HISTORY OF UNION TOWNSHIP
By Ruth Ann Montgomery
Union Township is located in the northwest corner of Rock County. There is evidence that Native Americans had often
used the banks of Allen’s Creek for camping spot. In the first years of settlement, the newcomers from the east reported
visits from Little Thunder and other unnamed members of his group. Surveyors in the 1830s had found two abandoned
villages in Rock County, one near Beloit and the other near Milton.
In 1928, skeletal remains of two individuals, assumed to be pre-settlement hunters, were found buried on a hill near the
gravel pit in Evansville’s Lake Leota park. Workmen were excavating gravel to fix the spillways on the dam when the
discovery was made. The two individuals were buried side by side. There was speculation that the spot might have
been a burial ground, but the reporter for the Review said, “It is more likely, however, that at one time this was a
camping place and that these people were buried close to where they died.”
Teamsters transporting lead from Mineral Point to Milwaukee also favored Allen’s Creek for a camp site. The lead
wagons were hitched to oxen to haul the lead over the trails that served as roads.
The first permanent settlers in Union township were immigrants from the eastern United States. They were second, third
and fourth generation Americans, who already knew the hardships of settling a new land. Some had settled in Ohio,
Indiana, and Illinois before moving on to Union Township. Some traveled alone, but most were in groups.
The early histories of the area differ as to the names of these pioneers and the exact month and day that they arrived.
Some of the early settlers may have kept diaries, that have since disappeared. Most were probably too busy working to
survive, to keep daily records.
The published accounts of settlement were printed many years later. All accounts agree that the year of settlement was
1839 with a larger immigration of people, in the spring of 1840.
Another explanation for the variation in the accounting of names of the settlers is that the boundaries of Union township
changed. Although surveyors had finished laying out sections of land in the1830s, the present boundaries of Rock
County were established in 1839. The population of the entire county was given as 480 in 1839. The following year, the
census listed 1,701 people in Rock County.
Union township was established by the Wisconsin Legislature on February 17, 1842. The township boundaries in 1842
included what is now Porter and the north half of Center and Magnolia townships. The present boundaries of Union,
Porter, Center, and Magnolia townships were established by a Legislative act on February 2, 1846.
Trying to establish the names of the first settlers from land records is often deceptive because some of the land in Union
Township was purchased by speculators, who never intended to establish residence and some never set foot on the
George W. Allen, of La Porte Indiana, sent Christopher McClure to look over the land and purchase property with timber
and prairie. Allen then advertised and sold the land for sale to La Porte residents who came to Wisconsin to build
homes and farm the land.
Many abstracts for Union township land name Solomon Juneau as the first property owner. Although he played a large
part in the settlement of Milwaukee, there is no evidence that he every lived in Union township. Land speculators in
Indiana and states further east also speculated by purchasing land at $1.25, with the hopes it could be sold at a higher
Land records indicate the Amos Kirkpatrick purchased land in May 29, 1839 and many historical accounts report his
double-log cabin as one of the first built in what is today Evansville. Boyd Phelps and Jacob West purchased their land
in July 1939.
The earliest published account of settlement was printed in the 1873 Combination Atlas Map of Rock County by Everets,
Baskin and Stewart, of Chicago, Ill. Although the author of this account is unknown, the first settlers are listed as Ira
Jones, Stephen Jones, Boyd Phelps, Charles McMillen, Hiram Griffith, John Sayles, Erastus Quivey, Washington Higday,
Samuel Lewis, Jacob West, John F. Baker, Levi Leonard and Willis T. Bunton settlers. By his own account, Levi
Leonard did not arrive until 1840.
Four years later, Levi Leonard, Daniel Johnson, and Jacob West authored a short history of Union township in “History
of Madison: Dane County and Surroundings.” In this 1877 account, Leonard and the others listed the 1839 settlers as
Boyd Phelps and Stephen Jones, both Methodist ministers. Jones claimed to have preached the first Methodist sermon
“this side of the Rock River.”
The 1877 account goes on to say that Phelps and Jones were followed by Charles McMillen, John Rhinehart, Samuel
Lewis and Erastus Quivey, all married with families. In the spring of 1840, Rev. John Griffith, Ira Jones, Jacob West,
John T. Baker, I. W. Haseltine, Levi Leonard, David Johnson, Daniel Johnson, John Cook, John Adams, Washington
Higday, Hamilton Higday and John Sale.
Another account says that party of young bachelors arrived in the fall of 1839, Allen McMichael, Alanson, Smith, James
Empey, Captain Turner and John Palmer. They all stayed through the winter of 1839-40 near the area that later
became the Village of Union.
Another account in the 1879 History of Rock County added the name of Willis T. Bunton, to the list given in other
accounts. The term “settler” was later given to anyone who arrived within the first twenty years or so after the first
permanent residents came to the area. Many obituaries in the late 1800s include the term “early settler” for people who
did not until the 1860s.
The early arrivals expected to farm the land and looked for locations with water, timber and tillable land. Most of Union
Township had these attributes according to a description from McCabe’s Gazateer of Wisconsin. The Gazateer was
quoted in the June 13, 1846 Janesville Gazette. “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. The
surface of the soil is rich black loam impregnated with sand measuring about 8 to 18 inches in depth, yielding 30 bushes
of wheat and 40 bushes of corn.”
With a team of horses or oxen and a plow a farmer could cultivate a few acres at a time. The rich loam soil had a depth
of 18 inches in some locations. Wheat was the principle crop, but it was subject to rust, insects, and other diseases.
Every farmer hoped for a crop that produced surplus grains to sell at Milwaukee’s Lake Michigan port.
Livestock holdings of the early settlers were primarily used by the family. A milk cow, horses or oxen, sheep or a few
pigs would provide transportation and food. Sheep provided wool for clothing and perhaps some to send to market.
Many settlers relied on the plentiful hunting for feeding their families. The prairies and woods had an abundance of
deer, otter, wolves, raccoons, and partridges. Deer tallow was used to make candles.
There were wild strawberries and blackberries gathered in the summer. Gardens provided pumpkins that were stewed
in vinegar to serve as substitutes for apples. Pickles were cured in whiskey. Corn oil was used in glass lamps.
An early settler described her garden, “Father came first in the winter of 1839. The family came in April 1840. Water
and fire to commence house keeping were brought from the house of our nearest neighbor, Stephen Jones, 3 miles
away. Our nearest neighbors were 3 miles north, 3 miles east, twenty miles south and twelve miles west. Our early
garden was made three miles from home on the first land broken in the township. Late vegetables did well on the newly
broken sod and winter found the root house filled.”
Persistence and community bonds held the small group of men and their families together. Those who had cabins
opened their homes to new arrivals. A sense of neighborliness and cooperation sustained the early settlers. As a
community they helped each other in building homes, cultivating the land, and forming governing bodies to operate
schools, roads and other provisions for the common good. The settlers organized religious and fraternal organizations.
Over half of the heads of the early families were born in Ohio and their parents had pioneered the Ohio and Indiana
territories. Some had settled in Illinois and other parts of Wisconsin before moving to Union township. Most men
expected to own and operate farms.
The first census taker for Union Township finished his recordings on July 18, 1840 and said that he had “made actual
inquiry at every dwelling house or a personal inquire of the head of every family.” When the first census was taken in the
summer of 1840 there were 16 families living in the Township. There were seventy-nine people ranging in age from
infants to 70 years old.
Only the names of the male head-of household were listed in the census. Others were accounted for by a hash mark as
to whether they were male or female and within an age range.
The census taker also noted the general occupation of the adult males. The twenty-four men reporting employment
said that they were farmers.
Although the first settlers had usually built one-room cabins to house their families, there were large numbers of people
living in each household. Stephen Jones and John Baker each had nine people in their household.
Stephen Jones, a farmer and Methodist minister was born in Ohio. Jones was said to have settled on the land that
served as the first camp for the earlier settlers. The farm was later known as the Butts farm, west of Evansville. A man
with a plow followed the wagon tracks of the group and offered to plow a small piece of land. Potatoes from the group’s
provisions were planted on the newly tilled garden. Jones was one of those early settlers who needed the challenge of a
new frontier. He left Union township in 1855 for a new settlement in Chatfield, Minnesota.
John T. Baker, a native of Ohio had also farmed in Illinois and Green County, Wisconsin before buying land and settling
in Union township. One of his sons, Allen S. Baker, an inventor and entrepreneur, was one of the men responsible for
starting Baker Manufacturing Company, the longest continuously operated business in Union township.
In the 1840 census, Erastus Quivey listed eight members in his household. Accounts say that Quivey and his family
lived in a tent that first winter, while their cabin was under construction. The log cabin was a small structure, 16 x 18
feet. The first winter was very harsh and Quivey’s infant child died, and was the first burial in a cemetery established in
the township. The first religious service was held in Quivey’s home.
Wilbur Potter and Charles McMillan each had seven people living in their newly built log cabins. Charles McMillan came
to Union township in the fall of 1839 with his family. He settled in section 15 and built a double log cabin. It was said to
be the first permanent structure in the township and the log structure was the McMillan family home for many years. In
1852, McMillan moved to northern Wisconsin to work in the lumber industry in the pineries.
Boyd Phelps, a farmer and Methodist minister had one of the smaller families. Four people were listed in the household,
Phelps, his wife and two small boys. Phelps moved from Ohio to La Porte, Indiana, and then to Union Township in
1839. Long after he had moved from the area his farm was known as the Phelps place.
Ira Jones, who arrived in Union Township in 1840 was a native of Ohio and had farmed in Winnebago Co., Illinois before
purchasing land in section 32 of Union township. By 1850, Jones had a farm of 378 acres and kept 311 sheep.
