History of Livestock Yards and Livestock Breeders in Evansville, Wisconsin
Researched and Written by Ruth Ann Montgomery
One of the reasons that Evansville has such a fine collection of well maintained homes and commercial
buildings was the stable economy which was based on the rich resources of the farming community
surrounding the village. This was developed over many years and before there was reliable transportation,
the development of the agricultural markets was slow. In the beginning, farmers had very little surplus and
little incentive to produce large quantities of grain and livestock.
For nearly twenty-five years, from the time of settlement in 1839 to 1863, farmers in the Evansville area were
at a disadvantage because of a lack of transportation for shipping their products to market. When the
settlers arrived, the prairie land and burr oak woods had never been cleared or cultivated. McCabe's
Gazetteer of Wisconsin described Union township: "About one fourth of the land in the township is high and
dry and rolling prairie and the remainder is covered with delightful groves of excellent lumber composed
chiefly of burr oak."
With a team of horses or oxen and plow, early settlers could cultivate a few acres at a time. Although the rich
loam soil had a depth of 18 inches in some locations, by 1850, a typical farm of 160 acres often had less
than forty acres tilled and planted.
Before the Civil War, livestock holdings of area farmers were for use by the family with perhaps some that
could be sold to a local butcher. Wheat was the principal crop, with oats or corn, the farmer's second
When the 1850 census taker called on Levi Leonard who lived on a farm two miles east of Evansville,
Leonard reported that he held 80 acres of land. He had 42 acres that had been cultivated. His livestock
holdings were valued at $216 and included two horses, 2 milk cows, 5 other cows and 33 swine. For the year
ending June 1, 1850, Leonard's 42 acres of land had produced 400 bushel of wheat, 300 bushel of oats, 10
bushel of potatoes and 8 tons of hay. He had also made 450 pounds of butter that year, according to the
Leonard was one of 91 farmers that reported to the Union township census taker in 1850. Although the size
of the farms varied, most reported wheat as their principal crop and sheep or pigs as their largest livestock
holdings. Wool, sheep and swine were easier to transport by wagon to market than cattle or milk. In the
Evansville area, nearly 100 miles from Lake Michigan, most surplus livestock was sold to local butchers.
There were several farmers in Union township who had large holdings in sheep. James Montgomery had 200
sheep and had sheared 300 lbs of wool in 1849-50. Morgan Montgomery held 100 sheep and had sheared
250 pounds of wool. Another Union township farmer, Ira Jones, had a farm of 378 acres and kept 311
sheep. He had sheared 250 lbs of wool, according to the 1850 census.
Farmers hauled surplus grains to the Lake Michigan cities of Milwaukee, or Racine to receive the best
prices. Janesville and Beloit grain mills were closer but the lakeshore cities offered more household goods
and farm implements.
Trading of goods and services was more prevalent in the farming communities. Very little cash was
exchanged and many items and services were purchased by barter. In the 1850s, even merchants in larger
communities advertised they would take wheat, lard, and other farm products in exchange for goods.
Weather, bad roads, insects and crop diseases took their toll and caused many hardships for the early
settlers. If weather conditions were ideal and wagons could make the trip to the lake port markets, the
farmers could get at least one third more for their goods than in Janesville. When the weather was bad,
especially in the fall or spring, travel was almost impossible.
The conditions of the unpaved roads were a great hardship to those who needed them to get farm products
to market. Landowners were expected to repair the roads that passed through their property. This meant
the road conditions were often hazardous because farmers who owned the land did not have the machinery
or time to repair the damages to the roads caused by weather and traffic.
Plans for railroads and plank roads made headlines in Janesville papers throughout the late 1840s but none
became a reality. In 1849, ten years after the first settler arrived in Union township, there was passenger
transportation only. One daily stage went between Janesville and the closest railroad connection which was
on the Chicago-Galena Railroad 21 miles west of Chicago. A four-horse stage between Milwaukee and
Galena took three days, with two over-night stops to rest the driver and horses.
Farmers had to depend on their own wagon or one they borrowed from a neighbor to deliver their produce.
With such poor transportation there was little to entice farmers to increase their holdings in livestock beyond
what they could sell to local meat markets. Grains were much easier to transport but hazardous roads and
the small amounts of grain that could be carried in wagons did not encourage farmers to produce large
quantities of surplus products.
Warehouses for storage of surplus grains did not exist until the railroad arrived in Evansville. The railroad
was the link that brought area farmers into the national marketplace, but it was slow in coming. In July 1849,
the Janesville Gazette reported that the Beloit-Madison Railroad, with its connection to the Chicago-Galena
line, was to be surveyed. This was a call by the railroad company for farmers near the proposed railroad to
purchase stock in the company and also give land to the railroad company for little or no compensation.
Railroads with connections to Milwaukee reached Milton and Janesville in the 1850s, but their connection did
not extend to Evansville. An Illinois line, the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad reached Beloit in 1853 and by
1855, the Beloit-Madison Railroad connection had reached Footville.
