Rock County, Wisconsin

History of La Prairie Township

Site Coordinator: Lori Niemuth

From: Wisconsin Gazetteer

by John Warren Hunt

©1853 Beriah Brown, Printer, Madison

p. 129

Courtesy of Lori

LA PRAIRIE, Town, in county of Rock, being town 2 N. of range 13 E.; centrally
located, 6 miles southeast from Janesville. The population in 1850 was 378. It has 6 school districts.

From: A New Complete Gazetteer of the United States

by Thomas Baldwin and J. Thomas, M.D.

©1854 Lippincott, Grambo & Co. , Philadelphia

p. 584

Courtesy of Kathy Lenerz

LA PRAIRIE, a township in the S. E. part of Rock co., Wisconsin. Population, 335.

 

From: History of Rock County and Transactions of the Rock County Agricultural Society and Mechanics' Institute

Edited and compiled by Orrin Guernsey and Josiah F. Willard

Published by the Rock County Agricultural Society & Mechanics' Institute

©1856 Wm. M. Doty and Brother, Printers, Janesville, Wis.

p. 91-94

Courtesy of Lori

LA PRAIRIE, is town 2 range 13 east. This town is almost entirely open, unbroken
prairie. Its euphonius name is at the same time very significant. It is from the French, and simply means "the meadow," or "the pasture." It is southeast from the city of Janeville, on which it corners, a small portion of which was severed by the corporation act, to help constitute the city. The early settlers in this county, although they thought highly of prairie lands, carefully avoided the middle portions of Rock prairie, because of the great lack of wood and water; but subsequently, public opinion changed in that matter, and now La Prairie contains som eo fthe largest and most successful farmers in the county.
The population of this town in 1850 was 378; in 1855, 602. It has nine school
districts and five school houses. The present number of scholars is 198, and received the present year from the State School Fund, $152.14.
Number of farms, 79.
The following communication from J. P. WHEELER, Esq., gives a brief, but very
comprehensive view of the town.
 
