The Wisconsin Cartters - Chapter Fourteen
Returning to the year 1860, five years after the Cartters arrived at Black River Falls, we find included in the Agricultural Census, reported in July for the year ending June 1 – 1860, the following statistics for the farm of James B. Cartter:
Improved land 95 acres
Unimproved land 505 acres
Cash Value of Farm $3000.00
Value of Mach. & Equip. $120.00
Horses – 2
Bushels of Wheat - 350
Milk Cows – 4
Bushels of Corn - 600
Working Oxen – 2
Bushels of Oats - 800
Other cattle – 2
Bushels of Irish Potatoes - 700
Swine – 7
# Butter - 175
Value of Stock $300.00
Tons Hay - 25
Value Animals Slaughtered $200.00
The Family census for 1860 – Town of Springfield, Jackson County reports as follows:
James B. Cartter 45 yr. – Farmer $5000 Real Estate, $2000 Personal Property, N. Y.
Isadora Cartter 26 yr., Mass.
Julia E. Cartter 4 yr., Wis.
David K. Cartter 2 yr., Wis.
Jacob Farber 21 yr. – Laborer, $100 Real Estate, Germany
Igaba Fening 28 yr. – Servant, Norway
George Rolph 23 yr. – Laborer, $40 Real Estate, England
From these statistics several observations might be made. First, real progress was underway in building an operating farm on the Cartter property; second, much land remained to be cleared; third, considerable money had already been invested in the enterprise; fourth, James Bruce, whose health had not been dependable in recent years, was employing help both on the farm and in the house. This was a common practice in those days for there were many single young men and women coming to America, with agricultural backgrounds, searching for opportunities to accumulate capital with which to establish themselves in land ownership. The three names found listed with the family illustrate the wide variety of countries from which these young people were coming. It can also be noticed that farming was very well diversified in an effort to provide home grown food for the family as well as feed for livestock and produce for the market. Produce was of both crop and animal origin.
The years 1857 to 1860 had marked a change in the sources from which new settlers were coming. A canvas of some of the early folks who settled in the Disco area with James Bruce shows their early origins as follows:
Madison Vincent – N. Y.
Noah Duehl – Canada
George Vincent – N. Y.
Michael Crawley – Ireland
Oliver Swift – Mass.
Wm. Caves – Ireland
Geo. Kimball – N. Hamp.
Wm. Harmer – England
Nat. Kimball – N. Hamp.
Charles Harmer – England
As lumbering tapered off many Scandinavian people who had worked in the woods during the winter purchased lands on which they could farm summers and where their families could live the year around. Gradually names such as “Johnson”, “Erickson”, “Olson”, “Haggnis”, “Peterson”, “Hoem”, “Gullickson” appeared on the list of land owners, most of them seeking out the more hilly areas – similar to the hills and valleys of their native lands. Many young women learned the ways of American life, housekeeping etc., in the homes of the older settlers, carrying this new knowledge over into their married lives. In 1870 25% of Jackson County’s population was foreign-born and over one-half of them, 944, were of Norwegian and Swedish descent.
Many were the “servants and laborers,” so-called by census takers, who became life-long friends and associated of the Cartters. Both James and Isadora seem to have had an understanding way with the immigrant and possessed personalities which bred confidence, trust, and loyalty. Many young immigrant men and women considered the Cartter farm to be their home in this new country. One example out of many may illustrate this trust.
Jacob Hummel, from Germany, had worked for the Cartters and accumulated money enough to buy a piece of land in the Disco area. The Civil War came and he enlisted as so many were doing. He found himself in at Murfreesboro, Tenn. May 21, 1863 where he wrote a letter to James Bruce with whom he had left his money for safe keeping. The letter says in part, “Under marching orders,” then proceeds to ask James to turn some money over to his brother on a note with this precaution, “I want you to see that it will be sure for me when I call for it and if not don’t let it go. I hate to refuse a brother but I want some show to get the money back if ever I should call for it.”
Unfortunately Jacob did not live to return for he was killed in action only days after writing this letter. As a boy the writer remembers well the wooden canteen on which Jacob Hummel’s name had been beautifully carved. This and his other personal items had been sent to the Cartters, Jacob’s only home in America. Jacob Farber, whose name appears in the 1860 census, also enlisted for the Civil War from the Cartter home.
Schools were early recognized as important to this pioneer community. From an article appearing in the Banner Journal, written by Clyde Harmer Oct. 5, 1960 we quote, “The first school built in the Disco community was built of logs and was located where Hugh Sharp’s house now stands about 2 miles north of Cartter’s. It was built in the late 1850’s or early 60’s. One of the first teachers was Susan Downer, a sister of Judge Downer, founder of Downer College in Milwaukee.”
We have in the Cartter files a school order which reads as follows:
“To J. B. Cartter Treasurer of School District No. two in the town of Springfield. Please pay to Susan Downer the sum of ninety dollars for teaching the District School three months at thirty dollars per month out of any money in your hands not appropriated belonging to said District. Dated this 10th day of Feb. 1866.
George Kimball, District Clerk
William Caves, Director.”
