ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin

        Link to file on Cole home

Cole Family


John and Luther Cole [ brothers ]

Watertown Daily Times, 08 17 2000


The Cole family name is not heard of much in Watertown these days, although members had a prominent hand in city development. Longtime residents recall the origins of Cole Street and the Cole Hall associated with the Watertown Public Library, but no family members remain residents of the city.


Cole family members will hold a reunion in the city this weekend to see and hear some of the accomplishments of their forebears, although family ties to the city are a bit of a stretch.


John and Luther Cole were prominent city pioneers and businessmen, but other members of their family are less well known.  The Cole family members attending the reunion this weekend are descendants of Zenas Cole, brother of John and Luther.


Foster Cole of Minneapolis, Minn., has organized the gathering here, although he said he really doesn't know much about Zenas.


"John and Luther were my great- great-great uncles," he said, in a telephone conversation from his home. "Zenas was my great-great-great-grandfather but I'm not prepared to give any background on him."


Noting that he has never been to Watertown, Foster said he was encouraged to visit the city by a favorite aunt related to the Coles by marriage. She died last year, but her inspiration has remained.


Foster said, "Aunt Norma Cole suggested that we find out more about our ancestors. She lived in Michigan for many years and was a retired school teacher. She moved to Kentucky where she built a log cabin and was always telling old stories about the area. She was a local historian who connected people back to their roots."


Norma was also an author of children's books, and in appreciation of her inspiration, Foster Cole is donating a set of her books to the Watertown Public Library. "She was a Cole by marriage, and she and her husband were divorced. However, they remained close and her ex-husband, Harold, who lives in Kentucky, is coming to the reunion," Foster said, noting that the event will be attended by about 17 family members.


In addition to Harold, Foster and his wife Elaine will attend the reunion with Foster's parents, Ann and Jack Cole of Minneapolis, two of Foster's three sisters, two cousins from Michigan and other family members.


Cole Home


On Saturday, they will tour the former Cole home at 802 N. Fourth St., now owned by Ken and Donna Grugel.  The family will visit the library, Oak Hill Cemetery where Cole family members are buried, and also take in other sights around town.  The weekend reunion will conclude on Sunday afternoon with a visit to the Octagon House where the Watertown Historical Society is holding its annual ice cream social. Some furnishings formerly owned by the Cole family are on display at the Octagon House.


"John willed $86,000 to the city of Watertown when he died.  Part of the money was used to build Cole Hall at the library, part of it was put in a children's book fund, and part was used to build the Main Street bridge," said Foster, who added, "I'm not terribly interested in history, but Norma inspired us all."


Although he claims that he is not a history buff, Foster has managed to trace the Cole family back to the 1600s when members arrived in Massachusetts. "I don't know the nationality or where they were from, but somehow the family went from Massachusetts to Vermont. John, Luther, Zenas and another brother, Ebenezer, came here from Vermont, but two sisters, Lucy and Persis, stayed in Vermont," he said, relating information gathered from Mormon Church genealogy records.


John and his brother Luther opened the first general store on Main Street in November, 1841; it was located on the southwest corner of Main and Second streets. They also built another store on Main Street in 1854.  John and Luther are considered the first settlers of Dodge County, and they lived out where the country club is now located. They were farmers, so if people needed something from the store during the day, they had to make an appointment. The Coles opened the store at night for customers.”




John Cole became owner of Tivoli Island for a time.  Jesse DeCoy told John's wife, Elizabeth (Fisk) in the 1840s that if her first child was a boy, the Coles would be given the deed to the island.  The child was indeed a boy and the Coles became owners of the island.  They sold it to the Concordia Opera Society sometime between 1860 and 1870.


John and his wife are buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.


John Cole

Watertown Historical Society Collection 


Following derived in part from: The History of Jefferson County, Wisconsin by C. W. Butterfield, 1879




John W. Cole, Watertown; is the third son of Ebenezer Cole, and brother of Luther A. Cole, was born the 28th day of December, 1814, in Charleston, Orleans Co., Vt.; until the age of 22, he worked upon the farm of his parents, and with his father at his trade of carpenter and joiner. 


