The wide, rushing current of the tortuous Wisconsin river, together with the presence of the wild denizens of the land, had checked the flow of emigration that had peopled the region lying south of that river in the previous years. In those early days a dense forest covered the face of hill and valley, and the bear, elk, deer, and other smaller game literally abounded beneath its umbrageous shades, and myriads of fish disported in its crystal streams. It was a favorite hunting ground of the Winnebagoes, who guarded it as the apple of their eye from the growing encroachments of their white neighbors, and who resented with violence the few faint attempts made to erect cabins thereon, by the few hunters and trappers that ranged its depths.
The first white man who ever attempted a settlement within its borders was John Coumbe, of whom the following account has been written by Dr R M Miller, who knew him well. Of him it says: "Captain John Coumbe was born in Devonshire, England, March 25, 1808. His boyhood days, or a portion of them, were passed in the city of London, where he received his education. During the year 1828, then being twenty years of age, he, in company with his father and family, emigrated to America. They first settled in the State of Ohio. Here the young man did not stay long, for, feeling dissatisfied with that country, he pushed on, following the 'course of empire, ' and finally arrived in the then pioneer city of Galena, in the fall of 1835. Early the next spring, as soon as the snows had melted, he started for the lead mines in Grant Co., Wis. Here he remained until in the summer of 1838, when he, in company with two young companions, John La Rue and Frank Hubbard by name, crossed the swift Wisconsin river in an Indian canoe, landing near where the town of Port Andrew is now located. The party at once went to work and erected a cabin for themselves, which stood about two rods east of the stone bridge in that now thriving village. Here all was then a primeval wilderness, the hunting ground of the wild Indian and the home of the hardly less savage beasts. These young men, having some idea of a settlement in their mind, christened their embryo village Trip Knock; but their hopes of then being colonists were blasted -- nipped, as it were, in the bud. Just how long they tarried here cannot now be ascertained with any degree of accuracy, but finding the Indians, who, it was generally supposed, had been removed by the government to reservations west of the Mississippi river, were likely to prove troublesome neighbors, they deemed it prudent, at least, to vacate and return to the mines, thinking, no doubt, discretion the better part of valor.
"But John Coumbe had had his eyes blessed with the sight of the promised land, and he felt a strong desire to again enter upon the possession of this western Canaan. Therefore, in June, 1840, he determined to make another trial, and this time was more successful. He was accompanied on this expedition by his brother, Edward. On one of Capt Coumbe's first visits to Richland county, he was accompanied by a Mr. Popejoy. After landing, they located about half a mile west of where Coumbe and his companions had built their first cabin, two years before. Here John remained, a tiller of the soil, and one of the most highly respected men among the pioneers who immediately followed in his footsteps, until the day of his death, which occurred May 2, 1882. He was married in May, 1849, espousing a daughter of Thomas Palmer, one of the band of early pioneers of Richland county."
These hardy adventurers were beyond all doubt the first white inhabitants of the county, in the sense of actual settlers. Edward Coumbe, however did not stay very long, but returned to Grant county, where he died many years ago. It has been claimed that the actual settlement of some others, preceded this last location of the Coumbe brothers, but a rigid examination of the dates given, prove induditably, that they are entirely mistaken, and that the palm of being the pioneer of Richland county, belongs to Capt. Coumbe. The land settled on by him lies but a short distance west of the now village of Port Andrew; here the river bottom expands into a beautiful plain, two miles or more in width, and a house built on it commands a fine picturesque view of the broad river, studded with its green islands, and the broad valley stretching far away into the blue and misty distance, enclosed, as it were, within the walls of the stately bluffs that frown down in somber magnificence upon the beholder. All these, no doubt, charmed the early settler and made him feel that this was an earthly Eden.
In July, of the same year, Matthew Alexander came into the county, locating a claim about six miles east of the land of Coumbe, near where Eagle Corners has risen in later days. Mr. Alexander brought his family with him, and as Mr. Coumbe, who, by the way, was at that time a bachelor, has the honor of being the first white man in the county, Mrs. Alexander can also claim her just dues to being the first woman who settled in these wooded wastes.
