The first settlement in this town was made in April, 1854, by Daniel and William Bender, two brothers who came together from Pennsylvania. Daniel entered 160 acres of land on section 32, where the first house in the town was erected and where he still lives. William entered 160 acres of land on section 29, where he still lives.
In the following June (1854) the Bender brothers were joined by Laal Cliff, who entered forty acres on section 7, where he still lives; and William Cliff, who selected eighty acres on section 8. William now resides in Minnesota. The Cliffs were natives of Vermont.
Jeremiah D Black came during the same year and entered eighty acres on section 15. He is now dead.
On the 17th of September, 1854, quite a party of pioneers arrived, consisting of Cyrus D Turner, Salma Rogers, Hartwell L Turner, William Turner, J L Jackson and John Fuller. Cyrus Turner entered 320 acres of land on sections 18 and 19. He is now dead. Mr. Rogers selected the forty acres of land on section 19 which he still occupies. H L Turner entered 320 acres on section 19, but now resides just over the line in Vernon county. William Turner entered forty acres on section 18. J L Jackson entered land in the town of Liberty, Vernon county. John Fuller remained only a short time and then went to California, where he died.
John H Crandall, a Baptist preacher, came here from Indiana in 1854, and entered 320 acres of land on sections 19 and 30. He lived here a few years, then removed to the town of Eagle. He is now dead.
E P Fay came in 1854 and entered land on section 18. He settled there in 1855. He is now dead.
Jacob Bennett came here in 1854, and the year following located on section 7. He is dead.
George Fruit and James Guthrie came at an early day and located on section 12, where they still live.
Levi Knable also came in 1854, and entered land on section 30, where he now resides.
David Johns came in October, 1854, and entered eighty acres of land on section 30.
He was followed the same year by J K, H W and J W Ambrose. J K entered 120 acres of land on section 34, where he now resides. H W entered 120 acres on section 28, where he still lives. J W selected 120 acres on section 34, where he died in 1881.
J P Neher came in 1854 and entered eighty acres on section 34. He now resides in California.
Jeremiah Clark came in 1854 and entered 160 acres of land on section 26, where he still lives.
R J Darnell was also one of the settlers of 1854. He bought a farm of eighty acres on section 36. He removed to Kansas from here, but now lives in Illinois.
Levi Gochenour came in 1854 and entered 160 acres of land on section 27. He remained there until the time of his death, in 1861. His widow still lives there.
In 1855 George Croninger, Andrew Carpenter, John Booher, Isaac Phifer, James Rockwell and Mr. Todd all came. Mr. Croninger bought land on sections 8 and 17, erecting a house on the former section, where he still lives. Mr. Carpenter settled on the southeast quarter of section 10. John Booher located on section 11. Mr. Rockwell located on section 10. He is now dead. His son, H L, who came with him, now lives on section 3. Mr. Phifer settled on section 11. He now lives in Iowa.
Alfred Loveless, a native of the State of New York, came here in 1856 and bought forty acres of land on section 18, where he lived until the time of his death. He was a prominent man in the county and held many positions of trust and responsibility. His son, J A Loveless, still occupies the old homestead.
The first house within the present limits of the town of Forest was erected in May, 1854, by William and Daniel Bender, upon the farm that Daniel Bender now owns.
The first marriage in the town was that of George Croninger to Nancy Smart in 1855. The ceremony was performed by Oliver Guess, justice of the peace.
The first birth in the town was that of Viola M Mack, a daughter of William and Julia Mack, born in May, 1856.
The first sermon in the town was preached by Rev. J P Neher, in 1855, at the residence of Cyrus D Turner.
The first school in the town was taught in 1855 at the residence of Cyrus D Turner by Helen Jackson.
The first school house in the town was erected at the village of Viola in 1856.
The first death in the town was that of Mrs. Margaret Bender, wife of Daniel Bender, who died in 1854.
The first saw mill in the town was erected by S. Rogers and Adam Shambaugh, on section 2 in 1857-8.
The first grist mill in the town was erected by Adam Shambaugh in 1860 on section 2.
The first bridge in the town was constructed by S. Rogers and H L Turner in 1855. It spanned the Kickapoo river, being 150 feet long, the covering being of poles. It was built by contribution, not a cent changing hands because of its erection.
