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Margaret S. Carter

The book can still be purchased from:
Southwest Graphics, Box 96, Darlington, WI  53530  

New Diggings in the 1850'S  
Pages 91 - 97

(PAGE 91)

With the help of various records we are able to name and in some instances to locate business places existing in New Diggings during the 1850's.  Henry Potwin already has been mentioned as storekeeper on the south side of Main street; he served also as the village's first postmaster, "in a hut on the site of Vicker's store." 1  Before 1850, William G. Rea and William L. Robison sold merchandise in buildings mentioned before as having been bought by William Field. 2  One of these, on the north side of Main Street, was "called the Riolten building", the other, on the south, was "known as the Ranter House."  William Baldwin "kept a hotel", just north of the present Primitive Methodist Church.  South of the hotel, James Vipond and Thomas Campbell established a merchandising business in 1850.

the 1850 census helps to establish other business enterprises.  The village boasted two French "confectioners", Frances Neltet and Louis Frichot, and a German baker, Erhart Vogler, who also "kept a hotel".  Moses Connor is listed as the third "tavern keeper".  Three butchers served the community.  One, Francis Mack, was of German descent.  The other two were John Williams and Richard Lambert, one a native American, the other newly arrived from England.

Six "merchants" and three "grocers" are listed in the census, the former having in their employ five clerks.  William L. Robison had come from Scotland; the other five were from the East, --Potwin from New Hampshire, Baldwin from Maryland, Dennis O'Connor and Henry Gorman from Pennsylvania, and George Adams from Tennessee.  Their clerks were from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, England and Ireland.  Of these clerks, Thomas B. Campbell became proprietor that year when he went into business with Vipond and remained to see all of his competitors vanish as their business establishments passed into the hands of the incoming English.  David Hudson, a grocer from Maryland, had "the questionable distinction", according to the county historian, of being granted the first liquor license in the newly organized Lafayette County.  Thomas Paseval and Henry Arnold were the other two grocers listed, Arnold operating in a section of one of the Field buildings.

The Dering brothers, Charles and John, of Pennsylvania

(PAGE 92)

(Picture #18----THOMAS B. CAMPBELL--
Clerk of the Town of New Diggings from 1855-1873
Partner in Vipond & Campbell Store 1850-1857
Proprietor of Thomas B. Campbell Store 1857-1873
Clerk of the School Board 1860's)

were cabinet makers.  Bernard McPhillips of Ireland was a wagon maker.  The livery stable was kept by Daniel Comiskey.  Six "makers of boots and shoes" were listed in the census, all hailing from England and Ireland.  One, Joseph Thompson, kept three boarders in his home, one of whom, George F. Lentz, followed the trade.  The other two clerked in stores.  Luke Duff, Francis McMahon, Dennis Lynch and John Waters were "cobblers".

Blacksmiths were John Wright and Christopher Duff, late from Ireland, and Thomas Robinson, newly arrived from England.  Two Irish tailors served the community.  One, Martin Kilcoyne, seems to have had an extensive establishment, since his business was valued at $5000.  the other was Hugh McMahon.  John Graham of England was the only caarpenter listed, but Joseph Ayer, also a carpenter, may also have been in business, since he arrived from England prior to 1850.  William Field's blacksmith shop and grocery were not noted in the census, Field having been listed as a farmer.

(PAGE 93)

(Picture #19 signiture of J. H. Earnest
James H. Earnest
- Early settler
State Assemblyman ....1852-58
State Senator - 1863-68)

(PAGE 94)

(Picture #20 The James H. Earnest family home, now known as the "Bell place")

The names of three doctors appeared in the census.  Edward B. Pharris (Ferris) is the name most familiar to present day residents in the diggings.  A native of Virginia, he married Virginia Baldwin, was a charter member of Olive Branch Lodge No. 6, lived for many years in "the little white house" on New Diggings Branch (recently occupied by Elizabeth Haire), was elected first Superintendent of Schools for the town of New Diggings, and held other town offices before his death.  He is buried in the Masonic Cemetery on the hill.  The other two doctors listed were D. van Hook from Massachusetts and John Rodham from Ireland.  William Teasdale of England was listed as a schoolteacher; George W. Reynolds of New York as sheriff; Benjamin F. Hilton of Maine as minister of the Primitive Methodist Church. 4