In the fall of 1836, he started West, and first came to Milwaukee, where he remained until January, 1837, cutting timber on the Milwaukee River, when he moved to Watertown, making the trip with ox-teams, carrying flour and pork, and with his brother, Luther A., and five others, kept what was called the “bachelor’s distress” for four years. 


He engaged with his brother in the general merchandise business, having built the first store in Watertown.  Having dissolved partnership with his brother, Mr. Cole built a store on the northwest corner of Second and Main streets, and carried on a general merchandise business for about fifteen years, part of this time being also engaged in the manufacture of saleratus and potash. 


In 1854, he built the block of stores on the southeast corner of Second and Main streets, since which time Mr. Cole has lived retired from active business in Watertown.  For two years he held, in Osage Co., while living there, the office of County Commissioner. 


In 1855, he held the office of Mayor of Watertown, and has also been Supervisor of Jefferson Co. 


He married Miss Eliza C. Fisk (daughter of James L. and Laura Fisk, of the State of New York) Nov. 19, 1844; they had three children, one living – Oscar A., and two deceased – one named Johnnie, the other dying in infancy.



Among some of the people mentioned in the record as having been present at the first Fourth of July celebration here are those of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Cole.




An old Landmark Disappearing


Yesterday the workmen commenced pulling down John W. Cole’s old building which is situated on the [NW] corner of Main and Second Street [116 E. Main].  This establishment is one of the oldest in our city, having been built by Mr. Cole in 1843, twenty four years ago [actually 1841], when Watertown was in its infancy, and a large portion of the present limits of the city was covered with a dense forest.  Since then a great change has taken place, and a great city has grown up on the site of this little hamlet in the woods.


This old store has stood for a long time in the heart of our town, and with the old feed store opposite, on the south side of the street, often reminded us of the primitive days.


Last winter the old feed store was swept away by the fire, and now this last old landmark is being taken away to give place to a new brick block, which Mr. Cole intends to erect on its site this summer.


Farewell to the old, welcome the new.                The Watertown Republican, 01 May 1867



This 116 E. Main building was constructed by John W. Cole in 1867 and housed his saloon and store here until around 1880.  (Between this time and prohibition, this building housed a saloon owned by a number of different persons.  After prohibition, the building housed a soda fountain, a grocery store, and a drug store.)


This building was constructed by John W. Cole.  However, his large Cole's Block, kitty-corner across the street, has the most significance to his career in downtown Watertown.



Back in the days when John W. & Luther Cole operated the city's first merchandise store at what is now N. Second & Main Streets, business was run a lot different than it is today.  The Coles arrived here in 1837, a year after Timothy Johnson, the first white settler in what is now Watertown, came to this region.  The store in question was a small red building and what is now Main Street was little more than a path.


During the daytime the store was closed most of the time because the brothers were busy with other matters, and the towns people did their buying at night in the glare of old-fashioned oil lamps or candles. 


The brothers then were also operating a farm in the northern part of Watertown and came "down town" only by appointment to take care of the needs of their customers during the daytime.  The store was open each night, however, and that is when the biggest business was done.  They handled about everything the pioneers needed, from feed to household supplies, cloth and primitive footwear.  The Coles were natives of Charleston, Vermont.   from 02 14 1941 WDTimes article



03 05       JOHN W. COLE’S WILL

John W. Cole's will disposes of his property about as follows:  The executors and trustees named therein are Christian May, C. B. Skinner and Oscar Cole, to whom the residence of the estate is given, and after paying expenses one third goes to Mrs. Cole and two thirds to Oscar Cole.  His residence is to be deeded to the city for an old ladies' home at the discretion of the trustees.  A farm at Lake Mills and lots in the first ward go to Mrs. Cole and Oscar in fee simple.  The trust continues during the life of Mrs. Cole and son; after Oscar's death the farm north of this city in Emmet is to be used as a city driving park.  All the property on the death of Mrs. Cole and son goes to the city for the purpose of maintaining a public library, business men's club and a home for aged and poor people. Should the city refuse to accept the property, the next of kin are entitled to it.


At the death of the son, Oscar, $86,000 from the Cole estate was turned over to the city of Watertown.  Of this amount the Public Library was to receive half.  $38,000 was put into the library addition, the balance, $5,000 was invested.  The interest is used for children's books and a suitable book plate has been provided.