The first road was laid out in 1854 by R J Darnell. It passes through sections 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 and 36.
The first church edifice in the town was erected on the northeastern part of section 11, by the United Brethren denomination. This was prior to the breaking out of the war.
The first male child born in the town was Jasper, a son of Andrew and Lucy Hull. The birth occurred on the present site of Viola, Oct. 4, 1856. Jasper is still a resident of the village.
There is a Free Will Baptist church on Goose creek, which is of hewn logs and a substantial building.
The Baptists have a church building on section 22.
Bear postoffice was established at an early day with Adam Shambaugh as postmaster.
Forest postoffice was established in 1855. R J Darnell was the first postmaster. A few years later Jeremiah Clark was appointed postmaster and the office was moved to section 26. The office has been moved several times since.
In the fall of 1883 Blakely Sons & Rogers put up a steam saw-mill on section 4. A twenty-eight horse power steam engine was put in, and the mill was equipped with a circular saw. It does custom work.
The town of Forest was first organized in April, 1855. For some time the town embraced congressional townships 11 and 12, range 2 west. In 1856 the town of Sylvan was created, embracing township 11, range 2 west, leaving the boundaries of the town of Forest as they are to-day. The first town officers of Forest were as follows: Supervisors, Jesse Harness, chairman, J V Bennett and William Mathews; H L Turner, clerk; Andrew Carpenter, treasurer; Levi Knable, assessor.
The following is a list of the officers elected in April, 1883: Supervisors, J A Loveless, chairman, J H Shroader, J M Clark; Jonathan Turner, clerk; J S Kanable, treasurer; J W Sellars, assessor; R H De Lap, and H L Rockwell, justices.
The village of Viola was laid out in the summer of 1855, by Cyrus D Turner and his brother Hartwell. The name was suggested by H L Turner, in honor of Viola Buck, who had been the teacher of the Turner boys in New York State.
The first house upon the site was erected by Cyrus D Turner. He also opened the first store in 1854.
The first wagon maker was John Cummings, who located here in 1866.
The first shoemaker was John Gribble, who came here in 1861.
The first saw mill was erected in 1856 by H L Turner. It stood just across the line in Vernon county.
The first grist-mill was erected in 1857 by the same person. It contained one run of buhrs.
The first school was taught in 1855 by Miss Helen Jackson.
The first sermon was preached by Rev. Jacob Neher at the residence of Cyrus D Turner in 1855.
The first child born was Viola May Mack, a daughter William H and Julia Mack, born in May, 1856. Cyrus D Turner gave the child a village lot for the privilege of naming her, and bestowed the name of Viola May, in honor of the village and month in which the birth occurred.
The first physician here was Dr. DeLap, who is still a resident.
The first hotel in the village was erected and opened by A H Hull in 1856.
In 1883 the village was doing a thriving business and had excellent prospects for the future. The following is a business directory of the village:
General merchandise, Burgor & Mathews, W J Waggoner, Cushman & Sons and G H Tate.
Drugs, Burgor & Mathews.
Hardware, G H Tate and W J Waggoner.
Furniture, Jones & Gorsuch.
Blacksmith and wagon shops, A W Guess, Cleophas Pepein and B Osterout.
Grist-mills, Cushman & Sons and W J Waggoner.
Saw-mills, Cushman & Sons and Benjamin W Lawton.
Physicians, Drs. R H De Lap and Joseph Goyer.
Veterinary Surgeon --- N D Ward.
The village has organizations of the following societies: GAR, IOGT and IOOF.
In the spring of 1883 a cheese factory was established at Viola by Peter Young, furnished with all the necessary apparatus for producing a first class article. The enterprise has been very successful. The productions are marketed mostly at Viroqua and LaCrosse.
