty-six.
Robert Logan; south half of section eleven, and the north half of section twelve.
Thomas B. Talcott; north-east quarter of section twenty-two, and north-west fractional quarter of section twenty-three.
William Talcott; south half of section fourteen.
Henry W. Talcott; south-west quarter of section thirteen.
David Carpenter; north-west quarter of section fourteen.
R. C. Smith; south half of section twenty-five.
With the advent of this year active preparations were made to make a busy year of it in the growth of the town. The work of digging the mill race and preparing timber for the mills to be erected, called for all the labor that could be procured, and during the summer months the little settlement was a beehive of industry. The mill race was completed in the fall and terminated at the Talcott grist mill site. The race to the Phoenix paper mill, the old rye mill and the Webber reaper works was made years later.
As soon as the water was let into the race, which was simply an inflow from the river without any dam, the Talcott saw mill near where the first grist mill was built, was finished and ready to run; and two other saw mills farther up the race, soon followed.
The two upper saw mills went through various changes as the demands of the times increased. At first large quantities of lumber were cut from the heavy growth of timber along the banks of the Pecatonica river. The principal lumber was oak, ash, basswood and black walnut. The latter was largely used for furniture and finishing lumber for the many dwelling houses which rapidly sprang up as soon as lumber could be procured. From saw mills the power was changed to machine shop, chair factory, carding machine, and number of other industries.
This was the first water power developed on Rock river, and to-day with its dam and enlarged race, it is the best one, and has the greatest fall of water. Rockton got an immense start of other towns on account of its water power and the various articles it manufactured, which were sent to a number of surrounding towns.
Samuel Adams had a chair factory and made other furniture as early as 1845, which was the first establishment of the kind in Rock river valley. People in other places in want of such goods had to look to Rockton for their supply. E. L. Stiles, one of our early settlers, tells of setting up house keeping in Rockford, in the spring of 1846, but had to come to Rockton to buy his furniture, as nothing in that line could be found in Rockford.
The village of Rockton, or so much of it as was embraced in the first survey. covers the most of the north-west quarter of section twenty-four, and was laid out into village lots this year by Capt. William Talcott, but the plat was not filed for record until May 30, 1844, on account of the title of the land.
In the rush and excitement of a new country the people did not forget the school and church privileges they had enjoyed at their old homes, and accordingly put forth every effort that their limited means would allow to secure such benefits. The Congregational church was organized this year and a school was soon started in a little board shanty near the north-west corner of block sixteen. The first teacher, or one of the first, was Mary Pettibone. Other teachers followed and the school from such small beginning had a vigorous growth.
George Stevens' family came in '38. He was postmaster about 1840, following after Mack in the office. It was kept in his log house down on the flat this side of Mack's ferry.
Mr. Fox put up a comfortable log house not far from where the present brick house now stands. There was a very beautiful grove around it, extending from the river on the north nearly down to the mill race.
THE MAINE COLONY
During the summer of 1838, a colony of about thirty came to Rockton from the state of Maine. They were under the leadership of Ira Hersey, who had visited this section of the country the year before, and on his return to his old home, so impressed his neighbors with the grandeur of the west, and especially of the Rock river valley country, that a colony was formed the following spring, and he accepted the position to lead them in their western journey.
The party came by what was then termed the southern route. From Portland they came to Boston, then by rail to Providence, and from there to New York and Philadelphia by water. They crossed the state of Pennsylvania by railroad, the train being helped over the Alleghenies by means of a stationery engine, which drew the train up one side of the mountain by a cable, and let it down on the other side. In due time our travelers arrived at Pittsburgh. On their way down the Ohio, they stopped at Cincinnati and purchased wagons and a good supply of provisions for their future use. Their further journey down to the mouth of the Ohio, up the Mississippi to the Illinois river, and then up that stream as far as Ottawa, was performed without any accident to mar the pleasure of the trip. A short stay was made at Ottawa to purchase some oxen and a few cows.
Then began the overland journey to Rockton. The women and children with their provision and other articles, exhausted the carrying capacity of the four or five wagons which formed their train, so the men folks had to jog along on foot, but it was not a serious task to keep up with their ox teams.
The little colony arrived in Rockton in good order without any serious mishaps by the way, having been about four weeks on the road since they left their eastern homes. Although wearied with their long journey, they were delighted with the country, and immediately set about to locate their claims.
The colony consisted of Ira Hersey, wife and five children. Silas Austin, wife and two daughters, and his son Henry S. Austin with wife and two children; also F. W. Packard, who lived with Silas Austin. Ira Cummings and wife. P. L. Ellis, wife and brother. Samuel Hersey and brother Hiram. They were nephews of Ira Hersey. A man by the name of Cole and his sister Hannah Cole. She married Samuel Hersey, in Beloit, Sept. 2, 1842. David Briggs and his brother Samuel Briggs. Job Packard and a man by the name of Ordway; and also one by the name or Harding.
Ira Hersey did not locate a claim for himself and family, as he soon settled in Beloit, and when the Goodhue grist mill was built, he took charge of it for a number of years.
Samuel Hersey and P. L. Ellis first located claims on the road between Rockton and Beloit, on the north half of section seven, then included in the township of Roscoe. This tract is now mostly embraced in the Harding farm. Later on they deeded land in the south-west quarter of the same section, which is now largely included in the farm owned by George Gayton.
Silas Austin and Ira Cummings located claims on the south west quarter of section seven, but evidently did not enter the land, as we find Ellis and Hersey in full possession of the same tract a few years later.
Henry S. Austin claimed the south half of the south-west quarter of section seven, and he and his father also had a claim on the north half of the north-east quarter of section eighteen, now forming the Enos farm and a part of the Shaw farm.
After living on their claims a year or so, H. S Austin and Ira Cummings moved into Rockton. Cummings purchased lots now owned by George Royden and Charles Shufelt. He built the Shufelt house and lived there until quite recently. He worked at his trade as cooper for several years, and had his shop across the street where George Curry's house now stands. After this he went to work in the grist mill, which business he followed for a number of years. He died in Rockford only a few years ago at the home of one of his children.
Mr. Austin moved his framed house from his claim onto the lot now owned by Thomas Harper, where he lived for a year or two until he moved to Shirland in 1841. While in Rockton he carried on the boot and shoe business, and had a shop on Main street on the drug store corner. The house he lived in was one of the first framed houses in town. It afterwards was burned down. Job Packard worked with him in the shoe shop. Mr. Austin died on his farm in Shirland a few years ago.
David and Samuel Briggs located a claim on the east half of section nineteen, now included in the town of Shirland. They married daughters of Dea. Luman Pettibone. David married Mary Pettibone and Samuel married Almira Pettibone. These brothers owned saw will property in Rockton for several years. They finally settled in the lumber region of Wisconsin.
Job Packard married Hadassah Austin, daughter of Silas Austin, Nov. 10, 1840, and located a farm in Shirland. He kept a lumber yard at Shirland station for a number of years before he died, which was quite recently.
Mr. Ordway located a claim west of Rock river on the south east quarter of section ten, which is now owned in part by E. J. Veness. Mr. Harding seemed to have settled in some other locality.
P. L. Ellis, like many of his neighbors, knew by actual experience of the privations of first settlers, and often was in want of many comforts which make life desirable. In those early days, hauling wheat to Chicago was the only way to get many of the necessities of life, and in bad weather many would hardly get enough for their loads of choice wheat to pay the expenses on the road. Mr. Ellis has told the writer many interesting stories of the privations of those early times, one of which is given here. He was obliged to go barefoot all one summer for want of means to buy a pair of shoes or boot, so when he took his first load of wheat to Chicago that fall he had great expectation of securing the much needed footwear. But like many others, his trip barely paid expenses and no boots could be procured; and to further add to his disappointment, a cold spell came on while in Chicago, and he was obliged to wrap some grain sacks around his cold feet and come home in that sorrowful plight. Mr. Ellis is one of the few now living of the Maine colony, and at present resides in Cambridge, Furnas county, Nebraska.
Loring Loomer and his son Darius Loomer came to Rockton in the summer of 1838. After staying here a short time, they went to Belvidere, where they lived until 1841. During this time Luther Lawrence married one of Loring Loomer's daughters. In 1841 they all settled in Rockton; Loring Loomer and his family, Darius Loomer and family, and Luther Lawrence and wife. Loring Loomis settled here and built the McConnell house, where he lived a great many years, until the death of his wife Oct. 31, 1875. He then went to Iowa to live with one of his sons, and died there the next year, at the age of eighty-five years.
Darius Loomer was a miller and worked in the Talcott grist mill for a few years, after this he settled in Mayville, Wis., where he died about 1853. He had two sons in the war of the rebellion, Charles and James, who went through the service without a wound. His only daughter married John W. Hudson.
Luther Lawrence made Rockton his permanent home, and was engaged in the grist mill a number of years. He died at a good old age respected by all who knew him, March 27, 1891. He owned at the time of his death, an eighty of land, which is now the property of F. M. Coons, and a house and lot in town.
John R. Jewett came to Rockton in 1838. He was a blacksmith by trade and made the heavy irons for the three saw mills and the grist mill. He made a claim west of Rock river, which he soon sold for $150. In the summer of 1839 he built the cellar walls for Stephen Mack's large house, which was the first cellar with stone walls in town. In the fall of 1839, he went back to his old home in Connecticut, but returned the following spring. He was one of the petitioners with Stephen and Merrill E. Mack to the legislature for a charter to build a bridge across Rock river, and superintended the construction of the bridge in 1843. This bridge was built two years before they had a bridge in Rockford. In 1845 he settled in Harrison and entered an eighty of land, walking all the way to the land office at Dixon, to enter it. This farm was then his home as long as he lived. He was justice of the peace for a number of years, and also held other town offices. He assisted in removing the remains of Stephen Mack and his Indian wife from Macktown to the Phillips burying ground in 1880, and was instrumental in procuring funds to properly fit up the graves. Mr. Jewett died at his home in Harrison a few years ago, respected by all who knew him.
William Halley came to Rockton in 1838. He lived in the vicinity till the fall of 1839, when he went to Galena to the land sale, and stayed there a part of the winter, returning to Rockton in February of 1840, where he built a small shop on Main street where the post office now stands. He worked at his trade at tailoring in this shop for a number of years, and had petty steady work, but there was not much money in circulation then. About 1847, he bought a stock of cloth and trimmings, and was the only tailor to keep such goods in this county. After a time he took in Robert Penman as a partner, and they did a successful business in merchant tailoring, hats and caps, and boots and shoes until 1859. In 1857 Mr. Halley was one of the company that manufactured the Fountain reaper. In 1860 he moved to the town of Owen, and has since been extensively engaged in farming. He has also represented the town of Owen on the board of supervisors. During his residence in Rockton of over twenty years, his sterling qualities as a business man and good citizen were duly appreciated by our people, and he was honored by being elected at different times to most of the offices in the gift of the town. When the town was organized under the township system in 1850, he was elected to the office of town clerk, and was town clerk when the town bonds were issued to aid in the construction of the Racine and Mississippi railroad. He subsequently held the offices of assessor, justice of the peace and township trustee of schools. By industry and good management in business, he has acquired an abundance of this world's goods, and is now happy in the enjoyment of the fruits of a well spent life in the 80th year of his age. Mr. Halley, W. F. Packard and Miss Eliza McConnell, are the only persons now living in this vicinity who came here in 1838.
William M. Thomas was one of the 1838 settlers of Rockton. He located a farm on the north-west quarter of section thirty-one, and made it his residence for many years. He and his wife raised a family of six children and lived to celebrate their golden wedding, Nov. 13, 1878. They had two sons in the war of the rebellion, who enlisted in 1862, and served until the close of the war. No braver men ever defended the grand old flag than they. Both were broken down in health by the hardships they endured while in the service, and never fully recovered from the injurious effects. Mr. Thomas bought the Springer place on Center street, and moved into Rockton in the fall of 1881. He died of apoplexy, July 5,1882. His sudden death fell with a crushing weight upon his aged wife who had walked by his side through all the joys and sorrows of life for fifty-four years. He was a man of sterling worth, but of few words. An honest, upright citizen, whom all respected for his simple, straight forward treatment of his fellow men. One of his old neighbors said of him: "He was such a good man, he did not need to belong to a church." Mrs. Thomas died June 4th, 1892.
In the fall of 1838, Wait Talcott came to Rockton with his wife and child, reaching this place on the 12th day of October, after being on the road from the state of New York, for about six weeks in an emigrant wagon. Miss Eliza McConnell, a dear friend of Mrs. Talcott, came with them, and remained as one of the family as long as Mr. and Mrs. Talcott both lived. She now resides with her niece, Mrs. A. N. Mellen, in Rockton. Mr. Talcott erected a dwelling house on Main street, at the south-east corner of block sixteen, which is now the property of James Wall, and it was his residence as long as he lived in Rockton. He was one of the original incorporators of Beloit college, and the Rockford Female Seminary, and was a member of the board of trustees of the college during his life.
He took an active part in the religious, educational and industrial interest of the town. In 1854 he was elected as state senator, and represented the counties' of Winnebago, Boone, Ogle and Carroll, in the legislature four years. During his term in the legislature, he secured a charter for a railroad up Rock river from Rockford to Rockton and thence to the state line. Routes were surveyed on both sides of the river and stock solicited, but nothing more was done about it, until the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railway company took the matter up twenty-five years later, obtained a new charter, and built the road on the west side of the river in 1881.
