Monthly Archives: May 2016

Our County Parks

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Murwin Park 

Another of the many beautiful parks Rock County offers it’s residents is Murwin Park. This park is named for the Murwin family, who donated land for the purpose of creating a park. Rock County acquired the rest of the land and you can find this lovely park off County H at 6407 W. Caledonia Rd, just outside of Fulton. This park covers 40+ acres along the Yahara River and extends across both sides of the road, with ample parking on both sides.

It’s a well-kept park that provides a good access for entry and exit to the river for canoes and kayaks. Fishing is also allowed and from what I’ve been able to verify bluegill, crappie and bullhead can be caught.

The park provides garbage bins in the parking lot, water, a few picnic table and grills, as well as bathrooms. For large gatherings in the park I would suggest bringing extra camp tables just in case you might need them. There is plenty of open space for games like frisbee or volley ball. And at the far end of the park there is a  walking trail along the river. I am not sure how far it goes, but it looks like a nice trail for bird watching.

 

Murwin Park is a wonderful spot and worth the trip to get there.  I’m sure you will have a relaxing time. For more information about reserving the park or any other questions call the Count Parks Sept. at 608-757-5451.

 

 

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The Builders

Peter McEwan
Peter McEwan

This is the second in the series of posts about the men that had a direct impact on the building of Milton into the community it is. Peter McEwan was one of the first white men to come to Rock County and settle in what is now Milton. He was born in Scotland in 1809 in Chapel Hill near Perthshire. After completing his education he found employment as a clerk in a mercantile shop and later went into business for himself, in the town of Auchtereader. He operated his business until the age of 25, when in that year of 1834 the desire to explore the world struck and he decided to move to America. He settled in Philadelphia for a while then moved to Niagara Canada at the invitation of John Young. Peter went to Canada and worked as a salesman for Mr. Young for three years, when the desire to explore came again to visit.

In May of 1837 Peter McEwan joined company with a group of people traveling to the Wisconsin Territory. After reaching Milwaukee he joined another smaller group and came to the area that would be known as Prairie du Lac. He liked what he saw, the soil was rich and good for farming, so set out for what would become Janesville to find who owned the land. After securing claim to the NE ¼ of section 34 and two other 80 tracts in this section as well as the SE ¼ of section 27 Peter hired a man to begin breaking ground and he went back to Canada to settle his business there.

He returned to Wisconsin in July with a stock of merchandise, a load of lumber and some tools. He built himself a good size cabin in section 34 and set about farming. His Mother Elizabeth, Brothers William and James as well as his four sisters moved to America the following year and joined him in the new community.

Peter spent the next 18 years helping build the growing town. For several years he owned one of the first mercantile businesses in town with his brother William. He sold lots on the south end of the town square to several people for their homes and businesses. One lot was sold in 1844 to a merchant named John Alexander who had his business in the McEwan home prior to opening his own shop on the land he purchased from McEwan.

Another lot was sold Alexander Paul who moved his business to that location and also built a grain storage building to store grain accepted in exchange for goods. Peter McEwan also gave land to the Congregational Church in order for them to be able to build their church which still stands on the south side of the park.

In 1855 Peter McEwan returned to Auchtereader Scotland for a visit. While there he met and married Lillian Syme. They came back to America and lived here until 1858 when they moved back to Scotland to stay. Peter returned twice for a visit, once in 1862 and again in 1876. This was the last time Peter McEwan would see his American home, his family and friends. He died January 30, 1879 at his home in Perth Scotland.

 The portrait of Peter McEwan above is from the
Portrait and Biographical Album of Rock County 1879
courtesy of Rock county Historical Society.
Their assistance with my research is greatly appreciated

 

 

 

Mud Lake Park

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This is the first in a series of posts about the many beautiful parks in our county. I am beginning with Mud Lake just outside the west end of Milton on highway 51. I had seen the sign on the edge of the road for years but didn’t realize that this was an actual park. To be honest it is more of a wildlife area than what most people may consider a park.

When coming in off the Highway you wouldn’t know you were headed into a wonderful experience.

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The parking area is well off the road and quite small. In my estimation you couldn’t get more than four or five cars safely in the area.