The Viola postoffice was established in 1858, with Cyrus D Turner as postmaster. He was succeeded by G H Tate, and then came W J Waggoner, the present postmaster. There are mail routes from here to Norwalk, Richland Center, Readstown and Viroqua. Those to Richland Center and Norwalk are tri-weekly; while those to Viroqua and Readstown are weekly.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was organized on the 23d of July, 1870, with the following as its officers and charter members: John Gribble, P. S.; J A Cummings, R. S.; Jonathan Turner, T.; Salma Rodgers, V. G.; Harley Trobridge, N. G. In 1883 the society had a membership of forty-two. The officers in the fall of 1883 were: L R Gribble, N. G.; M A Gill, R. S.; N D Ward, P. S.; W J Waggoner, T.; B Robbitt, R. S. N. G.; William Clark, L. S. N. G.; C W Shultz, W.; R H De Lap, C.; G W Wilson, R. S.S.; G Harris, L. S. S.; E B Waggoner, O. G.; J Stonebrook, J. G.; R H Buchanan, R. V. G.; Peter Pippen, L. S. V. G. Trustees, Dr. R H De Lap and James Dowell.
The present Good Templars Lodge was organized Jan. 12, 1872. The following were the first officers and charter members: John A Cummings, W. C. T.; Mrs. Lucy A Tate, V. T.; Norman H Stiles, chaplain; Perlie V Bess, secretary; Dr. R H De Lap, M.; Civilian West, O. G.; Mrs. S K De Lap, P. W. C. T. The organization now has a membership of thirty.
A post of the Grand Army of the Republic was instituted at Viola, May 23, 1883, by mustering officer A P Clayton, assisted by comrades Charles Pearce, Irvin Gribble, J W Liek and H. Allen, of Richland Center. The post was named in honor of one of Richland county's gallant soldiers who was killed in battle, Capt. J J Turner, of company H, 5th Wisconsin Infantry regiment, who fell while leading his men at the storming of Mary's Heights, at the battle of Fredericksburg, May 3, 1863. The following is a complete roster of the organization, which starts under very favorable auspices and a large membership:
Officers. --- Commander, Salma Rogers; Senior Vice Commander, J L Simmons; Adjutant, M V B Richards; Surgeon, Dr. R H De Lap; Chaplain, J B Snow; Quartermaster, W J Waggoner; Officer of the Day, E B Waggoner; Officer of the Guard, Jacob Benn; Sergeant Major, J M Clark; Quartermaster Sergeant, J M Saubert.
Charter Members. --- R H De Lap, Salma Rogers, W J Waggoner, J B Snow, D B Sommars, M V B Richards, Adam Barton, Joseph Goyer, S D Wiltrout, Jacob Benn, J M Clark, T D Risin, David Austin, J M Saubert, Thomas Morris, A A Wiltrout, E C Gill, E B Waggoner, G W Wise, James Morrow, Peter Fazel, Alonzo Clark, T M McCullough, J L Simmons, I G B Ott, L S Kellogg, A E Clark, J S Kanable, J R Campbell and L C Gates.
In 1883 and 1884 the post erected a building at Viola, at a cost of about $1500. It is two stories in height, and about 24x48 feet in size. The upper story has been arranged as a lodge room, and the lower will be occupied with a store. Salma Rogers was the builder.
The Methodist Episcopal Church of Viola, was organized in 1856, by Rev. James S Lake, in the school house. Services were held in the school house until 1876, when the society erected a church building 26x36 feet in size, at a cost of $600. The Church now has a membership of about forty. The officers of the Church in 1883 were: Pastor, Rev. Wooley; trustees, Dr. R H De Lap, R A Tubbs and Joseph Goyer.
The following biographical sketches are of the representative citizens of this town:
Albert W Guess, proprietor of the Viola House, Viola, Wis., was born in Carroll Co., Ohio, March 29, 1849. When five years of age, his parents, Oliver and Henrietta (Adams) Guess, removed to Wisconsin, and became pioneer settlers in Sylvan town. Albert W. passed his early life in Richland county, assisting his father on the farm and in the latter's mill, and attending the district school during the winter seasons. When seventeen years of age, he went to Richland Center, and served an apprenticeship of two years at the blacksmith trade. The two years following, he traveled in Minnesota and Iowa, working at his trade at various points in those States. Returning home, he erected a blacksmith shop on his father's farm, and there worked at his trade until the fall of 1869. He then came to Viola, and in the spring of 1870 rented a shop, and, in connection with his trade, engaged in the manufacture of wagons, buggies and cutters. In July of the same year he purchased the buildings, and the land on which they were located, which comprised lot 3, of block 1, Hull's addition to Viola. In 1881 he erected a large and substantial frame building which he opened as a hotel. He carried on the blacksmith and wagon trade until 1882, since which time he has devoted his time to the patrons of the Viola House. This hotel is conveniently arranged, neatly furnished, and enjoys a fair patronage from the best class of travelers. Mr. Guess was married May 12, 1870, to Mary E, daughter of Isaac and Savilla Phifer, and a native of Indiana. They are the parents of three children --- Georgie, Harry and an infant.
