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The Decision

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Well the Surface Transportation Board has made its decision. It’s been a long road for hundreds of families along the proposed GLBT route. About 18 months ago Frank Patton decided he wanted to build a rail line to speed the processing of trains through Chicago’s busy rail yard. Some trains take several hours or days to get on their way, but this is an issue that the city has been working on for some time. The line would have begun in Indiana, bypassed Chicago then traveled up through Illinois into Wisconsin, coming to a stop east of Milton where it would branch out to existing lines.  

Patton’s bypass would have been built on land gained by claiming eminent domain. Putting farm land and wildlife habitats along the 261-mile route out of service and permanently unusable. Some farmers would have lost land that generations of their families before them worked. That in itself was a bad enough but this line running full speed could have had as many as 110 trains a day passing by their homes at high rates of speed.  

The announcement was made yesterday and happily Patton and the GLTB was denied permission to build! This decision was based on lack of financial information provided to the board, and it leaves me wondering if there is a possibility that all of this might begin again if Mr. Patton decided to be a little more forthcoming about the financial end of his plan.  Going forward, what can be done to protect farmers and their land? What can be done to protect wild life habitats?

This is an issue that can’t or couldn’t be dropped. The question, What Now, must be asked. The first thought that came to mind is that the eminent domain laws should be rewritten to protect natural habitats and the livelihoods of private citizens. There must be options out there. 

For more information or to read the document released by the STB you can check the Rock against the Rail Facebook page. 

 

 

 

 

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Happy Hollow Park

 

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Our County Parks

I have to say that this park was a let down. The name, Happy Hollow, put the vision of someplace almost magickal in my mind. Unfortunately this was not the case. Getting to the park was complicated. There were turns I couldn’t find because they no longer exist. This park is located at 1731 Happy Hollow Rd., about half way between Janesville and Beloit. Once I knew I was on the right track I was expecting a large sign like the other parks have to welcome visitors but there wasn’t one.

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The road into the Happy Hollow was rather epic. It reminded of a drive up to a large Antebellum home. What I found was not at all epic.

When you reach the park, what you find is space for maybe two cars to park, two picnic tables and a pit toilet rest room. Near the table is a covered seating area that once had a water pump. I noticed a small sign that pointed the way to a bridal path but there was not place to park a horse trailer. The county parks I have previously visited had a station with park maps available to visitors which show hiking and horse back trail routes but there were none to be found.

There were no trash can in sight but I did see some damage to the lawn. My normal habit is to check out the cleanliness of the restroom but the torn up lawn and lack of parking left me so disenchanted I didn’t want to know. I noticed the drive went around a corner so I kept going to see that was next.

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After a couple of curves that took me a good quarter-mile further I wound up at a fairly large parking area with two overflowing trash bins at the far end and a small boat launch to the Rock River. This lot could accomodate horse and boat trailers. Fishing is allowed on the river and from shore. There is a board with catch limits and boat launch fees posted. Envelopes with a secure drop site is near the board. This end of the park had one picnic table but no rest room facilities.

I must admit that the scenery and the river was lovely. The area is peaceful and listening to the birds singing was nice, but that is about all that I can say about this park that is positive. I intended to take a hike up a path from the parking area until I found several alcohol bottles and evidence of drug activity. The remoteness of this park must make it quite the party spot. I would like to say that this is a park I would visit again but I simply can’t. This is a park I would never go to alone.

Like all the county parks this site is open from dawn to dusk.

 

 

Our Historical Markers

 

Rock County has many stories to tell. Some of these are points of interest marked by the state with Historical Markers. Like many people I’ve driven by more than one without taking notice. Then the history of our County took root in me, I began this blog, and decided to research the stories these markers have to tell. So, I begin this series of posts with the story of…  

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The Lincoln Visit

This roadside marker on Hwy 51 So. of Janesville discusses Abraham Lincoln’s two visits to Wisconsin. He traveled this same route both times but for vastly different reasons.

As a young man of 23 in 1832 Abraham Lincoln was working as a store clerk. He heard about a call from the Governor of Illinois for volunteers to join the militia in an effort to track down Blackhawk and a group of Sac Indians that were in violation of a treaty which called for them to stay west of the Mississippi. Lincoln joined the group of volunteers on April 21, 1832 and served three tours of duty before being released from his service in June of 1832.

His first enlistment found him voted Captain of a rifle company by his fellow volunteers. Although he had no previous military experience he was placed into the rifle company serving under Col. Samuel Thompson. Lincoln and his men tracked Blackhawk up the Rock River, through our county, spending a night near Storr’s Lake then moving north. He found himself in trouble a couple of times but after being mustered out it was said of him by his superiors that he was a very capable leader.