Mr. Talcott was an active business man and had large contracts in building the Racine and Mississippi railroad from Rockton to Freeport. In 1854, he with his brother Sylvester Talcott; formed a copartnership with John H. Manny, Jesse Blinn and Ralph Emerson to manufacture the celebrated Manny reaper, which subsequently became one of the largest manufacturing industries in Rockford. He was collector of internal revenue for this congressional district under President Lincoln. His devoted and faithful wife died Aug. 7th, 1873, and after a well spent life fully rounded out with years of usefulness, he departed this life, Dec. 7th, 1890.
Mr. Talcott had an eventful life, and in all the various relations he has sustained of both a public and private capacity, has showed the active and noble traits of character which will endear his memory in the hearts of the people. Rockton will cherish his name in grateful remembrance for the many acts of kindness bestowed on her citizens; the substantial aid to the church of which he was a member, and more especially so, for the generous gift of their fine library building, which will be an enduring monument of his love for the cause of education and moral advancement of mankind. So lived, and so died one of nature's noblest men, and may his worthy life serve as an example to be imitated by coming generations.
John B. Peterson was one of the 1838 settlers. He was a carpenter by trade and built many houses in Rockton including the Cong'l church. He first lived in a log house just east of the Fisher place. Then he built a house on the corner opposite the old shoe factory about 1840. This house was burned ten or twelve years later. The site is now owned by D. Newell. Mr. Peterson built the T. B. Talcott house and lived in it for a number of years. He also had a claim near the Goodwin farm in an early day. He was an active business man in his time and had considerable property. He was elected one of the first justices of the peace under the township system of 1850, and was sworn into office by Stephen Mack, which was about the last official act he did before he died. Mr. Peterson went into the war as a carpenter and bridge builder, and by some accident had one of his legs broken so badly that it had to be amputated. For want of proper care he died from its effect about 1865. He had three daughters now Mrs. Joslin and Mrs. Church, of Elgin, and Mrs. William Kinsley, of Beloit, Kansas.
Benjamin F. Fletcher was one of the settlers who located in Rockton in 1838. Before coming here he was in the employ of the noted Fairbanks Scale Co., of St. Johnsbury, Vt., for several years, and traveled quite extensively for that company to introduce their scales. He was born in Vermont and came here when twenty-seven years of age. He had considerable to do in building and fitting the machinery for the first mills built on the water power, and at one time had an interest in one of the saw mills with George Stevens and Charles Kane. He was a general master mechanic and built several houses about town. He built the Johnson house near E. S. Waite's, and the one north of the Baptist church which he lived in when he died. He also built the Veness store in connection with N. B. Kincaid in 1867. He at one time made wagons, built furniture, and had a shop on the race for turning bedstead posts and broom handles. He assisted J. Herva Jones in starting up the corn planter business. He was a man of great energy, and was respected by all for his integrity and purity of life. He died March 7, 1879, at 68 years of age. His widow now resides in Jeffrey, N. H.
Benjamin Phillips came in 1838 and located a quarter section of land on section thirty-two. The west half of the quarter he let his father have, keeping the east eighty for himself, which he entered. He resided on this farm during his life with the exception of five years he lived in Rockton when he held the town offices of collector and constable. While living here in 1857, he was one of the building committee that erected the Methodist church. He labored at mason work in connection with his farming for a number of years. While building a stone house on the Henry Thayer farm, a large stone fell on one of his feet, crushing it so badly that he had to have it amputated. After a time he procured an artificial limb which enabled him to get a round almost as well as he could before this misfortune, and save a slight limp in his walk no one would know that he labored under such a difficulty. He was a man highly respected by all who were acquainted with him. He died May 31, 1895. His widow now lives in her comfortable home in Rockton.
John Morse who settled on the west side of the river, was one of the pioneers of 1838. He located a claim on the northeast quarter of section ten and part of this land has been in the possession of the family since that time. He was a steady, industrious man, and was highly respected by all of his neighbors and friends. He well knew the hardships of a pioneer life, but lived to enjoy many of the comforts that came in after years. He held the office of commissioner of highways to the entire satisfaction of the people for a long time. He died at the age of fifty-nine of liver difficulty, Feb. 21,1885.
Rowland C. Smith was one of the 1838 settlers. He located the south half of section twenty-five, and until quite recently, part of the land was in the possession of the family. He first lived in the block house in the town of Owen, but later occupied his own place until his death which occurred about 1857. He had quite a large family which are greatly scattered in the west. William Smith is the only one of his children now living in Rockton, and even the old place has been sold to other parties. He was all enterprising man of his day, and had his life been spared, would in all probability, have acquired a large quantity of land. He was assessor of the town in 1854.
Frank Packard, as he was familiarly called, spent his first winter in the west, that of '38 and '39, up the Pecatonic with Mr. S. Austin, who was engaged in logging. The next summer, though but a boy, he commenced his trade as a builder, with Mr. Peterson, his first work being on Mr. Peterson's house which stood on the corner of Main and Green streets. The lot is now owned by Mr. Newell. The house was burned some years later. His school days were few, but being a natural artist, and accurate in figures, after a few years as a common workman, he took up the study of architecture, and with the aid of such books and papers as he could procure, though without a teacher, made rapid advancement in his chosen business. He has drafted and built a large number of the buildings, both public and private, now standing in town, as well as those of Mr. Moody, Mr. Phelps, Mr. G. H. Hollister, now owned by Mrs. Gleasman, Geo. Gleasman, and other fine residences in the country. He built and re-built the Bradner, Smith paper mill, being the mechanic for the company for seventeen years. He also built the Keeney paper mill. He was three years in the employ of the old Galena and Chicago railroad company as a contractor. During this time he superintended the building of the first railroad bridge in the state.
He erected a large steam saw mill at Manistee, Michigan, and has done contract building in Chicago, Racine, Rockford and Beloit. He owned for a number of years the house which is now the property of Mr. McCue. He united with the Congregational church during the ministration of its first pastor, W. M. Adams, in 1840, and was married to his daughter, Miss Julia Adams; June 1, 1852. He served six years as constable, and one term as a member of the village board.
There was an early settler by the name C. Vroman, who had land in section thirty-six, embracing considerable timber land. The tract which has since been known as Webber's grove, was first called Vroman's grove. He must have left the country in an early day.
In the fall of 1838, after navigation had closed, it was found that there was a short supply of salt in Chicago, and no chance to get any more until spring. This condition made a sort of a salt famine in the little inland settlements, and especially so in Rockton. A man in Macktown had ten barrels of salt on hand, and he made the people's necessity his opportunity. He held his. salt at $11 a barrel, and readily sold it at that price before it could be procured from other sources in the spring. At that time nails were 12½ cents a pound, molasses $1.50 a gallon, and other articles in like proportion in price. An effort was made to boil down the juice of pumpkins to make syrup, but it was not a success and when made was of a very poor quality. Some maple sugar was made from the maple trees along the river. Robert J. Cross had a large grove of maple trees down the river, which before his time was used by the Indians. He tried the maple sugar business, but soon abandoned it as it did not pay for the trouble.
The salt famine in Rockton had its counterpart in Rockford in the winter of 1836 and '37, but they were short on tobacco and not on salt, and their chances to get a supply from Chicago were very limited. A story of tobacco supply was told of Simon P. Doty, who was the pioneer settler of Belvidere. The tribe of Indians living on the north side of the river had but recently lost their chief, Big Thunder, when Mr. Doty settled there. This chief was buried according to his directions, on the top of court house hill, in a standing position with his face to the east, so he could see when the white folks came and give the war whoop to rally his people. His grave was surrounded by a rude stockade, and a plentiful supply of Indian tobacco left on the grave for the use of the old chief while dwelling in the happy hunting ground where all good Indians are supposed to go. Doty's supply of tobacco soon ran out and he longingly wished for some of old Big Thunder's useless supply. So one dark night with no fear of ghosts before his eyes, he visited the old chiefs grave and borrowed some of his kinnikanic. The tribe seeing the tobacco was diminishing, very promptly kept up the supply. This state of things greatly pleased the pioneer settler, and many a long winter evening was whiled away smoking the pipe of peace to the memory of old Big Thunder and his loyal tribe.
Martin P. Ormsby was one of the early settlers of Rockton, coming as early as 1838, and probably earlier. He was interested in building one of the first sawmills on the race in 1838, which he subsequently sold to a man by the name of Stokes. He bought land on the south side of the river of Mr. Mack, and lived there while he remained in Rockton. His house was a log structure just west of the residence of B. B. Gates. He was the step-father of Russell Jones and Eliza Jones. Mrs. Ormsby was a sister of Mrs. Merrill E. Mack. Mr. and Mrs. Ormsby were both members of the Cong'l church, until they were dismissed by letter June 13, 1847. Mrs. Ormsby had the honor of being one of the original fourteen who formed the church. Subsequently Mr. Ormsby started for California going by way of the isthmus of Panama, but died on shipboard and was buried in the Pacific ocean.
Russell Jones came here with his step-father, Mr. Ormsby, when a young man. He went to Galena in 1840, and soon got into some profitable business. He purchased land on the south side of the river, and laid out an addition to the village, which is known as "Russell Jones' addition to Rockton." This plat was filed for record in the recorder's office in Rockford, June 2, 1855. Being a friend of General Grant while in Galena, he secured the appointment of U. S. marshal under Grant's administration, and after that a government appointment to some foreign country. In later years he has become a leading man in the street railway business in Chicago.
Jay Ambrose Wight was here as early as 1838, walking all the way from Chicago. He kept the first store in Rockton, with the exception of Mack's. He first located his store near the upper race bridge, on the road from Macktown to Beloit, but soon after built a store on the lot now occupied by Mrs. James' store. This building has since been moved and is now occupied by Jason Newell as a store house for paper rags. While living here, Mr. Wight married Miss Caroline E. Adams, a daughter of Rev. William M. Adams. In 1841 he disposed of his store and moved to Rockford, where he remained a couple of years. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in Springfield. He started a newspaper in Rockford, called the Winnebago Forum, in February of 1842. After conducting this paper for about six months, he sold out the concern to A. Colton, and accepted the position as editor of the Prairie Farmer, of Chicago, which he filled for about sixteen years. He afterwards joined the ministry of the Presbyterian church, and served in that capacity until his death, which occurred in Bay City, Mich., Nov. 13, 1889. Mr. Wight was one of the founders of the Cong'l church in Rockton. His brother Timothy Wight was engaged with him in the store for some time.
The principal event of this year was the building of the Talcott gristmill, which was completed and ready for business in the fall of the year. As this was the first gristmill built in Rock river valley, it soon had an immense custom trade, for people came long distances to get their milling done here, even from Ft. Winnebago, Wis., one hundred miles away. People would come with a load of wheat to be ground, and often would have to stay a week or so before they could get their grists ready to return home. Of course this made it profitable for those who could provide keeping for the far-away patrons of the mill.
The first hotel in Rockton was built by Jacob Hyatt, on the south side of Main street, in 1839, and was carried on by him for quite a number of years. The wing part of time building was occupied by A. H. and F. W. Merrill for a store when they first commenced business in Rockton as early as 1843. This building is now the residence of S. L. Jenkins. One of the first deaths in town occurred in this hotel. The deceased was a young man by the name of Hopkins. Mr. Hyatt was at one time engaged in carrying the mail. He moved his family to California in 1850, where he died at Pett Hill, Cal., Sept. 13th, 1878, in the 74th year of his age. Mrs. Hyatt is now living with her daughter, Mrs. Byron Graham, in Rockford.
Dr. Harley Hooker who was born in Hartford, Ct., Dec. 9, 1792, came to Rockton in 1839. His object point in coming west, was Marshaltown, Mich., but finding so much sickness there, he pushed on to Illinois. First he came to Beloit, which was then composed of a few shanties, and then on to Rockton, which they reached at set of sun, and found a hospitable shelter in the log cabin occupied by Dea. Luman Pettibone and family, on the Goodwin farm, which was their home for the first three months. Dr. Hooker was the pioneer physician of Rockton, and had an extensive practice for a long period of years. He was highly respected by all who knew him. He was a member of the Cong'l church, possessing strong religious convictions and adorned his profession by his daily walk and conversation. The memory of a life of purity such as his, is a sacred heritage to his children. He died March 16, 1869. The home he occupied so long in Rockton, is now the residence of Messrs. Thompson and Baker. His wife's last years were spent with her daughter, Mrs. G. H. Hollister, where she closed a most useful life, May 25, 1877. They had a family of six children, and lived to see them all attain to man and womanhood, occupying honorable positions in society, illustrating the value of wise and virtuous parental precept and example.
Thomas Farmer was one of the 1839 settlers of Rockton. He secured land on the south-west quarter of section thirty-one, which Mr. Halley had previously located, and a part of this land with a tract in Owen, remained in his possession as long as he lived, He was born in Scotland, July 10, 1815, came to this country in 1830, first to Vermont and then to Rockton. He was a stone mason by trade and built several stone buildings in town, among which is the residence of E. J. Veness, the T. B. Talcott house, the Henry Talcott house, the school house, the library building, the Gibson house, and the residence of Miss Susan Griffith, which he built for himself and lived in it until he settled on his farm in the town of Owen. In 1875 he moved to Rockford, where he died Oct. 9, 1880. He was noted for his jovial spirit and lively disposition, and a more cheerful man than he would be hard to find; and he was always the happiest when at his own fireside, with his children and grand children gathered around him. Mrs. Farmer, whose maiden name was Margaret Halley, a sister of William Halley, died in Rockford in 1887. Their nine children are: Mrs. Mary Clark, of Owen; George and William Farmer, of Rockton; Mrs. Fred Gleasman, of Rockton; Henry Farmer, of Salt Lake City, Utah; Chester Farmer of Rockford; Charles and R. B. Farmer, of Los Angeles, Cal.; and Stanley Farmer, of Severy, Kansas.