William Bender, who, with his brother, was the first permanent settler in the town of Forest, was born in Somerset Co., Penn. in 1824. He received a common school education, and at the age of thirty emigrated to Wisconsin and settled in Richland county, town of Forest, section 20. He and his brother, Daniel, built the first building in the town, which was a log house of small dimensions, and constituted the dwelling place for both families. Mr. Bender entered a farm of eighty acres, on section 20, where he now lives. He now owns 280 acres. He was married in 1848 to Mary Barnett, who was born in Somerset Co., Penn., in 1828. They have two children --- Ephraim and Henry. The latter is now married to Rachel Taylor. Mr. Bender was a member of the 11th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. He enlisted in 1865 and was discharged the same year. Mr. Bender's mother, Susan Bender, was born in 1795, and is now living in Forest. The family have experienced all the hardships and privations of pioneer life.
Daniel Bender, one of the pioneer settlers of the town of Forest, was born in the year 1813, in Somerset Co., Penn., where he resided until 1842. In that year he was married to Sarah Barnt, who died in 1851, leaving three children --- Hiram, William and Sarah. Mr. Bender, believing it "not good for man to be alone," married again, in 1852, Elizabeth Wisner, who died in 1853, leaving one child --- Mary J. His third wife was Margaret Reel. Her death occurred in May, 1854, and was the first death in the town of Forest. He was married to his present wife, Mary A Fall, in 1855. Their union has been blessed with five children, three of whom are now living --- Samuel, John and Elizabeth. Hiram is now married to Minnie Wood. Sarah is the wife of John Morrow, and Mary J. of David Austin. Mr. Bender, on coming to Forest, entered 240 acres of land on sections 32 and 33, where he now lives. He now has 230 acres besides giving three of his children farms of eighty acres each. He has been chairman of the town board three years. He came from Adams Co., Ind., coming by team to Sturgis, Mich., then by rail to Vernon, Ill., thence by team to Muscoda, then crossed the river to Orion where he rented a house until he could build a log house on his land, and which was the first in the town. In about six weeks he moved into it, and commenced pioneer life. They lived here about four years then built a hewed log house and lived in it about three years; then built the commodious frame structure in which he now lives. Mr. Bender commenced pioneer life under difficulties. His wife died soon after his arrival, and he had considerable sickness in the family. He persevered, however. He could not get away, so went to work and has lived to see the county settled and developed. Mr. Bender adheres to the principles of the republican party, and votes with that organization. Mrs. Bender is a member of the United Brethren Church.
Salma Rogers, a pioneer settler in the town of Forest, was born in Wyoming Co., NY, in 1825, where his younger days were spent. He obtained his education in the common school, and in his youth, learned the joiner's trade. In 1854, he, in company with Cyrus D. and Hartwell S Turner, emigrated to the town of Forest. He entered forty acres of land on section 19, where he now lives. His place now contains 165 acres. Mr. Rogers was united in marriage in 1847 with Mary J Turner, who died Jan. 26, 1848, leaving one child --- Mary A, now the wife of George Bews. They reside at the Black Hills, Dak. Mr. Rogers again married, in 1849, Harriet M Brownell, who was born in Monroe Co., NY, in 1828. Four children have been born to them --- Frank E, Calvin N, Lilly B and Orla A. The latter died Nov. 3, 1879. Frank E is married to Bell Moody. They have one child --- Nellie. Calvin married Elizabeth Syverson. They have one child --- Homer. Mr. Rogers enlisted in 1861 in the 12th Wisconsin Infantry, company I, and was commissioned 2d lieutenant July 30, 1863. He held the office of town treasurer in 1865-6, and has been justice of the peace three years. He is now engaged in contracting, building and millwrighting.