When the frosts of autumn began to touch the leaves of the forest during that same eventful year, Wiley H Waters, his brother, Samuel, and William Smiley, crossed the tortuous channel of the Wisconsin, landing near what is now called Orion village. These men staid with John Coumbe, until early in the spring of 1841, when the Waters brothers, determining to turn colonists themselves, located a tract of land, in true squatter style, a short distance west of the mouth of a stream called Bird's creek. Here, these hardy pioneers commenced their labors, and erected a cabin. But let Mr. Waters tell the story himself, which can be found in the following statement made by him, and read at one of the meeting of the Old Settlers' Association. After entering upon an account of his early years, Wiley H Waters goes on to state that he came to Grant county in June, 1833, when he was about fourteen years of age. He stopped about three miles west of Platteville, and in 1837 or 1838, went to Iowa county and located a short distance west of Highland. In the fall of 1840 Mr. Waters, his brother, Samuel A, and William Smiley, crossed the Wisconsin river just below Muscoda, a Parish landing. At that time Matthew Alexander and family lived three and a half miles below what is now Orion. The place is now called Pilling's Mills. Capt John Coumbe was keeping bachelor's cabin near his present residence. At this time Mr. Alexander and Capt. Coumbe were the only actual settlers in Richland county. Mr. Waters, his brother and Mr. Smiley remained with Mr. Coumbe during the winter of 1840 and 1841. In the spring of 1841 Mr. Waters and brother located upon a tract of land a short distance west of Bird's creek, built a log house, cultivated some of the land, and Mr. Waters' father, Thomas Waters, and family, occupied the premises for three years, and sold out to James Andrews, a brother of Capt Andrews. In the spring of 1841 Capt Smith and Thomas Matthews established a ferry between Muscoda (which was then called Savannah, to the best of my recollection) and Orion, which they gave the name of Richmond. They soon laid out a town plat and were the first settlers in Orion. In the season of 1841 one Robert Boyd located on Mill creek where Rodolf's mills now stand, with the view of erecting a saw-mill. He afterwards sold his interest to Capt Stephen Estes and Thomas J Parish. They built a saw-mill and a "corn crusher" grist mill the following year, which were the first mills in Richland county.
Hardin Moore accompanied Boyd in the spring of 1841, and located on the land which constituted part of the McClary farm, more recently owned by Marvin Briggs. Mr. Moore put up a large cabin and put in a basswood puncheon floor. He started a blacksmith shop, the first in the county. He had no family, and only one room in the cabin. That summer Mr. Moore raised some cabbage, potatoes and other vegetables. He put them in the cellar, and in the fall turned his attention to his trade, using his cabin for a shop. There were but two horses in the county, which were owned by Capt Andrews. On a bitter cold day in the latter part of 1841, Capt Andrews and Mr. Waters took the horses to Mr. Moore for the purpose of having them shod. One of them was taken in the cabin and held by Mr. Waters. He braced himself well, taking hold with both hands to hold steady. Capt Andrews held up one of the fore legs while Mr. Moore took his drawing-knife (for want of something better), squared himself around facing Capt Andrews, placed a piece of board on the floor and rested it against his shoulder while Mr. Andrews held the toe of the hoof against the board and Mr. Moore began to pare the hoof. The horse became restless and began to struggle till he finally floundered and plunged himself into the cellar among the cabbage and potatoes. After the horse became quiet, a second platform of puncheon was arranged, and with leading, pulling and boosting the horse was brought out.
In the fall of 1843 Mr. Waters, his brother, James Andrews and Vincent B Morgan first visited Pine river valley. They came up the Wisconsin river from Port Andrew to Pine river, then up Pine river and Ash creek, and landed a short distance below where Brimer's carding mill now stands, and where they remained some time hunting bees and killing game, which were quite plenty.
About this time Samuel Swinehart, Mr. Palmer, Mr. French and Mr. Green established a logging camp on Pine river, section 22, in the town of Rockbridge, a short distance west of the present residence of W H Joslin. They cut and put into the river several hundred pine logs and floated them down to Muscoda. They had no team and were obliged to do everything by hand.
During the same year a trapper by the name of Knapp, also built him a cabin on the creek that now bears his name, in the town of Richwood.