Henry W. Conklin was born in Damascus, Penn., June 24th, 1827, came west with his mother and nine children in 1839. They started on their journey from the east June 4th, and arrived at Rockford, July 12th. Although but a boy of twelve years of age, he soon had to learn to struggle with the stern realities of frontier life. He soon secured work to aid in the support of the family, his first job was driving a breaking team at $12 a month. His first purchase of land was in the town of Harrison, in 1854, but this property was lost by reason of the mortgage he put on it to help build the Racine and Mississippi railroad. He married Miss Alvalina Grover, in Juda, Wis., Nov. 28, 1856. In 1865 they went to the state of Oregon, crossing the plains and climbing over the mountains. They had an eventful journey as it was the year of Indian hostilities, but fortunately they reached their destination unharmed. After staying there a year, they returned to Rockton, coming by the way of the isthmus. Mr. Conklin then purchased the farm on which he now resides, which was first settled by Alexander Gibson. In connection with his farming, he has been quite extensively engaged in keeping bees, which has been an important source of revenue to him. He held the office of town collector for two years, and has held other town and school offices. He enjoys the respect and esteem of his fellow men. He is kind to his neighbors and friends, and generous to those who need a helping hand. The children born to Mr. and Mrs. Conklin are: Dorsey Taylor, born in Harrison, Oct. 16, 1857; Lemi Henry, born in Harrison, March 8, 1859; James B., born in Harrison, Aug. 12, 1863; Rose E., born in Oregon, Oct. 17, 1865; and Eva E., born in Rockton, Jan. 25, 1874.
Richard Griffith, who was born in England, came to Rockton in 1839. He learned the trade of wagon maker of Jesse Blinn, and then worked for a time for William Goddard who built wagons on the Beloit road. He soon after set up in business for himself, in a shop where the Baptist parsonage now stands, and there carried on wagon making until some time later he moved his works to Beloit. While doing business in Beloit, he employed John Thompson in his shop, who has since become a prominent manufacturer in that city. After being in Beloit a few years, he went to Freeport, and in connection with George Stiles, engaged in the business of manufacturing fanning mills up to about 1860. He made this business very profitable. He loaned all the money he could spare from his business at a good rate of interest, which together with the profits of his manufacturing industry, enabled him to accumulate in about twenty years, the sum of a hundred thousand dollars. He also invested in land and acquired about 500 acres. During the war he located in Rockford, and lived there until about 1873, when he disposed of his property and went back to England, where he now resides, surrounded with all the luxury that his wealth accumulated in this country can procure.
Elder James Veness was born in England, Sept. 30, 1800. He was apprenticed to a linen-draper in London, to learn the business, and besides giving his time for a term of years, his father had to buy the position by the payment of £150. He came to Rockton with his family in 1839, but only stayed here a short time, and then went to Round Prairie, in Boone county, where he lived for a number of years. During his stay there he devoted his time to farming and traveling over the county as often as possible, doing the work of a pioneer preacher of the Baptist church. He was the first, or one of the first, to preach in the Belvidere court house. He returned to Rockton in 1851, and for about three years was engaged as clerk in the store of Talcott & Co., where Harper Brothers now have their grocery store. In 1854 he set up business for himself where J. J. Crawford & Co., have their meat market. His stock consisted of groceries and books. This was the first attempt to have a book store in town. In 1855 he moved his store to the west end of the stone block, where in 1856 he took his son, E. J. Veness, into partnership. This firm continued the business till 1861, when he sold out to his partner and retired from business. His faithful wife died Oct. 8, 1862, which was the overshadowing trial of his life. He died Jan. 22, 1881, after a busy life of eighty years, doing what he could to better the condition of his fellow men.
Dr. Joseph G. Veness was born in England, May 18, 1823, and came with his parents to Rockton in 1839. Later he lived in Boone county for a number of years, where he married Miss Katherine J. Butler, Aug. 12, 1848. After this event, he moved to Roscoe, and built houses there. One of them was the grout house which Dea. Norris lived in for a good many years. He moved to Rockton after living in Roscoe for a time, and worked with his brother, J. W. Veness, at mason work. He studied medicine and practiced as a physician to the end of his life. He held the office of justice of the peace for several years, also the office of village trustee. He was an efficient member of the Baptist church, and also an energetic worker in the temperance cause. He was a member of the Good Templars and Temple of Honor as long as he lived. He was also instrumental in starting the first free circulating library. He died Feb. 4, 1893.
Dea. James W. Veness was born in England, May 22, 1825, came to Rockton with his parents in 1839. He went with them to Round Prairie, Boone county, where he lived until 1852, when he returned to Rockton. He married Miss Susannah Legge, in Boone county, Feb. 3, 1852. She was born in Canada, Oct. 18, 1829. He built the wing part of his house when he first came to Rockton and lived in the same place until his death. He followed the trade of a mason, and performed a great deal of work in that line about town. He held the office of justice of the peace for several years, also served several years as village trustee and president of the village board. He served four years as postmaster. He was a deacon in the Baptist church for a considerable time, and took a prominent part in the work of the church and Sunday school. He was highly respected by all who knew him. He died August 16, 1896, in his home in Rockton, in the 71st year of his age. The names of the children born to Mr. and Mrs. Veness are: William Howland Veness, born Dec. 22, 1853, was drowned in the race, July 24, 1866. J. Wellington Veness, born Sept. 24. 1855. Franklin Ambrose Veness, born Dec. 17, 1857, died May 15, 1863. Harry Ernest Veness, born March 31, 1860. Charles Otis Veness, born Oct. 17, 1862. Roller Samuel Veness, born Oct. 10, 1867, died Nov. 22, 1868. Lily Veness, born Nov. 16, 1869. Violet Veness, born August 27, 1871, died Sept. 10, 1871.
E. J. Veness was born in Oneida county, N. Y., Jan. 21, 1837. He was but two years of age when his parents first came to Rockton. After living in Boone county for twelve years, he returned to Rockton with his parents in 1851, He went into business with his father in 1856, and bought out his father's interest in the store in 1861. He then formed a copartnership with E. S. Waite and A. C. Joslyn, under the firm name of Veness, Waite & Joslyn, which firm carried on business until 1865, when Messrs. Veness and Waite sold out their interest in the store to Mr. Joslyn,. Mr. Veness went to Pikes Peak in 1860, and made the journey from St. Joe, Mo., to Denver, in forty-two days. He came back in the fall of the same year. In 1865 he went to Racine, Wis., and engaged in the tannery business till the fall of 1867, when he sold out his interest there and returned to Rockton, and commenced business again with Mr. Waite. They had a stock of dry goods, groceries and drugs, and carried on their business in the store now occupied by Veness & Son. This firm continued the store until April 7th, 1880, when Mr. Waite retired. Then Mr. Veness took in as partner, G. W. Martin, a former clerk, and Veness & Martin carried on the business for a few years. Since Mr. Martin retired from the firm, the store has been conducted by E. J. Veness & Son. Mr. Veness was elected supervisor of the town in the spring of 1879, and gave the town a continuous service in that capacity for nine years, seven years of this time he was chairman of the board of supervisors. He has been an active member of the Baptist church, and given it a liberal support. He married Miss Mary Sterns, daughter of Lloyd and Mary Sterns, Nov. 5,1862. She was born in De Kalb county, Feb. 3, 1841.
In early times before the land came into market, the setters would stake out their respective claims, which were generally respected by other settlers, for they all had a common interest to be secured in the peaceful possession of their land. Sometimes a man would make a prairie claim and a timber claim and try to hold them both at the same time. This practice was not in high favor with men seeking claims and it often led to what was termed "jumping claims," or in other words, taking possession of one of these double claims without leave or license. If the man forcing his claim had a sufficient backing of friends or relatives, he generally succeeded in holding onto the land; but on the other hand, if the other party could muster a greater force, the "jumper" would have to vacate the premises and seek some other locality.
A case of this kind occurred up the Pecatonica, on section twenty-two. Calvin Comstock, a settler of 1838 or '39, "jumped a timber claim," and proposed to hold it as the other party already had a prairie claim of a quarter section. He was duly notified to leave this land, but he made up his mind to stay, and accordingly proceeded to make his claim more secure by erecting a log house thereon. This did not settle matters. Hearing by some of his friends that a party of settlers would wait on him on a certain day, and take prompt measures to drive him off. So accordingly he prepared for war and waited the attack. When the day arrived he secured a half dozen of his friends with loaded guns to repel any assault, and his wife anxious to bear a part filled all the kettles with water and had them in good scalding trim.
Soon the attacking party arrived in considerable force, and ordered him off the premises. With his little garrison in reserve in the log cabin, he appeared at the door and coolly informed the outside crowd that they might go to thunder with their demand. A "man's house was his castle," and he should hold possession, and if he was molested several loaded guns and kettles of hot water would be used to defend his home. This state of things was unlooked for by the attacking party, and being powerless to enforce their demand, finally concluded to leave the right of possession to be decided by Judge Noggle, and quietly withdrew from the bloodless battle field.
It is needless to say that the right of possession was never decided by Judge Noggle, and Mr. Comstock remained in peaceful possession, and a year or two later he sold his claim to Darius Adams and moved to Wisconsin. Mr. Adams transferred his title to S. K. Blodgett in 1842, and this land has since been in the possession of the Blodgett family. It is now owned by S. K. Blodgett, son of the purchaser of the land of Adams. Mr. Comstock died in Iowa a number of years ago.
AN INDIAN DEATH AND BURIAL
In the summer and autumn of 1839, an Indian by the name of Billy Walk-knife was sick with consumption. All that the Indian doctors could do for him did not arrest the progress of the disease. The Indians then resorted to a sacrifice, or burnt offering to appease the anger of the Great Spirit. Accordingly a large white dog was selected and gaily decorated with colored ribbons, and then slain for the offering. The body was put upon a rudely constructed altar and a fire kept burning until it was entirely consumed, and during this strange scene various Indian ceremonies were performed to make the rude custom more weird and impressive.
Walk-knife finally died in big woods on the north side of the Pecatonica river near the mouth of Coon creek, and the burial was consummated on the high bluff across the river. Mr. Mack, a Frenchman by the name of Hemmel, and R. H. Comstock witnessed the solemn scene on the south bank of the river.
Mr. Comstock, in relating the incident, said there was a blanket hanging from the limb of a tree on the north side, and several canoes drawn up on the bank. In a short time the Indians came out of the woods to the number of two hundred or more, and all marched under the depending blanket. Four were bearing the remains of the dead Indian done up in an encasement of bark. They all crossed the river, some in canoes, some on horse back, and those who could find no other means swam across. When all had landed, they marched to the brow of the hill in a grave, dignified manner, bearing the corpse in front, followed by a feeble old squaw, the mother of the decease, who was supported by two women.
When all had assembled around the newly made grave, the corpse was laid on the ground beside it, and the people with bowed heads were addressed for a few minutes by one of their number. It was a most solemn occasion for these children of nature. They were about to consign a young man in the prime of his life to the tender care of mother earth. The venerable mother was standing at the foot of the grave in all the agony of desolate mother-hood. The sober countenances of her friends around her attested their deep sympathy and love. But no one could tell how severely that mother's heart was tried, or how great was her suffering for the loss of her darling boy. He was a gift of the Great Spirit. She had pressed him to her breast, cradled him in her arms, and protected him from harm with all a mother's devotion and love. Poor, grief-stricken mother, well might she ask why had the Great Spirit wounded her so deeply, and cut asunder every tie that bound her to her kindred and tribe.
Ann Gibson was the first white child born in Rockton township. She was born Jan 22, 1839. She is now Mrs. Ann Gibson Ruger, and resides in Chicago, Ills.
Lucy W. Peterson was the first white child born in the village of Rockton. She was born Sept. 2, 1839. She is now Mrs. Lucy W. Joslyn, and resides in Elgin, Ills.
William Ariel Talcott was the first white male child born in the village of Rockton. He was born Sept. 28, 1839. He now resides in Rockford.
1st. Miss Cummings, a sister of Ira Cummings.
2nd. Walter Wight, a son of J. Ambrose Wight, who died Jan. 24, 1842, and buried near the guard locks in that part of the present cemetery.
3rd. Thomas Stokes who was drowned in the river.
4th, A young man died at Jacob Hyatt's tavern by the name of Hopkins.
In 1839 Mack built the large two story house which is now the sole survivor of that early settlement. At the time of its erection, it was the best house west of the lake, and but few equaled it in Chicago. It was built on a good stone foundation, the first in the place, and when completed was painted, which was a luxury rarely indulged in during those early times. He occupied this house until his death. He built other houses, but they did not involve such an outlay of money.
The following letter was written by Stephen Mack to Hon. Robert J. Cross while he was in the legislature:
PECATONIC, Jan'y 24, 1847.
ESQ'R CROSS, Dear Sir:
I was just informed that the people of Rockford are about to present a petition to the legislature, for an act to make the Rockford bridge a county charge. If this should be done, you will readily see the injustice that would be done to other parts of the county unless other bridges are put on the same footing.
Before proceeding farther we will give a short sketch of some of the first settlers previously mentioned.