At the time of the dedication of the John W. Cole Memorial addition in May 1930, all the flowers which had been presented in his honor were taken to Oak Hill Cemetery and placed on the Cole lot.




Mrs. John W. Cole has shown us some curiosities from the South, among them a bunch of garden flowers recently plucked, a genuine hoe-cake, a specimen of butter white as snow, some preserved figs of a delicious flavor, and a branch of magnolia.  She brought them with her on her return from her visit at Montgomery.    WR


09 18       COLE WILL VALID

After having the matter under advisement for several months, Judge Bennett, of the circuit court, on Monday at Jefferson handed down his decision in the John W. Cole will case.  He finds the will valid, and thus the city of Watertown is made the beneficiary of an estate amounting to nearly $80,000 for the purpose of establishing various public institutions, as directed in the testament.  The property is nearly all realty, and the provisions of the will, as is generally known, are that a certain portion of it shall be sold at the death of the legal heirs for the erection and maintenance of a public library and business men's club; that the farm north of the city is to be set apart and maintained for a public driving park and agricultural grounds; that twenty acres in the Seventh ward are to be used for a home for the aged and poor people of Watertown, and that the homestead in the First ward is to be adapted for the purpose of an old ladies' home.  Provision is also made for the maintenance of these institutions.    WR



12 14       MRS. ELIZA COLE  [Cole, Elizabeth C., b. Oct 14, 1826, d. Dec 12, 1898]

The death of Mrs. Eliza Cole, which occurred at her apartments in the Cole block last Monday evening, removes from our midst the earliest pioneer of Watertown who still remained among us. The men of '36 and '37 had all preceded her, and one of the few women of those early days, Mrs. Jane Chadwick, was called hence last April. Mrs. Cole's residence covered a continuous period of about sixty-two years a record that was probably not equaled by any of her contemporaries of either Dodge or Jefferson Counties.  Article goes on to give the history of her life.    WR


Luther Cole


07 05       General L. A. Cole started for Pike’s Peak on the 3d inst.  We wish him a pleasant journey to the land of gold, disappointment, hard work and speculation, and hope those Denver City lots have “gone up some” since he invested there, and his “pile” is ready for him.   WD


Following derived from: The History of Jefferson County, Wisconsin by C. W. Butterfield, 1879

Luther A. Cole, Watertown, was born in West Charleston, Orleans Co., Vt., Nov. 1, 1812; his father, Ebenezer Cole, was the fourth settler in that town.


At the age of 22, he started West, and landed at Detroit in 1834; the following June he took passage in the schooner Supply, a little craft of but fifty feet keel, for Green Bay and Grand River.  The passage to Green Bay occupied twelve days; after remaining there two days they started for Grand River, which they reached the fourth day, making sixteen days’ sailing from Detroit.  He remained at Grand River, and in its vicinity, for about eleven months, being employed most of the time at building saw-mills and log houses. 


He then resolved upon visiting Wisconsin, and taking passage at Grand Haven, at the mouth of Grand River, in the schooner White Pigeon, in company with Philander Baldwin and Elisha M. Osborn, reached Chicago after a sail of about twenty-four hours.  Two or three days afterward they started on foot for Milwaukee, following Indian trails most of the way, and finding on the route but an occasional settler. 


They arrived at Milwaukee on the 10th day of May, 1836.  There he worked at the carpenter and joiner business until December, when, taking his blanket and provisions upon his shoulder, he started for Johnson’s Rapids (now Watertown) passing over the road which had been cut out by Mr. Johnson a few week’s previously, arriving on the evening of Dec. 27, 1836.  Amasa Hyland accompanied him. 


A few months before, Mr. Cole had, through the agency of a friend, made two claims at the Rapids, one covering the farm now owned by John W. Cole, and the other the farm now owned by heirs of Benj. A. Morey.  About the same time, he also made a claim three miles south of Prairieville. 


In January following, he purchased, at Milwaukee, three barrels of flour, and three of pork.  He paid $20 a barrel for the flour, and $40 a barrel for the pork.  Building a cabin, in company with Mr. Hyland, and his brother, John W., they commenced keeping what they called “bachelor’s distress,” which they continued for nearly four years. 


In the season of 1837, Mr. Cole worked on the saw-mill and dam of Charles F. H. Goodhue & Son, at Watertown.  From that time, until the fall of 1839, he was occupied mainly at lumbering and farming. 


