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





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