These rugged and hardy adventurers were soon followed by others, who settled all along the northern shore of the Wisconsin river. Hardin Moore, Stephen Taylor, Capt James B Estes, Thomas J Parrish and Robert Boyd locating in 1841; G C White, Thomas Andrews, his son-in-law, with his brother, James Andrews, Martin Moon and V B Morgan in 1842; Robert Akan, Hiram Palmer, Nathaniel Green, John Youst, Samuel Swinehart and Thomas Parrish in 1843, had penetrated up the Pine river as far as Rockbridge, and engaged in logging at that place. Mr. Swinehart gives an interesting account of these early days, and perhaps it would be as well to give it in this connection. In relating his experience to the old settlers assembled on a late occasion, Samuel Swinehart, now of Avoca, but one of the pioneers of Richland county, as noted above, goes on to relate that he first crossed the Wisconsin river Oct 10, 1843, in a canoe, a short distance above Muscoda, landing near the mouth of Indian creek. He then made his way along the north shore of the Wisconsin to the mouth of Pine river, and pitched his camp on its east bank, but was soon compelled to remove it by the Winnebago Indians, who were inclined to appropriate everything to their own use. The latter part of October and first of November were occupied in exploring the valley of the Pine as far up as Rockbridge, where the West branch passes through the rocks. He passed through the aperture in a little canoe made of a pine log, and so light he could easily carry it on his back or pass it over or under a log or other obstruction in the river. He established a camp under the east side of the shelving rock near the southern extremity. Two hackberry trees stood close by, and upon one he cut his name. This was in November, 1843. A week or ten days were occupied in making explorations in the vicinity, the chief object being to find pine timber near the river. After satisfying himself, the next important consideration was whether logs could be floated down the Pine into the Wisconsin. In order to ascertain this, it was necessary to go the whole length of the river in a boat. For this purpose, about the 15th of November, he embarked at Rockbridge (the name he had given it) in his tiny boat to explore the river, which he found to be of good depth, without shoals or rapids -- a beautiful stream, but quite crooked, having many acute angles. About the fourth day he reached the mouth of Willow creek, where he found an old Indian village, many of the wigwam poles still standing. He found places where the Indians had smelted lead ore by making a shallow basin in the ground, placing flat stones on the bottom, then the ore on the stones, and a fire on the ore. Proceeding on his journey, two days more brought him to the mouth of the Pine. On this journey he had with him his gun, two dogs, pair of blankets, a hatchet, a frying pan and some hardtack.. He subsisted chiefly on game, which was abundant. He proceeded to Galena, procured an outfit, and returned in December of the same year, accompanied by John Youst, Nathaniel Greene, Hiram Palmer and a Mr. French. An attempt was made to reach Rockbridge, by the way of Indian creek, with a sled drawn by two yoke of oxen. The snow was deep, and after a trial of two days they were obliged to turn back to Muscoda. A hand-sled for each man was constructed, and tools, provisions and camp equipments placed thereon, and the party set out in high spirits upon the ice on the Wisconsin river, and the mouth of Pine river was made with little trouble. The party went up the stream to within two miles of Ash creek; the weather grew warmer, the ice thin, and in many places the current had cut it out, rendering it almost impossible to proceed. A few days were spent in hunting coons, which were plenty. Here the party passed the holidays, which were properly observed. The bill of fare consisted chiefly of roast coon. The weather became colder and a forward move was made. From this point to the rocks on the east side of the river, a mile above where Bowen's mills now are, the journey was very laborious; the ice in many places was nearly gone, the sleds were hauled through the deep snow, over logs, through the brush and numerous swamps, but by energy and perseverance, after fifteen days of great fatigue and hardships, they reached the rocks, and it was decided to go into camp.
The next morning Swinehart assured the party they were not far from the pines, and he made a motion that the camp be left in charge of one of the dogs, and proceed to the pines, with axes, dig out a canoe, come down the river and take up the luggage. The first day they reached the pines, they found a bee-tree and after feasting on wild honey and the lunch they had with them by a huge blazing fire of dry pine, Mr. Swinehart proposed to fell a majestic pine standing near the bank of the river, which was agreed to, and the sound of the white man's axes resounded in those woods for the first time. The canoe was completed, and floated down to the camp which they found duly guarded by the dog, and all right. A camp for the winter was constructed and the party employed for the remainder of the winter, cutting the beautiful and majestic pines that were then standing thick on the high lands, and rolling them into the river. Four hundred logs as choice as ever was cut were put into the river and floated out at the breaking up of winter. Mr. Swinehart was occupied most of the time in packing supplies on his back from Muscoda, which usually took him a week to make the trip. The boom which held the logs gave way in March, the camp broke up, everything was placed in canoes and the party followed their winter's production. It took them till the 4th of July to reach the mouth of Pine river, innumerable trees which lay across the stream impeding their way, having to be cut out. They sold their logs at Muscoda, to Thomas Parish, for $1200.
