The settlement of what is now the township and village of Waterford began
in 1836. The settlers of that year who yet survive and retain their
original residentces are P. R. Mygatt, Samuel E. Chapman, Ira A. Rice,
Archibald Cooper and Hiram Page. The first family settled in the town
was that of P. R. Mygatt.
A list of the settlers of 1836 may be stated as follows: Ira A. Rice,
Samuel E. Chapman and their wives, May, 1836; Archibald Cooper,
September, 1836; Hiram Page, August, 1836, Levi and Hiram Barnes,
summer of 1836; Benoni Buttles, June 1836; John T. Palmer, May 1836;
Arad Wells, May 1836; Alpheus Barnes, Samuel C. Russ, Adney Sampson,
Philip R. Mygatt, Henry and Austin Mygatt, Elisha Elms and Osborne L. Elsm,
all during the season of 1836. Among the settlers of 1837 were Louis S.
Merrills. Harvey Weage and Frederick A. Weage, Sautell Whitman, Israel
Markham, Orrin Barry, J. S. Cooper, Dyer Buskirk, William Wade,
Mr. Burbank, John Cooper, James Cooper and Lorenzo Ward.
Nelson H. Palmer and Elijah K. Bent were among the settlers of 1838.
In the spring of 1836 Joseph and Tyler Caldwell settled in the town of
Waterford, made their claims and built a shanty on the prairie since
known as "Caldwell's Prairie".
In July, 1836, Abram Ressigue, William A. Cheney and Calvin Gault
located at the same place, with their families. They lived in their
wagons until they could build a log house. In the same year, Charles
Dewitt, Paul W. Todd and Wesley Munger made their settlements on the
In the fall of 1837 V. M. Willard and T. W. Gault came. In 1838
Jefferson Brown and D. Wood and families, Ira Coleman and N. Van Aerman
and their families also settled on the prairie.
In 1839 Lorenzo Ward, John Larkin and Edmund Flagg made their settlements.
The first frame house built on "Caldwell's Prairie" was that of Joseph
Caldwell, in the fall of 1837. T. W. Gault and Mrs. O. Van Valin are now
the oldest surviving residents on the prairie.
I imagine that the first settlers of 1836, when they arrived on the bank of
Fox River, at the place which was destined speedily to become a properous
settlement and village, were at once attracted by the picturesqueness of
the scenery which broke upon their view in its native beauty, and by the
high promise of future prosperity and happiness which the land to which
they had come seemed to afford.
On the spot where the dwelling of Samuel E. Chapman stands was an Indian
council house, called "Cadney's Castle" and all around it were Indian
cornfields. The river offered unusual facilities for the establishment
of a waterpower, and it was soon determined to found a village, taking
its name from Waterford in the State of New York. The Indians had also,
for a long time, selected the place as their ford across the stream,
which gave the name adopted additional appropriateness.
The founders of Waterford Village were Samuel E. Chapman, Levi Barnes
and Samuel C. Russ. O. W. Barnes and a Mr. Beebe had first made the claim,
but Levi Barnes and Mr. Chapman bought them out. At the land sales in
1839 Eliphalet Cramer purchased the lands for Chapman and Barnes and
conveyed to them. Mr. Ira A. Rice made a claim on section No. 27, where
he now lives.
The hardships of these pioneers, during the first seasons of their
settlement, were often severe. They had not only to centend against
thieving Indians, NOTE: Transcriber only includes this paragraph because
it is part of the published text. The KenGenWeb in no way believes
that this statement is correct or is a worthy representation of actual
occurances between Native Americans and settlers. but were obliged
to transport their provisions and seed with ox-teams, from Racine, Southport
and Chicago. There were no roads in the country; steams had to be forded,
marshes traversed, and all the difficulties of travel which prevail
in an unsettled region, encountered. At some seasons, hunting and fishing
afforded the chief means of subsistence. The men worked days, and hunted
game and speared fish by torchlight at night.
But amid all their privations the settlers were very happy, for they
enjoyed the freedom and independence of their rugged life. Newcomers
were always welcome to their humble hospitality; every cabin and
shake-roofed house was open; friendship and brotherly love prevailed.
There were no drones in those days. Every man and woman had work to do,
and did it, and when one of the settlers had a job on his hands that
he could not manage alone all his neighbors gave him their gratuitous
When Mr. Merrills came into the town, in 1837, he was obliged to pay $20
for his first barrel of flour, and had to split rails to pay for it.
During his journey to the West, in 1837, Mr. Merrills was one day
wandering in the woods on the Nippersink, and came upon a log pen
about three feet high and four feet square, covered and closely chinked.
Curiosity prompted him and his companion to investigate the newly
discovered structure. Through a crevice in the roof they beheld a
solitary Indian, sitting in the corner, painted and feathered, and well
armed with rifle, tomahawk and knife. A hasty and inglorious retreat
to the depths of the forest was immediately made, in momentary expectation
of a farewell shot from the Pottawotomie whose dominion was thus invaded.
Samuel E. Chapman and Levi Barnes built the first log house in the
village of Waterford, in 1836. It was regarded "headquarters" and with
its shake roof, still stands, slowly going to decay, but in its
speechless old age reviving in the minds of the old settlers
interesting memories of the past.