Jacob West, another farmer reported only four members in his household. He purchased land in Union township in 1839
and brought his family to the area the following year. Like many of the other early settlers, West had several different
occupations. He was a farmer, merchant and the first brick maker in the township. He also served as a Justice of the
Peace, Union Town Clerk, member of the Board of Health and assessor for the Township and the federal government.
Samuel Lewis established a home in what later became the Village of Union, arriving in September 1839. He reported
six people living in his home in July 1840. Lewis operated a hotel (sometimes called a tavern) and the stage coach
between Janesville and Madison that traveled the Territorial Road stopped at Lewis’ to deliver mail.
David Johnson and his family arrived on the 25th of June 1840. The Johnson’s stayed at the log cabin of Samuel
Lewis. On the first night of their stay, 24 people lodged in Lewis’ small building. Lewis later built a frame two-story
building that served as the hotel and post office.
Johnson recalled in later years that on the 2nd of July all of the men living west of the Catfish River and east of the
Sugar River gathered to build a log cabin for his family. The Johnsons moved in the following day, just in time to be
recorded in the 1840 census. The little log cabin was used as a church, a school that Mrs. Johnson taught, and a
shelter for others who needed a place to stay.
Union Township’s first school was built in 1841 on the north side of the road known as the Janesville and Sugar River
Road. The school was located west of Evansville’s current city limits and was built of logs. Erastus Quivey, Ira Jones,
John Griffith, John A. Griffith, Hiram Griffith, Boyd Phelps, Stephen Jones and John T. Baker joined in “raising” the
school, with each family providing some of the materials, including logs and white oak shakes cut from nearby groves of
trees. The first teacher was a young lady from east of the Rock River, Mary Jane True.
The second school was built near Union village and the third in a small settlement, known unofficially as “The Grove”
and later named Evansville in 1842. The Grove school served as both a church and school. Levi Leonard was the first
teacher in this school.
Except for the schools, there were few government services offered to the residents of Union township. The postal
service was one of the first and sometimes the only national government service provided. Most Union township
residents received their mail at the Union post office.
Residents of the eastern part of the township used the Osborn post office at the Ball Tavern in Porter township. There
were daily stages from Janesville and a four-horse stagecoach made the trip between Beloit and Madison three times a
week with stops at the hotel in Union and the Ball Tavern.
Once a week, Jacob West and his sons rode on horseback to pick up the mail at the Lewis’ tavern in Union and deliver it
to those living in the southern and western part of the Township.
The first marriage took place on March 28, 1841. Peter Aller married Eleanor Temple before a Justice of the Peace.
Eleanor died in 1860, leaving Aller with two daughters to raise. He later married another Union township resident, Nancy
M. Smith. Aller went on to hold many government positions, including Rock County Board Chairman and Superintendent
of the County Poor Farm.
Families who arrived in the area were often related by blood or marriage. Thomas Wardell came to Union shortly in
1843 and settled on a farm three quarters of a mile northwest of Union on the Madison road. Thomas came from
Indiana with his brother, Charles Wardell, who took the adjoining quarter section, just west of his Thomas’ land.
Thomas Wardell was born August 9, 1815. After he settled on government land he purchased near Union, Rock
County, Wis. He was elected as the first county superintendent of schools. In September, 1854, he sold out and moved
away. His first wife was Esther Aller, daughter of William Aller, Sr., of Union and Evansville. She died in 1850 and
Wardell married to Martha Thomas, the daughter of Frances Thomas of Cooksville. Seven of Mr. Wardell's thirteen
children were born at Union.
Near the village of Union, there was a large settlement of Wardell relatives, by blood or marriage. The relatives included
William Aller, Sr., Jesse, Peter, John, William, Jr., and David Aller, James Moore, Josiah Cummings and four sons, and
the families of Temple, Miner, Courtier, and Johnson.
The first organization for a township government took place in 1842 at the home of Charles McMillan. According to an
account by David Johnson, who attended the meeting, it was at McMillen’s house that the town was named Union “from
the fact of the entire unanimity of sentiment and action.”
Once a township government was established, there were annual elections for Town officers. The candidates were
chosen at a caucus. According to the Wisconsin State Constitution, only white males, 21 years of age, who were citizens
of the United States could vote.
Notices were published to call the men together to select three supervisors, a town clerk, treasurer, highway
commissioners, justices of the peace, constables, road masters, and a weights and measures sealer. Union township
elected a “fence viewer” although earlier settlers had little time to put up fences and animals often wandered from farm
The men followed the patterns established for town organizations in the east and they did not shirk their duty to serve.
Those who had arrived in 1839 worked alongside the later arrivals to perform the duties of the offices. The men were
devoted to establishing good government, churches and school organizations. The names of the early office holders
appeared over and over again as the years went by.
The first officers elected at the 1842 meeting included Supervisors, Ira Jones, David R. Bent, and Allen Miner; Clerk,
John T. Baker; Assessors, John F. Sale, David Johnson and David R. Bent; Commissioners of Highway were William
Webb, Isaac Andrus and Washington Higday; School Commissioners were Levi Leonard, Isaac Andrus and Lemuel
Warren. John Griffith served as Treasurer and collectors included Hamilton Higday and Adam W. Uline. Elected to the
“Fence Viewers” office were Ira Jones, David R. Bent and Allen Miner. Sealer of Weights and Measures was Joseph
Osborn and Overseer of Road was Charles McMillan.
Rapid growth characterized the new territory. The Federal Census of 1840 listed 16 families. Just five years later, the
Wisconsin territorial census recorded 127 families, an increase of 100 families within five years.
Public transportation was by stagecoach from Janesville and Madison. The coaches brought people and mail into Union
township in the early days. There was a daily stage (except Sunday) from Janesville to Madison. The stage stopped at
the village of Union, before heading north into Dane County and the next stop, Rutland.
Farmers had to depend on wagons that they owned or borrowed from a neighbor to deliver their produce to market.
Transporting goods to market was a great hardship for the early settlers.
Landowners were expected to repair the roads adjacent to their property, but there was no machinery to smooth and
repair the roads. Poor weather and heavy traffic on the dirt roads kept them in constant need of repair.
Whatever these first settlers in Union township endured, they did it as neighbors and friends. There were few reports of
swindlers. There were no reports of people who refused to help their neighbors in the difficult work of building homes
and working the land.
Not everyone was suited to the pioneer life and some sold their land and moved back to the east. Others were drawn to
the promise of new territory and kept moving west into Iowa, Minnesota, and other western states as they opened for
settlement. For those who stayed in Union township, the wealth was in the land.
A Wisconsin Territorial census was taken in 1846 and Union Township’s statistics were recorded by Orrin Guernsey.
The Janesville Gazette reported the results of the census in their July 22, 1846 issue. Union township had 817
residents. This included 127 households, 465 males and 352 female residents. Many families were still living in log
There were not many advances in implements for planting and harvesting in the first decade of settlement. Breaking
plows were still being used to turn the prairie into fields. An early settler, F. A. Ames, described the process of making
tillable land: “A breaking plow was used that would turn a furrow 2 feet wide, sufficiently strong to stand the combined
pull of from 5 to 10 yoke of oxen. These plows were so well balanced that one man could control it and cut a grub (a
small tree) 2 or three inches through.” Ames also described the harvesting of the grain, “Our first crop consisting of one
eighth of an acre of oats was harvested with a hand sickle.”
In March 1848, the voters of Union Township were asked to decide on the whether Wisconsin should become a state
and to adopt the State Constitution. Union voters were eager to join the movement towards statehood. An article in the
March 16, 1848 Janesville Gazette said the Union township men who cast their ballots passed the measure with a
majority of 70 votes.
Within a few years of settlement, Union township had attracted many new families. When the census taker tallied the
residents in 1850, Union township had 1,056 people. No longer was everyone listed as engaged in agriculture. The
diversity of occupations indicated a stronger economic base. There were 212 farmers, eight blacksmiths, one
shoemaker, three wagon makers, a tailor, mechanic, two stage coach drivers, a hotel keeper, one merchant and one
The average wage paid to a farm hand was $1.20 per month, plus room and board. A day laborer earned $1 per month
with board or $1.25 without. Carpenters earned $1.50 a day.
Evander Quivey was operating the only saw mill in the township near Allen’s Creek in Evansville. Threshing machines
were available at Phil Cadwallader’s shop, but he could only produce four in a year. There were no paupers or criminals
recorded in the 1850 census in Union township.
Women reported receiving $1 a week for work as domestics. No other occupations of women were recorded. However,
this did not mean that women were lacking in the ability to earn money. One early pioneer woman reported owning a few
sheep and spinning the wool into yarn. Susan Pratt Washburn reported in a memoir of pioneer life in Union township,
that after she spun her wool into stocking yarn, she sold it for seventy-five cents a pound. Women worked as teachers
and earned a small wage and their room and board with families in their school district.
There were 500 children under the age of ten and more than 200 between the ages of eleven and twenty. Five school
districts were operating in Union township with 161 pupils in attendance during the 1849-50 school year. All public
schools were run by local boards, under the state school laws. Women usually taught the summer sessions and men
the winter sessions.
Union, the first village platted in the Township, was a much larger settlement than The Grove. The streets, blocks and
lots, of the village of Union were platted in 1848.