Adam A Wiltrout was born in Somerset Co., Penn., in 1840, where he lived until 1847, when his parents moved to Clinton Co., Ind. His mother died there the next spring, at which place he remained until 1854, when the family emigrated again to Richland Co., Wis., and were among the first settlers in the town of Bloom. His father lives in Green Co., Iowa, and Adam now resides in the town of Forest, and owns forty acres of land on section 16. He was married to Mercy E Clark, of Allamakee Co., Iowa, July 4, 1871, by Ira B Brunson, of Prairie du Chien, Wis. They have five children --- Rosa R, James G, Charles W, Bertha B and Iola R. Mr. Wiltrout enlisted in 1861 in the 14th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, company K; was promoted to corporal the 1st day of July, 1865. He participated in the following battles: Shiloh, April 7, 1862; Iuka, Sept. 19, 1862; Corinth, Oct. 3, 1862; siege of Vicksburg, 1863; Big Shanty, June 10, 1864; Baker's Ridge, to the left of Kenesaw mountain, June 17, 1864; near Atlanta, July 22, 1864; Ezra Church, July 28, 1864; Jonesboro, Aug. 30, 1864; Lovejoy station, Sept. 2, 1864; siege of Savannah, in December, 1864; Sherman's march through the Carolinas; battle at Fort Pocataligo, Salkehatchie swamp, Orangeburg, Columbia, Cheraw, battle at Mill Creek Bend and other skirmishes. From 1871 to 1875 he was a resident of Allamakee Co., Iowa; removed to Victory, Vernon Co., Wis., in 1875; removed from Victory to Richland county; is officer of the day in Jerry Turner Post, No. 85, department of Wisconsin.
Isaac R Lawton was born in 1829 in Cattaraugus Co., NY, where he lived until 1845, when he moved to Waukesha Co., Wis., and remained two years, then to Jefferson county where he lived until 1850. He then went to northern Minnesota and worked in the pineries of that region about four years, then removed to Vernon county where he remained one year. He came from there to the town of Forest, and entered 200 acres of land on section 6. He now owns 160 acres. Mr. Lawton was married Sept. 25, 1855, to Malissa Southworth, who was born in 1831, in Cattaraugus Co., NY. They have three children --- Wallace A, James W and May. Wallace is now married to Lizzie Reed and they have two children. James married Sarah Saubert. Mr. Lawton was a member of the 46th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, serving as corporal of company H. He enlisted in 1865 and was discharged the same year.
Jonathan Turner was born in Erie Co., NY, and resided in the western portion of the State until 1860. He received an academic education and engaged in teaching school and merchandising in his native State until he moved to Forest, Richland Co., Wis., and purchased forty acres of land in the town of Liberty, Vernon county. He now owns thirty acres of land in Liberty, also a house and an acre of land in the village of Viola. Mr. Turner has been engaged in farming most of the time since coming to Forest. He was married to Phebe Welker, daughter of John and Catherine Welker. They have two children --- Una E and Nora H, both living with their parents. Mr. Turner was a member of the 46th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry having enlisted in 1865 and was discharged the same year. Mr. Turner was chairman of the board of supervisors of the town of Forest for two years and clerk seventeen years. His mother, Lany Turner, was born in 1786, in Herkimer Co., NY, and came to Forest in 1860. She died in Dane county at the advanced age of ninety-three years.
R A Tubbs, one of Forest's prominent farmers, was born in Oneida Co., NY, in 1816, where he grew to manhood and obtained a common school education, which he has greatly increased by industry and perseverance. In 1837 he moved to Kane Co., Ill., where he engaged in farming and blacksmithing twenty years. He then went to Jefferson Co., Wis., and followed the business of manufacturing wagons six years. He next removed to Richland county and settled in the town of Forest, where he purchased eighty acres of land on section 6, which he has since increased to 160 acres. Mr. Tubbs was married in 1840, in Oneida Co., NY, to Rachel Force, who was born in 1815. They are the parents of four children --- Mercena M, Mary E, Richard A and Clara. Mary is now the widow of J F Kelly, living at Decorah, Iowa. Mercena is the wife of W P Cliff. Richard is married to Mary A Slayback, and Clara to W H Tenney. Mr. Tubbs has been town treasurer four years, a member of the town board four years, and justice of the peace seven years. During his residence in Illinois he held the position of town clerk and other local offices.
