Monthly Archives: March 2016

Chapter Three


Getting Started

There are many things that need to be done when building a community from scratch. The first order of business of course is acquiring the land so you can build homes, businesses, churches and schools. When Joseph Goodrich, Henry Crandall and James Pierce arrived they were not the first white men here. Earlier in the year Mr. Peter McEwen came and acquired land in section 27 and 36. There were the Walker Brothers as well and George Ogden and a few others.

But, Joseph had a bigger plan than simply staking a claim and farming he wanted to build a community and he wasn’t afraid of hard work. He left his Uncles home with an ax and a dream at the age of 19, this time he had friends, supplies and a dream.

 FullSizeRender (83)

Platt Map courtesy of New Combination Atlas of  1873
and the Hedberg Library

Joseph claimed land in sections 26 and 27 and Mr. Crandall, after taking out a claim in section 28 one mile to the west, went back east for his family.

Being far from an established area there were no roads and Mr. Goodrich wanted to be sure that he was in just the right spot when they were built. So he drew an “air map” of where he thought the best routes would be from Madison, which was chosen the state Capitol in 1836, to Chicago a small town to the south with growth possibility. And from Fort Atkinson; eight miles north. To Janesville, five miles to the south. Neither of which was an established community at that time but he knew roads would be built and he wanted to be at that crossing point!

After planning where he thought the road placement would eventually be, Joseph built his family a home and dry goods store then left his assistant Mr. Pierce in charge and returned east for his family in September of 1838. It would be an interesting trip.


Chapter Two

 Joseph Goodrich
Joseph Goodrich

The Scouting Party

The story of Milton begins with a man named Joseph Goodrich. He was a fine hard working man of outstanding morals and a very good humor. He was married to a fine woman named Nancy and together they had two children Ezra and Jane. The family lived in Alfred New York where they enjoyed a good and happy life.

Joseph was very well respected man in the community and was involved in his businesses, the church and education as well as being a member of the militia where he had advanced to the rank of major.

Life was going along well for the Goodrich family until 1836 when Joseph ran into some problems. While was moving a raft of cargo down the Susquehanna River to sell. The raft broke apart and Joseph lost most of the cargo. This was a financially devestating blow which would have required the sale of everything he had in order to pay his creditors. Fortunately a family member heard of his perilous financial situation and interviewed on his behalf. The following year brought even more financial woes with crop failures. So, Joseph began to look outside New York to provide a new start for his family.

Joseph was originally considering the central part of the Ohio and even went so far as to purchase a tract of land but conversations about the Rock River Valley with military men heading home after the Black Hawk War had peaked his interest. They  of spoke very highly of wonderful fertile prairies of tall grass, wild flowers and beautiful lakes. This was enough for Joseph to want to go check it out for himself so he talked a good friend Mr. H.B.Crandall, then 41 years of age, into taking a trip west with him to see if this would be a good place to live. Joseph, 38 years of age, hired Mr. James Pierce, then 21 years of age, as an assistant to go along. The three men packed their bags, Joseph got his spade, the men said goodbye to their families then set out for Buffalo New York on June 26 of 1838.

After reaching Buffalo the men bought passage on a steamboat which traveled through the Great Lakes and docked at Milwaukee in late July. From there it was a journey in the hot summer sun on foot. This was by no description a pleasure hike for the travelers, each man carried a heavy pack of supplies and water was limited. Along their walk Joseph, who was not a small man, did his best to keep spirits high. He would take out his spade and turn some soil if an area seemed to be suitable for farming, but not finding the perfect spot they kept searching and made it to the area that is now Milton. Spade in hand Joseph turned the soil, the men examined it and being very pleased declared this a good place to live.

Prairie du lac was born with the turn of a spade.

Chapter One

The Beginning

The story of a community is not in its buildings, though buildings do have stories to tell. The story of a community is in its people. The brave men and women with a dream that work together to build that dream into a future for themselves and their children for generations to come. The story of Milton begins with a group of men with a dream but in order to tell their story I must first tell another.

That would be the story of a war.

Chief_Black_Hawk3Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Black Hawk war is also the story of a community with a dream for its future. This communities dream came to a halt initially with the Treaty of St. Louis of 1804. The validity of this document and it’s ramifications carried on for 28 years before action was finally taken between Black Hawk and the Americans. There were parties on both sides of this treaty that questioned whether it was valid but nothing was ever done to correct the wrong done to the Sauk and Fox Nations.

This treaty is actually a series of 14 treaties signed between 1804 and 1824. But, it is the original treaty of 1804 that set the groundwork for the Black Hawk War.

Black Hawk tells the story of the incident in his Autobiography written in 1833. A Sauk warrior had killed a white man and was in prison in St. Louis. Four representatives were sent from Saukenuk, their village, to St. Louis to negotiate his release. The representatives were Quashquame, Pohespaho, Ouchequaka and Hashequarhiqua. When this party returned from St. Louis without their friend this is what they said:

“On our arrival at St. Louis we met our American father [William Henry Harrison] and explained to him our business, urging the release of our friend. The American chief told us he wanted land. We agreed to give him some on the west side of the Mississippi, likewise more on the Illinois side opposite Jefferson. When the business was all arranged we expected to have our friend released to come home with us. About the time we were ready to start our brother was let out of the prison. He started and ran a short distance when he was SHOT DEAD!”

Harrison of course had a slightly different story. In his account he says that the party came to St. Louis to bring the warrior and turn him over to authorities for the murder of the white man, not knowing that President Jefferson had already cleared him because it was an obvious case of self-defense. Harrison said that the prisoner was shot “While trying to escape.”

There were a few issues with the treaty that the Sauk and Fox Nations objected to. The first is that it happened at all. The four Sauk representatives that went to St. Louis were there to negotiate the release of a friend not a treaty. None of these men was authorized to negotiate or sign a treaty. Such a treaty should have had the proper representation of tribal elders and warriors from both the Sauk and Fox  present.

The second issue was that the treaty was specific about taking possession of Villages along the Mississippi and Rock Rivers, which included the ancestral village of the Sauk at Rock Island. The village of Saukenuk was a well established village like any white village with permanent homes, streets and other structures. The residents farmed and fished. There was always plenty for everyone.

The third issue was the amount of land involved. The team sent to negotiate the release of their friend agreed only to a small amount of land on the west and east sides of the Mississippi. The finished treaty took everything from the Fox River in Illinois west to the Mississippi, up into Wisconsin and west from Illinois into Missouri.


 Map courtesy of Wikipedia

The fourth issue was that the treaty allowed the Sauk and Fox tribes to remain on their land until it was sectioned off and sold to white settlers. It would be at that time that they would have to vacate their homes. Prior to the war there were squatters on the land but none had been sectioned or sold to settlers. Black Hawk rejected the treaties authority and was determined to keep his people’s land.

President Jefferson’s Removal act of 1830 only complicated matters further and in the spring of 1832 after returning from the winter hunting grounds and discovering that squatters had taken over Saukenuk. Enough was pretty much enough. Black Hawk did his best to abide by the rules and worked to get the squatters out of his village but after doors kept being closed and being told to get out or else. The or else finally happened.

The war only lasted seven weeks. The native Americans didn’t have a chance as they were vastly outnumbered. The American side had 6000+ militia, 630 actual Army soldiers and 700+ members of Native American tribes not allied with the Sauk and Fox. On Black Hawk’s side there were 1100 people, 600 of which were women, children and men too old to fight.

It wasn’t a war. It was a massacre. But history is written by the victors.