Pioneer Racine Women

As published on pages 35-37 in "Sketches of Wisconsin Pioneer Women" compiled by Florence Chambers Dexheimer, not dated.


Mrs. Milligan was the daughter of John and Sarah Knapp, and sister of Gilbert Knapp, the first settler in Racine. She was married in New York to James Milligan, of Saratoga Springs. After her husband's death in 1825 she accepted her brother's invitation to make her home in Port Gilbert, (present Racine) and she and her three young daughters arrived here August 4, 1835.

Mrs. Milligan lived in Racine until 1874, when she moved to Shawano, Wisconsin, where she died June 10, 1877, aged 85 years and 6 months. She was one of the first members of the first Baptist church in Racine, and retained her membership here until she died.

The other three ladies were the daughters of Mrs. Milligan, who came with her to Racine in 1835. Mrs. Sprague was twice married, her first husband being a Mr. Parsons.

Miss Helen Milligan was born in New York, May 17, 1829, and died three or four years ago at the Protestant Home for the aged, at Milwaukee.

Caroline Milligan Knapp was the wife of Robert Knapp, son of Gilbert Knapp. Robert Knapp was for many years an official of the Racine and Mississippi railroad, during which time they lived in Racine; for a time in what is now the McNitt house in Main Street, between Seventh and Eighth, and later for many years in a house directly back of it on Wisconsin Street. They had two sons, Robert and Gilbert.

Mrs. Sarah Milligan (Grandma Milligan) was known to all Shawano; (when I went there as a bride) as "Grandma". We had no trained nurses in that day, and though too feeble to do much, never was there a serious case of illness in which her advice was not given. Cane in hand she was on the street each morning -- interested in everything that happened -- ready with a helpful word for every emergency, or a comforting one if the occasion was sorrow.

She possessed a keen sense of humor. i remember when one of her relatives was expecting a visit from her betrothed, and Grandma Milligan thought she was giving too many directions about his reception -- the manner with which she stood in the doorway -- spreading her skirts, and saying, "Here comes the great Mogul."

I watched with Grandma Milligan the last night of her life. Helen, her unmarried daughter had been an invalid for years when young, but had then been well for fifteen years, and at this time had a millinery store, but to her mother she was ever young and needing care. On this her last evening on earth -- our good pastor called and I heard him ask, "Shall I pray for you dear friend?" Her answer told better than any words of mind can tell, the unselfishness that had characterized her whole life -- "If you will", she said faintly -- "but don't mind about me -- pray for poor little Helen, for I don't know who will care for her when I am gone." Helen was fifty-six.




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