The Wisconsin Cartters - Chapter Thirteen
James Bruce Cartter and Isadora Swift were married in Black River Falls, Wisconsin July 7, 1855 not long after arriving there from Kenosha County. Their first home was made in the village on property purchased July 23, 1855 from Oliver Swift. Oliver had preceded the other family members to Black River Falls. An additional lot of about one-eighth acre, adjacent to the first property, was purchased March 25, 1856 from Jacob Spaulding. It was on these properties that James and Isadora began their married life and started out to select the farm land which was to serve them as a home for the rest of their lives.
Now that Isadora has become a part of the Cartter family it may be well to know more about her own family, the Swifts. The reader will remember that John Swift and his family had arrived at Wheatland, in Racine County in 1845 just two years after James had settled there. The Swift family, like the Cartters, trace back to New England, their arrival dating to about 1634. Their movement westward is interesting to follow.
From George Henry Swift's book The Swift Family written in 1820 we have constructed the following abbreviated sketch of the first six generations of Swifts in America.
THE SWIFT FAMILY
WILLIAM SWIFT of Sandwich, Massachusetts came from England to America in the great ‘Boston Immigrations’ of 1630-1631. Savage says that he ‘probably came from Bocking County, Essex, England or its vicinity. He was in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1634 – had been there some time. Sold his property in Watertown in 1637 and probably moved to Sandwich, where he died January 1644.’
His wife Joan _______ survived him 20 years. They had brought three children with them from England, Hannah, Easter or Ester, and William Jr.
WILLIAM JR. – born in England, lived all of his life in Sandwich. He married Ruth _____ and they had eleven children.
EPHRIAM, 1st son of William Jr. b. 6-6-1656 – married Sarah _____ who died before him. They lived their entire lives in Sandwich where he was a carpenter and cooper by trade, d. 1742. They had seven children.
MOSES, youngest son of Ephriam b. 9-15-1699 – married Mary Foster of Sandwich b. 9-1-1697. They had nine children and lived in Sandwich.
CAPT. WARD, youngest son of Moses b. 12-1-1735. He married Remember Troy of Sandwich 1-9-1755. He was a prominent man in the town and took active part in raising men and serving his country during the Revolutionary war. They had nine children.
WARD JR., second son of Capt. Ward, married Fear Nye of Falmouth, Massachusetts 1-1-1799. They too lived in Sandwich and had three sons.
JOHN FREEMAN, second son of Ward Jr. and Fear Nye was born 10-27-1802 ‘went west and is heard of no more.’”
This last entry in George Henry Swift’s genealogical account was evidently made by a New Englander whose world was wrapped up in Massachusetts. It is interesting to note that for six generations the direct line of descendants had not moved away from Sandwich or Falmouth at the base of Cape Cod.
Some pioneering influence must have played upon John to direct his attentions westward. He married Chloe Price in 1827. She was born at North Falmouth on 5-24-1803. They with their four children broke the family record of 211 continuous years of residence in the Sandwich-Falmouth area and started a long westward trek in 1838. Their migration took them first to Cayuga County in the Finger lakes region of New York State. Their second move in 1854 was to Wheatland in Racine County, Wisconsin. When traveling on the Erie Canal they had quite a scare. The youngest child, Maria Jeanette, fell out of a port-hole on one of the canal boats. She was rescued however and the family continued its journey, no doubt by lake-boat, from Buffalo, N.Y. to Kenosha in Wis. They next moved to Black River Falls as related in the last chapter.
All of these moves, ending at Black River Falls in 1855, had been made in a period of seventeen years. For some members of the family this was still not the end, for the Dakota Territory and California were later to beckon sons Charles and Oliver. John died 6-11-1867 at Black River Falls; Chloe died 4-27-1884 at Castlewood in Dakota Territory. Their four children will be introduced later in this story.
Back now with our attention on James and Isadora as their search for land is rewarded. It is quite evident that James wasted no time in exploring the countryside located in Jackson County. His fancy seemed to be satisfied as he explored that area of land later known as “Disco Valley.” It was a relatively flat to rolling area, surrounded by hard-wood ridges and occupying approximately thirty-six sections of land fairly adaptable to agricultural use. This land was being made available through the U. S. land office at La Crosse for the uniform price of $1.25 per acre. The location was a little south of west from Black River Falls, a matter of about 10 miles and located in parts of Towns 20 and 21 N. in Range 5 W.