In November of the latter-named year, in company with Mr. Hyland, John A. Chadwick, David Griffith, William P. Owen, William Stanton, Jr., Brice Hall, John Dimick, he started for Arkansas for the purpose of spending the winter in chopping steamboat wood.  They floated down Rock River in skiffs, and were eight days reaching the Mississippi.  They remained in Arkansas until the following spring, each making a clever-sized “pile,” when they returned to Watertown. 


The same season, Mr. Cole, in company with Mr. Hyland, Mr. Stanton, Edmund S. Bailey and his brother, John W., purchased 400 acres of land on what is known as Hyland Prairie, in Dodge Co.  There was then no inhabitant in the town of Fairfield, in which that prairie is situated.  The only thing in the shape of a road, at that time leading north from Watertown, was an Indian trail. 


In 1841, he and his brother, John W., erected the building on the corner of Main and Second streets (now occupied by August Fuermann as a saloon and restaurant), and opened the first store in Watertown.  The next year, Mr. Bailey and Mr. Cole purchased of Seeley Kidder 750 acres of land on the east side of the river, at Watertown, including the present site of the village, as also the mill and water-power.  They were to pay 1,000,000 feet of lumber, to be delivered at Beloit within seven years.  They associated with them the next year Linus R. Cady and his brother, Ebenezer W., and in three years and a half from the date of the purchase, made the last payment; since which time the general business of Mr. Cole has been milling.  Selling out his interest in the mills at Watertown, in 1854, he carried on the “Rough and Ready Mill,” one mile east of Watertown, up to 1865. 


In 1866, he went to Nebraska with Mr. Lyons, and built a saw and grist mill forty miles above Omaha, on the Missouri River.  In 1867, he also built a mill on Platte River, ten miles south of Denver.  In 1869, he sold out his interest in milling, having engaged in it for twenty-eight years of his life, since which time, having retired from active business, he has resided at Watertown. 


Mr. Cole married Miss Mary Jane Brackett (daughter of Jerry C. and Uranah Brackett, of Vermont) Aug. 29, 1842, at Charleston, Orleans Co., Vt.; they have four children, two living – Guy L. and Uranah B. (now wife of F. L. Clark, of Watertown), and two deceased – Guy G. and Martha.



03 17       Profile of Luther Cole, Wisconsin legislature   WD



03 14        Thirty-three barrels of flour, contributed principally by the citizens of Ixonia, and ground by L. A. Cole, “without toll,” at the Rough and Ready Mills, were forwarded to Kansas last week by W. H. Clark.  This is a generous donation.  Jefferson County has nobly answered the appeal that has been made for the relief of Kansas.  In a few day we learn that Mr. Munson, of Waterloo, will send another lot of some twenty-four barrels of flour, to the same destination.


06 13       The Committee of Highways and Bridges to whom was referred the Petition of L. A. Cole and L. J. Kadish, reported in favor of allowing them $200 to apply on their contract to build Plank Road bridge; report accepted; moved by Ald. Prentiss that the clerk is hereby directed to issue an order of $200.00 in favor of L. A. Cole, on the City General Fund; Carried.   WD



10 12        REAL ESTATE

J. W. Cole sold lot and building on Main Street to R. Racek for $3,000.


J. W. Cole sold lot and building on Main Street to Mr. Goeldner for $3,000.


J. W. Cole sold to J. Salick, house and lot in Second ward for $4,500.


L. A. Cole and J. Richards sold Rough & Ready Mills, in First ward, to Christian Koenig and Julius Blenkendorf for $15,000.   WD



                Luther Cole was president and orator for the day, U.S. Centennial observance



06 06       Another hearing in the Cole will case was held before Judge Grimm at Jefferson.  The point now in contention is an effort on the part of the city of Watertown to establish the fact that Mr. Cole when he died was possessed of a great deal more personal property than the executors' inventory showed.  Under the provisions of the will this property is to be used along with the realty for the devises made by the will, the instrument alluding in several places to securities, interest monies, etc.  Testimony was given Friday to show the amount of Mr. Cole's estate, and the case was adjourned to a later date this month, when it is expected that Oscar A. Cole, who is now at Mr. Clements, Mich., will be present and appear on the witness stand.   WR