Thomas Wardell, an early settler, recalled the stores in Union Village. “Dan Pond kept the tavern, Mr. Smith the grocery
store, Vaughn’s a dry goods and general store. By 1850, Newman and Sutherland had a good general store in
operation. George Cummings had a wagon shop and Ellis a shoe shop. Two blacksmith shops and a furniture store
helped to liven business. Two churches looked after our morals.”
There was a Baptist Church organized in 1844, with the church built in 1851. There was also a Methodist church in
Union. The Union Village Methodist church building was later moved to Brooklyn. Evansville had a Methodist church on
the south side of the first block of East Main.
Water power was important for early industries and Evansville had a stream that provided water for a saw mill operated
with water-powered machinery. The village of Union had no water power.
The Evansville post office was established in 1849 and named for Dr. John M. Evans. This gave Union township
residents in the southern and western sections of the township access to better postal service.
A farm of 120 acres with a log cabin and some cleared land was selling for $700 in the early 1850s. Years after the first
settlement, roads were little more than trails and this hampered the safe delivery of grain and animals to market. A
report of an early snow in the November 9, 1848 Janesville Gazette said, “Many people who were taking produce to the
Lake have been obliged to leave their loads on the way and return home with their teams.”
Union township farmers joined the Rock county Agricultural Society and Mechanics Institute. The group organized in
1851 to publish a monthly journal about new farm methods and technology. The Society tried tried cooperative selling
of farm product by organizing market days in Janesville and Beloit, but the markets paying the best were in Milwaukee.
Once the produce reached Milwaukee markets, steamships carried it across Lake Michigan to Michigan at New Buffalo,
where there was a connection with the Michigan Central Railroad to Detroit. Many of the goods then traveled by boat
and rail to markets in New York, a four day journey from Milwaukee, provided there was good weather for crossing the
These hazardous transportation routes to the markets along Lake Michigan and further East caused farmers to invest in
road improvement schemes. In the late 1840s and early 1850s, the Janesville Gazette printed many articles about
transportation improvement plans. Promoters held meetings in Janesville to encourage investors to put money into
railroads, a canal in the Rock River Valley; a “McAdamizied” road (a stone paving technique invented by a Scotsman,
John Loudon McAdam) and a Sugar River Plank Road that would have run south of Evansville through Decator, Spring
Valley, Plymouth, Albany and Monroe.
The Janesville Gazette transposed the words in the name of the company building the road from Illinois into Rock
County. In December 1848, the Gazette news item said that the Madison and Beloit Railroad company was opening its
books for subscriptions. There was $30,000 of stock available to purchase at $100 per share.
In July 1849, the Gazette again reported that the company had surveyors in Rock County, platting 3 potential lines for
the Beloit-Madison Railroad (later taken over by the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad.) Farmers in Rock County were
urged to invest in this venture.
The Beloit-Madison road would connect with the Chicago-Galena Railroad and the Illinois road was completed to
Belvidere in the fall of 1849. There was great excitement about the transportation and the railroads found investors
willing to donate land and buy shares in the company.
The Milwaukee-Mississippi railroad reached Milton in 1852 and the rails were under construction to Janesville. The trip
from Janesville to Milwaukee took 7 ½ hours and was a much faster and safer trip for people, crops, and animals than
the old wagon trails.
The village of Evansville was growing, but in the early 1850s there was little commerce. LeRoy Springer arrived in 1852
and several years later described the village as he remembered it on his arrival. “There was only one store in Evansville
at the time. The ground on which the Central House now stands (northwest corner of Madison and Main) was covered
with giant oaks. There were no frame houses east of the creek. Henry Spencer lived in one on the rise of ground at the
rear of Lee’s harness shop, that was the only one between the center of the village and the bridge. Dr. Evan’s old red
brick had been built about tow years before. Hiram Spencer was living on the corner where Cummings and Clark now
have their store (southwest corner of Main and Madison.)
“There were only two small houses on South Madison Street. West of Dr. Evan’s residence, there was I think only two
small houses, one of them ins the old house on Mr. Hawley’s lot. (southeast corner of West Main and Third.) The old
town hall was the village school house, where the Congregational society held its services. The old Methodist church
stood at the rear of Libby and Wolfe’s market.” An 1858 map of Evansville shows the Methodist Church in the first block
of East Main, on the south side of the street. It is sandwiched between two stores.
Springer continued with his description of transportation, “In ’52 most of the produce had to be hauled to Milwaukee with
teams. Both horses and oxen were used. Ox teams went through the cheapest in the summer as they were turned loss
at night and needed no other food. The teamster cooked his own meals and slept in his wagon. In the winter of ’53 the
cars got as far as Janesville. Then we thought we had a market at our own door.”
The rivalry for a market between Janesville and Evansville had begun. Evansville merchants and farmers still wanted
the village to attract the attention of the railroad owners. Giving the downtown the appearance that it was an up-and-
coming business district was one of the incentives promoters presented to railroad decision makers. Moving the village
cemetery out of the way of the new railroad and commercial development was a necessity.
Union township farmers and businessmen were more interested in the Beloit and Madison line. The railroad was
expected to bring prosperity to farmers and merchants.
By 1855, Union township had two villages that were platted for land sales, although the Town Board of supervisors and
other officers was the only governing body. The village of Evansville was surveyed and platted in 1855 in hopes that the
Beloit-Madison railroad would pass through.
The railroad reached Footville and there was great debate about the plans to extend it to Madison. Would it pass
through the village Evansville or Union? There was some talk that the depot was to be built between the village of Union
and the village of Evansville.
The village of Union was by-passed in the earliest surveys of the Beloit-Madison railroad giving the village of Evansville
the greatest commercial advantage and the Townships only a depot. The rails were not completed to Evansville until
1863 and the route proposed and shown on an 1858 map of the township traveled a slightly different route when it was
actually constructed. On the 1858 map, the “B & M R R” was designated by dashes. The route cut through township
diagonally from southeast to northwest. The 1858 route started in section 34 of the township, through the Village of
Evansville, and then in a northwestern direction, 2 ½ miles west of Union. The next stop on the railroad line was the
Village of Brooklyn in Dane County.
When the road was built it started further east, in section 35, then went diagonally northwest through Evansville. North
from Evansville the rails went through Union township sections, 22, 21, 16, 8, and 6, exiting the northwest corner of the
township into Dane County.
In both the early version of the railroad route in the 1850s and in during the construction period in the 1860s, Union
township farmers generously donated land along the route. Deeding the property to the railroad company for $1 and
buying stock in the company.
David L. Mills, who later became an Evansville lawyer worked as a stock agent for the Beloit-Madison railroad in the
early 1850s. He also served as a director of the Milwaukee-Mississippi Railroad.
Mills was also a land speculator and urged Evansville businessmen and promoters to not wait for the railroad to begin
improving the area around the much hoped for depot. The soon-to-be Evansville resident purchased land on the far
west edge of the village and donated 2 acres so the Methodists could build the Evansville Seminary.
Many of the land speculators that arrived after settlement became permanent residents. Another land speculator,
Almeron Eager arrived in Union township in 1854 and bought 80 acres of land that he farmed for a short while and then
purchased 200 acres.
In 1855, Evansville residents agreed to move the village’s original cemetery from the south side of the first block of East
Main Street. The interred bodies were removed from the cemetery and placed in the new cemetery, nearly a mile to the
east. This cemetery was later named Maple Hill. Besides this cemetery in Evansville, there were two other cemeteries in
the Township, the Old Baptist Church cemetery in the village of Union and a small cemetery north of the village of Union
in section 10.
The immigration of people from the Eastern United States continued well into the 1850s. As in the earlier years, groups
of people, families related by blood and marriage, made the journey together. A family of carpenters, the Libby family
came to Evansville in the early 1850s, with their brother-in-law William Campbell, a saw mill operator, they began
building large frame structures for business and residential use.
Nathaniel Libby came with his entire family, including his son William, a talented carpenter and his son Caleb, just 9
years old. Years later, Caleb became the editor of the Enterprise and Tribune newspapers in Evansville.
In a series of articles in the 1890s, Caleb described his father’s choice of home between the two villages of Union and
Evansville. “Union was first settled and much the largest and most important place; but my father proved a true prophet
for once at least, for upon landing in this place and comparing the situation of Union and Evansville, he said that this
was sure to be the largest and most prominent in the near future, basing his decision principally upon the beautiful water
power then here and none at Union, which proved very true and still more so when the railroad came here instead of
through Union as first designed and surveyed, and a greater part of the inhabitants and some of the buildings there
have been moved to this place and Brooklyn.”
“Although but a small boy 9 years of age I remember well upon our arrival we left the cars at Footville, then the terminus
of the railroad, where father met us and we came in an old fashioned stage coach to this place, and the only living place
that could be procured for our family was in part of what was called the old Prairie House, long ago burned, located
where Rev. J. E. Coleman now resides, which had been used as a hotel on that road known as the old government road,
there being no roads fenced in those days everybody was privileged to drive across the country in any direction they
chose. But this road had been traveled as a government road for some time and was the only familiar thing to be seen
in that vicinity resembling civilization, and oh, how homesick we all were, never having been in a new country before and
not far from some great eastern city all of our lives. Evansville itself was then cut off from mail communications, the
stages from Janesville and Beloit turning north two miles east making their first stopping point at Union.”
Henry Spencer built Evansville first hotel in 1855, a three story building, one story higher than the one in Union Village.
The structure was built by Nathaniel Libby and his sons, with lumber sawed at William Campbell’s mill. The Spencer
House was on the northwest corner of Main and Madison Streets.