Interest seemed to center in the area located in Town 21 for it had fairly level land. A small stream, fed by springs, ran through it and a reasonable amount of marsh land was available which could be depended upon for marsh hay in case of drought years. There existed a few small groves of white pine but most of the wooded area was covered in hard wood, good for fuel, fence posts, and timbers for building. There already existed, through the center of this valley, a trail leading easterly to Black River Falls and one at right angles leading to what later became Melrose and Irving at the south and to Hixton, Sechlerville, and Taylor on the north. All of these villages were just being settled and were within a distance of ten to twelve miles. The cross-roads area looked like a logical trading site and in fact became known as Disco Corners.
At the same time a block of government land was made available in Town 20 N Range 5 W lying almost directly south form the above-mentioned crossroads. Here the land became more rolling, with less open areas and with heavier growth of hardwoods meaning richer soil but harder work to bring it into agricultural production.
James did not hesitate long, for at $1.25 per acre and with an influx of settlers coming, land was a good investment. By 1857 James had secured 460 acres of land in his name and Isadora had 160 in her own name for a total of 620 acres. 280 acres of this land was in T. 20 and the balance in T. 21 at the Disco Corners and north. Isadora’s 160 acres was located 80 acres on each side of the Black River Falls road, one forty deep, and extending to the east of the four corners.
We can well imagine James’ insistence that Isadora hold property in her own name, for you will remember that a clause in the first Wisconsin constitution, which he helped to frame, had favored this right for women to hold property in their own name. Though voted down, it had become an amendment very soon after the state was formed. The author has in his possession the “Cash Patent” issued Mar. 10-1857 for certificate No. 7847 issued to Isadora F. Cartter and described as follows: “The S W 1/4 of the S W 1/4 of Sec. 28 and the N W 1/4 of the N W 1/4 of Sec. 33 in Township 21, N. – Range 5 W in the district of lands subject to sale at La Crosse, Wis. containing 80 acres
Signed: Isadora F. Cartter
James Buchanan – President of the U.S.
J. N. Granger – Recorder of the General Land Office.”
The years 1855 through 1857 saw an almost complete settlement of lands in the Disco valley. The possessors of names that were to be common well into the 1900’s, when the author was growing up there, had newly arrived. The first to come to the valley and settle were Mr. and Mrs. Charles Harmer and Miss Harriet Harmer. They had come over from England in 1848. Theirs was a trying voyage, for the two children of Mr. and Mrs. Harmer died enroute and were buried at sea. They arrived in 1855, after a short sojourn in Fond du Lac County and chose land west of the Disco Corners. James Bruce and Isadora were the second settlers to acquire property in this location and adjacent to the Harmers. They were to be joined during the next two or three years by the Kimballs, Caldwells, Swifts, Vincents, Deuels, Crawleys, Caves, Dunns, and others.
Chester Daniels entered seven forties in 1855 as did Charles Ryder. Chester Daniels Jr. was drowned while crossing the river at Irving. Mr. Ryder was killed during the siege of Vicksburg. Both properties were acquired by D. J. Spaulding and operated as the largest single farm in the valley.
The Swift family, John and son Oliver, acquired 400 acres in one block about one and a half miles north from the Cartters. Here Oliver settled with his family. John settled in Black River Falls where he made his home for the remainder of his life. Charles, the other son, was a carpenter. He lived in Black River Falls. We can imagine that he was kept busy at house and barn building both in the rural and village area. Lumber was plentiful so most houses were of frame construction although occasionally a log house was still being built.
Turning our attention back to Black River Falls we find that James in the short period that he lived there while building a farm home, was making sound acquaintance of men with whom he associated all through his remaining years. He was one of the members to organize and sign the charter for Masonic Lodge No. 74 on June 12, 1856. He remained an active member until his death. Isadora became a member of the Eastern Star.
The first newspaper in the county was started in 1856 by Frank Cooper under the name Badger State Banner.
Carl C. Pope, a pioneer lawyer, was a specially close friend of the family. He arrived in 1856 and was later to serve as district judge and a member of both the State Assembly and Senate.
The Republican Party, having been organized in 1856 was increasing in membership and the push was being exerted in Black River Falls under the leadership of William T. Price. He secured many converts but was never able to move James Bruce from his Democratic views. Price referred to James Cartter, James Davis, and James McLoughlin as “The three immaculate Jims” for taking this steadfast stand against growing odds. Although James showed a keen interest in political issues and was free to express himself, he avoided any involvement in elective office. He was a great reader and student of history.
There were interesting years at home for James and Isadora. Julie Elizabeth, their first child, was born April 27-1856, followed by a son David Kellogg on January first-1857. These were to be their only children.
