Rock County, Wisconsin

History of Milton Township

Site Coordinator: Lori Niemuth

From: Wisconsin Gazetteer

by John Warren Hunt

©1853 Beriah Brown, Printer, Madison

p. 146

Courtesy of Lori

MILTON, Town, in county of Rock, being town 4 N., of range 13 E.; centrally
located, 14 miles northeast from Janesville. Population in 1850 was 1,032. It has 8 school districts.

From: Combination Atlas Map of Rock County, Wisconsin

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

p. 26

Courtesy of Lori

The first settlements in this town were made in 1836, since which time it has enjoyed
a steady growth. The villages of Milton and Milton Junction are both located in the town, and on two main lines of railroad, affording facilities for marketing and shipping second to none other in the county. Milton College, located at Milton, affords excellent educational facilities. The surface of the township is gently undulating, and pretty evenly divided between prairie land and oak openings. There is a considerable amount of low land in the vicinity of the lakes that is visible for pasturage and meadow land. Koshkonong Lake occupies an area of about one thousand acres in this township. On the bank of this lake Mr. TAYLOR has erected a very fine hotel for the accommodation of tourists and sportsmen, hundreds of whom visit the lake every season. Clear Lake, another very pretty body of water, is a favored place for picnic excursions and other pleasure-seekers in summer-time. The improvements in Milton are best understood by reference to the views in the inclosed map.