Continuing with Clyde Harmer’s article we read:
“In 1868 a township system of schools was organized according to a plan by the state Superintendent. As a consequence in 1872 the School board leased land from Charles Harmer and built a school house on the little hill at the Disco Corners where Potter’s house now stands. A building was constructed that year and Miss Josephine Roberts was the first teacher.
In those days they hired teachers by the term, four months in the winter and three in the summer, sometimes less. A box stove stood in the center of this building. The building was painted red.”
Later on, in about 1902, David Cartter, son of James Bruce, who was then clerk of the school board, was instrumental in getting the two school boards together. (The school houses of districts 9 and 10 had been located only about two and a half miles apart) As a result of this joint meeting the No. 10 school house was moved south to Disco Corners and located across the road from No. 9 so that a graded school could be created, four graded in each building with two teachers. A horse barn was built to accommodate ten horses. Families living at a distance thus provided their own transportation. Later those living beyond a two mile distance were paid transportation money. In 1911 the two buildings were joined together and operated as one unit with two teachers. The author had the privilege of attending this unique graded school.
In those days it was the practice for the teachers to “board out” in the neighborhood. Cartter’s home was usually open as a place for the teachers to board and room due to its convenient location within one-half mile of the school. In addition to providing education for the children this school served as the community center and the location for religious inspiration. Sunday school was first established in the original school building at Sharp’s Corners. Among the early Sunday school teachers were Mrs. De Witt, Mrs. James Cartter, and Mr. Burge. Later, in 1891 the Disco Sunday School was organized by Rev. Hitchings of Gale College.
Over the years ministers of various denominations conducted services at the Disco school, serving as limited circuit riders. (better described probably as “buggy riders”)
Mrs. Louise (Adams) Curran is the only living grandchild, at this writing, to have known both James Bruce and Isadora personally. She recalls many things from her associations with them as a little girl, such as –
“Grandmother was an influence in the community. For years she was superintendent of the Sunday school and, I’m sure, influential in having the early preaching brought to the community. For several years our Presbyterian minister, after preaching at Sechlerville Sunday A.M., would drive by horse and buggy to Disco and preach in the afternoon. Then he’d have supper at Cartter’s, go to Taylor to preach in the evening and then home, a distance of about twenty-five miles.” She adds in addressing the writer, “when Grandma was away, your mother, Aunt Emma, took over and when Edith (David’s third wife) came she did what she could to carry on the practice. The community by that time (1910) became strongly Norwegian and a Lutheran church was built within driving distance as well as a rural Catholic church.”
As a boy (born in 1899) growing up on the Disco farm the writer remembers well the effort that women of the community exerted, even at that late date, to maintain a religious influence in the community. During his boyhood, a Methodist minister from Black River Falls made his bi-monthly Sunday visits to the community school where services were held and where Sunday school was a weekly occurrence.
A look at Black River Falls history shows the early establishment of churches followed this order. Universalists in 1868 – Baptist in 1869 – Catholic in 1872, others followed.
The following account of Sabbath on the Cartter farm comes from Irene (Cartter) Knapp, the author’s older sister, now deceased, but as retold by Ruth (Knapp) Forssen, her older daughter.
“The Sabbath started at sundown on Saturday. No work was done, other than necessary chores. The Sunday meal was set to bake slowly for the next day so the time could be spent in resting, reading and writing letters, in addition to such time as was spent in Sunday school or church services. As soon as the sun went down on Sunday, Isadora would put on her wraps, no matter what the weather and set off on a walk usually to a neighbor’s. James and David would then tend the stock. There must have been much singing too for the song book belonging to Isadora is well worn. It contains songs now long forgotten, such as sea chanties and songs from other countries reflecting many peoples’ yearnings for the homelands they left behind.”
This pattern of Sunday observance held over into the writer’s boyhood. While still at home he well remembers his father’s practice of writing letters on Sunday to his daughter Irene after she was gone from home and the weekly letters he received from his father after he went away to college. Field work on the farm was never done on Sunday but walks out over the farm with his father are still remembered as very pleasant and educational experiences.
The family organ arrived early in this home and was well used. Playing it became Irene’s inspiration for a music career and for the later purchase of a piano for her use in 1910.
Until 1896 there was no such thing as Rural Free Delivery of mail. For settlers in the Disco community mail was delivered at the Black River Falls post office; and neighbors going into town would carry mail for each other. On August 25, 1871 the government approved the establishment of a post office at the corners, serviced from Black River Falls by stage route. Until that time the Corners had no official name. The name Marengo was suggested by Col. Carl C. Pope and approved. Noah Duell served as the first postmaster. The office was discontinued in 1886 and when it came to be reestablished in 1892 the name Marengo had been taken by another town in Wisconsin. It was at this point in time that the name Disco was suggested by Mrs. William Caves after her home town in Illinois. This name was approved and has continued although now the post office is no longer in operation, mail being entirely delivered on rural routes from Black River Falls.
Disaster played its part too in the Black River Falls area. From Merrill’s Thesis we learn that:
“In 1857 the Jackson Co. Board contracted for the construction of the first court house at Black River Falls. The building was to cost $5000 and was nearing completion when in July, 1858 it was mysteriously burned.”