Together they had reviewed the layout of their new property in order to determine the site of their first real home.
The site they selected could hardly have been better for it was on a slightly raised piece of ground near two of the springs which helped feed the marsh areas. The first section of the new home was to be built facing south thus affording an unobstructed view of Disco Corners and areas both east and west. The home was to be only one-half mile from the Corners where a cluster of their nearby neighbors would live. In a spacious yard were three Burr Oak trees which were allowed to remain. Those oaks seemed ageless to a little boy looking at them some fifty years later and even more so now that 118 years have come and gone since the Cartter home was established. The three oaks are still standing as if to keep watch over the occupants.
Between the house and the springs was an area which would allow ample space for James to build his own fully equipped blacksmith shop, and to provide for a spacious home garden in which he was to take much pride. Back of the house and away from the road was a north-easterly slope which would be ideal for an apple, plum, and cherry orchard. The woods northwest of the proposed barn site would provide winter protection for the building site as well as a very adequate patch of wild blackberries. At the north end of the farm was a row of hills on which blueberries grew in abundance. These hills also were to supply the building stones for the future basement barn.
Time flew by with but little in the way of recorded information to relate. James Davis who operated the Davis ferry across the Black River at a point later known as Irving was instrumental in laying out the road from Sparta, over Davis Ferry and on to Eau Claire. This road passed through Disco; in front of the Cartter homestead; past the Swift home, and on northward. Until the time that the railroad came through Black River Falls in 1869, this road was to carry a large amount of traffic, bringing supplies to the settlers and in turn hauling farm produce to the nearest railroad which was then at Sparta.
Oliver Swift built a large house on his farm, which, as traffic increased, was used as a stop-over place for travelers. Such a place was then called a “tavern.” If numbers were too large to be accommodated in the house, room could be made for travelers in the barn.
In 1860 the Disco Valley saw its first two barn raisings both accomplished in one day. The Cartter barn was raised in the forenoon and the one at Charles Harmer’s in the afternoon. The end of the day was of course celebrated with the aid of a keg of beer.
Much community cooperation was observed. The degree to which this cooperation was expressed is illustrated by the way in which James and Isadora sensed the needs which nearby neighbors had for more strategic blocks of land in order to provide economic units for farm operation, or to gain direct access to the highways. As examples, can be sighted first the sale of 100 acres of land to the Kimball family as a homestead site on the highway and acreage large enough for good operation. Kimballs were the nearest neighbors to the north. They lived with the Cartters until their new house was built. The Charles Harmers’ original holdings at Disco were also too small for economic operation so Isadora sold them 120 acres of her property that they might have a compact block of land and access to the main highway. These sales were made in T 21 N. The Cartter farm was at that time reduced to 400 acres of which one forty belonged to Isadora who held it until near the time of her death.
In T 20 N – R 5 W similar sales were made from the 280 acres located there. These were made to F. A. Caldwell, James Harmer, and Charles Harmer. This left the Cartter holdings at that location 120 acres as shown in the 1870 plat book. Little had James and Isadora realized when they secured this 280 acres that the area in which it was located would later be recognized as providing to archeologists and the public in general “The best collection of well preserved Indian rock-carvings (petroglyphs) in the middle west.” Gullickson’s Glen in which these carvings were found is less than one-fourth mile from the early Cartter holdings.
The Winnebago Indians living in the region at the time of early settlement seemed to have no knowledge as to which tribe of Indians made the carvings. An archeological dig was made in 1958 by Dr. Warren L. Witty, Curator of Anthropology at the State Historical Society. His findings suggested that although Indians were occupying the cave as long as two thousand years ago, the petroglyphs probably do not date back further than 800 years to the early Iowas and Winnebagos. The Wisconsin Trails Magazine in its summer issue 1971 carried a good description of this cave along with picture of the petroglyphs. The following is their word picture.
“The figures on the cave wall include about three cozen carvings, including humans with arms outstretched, chunky elk with large antlers, deer, wild turkey in flight, eagles, a buffalo cow with an arrow in her side nursing a calf, swans, a trio of geese with long curved necks, a huge fish with a formidable set of jagged teeth, a comical catfish with drooping whiskers, even what looks like a pet dog.”
The archeological dig mentioned above also uncovered a large number of arrow heads, pottery pieces, stone knives, scrapers and rills left by the early Indians and covered up by the years’ accumulation from erosion.
This glen is today part of the County Park System thanks to a gift of the land made by Miss Florence Gullickson, descendant of one of the early settlers.