"An Illustrated History of the State of Wisconsin"

by Charles R. Tuttle

©1875 B. B. Russell, Boston, Mass. ; B.B. Russell & Co., Madison, WI


pp. 687-689

ROCK COUNTY*--This is one of the oldest counties in the State, the first settlement being made in 1835; and in 1839 the county was organized, the seat of justice being established at Janesville. It now contains a population of about forty thousand. It comprises one of the best agricultural districts in the North-west. Its soil, climate, and commercial situation are equal to any other in the West, and there is scarcely an acre of land within its limits which cannot be used for agricultural purposes. In the brief space of thirty-five years, the entire county has been opened up to cultivation; and over its entire surface may be found homes of comfort and beauty. The farms in this county range in value from ten to one hundred dollars per acre, and are sought for, not so much by emigrants seeking cheap land, as by those desiring beautiful homes, where they may at once enjoy all the comforts and conveniences to be found in the older and more wealthy portions of the country.
Rock County is better adapted to growing grain than the growing of grass; and
every year marks a decided progress in the mode of tillage and the consequent increased quantity of productions. The wicked and ruinous practice of many farmers, of burning the straw and manures, instead of returning them to the soil in compensation for its rich harvests, has been abandoned. Wheat is the great staple of production; it being estimated, that, in a single crop, the production of the county was not less than three millions of bushels. Corn, barley, oats, and all the coarser grains, grow in rich abundance, amply rewarding the husbandman for his toil. Notwithstanding Rock County is better adapted to grain-growing than stock- raising, the farmers are giving considerable attention to the breeding of stock; and, acting upon the correct idea, that it costs but little to raise a blooded animal, are constantly introducing the best varieties; and at the county fairs may be seen as noble horses, cattle, sheep, and swine, as almost any other section of the country can exhibit.
The surface of Rock County is undulating, and is drained by the Rock and
Sugar Rivers, with their tributaries, nearly all of which are of sufficient size to furnish water-power for manufacturing-purposes, and are more or less improved. Rock, one of the most beautiful rivers, as well as one of the very best mill-streams in the West, is already used largely for manufacturing-purposes, and every year is attracting more and more the attention of men of enterprise and capital : when fully improved, its power for the propulsion of machinery will be almost exhaustless. The facillities for manufacturing in Rock County by water-power are but partially improved; and yet she ranks among the first in the West; her annual manufactured product being worth not less than three millions of dollars, consisting principally of flour, agricultural implements, paper, woollen fabrics, cabinet-ware, lager beer, etc.
During the last decade, the general business of the county has greatly
increased, and everywhere may be seen tokens of prosperity and growth, based upon the production of diversified labor in agriculture and manufactures. During the same period, the public buildings erected in the infancy of the county have given way to permanent and beautiful structures; and the county now boasts a splendid court-house, costing over one hundred thousand dollars, and churches of all denominations, equal in style, size, and convenience to those of almost any county in the Eastern or Middle States; and the citizens of Janesville and Beloit each support a new and creditable opera-house.
Rock County is pierced east and west, north and south, by the Milwaukee and
St. Paul, and the North-western Railways.
The educational interests of the county have not been neglected. Under the
system of free graded schools, upon the New England plan, valuable results have been attained; and it is gratifying to observe a steadily increasing interest in the schools, and a proper appreciation of them by the people generally. The cities of Janesville and Beloit have each expended large sums in the erection of school-buildings; and the sum invested for school-purposes cannot be less than two hundred thousand dollars. Super-add to this Beloit College, under the patronage of the Congregationalists, one of the best managed and most-flourishing institutions of learning in the West; Milton College, under the management of Seven-Day Baptists; and the Evansville Seminary, under the control of the Freewill Baptists,--and you place within reach of every child in the county the means of a liberal education.
The Young Men's Literary Association of the city of Janesville have collected
