ebook History of Watertown, Wisconsin
Watertown in Retrospect
The First Death
The First Birth
It is to be regretted that the first death of a white person in Watertown was the result of intemperance. Far better had it been a tragedy - if tragedy it must be - of a bloodier nature.
The victim was Thomas Bass. He was burned to death in January, 1837, in a cabin which stood near the old site of Virgil D. Green's wagon-shop. Bass and two or three others had passed the afternoon and evening by drinking and carousing. Their debauch was prolonged far into the night, and the next morning Bass was found near the fire a corpse, one arm being nearly burned off, and other parts of his body badly charred red.
A coffin from hewn pieces of basswood was prepared, and the remains were interred not far from the site of the old schoolhouse.
William Brayton, of Aztalan, recited a prayer on the occasion of the funeral.
Rumors having been circulated the violence was the prime cause of the horrible affair, the coroner of Milwaukee was sent for, the remains disinterred and an inquest held.
As a result of the inquest, two men, who were with Bass on that tragic night, were arrested and taken to Milwaukee for trial, but they were acquitted.
There is a diversity of opinion as to who was the first white child born in Watertown. Capt. James Rogan states, with characteristic positiveness, that to Alzenia Johnson, daughter of Timothy Johnson, and who is now believed to be residing in Florida, belongs the honor. The captain says his wife was present when the infant Alzenia came into the world, and he gave as the date of the event June, 1837.
By others it is asserted that a daughter of Isaac Hammerson, now believed to be living in Eau Claire, was the first white child who saw the light of day in this portion Rock River valley. Mr. Luther Cole states that Alzenia Johnson was two years old when the family came from Milwaukee, and that her father carried her over the mud-holes upon his back.