Some Pioneer Settlers of Kenosha County
by MRS. HELEN MCVICAR
This article was published in
June of 1935 on pages 395-402 in an unknown publication.

This text was contributed by Diane Larson. Thank you Diane!



James Madison Kellogg, a resident of Kenosha County from 1854, was born in Amsterdam, Livingston County, New York, on September 25, 1812. He was the youngest son of Seth and Naomi Parsons Kellogg, in a family of six sons and three daughters. Their father was a cabinetmaker by trade, emigrating in 1800 from Connecticut.

James's earliest recollection was of his oldest brother, Russell, returning from the war of 1812, and resting his old musket in the chimney corner. He recalled assisting his mother in grating potatoes from which she made starch, and of burning corncobs, from the ashes of which pearlash or soda was extracted.

He learned his letters in a little dame-scbool, and later attended the rural school in the winter. This must have been a rather turbulent academic course, for the first procedure of the schoolmaster in the morning was to season over the live coals some very long and wiry birch switches, and after this school opened with prayer and reading of the Scriptures! One brother operated a sawmill and lumberyard on the Mohawk River. The father's family moved to Steuben County, and at the age of twenty James went to Orleans County, where he taught school, had classes in penmanship and read law. He returned to Steuben County, was admitted to the bar, and engaged in legal practice.

Another brother, Franklin Kellogg, bad beard of the fertile prairies of the West, and in the summer of 1841 with his wife and two daughters started for Chicago. Their goods were in two covered wagons. James had decided to caste his lot with his brother, and to the other goods he added his Black-stone's Commentaries and oddments packed in a cowhide covered trunk with his initials J. M. K. ornate in brass nails across the top. (The trunk is still in existence, 1932.)

James had a saddle horse and gun, and one of the party usually scouted ahead for a camp site, and shot small game for the evening meal. They were a month on the road, and it was the first of October when they reached Chicago, which was little more than a trading post at the stage when teams mired down on State Street.

The women were left in Chicago, and the men went land, looking and selected a fertile section near McHenry, Illinois. Here they built a cabin and broke the prairie sod. Neighbors were not plentiful, and at first it was feared the newcomers might be "stuck up," as the women arrived from Chicago with wagon and team of horses instead of oxen!

The first social gathering they attended was a quilting bee. The young men came in the evening, on the rough cabin floor. The refreshment was a well scrubbed, juicy turnip, and a knife to scrape it with, passed around.

In New York, Mr. Kellogg had made a study of phrenology; and for fifteen years, during the winter months, traveled through Illinois and gave lectures in churches, schoolhouses, and cabins, wherever a gathering might be held. For demonstration purposes in his lectures, he procured three skulls: one of a reputed pirate, one of an Indian and one of a murdered white man. These skulls werc carried in a pair of saddlebags, thrown over the horse's back. These same skulls were for many years a matter of much concern to his household. When not "on tour," they were consigned to the farthest corner of the darkest closet, and at housecleaning time caused considerable consternation among the women folk. They were finally given a respectable resting place. One of Mr. Kellog's favorite stories was of examining the head of old S---, the friendly Indian of the Black Hawk War.

One summer he spent with a naturalist in central Wisconsin gathering specimens of wild life and flora for some institution in New York. His lecture trips led him farther afield in southern Wisconsin, and in 1854 he met and married Mrs. Lemira Tarbell Fowler, the widow of Sereno S. Fowler. She was the sister of Emerson and Henry Tarbell, well known in Kenosha and its history.

Mr. Fowler was a native of Massachusetts and a graduate of Harvard. Mrs. Fowler was born in Hampden County, Massachusetts, and was a graduate of a young ladies' academy at Southampton. Mr. Fowler came to land sales in the territory of Wisconsin, and in 1837 brought his bride to the land just north of the Woodworth Road on highway 50 in the town of Bristol. Rollin Tuttle brought them out through the prairie grass that was higher than the backs of the ox-team.

The prairie was broken by groups of magnificent oaks called "oak openings," and Mrs. Fowler expressed her pleasure at such "nice orchards." When a prairie fire threatened their cabin, while the men were hastily plowing a strip around the clearing to protect it from the flames, Mrs. Fowler beat out the flying sparks with her woolen petticoat.

When trees were cut and burned, berry bushes grew around the stumps. Berries were dried for winter. Wild crabs were preserved in maple sugar. Quail and prairie chicken were abundant; one winter all the flour they had was buckwheat, till the boat came in the spring with supplies.

Mr. Fowler planted the first apple, peach, and pear orchard in the county, having brought the seedlings from his home in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1841. Some of the trees are still living.

The Indians looked in the windows, but they were friendly, and brought gifts of venison and game, and expected a little sugar, tobacco, or tea in exchange. They camped in the woods between Woodworth and highway 50, but during the winter of the deep snow, many of them died of disease and starvation, and the little remnant never returned.

For several seasons the winters were mild and all the equipment for winter travel was a rude sled called a "jumper," and a fiery little Canadian pony, which never stepped over a puddle or running stream, but jumped. over.