William J Waggoner became a resident of Viola, Richland Co., Wis., in October, 1875. He was born in Springfield, Jefferson Co., Ohio, Oct. 7, 1839. He is the oldest of four living brothers. His parents removed to Richland Center on July 2, 1854, being the eighth family to locate at that place. He mowed the first path through the hazel brush from the old hotel, east of what is now Bailey's corner, on the principal business street of the little city; and later, a path on the same street up to what has so long been the home of the Waggoner family. He grew up and remained a citizen of that town until 1875, when, with his wife, Alice, daughter of Capt. H L Turner, of Viola, and their son, George, and daughters, Lillie and Rosa, he removed to Viola, as before stated, and engaged in farming, milling and merchandising. While in Richland Center, he was for eighteen months one of the proprietors and editors of the Richland County Observer. Buying a one-third interest in the paper, he entered the office, laid off his hat and coat, and in eight months was editor, foreman and pressman of the establishment. He served as town clerk in 1864, and district school clerk in 1874-5; also as county superintendent of schools from 1872 to 1875. He was town clerk of Forest in 1876, and elected justice of the peace in 1880. His wife dying that fall, adding sorrow to his already manifold cares, he felt constrained to resign this expression of confidence and respect. Being of a studious nature, he became an expert mathematician, excelled by few, if any, as a ready and correct accountant. He commenced teaching school at the age of seventeen, and during the succeeding eight years was engaged in teaching, studying and attending school, thereby gaining a thoroughly practical business education and a well disciplined, active business mind. He has been engaged in the mercantile business during his residence in Viola, and four years ago added to his business the Forest grist mills. He is a lover of agriculture, and his horses, Durham cattle and sheep are not excelled in the county. Mr. Waggoner was married to Mrs. M E Scott, of Richmond, Ohio, in 1883. He has held the office of village postmaster since February, 1876.
Cleophus Pepin was born in Canada East in 1841, and emigrated to the United States in 1857. He first settled at Chain of Rocks, Mo., where he remained until 1861, when he enlisted in the State militia, and was discharged in 1864. He returned home and resumed his former occupation, which was that of blacksmithing. He remained one year, then started on a trip, going from place to place, working at his trade, finally coming to Viola in 1878, where he has since remained, still employed at his trade. Mr. Pepin was married in 1880 to Catharine Short. They have three children --- Ada M, Clara and Cleophus. Mr. Pepin owns a house and lot and his shop in the village of Viola.
Amadeus Muhler, Jr., was born in Beaver Co., Penn., in 1850, where he resided one year. His parents then moved to Grant Co., Wis. In 1879 he and his brother, John G, purchased ten acres of land and a flouring mill in the town of Forest, on section 2, at a cost of $800, which property they have greatly improved, having now two run of buhrs and a capacity of 100 bushels per day. Mr. Muhler was a single man until his marriage in 1880 with Mrs. Sarge.
His brother, George Muhler, was born in Grant Co., Wis., in 1854, where he remained until 1879, then came with his brother Amadeus to the town of Forest, and with him purchased their mill property. They are the sons of Amadeus G Muhler, Sr., who lives in Grant Co., Wis. In addition to their flouring mill, they are the owners of a saw-mill, which has a capacity of 3000 feet per day. They are now doing a thriving business.
Isaac G B Ott was born in Clay Co., Ind., in 1835, and lived there till 1848, when he moved to Vermillion county, of the same State. He then lived there till 1881, then came to Richland county, town of Forest, and purchased 160 acres of land on section 26, where he now lives. Mr. Ott was a member of the 43d regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry; he enlisted in 1861, and was discharged in 1862 on account of disability. He took part in the battles of New Madrid and Pilot Grove. He was married in 1869 to Jane Strain, of Vermillion Co., Ind.
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