Lincoln’s second enlistment began in May of 1832 immediately after being released from his first. Replacement troops were not ready to serve and a call was put out to those leaving to re-enlist. He did and served under Captain Elijah Iles as a private this time.

The third enlistment was in June of 1832. Again as a private serving under Captain Jacob Early.

During these enlistments Lincoln did not take an active part in battle. His regiment was on site after the fact for the battles at Kellogg’s Grove and Stillman’s Run. To record and bury the dead.

The second time Abraham Lincoln came to Rock County was 27 years later in October of 1859. Lincoln was campaigning for his first term as president and had been invited to speak to the Agricultural Society at the Wisconsin State Fair. This was an invitation that he initially did not want to accept because of his busy September schedule. He did change is mind and on September 30 of 1859 he was in Milwaukee to deliver his speech.

An attorney named Matthew A. Northrup learned that Lincoln was going to be at the state fair and wrote to him requesting that he stop in Beloit and speak to the Republican Club. Mr. Lincoln accepted this invitation and on the morning of October 1, 1859 he boarded a train in Milwaukee and arrived in Beloit at noon.

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 He was met at the train a large group of cheering citizens and a band. It was a busy afternoon for Mr. Lincoln. He was taken by carriage from the station to Bushnell House to have dinner with the city leaders and attend an informal reception. At 2 o’clock they moved to the newly completed Hanchett hall to a packed crowd. The plan was to have his speech presented outdoors but it was quite windy that day so the event was moved to the third floor of the hall.

Hanchett Hall still stands today at the corner of State and Broad Street in Beloit.

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A.A. Jackson, secretary of the Janesville Republican Club saw a small announcement in the Janesville Daily Gazette on September 30th stating that Lincoln would be in Beloit the very next day to give a speech. He thought it would be wonderful if Lincoln could speak to the Janesville Republican club as well and took action.

On October 1, 1832 Mr. Jackson set out to Beloit with his companions William Tallman, Daniel Wilcox, publisher of the Janesville Daily Gazette, John B. Cassoday and J. H. Burgess. The group set out to hear Abraham Lincoln speak and to try to encourage him to return with them, that evening, to Janesville. At a gathering after the speech the gentleman approached Mr. Lincoln about their desire to have him speak in Janesville. Mr. Tallman offered a relaxing room in his home for the weekend and Mr. Lincoln agreed. On the trip back to Janesville Lincoln recognized the route and shared stories of his time in Wisconsin during the Blackhawk War.

Prior to the gentleman leaving for Beloit arrangements were tentatively made for his speech to be given in the Young American Hall of the Myers Hotel which was under construction on the corner of Milwaukee and Main St. The Myers Hotel is no longer standing, but a marker was erected at the edge of the parking lot of the Johnson Bank building to commemorate the event.

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 Word spread fast of the possible visit of Abraham Lincoln and when the group arrived that Saturday evening there was a fairly large crowd waiting considering the short notice. Dr. Treat, president of the Janesville Republican Club introduced Mr. Lincoln and he was greeted with cheers from the audience. Lincoln’s appearance, lack of formal education and political polish was apparent to the audience but once he began talking his knowledge and unexpected wit won the day.

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After the speech, hand shaking and political talk that takes place after this type of event, Lincoln joined Mr. Tallman at his home, where he spent two nights with the family. The following Monday he boarded a train and returned to Illinois. He was elected our 16th president just a few short weeks prior to the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 and never again came to Wisconsin.

Thank you for stopping by
See you next time ~ Sharon

 

Airport Park

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The first of Rock Countys Parks I visited this year is Airport Park on the corner of Knilans Rd. and Hwy. 51 south of Janesville. The park is not very big; it’s just about two acres in size. I must say there really isn’t much going on at this park. Dogs are allowed in posted areas but I didn’t see where that was. There are a few picnic tables provided and that is about it as far as amenities go.

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There is evidence that at one time there was a pump for water but that is gone. There are no grills, wash rooms, trash cans or playground equipment for children to enjoy. Being two acres though, there is plenty of room to organize games.

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Parking might be an issue if there were several people attending a family event. There isn’t a paved lot, just a circular drive. I suppose if necessary people could park in the grass at the back of the drive.

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The one fun feature of this park, for those that like airplanes, is its proximity to the Rock County Airport. If you know the schedule of planes taking off and landing you can have a wonderful view of that happening from just across the road.

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This park is open for use from 5am to 10pm. As there are no trash containers please take with you all that you brought to the park so that it stays clean for everyone to enjoy.  See you next time for our next Rock County Park!

 

 

The Moundbuilders

When I began this blog my focus was on telling the stories of the communities and people that settled in this beautiful county, raised families and built communities. Milton was the first that I chose to write about, but some issues caused me to put this aspect of my overall vision for the blog on the back burner. I do intend to get back to telling the stores of who we were and how the communities began; some grew, some didn’t. But within each community there are amazing stories of men, women, bravery, hardship and joy to be told.