Mr. and Mrs. Fowler were people of fine ideals and an upward vision. His high ambition was the establishment of a select boarding school; to this end in 1839 be built the house and dormitory of Fowler's Academy. The lumber was sawed in a mill erected on land owned by Mr. Fowler, now in the possession of Fred Stevens, on the old Plank Road. With ox-teams and neighborhood help, they raised a dam and mill race on the little stream that is the outlet of Neisans and League Lake. The remains of these are still plainly visible. Henry A. Newberry was the carpenter constructed the academy, and he built well for posterity. Mr. Fowler was possessed of extraordinary executive ability, and the academy was becoming most successful when his health failed, and in 1847 the school closed. He succumbed soom after to tuberculosis, which it is believed be contracted in his eastern home.

The young widow was unable to carry on, and the place was rented as a tavern. Here, after their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Kellogg made their home, continuing it as a tavern, where they housed many a man and beast when long lines of ox-teams hauled wheat to Kenosha from the fertile prairies of Walworth and Big Foot.' (H. E. Cole, Stagecoach and Tavern Tales of the Old Northwest (Cleveland, 1930), 140.) The charge for man and team was fifty cents and a stirrup cup thrown in to speed the parting guest. The old house was well equipped for those days to care for a crowd, and it was Mrs. Kellogg's pride that she always had her meals on time. There was a big brick oven with a fireplace and kitchen in the basement. The dining room was above this on the first floor, and on the second floor a large hall extended to the north.

In his capacity of justice of the peace, Mr. Kellogg presided over the occasional lawsuits here, and here Lovell and Webster clashed forensic opinions. In common with many other public spirited citizens, Mr. and Mrs. Kellogg gave their measure of financial assistance to the building of what is now the Kenosha and Harvard Division of the Northwestern Railway.

The post office was in the Kellogg home when the mail was carried by stagecoach to Lake Geneva, but after the railroad was put through, the stagecoach was discontinued and the post office moved to Woodworth.

The Kellogg house was at one time a station of the "underground railroad" that assisted fleeing slaves into Canada. One evening while a dance was going on above, a wagon load of frightened negroes was brought over from Antioch.

They were hastily hidden in the "cellar kitchen," where the windows were blanketed and the doors locked; they were warmed and fed, and the next night taken to another "station" in Kenosha. And no one was ever the wiser!

Mr. Kellogg was an ardent Democrat, but did not uphold slavery or secession. He gave generously of time and money, in conducting meetings and making speeches in various parts of the county to aid in raising troops and furthering the Union cause. Nevertheless, he was subjected to much criticism for his political belief, but the men of that generation were positive in their convictions and did not back water for expediency.

At the close of the war, Mr. Kellogg entered extensively into dairying, and in 1869 engaged in cooperative cheesemaking. The barroom was turned into a cheese room, and William Bush, one of the sons of a pioneer familv, became cheese and butter maker. He stayed with them for eight years, and the venture was so successful that a factory was built on the north road. Other cheese makers were Milton Hubbard of South Bristol, Fred Jones of Pleasant Prairie, and Maggie Seivert.

Early in the '70's the Patrons of Husbandry were organized, and Mr. Kellogg as state deputy organized some thirteen societies in the county. The hall over the dairy room became the home of the Bristol grange. A stage was erected in the north end, and the young people gave many entertainments there.

Zalmon G. Simmons of Kenosha had offered $500 for a circulating library for the Bristol community if it would raise $300 more. They responded with a will, and by means of suppers, socials, dinners, entertainments, lectures, and amateur theatricals achieved their goal. Rev. Lucius Lee, who had just returned from a trip around the world, consented to lecture. By the aid of pictures he had taken several young ladies presented tableaux to show the costumes of different countries. I believe he brought some costumes with him, but there was much sewing of paper-cambric and draping of shawls. By these various activities a public library for Bristol and vicinity was installed in the Kellogg house. It was called the "Bristol Grange Library," and was distinctly different in operation from the district school libraries which an early Wisconsin law had provided for. It is believed that the Bristol Grange Library was the first library of the sort opened to the general public in this section of Wisconsin. It contained approximately 1,000 volumes of standard works by such authors as Dickens, Scott, Bulwer, Hume, Macaulay, together with encyclopedias and other books, too numerous to recall. The grange library were discontinued, and the last of the books given to the Simmons Library of Kenosha.

Mr. and Mrs. Kellogg had no children, but the child of their adoption was Emma the daughter of Henry and Mary Cherry Hogle. Henry Hogle was an emigrant from England to Wisconsin in 1847. He joined the gold rush to California and with many others who crossed the divide, never returned. The young wife died, the little girl was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Kellogg, and later became the wife of Daniel Rowe. She died in 1874, leaving an infant son and a daughter; the latter is now Mrs. Herbert E. McVicar, the author of this paper.

Mrs. Kellogg was a Congregationalist; Mr. Kellogg was a member of the Methodist church. They retained their interest in young people, in church and school and public affairs, and as long as health permitted visited school at least twice a year, as a civic duty. Mrs. Kellogg passed away in February, 1887, and Mr. Kellogg in 1899. He was a Royal Arch Mason and a member of Washburn Lodge of Bristol.

He had no political aspirations; his favorite quotation was one that ended: "Act well your part-there all the honor lies."

The old house passed to the hands of strangers. It stood a neglected landmark for many years. Those who had lived in it were gone. It burned to the ground in September, 1929, and the hand hewn timbers from century old oaks gave back to earth their ashes and their memories.


Click here to go to
WIGenWeb AHGP

Return to Early History Page