Tag Archives: Blog

Black Hawk Grove

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This historical marker highlights the second stop on Black Hawks journey through Wisconsin during the event that has come to be known as the Black Hawk War. 

In April of 1832 Black Hawk, angry about having his tribes home stolen from them, moved up the Rock River into Wisconsin with a small group of warriors, women, children and elders. They entered our state through Rock County. Their first stop was near Beloit at Turtle Village, an established Ho – Chunk community where the Turtle Creek meets the Rock River. Black Hawk and his people were offered some amount of help but the Ho-Chunk were not in any hurry to have the Government come down on them. They had enough problems of their own and didn’t need this on top of it. Accepting whatever supplies may have been offered, Black Hawk and his people spent the night then continued north and made camp along the bank of Spring Brook Creek in what is now Black Hawk Golf Course.  

With a water source right there and the bluff for protection from behind, this must have made a nice spot to stay and rest. It is thought that the band stayed for a couple of weeks, resting and hunting for food and needed supplies but these were in short supply. With Atkinson on their trail they moved north to Lake Koshkonong where they spent a good amount of time. As the white population grew in this area after the war there were stories that Tipi poles and camp fire pits could still be seen in the grove. 

 

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Storrs Lake

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This Historical Marker, and the lake it talks about is one that I wrote about last year in a post about County Parks. The marker is mounted on the side of the barn at the Milton House. Storrs Lake is a mile east beyond the Milton House, and is a lovely natural space with nice hiking trails and fishing. This lake is a part of the Historical Marker system because General Atkinson spent the night by the lake while in pursuit of Blackhawk during the Blackhawk War/Massacre.

The post about Storrs Lake and Blackhawk can be read by following the links the links.

 

Burr Robbins Circus

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This historical marker tells the story of Burr Robbins, his circus and how it came to Rock County. You can find this marker alongside the parking lot at Dawson Field, 920 Beloit Ave, in Janesville.

Burr Robbins was born in the beautifully scenic town in upstate New York called Union in August of 1837. Robbins parents had hoped that he would be a minister when he grew up but he had a great head for business and a strong determination to make something of himself, and a desire for excitement. So, at the age of 18 he left home and found his way to Milwaukee in 1855. For the first couple of years he found work where he could then in 1858 the thrill of circus life found him. Burr Robbins became the property boy for bareback rider Charles Fish of the Spaulding & Rogers North American Circus out of St. Louis. For this he was paid $15.00 a month. The seed had been planted and the rest of his working life would be spent entertaining people.

His career spanned 29 years in the traveling show business and it all began in 1859 when he and a few other gentlemen formed a group called the Harmonium Bairds. This partnership only lasted a few months. After the separation of this group Robbins purchased McBullwell’s Panorama of the Revolutionary War.

The coming of the Civil War put the brakes on his plans for a while. General George B. McClellan saw what a good head for business he had and assigned him to be his wagon boss. He did well and at the end of his service he was the Superintendent of Transportation.

After the war he found work where he could until 1870. In that year the traveling show bug took hold again and he purchased the Magic Lantern show. In time he expanded by buying the Jim McIver side show and toured the Michigan fairs. The next couple of years were spent traveling and buying other shows.

1874 is the year Burr Robbins found Janesville Wisconsin. He liked it so well he decided to make it the winter quarters for the circus. Prior to this the winter quarters were in Paw Paw Michigan. He purchased the 100 acre farm from E. P. Doty, named it Spring Brook and set about building the winter quarters for his menagerie. Spring Brook was a self-contained circus village. In addition to living quarters there were buildings for repairing anything and everything.

Other buildings included a two story barn that housed 80 show horses and all their equipment. The second story was the canvas shop. Another barn held Cleopatra the elephant and the other animals. A third barn housed 50 horses. There was also a building called the Hippodrome that was used for training the acts.

As a young man Burr Robbins had been heard to say that he only wanted three things from life. He wanted a farm with a windmill, a steam boat and $50,000. When he retired from the circus in 1888 he had attained these things and more.

Burr Robbins had a reputation for being an honorable, civic minded man. His circus was one of the top three in the country.

After retirement Robbins moved to Chicago to find new opportunities and excitement. After a lifetime of hard work, travel and excitement he died at the age of 70 in 1908 with net worth of approximately 2 million dollars.

Burr Robbins was certainly a man with a vision and the dedication to make it happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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. 

 

 

 

 

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!