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


pp. 1015-1019

Courtesy of Carol

The town of Milton comprises all of township 4, north of range 13, east of the
principle meridian. It is a fine body of land, and was first settled, in the summer of 1836, by Alfred, Jason and Aaron WALKER, who located on section 35 and 36. For some months they were the only persons in the town. In May, 1837, Daniel F. SMITH and wife came in and located on section 11. Mrs. SMITH was the first white woman in the town. Others came in that year, among whom were Peter McEWAN and Nathan C. STORRS. The former made claim to the north half of section 34, and the south half of the northeast quarter of section 27. Mr. STORRS made claim to the south half of section 26, and the north half of the southeast quarter of section 27. He erected his residence on the northwest corner of the south half of the southeast quarter of section 26. Mr. McEWAN built very near the center of the northeast quarter of section 34.
In July, 1838, Joseph GOODRICH came out from Alfred, Alleghany Co., N.Y.,
and bought from Mr. STORRS his claim to the north half of the south half of section 26, and the north half of the southeast quarter of section 27. During the following month he erected a story and a half frame building, in the upper part of which he placed a small stock of general merchandise. In September he returned to New York, leaving James PIERCE, who is yet a respected citizen of the town, in charge of the house and claim.
From what can be learned from old settlers now living, there was doubtless an
understanding between Mr. GOODRICH and Mr. McEWAN that the southeast quarter of section 27 should be laid out as a village. Subsequent events seem to confirm this idea. On the return of Mr. GOODRICH to his old home, he made public what he had done. Orrin SPRAGUE, with whom he was not on very good terms, on learning the facts, immediately sold out and, with his family, at once started for Rock County. Arriving here, he reported to Mr. McEWAN that he was sent out by Mr. GOODRICH to start a blacksmith shop. On his representation, Mr. McEWAN staked off for him a lot on which to erect his cabin and shop, on that portion of section 27 which he, McEWAN, had claimed. The cabin and shop were at once erected, and, when Mr. GOODRICH returned, March 4, 1839, he found his old enemy in full possession. That he was displeased is stating it mildly.
During the year 1839 no further improvements were made to the prospective village,
with the exception of a second building by Mr. GOODRICH, which was the original Milton House, and the erection by him of a substantial barn. In March, 1839, the surveyors locating a road between Chicago and Madison reach GOODRICH's, and in May following continued the survey on to Madison. One point was now made for the new village.
On the 18th day of July, 1839, the people of the vicinity met at the residence of
Joseph GOODRICH for the purpose of raising for him a barn. While here assembled, it was determined to petition the Government to here establish a postoffice under the name of Grainfield, and to appoint Mr. GOODRICH Postmaster. A meeting was subsequently held at the residence of Peter McEWAN, and the name was reconsidered and that of Prairie Du Lac substituted. The petition was sent on, but the name was rejected by the authorities on account of its similarity to Prairie du Sac, an office which had already been established. At a meeting held Oct. 1, 1839, the name of Milton was suggested by Daniel BUTTS, and adopted. The office was soon afterward established, with Joseph GOODRICH as Postmaster, who held it until 1853, when he was succeeded by W. T. MORGAN.
The first land sale in which the people of this section were interested was held in
April, 1840, at Milwaukee. This sale was attended by Messrs. McEWAN, GOODRICH and SPRAGUE. It had been learned that no one could purchase more than one-half section of land. Mr. McEWAN, as already stated, had made claim to the north half of section 34 and the south half of the northeast quarter of section 27 - a total of 400 acres. If he purchased the north half of section 34, he could not purchase the other. SPRAGUE, who was living upon the south half of the northeast quarter of section 27, felt that here was his opportunity to get cheap land, and become the owner of a prospective village. He proposed to avail himself of the opportunity. Of all things, this did not suit Mr. GOODRICH. As he had not claimed but what only amounted to 240 acres, he could yet purchase eighty acres more. He, therefore, purchased of Mr. McEWAN his claim to the south half of the northeast quarter of section 27, but with the understanding that on receiving his deed he was to deed Mr. SPRAGUE one acre, comprising in part the land on which his cabin and shop were located.
On returning home from the sales, Mr. GOODRICH at once instructed James
PIERCE, who was a practical surveyor, to survey one acre of ground to SPRAGUE, and that he should be careful that it was a full acre, but not a foot more. His instructions were carried out to the letter, and Mr. SPRAGUE got an acre with five sides to it. The land was entered by Mr. GOODRICH April 13, 1840, and April 27, 1840, he deeded SPRAGUE, the acre of ground. A park comprising twenty-three acres was laid out by Mr. GOODRICH, which fronted on the south the land owned by Peter McEWAN, doubtless for the purpose of giving the latter any advantages that might accrue from the location of the village.
As stated, Joseph GOODRICH returned to his western home March 4, 1839. He