Mr. Swinehart soon returned to Rockbridge and continued to exercise possession of his claim. Harvey Cole, a lumberman of Galena, became interested in the enterprise about this time, and during the summer of 1845 a saw-mill was erected, but not completed till the following spring.
In the fall of 1845 Mr. Swinehart with a party of men opened the first wagon road from Orion to Rockbridge, and the following winter, under contract, cut out Pine river, eighteen feet wide, of all logs, trees and brush above the ice. The mill was started in the spring of 1846.
To the best of Mr. Swinehart's recollection, Mrs. Minerva Culver, the wife of Mason Culver, a millwright, who worked on the mill, was the first woman that came to Rockbridge.
Mr. Swinehart was actively engaged in lumbering at the mill and marketing its products until he sold his interest in the year 1848. Mr. Cole disposed of his interest to James Vineyard and James Moore, of Platteville. Thomas Mathews named Indian creek, Mr. Swinehart named Ash creek, by reason of the heavy ash timber upon the ridge near by. Rocky branch being the only stream running into the Pine which has a gravel bottom, it was thus given its name. What is now known as Center creek was called Camp creek, by reason of its being a camping ground; Brush creek, because it was filled with brush; Horse creek, because a horse in crossing became mired and died; Fancy creek, for its resemblance to a stream of that name in Sangamon Co, Ill; Buck creek was near the Creeds; Sole's creek, because James Sole built a cabin and manufactured shingles in its valley.
Robert Akan, another of these advance guards of the future of civilization of Richland county, has also left on record a very amusing as well as instructive account of the times which graphically depict the mode of life then in vogue. In this account, Robert Akan relates, that:
"When we arrived in Rockbridge, Nov 5, 1845, there were sixteen men working at the mill. All the provisions had to come from Platteville, seventy-five miles away, and no road from Orion to Rockbridge. Two men of some experience were sent to blaze the trees, and three men started for Orion on November 10, to cut a road so that we could get through with a team and load. I went with the men to get the cattle and sleds, and the men at the mill commenced to cut the road to meet us. It was a good day's walk to Orion. On the third day after we got there, we had our loads on and started on our expedition to Rockbridge; camped the first night on Indian creek, at the spring where M McIlhatten's widow lives. A deer made its appearence; three or four started in pursuit, each eager for a shot. I was the first to fire. At the crack of the gun, the deer bounded off and I lost sight of it and returned to camp, while some of the others still pursued. In about half an hour they returned, bringing the deer, which had fallen dead after running a short distance. We roasted, broiled and stewed it, and got up in the night to eat of it, and not one slice of that deer was left when breakfast was over next morning. We doubled teams up-hill and passed over to south Ash creek. At Booth's farm, one of the men found a bee-tree, and we got a wash-tub full of honey. We camped at the spring where Thompson lived. Some of the men had cut and put up hay for their teams, if all things went on all right at the mill. Some went to cutting stringers for a bridge across Ash creek, while others made puncheons for the cover, which took all day. The men went out to hunt, and one of them brought in a fine buck. Next day we camped at Durfee Bovee's farm; the timber was awful. The following night we got to Klingler's spring, this we called the Ash swamp, for the cattle mired. Got to Rocky branch the next night. Stopped there until the men cut the road to Muddy branch or Center creek, a day and a half. My partner and I went to Center creek with the men in the morning, who were cutting the road. We followed the blazes to Brush creek, and the men thought they would make it that night. We killed a deer, back of where Hubert Downs lives, and undertook to drag it to camp, down through the brush. I thought it was five miles, so we hung it up and struck out for camp; it was dark when we got in; we could see the smoke but the brush and vines were awful to make or way through. Here our oxen went back on us; they run back to Orion. We sent two men after them, who brought them back, which took three days. We had, in the meantime, cut the road to Fancy creek, where the others met us, and there we had a jollification and a regular old pioneer drunk, as we had with us a barrel of whisky. This must not shock the extremists, for it was fashionable, in those days, to get on a jollification drunk once in a while. We got to the mill, however, all sound. The next day Samuel Swinehart and I went to Orion for provisions. They had a dance at Capt Smith's. We got there about dark, and the boys and girls began to assemble for the festivities of the evening. The music, such as it was, was soon in full blast. Capt Smith and another man had a jug of whisky hid in the room, where I, being tired with my days tramp, had laid down to rest. They had come in three or four times and taken a nip, but Mrs Smith saw that they were getting full, came in and took the jug and hid it, and put in its place one like it filled with coon oil. In about twenty minutes they came in again. Captain turned the jug up and took a swig but said nothing, handing it to his companion, who also took a swallow. The first word was: 'H- - l, what's this?' Captain was silent for a moment, but tasting it said: 'Coon grease!' and swore roundly. This was more than I could stand, so had to laugh outright. He went for me, but I dodged him and got into the ball room to avoid further trouble. Presently in came the men -- coon grease on their mouths and beards. This second party's wife wiped it off with her handkerchief, but he was terribly mad and never forgot it; always blamed me, as I would not explain and tell on Capt. Smith's wife.
