Rochester

As published in "The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties" (Chicago: 1879), pages 485-487

The settlement of Rochester and Waterford was begun almost at the same time, the first arrivals in what is now the former village being Levi Godfrey and John Wade. They reached their new home in the spring of 1836, and perfected title to their claims by erecting a log house. No sooner was the cabin inclosed and roofed for the protection of its owners than they began, and, in due time, completed a commodious hotel. In the year following, they laid out the village and welcomed the arrival of Alonzo Snow, who opened a general store. With a hotel and a store came a desire to get something better, and, in order to gratify that desire and make a little money, Martin C. Whitman, in the latter end of 1887, built up a saw-mill which he controlled for two years, finally losing it by fire in 1839. Very soon after the mill started, Godfrey built the first frame house erected in the settlement.

The First Birth to occur in the village was that of Miss Mary Godfrey, afterward Mrs. Fell.

The First Marriage was solemnized in 1836, the contracting parties being John Cole and a Miss Fowler. Mr. Cole had to go to Racine for a license, which cost him the snug sum of $4, and was considered a luxury in those days to be indulged only at occasional intervals.

The First Death, always a sad event, occurred in February, 1887, the victim of the pale man on horseback being Mrs. John Wade. Her remains were safely laid away under the green trees and flowers on the Wade farm, but were afterward taken up and re-interred in the Rochester Cemetery.

The Manufacturing Interests. By the erection of the first mill, a starter "was given to the village, which eventually proved of incalculable benefit, for after the mill was consumed by fire in 1839, Mr. Belden rebuilt it on the Muskego River. In connection with the first saw-mill, there was an iron foundry erected by a man named Ford, which was purchased by Belden in 1844. In 1842-43, he built the first flouring-mill, a frame building, which cost $13,000. He ran that mill as sole proprietor until 1846, when he sold out to Messrs. Hulburt & Royce. They kept it until 1850, and sold it in that year to James and Robert Scott, the present proprietors. In 1858, it burned down, but was rebuilt, and is now owned by the Scotts. At one time Mr. Richard Ela bad a large wagon manufactory, which stood on & bank of the river, but at present it is included among the past glories of the place.

The First Brick House in the village was built in 1843 by Peter Campbell, and he kept it as the Union Hotel until 1856, when he died. In I858, Edward Reynolds rented it, and at the end of a year surrendered his lease, which was taken by Peter Silvernale, who dispensed its hospitalities for a year. Silvernale's widow then resumed occupation, and, in 1863, it was purchased by James H. Gibson, who still retains possession.

Religious Interests. The Congregational Church was organized in 1840 with about fifty members. Until 1845, they held their meetings in the schoolhouse, but in that year they built the present brick church. A Mr. Cadwell, from the eastern portion of the State of New York, was the first minister called to officiate, and Calvin Earl and Reuben Clark were the Trustees. When first completed, the building cost $2,000, and had a very large congregation, but the congregation at present numbers only twenty. The Rev. Mr. Pett, a Baptist minister, officiates there occasionally. The ground upon which the building stands, a quarter of an acre in extent was donated by Mr. Ovid Hulburt.

The Schools. The first school-building was raised in 1840, but the first school opened was that taught in 1837 by Miss Dyer, a sister of Dr. Dyer, of Burlington. In 1848, in School District No. 2, a wooden building was erected, the first teacher employed, of which there is any record, being Miss Sarah Whitman, the present wife of Mr. Henry Cady, the genial Postmaster of Rochester.

In 1867, a Seminary was opened in a building formerly occupied by Mr. Richard Ela as a wagon factory, the prime mover being a Free-Will Baptist Minister, J. S. Bradley by name,who stated to other members of the faith that their orgranization required a school and that there would be a good place to have it. Accordingly, $2,500 were raised by subscription, and the building purchased from Levi Godfrey. J. S. Bradley was installed as Principal, and operations were begun, with about one hundred scholars. He remained there two years, and was followed by the Rev. Nathan Woodworth,,who served three years. Prof. J. H. Gould succeeded to the head of the school, in turn, each remaining three years. But hard times intervened to prevent suecess, and the school finally closed, thouoh there is some talk of re-opening it during the current year. The first School Commissioners were elected in 1842, and are as follows: Phillip Mygatt, Nathaniel Moulton and Benjamin Bayley. The present Board of School District NO. I is R. S. Jackson, E. B. Adams and J. Jackson, the latter Treasurer, with M. L. Lee as Principal. Of No. 2, the Board is John Zicks, Director; J. D. Wright, Clerk; -----, Treasurer; and Miss Sarah Whitman, Principal. The building itself is a frame, and cost $700. Miss Whitman has the training, of about one hundred pupils, by all of whom she is held in high esteem.

Secret Societies. In April, 1849, Jessie Stetson, Deacon Brittain and others, called meetings at the schoolhouse, at which secret societies in general and Odd Fellows, in particular were denounced in no measured terms, tbey bolding that such organizations were hypocritical and the reverse of philanthropical. Mr. C. S. True annd Henry Cady, having discussed the matter, determined to attend and repel these charges. When the resolutions condemning secret organizations were introduced, these gentlemen assailed them with the utmost vigor. The meeting continued for about three nights, but, failing to secure an adoption of the resolutions, the movers fled.

On July 18, of the same year, a Lodge of sixty members was formed. The principal officers were: Hyland Hulburt, N. G.; Wallace Hulburt, Vice Grand, and Dr. Boyce, Secretary -- these gentlemen being the only three who understood the matter at all. Since then the Lodge has prospered abundantly, increasing in numbers and influence yearly.

A Temperance Lodge, composed of both sexes, was fully organized in January, 1872. The officers were: J. D. Wright, W. P.; Lucy E. Nash, Worthy Associate; John Gleason, R. S.; J. E. Jackson, F. S.; H. R. Adams, Treasurer; Robert Adams, Chaplain; J. S. Harris, Conductor; Mrs. M. Tucker, Assistant Conductor; Inside Sentinel, A. Cocraft ; Outside Sentinel, Albert Thompson. The present officers, so far as they could be obtained, are H. R. Adams, W. P., and Lizzie Cady, R. S.

On November 16, 1876, the Temple of Honor was organized with thirty-one members and the following officers: W. B. Stetson, W. C. T.; John Wood, Deputy; G. H. Blake, W. R.; J. E. Jackson, W. A. R.; E. B. Adams, W. F. R.; Robert Adams, W. T.; Joseph Sum'Mers, W. W.; F. Hoyt, W. D. W.; B. F. Fowler, W. S.; James Bell, W. G.; John Gleason, W. V. T. The present Worthy Chief is Henry Nobles.




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