JAMES P. McPHERSON FAMILY
AS SEEN IN THE DIARY ENTRIES
FROM JANUARY 1 THROUGH MARCH 31, 1855
In 1855, the family of James P. McPherson and family increased by one, with the birth on 27 January, of Mary Jane McPherson. The family was still living in the small log cabin he built in 1850. James P. McPherson was 38 years of age and would turned 39 late in the year, on 14 November. Mary turned 33 just three days after the birth of baby Mary Jane. The new baby then made a family of eight; the parents, and six children, William, age 12; James, age 10; Jabez, age 8; Anne, age 5; and Elizabeth, age 3, and newborn Mary Jane.
As you may remember, the boys all had their mother's maiden name of Burns as their middle name. Anne's middle name was Adamson, the last name of her aunt and uncle, Anne and Thomas Adamson. Elizabeth Spink McPherson was named after her paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Spink of Arbroath, Scotland. Her maternal grandmother's first name was also Elizabeth (Elizabeth Horrock Burns). Baby Mary Jane carried the name of her mother as well as of her great grandmother Mary Burn(s), who had lived in Lancashire, England.
HOME AND FARM
Winter in Wisconsin is cold and snowy, so it is not surprising that much of James P.'s time around the farm was devoted to chopping wood and hauling wood, which included fire wood and rails for fencing. As we have seen in the past year, McPherson's income had increased well past the barter only stage. He also paid Weise and William Morich $11.75 for finishing a 1000 rails. Then he used, at least, some of the rails to fix a fence around the hay.
He also fixed his sled. It would seem that this would be an ox-drawn sled by which he could haul wood in the snow. In addition to hauling wood and rails, he also hauled ice for himself and Mr. Morrison.
His livestock increased, as Cow Bass had a heifer calf, and the first lamb was born of his sheep that he brought home from the Poor Farm. At the first of February, he also killed, butchered, and salted a 120 lb. hog. As we have seen before, he was helped in this endeavor by his neighbor, Thomas Miles.
His wife Mary was ill on 11 January. In fact she was so ill that James P. went to Dr. Rowley, but he was not home. A few days later, on 14 January, Mrs. Morrison and Mrs. Miles visited. Two days later, James P. again went to see Dr. Rowley. Then on 27 January, “about 7 o'clock in the evening,” Mary had a daughter.
Our diary writer, tacked on the news of a daughter's birth after noting that he had haul wood with Mr. Morrison, and before he wrote that he had Qualified Wheeler and Flick as appraisers of R. Menzies's land. He also paid Salamanson's daughter in the amount of $1.34. Although, he did not say why he paid her, it would seem likely, with Mary being ill and pregnant, they hired Salamanson's daughter help Mary with the household chores and children, especially the two younger girls, Anne and Elizabeth.
On 19 February, James P. noted that he was at home, and they had the “first” visit from Dr. Rowley. James P. tended to be spare with his words, so when he wrote first visit, he was drawing attention to the incident. He might have been impressed that Dr. Rowley visited, but I think it more likely that he was indicating that Dr. Rowley did not follow up with his patients like James P. thought he should. Putting feelings into a diary entry is not something that I usually do, but here the first visit sounded odd.
On the 31st, McPherson wrote that “Mrs. Wallace delivered of a baby.” An odd notation, in that there had been no mention of Mrs. Wallace, or a Mr. Wallace. Perhaps Mary assisted in the delivery, or perhaps there was some other reason this birth was mentioned.
Even through the snowy winter, Springdale folks found time to visit one another. During this quarter, more couples visited the McPhersons than in the past; these included, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Lamount, Mr. and Mrs. John Beat, Mr. and Mrs. James Beard, Mr. and Mrs. Furman Housel. Other visitors included Mrs. McGregor, Mrs. Morrison, and David Bright. James P. McPherson often visited these same folks, and after the birth of baby Mary Jane, Mary McPherson visited the Miles family.
As for his sewing endeavors, McPherson also made a vest for himself, cut a coat for Billy, made a jacket for Jabez, and cut a jacket for James. In addition, he sewed for a number of his neighbors and friends; vests for Thomas Miles, William Beats (which he had to alter), and pants & vest for R. Lamount.
On a personal level, he received and posted a several letters to Alexander and William Cairncross, and Anne Adamson. He also received a letter late in March from Alexander Cairncross, Jr.
He also wrote and received several letters relating to County and Poor Farm business; to and from J. P. Walker, Ben C. Eastman, W. R. Taylor, Mr. Dow, and Senator Giles. He also sent letters to Layton, Mallette, D. Williams, E. Richardson, J. Beath and C. Watkins. At this time, there is no indication of the intent of these letters. James P. also wrote to “Cronkite, NY” on Ivor Thoreson's request to inquire about of land.