“On a March morning in 1860 a fire started in a bowling alley on Main St. and driven in all directions by a hurricane of wind swept everything before it. Seven-eighths of the town was reduced to ruins. This lead to a resurvey of the city area.”
These disasters were only matched or exceeded by the flood of Oct. 7, 1911 which washed away the major part of the business area of Black River Falls. This flood was caused by the breaking of the dam at Hatfield on the Black River, which sent a wall of water down stream cutting away an earthen wall above the Black River Falls dam, washing around it, and eroding the foundations of all buildings along Main street. Fortunately no lives were lost.
With health services ten miles away in Black River Falls Isadora and the other women of the Disco community needed to do many things for each other. There were times of family need, childbirth, accidents and disease epidemics. Perhaps one of the most disastrous epidemics came in the year 1879 when diphtheria, that dread disease, seemed to run rampant through the schools.
The following two bits of verse were written by Isadora and published in the weekly paper with announcements of how disaster had dealt with the families of two neighbors.
“Four children of the Caves family ages 7-9-2-11 died in the fall of 1879, the following verse was written in memory of them.
“Gone from the circle, dear children,
Gone to your home of rest,
We know you are watching and waiting
For the loved ones you have left.
We miss thee, dear children,
We miss thee gone from our fond embrace;
But all will be joy and gladness,
When we meet you face to face.
In another issue of the paper that same year this announcement was found.
“Diphtheria has taken four children from the peter harmer family.” Again Mrs. Cartter had spoken for the neighbors.
“Forbid them not, whom Jesus calls,
Nor dare the claims resist,
Since his own lips to us declare
Heaven shall of such consist.
With flowing tears and sorrowing hearts,
We give them up to thee;
Receive them, Lord, into thine arms
Thine may they ever be.”
Many an early childbirth was assisted by Mrs. Harriet Deuel a mid-wife of much experience who lived just south of Disco Corners.
Mention has been made previously concerning the blacksmith shop which James operated on his farm. Built originally for his own use, it became a matter of community-wide accommodation. Iron work was needed on most farms, plow shares needed shaping and machinery of all kinds needed repair. With money scarce in those days much of his compensation for labor performed was made in the form of farm products. The writer remembers looking through an old ledger which James kept showing accounts balanced through payments made in wheat, potatoes, young livestock, etc. It is likely that James’ greatest work contribution in later years was centered in this shop. His son David, (the author’s father) early took over operation of the farm. He had not been able to go to school beyond the grades due to his father’s poor health, but he was always a reader and careful student of current events. Eventually a blacksmith shop was established in the Disco Corners doing a thriving business for many years.
A general store was started at the Corners by C. J. Hoag and Frank O’Hearn. This store is still in operation, having passed through the hands of Kimball, Zastrow, Willard Potter, Willard Potter Jr., and Raymond Zindrick. It served as the Disco post office for many years. Another early accommodation to settlers was provided at the Corners in the form of a grist mill which operated during the early years. In 1900 a creamery was built as an outlet for cream produced on the farms of the area. Before that time much of the saleable dairy production found market in the form of cream shipped in cans or as butter and cheese made in the homes and sold or exchanged for other household needs. Again we are indebted to Louise Adams Curran for this statement - - “Grandmother used to make her own cheese - - huge flat round ones that must have weighed 25 lbs. Of course they cured their own meat and the orchard provided abundant fruit. How delicious those Transcendent crabs were, so crisp and juicy.”
The orchard had grown in size and in variety of fruit. Cherries, plums, and raspberries augmented the wide variety of apples, plus the wild blueberries, and blackberries found on the farm. The cellar shelves were always well-stocked. James B. and Isadora seemed to enjoy very much their forays out to the berry patch and new trees added to the orchard were planted as a joint venture. Being the largest orchard in the community, fruit was shared with the neighbors.
Records in Jackson County show that the original town of Albion, mentioned earlier, was fast being sub-divided and that by 1856 five new towns had been organized including Springfield. It was in this town that the Cartter farm was originally located. The first records that seem to be available for this town, its organization and officers, are found in a book of records kept by the town clerk. The first meeting mentioned is one held April 2, 1867 at the home of Oley Anderson. James Bruce did take an active part in local affairs; he helped by drawing upon his experiences at Wheatland, Wis. and Utica, Mich. where he held town offices.
James held the office of Town Clerk in ’67, ’68, and ’69. In 1870 he served as chairman of the Springfield town board and member of the Jackson County board. James was again returned to the post of Town Clerk in 1871, a post which he held for the last time that year.
A petition was filed in 1876 with the County Board of Jackson County to transfer T 21 N R 5W from the town of Springfield to the town of Albion, with three exceptions. The petition was recognized by the county board and took effect April 1, 1877. This transfer included all of the Cartter property in T 21 N, making it much easier for the Cartters and their neighbors to participate in town affairs as Albion town meetings were held in Black River Falls which was the family trade center. The town of Springfield profited also for it could now have a more central meeting place at the village of Taylor. Prior to that time all meetings had been held in the homes of residents.