David A. Blake was one of the very first settlers. He located a claim down the river and built a log house very nearly opposite the Indian encampment at Bird's grove, were he lived a number of years, until he built a framed house on the northwest quarter of section thirty-one, in range two. This was his residence until 1849, when he sold out his accumulation of land to William Webber and went to Iowa. The house was moved over and formed a part of the Webber homestead, now the property of Thomas H. Webber. The building was destroyed by fire April 20, 1877. Mr. Blake was the first constable in Rockton, being elected in the fall of 1836. His son Amos Blake, bought of Hemel, the old Frenchman, the west half of section twenty-seven, which property remained in the possession of the family until 1880, when it was sold and the parties went to Iowa. Fred Gleasman and Burdett Truman now own most of the land.
Darius Adams was born in Gilead, Maine, April 1, 1805. He was a graduate of Bowdion college in 1830. In 1833 he came to Illinois and settled in Ottawa. He came to Rockton in September of 1835, with his brother Isaac Adams. He made his claim on the north-east quarter of twenty-four, and a part of this land was in his possession as long as he lived. He was in company with the Talcotts for a short time while they were building the mill race and grist mill. In 1842 he was elected to the state legislature and served one term. After this he took but little interest in public affairs and devoted most of his time to the cultivation of his farm. In 1848 he laid out a part of his farm into village lots, which has since been known as "Darius Adams' addition to the village of Rockton." He was an excellent scholar, and had the reputation of being one of the best informed men in the community. For a number of years before his death, he was engaged in reviewing his early studies, which labor afforded him a great deal of pleasure. Though ailing for some time before his death, he did not give up until nearly the last. He attended the election on Tuesday and died the following Friday morning, Nov. 5, 1880. He never married.
Isaac Adams was born in Gilead, Maine, July 23, 1813, came west to Ottawa, Illinois, in June, 1835, and to Rockton in September of the same year, where he continued to reside until his death, which occurred April 15, 1883. He married in 1845, and had one daughter, who lived to be sixteen years of age. He was engaged in keeping store most of the time he lived here. He built that part of the stone block, known as the "Adams' store," now owned by Thompson & Baker. He possessed a very sympathetic nature, and his heart went out in kindness to those who needed a helping hand. Many could rise up and call him blessed, for the service he rendered them in by-gone days, while passing through the dark hours of financial trouble. In their half-discouraged condition, he cheered them by kind words and timely aid from his purse or provisions from his store. He owned the house he lived in which has since been purchased by George Ellis. He outlived his wife and daughter, and in after years journeyed on in his loneliness, but still he was loved and respected by all his old neighbors and friends.
Charles J. Fox was another of the settlers of 1835: He was born in 1813. He located his claim in connection with the Adamses on the south-west quarter of section thirteen, and the south-east quarter of section fourteen. The addition to the village of Rockton known as the "Adams and Fox addition," was located on the first-named section, and was filed for record July 17, 1847. Mr. Fox donated the lots on which the Cong'l church and parsonage were built. He started a plow shop in connection with Porter Bellows, about 1842, to make steel plows that would scour. Before this establishment was started, the farmers had to go to Grand Detour for such plows. The business was afterwards carried on by Wright & Willett, and later on by Willett & Vincent until 1858, when they moved to Capron. After the plow business was removed, the old shop at the corner of Center and Franklin streets, was changed into a tannery, and was carried on by Fox & Manard as long as Mr. Fox lived. He died in Harrison, of typhoid fever, January 30, 1873. The family is scattered and the old homestead is occupied by strangers.
John F. Thayer was one of the 1835 settlers. He located his claim on the west, half of the south-east quarter of section twenty-four. He married in 1838. He established a ferry across the river at his place about 1840, or perhaps a little later, and built a bridge across the river, connecting with Bridge street, about 1845. He laid out and addition to the village of Rockton, called "Thayer's addition," which was filed for record, May 2, 1844. He opened his house to entertain travelers, hence it got the name of "Thayer's tavern." One day he and Sylvester Talcott were riding over the prairie, and seeing a wolf they gave immediate chase. The wolf was finally run down, and a blow over its head from the butt of Mr. Thayer's heavy riding whip, effectually stunned the animal. He took it across his horse and carried it home, tying it fast with a rope to exhibit to his family in the morning; but alas, for the success of his private menagerie, the wolf gnawed the rope into, and like the traditional Arab, quietly stole away in the night. Mr. Thayer was one of the voters at the presidential election in 1836. He sold his place about 1854 or '55, and went to Iowa. He and wife visited in Rockton in the fall of 1890. He carried a gold-headed cane which was presented to him at their golden wedding in 1888. He died a few years ago in Minnesota.
Pearley P. Burnham was one of the 1835 settlers, and lived in Rockton until about 1853, when he went back to his old home in the state of Maine. He owned the place where Isaac Brown now resides and kept a livery stable there in 1849. He also owned the brick house where Charles Laman now lives. He used to send his teams to the lake, hauling loads each way. He owned land on the Pecatonica river and hauled wood into town to sell. He became so crippled from hard work and exposure that when he got so bad as to be unable to work, his brother in the east came and took him home.
Capt. William Talcott, who may be justly termed the father of Rockton, was born in Hebron, Ct., March 6, 1784. He married Dorothy Blish in 1805. He settled in Rome, N. Y., in 1810. During the war of 1812, he served in the army under Gen. Winfield Scott, at Sackett's Harbor, and attained to the position of captain of a volunteer company, and served till the war closed. After making a trip to Rock river country in Illinois, with his son, Thomas Talcott in 1835, he moved his family here in 1837. He was instrumental in forming the Congregational church here in 1838. He also developed the water power by building the mill race and saw mill the same year, and the next year was followed with the building of a grist mill. He first lived in a log house near the mill race, but in 1843 he built a very fine residence on the site of the present Winnebago hotel, which was his home until his death. He laid out the village of Rockton, which plat was filed for record May 30, 1844. He was deeply interested in the growth of the town, and assisted largely in building the Cong'l church. When it was completed he donated the bell, which cost $700 and weighed 1400 pounds. He was identified with the anti-slavery movement as early as 1841, and lived to see the cause he so nobly espoused triumph in the freedom of the slaves. He died at the ripe old age of 80 years, Sept. 2, 1864, highly respected by the people of Rockton and all who knew him. His wife died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Samuel Hersey, Nov. 24, 1879, over ninety years of age.
Maj. Thomas Blish Talcott was born in Hebron, Ct., April 17, 1806. In 1831 he engaged in mercantile pursuits, in Horseheads, N. Y., and while living there received the appointment of major in the state militia. He came west with his father in 1835, as has been previously stated, and made Rockton his home as long as he lived. He located a claim on the point between the two rivers, and built the first log house in the township. He was elected first county commissioner in 1836, which office he held for five years. He was married to Miss Sophia E. Willard, June 5, 1843, by Rev. Dexter Clary. He was elected state senator in the fall of 1849, and was in the legislature four years, during which time the charter of the Illinois Central railroad was granted. He was an active business man in Rockton for a number of years, and held several town offices. He donated to the Congregational church, of which he and his wife had long been members, the Gates house which is valued at $1500. He died Sept. 30, 1894, at the age of 88 years. His wife died Dec. 25, 1888. She was born in Vernon, N. Y., Nov. 11, 1824.
Sylvester Talcott was born in Rome, N. Y., Oct. 14, 1810. He engaged in keeping store when a young man in Horseheads, N. Y., until 1836, when he sold out his business and came to Rockton. He was elected to the office of justice of the peace in the fall of the same year, and married the first couple in town in 1837. He married Miss Mary Westlake, June 10, 1841, and soon after built the large dwelling house on Main street, now occupied by his daughter, Mrs. Smith. He was actively engaged in developing the industries
of Rockton, and was always interested in any enterprise to help build up the town. When the township organization was adopted in 1850, he was elected the first supervisor, which office he held for five years, two years of which he was chairman of the board of supervisors. He joined the Congregational church, March 16, 1851, and was one of the trustees for a number of years, and kept up his membership as long as he lived. In 1854 he was interested in the manufacture of the Manny reaper in Rockford, and was a partner
in that company for a number of years. He took an active part in inducing the Racine & Mississippi railroad to run their line through this town, and greatly assisted in building the road from here to Freeport. He was a zealous member of the Republican party and gave it his full support. Although past the age to do military duty when the war of the rebellion broke out, he promptly sent a substitute to represent him. He was a man of very generous impulses and did a great deal to help the poor and needy. He died Jan. 19, 1885. His wife, Mrs. Mary Talcott, was born in 1820, and died Dec. 9, 1872.
Henry W. Talcott was born in Rome, N. Y., Feb. 13, 1814, came west and settled in Rockton in the fall of 1835. He made his claim on the south-east quarter of section thirteen, some of this land remained in the possession of the family to a very recent date. He was one of the fourteen charter members of the Congregational church, and retained his membership until April 7, 1765, when he withdrew from fellowship. He was engaged with his brothers in the industries of Rockton, and continued an active member until his death, which occurred Dec. 9, 1870. He married Miss Emeline McConnell, Oct. 1, 1845. They had nine children. She died August 23, 1894.
John Lovesee was one of Rockton's early settlers. He was born in England in 1815. He came to Roscoe with R. J. Cross, in August, 1835, and the same fall came to Rockton. He spent his first winter with Mr. Cross, living in Mack's old log house in Bird's Grove. He subsequently settled in Roscoe on land east of the railroad station, where he lived the remainder of his life. He married Miss Permelia McCrady in 1840. She was born in Canada, in 1821, and is still living in Roscoe. He died Oct. 2, 1894.
Dea. Luman Pettibone was born in Orwell, Vt., Aug. 20, 1791. He came to Rockton with his family in October, 1836. He lived with David Carpenter west of the river the first winter, and the following spring he located a claim on a part of the Goodwill farm, and built a log house near the present residence of Mr. Shaw. He was one of the charter members of the Cong'l church, and was elected the first deacon. He lived on his claim until 1841, when he sold out to Chellis Hooker and moved to the village, and built the house now the residence of James King. About 1846 he moved to Shirland and purchased land in that town, and while living there held the office of supervisor of the town for four years. He returned to Rockton in 1854, and occupied his former house until he sold it, then he lived for a time in the William Cowen house, which burned Aug 23, 1886. He represented the town of Rockton on the board of supervisors in 1855-'56, and was chairman of the board one year. His wife, Allmira Pettibone, died in 1864, and after her death, he lived most of the time with his daughter, Mrs. Samuel Briggs, of New London, Wis. He died in Rockton, at the home of his daughter, Mrs. David Carpenter, April 2, 1880. He lived a long and useful life of over 88 years, and his memory will long be cherished by his many friends. Said one of his admirers while extolling his many Virtues: "He was a prince among men." A noble tribute of praise to the memory of any man.
Philander Bird was one of early settlers of Rockton, coming here from Milwaukee, Wis., as early as 1837 or '38. He made a claim on the south-west quarter of section nineteen, range two which land is now owned by Edwin Martin. He was a member of the Cong'l church, and was one of the first trustees. His wife, Mary F. Bird, was also a member of the same church. After living in the log house on their farm for several years, they moved into the village, and Mr. Bird built the house now owned by H. S. Northrop. He devoted a good deal of his time to raising fruit. They moved to Cobden, Illinois, about 1856. Mrs. Bird is now living Buffalo, N. Y.
Frederick Bird, a brother of Philander Bird, was also an early settler, and located on the Roscoe road just beyond the Dry Run creek. His place was subsequently known as the Bradley place. Bird's grove at the mouth of the creek, took its name from Frederick Bird.
The land between the Dry Run and Philander Bird's farm was claimed in an early day by a man by the name of Dunn. A Mr. Cooper also had some part in it, which in time passed into the possession of Mr. Harding. Mr. Dunn had two sons-in-law, Durham and Peters, who occupied his land with him. The old log house recently pulled down on Caleb Bentley's farm was the residence of Mr. Durham, and a log house farther west was the residence of Mr. Peters. Mrs. Dunn died a few years ago in the old house on the Peters place, which is now owned by the George Gleasman estate.
Dugald Campbell was an early settler before the forties. He located a claim on the north-east quarter Of section twelve. Both he and his wife were members of the Congregational church. She died in December, 1842. Later he disposed of his land and moved away.
During the preceding years of Rockton's growth, much had been done to develop its latent resources. The water power had been improved, mills had been built, many houses had been erected, school and church privileges were springing into existence, and the hand-maid of industry had invigorated all around her with the touch of her magic wand. The future growth of the little hamlet was an assured fact. Settlers were slowly coming in, and the wave of occupation was quietly spreading from the small beginnings that had nestled on the river's side.
Of the settlers of this year we can speak of only in part. They with those who have preceded them may well indeed be called old settlers, and deserve the reverence and lasting gratitude of those who are now reaping the benefit of their toil and hardships. That hand of energetic pioneers are growing beautifully less as time passes on in its yearly strides. Only four now remain in Rockton, to tell of their early comrades who bore with them their part in the privations of first settlers. They came with health, strong, robust and energetic, and wrestled with the obstacles all along the line. They heroically performed their life work, and now with labor done, they have gone to their long home. Unless the limit is stepped ahead one decade the old settlers will very soon become an extinct people.
There are several remains in Rockton township of the work of the mound builders. Whether that ancient race anti-date the Indians in the possession of this country, is yet an unsolved problem. These curious shaped earth works, undoubtedly have an interested history, and some wise archeologists pretend to tell us all about them, but at best they are only conjectures; but groping as they do in the hidden mysteries of past ages, a close observation has developed some striking features which are worthy of note.