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It came to me that in order to tell our story in the most accurate way I must go back to the beginning. To a time before trappers began coming to the area and before the Native Americans that now live in what became Wisconsin, and tell the story of The Mound Builders. This group of Ancient Americans were here before the Native American cultures we know today. They lived in and around the southern part of the state, migrating with the seasons and the available food supplies. One of the most interesting things about this group of people is that they constructed earthen mounds that were a part of their spiritual and daily lives, perhaps they were even a form of communication between the various clans somehow.

There are several questions that come to mind about the mound builders. Who were they and how did they live? What about the mounds, what were they for? What happened to them?

So who were the Mound Builders

The Mound Builders lived in and around the midwest, including Wisconsin from about 7000B.C to 1700 A.D. This vast period of time breaks down into three groups defined by how they lived. These periods are:

  • The Archaic Period – 7000 to 1000 B.C. The people of this period were mostly nomadic hunter gatherers, living in semi permanent villages that followed seasonal food sources. The mounds constructed near the end of this period were dome shaped and used for burial purposes.
  • The Woodland Period – 500B.C. to 1300 A.D. This period saw a lot of change. Some of the clans settled into permanent villages and began farming. The bow/arrow and pottery had been introduced and the mounds began to take on animal shapes.
  • Mississippian Period – 1000 to 1700 A.D. The biggest change in this time period is the introduction of pyramid style mounds from a culture outside Wisconsin. The villages were more organized. They had a type of hierarchy within the community.

Artifacts like arrowheads and pottery have been found that place Mound Building cultures in South Central Wisconsin to the late Woodland and Mississippian periods. They were a people in transition.

The earliest settlers of this area appear to have been a melting pot of several races and cultures migrating to this area from different parts of the American Continent. These people are considered pre Columbian because they were here long before Columbus, the Spanish or any other people that found their way here. Some may have come up from South America through Mexico and South from what would be Canada.

Two different types of mound builders found their way to the Great Lakes area and South Central Wisconsin. The first group consisted of family clans that were mostly nomadic, hunter gatherers. They made their camps near a water source and followed the seasonal migration of animals and available food. These people are the main focus of this blog.

The second group was the pyramid mound builders of the Mississippian period. While this group is interesting their culture was more formal and advanced in that they built walled communities and had a governmental and spiritual leadership hierarchy. The Mississippians also did not construct dome or effigy mounds like the ancient people of this area.

In Wisconsin, the mound builders lived from about Green Bay across to the Mississippi and down. They lived near lakes and rivers in semi permanent camps that followed seasonal food sources. Several changes in the way the mound builder lived began at the end of the Archaic Period through the Woodland Period that altered their lives, and perhaps brought on their disappearance. During this time interactions between the mound builders and tribes moving west to get away from the white people coming from Europe encouraged trade. Two big things that were gained was the use of the bow & arrow and stronger pottery. Having these two tools made a big difference in the way they lived. With easier hunting and better food storage now possible less seasonal migration was necessary and some clans settled into more permanent villages and began farming vegetables such as squash, goosefoot (Lambs Quarters) and sunflowers. Lake Koshkonong had an abundance of wild rice which drew many birds and with deer and other small game this was a wonderful place to settle. The practice of mound building could very well have been something gained during trade between other native clans such as the Hopewell or other people from across North America.

Their homes were dome shaped, covered with bark and thatch. They had a small opening giving access into and out of the structure and also had openings at the top for ventilation that could be closed when not in use.

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This picture was taken at the Hoard Museum in Fort Atkinson

What about the mounds, what were they for

Near the end of the Archaic period something changed in the way the Ancient Americans lived. They began to construct and bury their dead in mounds that can be found across central and southern Wisconsin. The building of mounds was a very labor intensive task. All work was done manually one basket of dirt at a time. Conical mounds were the first type built. They varied in size from a relatively small, holding one or two deceased members of a clan to mounds that were in use over long periods of time and may have held generations of deceased clan members.

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At one point in time the area around Lake Koshkonong had about 13 groups with a total of about 500 mounds around it. Unfortunately with the coming of Europeans many went under the plow or were taken apart by weekend treasure hunters. Chances are that not much was found in the treasure hunts, as the mound builders did not often bury their clan members with personal items. The mounds that are left around the lake, if they still exist, are on private land and should not be approached without permission.

Near the end of the Woodland period that something changed again within the culture of the ancients and the mound builders began constructing effigy mounds. Several animal shapes have been found such as birds, turtles, bears, panthers and even human figures. These mounds were built in harmony with their surroundings. Some mounds seem to be placed where they conform to the land the best. They also appear to depict the spiritual beliefs system of the Ancient Americans. Near the higher elevations of an area bird mounds were constructed representing the upper world. The middle elevations are where bear, panther, deer and human shapes are found representing the middle world at the lower elevations, usually near water turtles and other types of water creatures can be found.