After many fits and starts, the railroad tracks were finished to Evansville in 1863. The connection with
Chicago changed the major market center for farmers. Once there was easy transportation to Chicago and
faster connections with the eastern markets, the local farmers soon dissolved their relationship with
Milwaukee and Racine grain and livestock buyers.
Chicago grain elevators and the opening of the Union Stockyards on Christmas Day 1865 gave farmers near
small town railroad depots immediate access to national markets for their livestock and grain. This gave rise
to another commercial business.
Area farmers became so busy raising their crops and improving their livestock that they needed someone
else to act as a middle-man between the farm and the Chicago markets. The livestock buyer was the idea
As soon as the railroad reached Evansville, Reuben Johnson, David Stevens, and his brother, William
Stevens, formed a company in 1863 to purchase and sell livestock, wool, grain and other produce. The firm
was known as Johnson & Stevens Bros.
In 1870 the census recorder listed four stock dealers in Evansville, David Stevens, age 30; William Stevens,
age 28; Reuben Johnson, age 33; and John C. Andrews, age 52. Andrews had been a livestock dealer in
Argyle, but was not as active in Evansville.
Johnson and the Stevens brothers built a stockyards and warehouse near the railroad yards and operated
their office out of the Evansville depot. It was the beginning of a steady growth in markets for local farmers.
After the Civil War, as the Dakotas, Nebraska, Colorado and Montana began to attract pioneers, railroads
expanded north and west of Evansville. From 1865 to 1880 there was a also steady migration of settlers into
the western territories. Evansville's location on one of the major lines to the west and to the Chicago market
meant that local farmers benefited by a two-way market system. Livestock and grain could be shipped east
The Evansville Review praised the advances that had taken place and the possibility of more growth in the
area. "We can foresee that Evansville is destined to be a place of considerable importance, and not many
years hence, either. We have a rich farming country surrounding us and our proximity to market gives our
farmers every facility for transporting produce that few places have."
In 1870, the Wisconsin Legislature granted two new charters for railroads from Evansville, one to the Illinois
border that would connect with the Illinois Central and one to Janesville. "This with what we now have will
give us three good lines of rail communication; either line of which can but add commercial wealth and
importance to our place, declared the Review reporter."
The line to the connect with the Illinois Central did not materialize and the Janesville line was postponed.
Railroads found alternative routes by forming agreements with other lines. There was a connection to
Janesville from Hanover where the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, the successor to the Beloit-Madison
line, made arrangements to use the St. Paul Road tracks into Janesville.
Grain buyers from other areas also came to the Evansville depot to purchase the grains, which now were
predominately oats, corn, barley. Less wheat was being grown as the developing areas in the Great Plains,
the Dakotas, and Nebraska became the bread basket of the nation.
In December 1873, the Review reported 15 carloads of hogs shipped in one day from Evansville. Johnson
and Stevens paid out $3,000 to the farmers who sold the hogs to them, a goodly sum of money.
Although the Johnson & Stevens company seemed to have a corner on the livestock market in Evansville,
the railroads provided competition and quick transportation for buyers from outside the areas. Wool buyers
from Boston arrived in July 1874 to make purchases in the Evansville area. Wool sold for 40 cents a pound,
with inferior and unwashed wool selling for less.
Raising livestock had its hazards both from disease and predators. There were natural enemies of the
domesticated livestock roaming Rock County and county officials established a bounty for wolves and other
predators. Farmers sometimes became hunters to protect their investments and gladly collected the
bounties. Elmer Bullard trapped three wolves in the summer of 1874 and the county paid him $15 each.
The further west the railroads reached, the further west Evansville farmers shipped livestock. Some farmers
were not only shipping livestock, but also purchasing land for farms and ranches. In 1873 the Review
reported that Isaac M. Bennett purchased 400 sheep and 100 lambs from area farmers and shipped them to
his ranch in Colorado. Before they were shipped, he had the wool sheared for sale to local buyers.
Farmers began to build bigger barns and storage sheds on their land for the surplus grains. The Johnson
and Stevens company also increased their storage space in the 1870s to handle the large amounts of grain,
primarily oats, that were coming to market.
The newspaper editor counted 26 trains in 24 hours passing through Evansville in late 1875. Farmers now
had a daily choice of marketing their goods and getting products to Chicago stockyards and grain elevators
in a safe and efficient manner.
Winter was the favored time to market hogs. In late November 1877, many farmers were bringing their hogs
to market. The Review reported that George Fellows delivered 22 Poland China hogs, weighing 8,845
pounds to Johnson and Stevens. He received $4.25 per hundred.
Animals were often herded into town along the country roads and through the village. In April 1881, Watt
Hubbard walked his sheep into town along what is today North Fourth Street, turning east on West Main,
parading past homes and businesses to the stockyards at the railroad tracks. He sold the sheep to Johnson
& Stevens Brothers and pocketed $3,000 for his venture, according to the Evansville Review reporter.