In most cases these ancient remains are found on high points of land, which indicate that they might have been used as look-out stations to sight an enemy in the distance. Then their peculiar shape which have a fanciful resemblance to some animal form, might have suggested the name of the tribe or clan that built them. Others think they have in part been used as burial places for their dead, but only in rare cases have human bones been found in these mounds. Many of these old relics of untold ages are fast disappearing before the sacrilegious hand of the plowman and other agencies.
In the early settlement of the country these mounds were strikingly noticeable, and were often spoken of as land marks to guide the traveler across the trackless prairie. There were mounds west of Coon creek, north of the Shirland road, and some farther south on the Moody farm. On the top of the Carpenter hill up from the bridge were several mounds, but the highway and the adjoining plowed field have been the means of removing nearly all traces of them. Farther up the bank on the same side of the river are several mounds in a good state of preservation. In the north part of the village, near John Randall's, were some mounds in an early day, but little of them now remain. Just east of the village was a fine collection of mounds, but the land taken by the railroad for a gravel pit has entirely removed them.. There are some mounds down the river on the south side which are still traceable.
When Mr. Carpenter first settled here there was an Indian "buried in the air," so to speak, near his place west of the river. The remains reposed in a rude coffin of bark, which was supported on four posts set in the ground. This primitive monument remained for several years after the settlement, but finally went to decay and disappeared. There were remains of a similar character near the residence of John Randall, and when the Adamses first possessed the land, it showed only two upright red cedar posts and a cross timber. These in time passed away and became nearly forgotten, but a year ago as Mr. Randall was digging post holes to repair his line fence he exhumed one of these old posts as sound as it was perhaps a hundred years ago.
There were several places along the river of Indians having their burial in the tree tops, being either done up in bark coffins or placed in a canoe and fastened up in the trees. Two of these coffins were in the tree tops below the Winsor place, and one in the top of a large tree near the mouth of the Dry Run, on Mr. Bentley's farm. These in time fell into the river and were carried away. A short distance up the river from the Dry Run creek are still to be seen the remains or a rude stone altar which was often used by the Indians in their religious devotion. For some years after the tribe had practically left the country, migratory bands would often return to that consecrated spot and perform their oblations as their fathers had done.
Many Indian relics such as flint arrow points and spear heads have been found in considerable quantities, also stone axes and quite rarely mortars and pestles. It is a great pastime for some to gather up these old relics, and some very fine collections have been made. E. W. Martin, while living in Rockton, accumulated a large number of these relics, embracing several thousand of the rarest. He prizes his collection very highly.
John Griffith was born in Wales, Jan. 4, 1816. He came to this country in 1836, and to Rockton in 1840. He purchased 160 acres of land in section twenty-six, and an eighty from Mack's estate in section twenty-three. He married Miss Catherine Webber, March 1, 1860. They had a family of nine children, two boys and seven girls. He died June 8, 1896.
William Griffith came to this country in an early day and settled in Wisconsin, near Beloit. Subsequently he settled in the west part of this township on section eight, where he lived for a number of years. He then sold his farm and came to town to live. He died Feb. 18, 1887.
John Bacon, one of the 1840 settlers of Rockton, was born in Frankfort, Maine, June 24, 1803. He purchased land down the river on section thirty-one range two. He married Ermina Seaver in the state of New York, in 1837. She was born in Ticonderoga, N. Y., in 1815, and died May 27, 1863. He died in Portland, Maine, at the home of his daughter, Mrs. Curtis, a number of years ago.
Porter Bellows settled in Rockton as early as 1840. He married his second wife, Angeline Hinman, Jan. 26, 1841, by the Rev. Milton Bourn. He was in company with C. J. Fox, in the manufacture of plows, about 1842. After this he built several threshing machines, which were much used in that early day. He probably moved away front Rockton a great many years ago.
William Carlton settled here as early as 1840. He was a member of the Cong'l church for a number of years. He built the H. B. Jones house where he lived until he moved away about 1860. He was a cooper by trade and had a shop near Dr. Waite's brick house back of Waite's hotel. He went to Oregon and became a government collector of the port of Portland which position he held for a term of years.
The most important event of this year was the building of the school house in the park. There was a growing need of such a building which should serve the double purpose of a school house for week days, and a place for meetings on Sundays. The people cheerfully contributed of their slender means to the success of this enterprise, and were proud of their efforts. Rude benches served for seats. The first winter is was not plastered, but in due time is received an inside finish, and a coat of red paint improved its outside. It was a very fine structure for those early times, and well answered its purpose for several years. The following lines from one of Rockton's gifted poets, thus describes this old school house:
Chellis Hooker, a twin brother of Dr. Hooker, was born in Hartford, Ct., Dec. 9, 1792. He came Rockton, in 1841, and bought out the claim made by Dea. Luman Pettibone on the Goodwin farm. He built a barn and the cobble stone house, and made other improvements on the place, but his hard work of pioneer life only lasted six years. He died in 1847, leaving a wife and five children. His widow married A. P. Goodwin, of Durand. She died in Rockton in 1883.
Dr. Coe Van Brunt was born in Florida, N. Y., June 3, 1805, and came to Rockton from Westfield, N. Y., in 1841. He was the second physician who settled in Rockton. He was a member of the Congregational church as long as he lived, and church clerk for eight years. He was very much respected in the community. He died Sept. 17, 1851. After a few years his widow married Rev. Taylor and they moved to Belvidere. She died there quite recently. For the past thirty years she suffered the affliction of being blind.
Nathaniel Rudd and his wife Witty Rudd were settlers of 1841, coming from Westfield, N. Y. They were both members of the Congregational church. He was a soldier in the war of 1812. He died in Rockton April 4, 1847, at the age of seventy-five years. She died June 10, 1856, at the age of seventy-seven years.
The winter of 1841 and '42 was called a very hard winter. The river froze over on the 17th of November and stayed frozen over until the 7th day of April. That winter the small streams were nearly frozen up solid. The people came from all the surrounding country with their wheat to be ground, and the mill was so full with grists that many of them had to be stored in outside buildings until each had its turn. Considerable flour was sent to Galena by teams that winter.
The first fourth of July celebration ever in Rockton was held this year. It was in Thayer's part of the town, and was participated in by of all the settlement and every one from the surrounding country. Mr. McDowel was the orator of the day and gave a stirring, old time address, full of patriotism and prophetic shadowings of the nation's future greatness.
J. B. Peterson offered the following toast: "The daughter of Columbia, may she never wed a tyrant nor give birth to a slave."
A sumptuous dinner was spread under the trees, in which roast pig was a prominent feature in the bill of fare. It was a very enjoyable occasion, and highly appreciated by all.
William Goddard came to Rockton with his wife in the spring of 1842, and bought the P. L. Ellis place on the Beloit road. Besides farming he carried on wagon making and blacksmithing on his farm, and employed men and made many wagons, which readily sold in that early day. He died in the prime of life, in 1848. They had only one child, a daughter, who married Chauncey Pettibone. She died several years ago. Mrs. Goddard is now living in Rockton.
Henry O. Brown was one of the 1842 settlers. He carried on a store here for a number of years, which was located on the Newell corner. He built the brick house as a residence which was subsequently sold to Charles Griffin. He was a member of the Congregational church and served both as clerk and trustee. He also was interested in school matters and was one of the directors of some time. About 1866, he moved to Rockford and died there.
John Brown, the father of Henry O. Brown, was quite an old man when he settled in Rockton in 1842. He came from Madison, N. Y., and was a pensioner of the war of 1812. He died in Rockton, Sept. 29, 1861.
Dea. William Bradley came from Westfield, N. Y., to Rockton as early as this year if not earlier. He was a deacon in the Congregational church for a number of years. He built the brick house on the south-east corner of Cottage and Chapel streets, which is now owned by Leonard Newell. He moved away in 1856.
The Mack bridge was built this year. A charter was obtained from the legislature for its construction, and Stephen Mack, Merrill E. Mack and David Jewett were the incorporators. It was the first bridge across the river in the state, and was built with a draw so that boats could pass. It was a very substantial structure, and with occasional repairs, stood the ravages of the floods until June 1, 1850, when it was carried away, never to be rebuilt. It was largely built at Mack's expense.
Samuel Talcott was born in Rome, N. Y., March 1, 1818. After attaining to manhood he was engaged for some years as a civil engineer on the Genesee valley canal. He came to Rockton in 1843, where he made his home for about sixteen years. He married Miss Minerva P. Cody, of Bloomington, Ills., Sept. 23, 1847. After his residence in Rockton, he moved to Du Page county. His wife died at Napierville, Ills., April 21, 1865. For years afterwards he lived in Missouri. His present home is in Darlington, Mo. On the first of last March, he celebrated his eightieth birthday, and invited in his friends and relatives. It was an enjoyable occasion.
Alexander Henderson Merrill and Frederick William Merrill came to Rockton in 1843, bringing a stock of merchandise with them. Their first store was in the wing part of Jacob Hyatt's tavern, which building is now the residence S. L. Jenkins. They soon after removed to the E. J. Veness corner and occupied the Wight store until they built the New England House, which they used for a hotel and store in 1847. Two or three years later the three story addition was built, which made a very imposing building for the times. They did a very prosperous business for a number of years. About 1850, they bought up a drove of cattle, taken on store accounts, and took them to Milwaukee for sale.
In the early fifties the Merrill Brothers were interested with other parties in paper mill property, located on the present site of the Bradner, Smith & Co's number one mill. The financial panic of 1S57-'58 was too great a strain on the firm, and they had to suspend business. A. H. Merrill soon after went to Chicago and engaged in business there for a time. He afterwards went to Memphis, Tenn., where he was a book-keeper for a number of years. He died there in the fall of 1884. F. W. Merrill was never in business again for himself after his 1857 failure, but for some years afterwards, he was both clerk and book-keeper for other parties. He died in Rockton, Feb. 14, 1898, at the age of seventy-eight years.
Jared Clement Gridley was born in the state of New York, March 26, 1810. He came to Rockton his family in 1843, and settled in Thayer's part of the town. He tended ferry for Mr. Thayer in the fall of 1843. In 1843 he bought lots Nos. 10 and 11 in Thayer's addition, for the consideration of $100, and built a house on them. The property is now owned by J. E. Chase. He sold out about 1850 and went to Delphi, Iowa, but after staying there three or four years, he returned to Rockton and occupied a house nearly opposite Mrs. Clay's place, which had previously been used by Hiram Thayer as a store. At one time he was engaged in manufacturing broom handles. He died in Rockton, Nov. 1, 1888. Mrs. Gridley died Sept. 7, 1894.
James L. Sharp was one of the early settlers. He located land on the west side of the township where he lived a number of years. He was a member of the Congregational church as long as he lived.
The steam boat Lighter came up the river this year in the latter part of June. Several persons from Rockford came up on it, and that night a dance was held on the boat, in which many of Rockton people joined The boat was loaded with flour from Rockton and Beloit for St. Louis. It was said that the Rockton parties lost all of their flour by the leakage of the boat. The steam boat passed through Mack's bridge, which was built with a substantial draw about thirty-six feet wide, but when they came to the state line bridge at Beloit, the plank and stringers of one section had to be removed to let the boat through. The Ogle county history says: "This boat made two or three trips during the season, carrying groceries to Janesville and other river towns. Solon Cummings, a Grand Detour merchant loaded her once or twice with flour for the St. Louis market."
The subject of river navigation was a very important one in the early history of Rockton. As this was long before the clays of railroads, the only outlet to the outside world, save the toilsome overland route with teams to the lake, was by Rock river. The government had declared it a navigable river, and when the land was surveyed, it was bounded by high water mark. The right to navigate the river was indisputable, and if it could he made profitable, would compel all dams to be built with locks, and all bridges to have draws, so no obstruction would prevent the free navigation of the river.
About this time a St. Louis man fitted up a boat and performed the laborious feat with the assistance of two men, of running up Rock river to Rockton, and then up the Pecatonica to Mineral Point, Wis. He took groceries and mining tools on his trip up, and a load of lead on his return. The boat being a light one with a comfortable cabin, the men would drive if up the stream with setting poles or pull it along with a tow line from shore, and when night came, tie up to rest for the next day's labor. It took a long time to make the up trip, but the return was greatly aided in speed by the current of the river. Only two trips could be made during the season. This plan did not prove very profitable and was soon given up.
During this year two barges were built in Rockton by Thomas M. Coons and Charles Kane, for Capt. Harris, of Galena. The dimensions of these boats were a hundred feet long, eighteen feet wide and two and one-half feet deep. They delivered these boats at the mouth of Rock river where they were turned over to Capt. Harris for use on the Mississippi river.
Sometime during the summer of this year a bear from the Wisconsin woods paid Rockton a visit, passing through the north part of the village and crossing the river near the dam. As soon as the Nimrods of Rockton heard that bruin was paying his respects to the town, they were all after him with a good deal of energy. The bear was shot over on Sand prairie. This was the last bear found in Rockton. It weighed three hundred and thirty pounds.
John Clover was born in England, June 1, 1817. He came to Rockton in 1844, and located a quarter section of land on section seventeen west of Coon creek, which is now in the possession of two of his sons. He hired a part of the money to enter his land of Stephen Mack, and built sod fence to pay for it. He first lived in the village and built the stone house now owned by W. R. Axe. He also built the Webber house near the railroad station. He quarried the stone for the Cong'l church in the Blight quarry. In 1853 he had a contract to grade two miles of railroad between Roscoe and Beloit, and also had a contract in grading some of the Racine and Mississippi railroad between Beloit and Freeport. He purchased a part of the David Johnson farm on section twenty, and made brick there in 1858 and '59, in connection with Ewin Martin and Mr. Carlton. The brick yard was on the line of the railroad, and they made and shipped brick to Beloit to build the first Congregational church there. He died on his farm in November, 1864. His wife died May 26, 1877.
