Monthly Archives: August 2018

Lee Park

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a Rock County Park post, so I thought it was time to get back at it. As I am focusing on Clinton Township at the moment, Lee Park seems the perfect place to start. Lee Park can be found about four miles south of Clinton on the east side corner of highways 67 and 140.  The main entrance is on Hwy 67. 

The park is named for the Lee family, who sold 40 acres of land to the township on the promise that it would be used as a park. In 1966 the township donated the land to Rock county with a couple caveats including improvements to the park. A small amount of land was added in 1975 by a Mr. Newhouse to create a north entrance to the park. Which can be found just north of the ball diamond on 140.

This is a lovely, peaceful place with many beautiful mature trees to provide shade. A short distance from the entrance is a nice picnic area and a small parking area.

At one end of the parking area are trash containers. The park also has picnic tables and grills for use by visitors, as well as water pumps at both ends of the park.

As you follow the road north you pass a well-maintained pit toilet rest room, a picnic shelter and finally a baseball field and finally, the north entrance.

This is a one lane road and on my visit to the park I stopped my car to take a picture because there was nobody behind me or coming at me. Well of course when I did this there was suddenly a car on both sides! Fortunately, there is just enough leeway to maneuver this type of situation and we all successfully got going in our chosen directions without a problem. 

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The ball field at the north end of the park was provided thanks to donations of materials and time from the 4H clubs of Clinton, Turtle. Another donation to the park is the picnic shelter. Rock County provided the materials and volunteers provided the time and muscle to build it. It’s wonderful that the township was willing to put in the time to help create such a beautiful space. 

There are hiking trails through the park and it’s eight acre arboretum at the north end opposite the ball field. I would have liked to explore these trails but unfortunately I didn’t see any of the access points. They are either not marked or I just didn’t see them. The park is open to the public from 5am until 10pm daily.

The only real downside to the park is that there is very little parking available. Beyond that it’s a beautiful addition to our County Park system and I will certainly be visiting Lee Park again. For more information or to rent the picnic shelter or the ball field contact the Rock county Parks Dept. at 608-757-5451.

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A Little Bit of Background

 

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Many thanks to the RCHS

The story of Ole and Ansten Nattestad (Natesta is the Americanized version of their name) is not unlike many other coming to America stories. We are all descendants of people who made the journey because they wanted a better life than the one they left behind. But this is their story and one that must be told. Through these brave men many other Norwegian families found their way to America and a better life than the one they would have had in Norway at that period in its history.

Life was not at all easy in Norway during the pre-industrial era. The state of Norway itself was in its infancy. The financial system was not stable, bureaucracy was out of control and led by a very distinct class system of privileged aristocracy. If you were not a part of this “Upper Class” you existed in one of three groups:

  1. The land holding farmers
  2. Tennent farmers
  3. Servants

There was such a tight grip on the lives of these three groups that very little hope existed to move up in life. Ole and Ansten were born to a land holding farmer. On the surface this may seem like a good thing to us, but at that time in Norway’s history the only person to inherit was the first-born son. This left both Ole and Ansten out in the cold. The only hope they had was being a tenant farmer or eking out a living any other way they could. Ole attempted to save and buy land of his own but the very tight bureaucratic system did not allow it.

This left Ole and Ansten to find their own way in life. With very little options in front of them, America sounded like the best bet. So, they saved enough for their passage and in April of 1837 set out for Stavanger to join a group that was setting sail for America. Things didn’t go as planned. One evening on their journey a man came to them and said they had been given the wrong travel papers and if they continued and tried to join the group, the only future in store was prison.

With this knowledge the pair avoided Stavanger and went to Sweden. Once there, they found passage on a cargo ship headed to America where they would begin to build a life.

That story is for another day!

The Jefferson Prairie Settlement

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Life sometimes gets in the way of things we enjoy doing. This blog is one of those things for me. I have rethought the process of sharing our lovely counties story and have decided to tell our stories one township at a time. I am beginning with Clinton Township in the south-eastern corner of the county with the story of:

The Jefferson Prairie Settlement

This story of this historical marker begins with a man named Ole K. Natesta (alternate spelling Nattestad). He was born in or near the Numedal Valley, in December of 1807. In 1836 Ole and his brother Ansten were visiting a neighboring city and learned of the opportunities in America. They liked what they heard so in 1837 the pair boarded a ship and came to check it out. I have conflicting information as to where they landed. One source said that they landed in Massachusetts and another said Rhode Island. In either case the two eventually found their way to Illinois later that year where they joined an existing Norwegian community.

In 1838 Anesten returned to Norway to let people know that they had found America a wonderful place to be. During this time the community in Illinois broke up due to illness and Ole moved North into what would be Clinton Township. He put in a claim for 80 acres of land five miles south of Clinton, and built himself what was described as a log hut. He then and went to work for a farmer named Stephan Dowers for his meals.

Ansten returned the following year with 100 emigrants. Some of stayed in Jefferson Prairie and others moved west to Rock Prairie.

There is more to tell, but that is for another day!

Sharon