LA PRAIRIE, so named, at the suggestion of S. Porter WHEELER, by the
inhabitants of town 2, range 13, convened for the purpose of petitioning the legislature, then in session, to pass a law organizing the south of Harmony and the north part of Turtle as a legal town. The law was passed, and approved March 26th, 1849, by Gov. Dewey, making it the duty of the electors of said town to hold their first town meeting at the house of Justus P. WHEELER. The first town meeting was held at the place appointed, on the 3d day of April, 1849. By a vote of a majority of the electors of the town, the meeting for 1850, and the election for 1849 and 1850 was held at the house of Mr. Samuel L. HALSTEAD, on the east line of the northwest quarter of section 15. From thence removed to the house of Freeman HITCHCOCK, on the west line of section 28, and is for the present held at the house of Hiram FINCH, on the east line of the northeast quarter of section 14. The whole number of votes cast at the first meeting, was 56. The names of the town officers elected, were Justus P. WHEELER, Henry CHEESEBRO and James CHAMBERLAIN for Supervisors. Guy WHEELER, Town Clerk; Charles C. CHENEY, Town Treasurer, and Levi ST. JOHN, Assessor.
The number of inhabitants, as by United States census for 1850, was 335. The first
State tax was $300.37. County tax, $339.16. School tax, $361. Town tax, $290. The population of the town, as by State census for 1855, was 602. The whole number of votes cast, April, 1855, 78. The State tax, $666.88; County tax, $1,234.98. School tax, $305.83; Town tax, $320. The assessed valuation of the town for 1850, was $66,830. The assessment for 1855, $194,061.
The town is a rolling prairie, of deep soil, with an underlay of sand and gravel in the
west and northwest part. There is plenty of lime rock in the bluffs of the central and eastern part of the town. The only surface water we can boast of, is Turtle creek, which rises in Walworth county, watering and fertilizing the town of Bradford from side to side - enters the town on the east line of section 26 and passes out on the south line of 35, into the town of Turtle. Running within the limits of this town less than two miles, it passes through the town of Turtle nearly from corner to corner, and falls into Rock river near the State line at Beloit. This stream rose during the night of June, 1851, 10 or 12 feet above its usual level, carrying off mill dams, bridges, fences, sheep, hogs and other property, to aq great amount. The water was the highest about day light, reaching as high as Mr. Clark W. LAWRENCE's house above the window stools.
The only timber now standing in town, is on sections 5, 6, 35 and 36, amounting to
less than a quarter section. The inhabitants are supplied with good water, in great abundance, by digging wells from 15 to 85 feet deep; and wood, by hauling it from the neighboring towns, a distance of from 3 to ten miles. The mail route from Racine and Chicago, passes through this town. The Chicago, Fond du Lac & St. Paul R.R. enters the town on the south line of section 35, and passes out on the west line of the southwest quarter of section 7. Some of the early settlers of this county made their first "pitch" in this town. Samuel ST. JOHN and family were among the first who made a permanent settlement on the Rock river. He wintered with the first 7 or 8 who built the log shanty on the east side of the river, at the rapids. His was the first claim made in town. He and his brother, Levi ST. JOHN, claimed and entered at the land sale at Milwaukee, the whole of section 6. He built a good log house on the west half of the section, now standing within the chartered limits of the city of Janesville. William MERTROM, about the same time, made a claim on section 5, and built a log house, which Nehemiah ST. JOHN, purchased and occupied for several years. Nathan ALLYNE, in 1835 or '36, made a claim on section 35, broke several acres, put in and raised crops without fence, except dogs. Lucius BURNHAM made a claim on section 36, in the spring of 1837, and made his first improvement in 1838, built the first frame barn, now standing in this town. Clark W. LAWRENCE came into this country with his father and family, Mr. William LAWRENCE of Beloit, in 1836, made a claim on section 36, and built the first frame house. Mr. WATERMAN, Julius CHAMBERLAIN and L. B. ALLYNE located on section 35, in 1837 or 1838.
These early settlers, although located in a beautiful prairie country, where wheel
carriages could be driven in almost all directions, had many hardships to endure. They were charmed with the country. When they found the unclaimed placed that suited, they pitched their tent, and built their shanty, not reflecting that it was seven days' journey to the nearest place where provisions could be obtained. Poor flour and rusty pork were great luxuries, at $30 and $40 per barrel, transported with ox teams from Chicago, Ottowa, Galena or Milwaukee, over the prairie, without places of entertainment, or bridges to cross the streams; having to cook their provisions, camping on the ground , under the wagon; frequently seven days on the road between this place and the nearest point where they could get supplies. Potatoes and other sauce could not be got at any price for seed. Rutabagas stood high in the market. After the mill was built at Beloit, and grinding done without bolting, many of the inhabitants lived on buckwheat cakes, with such games as they could catch. Their hardships were small during warm weather, to what they were in the winter, when streams had to be forded, or the family suffer for want of provisions, at home. After the land sale at Milwaukee, the settlement of the town remained stationary for several years. - The town being all prairie, with a small quantity of timber in the northwest and southeast corners of it, other towns in the county filled up rapidly with settlers, while La Prairie remained stationary with but one school house, located on section 36, built by Mr. James CHAMBERLAIN. Justus P. WHEELER made his purchase in the fall of 1840. Eliakim THATCHER, in 1843. A man by the name of HOCUM made a claim on section 3; afterwards sold to Mr. COVIL. Charles C. CHENEY, Henry CHESEBRO, William LOYD, Adelmorn SHERMAN and Ephraim LEACH, Jr., made their purchases in the years 1844 and 1845. Almerin SHERMAN, Pete SHUFELT James I. HOYT, William G. EASTERLY and Mr. FORD, in 1846. Jefferson SINCLAIR made his large purchase on the prairie, and William READ made improvement on it about the same time. Ralph W. SCHENCK, William SCHENCK and William H. STARK came into twon soon after SINCLAIR made his purchase.
The second school house built, stands on thown line road, on section 32. The third
is located near the corner of sections 1, 2, 11 and 12. The fourth is near the corner of sections 13, 14, 23 and 34. The fifth, is now building, near the quarter stake, on the east line of section 5. We have no other public buildings; no store, grocery, or tavern. In fact we have to go to the neighboring towns for wood, lumber, all kinds of merchandise, and mechanism of every kind. For many years we have had but one mechanic in town - Mr. James CHAMBERLAIN. He built the court house at Janesville and the first bridge across the Rock river in this county. It was a toll bridge, built for Mr. Charles STEVENS and others, on Milwaukee street, where the new bridge now stands, in the city. He also built the first bridge at Beloit, and the bridge at Rockton.
The progress of this town has been slow in comparison with other towns in the
county. Almost all its inhabitants are farmers. No lawyers, or pettifoggers, and but one man who bears the title of Doctor, and he is one of our largest farmers. The Rev. Mr. CURTISS, the Congregational minister at Emerald Grove, resides within the limits of La Prairie; so that we can say, that we have one minister of the gospel.
             
            Yours, &c.,
            J. P. WHEELER.
COL. O. GUERNSEY,
Corresponding Secretary, &c.

From: Combination Atlas Map of Rock County, Wisconsin

©1873 Everts, Baskin & Stewart, Chicago, Ill.

p. 35

Courtesy of Lori

This township was so named at the suggestion of S. P. WHEELER, brother of Guy
WHEELER; is one of the finest agricultural townships in the county. It is rolling prairie of deep soil, with an underlay of sand and gravel, and in some portions of it there is an abundance of lime rock. The only stream in town is Turtle Creek, which runs across the southeast corner of the town. The earliest settlements made in the town were by the ST. JOHNs, on section 6. Among other early settlers were William MERTROM, Nathan ALLYN, C. W. LAWRENCE, M. WATERMAN, James CHAMBERLAIN, and I. B. ALLYN. Justis P. WHEELER made his claim in 1840. Adelman SHERMAN, Henry CHESEBRO, and William LLOYD were among the other early settlers. The farms of the town are under a high state of cultivation with good improvements. Many of the best residences are shown in the within atlas.

