History of the City of Edgerton

Fulton Township, Rock County, Wisconsin

[Continued from the atlas' HISTORY OF ROCK COUNTY following Evansville]
 
EDGERTON
This village is located in the town of Fulton, about one mile west of Rock River, on
the line of the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. It was laid out about 1853, by Mr. L. H. PAGE. The place contains about one thousand inhabitants, mostly of American descent, energetic and enterprising, as the growth and prosperity of their place indicate. There are at present three churches within the town limits, and one Catholic church close by. These are all good and commodious buildings, doing credit to the village and the societies owning them. There is one graded school, three hotels, thirteen stores, shops, etc., one flouring-mill, and one brick company, manufacturing about two million bricks annually. The brick are white, and the material from which they are made is practically inexhaustible. Great quantities are shipped to Chicago and various other points throughout the country. These is also a great amount of grain shipped from the place.
The tobacco trade of Edgerton is probably larger than any other town in the State.
They shipped during the year 1872 twelve thousand cases of four hundred pounds each. Fulton Township might with propriety be called the "Connecticut" of the West. There is more tobacco grown in it than in any other town in the County, if not in the State. The soil is very rich, and in every way adapted to the growing of this product. Many of the most wealthy farmers have given their attention almost exclusively to the cultivating of this article. Of the men most extensively engaged in growing tobacco are Mr. Orrin POMEROY, Robert STONE, and James VAN ETTA, proprietor of the "Hillside Farm." Mr. POMEROY's farm is a very beautiful tract of land lying between Fulton Village and Edgerton. The improvements are first class throughout. Mr. STONE is the largest proprietor in the town, and has a very beautiful location on Rock River, a short distance south of Fulton Village.
Immediately north of Mr. STONE's place is the Hillside Farm of Mr. VAN ETTA,
one of the most beautifully located and practically valuable farms in Rock County, particularly adapted to use for stock-raising, being watered by both the Rock River and Catfish or Madison River; and in addition to these there are probably one hundred and fifty springs of beautiful clear water. On the bank of the river is located a brickyard where several hundred thousand bricks are burned annually. These bricks are of a superior quality, being in color of a milky whiteness, and much like the celebrated Milwaukee brick. Mr. VAN ETTA has expended large sums of money in the erection of one of the finest, most thoroughly finished, and conveniently arranged barns in the County, together with a very costly and finely arranged tobacco-house, the second story of which in very conveniently arranged for the curing and storing of the same. In the centre of the building, around a court, are arranged enough box-stalls to accommodate fifty horses in front of these stalls, and running all around is a track wide enough to drive a double team and carriage, and for the exercising of the animals in-doors during cold or wet weather. The construction of the building is such as to afford perfect ventilation without exposing any part occupied by stock to the cold winds. There are also suitable rooms for the storing of feed, harness, farming utensils, carriages, etc. A mill for crushing, grinding, and cutting feed by horse-power is also in the building, as well as cisterns and wells supplying water. While Mr. V. makes a specialty of fine horses, he also keeps some very fine cattle, which are well provided for with a good building. On another part of the farm is a half-mile track, as good as can be found in the County, for exercising and training his fast horses. In connection with this farm is the hotel and summer residence of Mr. VAN ETTA, in Fulton, a small but beautifully located village on the Catfish. The limited space here allotted will not admit of a detailed account of these premises. Suffice it to say that the farm with all the improvements, so far as completed, will compare favorably with any in the State. A full page lithographic view of the property will be seen in this work, together with several other prominent places in the township.
 
[Source: Combination Atlas Map of Rock County, Wisconsin, ©1873 Everts, Baskin & Stewart, Chicago, IL; pp. 7-8 ; Courtesy of Lori]

Edgerton, in the town of Fulton, on the northern border of the county, twelve miles
north of Janesville, was settled in 1836, laid out as a village in 1854 and incorporated as a city in 1883. It is an important station on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway. The shipment of tobacco is the principal industry, nearly half of what is raised in the State being shipped from this point. Robert and Daniel STONE and William SQUIRES were the pioneer settlers. Thomas QUIGLEY came in 1843, and located sixty acres where the railroad depot now stands. Soon after him came Lucius M. PAGE, who bought eighty acres north of QUIGLEY's claim. That part of the village north of the railroad was laid out by H. S. SWIFT, that part south of the railroad by Adin, J. and E. A. BURDICK. Ferdinand DAVIS built the first frame house in 1853; H. S. SWIFT built SWIFT's block in 1857; the Exchange and the United States Hotel were built by Nelson COON, who opened the former in 1854; and the American House was built in 1854. The first birth was that of Frank HALL, the first marriage was that of John QUIGLEY and Theresa MALIAN, and the first death that of Mr. HAKES. The post-office was established in 1854, with William B. HALL in charge. The place contains Methodist, Catholic, Baptist and German Lutheran churches, German and public schools, two banks, two hotels, a well-equipped fire department, and two weekly newspapers - the Wisconsin Tobacco Reporter and the Edgerton Index. Live stock, grain and brick are shipped. Population, 2,000.
 