The Butts Brothers did the same with their pigs, herding them into town from their farm. David Stevens paid
the brothers $7.55 a hundred for the twenty "nice porkers" in August 1882.
Railroad cars filled with livestock left Evansville. Reuben Johnson and his partners often accompanied the
animals on their journey to the city slaughterhouses. William Stevens and his assistant Mike Holden traveled
with 13 carloads of sheep bound for the Brighton Market in Boston. Reuben Johnson accompanied 1,300
head of yearling cattle, an entire train of 26 cars, to Ogallala, Nebraska in the spring of 1883. Farmers from
as far away as Stoughton and Dayton were bringing their livestock to market in Evansville because they
could get a better price.
In 1883, Reuben Johnson and his partners dissolved their relationship. Johnson went into business with his
son-in-law, C. A. Hollister and Lawrence Shiveley. David Stevens went to Albany to start a stockyard
business and William Stevens worked on his own as a stock buyer in the Evansville market.
The stock buyers began to make contracts with farmers to deliver a certain number of livestock, by a certain
date. Both the farmer and the stock dealer benefited by these contracts. It took away the uncertainty of
price and availability of the livestock.
One of the first to make a contract was Watson Hubbard who signed an agreement with Johnson & Shiveley
to deliver three hundred lambs by March 14, 1884 and he would be paid $6 per hundred. He also sold his
hogs to be delivered on May 15, 1884 for $5.50 per hundred. Hubbard made a separate contract with David
Stevens to sell 45 head of cattle for $6.50 per hundred.
Butts Brothers made a contract with Johnson & Shiveley for $1,000 worth of stock to be delivered by
February 1, 1884 and L. W. Brigham contracted with William Stevens for twenty steers to be delivered in
March of that same year.
Stock from known blood-lines and registered pedigrees became more important in the 1880s. Farmers and
stock breeders gathered at the Chicago Fat Stock Show to exhibit their stock. It was also a chance for them
to learn from each other by listening to the experience of others who were trying to raise the best stock and
find the best feeds and methods of feeding.
In the early shows, animals were slaughtered and prizes were awarded for the best animals. The carcass
was judged by the most net meat in proportion to the gross weight of the animal.
There was great pride among farmers who held stock with champion lines. Evansville farmers began to
advertise their blooded stock. Hiram Bullard purchased registered Jersey bulls for breeding. John Robinson,
a young farmer, began breeding cattle and when he brought them to market, the stock buyers were
impressed with their weight and quality.
By 1885, the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad had decided that the market in Evansville was a great
success and began to invest in needed of improvements. They added to the facilities at the local stockyards
by building additional sheds and chutes to the west of the railroad tracks. "Evansville regarded by the
company as one of the best stock shipping points", the Enterprise noted as the improvements were
A new stock buying firm announced its opening in June 1885. Tuttle, Hubbard, & Bullard bought Johnson's
warehouse and the Johnson firm dissolved. Johnson began to travel in northern Wisconsin and in the West
to buy stock to sell in the Chicago market. Johnson's former partner, David Stevens and A. C. Thorpe
formed another stock buying firm.
The increase in the production of farmers in the area was dramatic in the nearly 50 years from settlement.
This is demonstrated by the hundreds of sheep, hogs and cattle that were being brought to the stock buyers
in the 1880s.
Thousands of pounds of wool were being shipped from the area as well. Just after shearing time in late June
1886, the Tuttle, Bullard and Hubbard firm reported that they had received twenty thousand pounds of wool
in just one day. It had come from farmers in Rock, Green and Dane counties. The stock buyers in Evansville
had offered the best price and this was the market of choice for the farmers within a ten mile radius of the
There was no doubt that farmers surrounding the village of Evansville were responsible for the thriving
existence of the community. The large quantities of farm goods shipping to or from the Evansville railroad
station meant a steady flow of customers and cash into the business community.
In the late 1880s, stock buyers and shippers in the area were doing more business than in any time in the
history of the area. Elmer Bullard reported that he had shipped 72 car loads of stock from the Evansville
depot in 1886 and he had paid out more than $50,000 to farmers. Bullard also shipped stock out of the
Brooklyn depot. Three years later, C. A. Hollister, the Chicago and Northwestern depot agent for Evansville
reported that 101 cars of stock were shipped from the Evansville station in just two months in February &
By the 1890s the farm population was shrinking. According to the census records, the number of farms in
1880 was 1,012 and the number declined to 945 in 1890. Despite their smaller numbers, farmers in the area
of Evansville were thriving and taking advantage of their location along a major railroad route.
Robert Nesbit in his history of Wisconsin, Urbanization & Industrialization, 1873-1893, notes that raising beef
cattle required a large investment and "Successful stockmen were the agricultural elite." If they were to
become very successful in the livestock business, farmers knew they had to be knowledgeable about the
latest methods of breeding, feeding and raising the animals for market. The larger the animal, the more
meat was produced and the more profitable the sale.