07 18       With the rendering of the decisions in the matter of the final settlement of the estate, and the entering up of the judgement in accordance with the findings, the long-drawn-out litigation on the celebrated John W. Cole will case is at an end, unless the trustees conclude to appeal from Judge Grimm's ruling, which action, it is reasonable to expect if histories repeat it some, will be taken.  But it is quite improbable that the trustees can hope to gain anything by such a course and it would be wise to desist from further controversy.  When the litigation was first started it was claimed to be merely for the purpose of obtaining a proper construction of the will to see if it was valid and if the desires could be carried out.  As is now well understood the case gradually became a bitter contest between the trustees on the one side and the city on the other.  The latter has had to fight at every turn for the retention of its interests in the trust estate, but it has been victorious in every instance. . . .    WR



08 30       The attention of the Republican reporter has been called to the condition of the sidewalk along the part of the property belonging to the Cole estate on Second Street north from Main Street.  It certainly needs looking after by the committee on streets and bridges, and the beautiful grass growing there removed that the street at that place may look less rural.    WR



11 20       John Habhegger's petition, 1908, that he be discharged as trustee of the John W Cole estate.


1914       Mrs. Luther A. Cole, [Mary J., b. 1825, d. 1914]

09 03       Mrs. Luther A. Cole, one of the early pioneer settlers of Watertown, died last Saturday at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Uranah Clark, Seattle, Wash., at the age of 90 years.  The body was brought to Watertown for burial Thursday over the Milwaukee Road.  Services were held in the Congregational church and the burial was in Oak Hill cemetery.  Mrs. Cole’s maiden name was Mary Jane Brackett, and she was married to Luther Cole at Charleston, Vt. August 29, 1842, her death occurring on the seventy-second marriage anniversary.


Two children survive: Guy L. Cole, Neck City, Mo. and Mrs. Uranah Clark, Seattle, Wash. 


Mrs. Cole came to Watertown in 1842, following her marriage, and endured the hardships of pioneer life, residing here until 1885, when she moved west.  Her husband was one of the founders of Watertown, coming here December 27, 1836, a few months after Timothy Johnson had blazed a trail from Milwaukee.   WG




A Studebaker automobile manufactured in 1916 and purchased that year by the late Oscar Cole is still in operation here.  The ancient vehicle is owned by Orville L. Wesemann of 1008 South Ninth Street, a member of the board of education.  Mr. Wesemann has had the car for 23 years.  Every so often he takes it out for a spin.  It can do as much as 35 miles an hour and it still has one of its original tires.  In its 50 years the car has traveled not quite 3,000 miles, since the original owner cared more for horses than for cars.  Oscar Cole was the son of John W. Cole, the city’s first merchant who built a magnificent home which still stands at 802 North Fourth Street.  The original Cole store was on the site of the present Lewis and Clark Apothecary.   WDT 09 09 1966, 50 years ago.




Mr. and Mrs. R. E. Evanson have returned from Watertown, where last evening they attended the dedication of the new unit to the Watertown Public Library which was dedicated in memory of Mrs. Evanson's grandfather, John W. Cole.  Mr. Cole, a wealthy and prominent pioneer resident In Wisconsin, was the second white man to settle In Watertown. 


Mrs. Evanson is the only surviving relative of Mr. Cole and as such was given a place of honor at the program last evening.   A number of speeches featured the program in which glowing tribute was paid to the man who had made the new building possible.  It Is interesting to note that Miss Florence C. Hays, who was formerly on the staff at the local library, is librarian in Watertown.


The new addition has a large assembly hall on the first floor and the second floor Is given over to the children's department and is most attractively appointed.     The Oshkosh Northwestern, 16 May 1930



The bouquets of flowers sent to the library for the night of the dedication were taken to the grave of the man who made it possible, John W. Cole, at the Oak Hill Cemetery.     WDTimes


1936       CHILDREN’S PARADE, CENTENNIAL; note in caption regarding donations to Octagon House

      Children’s Parade



Memories of Early Watertown

January, 1851

Narrative by Luther A. Cole, given at the second annual Pioneer Festival at Fort Atkinson in January of 1851.  It was later published in the Watertown Chronicle.