Caleb Libby described some of the early building construction in Evansville. “My brother Henry, now deceased, engaged
at once with Mr. Henry Spencer, who then resided in what was then termed a handsome residence located on the rise of
ground back or north of where the opera house now stands, while William and Mr. Miles was at once engaged in working
at their trade of carpenter and joiners, the first building erected by them in this city being a wagon shop for Mr. Hiram
Spencer now occupied by Mr. H. Fellows in his machinery business. This same spring of 1855 my father and next
younger brother Harrison came to Evansville and a little later in July my mother, sister now Mrs. B. Campbell, youngest
brother Nathaniel and self followed when the full complement of the family were located here. This same summer father
and brother William built the residence now occupied by Mr. Geo. F. Spencer and his daughter Hattie's art gallery; the
Central House and store occupied by Messrs, Cummings & Clark were built the same season by Sumner Preston and
his two sons Lorenzo and Josiah, as well as several other buildings both log and frame for there was great need of living
room for the fast increasing population.”
Spencer also speculated in land. His sales from 1848 to 1855 earned him nearly $5,000. Since there were no banks,
Spencer held the mortgages on the properties he sold. The Rock County Register of Deeds recorded nearly $4,000 in
mortgages that Spencer held on the land. There was little risk in these land ventures. As Union township continued to
grow, the land values increased and if Spencer, or other land speculators did not receive payment and foreclosed, the
land could be sold at a higher price.
The township government continued to operate into the 1850s with many of the same people who had served in offices
in the 1840s. The town officers for 1854, were Supervisors: Ira Jones, Chairman, Daniel Johnson and Peter Aller. The
town clerk was P. D. Vaughan. Hiram Burdick served as assessor. Allen Miner, Treasurer and R. S. Kingman,
Superintendent. Jacob West, John Dawson and W. C. Lovejoy were the Justices of the Peace.
The following year, 1855, Jones, Johnson and Aller continued to serve as Supervisors. H. L. Smith took the Town Clerk’
s position. Stillman Bullard and John Dawson acted as the township assessors. E. B. Harvey was the Superintendent
and Asa Pierce was added to the list of Justices of the Peace.
The state of Wisconsin took its own census in 1855. Union township continued to grow, with a total of 1,377 people
reported. There were 720 males, 655 females. A small percentage of the total, 86 people, reported that they were
“foreign born.” Most of the residents had immigrated from the eastern United States.
The 1855 census taker reported that the average price per acre in Union township was $4.09. There were no 12 school
districts in the township with 598 students. The State of Wisconsin had supplemented the local taxes with a payment of
$413.00 to Union township schools.
The number of farms increased rapidly and an 1858 book describing Rock County listed 185 farms in Union Township.
Wheat was the principal crop grown by Union township farmers. The pioneer farmers had been able to put only a few
acres into production and the fields were heavily cropped, wearing out the soil. Wheat crops failed in the 1850s and
corn and oats became the favored crops.
By 1858, the village of Union had two dry good stores, one hotel or tavern, one physician, 1 district school with 45
pupils, a Baptist minister, 1 blacksmith shop, 1 tailor’s shop, a shoemaker’s shop, 1 cabinet shop, 3 joiners, 1 painter, 1
wagon maker and 2 masons. There is no doubt that the village of Union would have continued to grow, if the railroad
had not bypassed Union in the early 1860s.
The map of the township published in 1858 shows a township well populated with farms and homes. Small squares
represent the houses with every section showing three or more residences.
The following year in 1859, the tax assessor for Union township reported there were 22,909 acres valued at $441,471.
The average value for an acre of land was $19.27, more than 4 times the value recorded just four years earlier when
the Wisconsin census was taken.
The transportation problems had not been solved by the end of the decade of the 1850s, but conditions for farmers
seemed to be improving and land values were rising. More land was cultivated and despite low prices and high
transportation costs, farm income was improving.
Union township was moving beyond the settlement period. Two villages were platted, although the entire township
remained under the governance of the Union Township Board.
The area was becoming self-sufficient with a greater variety of goods sold at the stores. The township now could boast
of hotels, post offices, saw mill and grist mill, and blacksmith shops. There were doctors, lawyers, teachers, wagons
makers, carpenters, and masons. Churches and schools provided education, religious, and social opportunities.
The 1860s brought prosperous times to Union Township. Although many struggled through the early years of the
decade, those who persevered and stayed on the land saw property values increase and farm products become more
Transportation had improved in Rock County and trains ran daily from Janesville to Milwaukee and Chicago. In the first
years of the decade, the price of grain dropped so that farmers were struggling to add acreage and store grain until
prices improved. What helped improve conditions for the farmers was the increased land under cultivation.
In the twenty years following the arrival of the first settlers in Union township, farming methods had improved. The crops
were more diversified and some farmers were beginning to specialize in raising sheep and dairy cows to increase their
When the census of agricultural production was taken in 1860, the amount of wheat, corn and oats harvested had
increased 2 to 3 times. Reports of crops in the census were based the prior year’s crop.
The production of oats increased from 24,163 bushels in the 1850 census to 56,585 bushels in 1860. Production of
corn increased more than 3 times, from 11,240 bushels to 38,960 bushels and wheat production doubled from 34,207
bushels to 62,276 bushels.
At the beginning of the 1860s, there were few commercial enterprises in the township. William Campbell had his grist
mill operating in Evansville. Campbell reported to the 1860 census taker that in the last 12 month period, he had
processed 10,000 bushels of corn and oats with a 12 horse-powered steam operated mill. Most of the grain produced in
Union township was taken to Janesville for sale and shipment by rail to Chicago markets.
Cinch bugs and weather damaged crops in 1861 and 1863. In a crop report in the July 26, 1861 Janesville Gazette, the
farmers in Union township had started to cut their wheat. However, the crop was “generally light and is somewhat
damaged by the cinch bug.”
Between the spring and fall of 1861, the wheat prices dropped from a high of 90 cents a bushel, to a low of 55 cents per
bushel. When the crop came to market in Janesville in August 1861, the buyers reported that the berries were small
The farmers reported to the Gazette that they were getting only about 12 bushels per acre and they were offered low
prices. “Taking the light yield and the low price, together makes farmers complain considerably,” the Gazette reported.
Union township farmers found a ready market for wool. Union township farmers produced 3,424 pounds of wool in the
year ending June 1, 1860. Peter Aller, a Union township farmer and Rock County Board supervisor, reported to the
census taker that he had 300 sheep on his farm.
Despite some complaining about the low prices of farm products, the Janesville Gazette’s issue of November 13, 1861
reported that farmers in Rock County were enjoying prosperity. The newspaper reporter said that Union township had
thirty new homes under construction in the early winter of 1861. “Many of these are of a commodious and substantial
character, on solid foundations, raising their heads with beauty of design and enduring solidity.”
In the early 1860s, making butter and cheese was a home industry. What the farmers did not consume in their own
household was used for barter with village merchants. To increase the market for their excess milk, farmers in Union
township formed a cooperative cheese factory in 1866.
They pledged the milk from 350 cows for the production of cheese and elected officers to manage the company. The
farmers had been feeding the unused milk to pigs. Some were persuaded to begin feeding corn to the pigs in order to
save the milk to sell to the cheese company.
Most farmers did not milk during the winter months. The cheese factory was located in Evansville and operated during
the spring, summer and early fall. The machinery was operated by a steam engine.
The cheese factory produced 55-60 pound cheese and 13 cheeses were made each day according to Charles Wilder,
the cheese maker. Most were sold in the Chicago markets. When the cheese factory quit its first year of operation in
October 1866, Wilder had manufactured 100,000 pounds of cheese.
Union township also had a smaller cheese factory operated by Edward Devereaux. This factory produced about 4,800
lbs of cheese each year.
In the 1860s, many of the successful farms were operated by children of the first settlers. The father’s had increased
the acreage from their initial purchases in the 1840s. When the census of 1860 was recorded, it showed that some of
the early settlers in Union township owned farms of nearly 400 acres.
One of the most successful early settlers, Daniel Johnson, farmed 380 acres in the northeastern part of Union township.
Johnson had cleared and improved 320 acres of the farm. In 1863, he had turned the farm over to his sons, William and
David, and moved into the village of Evansville. The Johnson farms remained in the family for more than 50 years.
Daniel’s brother, Rueben opened a livestock selling business in Evansville in that same year.
Education of their children and grandchildren continued to be important to the residents of Union township. Between
1850 and 1860, the number of schools reported in Union township had doubled.
Ten public schools and a private school, the Evansville Seminary operated in Union township in 1860. The Evansville
public school, located in a building on the northwest corner of Madison & Church Street (the current location of the City
Hall) reported 139 pupils and 2 teachers.
There was a school in Union village; another in section 5, section 17, section 18, section 20, section 32, section 26;
section 13; and another in section 11. Each school in the township reported 1 teacher and the number of pupils varied
from 34 to 80.
The Seminary, a private school operated by the Methodist church had the only high school and college preparatory
school in the township. The Seminary had 12 teachers and 155 pupils.
There were still two post offices operating in the township, one at Union and the other in the village of Evansville.
National problems interrupted the lives of many Union township families in the 1860s. At the beginning of the Civil War,
Union township men rallied to support the Northern cause.
The Janesville newspapers printed Wisconsin Governor Alexander W. Randall’s proclamation calling for companies of
men to “be in readiness to be mustered into service immediately.” Several young men from Union township arrived in
Madison too late to join the 1st Regiment.