was a member of the Seventh Day Baptist Church, and at his house the first religious services were held in what is now the village of Milton, on the Sabbath (Saturday, or Seventh day) following, March 9. A society was organized which met every alternate sabbath at the houses of Joseph GOODRICH and Henry B. CRANDALL. Previous to this time, however, religious services were held in the town, the first being at the hosue of S. D. BUTTS, March, 1838, by the Revs. HALSTED and PILLSBURY, two Methodist Episcopal ministers. On the 16th day of August, 1838, a Congregational Church was organized in the WALKER neighborhood, which is said to have been the third religious society organized in Wisconsin.
The first school in the town was in the winter of 1839-40, at the house of Henry B.
CRANDALL, and was taught by Miss Olive HALL, now Mrs. James PIERCE. In Milton village some months later Enos C. DICKSON, now a respected citizen of the town of Harmony, taught a term of school at the house of Joseph GOODRICH. The first was a private school, and the latter was a public school.
The first birth in the town was that of Daniel SMITH, son of Daniel F. and Eliza
SMITH, Feb. 24, 1839. He died at the age of five years. The first birth in the village was that of David L., son of Orrin SPRAGUE, April 23, 1840.
The first death in the town was that of [Sarah] Jane BOWERS, daughter of Andrew
and Hannah BOWERS, Sept. 14, 1838. The third death, Mrs. Diana WATERMAN, wife of Hezekiah WATERMAN, who died Nov. 5, 1839, and was buried in Milton Cemetery, the first there interred.
The first marriage was that of James MURRAY and Margaret McEWAN, Jan. 1,
No building was erected in the village of Milton in 1839 save those mentioned, but in
1840 a building was erected by Mr. GOODRICH, and occupied by Mr. EGGLESTON as a blacksmith shop. Mr. BASSETT, a carpenter, erected a building for himself near the northeast corner of the square, while Jacob DAVIS built at the northeast corner of the square.
For some cause there was no conveyance made by Mr. GOODRICH to either of
these men for several years after their settlement. The first conveyance was to SPRAGUE; the second was to DAVIS, March 14, 1844; the third to John CHITTIL, Feb. 13, 1846. Mr. CHITTIL soon afterward erected a store building, and was the third person to engage in mercantile trade. During this eyar James L. QUIRK, who for a time had been engaged in tailoring, added a few groceries in connection, purchased a lot and erected a building.
Slowly the village began to form around the square laid out by Mr. GOODRICH. In
the first ten years he made about fifteen or twenty conveyances of lots, principally on the north and west sides of the square. In the fall of 1844 John ALEXANDER came to Milton bringing with him a small stock of goods. Renting a room in the house of Peter McEWAN he opened the second store in Milton, Jan. 29, 1845. Alexander PAUL purchased a lot of McEWAN fronting the park, on which he erected a store building, into which Mr. ALEXANDER moved his stock of goods. A large granary was subsequently erected by Mr. ALEXANDER for the storage of grain taken in exchange for merchandise. At certain seasons of the year he shipped the grain to Milwaukee by teams, which, returning, brought loads of general merchandise. The second building erected fronting the park on the southeast corner was built by Asa WEAVER as a dwelling house. The Congregational Church was the third on the south. About 1846 Peter McEWAN donated a lot opposite the park to the Congregational Church, and from time to time he sold other lots from off his tract, the northeast quarter of section 34. Thus the village has spread out until at present writing (July, 1889) it covers an area of about 160 acres. It has never been incorporated, but now contains about 1,000 inhabitants, and is represented by the various lines of business necessary to supply the wants of the community. Religiously, the Congregational, Methodist Episcopal and Sevent Day Baptists are represented, the latter greatly preoponderating. The first to commence the proclamation of the gospel, it has held the lead, and is represented by Milton College, an educational institution which has sent forth a large number of men and women, who have become noted in church and State.
In 1852 the present Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad was built through the
place, and shortly afterward a small protion of the village lying on either side of the road, was platted. All the remainder has been sold by meters and bounds without being platted.
Milton Junction, lying one mile west, owes its existence to the building of the Chicago
& Northwestern Railroad, which crosses the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad at this point. The road was built through here in 1858, when G. W. MATTHEWS erected a hotel at the crossing of the two roads on the site of the present MORGAN House. The village has since had a slow but steady growth, and to-day numbering about 1,000 inhabitants, presents a very neat and attractive appearance. Its business men seem to be thriving, with almost every class of business represented. There are three churches in the village, and its public schools compare favorably with any in the county. The Milton Junction News is a live local paper, and is published weekly.
The town of Milton, including its two villages is well represented in the biographical
department of this work.
The Seventh Day Baptist Church of Milton was organized Nov. 12, 1840, by the
adoption of articles of faith and a constitution, both of which were very simple in form, concise and comprehensive. Previous meetings had been held for the purpose of studying the Word of God, the first as early as March 9, 1839, in the house of Joseph GOODRICH, five days after the arrival of Mr. GOODRICH and his family in this county, which was the first white family that settled in Milton.
The church was organized with sixty members, who for a long time worshipped in the
