I have the word of Mr. Elam Beardsley for saying that he was the first
actual white settler in Caledonia. It has been said that John Davis
preceded him, but through Mr. Davis may have first asserted a claim in
the town, I think that Mr. Beardsley established the first actual
settlement, and that Mrs. Beardsley was the first white woman who
came into the county for a permanent home. He came from Michigan,
bringing with him his family, and on the third night after he set out
on his perilous journey he and his household jewels slept in a shanty
on his claim in Caledonia.
In February, 1835, Levi Blake and his three sons, C. H. Blake,
E. S. Blake and Lucius S. Blake, set out from their home near Niles,
Michigan, for some place they scarcely knew where. They arrived in
Chicago on the 10th of February, where they provided themselves with
supplies and a Mackinac blanket. They left Chicago, and at night
arrived at Grose Point, eighteen miles north, and were hospitably
entertained by the French traders. The next morning they set out for
the next point of prominence, which was Skunk Grove. It was a cold
winter's day. The snow obscured the trail on which they were traveling,
and they had a long, long, weary day, with apprehensions of a still
more dreary night. Night found them in a grove about three miles
west of the present site of Waukegan. The cold was intense; they
kindled a fire with the last match that was left them. They spent the
night standing around the fire and constructing a sled. In the morning,
leaving behind them their wagon, they proceeded on their journey. At
noon their eyes were delighted with the sight of a human being
leading a pony.
On his approach he informed them that he and that pony were the United
States Route Agents on the way from Chicago to Green Bay with the mail.
He gave them directions and informed them of the landmarks that would
guide them to Skunk Grove, which they reached after the darkness of
night had fallen upon them, and after much suffering from the severity
of the weather. Arrived at a trading post at Skunk Grove, they were
the recipients of the hospitality of Jok Jambeau and his squaw, and
remained over night. On the next morning they began explorations for
a place to locate. At a point on the river three miles northwesterly
from Jambeau's they found John Davis, who had entered a claim and was
residing upon it. They remained with him several days, and looked over
the country. The representations of the country which they had heard
from others proved truthful. They took exception only to the climate,
but Mr. L. S. Blake thinks the winter of 1835-36 the coldest he ever
experienced in Wisconsin.
On the 15th day of February they made their claim. They staked out,
as they supposed, enough land for four; but when the survey was made it
was found that they had only secured a sufficient quantity of land for
two claims. They then visited the Rapids, and found there Mr. See, who
was building a mill. Upon returning to their claim they built a long
shanty without a window in it. They soon returned to Michigan and
removed to Chicago, where the family lived two years. Meanwhile,
Lucius S. Blake and his brother A. H. Blake came back to the claim
and resided in their cabin two seasons. They ploughed a portion of the
land, made some fencing, and held the claim by actual occupancy until
Mr. Levi Blake removed to it with his family in the fall of 1837.
Captain Blake's capacious log house, which he built on his premises,
was a landmark in the country. It was always open to the settlers,
and the hospitality of its proprietor gave it the appropriate name
of "Our House." The farm now owned by James Wilson constituted part
of the Blake claim. Early in 1835, Edward Bradley and his brother made
claims in Caledonia, and during the summer of 1835 and the spring of '36
other settlers arrived with their families; among them were Simeon Butler,
Isaac Butler, Thomas Butler, Joseph Adams and Shintafer, whom Mr. Blake
describes as a daring specimen of a borderer. I think at about the
same time Ezra Beardsley, the father of Elam Beardsley, and Ira Hurlbut,
also settled in the town. Ezra Beardsley was known as a sturdy pioneer
of great heart and noble hospitality.
About the 22nd of September, 1835, Walter Cooley and his family came
to Caledonia, accompanied by Eldad Smith and Mr. Elisha Raymond, Sr.,
and family. Mr. Cooley came first to Racine alone, in May, 1835.
He settled on a claim southwest of the Rapids, but afterward located
about one mile north, on or near a line of blazed trees which at that
point marked the route from Chicago to Milwaukee. In the spring of 1836
Mr. Cooley removed to the premises which until a late day he continued
to own as his homestead, and as his country resort after he became a
resident of Racine. His removal in 1836 was occasioned by the fact that
he one day discovered that he had located on the southeast corner of
another man's claim.