Three smelters are said to have been in operation in the vicinity at the time.  Each smelter employed a 'mineral washer' and a teamster or teamsters, with employees listed as "smelters" or "miners" in the census.  George Leekley, Who smelted

(PAGE 95)

(Picture #21  Dr. E. B. Ferris's "Little White House")

on the Fever between the present Curwen farm and the mouth of Shullsburg Branch, employed a Frenchman, Narcisse Lamotagne, and a number of Irish who lived in what was known as "Cork Hollow", between New Diggings and Leadmine.  Some of the Irish names listed are Fitzpatrick, Murphy, Barl, McManus, Timmins, McCabe, Rooney, Corr and Sheridan.  

George King's smelter seems to have been located in the Natchez area;  Horace Dunlap of New Hampshire operated somewhere near the state line.

During the 1850's, James H. Earnest, who later for fourteen years represented the district in state assembly and senate, opened up a store in the village.  So also did Teasdale and

(PAGE 96)

Wallis, Samuel Vickers and Isaac Robinson, all lately arrived from England.  Soon also the Santrys, Edward Metcalf and Thomas Baxter were in business, operating respectively a hotel, a ten pin alley, and a general store.

The records of town meetings are available beginning with the year 1854.  During that  year George Leekley was town chairman, with Abraham Looney and William L. Robison as supervisors, Joseph Morton as treasurer, and Doctor Ferris as Superintendent of Schools.  Thomas B. Campbell replaced Wallis as town clerk during 1854, and held this office until 1873, when he was elected county treasurer.  Campbell's carefully recorded minutes of the meetings of the board, as well as his ledger and day books from the store covering the same period of time and his records as treasurer of the school board over a period of years all point to him as having been a leading figure in the community for many years.

As clerk of the town board he recorded provisions made by the board for such things as laying out of new roads, building and repairing bridges, caring for paupers, issuing liquor licenses, establishing of the Race Track School District, organizing of the Shawneetown Cemetery Association, and so forth.  In his ledger and daybooks for Vipond and Campbell store 1853-73 appear the names of customers and commodities with prices of goods and an occasional inventory stock.  In the school records during the 1860's and '70's, he recorded the names of the last Dominican Sisters to serve in the district and the names and salaries of the secular teachers who replaced them, along with lists of expenditures for labor, equipment, etc.

Thus the age of law and order, of record keeping and town meetings, of schools and churches and lodge meetings, arrived in the mines. Slowly but surely, farming became the rule rather than the exception.  In 1850, William Field shipped "7 sackes, 20 bushels" of beans from Galena to Stillwater, Minnesota, valued at "$60".  By 1853, he had acquired "Young Tyrant", a stallion, which he loaned on commission to his neighbors for breeding purposes.  In 1856, he purchased a Manney's Reaper, the first in the diggings, according to his sons, which he recorded as costing $137.50.  He recorded his crop yield during these years, in wheat and oats, along with payments made to hired hands.  On the sixteenth of August, 1857, he wrote:

(PAGE 97)

"Raining all day and night.  Wheat in danger of splining.  Thirty acres out in shock".

On the 23rd he added:

"Stacking grain and most done".

At the same time, his new English neigbor on the Ridge, John Redfearn, was recording in his "own book" the length of time his cattle spent in champions "medow"; his dealings with his brother Robert and with another newly arrived Englishman, Joseph Sedgwick; his cash receipts from sales of rails and wood.  The mining accounts of "Refearn and Co." were carefully recorded; after 1856 his "thrashing accounts" showed the yield in wheat and oats each year on his own farm and those of his neighbors.

A new era had begun in the mines.

From Native Born to English and Irish  Pages 98 - 102

  "New Diggings on the Fever 1824 - 1864"       Lafayette County Homepage

County Coordinator  Dori Leekley

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