Farmers Institutes were partially funded through the Wisconsin Legislature after 1885. The programs held in
Evansville were two or three day events held in the late winter when farmers work had slowed down. The
agriculturalist could spend time with his neighbors and specialists from the University of Wisconsin learning
more about their business. The programs were usually held at Magee's Theater. Topics included, using
pure bred sires for stock raising, draft horses, hog raising and silos.
Beginning in 1890, the University of Wisconsin offered a ten-day Farmers course at the school in Madison.
Local stock raiser, John Robinson, was a member of the first group to attend.
By 1900, the Evansville area farmers were also sending their sons to be educated at the University of
Wisconsin agricultural school. Lyman Gillies, John Higday and Hugh Robinson were some of the first to
attend what became known as the two-year Short Course, an intensive study that was conducted for 3
months each year. Courses began in late November and ended in March. These program advocated good
husbandry of the land, better livestock, and planning that would leave the soil in better condition that the
farmer had found it.
Like any good businessman, the farmer also needed to display his products and local farmers were not shy
about advertising their goods. Local, state and international shows became the forum for promoting
Evansville farmers' livestock. The Evansville Enterprise noted in January 1901, "The best farmers are those
who are the most interested in their work and like to exhibit the results of their labor".
John Robinson and his son, Hugh, and his brother-in-law, George Emery, led the way in this venture.
Specializing in Hereford cattle, Clydesdale horses, and Shropshire sheep, the men gained national
reputations as livestock breeders and showmen.
Robinson started farming in 1880 at the age of 18. He was too young to sign a mortgage for his farm, so his
father, Rev. Elijah J. Robinson signed the papers for him. Although he raised dairy and feeder cattle from
the beginning of his farming career, he was not able to buy registered cattle.
As a young man in his early twenties, he delivered premium cattle to stock buyers and attracted the notice of
the local newsmen. In 1885, the Enterprise reported: "Among a number of steers that John Robinson
delivered at this market recently was one not quite three years old that weighed 1810 pounds. It was
probably the largest one delivered here this season."
When he was able to purchase registered Herefords, Robinson began showing them at local fairs and the
Fat Stock Show in Chicago. He and his brother-in-law, George Emery, took their stock to Chicago by rail.
When his son, Hugh, had finished the two-year Short Course at the University, Robinson brought him into the
business as a partner and renamed his operation John Robinson & Son. The farm was known as The
Maples. When the firm lost a valuable pure bred Hereford named "Pride of Evergreen" in 1902, the animal
got a full obituary in the local newspaper. "His weight was 2,260 lbs and was the sire of the steer which sold
last fall at the Fat Stock Show, Chicago for 50 cents per pound, something over $800."
The farming business also required good communications and while businesses and residents in Evansville
had phone service in the late 1890s, there was no service to farms. This changed in May 1902 when John
Robinson and his neighbors, George Higday, Roy Munger, George McMurray, Eugene Butts, Fred Emery,
W. E. Hatfield, Geo. F. Hall, Frank Young and Edgar Stevens organized a telephone exchange and hired
experienced linemen to connect their farms with the Evansville exchange. Now farmers had ready access to
their bankers, stock dealers, the railroad depot and their friends in Evansville.
Just at a time when the farmers needed help most, a shortage of farm workers was reported. In 1904, wages
for farm workers were $20 to $30 per month and this usually included room and board. However, the hours
were long and many young men were going to cities for manufacturing and service jobs that sometimes paid
lower wages but offered shorter hours. Farm publications recommended that farmers change their hiring
practices and instead of offering seasonal work to farm hands, provide year-round employment instead.
Farmers were also looking for ways to maximize their profits in farm production. To eliminate the services of
the stock buyer, the link between the farmer and the market. A group of farmers organized a cooperative for
selling grains and livestock.
In February 1904, a call went out to purchase 120 shares of stock in the Evansville Produce Company. Only
farmers were allowed to purchase the $50-a-share stock. Chet Miller was named president of the Evansville
Produce Company; Frank Hynes, vice-president; James Gillies, secretary-treasurer and Ernest Miller, John
Wall, Virgil Hopkins, Elmer Miller, Arthur Broughton and Leo Campbell were named directors of the
The company made weekly shipments of livestock to Chicago stockyards. They also acted as a retail market
to provide feed and coal for their customers. The company built a warehouse near the Northwestern railroad
tracks. In this way they hoped to be able to reduce the price their shareholders paid for consumer goods.
Some in the organization even dreamed of opening a retail store for other kinds of merchandise.
The stock buyer and shipper still played a significant role in the agricultural sales made in and out of
Evansville. Elmer Bullard and his partner, Riley Searles, purchased wool in large quantities. Searles
traveled throughout the state and in April and May 1906 and purchased forty thousand pounds of wool.
A new stock buyer, George Brigham, purchased the farm of Rueben Johnson, one of the original stock
buyers in Evansville. The 68 acre farm was located just one-half mile north of the city and made an excellent
location for feeding stock and shipping it to market. (This is the current location of the Gildner Farm and
The Chicago Northwestern Railroad recorded the number of shipments from the depot each year and in
1906, 519 loads of stock had been shipped out of Evansville and more than $415,000 paid out to farmers.