Once while living at the mill, when the Indians had run off, or killed off, all the deer and bear, so that nothing but muskrats and pheasants were left, provisions getting scarce, I started for Platteville to get a supply. I was gone longer than I had made calculation on. For four days my brother, Andrew, was left with my family; they had half of a deer, twenty pounds of flour, coffee and tea in plenty, and he could kill pheasants, if they could live on that, but he got discouraged, I had been gone so long; thought I was killed or some accident had happened to me. My wife said to him: 'You go and kill a deer and we can live for a week yet,' and added that I would be back that day. He was despondent, but took his gun and started hunting on the road to Muscoda. About 2 o'clock in the afternoon he heard the driver's halloo to the team. He said that the most pleasant voice he ever heard was that teamster's at that time.'
To resume the thread of the narrative; it was during the year 1844, that Myron Whitcomb, John McKinney and family, Burrell McKinney, and Peter Waggner, joined the few settlers in this infant colony and the numbers that came every year thereafter steadily increased, so that when the year 1846, had dawned upon their little world something like a settlement had been reached, although these few people were scattered over such a wide expanse of country, and among such thick timber, that each seemed 'monarch of all he surveyed,' for the survey in many instances, did not extend very far. These were the hardy and experienced pioneers who led the advance guard of the all conquering Anglo-Saxon, the "most powerful race that ever existed," in their onward march, to found the civilization and culture of the nineteenth century, in this land of unequalled resources, but lying then a virgin wilderness, a leafy desert, having little of outside help or support; yet the settlement grew up from the start, in that form of rugged independence and self-reliance so characteristic of the American people.
During the fall of 1841, and through the early winter following, the question of the organization of the county was canvassed, and the seven residents of the district, now comprising this county, meeting in "mass meeting" at Eagle Mills, drew up a petition, and signing it, sent it to the Legislature, praying that august body, that such power might be given them, to set off the county of Crawford, of which, it then formed a part, and to organize themselves into a new and seperate county. This prayer was granted by the third Territorial Legislature, in an act passed Feb 18, 1842, and signed by James Duane Doty, the then Territorial governor. By this act, Richland county was attached to Iowa county for judicial and electoral purposes, until such time as a sufficient number of people had moved into the new county, as would warrant them, in setting up a seperate government for themselves. By this act, also, Abner Nichols, James Murphy and John Ray, all of Iowa county, were appointed a commission to locate the future county seat of the newly made county. After some discussion, it was determined to fix upon a point, near what was afterwards the town of Richmond (now Orion). This continued to be recognized as the county seat for several years. We are told that the name Richland was suggested by the character of the soil. What a power, that word rich, must have had over these early settlers of the county. It seems to us that they must have thought of little else, as we find Richland county, Richland town , Richland Center, Richland City, Richmond and Richwood town.
The county continued attached to Iowa county until the first day of May, 1850. When, in pursuance of an act of the State Legislature, approved Feb 7, 1850, it was seperated, and became a county by itself, enjoying all the priveleges and immunities thereunto belonging. An account of this organization can be found in Chapter IV, given in detail.
