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Yes, Cartter with two Ts

An opportunity for the Cartter family to communicate - if you're one of us, jump in! If you're not a Cartter, leave a comment someplace anyway - I'd like to know who's stopping by. Otherwise, I'm just going to ramble until a Cartter comes in with questions... Astutia Et Animo

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

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.
Mrs. J.B.C.”

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.”
Mrs. J.B.C.

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.

Monday, August 20, 2007

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.


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.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Wisconsin Cartters - Chapter Twelve


What was the Black River Country like? What of its past and of its potential as viewed by new settlers? The Black River Country is the drainage area for the Black River which flows some 140 miles in a southwesterly direction and empties into the Mississippi river near the present city of La Crosse. This was Indian country, heavily covered with some of the finest white pine timber in the state. In 1843, when James Bruce had first come to the Wisconsin Territory there were no settlements in all of this region. Not being prairie soil it had failed to attract the central European or the New Englander looking for available agricultural land. But there were those who were looking for other resources such as furs and timber to meet eastern demands; and away from the river there were indeed hardwood areas and openings which might be conducive to those settlers.

The question of who came first to this country is not easily answered. "History tells us that less than 30 years after the notable explorations of Nicolet in 1634, two of his countrymen visited the Black River, in the winter of 1659-'60" so says Horace Merrill in his U. of W. thesis entitled An Early History of the Black River Region.

In 1818 or '19 a French trader by the name of Rolette headed an expedition, which was fitted out at Prairie du Chien. He succeeded in reaching the present site of Black River Falls where he erected a saw mill on Town Creek, supposed to be the first built in Wisconsin. It was burned by the Winnebago Indians before it could be put into operation, and the lumbermen were driven down the river. This was Indian territory until 1838 when it was ceded to the government by the tribe. 1839 saw the first real settler arrive in the valley. Abner D. Polleys, in his Pioneer Days In The Black River Valley relates this arrival quite in detail. He tells how Robert Douglas disembarked on the sand beach where the Black River joins the Mississippi just north of La Crosse. He follows Douglas’ journey up the river to the point where the Village of Melrose now stands. Polleys writes as follows:

"Robert Douglas claimed squatters rights on land 30 miles up the Black River from La Crosse in 1839. His brother joined him later and together they hitched the first yoke of oxen to the first breaking plow to turn the first furrow on the first farm in Jackson County and also the first farm above Prairie du Chien on the Wisconsin side of the Father of Waters."

Douglas had come to America in 1837, then 22 years old, from Dumfries, Scotland. He became one of the early influential citizens of Jackson County. Readers would find Polleys' account of Douglas' overland trip on foot to Prairie du Chien, the nearest settlement, for supplies most interesting.

The extremely fine growth of white pine for which the Black River valley was famous proved a strong attraction to early lumbermen. Jacob Spaulding, the first to actually settle at the Falls on the river, arrived the same year that Douglas broke ground at Melrose. With a crew of seventeen men Spaulding founded the settlement of Black River Falls and constructed for himself a double log cabin. He also built a sawmill and began to cut timber. Spaulding became the second farmer in Jackson County when in 1841 he established a farm at the settlement.

Early in 1841 a group of Mormons, followers of Joseph Smith, who proposed to build a worship center at Nauvoo, Illinois, left their City for the pine woods along the Black River; their aim being to cut timber for their new Temple. Traveling up the river by boat they selected a good area to cut. Unfortunately they started cutting trees in an area supposedly staked out by Jacob Spaulding. By the time Spaulding and his men arrived they had already cut over 300 trees. A battle ensued ending in the Mormon's return to Nauvoo. They came back to the Black River Country however and bought part interest in Spaulding's mill. By the summer of 1843, one hundred fifty Mormons, many with their families, were working in the woods twelve miles above the Riffles, north of the Village of Hatfield. On October 12, 1842 a raft containing 90,000 board feet of lumber and 24,000 cubic feet of logs arrived at Nauvoo from the Black River Country. When Joseph Smith was killed, June 27 – 1844, and the word reached the camp, work ceased and the Mormons left, abandoning the logs that were cut. Some of the Mormon families however returned to the Black River region and settled permanently in Jackson and Clark Counties.

Transportation at this time was largely by river. Long, narrow-keel boats were used to bring in supplies from La Crosse. Steamboats were tried but not proved to be practical. The first extended highway was surveyed and built from Prairie du Chien during the years 1846 to 1848 by way of Viroqua and Sparta to Black River Falls. This road was extended north in 1850 to Stillwater, Minnesota and became a mail route with a post-office at Black River Falls. Postage on a letter at that time was 25¢.

The covered wagons and stage coaches began to appear on this road in 1854 and by the mid-sixties as many as 100 coach and drayline teams might spend the night at Black River Falls. From here they crossed on the ferry, at Dumfries, later known as Melrose. After the bridge was built at Black River Falls they would continue their journey southward to New Lisbon or Sparta, there to reach the nearest railroad.

In Jackson County Dates with Destiny, Mrs. Betty Epstein adds this interesting note, "So important was the need to water these teams that a tax relief was granted to those settlers who would set up and maintain watering troughs along the highway." The railroad did not come to Black River Falls until 1868, thirteen years after the Cartters and Swifts arrived.

For a look at early agriculture we turn again to Merrill’s thesis:

"Little was done to advance farming along the river during the early 1840’s but an added inducement to agricultural settlement came with the completion of the Government Land Survey of this area in 1847. Land was entered for sale at the government land office, first at Mineral Point in 1848, later at La Crosse, price $1.25 per acre."

Merrill continues, "In 1855 (according to census figures for Jackson County) there were 1098 people in the county and 5 years later in 1860 there were 4,170 a gain of 280%. Most of this increase came in 1855 and '56 by people interested in agriculture. Contributing to this influx of settlers was the added price of wheat which took a phenomenal jump as a result of the Crimean War. Eastern families had a desire to get west where better wheat could be grown. Dairying was also coming into the east and farmers were revolting against having to change to a new economy. The majority of farmers moving into the Black River Falls area were from western New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. They were coming by 3 main routes.
(1) Up the Mississippi river as far as La Crosse or Trempeleau following from there the Black or Trempeleau rivers.
(2) By land routes from the north.
(3) From across the state. - - -

The panic of 1857 and crop failures checked further settlement during the decade."

Many families spent some time in the settlement known as Black River Falls before moving onto the land. In 1856 the population of that town was 1,000 and in 1860 it was only 600. But Black River Falls itself was developing fast. Arletta L. Jones in her 1924 thesis entitled Settlement and Development of Black River Falls, Wis. says:

"Visitors to the village in 1856 went home and reported that 'what Pittsburgh is to Pennsylvania, we believe the Falls and its additions will be to Wisconsin.' The reason for this now apparent rash statement was that a blast furnace was being built just north of Black River Falls. One of the first deposits of iron ore in Wisconsin to attract attention has been uncovered here. As late as 1846 no other body of iron ore seems to be known of in the state. - - - Forty men were employed after the company was organized in 1846."

The deposit proved to be to difficult to mine economically due largely to the perpindicular nature of the veins of ore.

Lumber production was near its peak in 1856, totaling in that year 35,000,000 bd. ft. By 1853 the entire area was part of the Town of Albion as it had existed when a part of Crawford County. It had been established in 1849. By the end of 1856 six towns had been organized in the county, namely – Albion, Price, Alma, Bristol (later called Melrose), Springfield, and Hixton. The twenty-first town was not organized until 1939.

The first towns organized from the original town of Albion were all located on the west side of the Black River and it was in this area that James Bruce centered his attention in search of a likely home site.