Mud Lake Tree

This beautiful tree stands near the entrance to the path down to the lake.

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The path starts out covered in wood chip and at a fairly level grade.

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Then gets quite steep, hinting that there was a time when this lake was much bigger
and much deeper. The path was moist because the area is so wooded, but it wasn’t slippery. After a rain, I imagine it would be a bit treacherous to hike down to the water.

Mud Lake water view

Once you reach the water, you discover this lovely view. There is no beach or any place to sit, except on some of the fallen trees.

And there are quite a lot of standing dead trees. I imagine this is left over from the flooding a few years back. Some of the ground near the water is marshy, so don’t wear shoes that you don’t want to get wet and dirty.

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There are a couple of trails to hike. One of them has a picnic table on it, but you need to be careful as the trails branch off into people’s yards. So be careful that you don’t trespass on private property.

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We found this cool little camp area that had a nice grated fire pit. I don’t know whether or not it is a part of the park or on private property, but it’s still pretty cool.

There is a variety of wild flowers and berry bushes to enjoy.

This is a very nice little park for hiking. Keep in mind the steep up and down grades but the lush woods are worth the trip. I will be going back.

Rock County Win!

RATR

The residents of Rock County had a win last night. The Rock County board of Supervisors meets twice a month or more if necessary to discuss issues affecting our county. The agenda of last night’s meeting included a vote as to whether our county would support the Great Lakes Basin Railway project. The public had the opportunity to speak for or against the railway. Several took the invitation and did just that. They spoke about how the proposed rail system would impact their ability to continue to farm sections of their land once it has been cut into pieces. Another speaker came forward to discuss the issue with the rail coming so close to her community and the effect the trains would have on the communities church as well as the water drainage around the town.

After the public had their chance to voice personal concerns. The board discussed the resolution and made a small change to the verbiage and held a roll call vote. The vote was taken, tallied and was unanimously against the proposed project with two board members being absent. I don’t know of anyone in the room that didn’t want to stand and cheer at that moment but composure was maintained. The meeting continued and after the remaining topics were discussed and voted upon the meeting was dismissed.

Although Rock County is formally on record as being against the GLB we are not out of the woods yet. From here a copy of this resolution will be sent to the Governor, the Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture trade and Consumer Protection as well as a number of Senators and Representatives.

The reality is that even with this win the rail line could still happen. This is why it is so important that we as residents of this county get involved. Yes, some of us live in the towns and cities of Rock County but we are still largely a rural community of towns and cities. Consider the permanent damage to the landscape of our county. How many of us want to take a drive in the country on a beautiful day and encounter a mile long train instead of fields growing grain crops and pastures of animals grazing?

570 acres of farmland could forever be lost. Southern Wisconsin has some of the richest land in the world. Once it’s gone there is nothing anyone can do to fix it. In addition to the farm land there is woodland and wetlands in the way of the this project that will also be permanently changed or lost forever. There are so many negatives involved with this project.

Consider the families that farm. Some of these families have been farming their land for generations. Financially each of those farms will have decreased income that will radiate out into the community. Lost farmland and pasture land means less food will be produced. With less food being produced the business that support farming will suffer financially.

It’s not just the farms at risk. Our way of life as a community is at risk. Lost revenue in any business always trickles out to the surrounding area. With thousands of dollars being lost each year by our families and friends that farm means that the businesses that support farming and the businesses they visit to purchase things for their families will have those sales. Resulting in a potential loss jobs all over the county.

We must also consider the financial burden the state will have to renovate 40 miles of track in order to accommodate the GLB project. That cost is estimated to be $900,000. Per/mile. (Yes I said per mile!!) So we are talking about an estimated $36,000,000 to accept the train into our county. Guess where that money is coming from? Some may be federally funded of course but some of this cost may be our tax money. We could be paying for the privilege of having our county ripped apart and forever damaged.

I am getting emotional here but this is an emotional subject. We live in Rock County because we love it here. This is a great place to live. I am all for progress, but the cost must be considered and the cost to our way of life is too high. We all need to get involved if we are going to protect what we have. Write to the Governor, The Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Agriculture, our Senators and Representatives. Write to the STB. The person you want to contact is Dave Navecky. The address is:

Dave Navecky
STB
Docket Number FD 35952
395 E Street SW
Washington D.C. 20423-0001

Let them know that we do not want the devastation this project will bring to our county and our way of life. It is so important to get involved. This could be a precedent setting project that may have the potential to affect any state in this country. You can get more information at the Rock Against The Rail Facebook page.  Let’s stop the GLB.