The following, are copies of the acts above referred to:
An Act to establish the county of Richland:
Be it enacted by the Council and House of Representatives of the Territory of Wisconsin:
SECTION. 1 That all the district of [county] lying within the following described limits, viz: Commencing at the Wisconsin river, where the line between the ranges of 2 and 3 east of the fourth principal meridian crosses said river, thence along said line to the northern boundary of town 12; thence west along said line, until it intersects with the western line of range 2 west, of the fourth principal meridian, thence south along said line to the main channel of the Wisconsin river; thence up the middle of the main channel of said river to the place of beginning, shall be and the same is hereby constituted a seperate county by the name of Richland.
Sec. 2. The said county of Richland is hereby attached, temporarily, to the county of Iowa for all county and judicial purposes; and the county commissioners of the county of Iowa are hereby required to cause the assessors in said county of Iowa to assess and include in their assessment roll all of the real and personal property of the inhabitants of said county of Richland, which may by law be assessed in the county of Crawford, and make return thereof as required by law, which property shall be subject to be taxed at the same rate which property in the county of Iowa is taxed, and collected in the manner provided by law.
Sec. 3. That Abner Nichols, James Murphy and John Ray, be and they are hereby appointed commissioners to locate the county seat of said county, in which location they will have due regard to the present as well as the probable future population of said county; said location to be made at or near the center of said county, or on the Wisconsin river, as may seem most advantagious, and should the location be made on public land, the said county commissioners of Iowa county are hereby authorized to take such steps as may be necessary to secure to the county of Richland the right of pre-emption, as provided by an act of Congress, approved May 26, 1824, entitled "An act granting to the counties or parishes of each State and territory of the United States in which the public lands are situated, the right of pre-emption to quarter sections of lands for seats of justice within the same;" and they are hereby authorized to borrow the sum of $200, at a rate of interest not exceeding ten per cent. per annum, for a period not exceeding five years, for the purchase of 160 acres of land under the provisions of said pre-emption law above refered to, and may mortgage said land for the payment of said money so borrowed.
Sec. 4. That should the said commissioners be unable to find a suitable tract of public land on which to locate said county seat, they are hereby authorized to make the location on individual property: Provided, the proprietor or proprietors shall convey in fee simple, free of expenses, to the county commissioners of Iowa county in trust for said county of Richland, every fourth lot in any town in which may be laid out as the said seat of justice for the said county of Richland: Provided further, that the whole number of lots so ceded to said county shall not exceed thirty acres.
Sec. 5. This act shall take effect from and after its passage.
Approved, February 18, 1842.
An Act to organize the county of Richland.
The People of the State of Wisconsin represented in the Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:
Section 1. That from and after the first day of May next, the county of Richland in this State, shall be organized for judicial purposes, and shall enjoy all the privileges and immunities of the other counties of this State. It shall form a part of the fifth judicial circuit, and the courts therein shall be held by the judge of said circuit.
Sec. 2. That all writs, processes, appeals, recogizances, or other proceedings, which shall be pending undetermined in the circuit court of Iowa county, on the said first day of May next, which originated in the courts of justice of the peace in said county of Richland, shall be removed back and determined in said county of Richland.
Sec. 3. That on the said first day of May, the clerk of the circuit court of the county of Iowa shall transmit all writs, process, appeals, recognizances, or other proceedings originating as aforesaid, together with a transcript of the records in each case, to the clerk of the circuit court of Richland county.
Sec. 4. That for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this act, the legal voters of Richland county may hold a special election on the first Tuesday of April next, in the respective towns or precincts of said county, for the election of such county officers as are required by law to be elected at annual elections, whose term of service shall commence on the said first day of May next, and continue until said terms shall expire by law. There shall also be elected by the qualified electors of said county of Richland, at a special election to be held at the several towns or precincts of said county, on the first Tuesday of June next, a county judge, who shall hold his office until the first day of January, AD 1854, and until his successor is elected and qualified.
Sec. 5. That the said elections shall be conducted in all respects, and the votes canvassed and returned in the same manner as is now provided by law in relation to the election of county officers.
Sec. 6. That the judge of the said fifth judicial circuit shall hold courts in the said county of Richland, semi-annually; one term on the last Tuesday of April, and the other on the second Tuesday of September in each year.