Theodore Sutphen, William McRea, and Allen S. Baker volunteered for the 2nd Wisconsin Regiment. McRea was
wounded in the first battle of Bull Run. The 2nd Regiment also participated in the Battles of Gettysburg, Gainesville,
Antietam, and Fredricksburg. Sutphen was killed at Gainesville, Virginia and Baker was wounded in the second Battle of
The war demanded more recruits for the Union army and in the summer and fall of 1861, the Wisconsin 13th Regiment
was formed in Janesville. This Regiment drew the largest contingent of Union township men into the war.
A war committee from Union township reported to the Janesville Gazette that they had enlisted 25 men by early
September 1861. Dr. John M. Evans became the 13th Regiment’s surgeon. Company D was known as the Union
Guards, a popular name in the North’s Regiments.
When there were not enough volunteers for the Union army, drafts were held. The list for the 1863 draft enrollment list
of the 26th Sub-District, Town of Union, Rock County, included approximately 150 names. From this list, eighteen men
were chosen for the first draft in October 1863. The 1863 list was also to be used for a second draft to take place on
March 10, 1864, a third on July 18, 1864, and a fourth draft on Dec. 19, 1864.
A special town meeting was called on December 23, 1863 to vote on whether the township would pay a bounty to men
who enlisted, and helped to fill the Union township quota. When the votes were cast, 166 favored the bounty and 50
A second meeting was called and the township voters approved an appropriation of $3,600 to pay each volunteer $200.
Men could escape the draft by paying $300 cash to the government. This money was used to buy substitutes.
The increased enlistments and drafts gave the Union army sufficient resources to end the “great war of the rebellion”
and the Civil War ended. Union Township troops returned in the early months of 1866.
During the war, Union township was prospering. The Beloit Madison railroad reached Union Township in 1863 and a
depot was built at Evansville. This transportation link with Chicago markets made Evansville the primary business and
agricultural shipping point for Union Township residents.
This was a great benefit to farmers who could use railroad transportation to sell their farm products in Chicago and the
Eastern markets. The railroad had bypassed the Village of Union and this small town began to fall behind the growth of
The village of Union lost residents and businesses. The village had once had two churches, a Baptist and a Methodist.
In 1866, the Methodist Church in Union was moved to the village of Brooklyn, another railroad town with a growing
Two years later, in 1868, the Welch Society at Union Village advertised their “meeting house” for sale. “The building is
strong and substantial and can be moved without any inconvenience or material injury.” Potential buyers were asked to
contact John Williams at Union or E. A. Thomas at Cooksville.
Transportation through the villages of Union, and Cooksville to Stoughton was by stage coach. There was also a stage
to Janesville that left Evansville three days a week, since there was no direct railroad connection with Janesville
An observer in the early 1870s said: “Union has grown old. The stores, where once trade flourished, were desolate, and
the windows and doors were closely boarded up; some of them were used for tobacco houses. The houses were
denuded of paint, but Main Street looked natural, and even more pleasant than I had ever seen it before.”
Evansville’s first newspaper, the Citizen began publication in January 1866. The editor, Isaac Hoxie was able to secure
many advertisers. These demonstrated the variety of goods and services available to Union township residents.
The diversity of manufactured items was due to the railroad and the availability of products from Chicago and other
eastern markets. Evansville’s commercial district had many new stores providing diverse products that had in the early
years of settlement only been available in Milwaukee.
The hardware store of Parker & Snashall opened in 1864. The Evansville Citizen had advertisements from two drug
stores, one owned by three physicians, Dr. John M. Evans, Dr. William Quivey, and Dr. C. M. Smith.
Another physician, Dr. L. G. Murphy had an office in his home. There was a veterinarian operating a livery stable, a
photographer, grocers, dry goods merchants, two hotels, a jeweler, blacksmiths, boot and shoemakers, a stationery
store, meat markets, a furniture and coffin manufacturer, a carpenter’s shop that made doors and trim materials for
homes, wagon makers and harness makers.
The railroad service was essential to moving goods in and out of Union Township and several new businesses operated
near the Evansville’s railroad depot. In the late 1860s there were six trains a day leaving the Evansville depot. Three
trains were northbound and three southbound.
In 1867, two lumber yards opened. The first livestock and produce dealers, Reuben Johnson, David Stevens and
Samuel Norton built a warehouse near the railroad tracks in 1867.
The following year, grain merchants, James Norton and Shively, operated the Evansville Market. Wheat was selling as
high as $2 a bushel. The grain merchants also bought eggs, hay, butter, lard, tallow, hides, potatoes and wool. The
markets and good prices had come to Union township farmers. Selling farm products no longer required long and
hazardous travel, the grain merchants and livestock dealers had come to Union township.
Town supervisors and other officers were elected for one year terms. Caucuses were held in late March to determine
the names of those who would appear on the ballot. Elections were held the first Tuesday in April. The town clerk kept
the record of registered voters and a Board of Registery was appointed to register voters and see that they met the
In the 1866 election Daniel Johnson, who had served for many years as a Town supervisor was re-elected and served
as chairman. William B. Patterson and Samuel Cadwallader also were elected as supervisors. Jacob West was elected
Town Clerk; Elijah Robinson, treasurer; Jacob West, Daniel M. Rowley and A. S. Ordway, justices of the peace; Reuben
Winston, assessor; Thomas S. Peck, Sumner Frost and Reuben Winston, constables. Caleb Snashall was elected
sealer of weights and measures; and Lucian Craig, the pound keeper. The pound keeper was expected to hold stray
animals, including cows and horses, and advertise in the local newspaper in hopes that they would be returned to the
Until 1867, the entire township was governed by the Union township board. Then the village of Evansville residents
voted to form their own government. A special election was held on March 19, 1867 to choose the first Village of
Evansville Board. The boundaries of the village included the entire area of section 27, the east half of section 28, and
the west half of section 26.
Although they were two separate governing bodies, some Evansville residents were allowed to vote in Township
elections. Evansville Village Board members also held offices on the Union Town Board.
In 1867, Daniel Johnson was elected to the office of Village Board President and he also held the position of Chairman
of the Town Board.
Village board trustees included Isaac M. Bennett, Lathrup York, Elijah Robinson and Henry C. Millspaugh. Nelson
Winston was elected the Evansville treasurer and David Mills the clerk.
Some of the same names appear on the report of the caucus and election of Town Officers held on April 2, 1867.
Daniel Johnson, Alonzo Richardson and Peter Aller were supervisors. Jacob West and Elijah Robertson were re-elected
to terms as clerk and treasurer. Jacob West, E. B. Harvey, and Argalus Ballard were elected Justices of the Peace.
Harrison Hayward, Boyd Jones, and J. B. Wiley were elected constables and I. M. Norton, sealer of weights and
measurers. The following year, in 1868, the same officers were elected to the Union township board.
Justice of the Peace, Jacob West, was a trusted public servant and also served as the United States tax collector. In this
roll, West was officially called, the Assistant U. S. Assessor, 2d Div. 4th Dist. He collected tax for income, carriages, gold
watches, gold and silver plate, and a special tax for doing business.
In the late 1860s, some residents of the Village of Evansville had plans to expand the village boundaries into Union
township. Although it does not appear as an officially platted addition to Evansville, the local newspaper reported that
one of Evansville’s citizens had divided his farm into 75 to 100 building lots. Andrew Pettigrew lived on West Church
Street and his farmland extended south and west.
Farms were increasing in value. In 1866 C. B. Little advertised his 160-acre farm, northeast of Evansville for sale.
According to Little’s ad, it was one half prairie, with 30 acres of timber and 30 acres of tame grass. There was good
“plow land.” The farm also had a “good frame house 18 by 22, well finished.” There were still remnants of the
settlement period, as Little had not yet taken down the 16 by 32 log house. The log house was included in the purchase
Although no price was listed for Little’s farm, three years later, when the 1870 census taker arrived on June 3, to record
information from Union township farmers, he was required to list the value of the real estate held by the head of house.
The census taker visited the farm of Hiram Bullard. Bullard listed the value of his real estate at $10,000. He owned 160
acres in Section 14, a substantial brick house and impressive barns. A drawing of the farm appeared in the 1873 Rock
County Atlas. Other farmers in the area reported similar values for similar acreage.
The 1870 census reported 2,145 people and 224 farms in Union township. Most workers reported occupations related
to agriculture. There were as many dairy cows as horses and only four oxen were counted in the 1870 census.
During the decade of the 1870s, farmers increased production of crops, livestock, and milk. There were three cheese
factories in Union township. “There are several farmers knowing that there is profit in the dairy business, are starting
up neighborhood factories,” the Evansville Review noted in its May 25, 1870 issue.
The Emery Brothers opened a cheese factory on their farm west of Evansville in May 1870. Another small cheese
factory was owned by Edward Devereaux and located on his Devereaux farm.
The largest cheese factory, the Wilder Cheese factory in Evansville, reopened in the spring of 1870 and Charles Wilder
made cheese for 5 ½ months. In 1870, the factory manufactured 96,796 lbs of cheese.
Farms with milking cows were called dairies. Wilder provided statistics about the dairy industry to Review readers. In
the June 8, 1870 issue, Wilder said that cheese production “took 9 lbs of milk to make one pound of cheese. Dairies
were producing 30 to 35 lbs of milk per cow per day. During the first week of June 4,568 lbs. of cheese were made.”
