- 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.
PRAIRIE, so named, at the suggestion of S. Porter WHEELER,
- 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
- 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.