NEW DIGGINGS ON THE FEVER 1824-1864
by
Margaret S. Carter

The book can still be purchased from:
Southwest Graphics, Box 96, Darlington, WI  53530  
   1-608-776-4042

From Native Born to English and Irish  
Pages 98 - 102

(PAGE 98)

During the 1850's, many of the town of New Diggings' first generation of children married.  Some settled down to farm or mine and raise a succeeding generation in the town.  Others moved away.  John and Elizabeth Field Chambers moved to Iowa; Abner and Fanny Field Rock built a galleried frame house reminiscent of southern plantation homes on a farm between New Diggings and Shullsburg.  Across the road, Samuel Scales and his wife Mahala lived in another showplace built of native stone.  In the village, Doctor Ferris and his wife Virginia Baldwin Ferris occupied the pillared white cottage that is still known as the "little White House".  Another Baldwin daughter became Mrs. Phillip Earnest.  Charles Champion, only son of Robert H., married Julia Townsend, daughter of "Ab", and went into merchandising, returning to the diggings after his father's death.  The Champion daughters married and eventually moved away.  Nowadays the Champion name is used only in connection with the old mine; there are no descendents living in the vicinity.  The historical marker which points to the part played by the family in the life of the community is the Masonic Park and Cemetery, where those Champions who remained in the diggings are buried.  

Ammi Dodge married Ann Dering, sister of William, Charles , Frank and John.  The Dodges lived out their lives at what is known as "Dodge's Grove" in the northern section of the town.  They were neighbors of the Looneys, the Sheffers, and the Johnsons, all of whom farmed north of Leadmine in what came to be known as "Democrat".  At "the Bend", sometime during the fifties, a Johnson daughter married William Murphy, son of James, while a daughter of the Looneys married William Bird, one of the early day school teachers in District No I.  Meanwhile "Abe" Looney, after the death of his first wife, married the widow of Charles Gear and built the stone house on his farm east of Leadmine School, adjoining the Sheffer farm.

Down over the hill from the Looneys and the Sheffers in the little stone village of Etna, the three-run-of -stone-mill and buildings on Shullsburg Branch of the Fever had changed hands from Caleb Potwin to Seldon Quimby in 1849 and from Quimby to John Moody during the 1850's.  Moody, a colorful figure, captain of an excursion boat on the River Dart in England, invested

(PAGE 99)

in western lands and turned his holdings in Etna and Elk Grove over to his descendents, including his daughter Mary and son-in-law Russell Houghton Emerson of the former place.  English and Irish families coming into the mines built their cottages along the road leading up the slope from Etna to Leadmine.  Thomas Blenkiron operated a lime kiln in a hollow beyond the mill and taught the district school.  Robert Peasley, who had arrived from New Hampshire in 1841, built a great frame house on the far bank of the branch, while far up the Branch toward Shullsburg, James H. Earnest settled down for his remaining years in a plantation style home now known as "the Bell place".

The Whites, the Corletts, the Millers and Hoffmans and Birbecks and others lived in neat whitewashed cottages and frame houses along the Etna road.  As time passed, Bustons, Allens, Sheffers, Coulthards, Driscolls, Farreys, Nattrasses, Rooneys, Millers, Cherrys, Coltmans settled on small acreages and lots along the north-south road at the top of the hill, and this settlement came to be known first as Leadville, then as Leadmine.  Farm land in the area remained in the hands of the earliest comers in some cases, but much of it passed eventually into the hands of the incoming English and Irish, --the Coates, Sullivan, Dawson, Bird, Robinson, Peacock, Ayer, Rudd, Pedelty, Raw, Ewing, Harker, Cottingham, Appleby, Clarkson and other families.  The Irish congregated for the most part in the north end of the town, where the O'Neills, McGrains and others had opened up farms.

By 1859, the Methodists had built a church near the Democrat road, east of the schoolhouse, while on the west the Primitive Methodists, after "holding protracted meetings" in the schoolhouse, built their church in "Pleasant Grove".  Thus the settlements in the northern part of the town were becoming established at the hands of the English and Irish during the time that the older settlement on New Diggings Branch was enjoying its heyday.

In 1857, William Field made his last two trips to Chicago and Kentucky, - the first in April, the second in September.  He had lived to see Chicago bloom from swamp land to an industrial center, where, that year, he bought three wagons and 15,000 feet of lumber for himself and two of his neighbors.  Field was 56 years of age when he died the following spring.  Robert Champion had not yet made his biggest discovery at the time of Field's death.  But the latter had already become a wealthy man, his estate at the time of his death being valued at $30,000, and

(PAGE 100)

(Picture #22 .......Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Peacock.  Early English Immigrants)

containing some of the richest mineral lands in the new diggings.  

Apparently, the Panic of 1857 did not greatly alter the mode of living of the people in the diggings.  Its effect "was not of that consuming character noticeable at other points", wrote the county historian.  "By 1860 the merchants, miners, farmers and

(PAGE 101)

(Picture #23 ... The Glasson Home in Leadmine -  Once the Methodist Church)

publich had fully convalesced from the attack".  But the village and town were to feel the impact of the war during the following decade, as the price of ore soared to $70 per thousand pounds but manpower dwindled.  Never again would the diggings hold for the miner and prospector what it had held in the past.  The day of the small operator had all but ended.

Could the early settlers on the Ridge, - John Blackstone, William Field, Robert Champion, Solomon Oliver, Amos Brown return to the diggings today, more than one hundred years after the hectic times through which they lived and labored, they would find such giant companies as Eagle - Pitcher, American Lead and Zinc, and Tri-State operating in the area, with complicated and expensive machinery, flotation plants, shafts measuring 300 feet or more in depth and reaching down to tap the veins of ore inaccessible and unknown to the early miner.  Blackstone would find huge buildings and tailing piles casting shadows on the family lot where he and members of his family were buried; champion and Field would see only tailing piles and pock- marked hillsides where the Dowd and McGinnis, the

(PAGE 102)

(Picture #24......The Fever on a Rampage - 1959 - Buncombe)

Boarding House, the Bobineau and Nagle, Champion and Field hummed busily during the forties and fifties of the nineteenth century.  But all would find the great houses they built during those flush times still standing and still occupied, although Field alone of all the earliest settlers would find his own descendents still living on his chosen homesite.

 Notes on Text Pages 103 - 109

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

County Coordinator  Dori Leekley

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