Sec. 7. That at the annual election of 1851, the voters qualified, as hereinafter provided, shall deposit with the inspectors of elections in the several towns or precincts in said county, a ballot, on which shall be printed or written, or partly printed and partly written, the name of the place voted for as the county seat of said county; and the place receiving a majority of all the votes cast at said election on that subject, shall be declared the county seat of said county; Provided, That if no place shall receive a majority at said election, the question shall be submitted in the same manner at each succeding annual election, until some one place receive such majority.
Sec. 8. Whenever the county seat shall be established, as provided in the eighth section, the board of county supervisors of said county shall take such measures as they may deem proper to obtain funds to erect county buildings in said county.
Sec. 9. The sheriff of the county of Iowa is hereby required to give the legal notice of such election required to be held in said county of Richland, on the first Tuesday of April next, as the law directs.
Sec. 10. All records of Iowa county, relating to persons or property in said Richland county, shall be free of access to, and be free of charge to the proper officers of Richland county, to transcribe.
Sec. 11. That every free white male inhabitant, who shall have resided in said county six months next preceeding any annual election, shall be deemed a qualified voter at such election, for the purpose of permanently locating the county seat of said county.
Sec. 12. That until the county seat of said county shall be located, as provided in the seventh section of this act, the courts for said county shall be held, and all county business shall be transacted at Richmond in said county.
Moses M Strong,
Speaker of the Assembly.
Samuel W Beall,
Lt Governor and Pres't of the Senate.
Approved, February 7, 1850.
The matter of the first marriage that was solemnized within the limits of the present county of Richland, has, in the absence of any records, occasioned much trouble to the compiler of this history, but a careful and conscientious research, and a thorough canvass of the memories of those of the early pioneers, who still linger this side of the "bright and shining shore," develops the fact that the rite that united W G Parker to Emily McKinney, in the year, 1846 has the precedence in point of time above all others.
The subject of the first child born in the county, is also a mooted question, but the birth of Melinda Morgan, which occurred in April, 1843, is the earliest that can be found, and she is, therefore, entitled to the honor of being the first born of this precinct.
The first death that occurred within the same limits was a man by the name of David Petty, or Pettis; this occurred in the year 1844, at Rockbridge. It seems that Petty was the cook for the Swinehart-Akan party, then engaged in logging at that place, and who was taken sick, and took a dose of some medicine, perhaps his own prescription. This seemed to rather increase his disorder instead of alleviating it, and he grew so much worse that it was absolutely necessary for him to have the advice of a physician. But here they were, twenty miles away from a settler, and how was the doctor to be procured. At last the great big heart of the frontierman could not stand it any longer to see his fellowman suffer without trying to do something for him, so Samuel Swinehart started afoot to thread the vast forest that lay between them and the villages on the river. All day long and through the night he plunged on through marsh and mud, and on reaching the first physician, he took the back track with him. But the ministrations of the doctor were of no avail, and the man died in great agony. Determined not to bury their quondam companion in the depths of the forest, these rough pioneers hewed out a canoe from a pine log, and Wiley Wates and another man, placing the body therein, launched themselves upon the bosom of the Pine river, which was to bear them to the settlements. Long and weary must have been the ride with this corpse, as they floated down the sluggish current, and through the heavy timber that then cumbered its banks and shaded its waters. There is something wierd and ghastly in this idea of these two men drifting down the dark stream, by the light of the summer moon, with the dead body of their companion. They reached the Wisconsin river at last, and landing at Muscoda, procured a hand sled, and finished their deed of charity by dragging the body to Mineral Point, where his friends received and interred the corpse.
The first school that was taught in the county, we are led to believe, was in the year 1847, by a man from Pennsylvania, but whose name has entirely escaped the memory of our informants. This pioneer school was held in a room of the house of Peter Kinder, in Richwood town, and is believed to have been a subscription one as no records are extant, showing the formation of a school district so early. However, in 1849, a building was erected for the accommodation of a district school on the land now owned by Mr. Garner, on section 27, of the town of Richwood, and a little west of the village of Port Andrew, and during the years 1849 and 1850 Mary Melanthey, now Mrs Joseph Elliott, presided over its destinies, as school mistress. This is no doubt the first district school in Richland county.