house of Henry B. CRANDALL, who is still living at Edgerton, and is over ninety years of age. Subsequently the place of worship was changed to the house of Mr. GOODRICH, and afterwards to the old Academy. In 1852 a large and commodious church edifice was erected, which was twice afterwards enlarged, the original building and its additions costing $3,000. This building was erected upon two lots donated by Mr. Joseph GOODRICH. At a meeting of the church and society held Feb. 5, 1882, it was voted to erect a new house of worship on the site of the old one, which was done at a cost of nearly $7,000, and completed in March, 1883, and dedicated Oct. 15, 1883, when arrangements had been completed for liquidating all indebtedness incurred in its erection. It is a beautiful building, Gothic in its general design, the admiration of the beholder. Sabbath-school rooms and auditorium are all on the same floor. Additions have been made to the membership, sometimes at revival seasons, but more recently without what are termed "protracted meetings." 346 individuals having been baptized into its membersip from the beginning, seventy-nine under the labors of its present pastor; 423 have been dismissed by letter to form other churches or to unite with those already formed, about 100 of these united with the Seventh Day Baptist Church at Milton Junction at the time and since the latter's organization. The church has assisted in the establishment of eleven other churches in this State, Minnesota, Illinois and Dakota. This has been effected by the dismission of members for that purpose and by contributions of money to aid in organizing and building up these weaker societies. Thus it will be seen that the church has been a center from which has radiated other centers of Christian power and influence. It is largely through the influence of this church that no license has ever been granted in the town of Milton for the sale of intoxicants.
The following is a list of the pastors from 1841 to the present year: 1841-45, Rev.
Stillman COON; 1846-1850, Rev. Zuriel CAMPBELL; 1850-56, Rev. Varnum HULL; 1856-59, Rev. William C. WHITFORD, D.D.; 1859-64, Rev. O. P. HULL; 1864-71, Rev. D. E. MAXSON, D.D.; 1871-84, Rev. C. S. ROGERS; 1874-76, supplied by the Rev. J. C. ROGERS; 1876-89, Rev. Elston M. DUNN, present incumbent.
The present membership is 213. It would be much larger numerically but for repeated
successful efforts recently to erase the names of all whose whereabouts cannot be ascertained or who have abandoned their faith and practice. The church has always maintained a flourishing Sunday-school; its present superintendent is S. B. SAUNDERS, cashier of the bank. Mr. SAUNDERS is also conducting a mission work at Rock River, supplying them with preaching each Sabbath, enlisting young men who expect to enter the ministry in this work, and when they cannot be procured Mr. SAUNDERS talks to them himself, his congregations varying from twenty-five to sixty. This mission work is performed under the auspices of the Milton Church, which has a missionary committee of nine persons, elected by the church annually, whose duty it is to work in and outside of the society as opportunity may offer. This committee holds its meetings monthly. One of their number, a female member of the church, born on heathen soil, employs most of her time in this work, and is remunerated by the voluntary contributions of the church. The church is doing other missionary work on the first day of the week, organizing and conducting Sunday-schools and supplying destitute neighborhoods with preaching.
The Methodist Episcopal Church of Milton, Wis., was organized in the fall of 1846
by Rev. Matthew BENNETT, with a membership of nine, viz.: Abraham BULLIS and wife, William P. IND and wife, Jacob BOWERS, Mrs. D. D. SOWLES, Miss C. C. ATHERTON, now Mrs. William McEWAN, and a local preacher, Rev. A. WARREN and his wife. Previous to this organization, meetings were held from time to time by preachers sent by the Illinois Conference. As early as 1837, Rev. Jesse HALSTEAD preached to the settlers. He was followed by Rev. C. D. PILLSBURY, Rev. HODGES and Father McKAY. The first services of the society were held in the old stone school-house. In January, 1854, steps were taken to erect a church which was completed in the fall of the same year.
Messrs. Abraham BULLIS, William P. IND, Jacob BOWERS, Leander
HALLECK and Charles M. DRAKE constituted the board of trustees. Messrs. P. G. McCOMBER, Joel WOOD and David WALSH were afterward added to the board. The church was a frame building with a stone basement, with a seating capacity of 225 and cost $1,500. The lot upon which it was erected was the gift of Mr. Peter McEWAN. The church was enlarged and repaired at a cost of $2,4000 under the pastorate of Rev. D. L. BARROWS, and is now a beautiful house of worship, carpeted throughout, with elegant seats and pulpit furniture.
The Milton Junction Methodist Episcopal Church was organized and a church erected
in the year 1867 under the pastorate of Rev. A. A. HOSKIN, at a cost of $2,000. It was built originally as a Methodist church with the privilege of being used by other denominations, when not occupied. For several years the church was closed, until in 1883 Rev. D. L. BARROWS began services, since which time they have regularly continued. The house was handsomely decorated in 1888 and otherwise improved under Rev. W. B. ROBINSON.
There is now a good congregation and flourishing Sunday-school.
NOTE - William McEWAN claims that S. D. and Daniel BUTTS were here in
1836, and that Nathan STORRS came in 1838. When SPRAGUE came he had two span of horses and his tools. He did not represent to Mr. McEWAN that he was sent out by GOODRICH. The first religious services, he claims were held by the Rev. Mr. HALSTEAD.

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Site Coordinator: Lori Niemuth