From 1889 to 1906, the amount of stock shipped out of the Evansville rail yards had increased five times and
income to farmers and shippers had increased by 80 percent.
John Robinson led the way in bringing national attention to Evansville's farms. The breeding lines of the
Robinsons included Domino and Bonnie Brae. From 1900 until he retired, Robinson and his son, Hugh, took
Hereford cattle to show at the Chicago Fat Stock Show. In 1908, the Robinson's Hereford bull won the
championship in his class. There were entries from throughout the world and to be judged best was an
honor to the local farmer.
The Robinsons also exhibited at fairs throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. Traveling by rail, the
Herefords, Clydesdales and Shropshire sheep were loaded into cars at the Evansville depot and shipped to
fairs in Milwaukee, Elkhorn and LaCrosse. The late summer and fall of each year, the Robinsons were on
the road with their sheep and cattle.
Local stock was also shipped to Madison to the University Agricultural experiment station for use in stock
judging. In 1909, Arthur Broughton loaned the school a Clydesdale stallion and John Robinson loaned a
two-year-old Hereford bull for use during the Farmers' Institute. The animals were chosen as tops in their
breed and were used by instructors to teach other farmers the qualities for judging breeding stock.
Advertising and showing cattle at the Fat Stock Show in Chicago brought international recognition to
Evansville's John Robinson & Son. In May 1912, a cattle buyer from Uruguay traveled throughout the United
States, looking for stock to ship back to South America. He settled on a bull and two heifers from John
Robinson's herd, after looking over some of the best Herefords in the United States.
Observing the success the Robinsons were having, other local farmers began to realize that it was in their
best interests to take their stock on the road to fairs and livestock shows. In 1912, William G. Miles and
George Emery both took carloads of sheep to the Fat Stock Show. A year later they were joined by Warren
Reese and Arthur Broughton & Son who also exhibited sheep and won premiums at the Chicago show.
Local citizens could sample some of the champion meat. The packing firm, Swift & Co., purchased meat from
the show and shipped it back to a local meat market. Mrs. William Lee advertised the award winning meat at
her butcher shop. Her ad in the Evansville Review read: "We have on sale this week the choicest meats from
the Blue Ribbon Fat Stock Show Cattle."
Wisconsin stockmen also took lessons from the Chicago show and organized an All-Breed Livestock Show
for horses, cattle, sheep and swine in 1913. Evansville's John Robinson served on the state exhibition
committee for beef cattle.
Just when local stock breeders seemed to be having great success, livestock raisers found their investments
in peril in the summer and winter of 1914. In July a report of hog cholera on the John Gillies farm caused
some alarm. Gillies lost 25 pigs to the disease in July and the scare was quickly over.
Farmers continued in their usual routines. That fall Robinson, Arthur Broughton and Chauncey Miles
traveled to the state fair with their animals. Broughton took prizes in sheep, Miles in Clydesdale horses, and
Robinson with his cattle.
Then in November, local stock breeder, C. F. Miller got a shipment of feeder cattle from the Chicago
stockyards. When several of the cattle appeared to be ill, Miller acted responsibly and called in the state
veterinarian who diagnosed the problem as hoof and mouth disease.
The small shipment of sick cattle that he had received from Chicago cost Miller a large investment. He lost all
the livestock on his farm. Federal agents killed 101 head of cattle and 300 sheep on the Miller farm, trying to
stop the spread of the deadly disease.
Evansville farmers were not alone. The hoof and mouth epidemic had spread to 13 states. The International
Livestock Show was cancelled and the Union Stockyards in Chicago closed for ten days. A quarantine was
placed on livestock. It could only be lifted if there were no infected or exposed farms within a five miles
radius. All of Rock County was under quarantine until February 1915.
Shipments to the Union Stock Yard in Chicago nearly came to a halt. Animals that were shipped were
primarily sheep that were brought to the depot in wagons and sleighs. Any animal going to the Chicago
yards had to be certified as free of disease by a federal inspector or an accredited veterinarian. It was a
hard time for local livestock producers, but they endured.
Farmers began to look at improvements in transportation and machinery in the years just before World War
I. Tractors, first called traction engines, began to appear on farms around 1915.
Two brothers, G. E. & R. C. Townsend of Beloit approached Evansville area businessmen, farmers and
investors because they wanted to start a tractor factory in the area. They had invented a traction engine
and in a spirit of competition set Evansville and Janesville against each other to see which city would give
them a better offer. Janesville won the manufacturing firm by offering to have local contractors and
teamsters donate their services for constructing a manufacturing building for the firm.
Farmers were anxious for the new machines to improve their productivity in raising grains for their livestock
and for sale. This became even more important when the United States entered World War I and the
government found itself without a stockpile of food for its soldiers and grain for its horses.