Milk was delivered to the cheese factories by wagon. Some wagons carried 2,000 pound of milk at a time. Enterprising
men started milk wagon routes to the cheese factory, collecting from farms along their routes. The milk routes
businesses allowed the farmer to work with crops and livestock.
Sheep continued to be an important farm animal. Over 3,500 sheep were held on farms in Union township in 1870. The
census taker recorded 15,769 pounds of wool marketed.
Wool buyers from Janesville Woolen Factory advertised in the Review that they would pay the highest prices for wool.
The Woolen Factory also carded, spun and wove the wool into cloth, easing the work of the housewife. Relieved of the
cloth making, she had more time to produce butter and raise egg-laying chickens so that she had goods to barter with
the local merchants.
Other buyers came from Boston and other Eastern markets to purchase goods for the Eastern woolen mills. 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. This encouraged Union Township farmers to increase their holdings in
The increased holdings in livestock made the windmills manufactured at the Baker Manufacturing Company an important
farm structure and a status symbol of prosperity. The windmills manufactured at the Baker manufacturing company
helped provide sufficient water to the livestock and an important supply of water for the household.
There were risks to raising livestock. Natural enemies of domesticated animals roamed Rock County. County officials
offered 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
Union township farmers increased their production of grain so they could feed livestock and have surplus grain to sell.
After the Civil War, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Colorado and Montana began to attract pioneers. Railroads expanded north
and west of Evansville. From 1865 to 1880 there was a steady migration of settlers into the western territories.
As the Great Plains was settled, Evansville farmers also found new markets for livestock. Some farmers not only
shipped livestock, but also purchased land for farms and ranches. In 1873 the Review reported that Evansville
businessman, 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.
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 and west. Rail transportation to the Chicago
grain elevators and Union Stockyards gave farmers in Union township immediate access to national markets for their
livestock and grain.
Farmers relied on livestock buyers to sell their products, rather than taking their own goods to Chicago markets. The
livestock buyers acted as middlemen between the farmer and the stockyards in Chicago. Farmers delivered their
animals to the Evansville stockyards located near the depot, sold it to the livestock buyers who then loaded and shipped
the livestock to the Chicago stockyards.
The 1870 census 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 was retired, but had been a livestock dealer in Argyle.
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.
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 area. They also purchased grain. The
company increased their storage space in the 1870s to handle the large amounts of grain coming to market.
Grain prices from the Chicago markets were posted weekly in the Review. Grain buyers from other areas also came to
the Evansville depot to purchase the grains, which now were predominately oats, corn, rye, and barley. Less wheat was
being grown as the developing areas in the Great Plains, the Dakotas, and Nebraska became the bread basket of the
Tobacco became an important cash crop for Union township farmers. This provided a supplement to farm income but
was very labor intensive work. Only a small amount of land could be planted and harvested.
Hiram Bullard put in five acres of tobacco in 1871 and harvested a crop of 10,640 pounds. His crop brought $1,100 and
Bullard was determined to add acreage for more tobacco. Tobacco warehouses were built near the railroad depot in
Evansville. Buyers shipped the tobacco to Eastern markets.
Although there was rail transportation to Chicago and Madison, in the 1870s travel to other communities was limited.
Union township travelers had to go by stage, to Janesville, Albany, Union, Cooksville, Stoughton, and Dunkirk.
There was hope that railroads would build a direct connection between Evansville and Janesville. This would allow
farmers to choose whether they wanted to send products to Chicago or Milwaukee. Without a direct connection, the
Union township farmers were limited to the Chicago markets.
While the railroads were a great benefit in transporting people and goods, the railroad companies began to realize their
power in the market place and increased shipping rates. This increased the price of goods in the business communities
and decreased the farmer’s profit on grains and livestock shipped to markets.
Farmers protested by forming a new organization, the Patrons of Husbandry, more often called “The Grange.” The
Grange wanted to reduce the high cost of goods, form cooperatives for selling farm products, and educate members
about better farming techniques. The national Grange organization also tested farm machinery for safety and efficiency,
and informed its members about the best machines to buy.
Women were encouraged to join and participate in the Grange. Union township farmers organized a Grange in 1872
and within a year, there were 60 members. This number gave the organization enough funds to form a cooperative to
buy and sell merchandise exclusively to its members. Farmers bought shares in the new venture.
The new business was officially named the Evansville Mercantile Association and was more commonly known as the
Grange. Within the first few months of business, the Grange was a success. By 1874, the Grange had stores in
Evansville and Brooklyn. After taking inventory in September 1874, the Evansville store manager added more
merchandise. Plows, other farm equipment, lumber, clothing, food and other merchandise was sold to Grange members
at an average of 10% above the cost.
The 1875 Wisconsin State Census gave the population of Union Township as 2025 inhabitants, a loss of 120 people. In
nearly every township in Rock County, the townships were losing residents and the villages and cities were gaining.
Although the population of the farms was diminishing, farmers continued to bring more land into production. They built
larger barns and storage sheds for their livestock and surplus grains.
One of the largest barns was built on the farm of Jedediah & Mary Hubbard in July 1875. More than 50 neighbors and
friends came to help with the barn raising. In appreciation for their work, Mary Hubbard served a meal that included two
bushels of biscuits, forty pies, and ten large cakes.
Hubbard’s was one of five barns built in Union township in the summer of 1875. Daniel Johnson put up a 42’ x 62’ barn;
David Rowley built a 30’ x 40’ barn and Stillman Bullard made a 28’ x 40’ addition to an existing barn.
The increased investment in farm buildings, animals, and crops increased the risk of loss by fire. To protect their homes
and farm building, Union township farmers joined neighboring townships and in 1874 organized the Farmers Mutual Fire
Insurance Company of Union. The first loss by fire occurred within the first year of business.
The Union Anti-Thief Society covered losses by theft. The organization boasted nearly 50 new members at its 1873
annual meeting. Officers included James Carle, President; Wm. Drummond, vice President; and Ed. Blakeley,
Secretary. John S. McMillan, William H. H. Johnson and Washington Higday served on the Vigilant Committee.
Corn replaced wheat as the largest grain crop. The Evansville Review surveyed farmers in the spring of 1875 and
reported that very little wheat was sown, as farmers were afraid of another invasion of the cinch bug.
The shift from wheat to other grains was confirmed when tax assessor Jacob West submitted his property and farm
products reports at the end of the 1870s. During the production year between July 1, 1878 to June 30, 1879, Union
township farmers planted 4,574 acres of corn and harvested 161,035 bushels. The farmer reported 149,380 bushels of
oats, grown on 3,464 acres.
Hops, tobacco, apples, potatoes, clover, timothy and other cultivated grasses, and grapes were also produced on
farms. There was 229 acres devoted to the production of tobacco, with 105,750 pounds harvested. Dairy production
increased dramatically in the 1870s. Union township factories made 283,071 pounds of cheese during the tax
assessment year ending June 30, 1879.
In 1876 a pickle and sauce factory was proposed for Union township farmers. The majority of farmers attending a
meeting to learn about the factory did not want to invest money in a cooperative venture. They preferred to have a
businessman fund and operate the business. Committees were appointed to appeal to farmers who had not attended
the meeting to join the enterprise but the idea faded due to lack of interest.
New transportation routes were proposed in 1870. To help farmers gain better access to markets, 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 add commercial wealth and importance to our place,” the Review reported.
When neither line materialized, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad made arrangements to use the St. Paul Road
rails to connect their line from Hanover into Janesville.
The newspaper editor counted 26 trains in 24 hours passing through Evansville in late 1875. The heavy railroad traffic
forced the railroad to build a side track east of the depot to accommodate trains that met in Evansville. Special cars
were added to the trains for passengers going to the state fair or summer excursions to the lakes near Madison. The
railroads also offered trips to the west for those interested in settling in one of the new territories.
In the 1870s, most candidates for political office had been elected many times in the past and the elections “passed off
with no very unusual noise or disturbance.” The Review listed the qualities most desired by the voters, “We want a
chairman who knows his duty and fearlessly, without favor or reward does it. We want an absolutely, unequivocally,
Peter Aller, Henry Johnson and Argalus Ballard were elected Supervisors in 1870. Aller was elected Chairman. James
Hoskins was elected clerk and maintained that position for several years. M. W. Sheafe, Jr. was elected treasurer. J. W.
Haseltine was elected assessor in 1870, briefly replacing Jacob West. James Hoskins and James Rowley were justices
of the peace, Charles Hunter, Henry Hubbard and O. Purinton served as constables. Alex Hoskins served as sealer of
weights and measurers and Harrison Hayward, a meat market owner, served as pound Master.
In 1874, Daniel Johnson replaced Aller as chairman and Aller became a justice of the peace. Johnson owned land in
Union township, but he had been an Evansville resident since 1863. He was re-elected in 1875 and also served as the
township’s supervisor on the Rock County Board.
In 1874, William H. Taggart and H. L. Blackman, served as township supervisors; James. H. Hoskins, clerk; Homer Potter,
treasurer; Jacob West, assessor; J. H. Hoskins and William Wilson, justices of the peace; Aller, Martin. R. Case, and S.
Childs; constables. Reuben W. Johnson took two offices, Sealer and Pound Master. Johnson was part owner of the
livestock yard near the depot, a handy spot for holding wandering animals.
Union township and the Village of Evansville shared an old school house building at the corner northwest corner of
Madison and Church Street. The building was used meetings and a polling place for voting. Village elections were held
in early March and Union township elections were held in early April.
