ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Reprinted from the Winter 1999 (Vol 5, No 4) issue of The Historical Review,

A Quarterly Publication of the Watertown Historical Society


A Look at Watertown in 1845

Recently, local Watertown collector Ingo Eisner, contacted the Watertown Historical Society to tell us about a letter he acquired which was written by an early settler in 1845.  In it, the writer, John Gamble, describes his life and the area in which he lives.  Since it is so fascinating to read, we have decided to include the letter here.  We have decided to leave the spelling and punctuation just as it was in the letter.  Note: Union Town later became the towns of Concord and Ixonia.

Uniontown Decem.27, 1845

My dear friend Charles Wolcot I now sit down with pleasure For to inform you and your father & mother and family all How I got along since I have left my old home on Wolcott hill where I had performed with faithfulnys many A days labour, still living in hopes that divine providence Would bring it round that I would have my own home inTime to come, well I have lived to see the day that I have My own home and a good and prosperous one to which I now thank god for it. My friend Charles, I hope you will Excuse me for not writing to you before this time. I often thought It best to wait so as to give you a correct account of the Country how rapid it was Improving in Immigration and Every kind of Improvements, and likewise how I am likely To get a long my self. Well my worthy friend Charles I am Now settled and living in the lands of Uniontown between Milwaukie and Watertown 46 miles from Milwaukie and 4 1/2 miles from Watertown.  I have bought 120 acres Of land at 1 1/4 dollar per acre. I have now 20 fenced In and ploughed up under wheat with the exception of 4 acres that I have left for oats next spring and I am Preparing this winter to fence in 10 acres so as to put Wheat in it next Sept. My stock consists of one yoke of Cattle and a Yoke 3 year old steers 4 cows and some you Stock. I like the country remarkably well the land is very Rich and fertile and gives the man that cultivates it A great return for his labour which makes him Spend the day in usefull industry in the cheering hopes that He will reap in full the benefits of all his labour. This is a new and flourishing country its increase is very Rapid when I came to this country first, I was informed That Watertown was to be our only town for to make our Market and do our trading business well. I went as I thought to see that great and splendid village. But what was my surprise on my entrance into it for To only behold the sight of four houses. They consisted of A grist mill, saw mill, taverin and a store. I made but A short visit in the village. I made some enquiry concerning The interiour parts of the country and then returned home Fully satisfyed that Watertown was not the place it was Spoken of to be, but now my firend two years have quickly Passed by and Watertown is one of the most noted and Growing village of the territory is now a village which Consists of upwards of 500 houses and a splendid market Town. All the flour wheat corn oats and meat you Can bring here you can get quick sale for it and Cash plenty for everything you have to sell at present. The markets are as follows flour $5 per barl. corn 50 cents per Bushel oats 25 cents per bushel potatoes 25 cents pork $5 per cwt (Note: cwt stands for hundredweight) Beef $3 per cut yoke cows from 10 to $15 per cow. So everything A farmer raises here he can get a pretty fair price for it. For what I can see of this country a farmer can Make 5 times as much money from the produce of his Farm as what any farmer I have seen in Connecticut. I have a great many reasons to think so. First because a farmer has no trouble in providing manure For to bring forth his crop, secondly a man can put down A good crop of wheat with very little labour which Crop is always likely to make your purses very heavy With cash, in the spring of the year the farmer nor his Man will not be engaged in the barnyard at hard Labour in getting our manure for his spring crop. Nor neither will you see him in the barn late with His dung fork making preparations to have his land Produce its full strength of a crop. My dear friend Charles, I often wished that I could once see you in This land of fertility, and I realy think if you were That you be reasoned as one of the first Young men of the country for industry wealth and Yankee steady habits which I know was instilled Into your mind in your early days. These words come To my mind to speak of your worthy and noble mother. She is a pattern of morallity and ought to be esteemed And honoured by all who knows her for her Kind and Christian principles. She is guided by the words of Divine revelation, she does not take pride out of her Work or let them be seen as the pharisies of old Had done, but no, humility is the chief corner stone Of all her works If you open the Bible and read the fifth chapter of Matthew it is there you will find The words she is guided by. I have not room here to Give that worthy woman her due merit but will Conclude upon sending my love and best respects To Mr. and Mrs. Wolcott their sons and daughters all So farewell John Gamble.

I should like to get a letter from Charles and let Me know how your father, mother and all the Family are and let me know are you Joined in teh Bonds of wedlock or when you will. Direct you Letter to John Gamble, Watertown, Jefferson County, Wisconsin. Michael is well and doing well And has 40 acres of land A yoke of Cattle and two cows."


John Gamble died in the 1850s and his brother Michael, who lived in the vicinity of present day Beggan Lane, took in his children to raise.  In 1862, Michael Gamble murdered his wife, the former Mary Beggan, in a drunken stupor and was jailed for the crime. He was pardoned in 1869 and left for Minnesota to live until his death in the early days of the 20th Century. Descendants of the Gamble family still live in the vicinity.