Families in Lafayette County

Sullivan School History  //  Sullivan Family
From Sullivan School History, pages 2-8

Submitted by: Rose   RKKD123 

The Sullivans came to live in this district in 1833.   Before we begin the story of the school itself, we will tell something about the Sullivan Family. We have "The Story of the Sullivan Family, Pioneers" written by Joseph O. Sullivan, in 1913, and a copy of a letter written by his father, Joseph Sullivan, Sr., to the Shullsburg Pick and Gad in 1901, in which he tells many things that he remembers about early days here, and in the organization of our school.

Patrick Sullivan was born in County Waterford, Ireland, in the year of 1793. His wife, Julia Gosse, was born in Switzerland in 1795, both coming to this country when quite young, and at nearly the same time. Records do not show the date or place of their marriage, but it occurred in the year 1820, either in St. Louis or some place in southern Illinois, probably the latter, where the first few years of their married life were spent. In the spring of 1828, the family came to Shullsburg, or Dublin as it was then called, the trip by ox-team from southern Illinois occupying about three weeks. Mr. Sullivan did not seem to have an inclination for mining, but engaged in teaming and such other work as he could find. During the summer he moved his family to Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, where he continued to follow the occupation of teaming until the fall of 1828, when they again moved back to Dublin, as Shullsburg was then called. Here three of their children were born, John in 1829, Patrick in 1831, and William, who was born in the Fort on the 15th of August, 1832.

Letter written by Joseph Sullivan, oldest son of Patrick Sullivans, in which he gives a first hand account of what the family did during the outbreak of the Black Hawk War.

He wrote:

"We were living in the Fawcett house, where the Sam DeRocher farm now is, when the Black Hawk War broke out. I remember well when Mother and I were picking mineral on the Patrick Doyle lot on the Irish Diggings, there came six men on horseback running as if old "Nick" was after them, warning all the people to get to Galena where there was a fort. They said the Indians would be here and kill us all before tomorrow, but Mother was not a bit scared, so we stayed a little while longer picking mineral, and then went home. In the meantime, the miners were getting together to consult on what was best to do, and finally all agreed to go to Galena.

We loaded up our provisions on our wagon and started out about nightfall. Some had teams and others had horses only, while many went on foot. We all got into the fort safely. Next morning, after traveling all night, Colonel Hamilton got up a company of volunteers, composed nearly all Dublin men and they were sent back to Dublin to build a fort, which they did in a few days. The fort stood in old Shullsburg, just ten rods west of the Northwest corner of the present city limits. It was built of split logs fitted closely together, and standing endwise in a trench about three feet deep and about ten feet high. It enclosed about twelve square rods. The wagons and a few small tents were placed inside, and in those the families stayed. The single men mostly stayed in their cabins in the daytime, but at night would come to the fort. In this fort my brother William was born on the 15th day of August 1832. Finally Black Hawk was captured and the war ended. The fort was vacated after about three weeks and all went about their business. Peter Curran was more fearless and when all went to Galena in a hurry, he stayed for a day or two and gathered up all of the miners tools and buried them for safe keeping until the war was over. He died in Galena, and when dying he told some of the men where the tools were buried, but nobody was ever able to find them, and they remain buried to this day. The company of volunteers was now disbanded but were allowed to retain their firearms for home protection. The arms consisted of flintlock muskets with bayonets about 15 inches long, which fitted onto the muzzle of the guns. They will be yet remembered by many of the old settlers."

At the close of the Black Hawk war, Mr. Sullivan moved to New Diggings Township (to what is now the Sullivan School District) and in 1833 to what is now known as the Old Sullivan Homestead, part in the Town of Seymour and part in the Town of New Diggings. The first house built by Mr. Sullivan was just west of the township line, in New Diggings, and was a small log building erected in 1833. The family lived in this cabin until 1842 when they built a house on Section 20, Town of Seymour. This was a frame building, the timbers of which were of oak, and were sawed at Daddy Cook's sawmill, on upper Fever River. This house, while not pretentious, was comfortable and ample for the needs of the family. Here they entertained many a weary traveler with food and shelter. Here Patrick and Julia Sullivan met and shared alike both joy and sorrow. Here some of their children were born, and here, too, was where some of them died. Here, also, in later years both young and old folks gathered for the old fashioned Country Dance, while the old Homestead rang with the merry strains of "Honey-Musk", the "Arkansas Traveler", and other favorite tunes, played in a manner such as only the old time musicians could play them. In these early days neighbors were not plentiful or very near, but all were "neighbors" indeed, in the truest sense of the word.