within the last four years a very creditable library of about four thousand volumes of well-selected works, which form a nucleus for ultimately placing within the reach of the reading public a valuable means of culture.
Rock County contains two of the finest cities in the State of Wisconsin,
--Janesville and Beloit, the former containing a population of about fifteen thousand; the latter, eight thousand; besides numerous villages.
Beloit is one of the most stirring manufacturing cities in the State. The
celebrated "building paper" which has come into such universal use of late years, was invented, and is manufactured, to a very large extent, here.
In matters pertaining to horticulture, the inhabitants of this county are not
behind those of other counties in this State. Considerable progress has been made in the past few years in these pursuits; and an improved taste is being manifested by the people generally in beautifying and adorning their homesteads, by the liberal planting of fruit and ornamental trees, vines, and shrubs. Time and experience have demonstrated, that, with care and attention, certain varieties of apples, as well as pears and plums, can be successfully and profitably grown. The time has arrived when many of the "county-seats" take pride and pleasure in fine grounds and tasteful gardens; and in the cities, nearly every house has its garden-spot, tastefully arranged with choice flowers, vines, and evergreens, and kept in the neatest order. In addition to the flower-garden, many have conservatories stocked with choice winter-flowering plants; while others, with less convenience, keep them in the parlor; and the effect is a wide diffusion of a taste for flowers, and a corresponding taste and order throughout the whole household, making home more pleasant and attractive.
Janesville.--The county-seat of Rock County, is pleasantly situated on both
sides of Rock River, and was selected as county-seat in 1837. It is fourteen miles north of the State- line, and on the Chicago and North-western, and Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroads. It is a flourishing place of business, and has an excellent water-power. The first manufactory for cotton cloth in the State was made by the Janesville Cotton Manufacturing Company in May, 1875. The Wisconsin Institute for the Education of the Blind is located here. The fine building which has been used by the institution was unfortunately destroyed by fire a few years since; and a new building is in process of erection. The various religious denominations have church edifices. The public schools have fine buildings; and the city is in the centre of a fine agricultural country, comprising some of the best-cultivated farms in Wisconsin.
Population, 1875, 10,115.
Beloit is beautifully situated on both sides of Rock River, about twelve miles
south of Janesville, on the State-line; and is a thriving place of business, having excellent manufacturing facilities. Its first settlement was made in 1835. It is the seat of Beloit College, an educational institution of high rank, of which Rev. A. L. Chapin, LL.D., is president. The water-power at Beloit has been much improved. Among the manufacturers are the Beloit Reaper and Sickle Works; the Merrill & Houston Iron Works having one hundred men in their employ, and manufacturing water-wheels and other machinery; the Rock River Paper Company, manufacturing wrapping and building paper,--the latter a specialty, employing seventy-five hands, and using about three thousand tons of rye-straw yearly, producing three thousand tons of paper. Their building-paper is marketed to Mexico, the Canadas, and most all the Northern States. The Eclipse Windmill Company has a factory,--a four-story brick building, forty by ninety-six feet,--and can make fifteen hudred mills annually. D. W. Dake's Creamery, by a patented process, prepares butter for the market, of superior quality, and is doing a large business. O. B. Olmstad & Company, manufacturers of windmills, turbine water-wheels. Beloit Plough and Wagon Works, of J. Thompson & Company, manufacture the Norwegian plough, which is extensively used in the North-west. Beloit has some eight churches, a large number of mercantile establishments, as well as many mechanical shops and trades. Its prospects as a place of business are superior; and it has many advantages as a place of residence, and is beautifully situated. Beloit is on the Chicago and North-western Railroad; it has a communication with Chicago, Milwaukee, and Green Bay, and the intermediate points.
Beloit College is situated in a large and pleasant grove, on an elevated and
undulating plat ofground in the northeastern part of the city. It has a large and competent faculty; and the institution has a high reputation, and is well sustained, and liberally supported.
Population, 1875, 4,605.
*We are indebted to Hon. Alexander Graham of Janesville, and H. F. Hobart of Beloit, for this sketch,--C. R. T.

©2002 ALHN-Rock County, Wisconsin

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