Thomas M. Coons first came to Rockton to live in 1844. For a few years, before he had lived at Winnebago, the old county seat just above Rockford. The first of his work here was the building of the boats already spoken of. He was an active business man, and did considerable building in town in an early day. The stone building now occupied by B. B. Hill for a harness shop, was one of his first buildings. It was erected in 1845, partly with the assistance of Mr. Kane. Soon after he had a job of dredging the river at the head of the island and making a dam there to deepen the water on the north side to facilitate the passage of boats and rafts. Mr. Mack got some kind of an appropriation for this purpose. He had the contract of furnishing the stone for the stone block when it was built about 1846 or '47. In 1848 he built a canal boat in connection with Charles Kane, to be used on the Illinois canal. It cost about $1500. It was taken to Chicago by the way of the rivers, and was considered one of the finest boat on the canal. In 1868 he in connection with Robert Penman built the stone store on the corner of Main and Prairie streets, now occupied by Mrs. Rummell as a drug store, and carried on business there until Mr. Penman sold out and went to Iowa. For the past twenty years he has been retired from business, and is now living in comfortable health, highly respected by all, and will be eighty-four years old on the 22nd of July. He was twice married. His first wife was a daughter of Charles Reed, and his second wife was Mrs. Daniel Fairchild, whom he married Nov. 7, 1849.
The first Carpenter bridge was built about 1844. It went through various stages of repair until it was succeeded by the present iron bridge. The Jones ferry did duty for the traveling public before this bridge was built.
E. Stanley Smith was quite an early setter, and at one time had a claim on the south half of section twenty-nine. About 1845 he started in trade in the new stone store built by Coons & Kane, and in connection with his grocery business was the first man in town to buy and pack butter to ship to an eastern market. He paid ten cents a pound in trade for his butter. He claimed he did not make anything on his butter, but got pay for his goods. He built a cottage on the Lampman block, where he lived. After staying in Rockton about two years, he moved to Beloit and carried on a larger business.
Jonathan Strickland settled here as early as 1844, and started a small store near where Mr. Bentley has his office. He moved into the store across the street a couple of years later, after Mr. Smith went away. After a time he took Rumsey Hatch as a partner. Mr. Strickland purchased Mr. Smith's cottage and lived in it until he built the brick house now occupied by Mrs. George Gleasman. The cottage house was finally used for a school, and became known as the "cottage" school house. The building was afterwards torn down. After doing business here about ten years, he sold out his interest in the store and went to Iowa. His wife was a sister of Mrs. Stiles .
Rumsey Hatch settled in Rockton about 1844 and soon after engaged with Jonathan Strickland in mercantile business under the firm name of Strickland & Hatch. After a few years Mr. Strickland retired from the firm, and the business was carried on by Talcott & Hatch. Mr. Hatch built the brick house as a residence which is now owned by Mrs. Trimmer. He was elected the first master mason of Rockton lodge, A. F. and A. M., which was organized in the town in 1849. He went back to New York state and died there. Mrs. Hatch died in Indiana some years later.
Charles Kane was a settler of Rockton as early as 1844, and engaged with Thomas M. Coons in building boats and other work. He was a stirring man of business. In 1850 he went to California with several others, and stayed there about a year, when he started for home by way of Mexico. He died of mountain fever in the city of Mexico, about 1852. Dr. Hulett was with him at the time. His wife was a sister of Mrs. Stiles, and lived in Rockton for some years after.
Samuel Adams was here as early as 1844. He made furniture as early as 1845, especially chairs, and had his machinery for preparing the material on the water power on the site of No. two paper mill. The chair business was quite an industry for several years. Later he was engaged in keeping the brick hotel on the corner of Main and Center streets. When the location of the present river bridge was decided upon, he was one of the committee, and did all he could do to have the bridge cross the river on a line with Center street so as to have more travel by his hotel. After keeping the hotel for several years, he sold out and went to Iowa.
About this time a man by the name of Barbour taught the winter school here. He brought with him a roll of sheep's gray cloth and some woolen socks, which he kept in Mr. Halley's tailor shop. It was supposed to be all of his wealth. He afterwards started a store at Buffalo Grove, about two miles from the present town of Polo. When the Illinois Central railroad located through what is now Polo, he secured a part of the town plat and removed his business there. He made his investment exceedingly profitable, for when he died about twenty years ago, he left his family a property worth about a quarter of a million.
Kendall C. Young was an early settler. He went to California in 1850, and after a few years came back quite wealthy it was supposed. He was a partner in the paper mill firm of Hollister & Co., from 1851 to 1856. He sold out his share in the paper mill to the Merrill Bros., for a stock of goods, and went to Iowa where he laid out the town of Mason City. The place became of considerable importance on the advent of railroads, and he had a good chance to amass a fortune.
Orwell Bailey came from Vermont in an early day and worked for the Talcotts. He was here through two sickly seasons, and was almost the only person who escaped from being affected by those local diseases known to early settlers. He brought about one hundred dollars with him from the east, and as he had been schooled to frugal habits, he saved a large part of his earnings, and was soon able to purchase a section of land seven miles south of Freeport. The Illinois Central
railroad was located through his section, and a depot built on his land. He laid out the town of Baileyville. He subsequently sold out at a good price and went to Iowa, where he could have more room. It is presumed that with his money making qualities he became very wealthy.
John Henry was an early settler. He was a broken down merchant from the east, and came out here to improve his finances and his health. He owned land east of town near Mr. Martin's farm. He at one time owned the house which is now the residence of W. W. Austin. He was a man of considerable ability, and a member of the Cong'l church. He died here a number of years ago.
Alonzo Rice conies in with the early settlers. He was a member of the Cong'l church, and married Delia Carpenter. He lived west of the river, near the present residence of Warren Graves. He was a constable for several years. One time during the term of his office, he was sent out to Harrison on a rainy day with a warrant to arrest a man. His prisoner refused to come unless he would bring him, and as he had only a cart with a seat for one, he had to give up the horse and cart for the prisoner's comfort, while he tramped home in the rain and mud on foot. The prisoner presented himself before Esq. Weld, and was duly examined and discarded for want of cause; and when the tired and mud-bespattered constable arrived, the business was all done and his chances for a fee adequate to his wounded feelings was exceedingly small. He moved to Buffalo, N. Y., and engaged in the grain business.
Seth Taylor was ranked with the old settlers, and was elected one of the first constables. He was a sort of an old bachelor, so he lavished his affections on his beautiful pony, which he thought as much of as an Arab would of his splendid steed. One morning on visiting his stable, he found his pony gone, and despair was in his heart at once. He soon got the town pretty well aroused to the necessity of putting out to find the missing animal, when Dr. Van Brunt came into town riding the missing pony. The doctor had had a pressing midnight call to go into the country, and for want of a horse, had individually arranged with the pony to take him out. Mr. Taylor died in Rockton. May 17, 1845.
Alexander Miller was born in Caledonia county, Vermont, March 18, 1808, and came to Rockton in 1844. He married Mary Mackie, in Newbury, Vt., March 7, 1833. She was born in Scotland, March 5, 1810. He built a house on the corner where the Methodist church now stands which is owned by Susan Wallace. He next built the house now owned by old Mrs. Gammon. Both he and his wife were members of the Cong'1 church. They moved to Shirland in the fall of 1854, and engaged in farming. They had a family of ten children. He died at his home in Shirland, Jan. 29, 1889. Mrs. Miller is now living with her daughter, Mrs. Jewett, in Harrison.
Joel Bradley came here in 1844, from Westfield, N. Y., and purchased the place first settled by Frederick Bird, who died Nov. 5, 1842. Mr. Bradley occupied this farm for a number of years, and built the cobble stone house, which for years has been a distinctive feature on the Roscoe road. He and his wife were members of the Congregational church. He sold his farm quite a number of years ago, and moved to Brodhead, Wis.
Dr. Charles Bradley, a son of Joel Bradley, was an 1844 settler. He married his cousin, Mary Ann Bradley, in 1845. They soon moved away.
John M. Hulett settled in the township of Rockton as early as 1842, locating on the south-west quarter of section thirty-five. He held the office of county commissioner from 1846 to 1849. He was one of the administrators of the estate of Stephen Mack in 1850. After living in Rockton about ten years, he moved to the town of Owen. where he was elected supervisor of the town for two years during 1854 and '55. He was a man highly respected by all who knew him. He died at the home of his son, Luke T. Hulett, in Owen, April 13, 1881. Mrs. Hulett died at her son's home at Latham Station.
Henry S. Westlake was an early settler of Rockton. He married Juan Fernandez Teed, April 24th, 1849. They were married by the Rev. Lewis Benedict. His wife died after being married about a year, and then after a year or two he married her sister, Murilla Teed. He further married a third wife by whom he had three daughters. He held the office of sheriff in one of the counties of Kansas during John Brown's exploits there. He now resides in Chicago.
Calvin Harden was one of the Maine colony settlers. He located a claim on what is now a part of W. A. Phelps' farm. He was a member of the Cong'l church for a time, but must have left in an early day for some other locality.
Howe P. Teague was an early settler of Rockton township. He located on the north-east quarter of section three, which land is now owned by William H. Farmer. He married Mrs. Susan Foster, a sister of David Carpenter. They moved to Newark, Wis., where he died several year after. Mrs. Teague afterward married Luther Lawrence, and died in Rockton, April 29, 1892.
Hugh Jones was quite an early settler, and located land on the west side of the river, claiming the east half of section seventeen. He came from Canada with his family during the Papaneau rebellion, driving all the way with one horse. He established a ferry across the river just below the Carpenter bridge, which was in running order until the bridge was afterwards built. Mr. Jones and a part of the family lived on the claim and made some improvements, while his wife and some of the children occupied a dugout on the west bank of the river and tended the ferry. Mrs. Jones was a fearless woman of nerve and combined with her great strength she was amply able to take care of herself without aid from the male side of the house. One day after she had set a man with his team across the river he tried to cheat her by refusing to pay full fare. This so enraged her that she up with her bony fist and knocked him clear into the river. Crawling out on shore the crest-fallen fellow was only too glad to pay full toll and depart with a whole hide. The early settlers who had occasion to use that ferry, had a wholesome respect for the prowess of that woman ferryman. The family moved up to Sugar river, and after a few years to Iowa.
William Leffingwell was an early settler and located a claim on the west half of section eight. He died a number of years ago.
Lucius Fassett was a Rockton settler as early as 1844. He was a member of the Cong'l church for several years. He built the Keeney house, now the property of Miss Lizzie Swan, and lived there a number of years. At one time the house caught on fire when only two little girls were at home. With rare presence of mind they sought the water pail, but when they found that was empty, they thought of the well filled coffee pot, and by careful management succeeded in extinguishing the incipient fire. Putting out a fire with a lot of good coffee was a luxury which but a few indulged in, but in that case it was cheaper then to have the house destroyed. Mr. Fassett moved from Rockton a good while ago.
Dr. Hulett comes in the list of early settlers. He owned a place south of Thomas Webber's residence, and practiced his profession for quite a number of years. He went to California with Charles Kane in 1850, and was with him when he died in the city of Mexico. The doctor returned to Rockton, and later moved to Peru, Illinois, where he died.
Albert Hulett was born in the town of Veteran, N. Y., Aug. 14, 1833. Came to Rockton township with his father's family when about nine years old. The greater part of his life was spent in the township of Owen, where he has a farm of two hundred acres. Quite recently he moved to Rockton and purchased the Merritt house on the south side of the park, which has since been his home. He married Rachel Ann Lake, May 1, 1856. She died Nov. 25, 1876. He married his second wife, Mary M. Feakins, Oct. 17, 1889. He held the office of supervisor of the town of Owen for five years while living there, and since his residence in Rockton, he has served one term as village trustee and one year as president of the village. He is a man of exemplary habits and is held in high repute by all who know him.
The first bridge across the river at Bridge street, commonly known as the Thayer bridge, was built 1845.
Work on building the New England hotel was commenced this year, and the building was completed in 1847, and occupied as a store and hotel. It was a very fine building for those times.
The cause of education received a good deal of attention in the early settlement, and no sooner had the village assumed any adequate proportion, than the idea of a seminary was conceived and carried into effect. The school at that time was largely a subscription affair, so the transformation to a seminary under the same management and in the same building was largely in matter of name. Miss Mary Ann Bradley and her cousin Cornelia Bradley, were the first teachers after the school had assumed the name of seminary. The Teed sisters soon followed, and having some means, bought the lot and built the house which is now the residence of Albert Hulett on the south side of the park. The building was used as a residence, but was intended as a part of the seminary building, which was to materialize in the near future. The school was conducted about four years as a seminary under the instructions, first of the Misses Bradley, and then under the Teed sisters, but the bright dreams of a great institution of learning were never realized. So many bright and intelligent young women were attractions the young men of the town could not resist, and matrimony so disorganized the school plans, that the seminary soon lost its individuality, and quietly slid back into the old grooves of a district school in 1849.
George C. Albee came to Rockton in 1845, from Grafton, N. H. He was a harness maker by trade and carried on the business for several years. He built the stone house now owned by Leonard Thurton, where he lived during his stay in Rockton. Both he and his wife, Susan (Mills) Albee, belonged to the Congregational church while living here. They moved to Madison, Wis., and from there to Fairbault, Minn.