Local banks offered to loan money to farmers so they could purchase feed for farm animals. Once the
government began buying up meat and grains for the army, the private citizen found food for people and
animals in short suppl. Farmers were urged to raise more feed and more cattle to relieve food shortages.
Farmers found their livestock prices soaring during the war. When John Robinson & Son sold their sire,
Maple Lad, at the Chicago International Stock Show in December 1917, they received $3,000 for the animal
and a total of $10,000 for the six head of cattle they sold.
Other farmers began to organize local sales of their animals. William Butts, Walter George and B. H.
Babcock organized the first annual sale of Chester White Hogs in February 1918. Farmers from Illinois,
Minnesota and other areas of Wisconsin brought their hogs to the Fisher Feed Warehouse, across the street
from the Evansville Depot, and Dan F. Finnane acted as auctioneer to sell the animals brought to the sale. It
was so successful that it became a yearly event during the month of February.
The war brought a new era of prosperity to Evansville farmers and when it ended, many of them retired and
moved to Evansville. In February 1919, the Evansville Review noted that up to sixty-five area farmers were
expected to move into the city in the spring.
Farm produce prices rose dramatically during World War I. The value of farm land also increased.
One of the first Evansville area farms sold in 1919 was the 200 acre farm owned by Lawrence Shiveley's
estate. The farm sold for $175 an acre. In 80 years from 1839, the time of settlement, when the same land
was valued at $25 an acre, the farm had increased in value by 700 percent.
Auctioneers were kept busy as some farmers sold their farms and moved into the city. Dan Finnane and W.
F. Finneran were the local auctioneers most often called on to sell farm machinery and animals in the early
After the war, farmers began look to the county and state government for assistance in road improvements.
In 1918, Rock County spent $35,000 to maintain the major highways going through the county and farmers
lobbied for more. They took the theme from the county road commissioner and urged their county board
supervisors to "Pull Rock County out of the mud". As automobiles became the principal means of
transportation for many farmers, good roads also became a necessity.
The movement was headed by a Magnolia farmer, Charles Moore, who had been hired as the first Rock
County Road Commissioner in 1913. Moore already had a reputation as a road builder from serving on the
Magnolia township board and supervising the building or roads just south of Evansville.
After taking over as Rock County Road Commissioner, Moore took responsibility for the supervision of the
first steel and concrete brides and the concrete paving that was put on the first major highways built in Rock
County. Commissioner Moore also helped to bring in some of the first federal aid to help build roads and
improve transportation for farmers.
Road building was a learn-as-you-go proposition in the early days. Moore gained knowledge about
re-enforcing techniques for concrete and steel bridges by watching the construction of Baker Manufacturing
Company buildings in Evansville. He also traveled to Michigan and other areas to see early experiments in
building concrete highways. Because of the shortage of concrete in the early years, only about three miles
of concrete road could be constructed in a year.
Farmers and Evansville merchants worked together to establish concrete highways that would withstand the
heavy truck traffic that was expected. Trucks were the most damaging vehicles to the roads. Trucks were
first used only for short-distance hauling. In the early days of truck transportation, the vehicles were used
mainly for transporting milk, grain and other products. The railroads were still considered the most
appropriate means of transporting livestock and merchandise over long distances.
Farmers also worked to get the Rock County Board of Supervisors to allocate funds for a county agricultural
agent. L. A. Markham was the first agent appointed and when he resigned to go to Russia for the YMCA, R.
E. Acheson was named to take his place. Acheson lived in Evansville and also was employed by the Grange
Store in the hardware department. The county agent helped farmers to increase productivity and improve
their farm to maximize profits in the business.
The county agricultural agent helped promote sales of Rock County livestock and farm produce outside the
area. He also assisted with the newly organized clubs for farm boys and girls.
Following World War I, farmers placed special emphasis on bringing young people into the livestock raising
business. Fathers no long favored only their sons in training young people for farm and livestock
management. Both boys and girls were included in the pig, calf and lamb clubs that were started to
encourage young people to stay on the farm.
The clubs gave young people a chance to own, show and sell their own animals. It was a matter of pride
among local farmers that the Evansville area had some of the best purebred stock, including hogs, cattle and
sheep. John Robinson, who had established his first farm at the age of 18, helped organize and encourage
the calf, pig and sheep clubs for the young people of Wisconsin. His work as a promoter of animal
husbandry earned him a place on the Honor Roll at the University of Wisconsin, School of Agriculture in 1923.
The first pig club was organized under the name Rock County Pure Bred Pig Club and was open to boys or
girls between 11 and 18. The participants could choose a brood sow to raise from the Duroc, Poland China
or Chester White breeds. The youngster was required to keep records of the feed used and to show the pig,
and make reports to a committee that supervised the program.
The pig club members were required to show their pigs at a fair. The Rock County Duroc Breeders'
Association was one of the first livestock breeding groups to offer prizes to the boys and girls who
participated. Those who won the awards were judged on the feeding, percentage of litter raised and the
records and reports that came under scrutiny by the committee.