Eldad Smith was one of the early settlers in Caledonia. He arrived in
Racine on the 22nd day of September, 1835, and, remaining there a short
time, went into Caledonia and purchased the claim of John Davis. It
was a claim covering 240 acres. He built a log house and went there to
live, on the 1st of November, 1835, remaining until the winter of 1841,
when he removed to Racine. He says that in the fall of 1835, in addition
to those already named, Trystam Davis, Mr. Fowler, Mr. Stillman,
Hugh Bennett and Hiram Bennett were settled in Caledonia.
Mr. Smith built his house by rolling up logs and putting on a roof
made of shingles of about the size of staves, split out of white oak logs.
He and his family did not suffer for want of provisions in their new
home. He had in the fall of 1835 bought two barrels of flour at Chicago,
and enough other supplies to last them through the winter. In January or
February, 1836, janies Kinzie brought in a drove of hogs called "prairie
racers," and the settlers supplied themselves with pork.
Prairie wolves and Pottawotomie Indians were equally abundant. During
the winter there were three encampments of Indians uncomfortably near
Mr. Smith's house. In 1837 or '38 the Indians were removed west of the
Mr. Smith says that in those days they had neither rats, beggars nor
As early as December, 1835, Sheridan Kimball settled in Caledonia. During
the summer of that year Mr. Kimball, while living in Chicago, heard
of a settlement on Root river in Wisconsin, and in the month of
December, in company with Sandford Blake, Stephen Sanford and a man
whose name he cannot now recall, he set out for the Root river settlement.
In the evening of their first day's journey upon a new wagon road through
the woods, which had been previously an Indian trail, one of the
evidences of which was a dead Indian child, deposited in a rude coffin
and lodged in a tree which stood by the wayside. On the second night of
their journey they arrived at Sunderland's tavern. In the evening of their
third day's journey Mr. Kimball and his comrades arrived at a log tavern
in the edge of the woods, and were rejoiced to learn that they had reached
the Root River country. Some of the settlers called at the cabin that
night and talked cheeringly of the richness of the land, the future
prospects of the town of Racine, and the general development of the country.
The proprietor of the tavern was a Mr. Strong who died long ago, and was
buried near his cabin, two miles north of Mygatt's corners, and the
crumbling walls of which yet stand [in 1906]. Leaving Mr. Strong's cabin
Mr. Kimball and his companions traveled on until they reached the cabin
of John Davis, where they breakfasted.
At the crossing of Skunk Creek, where Mr. Hood now resides, men were
building the first bridge across the stream. Among them was Symmes Butler,
who had located near what is now called Caledonia Center. Resuming their
travels, Mr. Kimball and party soon reached the house of C. H. Blake,
who was living in a log cabin on the claim which was afterward the home
of Captain Levi Blake. Resting there until toward evening, they continued
their tramp until, at night, they arrived at the residence of Symmes Butler.
He was living on what was called Hoosier Creek. Several families were
living in the neighborhood, among them Mr. Janes, the founder of Janesville.
They were cordially welcomed. The next morning as they were preparing to
depart, Mrs. Butler remarked: "When you get out in the woods, you will
know the reason why my husband is so ragged, he has been running through
the woods so much he has left a rag on every bush." With Mr. Butler as
their guide, they rambled through groves of timber and openings, and
crossed beautiful prairies and meadows, with only here and there a claim,
and greatly exhilarated by the thought that all this goodly land could be
bought for one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre! Mr. Kimball made
a claim at that time, and settled on it. In the latter part of February,
1836, he returned to Chicago, and immediately made preparations for
removing to Root River, with his aged parents. His brother, Leonard
Kimball, preceded them to make preparations for their arrival. About the
middle of March they started with three yoke of oxen and a wagon, and were
two weeks making their journey. Arrived at their destination, they found
an unfinished cabin on the premises, which was soon completed with its
shake roof, rude stone chimney and elm bark floors.
During the first four or five years of his adventurous life in his new home,
Mr. Kimball was compelled to struggle against hardship and destitution. He
had in store a small quantity of provisions and nine dollars in money.
Bereavement soon followed in the death of his brother, which occurred
about the 16th of May, 1836.