Emerson Albee was a brother of George Albee, and came here the same time. He was a tailor by trade and worked at that business while here. He built the Thurston brick store, now the residence of L. D. Kincaid. He went to California in 1850, where he married and settled.
Thomas Harley came to Rockton township in the fall of 1845, and settled on Sand prairie. He deeded an eighty of land from the government, which had been a part of the claim made by Mr. Ordway. This was his home for a number of years. This farm is now the property of E. J. Veness. He died Oct. 11, 1859, at 72 years of age.
William Harley was born in the state of New York, Nov. 19, 1835. He came to Rockton township with his father's family when only ten years of age. He married Fidelia Miller, in Beloit. She was born in Vermont, Feb. 18, 1838. He lived in Shirland over thirty years, and during that time was town clerk nine years, and supervisor of the town two years. In 1893 he moved back to Rockton, where he now resides. Both he and his wife are members of the Methodist church.
Amos Guptill came here from the state of Maine in 1845. He built the house where David Harper now lives. After living here a number of years he moved to Shirland and died there. He had one son and four daughters. His daughters married as follows: Almira Guptill married John Sterns; Flora Guptill married Doras Parker; Lydia Guptill married John Parker, and Abigail Guptill married Seymour Treat. His son John Guptill, married Emily Warren. They went to Dakota and he died there. She is now living in Shirland.
George A. Young settled here in 1845. He built the house owned by Willis Houston. He was engaged with his son-in-law, Charles Haven, in manufacturing chairs for a considerable time. He was one of the charter members of the Rockton masonic lodge, which was organized in 1849. He went to California in 1850. He died in Rockton a number of years ago.
Alonzo F. Chase was born in Westville, N. Y., July 4, 1810, came to Rockton with his family in 1845, and after a residence here of several years, removed to Waseca, Minn., where he died April 8, 1883. His remains were brought back for interment in the Rockton cemetery. His wife, Martha Chase, died Oct. 9, 1866, at 50 years of age.
James M. Williams was a 1845 settler, coming first to Rockton, and then later on to the town of Harrison, where he has since lived. In 1849 he went to Chicago for the Talcotts, with six yokes of oxen and four wagons, taking 150 bushels of wheat and ten barrels of flour. He was gone twenty days, and brought back a run of burr mill stones, which weighed four tons, for the grist mill. Mr. Williams has held most of the offices in the gift of his town, and is a man in whom the community repose confidence and respect. He has a family of five children, and owns a fine farm worth about $10,000.
Valentine A. Lake was an early settler of the county, living first in the town of Owen, and subsequently moving to Rockton, where he devoted his time to buying and shipping live stock and grain. He married Miss S. M. Taft, a niece of Levi Taft, of Roscoe, Oct. 25, 1850. He held several town offices. He died Oct. 5, 1878. The family moved to Iowa where they how reside.
J. E. Chase was born in Franklin county, N. Y., Dec. 25, 1830. He settled in Rockton in 1845. During most of the time he has been engaged in farming. He owns a house and lot in Thayer's addition. He has been school director several years, and has served as street commissioner of the village several terms. His first wife was Jane Newton, and his second wife was Matilda Jane Vanderburg.
Dr. John H. Carpenter was one of the first pioneers of Rockton, and located land west of the river as early as 1836; yet by reason of his services as traveling agent for the bible society for several years, he could not be claimed an actual settler until 1845. He was born in Berkshire county, Mass., May 19, 1797, and graduated at Williams college, in 1824. As he never married, he made his home with his brother David the most of the time. He was a member of the Cong'l church for nearly half a century, and a deacon or church for about half that time. He died May 28, 1885.
Frederick J. Bentley was born in Columbia county, N. Y., June 22, 1822. He married Sarah Crandall, in Berlin, N. Y., June 9, 1843. She born Feb. 17, 1823. They came to Rockton in 1846, and settled on land west of the river, were he secured a farm of 240 acres. They had four children. He died Sept. 3, 1888. His son Frederick J. Bentley now occupies the old homestead. Mrs. Bentley is still living.
Aaron Shores was an 1846 settler as has been previously stated.
Orvis Shutleff was born in Canada, Oct. 29, 1817, came to Rockton in 1846, purchased land on section thirty-three, and engaged in farming. He married Sarah Smith, in Beloit, June 25, 1854. She was born in Canada, June 20, 1832. They had eight children. He died a few years ago.
Calvin Stevens was born in North Andover, Mass., Dec. 24, 1806. He married Rozilla Young, July 22, 1830. She was born Dec. 24, 1807, just one year younger than her husband. He was a ship carpenter by trade. They came from the state of Maine to Rockton in 1846, locating first in Macktown, but afterwards built the house on Center street which was their home as long as they lived. Mr. Stevens labored at carpenter work, and assisted Coons & Kane in building the canal boat. Mrs. Stevens was quite successful in doctoring the women and children of Macktown with roots and herbs, and was often called to relieve the sufferings of the Indian women. They had five children, three sons and two daughters. The sons, Albion, Herman and George, all enlisted in the war of the rebellion. Albion died in service and Herman came out a captain. Mr. and Mrs. Stevens both died in Rockton. She died April 19, 1864, and he died Oct. 3, 1871.
Love & Densmore made fanning mills in the forties for a year or two, and had quite a business. They occupied the building for a shop which is now a part of S. R. Gridley's house. There were two of the Densmores, Israel H. G. Densmore and his brother Solomon Densmore. They were both members of the Congregational church. After the fanning mill business was given up, Love settled in Beloit. Israel H. G. Densmore married Albina Merrill, Oct. 19, 1846, and went to Iowa where he died. Solomon Densmore married Fidelia Teed, April 5, 1848, and moved away in 1849. She was one of the teachers in the Rockton seminary.
The first meat market in Rockton was kept by Russell Nelson, and for want of paper to do up the quantity purchased, the customer received his meat on a skewer. Then commenced the ludicrous sight of seeing a Man scooting up the street with his choice steak on a stick, and all the town dogs in hot pursuit. Happily this is all changed now, and Crawford & Co. will give you your meat nicely enwrapped, and guarantee exemption from dogs while in transit. Mr. Nelson was a shoemaker by trade and carried on the business here. He built the Montanye house on Bridge street about 1854, but sold it to Mr. Chamberlain before it was fully completed. He went to Pikes Peak during the gold craze and probably died there.
Stephen Morse was quite an early settler, and was a member of the Congregational church. He was in trade in Beloit with Moses W. Allen, for a time under the firm name of Morse & Allen. He married Sophrona Hooker, a daughter of Chellis Hooker. They went to Iowa several years ago, and he died there.
Charles Havens settled here quite early in the history of the town. He married a daughter of George A. Young, and for some time was in company with his father-in-law in manufacturing chairs. At one time he had a furniture store in the Wight building on the Veness corner. He went to Pikes Peak and stayed there many years, and accumulated quite a property. He died there about two years ago.
Dudley Spurling came here from the state of Maine in 1847. He was a sailor, and had spent his whole time from manhood till coming west on the sea. He worked several years for the Merrill Brothers, tending the stables of the New England hotel. He built the Bushorr house on Chapel street, which was his residence as long as he lived. He was born July 1, 1804, and died Feb. 8, 1869. His wife Lorinda, was born July 2, 1812, and died May 2, 1868.
Erastus L. Stiles was born in Penn., Aug. 8, 1820. He married Miss Marantha Capron June, 1841. They came to this county in 1845, and to Rockton in 1847. He worked at his trade as shoemaker for a number of years. He was superintendent of Smith & Martin's shoe factory as long as that institution was doing business. He was the first agent of the Racine & Mississippi railroad, commencing Oct. 28, 1856, and gave a faithful and continuous service of forty years, till Oct. 28, 1896. He is now on the railroad retired list with ample pay for the remainder of his life. He served the public both as town clerk and clerk of the village for a number of years, and discharged many duties for the public good. He is well up in Masonry and loves the order for its high moral principles. His generous and impulsive nature has not enabled him to lay by as much worldly wealth as some might have done in his position, but he has spent it wisely and well, and has the ever-abiding consciousness that he has done a great deal of good with his means. He has always been a devoted worker in the cause of temperance, and his life record has been consistent with his high conception of manhood. Mrs. Stiles was born Sept. 1818.
Ralph Smith, who was an early settler, purchased the Moffatt farm and a part of the Weld farm. He lived in the stone house now owned by Charles Clarage. He had one son and three daughters. His son, Asbury Smith, married and after a time settled in Cleveland, Ohio, where he and his wife both died. One of the daughters married W. R. Weld, one married Howard Adams who went to California and died there, and the youngest daughter married George Guthrie, who died in Rockton of consumption. Ralph Smith and his wife died here many years ago.
Dr. Nathanael F. Prentice was an early physician in Rockton and practiced here for a number of years. He married Miranda Hyatt, a daughter of Jacob Hyatt, Nov. 20, 1851. They moved to Freeport and the doctor died there.
Frank Prentice was a carpenter by trade and followed that line of business most of the time. He built the David Carpenter house, and built for Isaac Adams the house now owned by George Ellis.
Miles Prentice was an early settler, coming from Mt. Vernon, N. Y. He married Almira Norton, a sister of Mrs. Wait Talcott. They were both members of the Cong'l church. He was a carpenter and built the Dock Whitney house, now owned by Amos Burdick. They moved to Rockford in 1866.
Leonard W. Osgood was a settler of Rockton as early as 1847. He bought the George Stevens place opposite of Macktown, and built the stone house there. The property is now owned by E. S. Waite. During the high water of 1851, his place was all overflowed, and he and his family had to be helped away in boats. It is said that the first intimation that Mr. Osgood had of the sudden rise of water was in throwing his hand out of bed and finding it touched the water which had become a foot or so deep in the lower story. After this adventure on a river farm, he bought the lots and built the stone house in the east part of the town, now owned by N. B. Kincaid, which was his home the remainder of his life. He and his wife died some twenty-five or thirty years ago.
Alonzo Sackett was here for a few years in an early day, and kept a livery stable. His brother, Elisha Sackett was here at the same time, and carried on the tin smith business. They both went to Iowa several years ago.
William Davis was an early settler of Rockton. He was a shoemaker by trade and worked for years for Mr. Stiles at that business. He built the house west of Mr. McCue's, which was the residence of his son, Edgar J. Davis. He and his wife died a number of years ago. They had several children. Mr. Lampman's second wife was one of their daughters.
J. Herva Jones was born in Canandaigua, N. Y., August 20, 1827. He came to Rockton in 1847, and was a resident of this place for sixteen years. He was an inventor of rare ability, and originated a corn planter which was extensively manufactured and sold for a few years. He commenced making these machines about 1856, and during a part of this time the business was carried on by Jones & Randall. He moved to Rockford in 1863, and was superintendent of the Emerson, Talcott & Co's manufacturing works during the remainder of his life, with the exception of three years. He married Miss Paulena P. Austin, a daughter of Henry S. Austin, June 27, 1849. She was born in Maine, June 14, 1832. She resides in Rockford. Mr. Jones died in Rockford, Nov. 30, 1896
Charles L.R. Manning was born in Canada, Feb. 19, 1821, and came to Rockton in 1848. He carried on the business of harness making as long as he lived. He held the office of justice of the peace for several years, and had been a member of the village board and school director. He married Miss Jane Baker, in Canada. She was born in St. Lawrence county, N. Y., Dec. 4, 1821. They were both members of the Methodist church, and were highly respected in the community. He died in Rockton, April 8, 1891. She died in Rockford, August 11, 1896.
Alanson S. Newton was born in Winsor, Vt., Aug. 1, 1795. He came to Rockton in 1848. He first lived on the Bligh farm, and after that built his house in town, which is now the residence of A. T. Hart. He married his first wife, Polly Prentice, May 3, 1818, who died Dec. 5, 1830. He next married Eunice Palmer, July 17, 1831. She died April 29, 1877. Mr. Newton was an honorable and upright man, and held in high esteem by his friends and neighbors. He had been a worthy member of the Masonic fraternity for over sixty years. He died July 29, 1877.
Thomas Glover was born in Manchester, Eng., August 28, 1807. He married Miss Ann Collier, in January, 1828. At that time they were both members of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. He was a zealous member of the Masonic fraternity. having joined the order in 1836, while living in Manchester. He emigrated with his family to this country in 1848, coming directly to Rockton, where he lived the remainder of his life. He worked in Thompson's woolen factory in Roscoe as spinner for a few years, and after that he devoted his time to sign and house painting. He died July 3, 1885, and was buried with Masonic honors. His wife was born November 16, 1809, and died December 11, 1884.
The first brick made in Rockton was in 1848. James Preston started a brick yard on the south side of the river, where John Lally afterwards built his house. Isaac Adams was concerned in the enterprise, and the business was carried on for a few years. He made the brick for the Mansion house and most of the other brick buildings in the village.
James S. Cowen was born in Canada, December 15, 1835, and came to this country with his parents in 1848. He was a soldier in the war of the rebellion, entering the service as a private, August 6, 1862, and the rank of captain by brevet was conferred on him April 20, 1865. He was in the battles of Stone River, Mission Ridge, Franklin and Nashville, and the Atlantic campaign. He was in the mercantile business for a few years. He has held several town offices, and is now supervisor of the town, which office he has held for the past four years. He has also served as village president and a member of the school board. He has been twice married; his present wife was Mrs. Sarah M. Lester.
William R. Weld was born in Le Roy, N. Y., October 12, 1820. He married Miss Mary Smith, a daughter of Ralph Smith. He held the office of justice of the peace for fourteen years, and was associate county justice during eight years of that time. He also held the office of town clerk, and was a member of the school board. He practiced law, carried on an insurance business, and for several years kept a hardware store. He moved to Rockford in 1872, where he lived the remainder of his life.