Rock Against The Rail!!!

 

 

 

The Builders

James Pierce

James Pierce
A man of service

He was just a young man when he left everything behind and came to a wilderness with his friends Joseph and Henry. James Pierce was hired by Joseph Goodrich as an assistant and he worked in this position as farm hand, store clerk and surveyor for four years after coming to Wisconsin.

James met Olive Hall after she and her family moved to Milton in 1839. Olive was the first school teacher in Milton. She was employed by Henry Crandall to teach in the schoolhouse he had in his home. James and Olive were married on September 24th of 1840. They began their life together on 80 acres of land that James had purchased in Harmony. Then later they purchased 130 acres of land in section seven that stretched across the Rock River into what would become Newville. Together they had three children. Clark who was born in 1841, Alonzo who was born in 1846 but sadly died in 1847, and a daughter Susan who was born in 1849 and in 1863 became ill and died.

James Pierce was not one to settle down to be a farmer only. He was passionate about the development of Milton as a community and the growth of the county. To this end he served in many positions over the years. In addition to service in his church he served in the following roles:

  • Deputy County Surveyor from 1841 to 1844
  • Assessor from 1847-1848
  • Commissioner of Highways 1848-1849
  • Justice of the Peace 1851-55, 1857-63, 1869-70
  • Chairman of the board of supervisors 1856-1864 and 1869-70
  • County Supervisor of the second district 1866-68

In time James and his wife retired, and moved in with their son Clark. After a lifetime of service to the community, James died in 1905 at the age of 88. James died of a kidney related issue and was buried next to his wife, who died of a stroke in 1901. They were laid to rest in Rose Hill Cemetery in Milton Junction.

This picture of James Pierce is from
the 1858 Rock County Atlas 

 courtesy of the Rock County Historical Society,
to whom many thanks are given for their assistance.

Chapter Nine

land sale 2This photo and the one below are photo copies of the original
document transferring ownership of one half-acre of land to Orrin Sprague.
Much thanks to the Rock county Courthouse for their assistance!

The Land Sale

The spring of 1840 brought an important event. The land sale. Anyone that had a claim to land needed to go into Milwaukee, pay for their land, and take title to it. This happened in April of that year. Joseph Goodrich, Peter McEwan, and Orrin Sprague made the journey to the city together. I am sure this was not the most comfortable journey for these men. If you will remember, Joseph and Orrin were not exactly the best of friends. Our first introduction to Orrin in the story of Milton can be read here.

A rule had been made that no one person could purchase more than half of any section of land. This put Peter McEwan in a spot because he had claim to 400 acres across several sections and wanted to purchase more. But because of the land section rule, in order to purchase a piece of land he wanted he would have to give up some and chose to pass on land in section 27.

Now this gave Orrin Sprague a wild idea. Being that he was a man to dream big and act fast he thought it would be the perfect opportunity to slip in and get some land for cheap and basically purchase a piece of the town out from under Joseph Goodrich. Are we beginning to see the issue between these two men? Perhaps!

Now Joseph already had claim to land in sections 26 and 27. If he wanted to maintain his claim and his dream to build a community he needed to act faster and beat Orrin at his own game. He hadn’t purchased his land yet and still had 80 acres that he could buy. So he went to Peter and explained what Orrin was up to then asked to purchase his claim in section of 27. Peter agreed on the promise that Joseph would allow Orrin to buy the land his home and business were on. Joseph, being an honorable man agreed and he bought his land. Upon returning to Milton he called on his friend James Pierce to survey out the land for Orrin Sprague and asked him to be careful to not give him a foot more than he was due.

On April 27 in the year of 1840 Joseph Goodrich along with his wife Nancy and Nathan Storrs as witnesses registered the sale of one half-acre of land containing a blacksmith shop, stable and house for the purchase price of one dollar, to Orrin Sprague.

land sale document