[Source: The Portrait & Biographical Album of Rock County, Wisconsin, ©1889 Acme, Chicago, IL; pp. 1012-1013]

Edgerton
[by] Mrs. Charles R. BENTLEY.

As our country has been growing away from its early history "The Dames" and "The
daughters" have been interesting themselves in preserving places of historic value and in keeping in the memory many heroic deeds of our pioneer countrymen. The women's clubs are doing much work along the same line, and this evening we are assembled, in this same spirit, to take an inventory of our possessions, past and present, in our home city of Edgerton. It is fitting, then, that we pay tribute to the men and women who braved the hardships and difficulties of a new country in laying the foundation of our prosperous little city. I take pleasure in bringing to mind, so far as I can, the pioneer families of Edgerton and something of their manner of living in pioneer days.
I find the first to settle within what is now our city limits was William BLIVEN, wife
and child. They came form Allegany county, New York, in 1842, took up government land and built a log house, in which they lived, in the extreme northeast corner of our city. Mr. and Mrs. BLIVEN were Seventh day Baptists. They raised a large family amid hardships and privations, we may believe. For water to drink they took a barrel on a stone-boat drawn by oxen and went to Aden Burdick's (now known as the Thomas ATWOOD Farm). Water for washing and other purposes they drew from Mud Lake, also with an ox team. Rather a slow method of drawing water, even with a most speedy ox team, as compared to turning a spicket.
In 1843 Mr. Arnold COLLINS came form New York with his wife and five
children. They took up government land and built the first frame house - whose history you know. A son, Milo COLLINS, is now a resident of our city. This family were also Seventh Day Baptists. We believe it took seven days of religion to keep faith and heart strong. Bread with pumpkin butter was not sufficient. A man from the Emerald Isle, named Thomas QUIGLEY, owned a farm purchased from the government in 1843. It comprised the land on which the railroad depot now stands.
In 1848 John FASSETT came from Pennsylvania with his wife and two sons,
Sherman and Porter; Mr. FASSETT's brother, Schuyler, accompanied them. By the way, this gentleman was the third postmaster, and I am told that in those early days he found it quite a task to keep his silk hat smooth, nor could he take a trolley or limited express to Milwaukee to purchase a new one.
John FASSETT was a practical man; he took up 160 acres of government land,
including that ground now sacred to many of us because it is the resting place of our loved ones.
In 1842 Mr. Aden BURDICK came from New York state and bought a large
tract of government land on which he made his home with his wife and grown children. In 1851 his youngest son, Austin, left the home farm and came with his bride and made a home in a log house on the site that J. B. TOINTON's house is now on . This log cabin home was warmed in winter from logs burning in an open fireplace in front of which the meals were cooked until 1852, the advent of a new method of cooking, when Austin BURDICK purchased an iron cook stove in Beloit.
For meat they caught fish in the streams or killed game, and Christmas,
1851, Mr. BURDICK killed three deer on the slope of the hill behind the house Lew TOWNE lives in. He killed one by the Catholic Church later. We are proud to speak of Mr. and Mrs. BURDICK as the representative pioneer family, having lived longer in close touch with the life and activities of Edgerton than any couple the writer has knowledge of. The influence of pioneer life was felt in their home. The cordial greeting, the true hospitality shown to acquaintances as well as to friends, and I feel certain that many strangers were made welcome to a "dish of tea." To such pioneers much credit is due for all that has been best in the social and business life of our city. Mr. and Mrs. BURDICK have ever discouraged all that was low and degrading, while they assisted and supported that which had a tendency to uplift and ennoble character. Mrs. BURDICK was one of our Monday Club's charter members. To Mr. BURDICK I am indebted for information regarding pioneer life. I will tell you a little story he told me in regard to a little girl who came to his well for water when he lived where Mr. William CLARKE does. They drew water with a pail hooked on to the end of a pole. As the girl lowered her pail Mr. BURDICK was frightened to see her disappear head foremost into the well. He called to some one passing to assist him in getting her out, but what was his astonishment, when he looked into the well to see the girl, her pail full of sand, climbing out by placing her hands in the crevices in the sides. She got her pail of water and, without a word, walked away with it to her home, a block and a half distant. Such was the pluck of a fifteen-year-old pioneer maiden.
In 1853 Daniel COON, the first carpenter, came. His wife and daughters