The first postoffice within the limits of the county was established at a place called Sand Prairie about one and a half miles west of the village of Port Andrew, on land now owned by H J Clark, lying in the town of Richwood. This was about 1845, and Johnson Young was the postmaster. John Kincannon had the first contract for carrying the mail thither, we believe, from Mineral Point, and he brought it on his back, going and coming afoot, which seems to have been the usual method of travel in those days.
The business of saw-milling being a large one in the county, it would probably be of interest to say that the first structure of that description ever erected was built by Estes & Parrish, in the fall of 1841, and was located at or near the site of the mills now known as Rodolf's, on Mill or Eagle creek, in the town of Eagle.
The first preaching of the Gospel that ever took place in the county, was, possibly, performed by a Methodist minister by the name of Wheeler, in 1848, at the then rising village of Richland City. This gentleman was, at the time, a resident of Iowa county, and has often laughingly, made the remark, that "he brought Sunday over into this county, where it had never been before." sometime during the same year, however, a Congregational minister located himself at the same place, and a more regular service was instituted. This gentleman's name was Benton.
The first grist-mill was built at Sextonville, in the years 1851-2, by Jacob Krouskop. Prior to this time the settlers had oft-times to go fifty and seventy-five miles to mill with the little grain they had to grind.
John McKinney, however, before the erection of the mill, had a small mill driven by horse power, in which he could grind a sort of corn meal. This might be called the first attempt at grinding in the county, but could hardly be termed a grist mill.
The first physician to locate within the county was Dr Hartshorn, whose settlement at Law's or Gage's ferry, precedes any other in point of time.
The first blacksmith shop in the county was started by Hardin Moore, in the summer of 1841.
Settlements were begun in all parts of the county by the beginning of 1850, and the population by that time was, according to the census returns, between 900 and 1000; during the next decade the flood of emigration, for which that period has been noted all over the northwest, rapidly filled up the waste places of this county, until in 1860, the government census placed the number of inhabitants at 9732. During the late Civil War, the emigration here, as everywhere else, came to a stand still, and the large amount of enlistments from this locality, and the large death rate in Wisconsin regiments, in the field, kept down any remarkable increase in the population, until after the close of the rebellion when immigration received a new impetus, and the number of the population has steadily grown from then until the present day.
In those early days rude log cabins, scattered throughout the county, stood on little clearings, surrounded by the dense wilderness of trees that covered the whole land, as with a mantle; but in the years that have passed, these cabins have given way to fine, comfortable frame, and in many instances palatial brick residences. There are many yet living, whose eyes have beheld these wonderful transformations, but alas, many, very many of these early pioneers have never lived to realize or enjoy the full fruition of their days of toil and hardship. The roll of those whose feet have crossed (t)he dark river is a long one. Still, in the days when they faced all the trials of a frontier life, and battled with stern nature, to keep the wolf from the door, these hardy pioneers enjoyed much pleasure in their rude way. In the language of one of these heroes of the outpost: "It is the mistaken notion of modern aristocracy, that happiness dwells only with wealth and fine equipage. Some of us can point to our log cabins, at least in memory, as our independent homes, where true content and happiness brooded over the domestic circle, and sincere gratitude gave relish to the most homely fare."
Contrast the Richland county of 1845-6 with the same as it is to-day. Then it was a dense, almost unbroken wilderness, an umbrageous desert with only here and there the scattered clearings of a few adventurous frontiersmen; and now it is largely cleared up, with good farms, fine farm houses and barns, commodious and numerous school houses and churches on every hand. In those days, the early settlers were poor in purse and struggling against fearful odds and almost insurmountable obstacles, to hew for themselves and their posterity, homes out of the forests, and all nature seemed uncongenial and seemed to turn a frowning face upon all their efforts. To-day, the inhabitants are prosperous and thrifty, and live in comparative ease and comfort. Then the "blazed" track through the woods was their only pathway or road, and the rivers and streams were crossed on the felled tree or by the still more primitive fashion of swimming; now, broad highways intersect the county and good bridges span its streams, and comfort and luxury are seen on every hand. Then, seventy miles to mill was the rule, and now the iron horse brings the necessaries of life almost to the very door.
There were 1861 visitors at our previous host from 12 Feb 2006 to 2 Aug 2011 and 2905 visitors to a previous site from 15 Jul 1999 to 12 Feb 2006.