William A. Phelps was born in Wyoming county, N. Y., April 6, 1825. He married Miss Mary Jane Lippitt, in Crawford county, Penn., January 12, 1848. She was born September 2, 1822. They came to Rockton in 1849, and located on the farm on which they now reside. Mr. Phelps has held several town offices, been school director a number of years, and has been and actively engaged in the Methodist church and Sunday school, of which he and his wife are both members. They celebrated their golden wedding, Jan. 12, 1898. Mrs. Phelps first came to Rockton with her father, Dr. Lippitt, in 1836, when she was only fourteen years old; but returned to her old home in Pennsylvania a few years later.
Seely Perry was an early settler of Rockton. He was born in Stockbridge, Mass., Aug. 10, 1822, and graduated at Union college, of Schenectady, N. Y., in 1845. He went South and engaged in teaching for four years. He came to Rockton in July of 1849, to visit his brother-in-law, Rev. Lewis Benedict, and at the solicitation of Messrs. Talcotts and others was induced to take charge of the village school. The fall term was held in the school house in the park, but the basement of the Congregational church was completed by the end of the year, so on the first of January, 1850, he commenced his school in the basement with Miss Julia Adams, now Mrs. Frank Packard, for assistant teacher. During the summer of that year, he had a house built, which has since been known as the William Cowen house. It was put up by Frank Packard, and was the first house in town to be built wholly of pine lumber, which was all hauled from Chicago with teams. The house was destroyed by fire Aug. 23, 1886. Mr. Perry continued the school until the first of April, 1851, when he moved to Rockford. He sold his house to Dea. Luman Pettibone. Since living in Rockford, he has been engaged for over forty years in the lumber business.
Mr. Perry related a little incident in his experience while teaching in Kentucky. It was impossible to get help there to assist his wife with her little child, so the bright thought struck him to buy a colored girl, and thus effectually settle the vexed question of hired help. To think was to act, and soon he bargained for the colored house maid, subject to the approval of his wife, never once dreaming but that she would be pleased with the plan. With her birth and education in abolition Massachusetts, she was horrified at the idea, and could never bear the thought of telling her dear little innocent boy, that his father was a slave holder. The trade was declared off, and all of the impending evils were thus happily averted.
Asa P. Wiggins was one of the early settlers, and owned land on the south side of the river, south of the Harrison road, including the hill now owned by Lewis Fairchild, where he had his dwelling house. He died a good many ago, and was buried on his own land nearly opposite the south side school house. His wife Lucy Wiggins, was the administratrix of the estate, and sold the land to Henry Shipley, in 1866, for the consideration of $1,100. The family went back to their old home in New Hampshire. The remains of Mr. Wiggins were taken up a few years ago, under the directions of E. L. Stiles, and sent to his children in the east.
William Webber came here in 1849 with his family, and purchased quite a quantity of land in the south-east part of the township. Most of this land was bought of David A. Blake, one of the first settlers, of the township. Mr. Webber was born in England, March 26, 1804, married his wife, Miss Mary Hake, May 3, 1832, and in 1849 came to this country to improve their condition for their growing family. They had five sons and three daughters, and lived to grow up and settle in married life. He was able to give each of five sons a farm of their own. Two of his oldest sons, John and William developed a good deal of mechanical ingenuity and got up the "Webber reaper," which was quite a noted machine forty years ago. John Webber is now living in California, and William Webber in South Dakota. Two sons Herman and Thomas devoted their time to farming. Thomas resides on the old home farm, and Herman has since disposed of his farm property and moved into town. Henry A. Webber was too much of a mechanic to content himself on a farm. He invented and patented a number of useful appliances of practical utility, among which was a farm gate, a railroad snow plow, a track lifter, besides greatly improving the Carpenter angle sieve fanning mill, which he is now extensively manufacturing in company with B. B. Gates. He has also been engaged in building steam boats for river navigation.
After living on the farm for a number of years, old Mr. Webber and his wife moved into town in 1872, and occupied the brick house near the railroad station, where they lived the remainder of their lives, in the enjoyment of serene old age. He died July 19, 1889. She was born April 20, 1802, and died April 6, 1886.
The Talcott grist mill was enlarged in capacity this year by the addition of another run of stones which weighed six tons.
George Royden came this year, and for a time worked with J. B. Peterson at carpenter work. After following the business for ten or a dozen years, he started with a small stock of goods in the post office at the west end of Main street. From a small beginning he has gradually accumulated in wealth until he has now one of the most complete grocery stores in town, besides owning other valuable property. He has the reputation of being a thoroughly reliable business man, and the people have confidence in him. He has held the office of village treasurer for the past twenty-five years. He and John Veness are the oldest merchants in point of trade in town.
Thomas M. Thompson was one of the early settlers of Rockton. He was a millwright by trade, and found ready business among the many mill springing up on the water power. He built the Ran. McKay house opposite James King's, which was his home as long as he lived. His children are now all gone from Rockton. His son Henry who occasionally visits his old home, possesses rare talent as a portrait painter.
James Kincaid came to Rockton from the state of Maine, in the last of the forties. He worked at mason work principally, and built for himself the brick house just north of Waite's hotel, now owned by Dr. Waite. He went to Dubuque, Iowa, about 1852, and from that time his family has lost all trace of him. His wife lived here until a few years ago, when she died April 7,1895.
Seymour Treat settled here in the last of the forties. He married Abigail Guptil. When the shoe factory of Smith & Martin started up, he traveled for the company selling their output. He went to Polo about 1854, and engaged in the live stock business. A few years ago he went to Chicago with a load of cattle, and while at the stock yards was accidentally run over by the cars and killed.
The "Mansion House" was built in 1849 by Porter Vinten. He kept it as a hotel for a while, and was followed by Mr. Mosier. Mosier's wife died while he was living there. Then Mr. Kizer, from Harrison, kept the hotel until it was sold to Samuel Adams, who run it for a short time. Adams sold to Dr. Houghton, who kept it about the beginning of the war of the rebellion. Houghton sold to E. Smith Waite, the present owner.
There was a carding machine on the water power some time in the forties. It was built by J. B. Howell and run by a Mr. Davison. Quite a business was carried on for a few years. It was destroyed by fire about 1852 and never rebuilt.
THE FIRST TEACHERS' INSTITUTE
The first teachers' institute ever held in the county, was in Rockton in the spring of 1850. Prof. Sweet was the manager. C. A. Huntington, the county superintendent of schools, and J. J. Andrews and T. J. L. Remington, of Rockford, were present; also Hiram H. Waldo, who was greatly interested in the cause of education, came up from Rockford to the institute. He was young and enthusiastic and highly susceptible to the charms the fair sex. The exercises of the institute had not progressed to any great extent before he discovered that one of the Rockton attendants was exceedingly handsome, and was as bright and intelligent as she was pretty. His admiration was of the high pressure order, and he was carried away with the thought that he had met his fate.
At the evening session he was further delighted, and resolved to ask permission to escort her home. A ready consent was granted, and the distance was all too short, so full was his mind of the beautiful air castles that he could see in the future. "Would he walk in," was the simple question at the door, but to him it went a great deal. Most certainly he would, with visions of a happy evening in her company. On entering she gave him an introduction to the gentleman sitting in the room, as Mr. Guthrie, her husband.
To say that our gallant knight-errant was dumfounded would be putting it too mildly. The sudden transition from the gilded pinnacles of his fondest hope, to the depths of dark despair was too overwhelming; and he longingly looked around for some friendly knothole to crawl into and completely hide himself. How he ever got out without giving himself dead away, he never could tell, but a good night's rest revived his despondent feelings, and "Richard was himself again."
The second day's session of the institute possessed new attractions, and the pretty face of Miss Daniels, a step-daughter of Stephen Mack, was the next one to draw our hero's attention. He escorted her home to Macktown that night after the evening meeting, going by the way of Mack's bridge, and when they arrived at her home, she kindly informed him that it would he much nearer to reach his boarding place with Mr. Blinn in Thayer's part of the town, by going down the river, than to return through town. His knowledge of the intricate windings through Mack's woods on a dark night was exceedingly limited, but he had no doubt of easily finding the way. So he started out and traveled and traveled, putting in more energy as the time passed away, and when nearly exhausted he finally brought up at Mr. Blinn's at three o'clock in the morning, the very picture of despair.
We are happy to state that Mr. Waldo eventually got back to Rockford without further mishaps, and although nearly fifty years have passed since that event, we presume he has not forgotten the time when he attended the first teachers' institute in Rockton.
Alva McKay was a settler of about 1850. About 1851 he had machinery on the water power for turning butter bowls and other wooden ware. He also worked at house painting. He was a member of the Cong'l church. He died August 4, 1887. His wife Eliza died Nov. 27, 1857.
George H. Hollister was born in Marshfield, Vt., Dec. 14, 1822. He came to Rockton in 1850, and besides investing in real estate, he had money to loan, which was his chief source of income. He served the public in various ways. He held the office of postmaster seven years, township treasurer sixteen years, served one term in the state legislature, and supervisor of the town four years. He married Miss Elizabeth H. Pettibone, Sept. 23, 1851. She died Sept. 20, 1860. He next married Miss Fannie E. Hooker, Dec. 11, 1861. She was born Sept. 13, 1838. He died Nov. 2, 1890. The family now reside in Sioux Fall, S. D.
Dea. Dorus Pettibone was born in Orwell, Vt., June 18, 1799. He came to Rockton in the fall of 1850, where he lived the remainder of his life. He was an active member in the Cong'l church, also in the masonic fraternity. He owned a farm in the town of Owen. Eliza A. Pettibone, his wife, was born in Norfolk, Ct., Jan. 25, 1803, and died in Rockton, March 1, 1862. They had three children, Rev. I. F. Pettibone, a missionary to Turkey for thirty years; Philomela, Mrs. J.S. Houghton; and Ellen Pettibone, who is now the only one of the family living, He died Aug. 27, 1865.
John Sterns was a settler of about 1850. He married Almira Guptill. He worked at carpenter work for several years, and afterwards moved to Polo.
John C. McConnell was born in Sussex county, New Jersey, Oct. 10, 1804, and married Arleta Marvin, Oct. 1, 1825. They came to Rockton in 1849. He bought a farm on Sugar river in 1855, and in 1857 he traded it for land in Wisconsin, near Baraboo, where they moved. They came back to Rockton in 1869, and remained here as long as they lived, occupying the last years, the house south of the Thomas B. Talcott place. They were both members of the Cong'l church. He died June 22, 1881. She was born April 5, 1809, and died May 27, 1894.
Samuel Young, who came here from Canada, was a settler in the early fifties, if not before, and owned a part of the Blodgett farm. He sold out about twenty-five years ago and moved into town, buying the Robert Penman house on the south side of the river, where he lived till the death of his wife, Feb. 5, 1878. He then went to Shirland or Newark to live with some of his relatives, and died there. They had two sons in the war of the rebellion, William G. and Hiram. William died of his wounds while in service, July, 1864.
UNDER TOWNSHIP ORGANIZATION
The township organization system was adopted and put in force in 1850, in most of the northern counties of the state, Winnebago county being included with the rest. Heretofore, the local government was under the county system, borrowed from the southern states; but when eastern influence began to have a voice in the state legislature, the township system of New York state was held up in strong contrast to the way they had done such business in the states of Kentucky and Virginia. Hence a bill was passed to allow counties to vote for organization under the township system or run in the old way. Most of the northern counties adopted the new method, but for years after the southern part of the state clung to the old rule.
FIRST TOWN MEETING
The first town meeting held in Rockton was on Tuesday, April 2d, 1850. Dea. William Bradley was chosen moderator of the meeting and John B. Peterson, clerk. At the election Sylvester Talcott received fifty-eight votes for supervisor, and Stephen Mack forty-five votes. The town officers elected were as follows:
Supervisor - Sylvester Talcott
Town Clerk - William Halley
Assessor - John M. Hulett
Collector - Ira Cummings
Justices of the Peace - Jesse Blinn, John B. Peterson, Philander Bird
Com. of Highways - A. S. Newton, Wm. Leffingwell
Constables - Simon Young, Ira Cummings
Overseer of the Poor - Jesse Blinn.
The following persons have been supervisors of Rockton from its organization to the present time:
1850 - Sylvester Talcott held the office for five years, and was chairman of the board of supervisors two years.
1855 - Luman Pettibone two years, and chairman one year.
1857 - George H. Hollister two years.
1859 - John Perham two years.
1861 - Erastus H. Stanton three years.
1864 - Henry Shibley. Did not serve out his full term by reason of sickness, and James L. Gray was appointed to complete the term.
1865 - George H. Hollister two years.
1867 - David Carpenter three years.
1870 - Robert Penman three years.
1873 - David Carpenter two years.
1875 - Joseph B. Merritt four years.
1879 - E. J. Veness nine years supervisor, and seven years of the time, chairman of the board.
1888 - A. A. Snyder most seven years. He resigned in the fall of 1894 on account of being elected county treasurer, and J. S. Cowen was appointed to fill out the unexpired term.
1895 - J. S. Cowen four years and now in office.
The Congregational church which was commenced in 1849, was completed this year, and dedicated Oct. 24, 1850. The sermon delivered on the occasion, was by Rev. A. L. Chapin, the first president of Beloit college. The cost of the building was estimated at $5,000, and was a great undertaking- for the little society that had its origin only twelve years before.
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