There was a state wide program to promote the involvement of young people in farming activities. Before
there were 4-H clubs, the College of Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin established a Junior Livestock
Exhibition at Madison.
John Robinson continued his service to the agricultural industry and served on the state committee to make
arrangements for the Junior Livestock Exhibition. Evansville area young people began to excel in the annual
Junior Livestock shows as well as in state and local fairs.
In 1923, the Review headlines read, "Evansville boys win stock prizes". The report should have added girls,
as well. At the University of Wisconsin Junior Livestock show Evansville's young people had placed in the
first three places of entry throughout the state.
In the pig classes, Archie Templeton had won the grand championship for barrows and Robert Templeton
and Ruth Campbell had won first place ribbons. Philip Robinson had placed second in the pen of lambs and
The Rock County Fair in 1923 had many of the same young people winning ribbons as at the state
exhibition. Others who won ribbons when the fair was held that year in Evansville were Donald Rowald,
Cecile Broughton, Morris Woodworth, Evelyn, Dean & Lee George.
A second generation of farmers with purebred stock was in the making. The Evansville Review noted that
these young people were following in their parent's footsteps and realizing what "purebred stock means to
Wisconsin farms and what well kept and well stocked farms means to the state as a whole."
One boy reported that he was given one good Poland China pig that farrowed nine pigs the following spring
and in two years produced a total of 29 pigs. The boy had been able to raise every one of the animals and
was well on his way to a good start in the purebred Poland China pig business.
By 1924 the first 4-H club was organized in Evansville and the local young livestock raisers continued to be
prize winners at the local, state and international shows. The names of Phil and Harold Robinson; Dean and
Lee George; Walter and Arthur Templeton appear time and again in the Evansville Review reports of winners
at the state fair, the Junior Livestock Show and the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago.
Not all the farm-raised children wanted to stay on the farm. As more young people were attracted to the
cities for employment it became important to those who wanted to maintain the family farm to keep their
young people interested in the business. By 1923 less than one third of the population of the United States
was on farms and it was difficult to find farm workers. The state offered a free employment bureau to help
farmers find city dwellers who would work on the farms and help easy the labor shortage.
It was encouraging for local young people to know that top prices were being paid to local farmers for their
livestock. In addition to the breeding stock there were also those who shipped in feeding stock, kept it for a
few months, and then shipped it out to stockyards. Both Chicago and Kansas City markets were easy to
reach by rail from the Evansville depot.
There were hazards involved in transporting and showing animals and like other businesses, farmers wanted
to insure their investment. Their livestock had become a particularly valuable asset. By 1920, local banker
and insurance agent, Leonard P. Eager, offered a life insurance policy on registered and fancy stock. The
policy called "Hartford Live Stock Insurance" covered the animals anywhere in the United States, Mexico, or
Canada, "including risks of transportation and exhibition".
Reports of successful farmers in feeding livestock frequently appeared in the local news. Chris Jorgenson &
Son bought Herefords in the Kansas City market in October 1924. The animals had averaged 500 pounds
when they were purchased. Eight months later, when they were shipped to the Chicago Stockyards, they
averaged 1,000 pounds.
The Fellows Brothers who "made considerable money feeding sheep" in the winter of 1923-24 told the
Review reporter that they had bought early and sold soon to make a profit. The Fellows' grew peas for the
local canning factory and fed the pea silage to fatten their sheep. They also reported that they fed shelled
corn and alfalfa and were able to get excellent weight gains on their animals.
The good word about profits from feeding livestock spread. The next fall, in October 1924, more than 25
farmers in the Evansville area took in shipments of 20 thousand sheep. They went to the farms of the
Fellows Brothers, Lloyd Hubbard, Leo Campbell, Locke Pierce, Wade Woodworth, Potter Porter, Fred Rodd
William Reese, William Miles and others.
Fred Rodd and William Miles had also built up a considerable wood shipping business in the Evansville area,
and as the numbers of sheep being fed on local farms increased, so did the production of wool. In
September 1927, Rodd & Miles claimed that Evansville was the largest wool shipping area in the Midwest.
Wool came from all over Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa. It was brought to Evansville in trucks and
stored in warehouses until it was shipping time. The shipment in September 1927 went to the Worchester
Spinning Company in Worchester, New Jersey. There was so much wool stored in the warehouse that it took
nine railroad cars to transport the 190,000 pounds of wool.
Double-decked railroad cars brought in lambs. William Miles, Lloyd Hubbard, Lew Fellows, Peter Templeton,
H. C. Miller, C. Whitmore and W. A. Maas were listed in 1929 as the farmers receiving the largest number of
lambs. Even small flocks brought a big profit to farmers and many young men were starting their own small
The predator wolves were still a hazard to the sheep farmers. Foxes and wolves were hunted on the farms
surrounding the city and the hunters were welcomed by the farmers. A $30 bounty was paid by the county
for each wolf and when wolves ravaged sheep on the F. C. Wood farm south of Evansville, killing two and
lacerating others, hunters were organized to kill or at least scare the wolves away.