In the fall of 1837 Messrs. Barnes and Chapman, assisted by L. D. Merrills,
Archibald Cooper, Ira A. Rice, William Jones, John T. Palmer, Osborn L. Elms,
Elisha Elms, and John Fisher, built the first dam across the river. The
first sawmill was built in the fall of the same year, and the first
gristmill in 1840 by Mr. Chapman. The first millstone used in the
gristmill was twenty-two inches in diameter, and is yet preserved by
Mr. Chapman. Archibald Cooper scored the first timber, and Lewis D.
Merrills hewed it for the sawmill.
The first crops raised in Waterford were potatoes, and rutabagas.
Rutabagas became a regular farm crop. Mr. Cooper says that at one time
he lived on them alone, fourteen days. Mr. Chapman brought with him the
first rutabaga seed sown in the town.
For the first johnny-cake Archibald Cooper ever ate, he ground the corn
in a coffee mill at the house of Osborn L. Elms. They had with it
molasses made from watermelons.
Among the settlers of 1839 was George Eaves and I judge him to have been
a pretty sharp character from the following circumstance. A traveler
from Milwaukee stopped, with his team, over night at the hotel of Mr. Russ.
He had in his wagon what appeared to be a bag of oats. Eaves wanted
oats for his own horses, and so he approached the bag and contents; but
upon giving his own horses a liberal supply, he concluded that the
defrauded traveler was an honest shoemaker, since the contents of the
bag proved to be shoe pegs!
In the spring of 1836 Arad Wells plowed seven or eight acres on what is
now the farm of Ira A. Rice, this was the first plowing done in the town,
and upon the land plowed was raised the first crop of red clover grown
In the midst of all their hard work and struggle the settlers indulged
in many amusements. The wolf hunt of 1838 was one, when the settlers
armed themselves with guns, clubs, scythes, dinner horns and pitchforks
and went in pursuit of wolves and wolf scalps. It is said that the hunters,
under competent officers, endeavored to close in on an entire township.
Concentrating their forces, however, they finally surrounded a tract of
forest, every man watching for his game, and finally all gathering in
the center of the wood, without encountering a solitary wolf. As a wolf hunt
it was, therefore, not a success, but returning home over the "big marsh"
they overhauled a wayfarer with his horses and wagon, journeying to
Elkhorn, with a cargo of whisky aboard. This was game the hunters
could appreciate! The driver had turned his horses loose, and was reposing.
The party, under the direction of their officers, formed a hollow square
around the wagon. Details of further proceedings are unnecessary.
Weariness overcame many of the hunters, and the sequel gave celebrity to
the wolf hunt of 1838!
It is said that there were scolding wives in Waterford, for a
considerable time thereafter, and that the traveler who had been thus
defrauded successfully obtained the redress for his wrongs to which in
equity and sober conscience he was justly entitled!
Samuel C. Russ built the first hotel in Waterford. Levi Barnes was the
settlers' first preacher. He was accustomed to gather his flock beneath
the roof of Mr. Chapman's rude cabin. Some of the settlers were fond of
Sunday fishing, and in one of this sermons he administered reproof for
this profane practice, by saying: "Pioneers and sinners! I come to call
you to repentance and as one so called, I declare to you that until you
repent of your sins, you are gone, hook and line, bob and sinker!" The
district school, and the first Sunday school, were taught by Harriet
Caldwell in 1840.
The first justice of the peace in Waterford was Samuel E. Chapman,
who was appointed by Governor Dodge.
Ira A. Rice was the first captain of the Waterford militia. Archibald
Cooper was first lieutenant. Mr. Chapman had been a captain of light
infantry at some time in his life, and had a wooden sword six feet long,
but Captain Rice reduced him to the ranks.
One time, when Mr. Rice was a magistrate, a man was brought before him
charged with stealing sheep. He was tried and convicted. For want of a
statue sufficiently penal, Justice Rice sentenced the offender to twenty
days hard labor on the highway, and he had to help build a bridge across
Muskego creek. The first bridge across the river was built by all
The first white female child born in Waterford was Louisa Markham, born
in 1837. John T. Rice, son of Ira A. Rice, is the oldest of the present
residents born in the town.
Mr. Merrills made the first cradle and with it, in July, 1837, cradled
the first winter wheat that grew in Waterford. He brought five bushels of
the wheat, which was threshed on the ground with oxen, and cleaned
with a hand fan made from boards split out of an oak log. He paid
$3 per bushel for the wheat, and fifty cents a bushel for carrying
it to the mill at Root River. He got from the grinding a little bran,
a little fine flour, and a good deal of shorts, but he says it all
made good bread!
The first physician who came to Waterford was Dr. Blanchard, but
Dr. G. F. Newell, in May, 1844, first made it a permanent location and home.
In May 1844, a writer in the Racine Advocate says of the village of
Waterford, that it contains 150 inhabitants, two sawmills, two grocery
stores, one public house and business enough for another; that it
has a good school, a good state of society, moral and religious,
and now and then an Abolitionist.