“Before entering upon a relation of my ‘experience' in this state, I ask this audience to bear with me a few minutes while I refer to my still earlier history.


“I was born in West Charleston, Orleans co., Vermont, on the 1st day of November, 1812.  My father (Ebenezer Cole) was the fourth settler in that town.  At the age of 22, I started for the west, and landed at Detroit in Dec. 1834.  The following June I took passage in the schooner Supply, a little craft of but 50 feet keel, for Green Bay and Grand River.  Our passage to the Bay occupied twelve days.  After remaining there two days, we started for Grand River, which we reached the fourth day thereafter - making sixteen days' sailing from Detroit.


“I remained at Grand River and in its vicinity about eleven months, being employed most of the time at building saw mills and log houses.  For about two months of this time, however, I was afflicted with the ague, ‘the old fashioned way' - only as that complaint can develop itself in Michigan!  I then resolved upon visiting Wisconsin; and taking passage at Grand Haven, at the mouth of Grand River, in the schooner White Pigeon, in company with Philander Baldwin and Elisha M. Osborn, we reached Chicago after a sail of about twenty-four hours.  Two or three days afterward we started on foot for Milwaukee, following Indian trails most of the way, and finding on the route but an occasional settler.  We arrived at Milwaukee on the 10th day of May, 1836.


“At that time Lake Michigan had been visited but two or three times by steamboats - the object of these boats thus in straying so far from the usual channels of commerce at that day, being to provision the U.S. troops at Green Bay, Mackinaw and Chicago.  There were a few schooners on the lake.  During the season of navigation, one of them may have passed from Grand River to Milwaukee, every two weeks, on an average.  They were principally engaged in the lumber trade.


“I worked at the carpenter and joiner business until December, with the exception of about two months which I devoted exclusively to the ague.  Taking my blanket and provisions upon my shoulder, I then started for Johnson's Rapids, (now Watertown,) passing over the road which had been cut out by Mr. Johnson a few weeks previously -- Amasa Hyland accompanied me.  A few months before I had through the agency of a friend, made two claims at the Rapids, one covering the farm now owned by John W. Cole, and the other the farm now owned by the heirs of Benj. A. Morey.  About the same time I also made a claim three miles south of Prairieville.


“In January following, I purchased at Milwaukee three barrels of flour and three of pork. I paid $50 for the flour, and $100 for the pork.  Building a cabin in company with Mr. Hyland and my brother John W. we commenced keeping what we called ‘bachelors' distress,' which we continued a greater part of the time for four years.  The peculiar luxury of this method of living, can only be appreciated by those who have enjoyed it.  I will only say here, that we made it a point not to wash our dishes until we could count the mice tracks upon them!


“The season of 1837, I worked on the saw mill and dam of Charles F. H. Goodhue & Son, at Watertown.  From that time until the fall of 1839, I was occupied mainly at lumbering and farming.  In November of the latter named year, eight of us - Mr. Hyland, John A. Chadwick, David Griffith, Wm. P. Owen, Wm. Stanton, Jr., Brice Hall, John Dimmick and myself - started for Arkansas, for the purpose of spending the winter at chopping steamboat wood.  We floated down Rock River in skiffs, and were eight days in reaching the Mississippi.  The weather was cold, and being obliged to camp out nights, our sufferings were most severe.


“We remained in Arkansas until the following spring, each one of us making a clever sized ‘pile,' when we returned to Watertown.  The same season Mr. Hyland, Mr. Stanton, Edmond S. Bailey, my brother John W. and myself, purchased 400 acres of land on what is now known as Hyland Prairie, in Dodge county.  There was then no inhabitant in the town of Fairfield, in which that prairie is situated.  The only thing in the shape of a road at that time leading north from Watertown was an Indian trail.


First Store in Watertown


“In 1841, my brother John W. and myself erected the building on the corner of Main and Second streets, (now occupied by Wm. V. Ament,) and opened the first store in Watertown.


“The next year Mr. Bailey and myself purchased of Seley Kidder, (he having previously purchased of the Goodhues,) 750 acres of land on the east side of the river, at Watertown, including the present site of the village, as also the saw mill and water power.  We were to pay 1,000,000 feet of lumber, to be delivered at Beloit within seven years.  We associated with us the next year, Linus R. Cady and my brother Ebenezer W. and in three years and a half from the date of the purchase, we made the last payment.