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Even though there is a great deal of time between the construction of conical and effigy mounds, they can usually be found near each other. Which makes one think that these locations had significant importance and were visited frequently for ceremonial purposes.

When the mounds began to be identified there were several ideas floating around about who might have constructed them. Stories of a lost race were spread. Some even speculated that it was the Ancient Romans, Greeks or even the Aztecs. Nobody wanted to believe that it was Native Americans. Their culture was so different from anything that the Europeans knew that they couldn’t believe any Native American was capable of constructing the mounds.

It was Increase Lapham that made the connection between the mounds and the Ancient Americans. Lapham was born in Palmyra N.Y. in 1811. He went to work at the age of 13 and worked his way from a laborer to become an engineer. At the age of 25 in 1836 Lapham moved to Wisconsin and in time became Wisconsin’s first scientist. He wrote about 80 books and pamphlets on subjects covering the flora and fauna of Wisconsin. His book “The Antiquities of Wisconsin” was a study of Wisconsin’s Indian Mounds.

Any idea of what the mounds purposes could have been beyond being a burial sight is  speculation. It is thought that because mounds were built in groups that seemed to have specific placements, it’s possible that they served as ceremonial places or seasonal meeting areas for clans to meet and practice their spiritual beliefs. Some evidence has been found to indicate this is the case.

In my research I found a terrific website by Andrew Khitsun which documents the mound sites here in Wisconsin. You can find that link here.

In the Rock County area there are a couple of different mounds sites. Between Milton and Fort Atkinson is the Jefferson County Indian Mounds and Train Park. Within the small park eleven mounds can be seen, both conical and effigy. There were originally as many as 72 in this group that was spread out over a mile. Whitewater has a site at 288 S. Indian Mound Parkway  that is a little unusual because there is no water source of water nearby. There may have been when this group was constructed and the lake or creek dried up.

Fort Atkinson has a very rare mound, as a matter of fact it is thought to be the only remaining one like in the country. It is a Panther Intaglio. A Intaglio is a reverse effigy. Instead of building a mound up, it is dug out, like a pit. It can be found along the Rock River.

What happened to the mound builders?

This is one of those nobody really knows for sure questions. The transition from the Late Woodland to the Mississippian period brought more trade and more change. The coming of Pyramid Mound builders up from the south introduced corn and beans to the local peoples as well as a way of life that was totally different from what they knew.

The pyramid mound builders are thought to be outposts of the Cahokia people from western Illinois near St. Louis. This culture, like the mound builders of this area, had no written language so it is not known what they called themselves. At it’s peak the community was as large as six square miles and was home to as many as 20,000 people with more living outside the city. They were a melting pot of races living peacefully from various areas of the south. The Cahokia people had a well established system of government and their community was enclosed as was the community that settled on Crawfish River at what is now Aztalan near Lake Mills.

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Aztalan was only inhabited for a period of about 300 years. The city was then abandoned for reasons unknown. It could be that they were driven off by mound builders native to the area, but the question remains. What happened to our mound builders? They also mysteriously disappeared.

There are a few different scenarios to consider. The first is that the two cultures merged over time and became one group. Around 1200 ad there was a cooling off period in the weather. This would have made it difficult to raise crops so perhaps they moved out of the area. A final possibility is that the mound builders were driven off by more aggressive native Americans moving west.

Perhaps the Ancient Americans were the ancestors of the Native peoples of Wisconsin, like the Chippewa, Winnebago and the Sauk. Whatever happened to them, the ancient Americans left us a legacy of their culture in the landscape we call Rock County.

 

Back to the Beginning

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I stopped by to tell you guys that I appreciate you all so much and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. As you know I haven’t posted in some time. I do intend to get back to something similar to a regular schedule soon, but it will most likely be a monthly post not a weekly one. My Rock County Park posts are on hold till Spring. I have another cool and interesting Rock County History thing lined up to begin in the spring as well and  there is a post in the works that I am hoping to have completed soon.

When I began this blog it was with the intent to speak to the history of the County and how it’s towns and villages began and grew from what some would consider a wilderness to what we are now. I hit a bit of a research snag and that portion of my project was put on the back burner for a bit. I do have every intent to get back to that aspect of my project, but the snag was actually a good thing.

What I first thought was a roadblock was actually a detour that led me back to the beginning. I recognized that although white people didn’t begin coming into this area until the late 1700’s, there were people already here before the trappers began to arrive! And, this is where Rock County’s story must begin.  I have been researching these Native Americans and they are an interesting group of people with a story that should be told and I hope to have this post ready for you soon.

Have a Wonderful Holiday ❤ Sharon