Several local shipping firms were reorganized in the 1930s. Charles Maloy and George Brigham joined in a
partnership in the livestock business. Fred Luchsinger went into partnership with the firm of Rodd & Miles in
1930. Fred Rodd died unexpectedly in November 1932 leaving Miles and Luchsinger to carry on the
business. William Miles died in February 1936.
Fred Luchsinger then joined in a partnership with Charles Maloy. In November 1938, Luchsinger and Maloy
purchased 34 railroad carloads of lambs from Montana. The 11,000 lambs were sold to farmers in the
The stable agricultural production in the Evansville area, gave the city a more stable economy than many
areas of the United States in the 1930s. This was the decade when the trucking industry began to seriously
compete with the railroads for the livestock shipping. Trucks went directly to the farms to pick up and deliver
livestock, making it easier for the farmer to receive and dispose of his products.
The livestock buyers began to purchase large trucks to haul livestock from western states and to take it to
market. Railroad transportation of livestock began to diminish. The livestock shipping business expanded in
the 1930s, despite the Depression. George Brigham brought his son, Forrest, into the business and in
1937, they built a storage shed for their trucks, with office space and scales for weighing livestock. The
building was located on Church Street near the Baker Manufacturing Company buildings.
The Templeton brothers, Arthur and Walter, exhibited lambs at the International Live Stock Show at the
Chicago Stock Yards in November 1938. Their father, Peter, who had encouraged the young men to get
involved with farming, specialized in exhibiting Percheron horses. He was a director of the Percheron Horse
Association of America and also attended the national meetings held in Chicago during the livestock show.
A new family of sheep raisers came to prominence in the late 1930s. The children of the Ben Dischs, Vila,
Dorothy and Kenneth Disch were showing Southdown and Shropshire sheep at county and state fairs. Their
champion lambs were also exhibited at the International Livestock Show. Wayne Disch began showing sheep
with his brothers and sisters in 1940.
The leadership in state and national livestock programs continued to find willing participants among
Evansville farmers. In 1938, Harold Robinson, the 21-year-old grandson of John Robinson was elected
president of the Wisconsin Hereford Breeder's Association. He had just finished the short course in
Agriculture at the University of Wisconsin and succeeded his grandfather as president of the state
Following in his grandfather's and father, Hugh's footsteps, Harold gained a strong reputation in livestock
breeding and 4-H club activities that led to this honor, at such a young age. In 1939, Robinson was also
employed as a cattle exhibitor for the White Mountain ranch at Springerville, Arizona.
Even greater prosperity came as the United States entered World War II in the early 1940s. The demand for
food placed Evansville stockmen in a good position as the government needed farm products to feed the U.
S. armed forces.
Fred Luchsinger joined forces with Maloy and they advertised as local buyers for Oscar Mayer & Co. of
Madison. According to their advertisement in the Evansville Review, farmers could benefit by "a shorter
haul...less shrink" and full cash payment.
Throughout the war, the Evansville stock buyers bought and sold western produced feeder livestock.
Luchsinger and Maloy and Brigham and Sons continued to bring in lambs and steers from the west, both by
rail and by the truckload.
In the fall of 1944, Brighams told the Review reporter that they had shipped 44 double-deck carloads, a total
of 13,000 lambs. They reported that they were expecting a shipment of 140 feeder steers in the fall as well.
By the 1950s and 60s, a third and fourth generation of some of the early livestock families was continuing the
tradition of showing prize winning stock. Three daughters of Harold Robinson, Ruth Ann, Kathryn and
Barbara showed Hereford cattle at local, state and international shows with prize winning results. Harold also
served as beef superintendent of the Rock County 4-H fair and his daughter Ruth Ann served as junior beef
Others who gave state-wide recognition to Evansville's livestock production included Charles Maas who was
named superintendent of the livestock at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1957. He had also organized
successful Tri-County Black & White Shows in Evansville that highlighted the area Holstein breed.
Dean George's sons, Kent, Terry, Paul and Dean, Jr., were prize winners in beef, sheep and pigs at fairs and
shows throughout the area. Dean, Sr. served as a director of the 4-H fair held in Janesville in the 1960s.
The list of Evansville winners in the livestock industry is long and there is a strong succession of leadership
in local state and national organizations. Those who have led the way made a strong commitment to
improving the farming methods and the marketing techniques.
In the more than 130 years that Evansville farmers have been marketing their livestock outside the area
there has been a consistent growth towards better methods of breeding, feeding, and transportation. The
orginal stock buyers would barely recognize the animals or the process of marketing the product. Today
Evansville farmers who raise stock often own or lease trailers to haul livestock to markets. This has cut out
the stock buyer as the middleman between the farmer and the processor.
Local leaders in livestock breeding maintain their strong support of raising quality animals, showing the
animals and bringing young people into the business through local 4-H and FFA clubs.