“My general business since then, as most of my acquaintances are aware, has been milling.


“I will conclude this sketch by relating a few incidents connected with the early history of Watertown:


“A few weeks after settling in that village, a man by the name of Thomas Bass was burnt to death in a cabin standing near the present wagon shop of Virgil D. Green.  He and two other men, Charles Seaton and Ezra Doliver, who were in the employment of James Rogan, had passed a drunken afternoon and evening, and in the morning Bass was found near the fire a corpse, one arm being nearly burnt off, and other portions of his person badly charred.  A coffin from hewn pieces of basswood was prepared, and the remains interred a short distance from where the old school house now stands.  A prayer on the occasion was made by Wm. Brayton, of Aztalan.  Rumors of violence having been the primary cause of the death, a coroner from Milwaukee was sent for, the remains disinterred, an inquest held, Seaton and Doliver and arrested, tried at Milwaukee, and finally acquitted.


“In June or July following, a company of about fifteen of us causewayed Battletown marsh and other smaller marshes between Watertown and Summit, and otherwise improved the road.  We were thus employed eight days, ‘working for nothing and boarding ourselves.'  We camped at night in the open air.  I have read of mammoth mosquitoes, but never saw any equal in size and voracity to those we encountered at Battletown.  They ‘bit like a serpent, and stung like an adder!'


“In the spring of 1838, provisions and money were scarce.  We had but little pork in the settlement, and subsisted mainly upon fresh fish, with which the Rock abounded.  Our flour having failed us at one time, we were nearly a week without bread.


“The Winnebago Indians committed many petty thefts for some time after Watertown was first settled.  One of them having stolen a watch from Mr. Griswold, a pair of mittens from Peter V. Brown, and a quantity of tobacco from me, we thought it best to make an example of him.  Forming a ring and stripping him of his blanket, Griswold and I took turns in applying the lash to his back.  But we tempered justice with mercy.  No blood was drawn.  The expedient worked to a charm.  After that Indian thefts were hardly known in the settlement.


“The first frame barn in the county of Dodge, was erected in March, 1839, on the farm of my brother John W., a short distance north of the north line of the village of Watertown.  It was framed by Wm. H. Acker. It was raised by 25 or 30 of us, and though it snowed hard all the while, we were only about two hours in putting it up.  Two gallons of high wines had been provided, and many of the company not knowing the ‘bead' the liquor carried, soon found themselves in the very best of spirits.  After completing the task, about one-half of us adjourned to the cabin nearby, and had a right merry time of it.  When the party finally broke up, a tin cup full of the liquor remained unappropriated.


“I have frequently been asked, if in any of my adventures in this country, when new, I ever came in contact with wild beasts.  I never did.  I may say, however, that upon one occasion I was thrown into as close proximity with them as was agreeable to me.  About 8 o'clock one evening, in the winter of 1837-38, being at that time deputy sheriff of Milwaukee county, to which county Jefferson was attached for judicial purposes, I started from Watertown on foot, to serve a writ of attachment upon a man who had left Johnson's Creek for Milwaukee about six hours previously, with a horse and jumper.  With the exception of Mr. Sacie's shantee, in the present town of Concord, there was no occupied building between Watertown and the tavern then kept by Major Pratt, and now by Samuel Putney.  Upon reaching the marsh near the present tavern of Mr. Kellogg, the wolves opened their concert.  With every step I took, their music seemed to increase in volume and terror.  I increased my speed, but still I appeared to be in their very midst.  It was dark, and I could not see them, nor did I desire to.  I was quite willing that they should keep at elbow distance, and only feared that they would insist upon a closer acquaintance.  Arrived at the eastern end of the causeway across the Battletown marsh, some three miles from the spot where the wolves first greeted me, I considered the Rubicon as fairly passed, and breathed more freely.  They followed me no farther, and upon reaching Mr. Pratt's, I found the man I was in search of snugly stowed away in a bunk, and taking up my quarters on the floor, I awaited daylight for the service of the writ.”


Cross Reference:

L. A. Cole, No. 1, was locomotive on the Milwaukee & Western RR






Table of Contents 

History of Watertown, Wisconsin