Many wanted a larger building and in 1874, Jacob West made a motion at the Union township meeting that township
board and Evansville village board lease another building or room. The Review reported the sentiment of the majority,
“We want a building suitably large for all public gatherings and have it accessible to all parties, creeds and sex.” No
suitable place was found and the Village and the Town boards continued to meet in the Evansville Village Hall.
It was not unusual for men to serve in several different offices. Peter Aller became the chairman of the Union township
board in 1877 and was re-elected in 1878 and 1879. E. F. Ellis and John Tullar served as served as supervisors in
1877 and 1878. Ellis was re-elected and C. M. Tuttle replaced Tullar in 1879. Perry C. Wilder was elected town clerk
and served from 1877-1879. David L. Mills served as treasurer in 1877 and 1878. Homer Potter became treasurer in
1879. Jacob West retained the assessor’s post and also served as a justice of the peace. Martin R. Case, John S.
McMillan and Theodore F. Shurrum served as constables in 1877. Henry Hubbard and W. H. Hamilton were elected
constables in 1879.
Road masters were appointed to do road maintenance. Weather was a significant factor in the condition of the roads.
During winter freezing and thawing, people could often be seen “bouncing, bumping and rolling along in their lumber
wagons,” according to one newspaper report. If there was snow, those with sleighs had an easier ride.
There were so many roads and so much work that the board needed 25 road masters to keep the roads in good repair.
Each road master was responsible for a section of land. The Village of Evansville was responsible for maintenance of its
Temperance and women’s suffrage were hot political issues in Union Township during the last quarter of the 19th
century. According to Wisconsin law, women could vote in school district elections, but could not vote in the general
elections. Women made several failed attempts to vote for officers at Union township elections. Separate ballot boxes
for women were offered at the polls whenever school board elections were held with the general elections.
By 1875 the town clerk, James Hoskins reported that there were 13 school districts in the township and $5,044.37 had
been collected for their budgets.
Schools faced increasing challenges as they tried to improve facilities. When Union Village raised $30 to repair the
schoolhouse and build new outhouses, one protestor commented that he had “got his education in a log house and the
schoolhouse was good enough without laying out money for repairs.”
Ambitious men, with the strength of youth, took up farming in Union Township in the 1880s. Encouraged by the success
of the previous generation, the new farmers placed great emphasis on agricultural education, improved farming
methods, special breeds of livestock, new machinery and farm buildings.
The hard fought battle to get rail transportation was past, and there was little evidence of the settlement period in
buildings, or farming methods. Caleb Libby, the editor of the Evansville Enterprise newspaper rode into the countryside
in Union township in May 1883 and saw many new houses being built. Libby reported that “log houses are almost things
of the past, their sites are now occupied by more sightly structures. Straw stables and sheds have been superseded by
When the 1880 census taker, Homer Potter, reported his statistics for the Town of Union and the Village of Evansville,
the numbers revealed a dramatic shift from rural to village life. Potter recorded 1,012 people living on farms and 1,067
in the village of Evansville.
The number of farms also declined, as the number of acres held by a farmer increased. There were 221 family farms
recorded in 1880, three less than a decade before. Farmers needed more land for producing livestock and crops for
Though Union township had fewer people, agriculture still dominated the economy of both the rural area and the village.
Farm implement dealers, wagon makers, grain and livestock dealers, clothing merchants, grocers, and other Evansville
businesses depended on the farmers of Union township for their survival.
There were Evansville residents who moved to Union township farms, some with great success. John Robinson, the son
of an Evansville Methodist minister, started farming at the age of nineteen, after residing most of his life in a small house
at 340 West Main Street in Evansville.
John married Mary Emery in January 1880 and they lived most of their adult life on a farm in Union township. Four
generations of the Robinsons called the farm home.
When Census taker Potter visited the Robinson farm in 1880, he recorded the 120-acre farm as valued at $4,500, or
about $37 an acre. Robinson had six dairy cows, twenty-one other cattle, ten calves and thirty hogs. Robinson had 65
acres under cultivation and an orchard of apples. He had 45 acres of oats, twenty acres of corn and one acre of apple
Other 1880s farm census records show that cows, horses, pigs, and sheep were held in larger numbers than in the
previous decade. Farmers took pride in their pure-bred Merino sheep, Jersey cattle, and Poland China hogs. Some
began to advertise that they were holding stock just for breeding purposes
Farmers were advised to pen their animals to fatten them for the livestock market. The Prairie Farmer, a popular farm
journal, advised farmers to pasture their sheep and let them graze until about six weeks before taken to market. The
farm journal writer said, “It is my practice to yard them closely for about six weeks, supplying everything, even water,
within the enclosure.” Farmers were advised to watch the markets and extend or curtail the period of grazing, according
to the market.
Jedediah Hubbard’s farm on the Brooklyn-Evansville road west of Evansville was operated by son Benjamin. Benjamin
began buying large quantities of sheep. He fed them for a few months, then sold them to the local livestock buyers. In
the fall of 1880 Hubbard purchased 1,000 sheep and sold them the following spring to the Stevens brothers. Feedlots
for young cattle and sheep were a growing farm industry in Union township.
Hubbard’s brother-in-law Elmer Bullard, invested in pure bred Poland China hogs and Merino Sheep. Bullard also raised
pure bred horses and when he lost a young colt that was from the “Banks” stock. It was a heavy financial loss, as
Bullard said he had been offered $50 for the animal.
Elmer Bullard also grew oats, rye and winter wheat. When the crop was harvested in the fall of 1880, he had 30 acres of
oats, 14 acres of rye and 2 ½ acres of winter wheat. The sound of the threshing machines was a familiar sound at
Neighbors of Bullard and Robinson, the Butts brothers, put in 60 acres of corn in the spring of 1880. The Butts brothers
were still in the fields, harvesting corn, in early December. Their corn cribs were full for feeding their hogs through the
There were so many animals to bring to market, that there were not enough wagons to hold the numbers that were
brought to market. The Butts Brothers walked and herded their pigs into town. The pigs were sold on the hoof at the
railroad stock yards to livestock dealer David Stevens. Stevens paid the Butts brothers $7.55 a hundred for the twenty
"nice porkers" in August 1882.
The increased production was made possible because new and more efficient machines were available for planting and
harvesting. Plows, threshers and binders were manufactured for farmers. Those who owned the machines and had
excess time, did their neighbor’s work, for a charge. Charley Richardson owned a Dennett Binder and cut 20 acres of
oats for his neighbor, John Devereaux. This allowed Devereaux to spend his time making cheese.
According to the 1880 census, Union township ranked second in Rock County in corn production and the township was
also second in the number of cows. Farmers had diversified their crops and increased the number of animals held.
Demand for feed was high and when the local farmer’s crop did not keep up with the demand, corn, hay and other
grains were imported by rail from the western prairies. There was no longer enough wheat grown in Union township and
the mill in Evansville imported wheat from Minnesota.
Farmers dug ditches to drain the marshes so that farmers could put more land under cultivation. With better farming
methods, the land became more productive and farmers diversified their crops.
Tobacco production increased and tobacco warehouses in Evansville gave the Union township growers the market
incentive to increase the acreage. When the 1880 crop of tobacco was harvested, the farmers were working every day
of the week to bring in the crop.
There was also a great demand for carpenters and lumber for building tobacco sheds and the lumber yards in
Evansville were bringing in railroad cars of lumber as fast as they could get it. C. H. Wilder had long since abandoned
his cheese factory for the more lucrative lumberyard business.
By 1880 there were 1,067 milk cows in Union township. Most dairy products were being used to make cheese. Over
200,000 pound of cheese was produced in Union township in 1879.
The Devereaux cheese factory operated in the early part of the decade of the 1880s. The firm also had factories in
Edgerton and Albany. In 1880, the firm sold two railroad cars filled with 700 boxes of cheese to a New York firm. It had
taken Devereaux less than one month to manufacture the cheese.
By 1882, the Devereaux factory had competition from the Davis and Lamb Creamery Co., a butter manufacturing firm.
The company built a factory on the southeast side of Evansville and installed churns run by a steam engine. They also
supplied the milk cans for the farmers.
The milk was hauled to the creamery by the wagon load from local dairy farms. The Evansville Creamery management
announced that they had been promised the milk from over two thousand cows, almost double the number of milk cows
reported in Union township in the 1880s census. The company expected to start up business on 20th of April.
The Davis Creamery invited the farm wives to visit the factory, so that they could witness the manufacture of butter.
Each lady visiting the factory was given a small pail of buttermilk. The Davis firm hoped to convince the women to
abandon their churns and persuade their husbands send milk to the Creamery.
A Mr. Simms, the manager of the creamery, led the tour of the creamery and told the farm women, “The old system of
butter making must be numbered with the things of the past. The old fashioned milk pan and churn must go to the
garret to keep company with the spinning wheel and the loom.”
The women were persuaded and so were their husbands. The Jersey cow, that furnished a larger quantity of cream than
other breeds, became a favored dairy breed.
The success of the dairy industry persuaded a local shoe maker to turn inventor. William Wood applied for a patent on
a milk can cooler “that promises to excel anything yet brought to the market.”
Davis and Lamb bought out the Devereaux Cheese factory in Union township. By eliminating the cheese factory, Davis
and Lamb forced farmers to bring their milk to the creamery for sale. Milk was a very perishable product and farmers
lacked adequate transportation and refrigeration to attempt to sell the milk in distant markets.
The Davis & Lamb Creamery owners could not make the business profitable and they closed in the late 1880s. Some
creamery management left without paying farmers for the milk they had brought to the creamery. Some of the farmers
doubted whether they should stay in the dairy business.