After the close of the Black Hawk War, the Indians did not at once disappear, but small bands continued to roam through the country, and on one occasion the Sullivan Family, upon arising in the morning, discovered that a village of wigwams had sprung up during the night on the hillside, about a half-mile from the house. During the day Mr. Sullivan visited the encampment which he found to be that of a hunting party of Winnebagos. He was received in a friendly manner by the Indians, who were then at peace with the whites. As they were about to eat, they invited him to remain and share their meal. He declined, however seeing that their meal consisted of "greens" and the entrails of a deer, boiled up together.

Later some of the Indians, having wounded a deer, called at the Sullivans home for the purpose of getting the dogs to trail it down. At their approach the Sullivan boys sought refuge under the bed, and as the dogs would not go unless the boys went too, the Indians were forced to go away disappointed. They, however, got even with the boys by stooping down and making faces at them as they lay huddled under the bed, thinking, no doubt, that every minute would be their last.

The following incidents are related in Joseph Sullivan, Sr.'s letter to the Pick and Gad dated October 5, 1899:

"Wild game was a plenty in 1835 and wild turkeys in large flocks were

numerous. There were lynx, panthers, wildcats, and coons, also black wolves which were as tall as a St. Bernard dog and said to be dangerous when pressed by hunger. Grey wolves infested the prairie, which abounded in deer. It was not an unusual sight to see twelve or more deer together in a herd when hunting our oxen. One bear was seen in the neighborhood but nobody captured it. In coming home one day from a neighbors I caught a young fawn doe which made a great pet. We put a bell on it and it would follow us everywhere and wander among the wild deer. The wild deer would often follow it home and sometimes when I heard its bell in the morning I would take my rifle and hide in a fence corner. In this way I was able to shoot four fine fat bucks. Our pet finally followed someone away. We heard of it near Galena but could never locate it.

I will conclude this article with a snake story. Three of us boys went into the woods to cut up a fallen tree, and when we got onto it, we heard a noise which we all knew well. We looked under the tree and saw one of the largest snakes we had ever seen. We had killed many snakes and were not afraid of them. The large ones were not so dangerous as the small black devils that infested the prairies and swamps, for their motions were not so quick. We cut a hickory pole about ten feet long and peeled the bark off. With this we made a running noose and slipped it over his snakeship's head, and thus dragging him to the house, We placed him in an empty flour barrel, his rattling was so loud it could be heard thirty rods away. When we had tired of its rattling, we killed it, and it measured one inch less than twelve feet. It had twenty-two rattlers and a button.

Its body was as much as four inches in diameter in the largest place and its head was as broad as an ordinary man's hand. This story may sound somewhat 'shaky' but it is literally true. These snakes were called 'yellow hammers' by the old settlers.

What I have written may be interesting to some of the old settlers to remind them of old times and to awaken memories of perhaps long forgotten events. It may also serve to show these of the present day that the paths of the early settlers were not entirely strewn with roses, but that there were many thorns, and when they remember the sufferings and privation of the pioneers of Lafayette County, they may more fully appreciate the comforts and luxeries with which they are now surrounded."

Patrick Sullivan served as a Private in Captain Hamilton's Company, Wisconsin Volunteers, during the Black Hawk War, and this company built the Fort or stockade at Shullsburg. He never held public office, but was a member of the first petit jury of Lafayette County, in the year of 1847.

Neither Patrick Sullivan nor his wife lived to be very old, but they lived to see the country thickly settled, with neighbors on all sides and to build up a comfortable home where once was the unbroken prairie and virgin forest of Seymour and New Diggings.

Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan both sleep side by side in the old Catholic Cemetery at Shullsburg. Mrs. Sullivan died December 29, 1857, at the age of sixty-two years. Mr. Sullivan died January 21, 1858, at the age of sixty-five years.

Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan had eleven children. For the purpose of our story we are concerned only with two of them, James and Patrick, who seem to have played an important part in founding our school district, and in serving as members of the school board during the early years.

Patrick Sullivan, fifth child of Patrick Sullivan Sr., born in Shullsburg May 7, 1831. He grew to manhood on the old home in Seymour, attending school at times and working on the farm. (We regret that we could not learn where he attended school.) In 1852, in the company of Mr. Tom McComish and Mr. John O'Neill, he went to California in search of gold. He had some success according to his grandniece, Mrs. Tom Kennedy of Shullsburg, who remembers his gold watch made from the gold he panned at this time. On January 28, 1867, Patrick was married to Bridget Patten. They settled in North New Diggings, and lived there until the death of Mrs. Sullivan on April 17, 1879. (It was during these years that he played a part in the early Sullivan School Administration.) With the advent of the first railroad to Shullsburg, he established the first lumber yard there in the fall of 1881. Shortly afterwards he sold it to dodge and Stone and moved to Nebraska.

Mrs. Tom Kennedy recalls that on one occasion when Mr. Sullivan returned from Nebraska for a visit, he, with Mr. John O'Neill and Mr. Tom McComish, the three who went to California together in 1852 in search of gold, sponsored a Fourth of July celebration at the Joseph Sullivan Farm.

All members of the three families were invited. The ladies brought well filled baskets, and all the extra treats and fireworks were furnished by these three gentlemen.

Patrick died April 4, 1907, at Connie, Washington, where he had gone to visit relatives. His body was brought to Shullsburg to be buried near his wife. At the time of his death, a close friend of his, Attorney A.M. Morrissey of Valentine, Nebraska, wrote:

"In the death of Mr. Sullivan, Cherry County lost one of her best citizens, a man who as a private citizen and as a public officer met every requirement of a man. Honest himself, he expected to find honesty in others, Bold and Straightforward himself, he had no time for sham and pretenses. His only question was: 'Is it right?!' If answered in the affirmative, he went ahead, regardless of consequences. He was neither a trimmer nor a time-server, but a brave hearted, loyal American."

James Sullivan was born in New Diggings Township March 31, 1833. He was married to Mary Hurley, also of New Diggings, July 29, 1862. Their wedded life was a very happy one until the tie was broken by her death in 1884. A farmer by occupation, Mr. Sullivan had occasionally worked at the carpenter trade. He had also at times been interested in mining. As a Democrat he was elected Chairman of the Town of New Diggings, a Republican stronghold, and always took an active interest in public affairs.

Our earliest available clerk records are dated 1867, and are in the handwriting of James Sullivan. The writing is clear and legible, his choice of words good, and he seems to have been well posted with regard to school laws. We are sorry that we are not able to learn where he ever attended school.

Mr. Sullivan had twelve children. The oldest girl, Mrs. Alice Curran, was Mrs. Flynn's grandmother. The youngest girl, Mrs. Emma McWilliams, still lives on the homestead. She is the last surviving member of the family. All of his children received their education at the Sullivan school.

In 1912 Mr. Sullivan suffered a stroke of paralysis, from which he never fully recovered. Mrs. Evelyn Kennedy of Shullsburg, his granddaughter, recalls this incident, "A few days before his death, his physician, the venerable Dr. C. C. Gratiot of Shullsburg, shook his head sadly as he looked at him, saying, "My, my, James, what a shame that men like you have to die." He passed away January 5, 1913, on the same farm where as a young man he came to live at the time of his marriage.

We regret that we are not able to learn when the Sullivan School District was organized, and when the first school was built. The earliest treasurer's records are dated January, 1867. They are in the handwriting of Ammi Dodge who was district treasurer at the time. He received from the town treasurer's for district school tax, $150.00 and $116.70 for State and County tax. On hand at last report was $28.47. The teacher in February of 1867 was Miss Kate Baxter, and she received the sum of $72.00 for her services, which probably covered a period of three months."

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