From: History of Rock County, Wisconsin

©1879 Western Hist. Co.

p. 514

Courtesy of Carol

"The only timber now (1856) standing in this town is on Sections 5, 6, 35 and 36,
amounting to less than a quarter-section. The inhabitants are supplied with good water in great abundance, by digging wells from fifteen to eighty-five feet deep, and with wood, by hauling it from the neighboring towns, a distance of from three to ten miles. The mail route from Racine and Chicago passes through La Prairie. The Chicago, Fond du Lac & St. Paul Railroad (now the Chicago & North- Western) enters the town on the south line of Section 35, and passes out on the west line of the southwest quarter of Section 7. Some of the early settlers of Rock County made their first 'pitch' in La prairie."
"Samuel ST. JOHN and family were among the first who made a permanent
settlement on Rock River within the limits of the county. He wintered with the first seven or eight who built the log shanty on the east side of the river, at he rapids. His was the first claim made in La Prairie. He and his brother Levi claimed and afterward purchased at the land sales in Milwaukee the whole of Section 6. He built a good log house on the west half of the section, now (1856) standing within the limits of Janesville. William MERTROM about the same time, made a claim on Section 5, and built a log house, which Nehemiah ST. JOHN purchased and occupied for several years. Nathan ALLYNE, in 1835 or 1836, made a claim on Section 35, broke several acres, put in and raised crops without fence except dogs. Lucius BURNHAM made a claim on Section 36, in the spring of 1837, and made his first improvements in 1838; built the first frame barn now (1856) standing in La Prairie. Clark W. LAWRENCE came into this county with his father and family in 1836, made a claim on Section 36, and built the first frame house. Mr. WATERMAN, James CHAMBERLIN and L. B. ALLYNE located on Section 35, in 1837 or 1838."
"The town being all prairie - only a small quantity of timber in the northwest
and southwest corners of it - other towns, in the county filled up rapidly with settlers, while La Prairie remained stationary. Justus P. WHEELER made his purchase in the fall of 1840; Eliakim THATCHER in 1843. A man by the name of HOCUM made a claim on Section 3; afterward sold to Mr. COVIL. Charles C. CHENEY, Henry CHEESEBRO, William LOYD, Adelmon SHERMAN and Ephraim LEACH, Jr., made their purchases in the years 1844 and 1845; Almerin SHERMAN, Peter SHUFELT, James I. HOYT, William G. EASTERLY and Mr. FORD, in 1846."
 
[Transcriber's note: This 'sketch' about La Prairie Township started on a previous page that I don't have. The writer started each paragraph with quotes - I believe quoting the text from the "History of Rock County and Transactions of the Rock County Agricultural Society and Mechanics' Institute," which can be read in its entirety above.]

From: The Portrait and Biographical Album of Rock County, Wisconsin

©1889

p. 1014

Courtesy of Carol

La Prairie, so named from the fact that the town is mostly prairie land, was
organized by an act of the Legislature, approved March 26, 1849, and originally comprised those parts of the towns of Harmony and Turtle which were included in township 2 north, of range 13 east. The west half of section 6 was subsequently set off to the city of Janesville. The limits of the town now are those of township 2 north, of range 13 east. The first town meeting was held at the house of Justus P. WHEELER, April 3, 1849. Among the early settlers were Samuel and Levi ST. JOHN, William MERTROM, Nathan ALLYNE, Lucius BURNHAM, Clark W. LAWRENCE, James CHAMBERLAIN, L. B. ALLYNE and Mr. WATERMAN. The town being nearly all prairie, it did not settle as rapidly as most other parts of the county. Justus P. WHEELER made his purchase in the fall of 1840; Eliakim THATCHER in 1843. A man, by the name of HOCUM, made a claim on section 3 and afterwards sold to Mr. COVIL. Charles C. CHENEY, Henry CHEESEBRO, William LOYD, Adelmon SHERMAN and Ephraim LEACH, Jr., made their purchases in the years 1844 and 1845; Almerin SHERMAN, Peter SHUFELT, James I. HOYT, William G. EASTERLY and Mr. FORD, in 1846. Among others of the largest farmers of La Prairie, in 1856, Freeman HITCHCOCK, Alfred HASKINS, Amaziah SHERMAN, Jacob VAN GELDER [VAN GALDER], William H. READ, R. W. SCHENCK, Hiram FINCH, Harvey SESSIONS, S. L. HALSTEAD, E. CHEESEBRO, Thomas AULD, James CHAMBERLAIN, Harvey HART, E. W. BLISH, James V. BELTINGS, J. P. WHEELER, William H. STARK, Guy WHEELER, C. W. LAWRENCE, George RHODES, William SCHENCK.

©2002-2006 ALHN-Rock Co., WI

Site Coordinator: Lori Niemuth