COMMUNITY AND POLITICS
During this quarter, McPherson still wore several “community hats;” Town Clerk, Justice of the Peace, Superintendent for the County Poor Farm, and Assistance Clerk of the County Board of Supervisors.
He started out the year, 2 January, by stopping over night at the Poor house on his way to Madison. When in Madison, he spent the next four days, “attending to Poor house business” and acting as assistant Clerk of the County Board of Supervisors. He left Madison on 7 January, a Sunday, and “stopt” at the Poor house at noon, while on his way home.
The next week, 16 January, he met Mr. W.R. Taylor and Mr. Dow at the Poor house. He left the next day around 10 AM and went to Mass's store. He also “paid Samuel Lamount $24 on account of Pork for Poor house.”
The diary also reflects that James P. was busy with Poor house business during the second and third weeks of February. He was in Madison and stopped at the Poor house on the way to and or from. He met twice with W. R. Taylor and Mr. Dow. The diary reflected that on 17 February “bound out children.” In that era “bound out” meant that orphan children or children whose parents were unable to care for them, were apprenticed or “bound out” for a trade or as a “servant.” The person taking on the children as an apprentice or servant were to provide for their shelter, food and clothing. The children were to obey the person until the age of 21, which was the end of the apprenticeship or job as servant.
On 3 March, McPherson “bot” a yoke of oxen from I. Thorenson for the Poor Farm. Later that month, on 19 March, he stopped at the Poor house when he went on to Madison. He also took in the theatre on that night in Madison. He was also at the Poor house and Madison on 19 March when it was very snowy and then again on 23 March.
James P.'s position as assistant County Clerk also consumed a significant portion of his time. He was in Madison from 2 January through 6 January, during which time he was acting in his position as assistant Clerk of the County Board of Supervisors.
Between 14 March and 25 March, a great amount of McPherson's time was spent on an issue of trespass upon county lands. It is not clear whether this activity was related to his position as Superintendent of the Poor or his position as assistant Clerk of the County Board of Supervisors, or both. However, based on the folks involved, it appears that the trespass may have been on the County's Poor Farm lands. The situation came to the fore on 14 March when he went to Madison and “called upon Mr. Brill and Mr. Taylor, in reference to Tresspassers on County land.” The next day he tried to meet with Mr. Brill, who was away, but did meet with Mr. Brill on 16 March. He then consulted with W. H. Orton, District Attorney on prosecution.
Mr. Orton drew up a complaint “to which I made affidavit before Squire Braley.” McPherson then took the warrant to the Sheriff. Then on 20 March he was at the county land with Mr. Brill, C. Ulmars, and Kanouses. They found a “German hauling wood off of the land.” It appears that the “German” thought the land was his because on 21 March, James P. “engaged Mr. Drake to survey county land, and Mr. Brill and German to assist on Saturday first.” He then took out a warrant against Abram Wolfe (the “German”???). He later met with Mr. Menzies and German who had been trespassing (possibly using his friend Menzies as a translator????).
On 24 March, McPherson is again at County land with Mr. Drake and “Messers Gallagher and C. Ulmars.” When he was in Madison on the 25 and 26 of March, he attended the trial of Wallbridge. He left Madison at 8 pm. and said that he walked all the way back to Springdale, which was at least twenty miles.
Also during this first quarter of 1855, McPherson performed the following tasks;
Drew up Chattel Mortgage for John Bartell;
Drew up road Petition and notices for J. Connor;
Qualified S. Wheeler and J. Flick as appraisers of R. Menzies property;
Made out remonstrance from Mr. Lyle against Alteration of ridge road;
Writing for Axium Malone; and
Writing to Cronkite about land for Ivor Thoreson.
In addition, he wrote notes about the history of Springdale for Mr.Teeney.
McPherson's community and political activities for this first quarter of 1855 ended when he returned from from Madison and on 27 March, attended the town meeting at M. L. Curtis. His diary had this cryptic notation, “Whigs and pretended Democrats made nominations of town officers.” The next day he was “writing the minutes of the Town Meeting, etc.”
FOLKS MENTIONED IN THE DIARY
James P. Beard
Alexander Cairncross, Jr.
William Cairncross & wife
Hall Chase Chandler
M. L. Curtis
Furman Housel & wife
Thomas B. Miles
Morrison & wife
W. A Orton (Dane Co. Dist. Atty)
J. Salamanson & daughter
W. R. Taylor
H. A. Teeney
J. P. Walker
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© Joan G. Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications