Monday, September 26, 2011

Amanuensis Monday: History of Springdale by James P. McPherson, Esq. - Pt. 2 Springdale and Early Settlers

In 1877 , Wm. J. Parks, Co., published a history of Madison, Dane Co, and the surrounding villages and towns in Dane Co., Wisconsin.  Contributors from the various locales provided information, pictures, and maps for the  book.  My great-great grandfather James P. McPherson wrote the portion about the  history of Springdale (p. 806, Dane County Towns, Springdale).  Because of its length,  the Springdale history will be published on this blog in several parts.  Part 2, as follows,  tells of the early settlers in Springdale and how they established their governing bodies.


By James P. McPherson, Esq

Part 2 Springdale and  Early Settlers

The town was settled in 1844 or 45, the first settler being Mr. John Harlow, who built the first house with inn the limits of the town. That house is still standing on the farm of Mr. Patrick Casey, on section one.

In 1845, Messrs, Michael Jacket, Wyatt Perkins, Perry Nunger, Tomas Bently and others, settled in the northeast part of the town and commensed the improvement of their lands. Mr. Perkins built a dam and saw mill on a small branch of Sugar River. These were regarded by some of Mr. Perkins' neighbors, as hindrances rather than improvements, and let to litigation, with resulted in the removal of the dam and mill, and also Mr. Perkins, who sought a new location for his mechanical industry.

In 1846, Messrs. Thomas B. Miles, Axium Malone, Hawley Childs, N. H. Dryden, Thore T. Spaanem, Morgan L. Curtis, John S. Berge, Henry Boland, Martin Nash, Michael Johnson and others, moved in and occupied land in other parts of town. In 1850 John Mitchell and James P. McPherson settled on section 24 and 25.

The town was organized in 1848, the first election for town officers being held on the second Tuesday of April in that year. Twenty votes were cast, and twenty-one offices were filled, and the following named persons were elected, viz.,: Chairman, Martin Nash; Supervisors, Wyatt Perkins and Thomas Bentley; Town Clerk, Robert N. Ashmore; Treasurer, Morgan L. Curtis: Collector, Axium Malone; Justices, Martin Nash and Morgan L. Curtis; Commissioners of Highways, Thomas Bentley, N. H. Dryden, and Robert N. Ashmore; School Commissioners, Hawley Childs, Thos. B. Miles and Wyatt Perkins'; Assessors, Perry Munger and Thos. B. Miles; Fence Viewers, Michael Jacket and Hawley Childs; constables, Axium Malone and John I. Berge; Sealer of Weights and Measures, Wm A. Dryden.

Of the twenty-one officers then elected, there are four of them yet residents of the town, viz., Messrs. N. H. Dryden, Thos. B. Miles, Michael Jacket and John I Berge.

It was determined that no town tax should be levied, and that the officers should receive no pay for their services for that year, but shortly after the election, a special town meeting was quietly convened by the incumbents interested, and a small town tax, sufficient to satisfy the office -holders of those early days, was levied and in due time collected.

From 1848 to 1852, the population of the town was largely increased by the immigration, and nearly all the land was then entered and occupied by settlers from the Eastern and Middle States, and from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany and Norway, who have devoted their attention and labor to the cultivation of the soil. The natural facilities for manufactures of any description are but limited, and agriculture has therefore been the occupation of the people and will likely remains so.

BY WM. J. PARK & CO.,  1877.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Synopsis: 2011 September 25th: On Track

Getting back on track is hard to do.   There is a rhythm to a project, and a disrupted project loses that cadence.  For me, I ran into that morass in which I struggled to find the path, the direction on the Uncle Ralph Letters book.  Finally, I decided that I dinna have the answers, so I started calling and looking for people with the right skill set to help me.  I met with a fellow from a printing company who spent a couple of hours with me this week.

The good news, I was on the right track.  The problems are rather easily fixable, and within my ken and know-how.  He had specific suggestions in some instances, and in others an array of possibilities.  A good start to regaining the beat and rhythm of the project.

Over the past month, I have been obsessively transcribing the James P. McPherson diary  --  it was the one thing that I could do that I knew was right and moving in a forward directions.  But in the last week, not so much transcription.  Actual writing and putting together bits and pieces that make the diary come alive have been my focus.  Also I really like the bit that I wrote about J.P. getting his land and building his house.  That scrappy Scot's pride in at last having his own land, building a house on that land for his family, spoke to me.  That 150 year old diary allowed me to share in that pride -- for J.P and his family, but also for the scrappy Scot's DNA that streams through our family.

~ ~ ~

© Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Surname Saturday: Four Stewart Brothers; Pt. 1 - Thomas Stewart

A family that had close ties with the James P. McPherson family was the Stewarts.  Obviously, McPherson had contact with the Stewarts before coming to Springdale in 1850; he stayed in John's house upon arriving in Dane County; John and James were close friends and associates; and J.P and Mary named one of their daughters Jessie Stewart McPherson.  By including the Stewart family in the Springdale Surname families, I hope to find more information about this family -- and hopefully the Scotland connection between the McPherson and Stewart families.

Four Stewart brothers came to the area around Verona and Springdale in Dane County, Wisconsin, from Little Dunkeld, Perthshire, Scotland.  The following information about the first brother, Thomas Stewart, who arrived in  Dane County about 1837.  The following is transcribed from Verona Centennial Souvenir: History of Verona by Alice Kunstman:

By an act of the territorial legislature approved Feb 11, 1847, town 6, range 8 East, was created.  The township had been surveyed by the U. S. Government in December 1833.  Records show that it contained 23, 153.97 acres.
Mr. Miller, surveyor, remarked that this is a good township, timbered with yellow, whit and burr oak.  Deer and wild bear were plentiful at  that time and many are the exciting tales recalled in the early history books of encounters with the bears and traps used to catch them.  

In 1836 a census was taken of what is now Dane County and the population was 25 males and 11 females.

In 1837, there was situated on what is now known as the Speedway road, a place called "the Campbell Relay House.  Edward Campbell was the proprietor and he employed two young Scotchmen, Thomas Stewart and John Young.  They had been in the butchering business in Galena, Ill., before coming to Wisconsin.

Early one Sunday morning a party of men, among whom were Thos. Stewart, James Young, George and William Vroman and the Wakefield brothers started out in a wagon from the Campbell House to explore the upper valley of the Sugar River.

The Sugar river received its name from the Indian word, "Suga."

After driving in their wagon for about three miles down the valley, they came to the north end of a prairie and there they discovered 10 mounds, nine of which were round and the other in the form of a mamouth.  Here they had a view of all the surrounding area.  They named the spot "Nine Mounds Prairie,"  and today it is still to be seen, but faintly on the John Zingg and Carl Fassbind farms.

The continued their journey in a southeast direction and they came to a creek, which they crossed.  Later that creek was named Badger Mill Creek.  Here they found many acres of flat level land, no stones, no obstructions and covered with thick growth of grass. A growth of hardwood trees suitable for future building made this a desirable place for a home.  And that was the choice of Thomas Stewart at James Young.  The party returned to the Campbell  house.

A week later, the two Scotts,  James Young and Thomas Stewart, returned to take possession of what was to be their new home.  They dug a place about 6 by 8 feet in the hillside and roofed it with poles and grass.  They stored the cooking utensils, supplies, and such household goods that two bachelors would need, and then returned to their place of employment.  During the night, a heavy thunderstorm swelled the creek into a river and when they returned the following day, they had to wait until the water subsided before they could cross the creek to their new home, the first "built by white men in Verona township."  They found that the water had carried away most of their possessions.  After searching along the band, some were recovered.

This experience did not discourage our hardy pioneers, so they started to dig again, but this time, it was above the high water mark.  During the digging they unearthed some skulls and bones of a human being, probably the remains of some early mound builders.  The excavation they made now was about 10 by 14 feet, using logs and grass for a roof.  They built a door, the frame of which was made with an axe and auger.  Lumber and nails were a luxury they could not dream of possessing.  This spot can now be found on what is known as the Walker farm on highway 69, south of the village , where Verlin Jones lives.

One day they discovered that they were not the only occupants of this knoll.  a large and full grown lynx was living in the underbrush not far from their door.  They decided it would be best not to disturb him so they passed and repassed him several times a day.  They were quite astonished to find that Mr. Lynx preferred their chickens to the wild fowl that was so plentiful in those days.  So Thomas armed himself with a club, while James brought forth a musket (which he called  "Nicodemus") and discharged the contents into the lynx. Wounded, but not disabled the maddened brute sprang from his lair and gave battle.  Thomas charged on him with the club and by a well directed blow he gave riddance to a bad tenant.

A few words must be said about "Nicodemus."  This musket had a barrel about 6 feet long and a bore that could swallow a Springfield rifle.  When loaded and discharged the report would shake the ground and echo through the hills for many miles.  Game that once heard its thunder never cared to come within its range again.  Donald McDonald who wrote about this musket in 1877 remarked that it was always a matter of doubt to him whether it was the shot or the concussion that brought down the game.

They broke some land, planted corn and potatoes and by this time their provisions were quite short.  And in those days the nearest place where supplies could be purchased was Galena, Illinois, a distance of 90 miles.  So Thomas hitched the team to the wagon and started out.  There was no road to follow, only a wild, uninhabited country before him.  He stopped at a stream to let his horses drink, and suddenly it occurred to him that he was returning to his old home and would appear before the fair maidens of Galena.  In those days they believed in the saying that "Cleanliness is next to Godliness," so Mr. Stewart removed his shirt from his back, washed it in the creek, dried it and put it on again.

His partner, left at home, started out as usual to the fields with his trustworthy companion, "Nicodemus."  About dinner time he became very hungry but since no game had crossed his path, he knew it was useless to return home, he continued to work until the sun began to lower in the west.  Returning home, he saw a flock of blackbirds alight in the large burr oak tree near the door of their home.  Nicocemus was speedily put into action, and nine of the blackbirds were gathered up, plucked and prepared for supper and breakfast.  The next day a wild prairie hen fell when Nicodemus went into thundering action.  

Thos. Stewart left his section of land which he purchased from the government for $1.25 per acre, and went to California in the gold rush of 1849, and he was never heard from again.

In 1842, the census of the Sugar River Valley was taken and recorded as follows:
Geo. McFadden, 3 males, 3 females.
Geo. Kendrick, 2 females, 2 males.
Thos. Stewart, 3 males.
Samuel Taylor, 2 males
Patrick Davidson, 4 males, 3 females, a total of 22.

 * * *
Miscellaneous bits about Thomas Stewart:
 Excerpt from the Madison Dane County and Surrounding Town History published in 1877...
... is now occupied by the modern and comfortable residence of Donald Stewart, brother to the pioneer. Thos. went to California many years ago, where he aquired a fortune, but very mysteriously and suddenly dying, while his partner in business equally suddenly disappearing, nothing satisfactory was ever known about his estate.

Might this be our Dane County Thomas Stewart:  1850 U.S. Census, Township 5, Tuolumne, California; Family Nbr. 882; Thomas Stewart; age 34; occupation miner; birthplace Scotland. 
* * *

Thomas Stewart may have "built the first house by a white man" in Verona township, it appears his history may be lost to us.  However, who knows in what mysterious ways this wonderful cyberspace works.  Perhaps the history of Thomas Stewart will find it's way home.

~ ~ ~

© Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Madness: Takes a Wee Bit of Madness: James Peter McPherson Hews a Home From The Land

Photograph Courtesy of the Maggie McPherson Burmeister Family.  Photograph Set-up and Notation by Bill Mansur
Note:  This may have been the original McPherson log house, as the Adamsons did not arrive in Springdale until 1858. 
Even if it is not the  originall log house,  it would have looked much the same as in this photograph.  
Also the Adamson land was carved out of the original McPherson 80 acres holding. /JGH

Hewing a Home From The Land

Cold rain pelted James P. McPherson as shepherded his young family onto the river steamer in NYC, headed up the Hudson River to Albany , and then onto the horse pulled boats of the Erie Canal. A cold spring wind dashed their faces and stung through their clothes as they plied the Great Lakes from Buffalo to Milwaukee. And then there was warm glorious May sunshine as the wagon carried them closer to their new home in Wisconsin.

The date was May 21st of 1850, when they arrived at the John Stewart place which was located on Military Ridge between Verona and the McPherson's soon to be home of Springdale. The road would be known as Scotch Lane, as the residents – Adamson, Clow, Muir, Nimmo, Davidson, Stewart, Henderson, Beat. McGaughey, Whyte, Lyle, McDonald, and soon McPherson – immigrated from Scotland, and many from the villages and towns near Edinburgh and Dundee.

James P. and his wife Mary were greeted by John Stewart, who let them move into his log cabin which stood by his new frame store. John Beat showed up the next day to plough a garden spot for the new comers – Scots they be. Potatoes were planted. Onions sowed. The men of Scotch Lane took McPherson over the ridge to Springdale to look for land – two 40-acre plots near the Thomas Miles place. A bonny location. The surveyor was brought out and the deal was done. At long last James P. McPherson had his own land. The stench and fiber filled air of Dundee was long past, and soon the teeming, immigrant crowed streets and tenements of NYC 's Five Points would recede into the past – only memories. Now he had land.

Mary, his bonny black haired wife, had her hands full with the three stair-stepped boys, seven-year old Billy, James, and Jabez at three, to say nothing of baby Ann; in addition she cooked, cleaned and helped James in the garden. They had spent their savings getting to this land of theirs – cost more than $36 in travel from NYC to this land – and that dinna count the miscellany of “cart for hire, back dues and Food & lodging by the night.” Their pockets were empty, so they scrambled to live. James' work in the flax mills prompted his learning of the tailoring trade in NYC and he quickly put those skills to use. The Stewarts, Gows, Beats, McDonalds, McKays, and Davidson's called at the log cabin to have pants, coats, vests, and hats to be made by McPherson. He also helped his new friends and neighbors in the fields, hoeing, planting, haying, harvesting and thrashing. Mary helped out where she could; she quickly became known as a healer and was called in birthings and when children were ill; she also knitted finely. According to the stories passed down to the children, they had very little money that first year in Springdale, and were paid for their work by a piece of meat, a slab of newly churned butter, and most importantly the neighbors helped with cutting, hauling and setting logs for their new home.

McPherson's diary showed that the work on his house did not go smoothly. Even though within the first month, he had picked out and surveyed his land, and even had taken Mary and the children out to view the land on which they would make their home, he only had a few days in July to cut logs for his house. Then it was haying and hoeing for neighbors, followed by more haying and harvesting, and thrashing --- all up and down Scotch Lane through July, August, September, October, and even into November. Summers in Dane County, Wisconsin sizzle, but winter winds and cold come quickly in October and November. Although, James P. spent a day or so cutting thatch for his roof in late September and early Ocotber, it was not until mid November that he began the serious work of cutting logs. He noted in the Novr 15th to 19th entry that “John Beat with his own & Mr. Lamonts oxen hauled my logs.” For the next five days, James Peter worked at setting the logs for his house, and by November 25th , “Anderson hewed my wall plates. John Eadie fitted joist.”

During the first six months on Scotch Lane, McPherson had gone to every “raising” of a house or barn on the neighborhood. So, as was their way, November 26th, “Messers Anderson, Miles, Menzie, John & James Eadie, Mitchell, Dd Beat, G Davidsons, J McDonald, Jr., Dan Lester, Wm Thomson & Mr. Lamont and his team” showed up at the “raising” of the McPherson log cabin.

For the next three weeks, in late November and early December, he was “working at my house when weather would permit up to Tuesday 17th when I moved into it.” Then he started settling in as he wrote, “Fixing My house and making Mr. A. Meyers coat up Tuesday 31s. The first two weeks of 1851, James P. worked at his tailoring trade, making coats, pants and vests for Meyers, Thomson, Stewart, Davidson, and the Beats.

And then came the January cold spell. January 16th brought “excessive cold,” snow and wind that stripped the thatch from part of the roof, so that he “slept none at night.” The next day the temperature dropped even more. Mr. Miles came to the rescue and moved the family to the his home until the roof of McPherson's log cabin could be fixed. Even though the weather was still very cold, Mr. Lamont, J. Beat, Menzie, and A. Davidson came to help James P. repair his roof. And by the next day the “cold decreased”, so James, Mary and the four children moved back into their log cabin with the now repaired roof.

T'is almost a necessity to have a wee bit of madness, the wondrous sort of madness that took James and his bonny Mary from the flax mills of Dundee to America; then from the gang and rodent infested Five Points of NYC to Wisconsin where land could be his for the taking – and hard work. A madness that assured the scrappy Scot that he could hew a home and farm from the wilderness and provide for his family all the while. T'is indeed a wondrous bit of madness.

~ ~ ~

© Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Amanuensis Monday: History of Springdale by James P. McPherson, Esq. - Pt. 1 The Area Around Springdale

In 1877 , Wm. J. Parks, Co., published a history of Madison, Dane Co, and the surrounding villages and towns in Dane Co., Wisconsin.  Contributors from the various locales provided information, pictures, and maps for the  book.  My great-great grandfather James P. McPherson wrote the portion about the  history of Springdale (p. 806, Dane County Towns, Springdale).  Because of its length,  the Springdale history will be published on this blog in several parts.  Part 1, as follows,  contains McPherson's description of the land around Springdale.


By James P. McPherson, Esq

SPRINGDALE, town No. 6 north, of range No. 7 east, lies fifteen to twenty-one miles southwest of the city of Madison, and is traversed by the Madison and Mineral Point, and the Madison and Wiota state roads, and the territorial road from the Badger Mills to Blue Mounds.

There are in this township some remarkable remains of that ancient people , who ares supposed to have inhabited this country prior to its occupancy by the Indians races; the most noteworthy of which are to be found in secton fifteen. Here are three mounds about fifty feet apart, and extending east and west; they are uniform in size, being about six feet in height above the surface of the adjacent land, and circular at the base, where they are nearly forty feet in diameter. Commencing at the distance of fifty feet from the most eastern mound , and extending in an unvarying direction to the east, there is a long low ridge or bank of earth, one hundred feet in length; the height of this ridge above the surface of the ground on which it is situated is four feet, and measures six feet through the base, north and south. A line drawn due east and west would divide the three mounds and ridge exactly in the center. Being upon elevated land, the view from the site of these mounds would, were it not for the luxuriant young trees by which they are surrounded, be beautiful and commanding. In the summer of 1870 one of these mounds was partially explored by Mr. Charles H. Lewis, a resident of the town, when a well preserved human skeleton was unearthed, together with a stone pipe of curious workmanship, two stone knives, some highly polished and perforated pieces of one, and many stone implements the use of which is now unknown.

BY WM. J. PARK & CO.,  1877.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Synopsis: 2011 September 18th: OMG iIt's Been Nearly A Month!

Life and family stuff came in overwhelming  gusts and flurries, so not much  writing occurred.   However, for the most part I have continued to transcribe J.P.'s diary.  In fact, when my life is in chaos, sitting here with my dual screens and becoming lost in the day to day Springdale happenings of 150 years ago is comforting and strangely relaxing.  For seven or so years, J.P. wrote faithfully in his diary.  Then one day it stopped--- for almost a year.  Important things happened that year.  Mary's folks, William G. and Elizabeth Burns apparently came  to visit and stayed.  Also, it seems that Billy moved out of the family home, at least for a while.  And there seemed to be changes in J.P.'s political sphere --- and all I can do is to keep transcribing and hope for clues to what happened during that year.  But, no,  he had a couple of more lapses in his diary keeping.  I guess, life and family stuff came in in overwhelming gusts and flurries for J.P., as well as his great-great-granddaughter.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Surname Saturday: McDonald Family in Dane County, Wisconsin, mid-1800s

In the 1850s many of the towns in southern Dane County, Wisconsin, were home to a number of Scots families.  When my Great-great-grandfather James Peter McPherson brought his family to  the area, one of the first families he met was that of John McDonald.  In 1850, according to the Federal census,  the McDonald family lived in Middleton, Dane county, Wisconsin, and  included:
John, age 60,
Jenet, age 45,
Margaret, age 21,
Daniel, age 11,
Isabella, age 14,
Anne, age 11.

James P. McPherson was a tailor in New York City from 1842 until his trek to Wisconsin in April 1850, and in the first few years of his life in Wisconsin, he made clothes for friends and acquaintances.  According to the diary of James P. McPherson, on the June day that he removed the splinter from Isabella's foot, he also "measured John and D. McDonald for pants.  From that time forward, J.P. often mentioned McDonald; they went to Madison, attended meetings, and in general kept in contact until McDonald's death.  John and Janet McDonald are buried in Verona Cemetery, as are the McPhersons.

These folks of Springdale and the surrounding area have become almost neighbors to me, as they were to my gg-grandfather James Peter McPherson.  If there any  kin of John and Janet McDonald out there in my readerdom, I would like to hear from you, and to learn more about their lives and family in the States, as well as Scotland.

~ ~ ~

© Joan Hill, Roots'n'Leaves Publications

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wedding Wednesday: James P.McPherson, J.P., Married Lindsay Wright & Isabella McDonald, June 8th, 1862

From the Diary of James P. McPherson, entry dated June 8, 1862
John McDonald was one of the Scots families that greeted James P. McPherson when he arrived in Wisconsin.  The McDonald's lived in Verona, which was just over the ridge from the village of  Springdale where McPherson would soon make his home. 

On June 10th, 1850, McPherson noted that he removed a splinter from the foot of  13 year-old Isabella McDonald, daughter of John & Janet McDonald.  Although her father,  was often mentioned  in the J. P. McPherson's diary, Isabella was not mentioned again until this June 1862 entry:

8 -- Sun.   Married Lindsay Wright & Isabella McDonald. At T. Adamsons afternoon.

The 1860 Federal Census for Verona listed the 24 year-old Scotsman Linzy Wright as working as a day laborer for the McDonald's neighbor, John Eddy.  When the young couple married in 1862, Wright was 26 years-old and his bride, 24 years-old. The Wrights later made their home in Bridge Creek, Eau Claire, Wisconsin.