were prominent members of the village society. At this time, Robert ATTLESEY, then living in England, received a letter from his father, who was living here, telling him of the good prospects in this new country. Mr. ATTLESEY decided to try his fortune here, and came as all did in those days, by sailing vessel. He was eleven weeks and three days on the ocean, and sixty-four out of twelve hundred passengers died on the voyage.
Rosyln ROBINSON came in 1853 also, with his wife and three sons. Grant is a
resident now.
Ferdinand DAVIS, who sold the first stock of goods, came at this time. He had a
wife and two sons, Percy and Evan, who were sent to Milton College to complete their education begun in the village schools. Mr. DAVIS and wife were from New Jersey. In 1853 they went to California, where he died, leaving considerable wealth in silver mines. They were Seventh Day Baptist people, as were our mayor's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Daniel DOTY, who came west in 1849. Mr. DOTY owned a sawmill at Newville. While living there in 1852 Mr. George DOTY was born. They moved to Edgerton in 1853. Mr. George and Will DOTY and a sister in Janesville are all that are left of a large family.
Mr. William C. BANKS came here in 1853, bought grain, and returned in 1855 for
Mrs. BANKS. They built the house which she has lived in ever since that time. Certainly she is one of a few who have lived here for forty-eight consecutive years.
Mr. William HALL, who was the first postmaster as well as the first
photographer, came to Fulton Depot, now Edgerton, in 1853. He built the building now owned and occupied by Mrs. EDWARDS. William HALL had the postoffice in the front, a little store in the back rooms, and the family lived in the rooms over. There Frank HALL was born, with the distinction of being the first child born in the village. Many came the winter of 1853-54, among them James HILL, a carpenter, whose wife and three daughters were prominent in society in later years.
James CORDUER, a contractor and builder, O. D. PECK, the first depot agent,
who lived with his wife and son in the rooms over the depot. Mr. John ASH came from Palmyra with Mr. PECK and bought grain in partnership with him. I have been told that Mr. ASH was the first baggage master, and I have also been told that Mr. WELCH was. Both these came when the railroad did. Mr. and Mrs. ASH were English people, the parents of two of our business men of that name.
Mr. and James FINNEY came here from Janesville and bought of Mr. Nelson
COON the hostelry on the south side of the track and called it the Exchange Hotel. There many a weary traveler was warmed and fed during the lifetime of Mr. and Mrs. FINNEY. A daughter resides here, Mrs. Walter CRANDELL, also five grandchildren. Mrs. Mortimer CARRIER of the Culture Club is one of these. Mr. and Mrs. FINNEY were English people, as were Mr. and Mrs. HUTSON, who moved to Edgerton from Indian Ford in 1854 and built the red brick part of the building we have known so long as the U. S. House. Mr. HUTSON did not expect to keep a hotel, but the pressing need of accommodations in that line was the reason of his entering that business, which he followed until his death. Mr. and Mrs. HUTSON's family were grown young people when they came to Edgerton. The Railroad House, as their hotel was called, was built the same year that Gilbert RANDOLPH built the American House. He was from New Jersey, an uncle of our citizen Z. H. BOWEN. Gilbert RANDOLPH came in February, 1854, built the American House in the following summer and fall, sold it to Samuel COON, who was the first occupant, and returned to his native state, New Jersey.
Mr. H. S. SWIFT, of Wait's River, Vt., came to Edgerton in the spring of 1854
with his wife and children. They had lived in New York city just previous to the move to Wisconsin. Mr. and Mrs. SWIFT thought it was not a good place to bring up a family of boys, so they came to this new country. In all, they had fourteen children; seven are living today. Nine of Mr. SWIFT's children attended Albion academy. Henry graduated from that school, then went to Albany, N.Y., where he took a course in law. On his return home in June he was asked to give an oration on the Fourth of July, which he did. In a few weeks he went south as first lieutenant to engage in the Civil War. In his very first engagement, while acting as captain (his captain being absent), he was shot through the heart, dying in about twenty minutes. His remains were laid in Fassett's cemetery and a monument erected to his memory. Our Grand Army post is named for him. This family were bright, witty, genial, musical, good-hearted and enterprising.
In the spring of 1854 the village blacksmith, Stiles HAKES, of Fulton, moved to
Fulton Depot. His wife, a fine cultured woman, was a daughter of Deacon WEST. There were two sons. David, the elder, had a fine tenor voice, composed music, and gave instructions in voice culture. Oscar, the younger, was in later years a prominent attorney on the Pacific coast, where he became a circuit judge.
Mr. HAKES kept the first general store here, and for his clerk hired the pioneer
German, Christian GUISHART by name. This store has often been referred to by the pioneers. An old lady told me she paid Mr. HAKES fifty cents a yard for unbleached sheeting a yard wide, and as much for calico. But often this was thought good enough for a Sunday gown. As to style, they were so plain that they were never out of style. An old lady whom I called upon in the morning arose form her chair so that I could see the cut of her gown, and said: "This is the way they were made then, in 1855, and I have made mine that way ever since." She told me of the first lamp bought; it was at Mr. CROFT's store. He said, "Take one of these new lights home and try it." She did so, but, fearing to put the glass chimney on the blaze, she did not think the new light much of an improvement over the candle. But that was long after out pioneers had used a rag in a saucer of grease for a light, after which came the candle and little fluid lamp in which they burned camphine. When kerosene came into market it sold for a dollar and twenty cents per gallon. This year Dr. SLOCUM, the first resident physician, came with is wife. He was a good doctor, but returned to the East after a few years' residence here. Previous to his coming the people had called Dr. HEAD from Albion, or Dr. LANDERS, of Fulton, when in need of a physician.
There were many whom I have not time to so much as mention, but there was a
young boy who attended the village schools, clerked in his father's store, and conducted himself in such a manner that the people were proud of him, and prouder now that he is a man. I refer to Albert ROBINSON, the son of Mrs. Alva CHILD. When a young man he studied civil engineering, went west with a surveying party for the Santa Fe railroad, was elected third vice-president, then second and first, finally general manager of the road, which position he resigned a few years ago to take the presidency of the Mexican Central railroad, which position he holds today.
I am indebted to Mr. C. H. DICKINSON for an account of his interesting journey
from Lowville, N.Y., to Wisconsin. Time does not permit me to give you but a sketch.
Mr. DICKINSON had a perilous ride by stage from his home town to Rome,
where he took the cars and arrived in Janesville on the 16th of November, 1854, coming by rail to Afton, the terminus, and finished his journey by stage. Not being satisfied with Janesville, he started for Watertown, and arrived at Forrest House Station, now Wauwatosa, which was as far as he could go by rail. He had engaged his seat in the stage for next day when he found an old friend and roommate, Mr. SERLES, who was going to Fulton Depot. Mr. DICKINSON decided to join his friend. They arrived here at eleven o'clock a.m., took dinner at the FINNEY House, and decided to go to red Wing, Minn. But Mr. SWIFT, in need of workmen to finish his house, prevailed upon them to remain and work for him, which they did that winter; formed a partnership in the spring, known as DICKINSON & SERLES, which continued for three years. Mr. and Mrs. SERLES returned to the East. Mr. DICKINSON married here and has lied just out of the city limits for many years.
Mr. James CULTON, by birth a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian, was a brickmaker in
Janesville prior to 1851; he sold out his brick business and went to California, where he made some money in mining, and returned to his family in Janesville. He decided that the bed of clay was better in Edgerton than in Janesville, and bought land of Dr. HEAD, in all eighty acres, and started a brickyard on the south side of the tracks. A frame house was built for the family to live in the first summer. This was underdrawn with white cotton cloth, as was customary in California. The brick house was built for the family to move into in the fall of 1855. It covers the same ground space as the block occupied by BABCOCK & BIRKERMEYER's department store. Mr. CULTON's family, when he moved to Edgerton, consisted of his wife, his son William and daughter Nellie, also a woman named Bella BENTON, who was maid of all work in the family for twenty-seven years. Mr. CULTON had eight children, five of whom are living. Of these, John and Charles CULTON and Mrs. Charles BENTLEY are residents of this city. A brother of Mrs. CULTON's lived with them when they moved from Janesville, and he was in partnership with Mr. CULTON for a time. I refer to Mr. James CROFT, who in 1858 bought of Julius BURDICK the house now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Hugh McINNES. I am told the CROFT and CULTON houses were known for their hospitality. Mr. CROFT never thought of the trouble when planning a party or doing something for the church. Mr. Mathew CROFT, Mrs. McINNES' father, was not a pioneer. He came with his wife and two children in 1859 and lived in the house with Mr. James CROFT. His daughter, Mrs. McINNES, has lived there ever since.
Many laborers came in 1855; Patrick MOONEY and wife, John LEARY and wife,
William CONDON, and others. These men told me they worked in Mr. CULTON's brickyard in summer and cut and hauled wood for him in the winter, living in little houses on his land, where the pottery buildings and brickyard are now. They reminded me of a pleasant incident in their lives, for they, in common with thirty or more laborers on the brickyard, were served with a warm lunch at nine a.m. and three p.m. This consisted of hot buttered soda biscuit and coffee, which they ate under the shade of a tree in the days before Mr. CULTON used steam power.
Mr. Charles MALLETT came to Edgerton when a boy, in 1856, from New York
state, with his father, mother and a sister. His father first engaged in the lumber business; the sister married George WILLIAMS, and died, leaving two daughters, Mrs. Harry SON and Nellie WILLIAMS. Charles MALLETT has been for many years one of Edgerton's staunch business men. His wife is the honored president of the Monday Club.
In 1856, B. B. SHERMAN, wife and children, came to Edgerton. Not finding a
house for rent he bought the American House of Sam COON, and kept a public house for a short time; but it was not the business he wanted and he consequently sold to Lorenzo DEARBORN, and built the brick house on Albion street. Mr. and Mrs. SHERMAN were Vermont people, but came from New York state to Edgerton. They were the parents of Mrs. William H. POMEROY, and our sister club member, Mrs. James PYRE.
Ephreium PALMER and wife came in 1856 also, and, like most of the pioneers
were from New York state. They were the parents of Mrs. George LUSK, Mrs. Raselas BARDEEN and Dr. Henry PALMER, deceased, who was a most noted physician and surgeon in southern Wisconsin. The Janesville Hospital is named for him. Ephreium PALMER's daughter, Mrs. BARDEEN, was the mother of Chief Justice BARDEEN, whose death two years ago the whole state mourned. Judge BARDEEN spent his youth on the farm where Mrs. JACOBUS now lives. Though not in the village the family were a part of Edgerton society.
Dr. LORD was the first physician to remain here long. He grew to manhood in the
state of Maine, but lived in Iowa, where he married previous to coming to Edgerton, in 1858. Most of you know what a large practice he had in the village and country - how he served his country in the Civil war, was sent to the legislature, and died, leaving a son well equipped to fill his father's place. He, too, laid down his life, as had his mother. There are three sons living and five daughters are residents of our city. Mrs. Charles TALLARD, of the Twentieth Century Club is one.
The first to nurse the sick as a means of earning a living was an English woman
named Mrs. REESE. There were no drug store until 1860, when Dr. BURDICK built one on the site Phoenix Hall now occupies. It appears that with the scarcity of medicine, doctors and nurses, our pioneers were not only healthy, but peaceable, for there was not much doing in the law business until September, 1858, when our honored citizen, J. P. TOWNE, arrived. He was a young unmarried man, who met and married his wife here. Mrs. TOWNE was Miss Rosa FORD, a niece of "Elder FORD," as he was known, the first resident Baptist minister. Miss FORD and her aunt were the first milliners, had their store in the front corner of the building which has long been the home of Mrs. EDWARDS. Mr. and Mrs. EDWARDS bought the property she now occupies in 1859, of Elder James ROGERS, a Seventh Day Baptist minister.
Mr. E. H. SMITH opened the first jewelry store in the building west of Mr.
EDWARDS, in 1858. Mr. and Mrs. SMITH were from Massachusetts. Mr. SMITH was in the Civil War, and returned to Edgerton and his trade. For a number of years he has been in the legal business - much of the time a police justice.
I might tell you, if I had time, how the first tin shop was on wheels, Mr. Benjamin
HUSTLER mending and selling from his wagon; the first meat market, the same owned by Mr. SHINTZ; how Mr. HARRIS, Sylvia GATES and Mrs. EDWARDS tailored for the gentlemen, and Mrs. Stephen COON hung out a sign "Dress and Mantua Maker," to attract the eye of the ladies.
I want to tell you before closing that our pioneers well understood the philosophy of
all work and no play, and society had a place in their wholesome, industrious lives; that pleasures were often helpful, as, for instance, when they went into the country to a husking bee, apple-paring bee or to a friends' to a quilting party. Small dancing parties they had at the houses. If at Roslyn ROBINSON's the cook stove was moved out that they might dance in the kitchen. When they met at O. D. PECK's, Mrs. PECK not quite willing to have a dance in her house, allowed them to dance in the waiting room of the depot. For music they had two violins, played by Charlie ROBINSON and Sherman FASSETT. Then there was oft the repeated surprise parties, the weekly house social for the church, the spelling school and singing school, and there were many good voices among them. Above all, they are to be envied for the generous, informal, hospitable way in which they entertained.
 
[Source: Rock County, Wisconsin: A new history of it's cities, villages, etc., by William Fiske Brown (editor-in-chief); ©1908 C. F. Cooper, Chicago, IL; pp. 651-660; Courtesy of Carol]

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