In the beginning of '36 Mr. Kimball went to Chicago, and delivered stone
for Chicago harbor, continuing through the summer and part of the fall. In
the summer of 1837 Mr. Kimball conceived the idea, also, of getting wheat
from a brother, who lived west of Chicago, and taking it to a mill on Fox
River to be ground into flour and then hauling it to Wisconsin to be sold
for twelve dollars a barrel. He began hauling soon after harvest, and made
three trips, oftentimes supplying, on his journeys, the necessities of
settlers whom he met and who were without bread or money.
At the land sale in 1839 Mr. Kimball secured the land which he had claimed,
and continued to reside upon it until he removed to Racine, which has since
been his home.
In 1836, William Sears, Luther R. Sears, James Bussey, Joel Horner,
Emanuel Horner, Daniel Wooster and his sons, and Alexander Logan and
Thomas Spencer made their settlements.
Daniel Wooster and his son Adney, on the 1st day of January, 1835,
started from the town of Derby, Conn., with his team for the West in search
of a location where he could settle and make a home for himself and family.
Traveling through the States of New York, Michigan Indiana and
Illinois, he reached Wisconsin in the month of March of the same year,
and located in the town of Caledonia. The spring following Mr. Daniel
Wooster's son, Julius Wooster, with the family, came to Caledonia, by
way of Buffalo, around the lakes. Mr. Wooster remained on the farm where
he first located until his death, which occurred about four years since.
John Wheeler and Joseph Cannon were also among the early settlers, but the
years of their arrival are unknown to me. Esek Sears came in 1838.
1836 is remembered as the year in Caledonia, and even elsewhere, when
the settlers received from Michigan all importation. of flour which
nearly cost some of them their lives. It was called in those days
"sick flour." and nobody but Shintafer, could eat it.
Samuel Hood located in Caledonia, May 24th 1838; George F. Roberts and
Henry B. Roberts in 1837, and John Trumbull in August, 1839. Timothy
Morris came in October. 1838, and made a claim, which he sold
in 1840. In 1839 he and his brother, who owned land adjoining, broke
up twenty acres, which was the first land plowed on the north side of the
prairie. During the following winter and spring Mr. Morris made rails
and fenced the breaking. He procured his timber for rails on the adjoining
section, belonging to the government. Isaac Place thought he would
make rails from the same timber. Each tried to get in advance of the other
by claim-marking Uncle Sam's best trees with all the speed of men running
a foot race. A few years later Mr. Morris sold his original eighty
acres and bought the tract where he and Isaac Place had cut the timber
without leave of Uncle Sam, and now owns and resides upon it.
Daniel B. Rork settled where he now lives, in Caledonia, in June, 1837.
He bought the claim of Jok Jambeau. Jambeau asked him $2,000 for it
but finally sold it for $525. It was fenced in 1834, and was probably the
first claim fenced east of Rock river. Mr. Rork came to the county in
1835, and in that year made a claim at Burlington. Other parties jumped
it, but he succeeded in maintaining it, and afterward sold it to Silas Peck
for $200. Mr. Rork knew all the settlers east of Rock river, and assisted
in the erection of the first frame house built in Milwaukee.
Rev. Cyrus Nichols settled in Caledonia in the fall of 1836. He bought
a claim and built a log house about forty rods from his present residence.
He was a missionary and traversed the country preaching to the settlers.
On one occasion. when he held religious services at the trading post at Skunk
Grove, the settlers- attended-among them Mr. Lucius S. Blake- armed with
guns, and he administered to them a sharp rebuke for carrying firearms to
Mr. Nichols and family were victims to the "sick flour" that came from
Michigan, although it cost him $22 a barrel. He says that although the
settlers had but one apartment in their houses, there was always room for
all who came. He had previously lived in Missouri, and there had but
one room in his house and that the kitchen. On coming to Wisconsin he
resolved he would have a parlor. He kept his resolution, and had a parlor,
and lived in it, but that was the only room in the house!
The first white child born in Caledonia was Mrs. Maria Bacon, daughter of
the late Joseph Adams. She was born on the 2d day of September, 1835, and it
is an unsettled question whether she, or Helen Mars, daughter of Samuel Mars,
who was also born in 1835, in Mt. Pleasant, was the first white person born in