Another farm product that was received much attention in the 1880s was tobacco. Processing tobacco provided
employment in the winter when many farm laborers needed work. In January 1883, the Review noted that “all growers
and almost everyone that can be employed is busily engaged in stripping, sorting and casing” tobacco.
During the 1880s, the westward movement into the Dakotas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota reached its peak. Several
Union township families moved to the new territory. Walter Pierce sold his 160 acre farm to William Gillies in 1883 and
moved to the Dakota Territory. Shortly before purchasing the Pierce farm, Gillies had bought a flock of sheep from a
Magnolia farmer and the Review had described Gillies as “one of the big sheep men of these parts.”
Almeron Eager took advantage of the frequent visits he made to Minnesota and the Dakota Territory to visit relatives
and took young cattle and horses to sell. According to a Review article in September 1882, he “had no trouble in finding
ready market for the young stock he took out.”
Farmers in Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas depended on these shipments of animals to stock their farms.
Another livestock dealer, William Nelms shipped 144 calves to Marysville, Missouri in September 1882. It was important
that the stock dealers travel with the livestock. The animals needed to be watered and fed, to keep them in marketable
condition once they reached their destination.
Progressive farming methods were being taught at programs sponsored by the Grange, Wisconsin State Horticulture
Society and the Wisconsin Agricultural Society. Local farmers were eager to take advantage of the education offered.
The Farmer’s Institutes were opportunities for farmers to exchange ideas and listen to speakers describe new methods
of cultivation, planting, harvesting and rotation of crops. Lecturers spoke about the use of pure bred sires in breeding
horses and cattle, offered ideas on building silos, dehorning cattle, and the use of time. An 1888 Evansville Institute
speaker proposed the length of the work day and the use of leisure time, “Ten hours a day is all a man ought to work on
the farm, then he has time to read books and papers.”
The farmer and the industry An 1883 Birds Eye View of Evansville shows a well developed rail system near the depot.
The Chicago and North Western Railroad considered Evansville one of the best stock shipping points on their rails. In
1885, the company built extra sheds and chutes to the west track near the depot to accommodate the increase livestock
shipping business. Rail transportation improved in the 1880s with the building of the “cutoff” that gave Evansville a
direct line to Janesville – a 20-year dream-come-true.
Tobacco warehouses were built near the railroad yards. The cheese factory of C. H. Wilder was dismantled and moved
near the railroad for a tobacco warehouse.
Sidney Smith and Almeron Eager also turned a building they owned into a tobacco warehouse. They traveled the
countryside in March 1882 to purchase tobacco and announced in local newspapers that they were paying eight cents a
pound for the 1880 crop that farmers had been holding for sale.
Smith and Eager were soon joined by Elliott Barnard and his son, Sat. By 1885, the Barnard and Son warehouse was
under construction near the railroad tracks in Evansville.
The size of Union township diminished as the increased need for housing in the village of Evansville led to the
annexation of several pieces of land into the village. Property owners turned land into money. Subdivisions and
residential housing developed on former agricultural land. The value of farmland increased quickly when it was
subdivided for residential building. In 1884, the farmland valued at $40 an acre was divided into village lots valued at
$110 to $200.
The men responsible for the new subdivisions were former farmers, Evansville merchants, bankers, and Evansville’s first
doctor. Agricultural land owned by Albert Babcock, George Spencer, Dr. John M. Evans, Peter Spencer and Samuel
Hunt, Charles F. P. Pullen and Matthew McEwen, Levi Leonard and Lansing Mygatt was annexed as Village of Evansville
property in the 1880s. These early annexations began a trend that continues to the present.
There was wealth in land and the farmland of the past became the village of the future. Many who owned farmland in
the new subdivisions handled their own sales, but real estate agents and bankers were also advertising property for
The village population registered in the 1885 Wisconsin state census was 1,512 and the township, 1066, a slight
increase in the rural population over the 1880 federal census.
In the early years of the 1880s, Union township’s governing board still had some of the earliest settlers serving as
officers. Evansville Village residents could vote and hold office in the Township elections.
Supervisor Peter Aller still held the office of chairman in 1882. Jacob West was elected as the treasurer and a Justice of
the Peace. Other officers elected that year were: Supervisors, E. L. Jordan, and H. L. Blackman. Clerk, C. H. Spencer;
Assessor, W. H. H. Johnson; Justices of the Peace, Almeron Eager, E. Tolles. Constables, Ray Gilman, Chas. Powles,
John Devereaux, Sumner Frost. Jacob West and Almeron Eager owned land in the township, but were village of
In 1884, Aller once again was elected to the chairmanship of the town supervisors. Jordan was reelected and William
Gillies replaced Blackman who had moved to Iowa. James Powles was elected assessor; Almeron Eager, Treasurer, and
S. Purrington, H. Hamilton and J. S. McMillan constables. According to the newspaper report of the election, 410 votes
Women’s suffrage and a new town hall were political issues in the late 1880s. The attempt to get a new town hall was
put to a vote in 1880s. In April 1884, the voters were asked to approve a $10,000 hall that would serve both units of
The voters approved the plan by 70 votes, but the Town and Village Boards did not act and the proposed building was
not built. “There is no doubt it would be a good thing, but the burden of taxes deterred many from doing what the
interest of the town seemed to demand.” the Review noted following the election.
The fight for women’s suffrage continued. Union township women once again tried to vote in the general election in
1887, but were turned away after a decision of Wisconsin’s Attorney General Estabrook was read at the opening of the
Estabrook had determined that Wisconsin’s suffrage law meant that women could vote only on school matters, in school
districts for school boards and budgets and for county and state school superintendents, but not in town elections.
“That settled the question so far as women are concerned in town elections,” the Review noted in its report of the
In 1887, Peter Aller was no longer running for township office. William W. Gillies was elected Chairman, Isaac H. Brink
and John Tullar served with Gillies as Supervisors. James Ludington became the town clerk. William H. H. Johnson was
elected assessor and also served as a Justice of the Peace. Fred Baker beat Almeron Eager in the election for the
position of treasurer. Martin Dixon served as a Justice of the Peace. Constables were W. H. Hamilton, J. S. McMillan
and Benjamin W. Hubbard. Charles Wood served as sealer of weights and measurers.
Village elections were held separate from the township elections and Evansville men had been allowed to vote in both
elections. Caucuses to choose candidates for the ballot were held a few weeks prior to the actual election of Town
officers. At the 1888 Town of Union caucus, Almeron Eager, a Village resident, made a motion that Village residents not
be allowed to vote for candidates for Township office. The motion failed on a show of hands, but the issue did not go
State Attorney General C. E. Estabrook was asked to give an opinion on whether Evansville men could vote in the Town
of Union elections, based on a new law passed in 1887. This law allowed the separation of village and townships that
were within or adjacent to one another. However, the Village Board had not taken the legal steps to make the
Estabrook determined that the village men could vote in Union township elections, as long as the Village had not taken
steps to separate the town and village. In a letter to William W. Gillies dated April 2, 1888, Estabrook advised Union
township “I do not think that it is your duty to reject the votes of the people residing in the village until some steps have
been taken to have a separation. In my judgment your duty at this spring election would be to receive the votes of all
legal voters residing within the town or village.”
A week after the election there was a dispute between the town and village about the taxes paid for roads and bridges
that were jointly owned and maintained. Each claimed they had paid more than their fair share of the costs. The Village
Clerk and the Town Clerk submitted their financial accounts of road and other expenses to be printed in the Review.
Roads and issues of ownership of the town hall were so contentious that the Town and Village officially separated in
1889. Once separated, the law provided that if there was real estate jointly owned by the two governing bodies, it must
be sold. The two Boards met but could not agree on a price for the property.
The Village officials claimed that the town hall land had “a worthless building upon it, the building’s principal value, if any
being from the repairs put upon it by the village.” A county judge appointed a committee to end the dispute.
The Committee met in July 1889 and ordered the Village to pay the Town Board, $532.98 for their interest in the
property. The Village gained control of the land and building and in the early 1890s tore down the old Village/Township
hall and built a substantial building on the site that is still used today as the Evansville City Hall.
To be continued.
When Dr. John M. Evans arrived at what was called the Grove in
1845, there was one frame house, one double log cabin and a
school that was also used for a church and other public
gatherings. Other settlers were scattered throughout the
Living quarters were in short supply and since there were no
other rooms available, the Spencers invited Evans to live in their
home, located on the top of the hill on the south side of Mill
Street. Spencer was a land speculator and he had built the first
frame house in Evansville in 1845. The Spencer's allowed Evans
to use the upstairs of their home as an office.
A doctor was treasured in the new settlements. Epidemics were
great problems for early settlers. They had few medicines and
home remedies were most often used to cure the “ague” and
other illnesses. Ague was most often described as an illness with
alternative periods of chills, fever, and sweating. Most thought
that the ague was caused by organisms that were introduced into
the air when the prairie soil was plowed.
Evans had arrived at an opportune time, as many people were
sick. Evans rode his horse from homestead to homestead to take
care of those who were ill. Dr. Evans' supply of medicine was
purchased on credit from pharmacists in La Porte, Indiana. He
ran out of quinine, the medicine he used most often to cure the
Country doctors were often paid in goods rather than cash. In
the early years, Dr. Evans was often in debt to the medical
suppliers in Chicago and La Porte. It was not easy for a young
man to come into a new territory and make a living as a
physician. Most people used the barter method to get goods and
service, or purchased on credit until crops or animals could be