(pages 787 - 801)
The town of Decatur lies in the eastern tier of Green county’s sub-divisions, embracing congressional township 2 north, range 9 east. It is bounded on the north by the town of Albany; on the west by Sylvester; on the south by Spring Grove; and on the east by Rock county. The surface of this town is quite variable. What is known as Jordan prairie – which comprises sections 6, 7, 8, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 27 and 28 – is a rich productive portion of the town and was the first settled. Here located John Moore, Thomas Chambers, John J. Dawson, Samuel Rowe, Robert Mattox, E. T. Fleek, William Jones, Benjamin H. Fleek, Samuel Northcraft, Donald Johnson, David Bigelow, Thomas Stewart, J. I. Bowen, Perry and Washington Mitchell and others. The soil of this prairie consists of a rich loam mixed with sand, and is superior corn land. It also produces excellent crops of small grain and grass, and on the whole, is not excelled perhaps in the State for its general excellence. Of late years much attention has been paid to the raising of stock by the farmers here. South of Jordan prairie the land is lower, or more inclined to be marshy, the soil being composed of more or less clay, and in places a black loam. This portion of the town, however, contains a number of valuable farms, among which are those belonging to French Lake, John Douglass and Rufus Colton.
Along Sugar river, which runs entirely across the town from north to south, the surface is generally low, and composed alternately of sand, clay and marsh. In fact the entire surface of that portion of the town which lies east of Sugar river may be thus described. Among the successful farmers and stock raisers on the east side of the river are: W. E. Gardner, A. Murray, N. L. Lewis, R. J. Day and C. D. Wooster.
A ridge considerably elevated, enters this town on section 6, from the town of Albany, passing southeasterly and terminating on section 22. Several bluffs of considerable height – which are really a part of this ridge – are found on Sugar river. The highest of these bluffs is on section 15, where it rises to a height of 200 feet above the river. The view from the top of this bluff is fine, the surrounding country and river being brought into view for miles in every direction. The principal stream in the town is Sugar river, which enters from the town of Albany, by way of section 3. It pursues an irregular southerly course, and leaves the town from the southwest corner of section 35. This is the most important stream in Green county, and at Brodhead affords an excellent water power. There are several branches of this stream which makes confluence in this town. Little Jordan creek enters the town on section 18, flows east and northeast and enters Sugar river on section 15. Sugar creek, which is quite an important stream, affording several mill privileges, enters this town on section 19, flows southeasterly, and leaves the town from section 34. It enters the Sugar river in the town of Spring Grove. Riley’s creek, a branch of Sugar creek, rises in the town of Jefferson, enters this town on section 31, and makes confluence with Sugar creek on section 28. Broughton’s creek rises in the town of Albany, enters this town on section 1, flows southwest about three miles, and on section 14 flows into S. C. Pierce’s mill race.
The ridge which has heretofore been described, was formerly heavily timbered with different varieties of oak, poplar, and some black walnut and hickory. The greater part of this timber has been removed :”long years ago.” In the southwestern portion of the town, particularly on section 31, in early days, was found a heavy body of white oak; and throughout nearly all of the territory east of the river were found oak openings. Almost all of the original timber has been removed, giving place to a second growth. In fact, at present, a greater area is covered with timber than when the town was first settled.
The first settler within the limits now comprising the town of Decatur was John Moore, who came here in the early autumn of 1839. He entered 160 acres on section 20, and eighty acres of fine timber land on section 31, and did some breaking the same fall preparatory to a crop the following year. This was the first breaking, and his crop of 1840 the first in the town. He erected a log house on section 20, in the fall of 1839, which was the first building in the town. This house is still occupied as a dwelling. John Moore was formerly from the Sciota valley, Ohio, but came here with his family from Stephenson Co., Ill., where for several years he had been living on a claim. His family, when he came here, consisted of a wife and seven children, four sons and three daughters. He sold out about 1859 and removed to Missouri, where he died at an advanced age several years ago. The family all removed to Missouri at about the same time.
John J. Dawson and Samuel Rowe came in the spring of 1840 and entered land, settling thereon in the fall. They both located on section 20, where Mr. Dawson still lives. Mr. Rowe has been dead a number of years. His son, Amos C., owns and occupies the old homestead.
John J. Dawson is the oldest resident of the town now living here. He was born in Hampshire Co., W. Va., Sept. 25, 1814, and when twenty-one years old went to Licking Co., Ohio. In August of the following year he went to Galena, Ill. He had worked at the trade of millwright in Virginia, which knowledge proved an available resource, and was the means of securing him employment at times when a little money was with him a necessity. After remaining in Galena a few days, and earning a few dollars to enable him to continue his journey, he went to what was called “Buffalo Grove,” Ogle Co., Ill., where he engaged to work at his trade, and during his stay in that vicinity assisted in building a number of saw mills. In January, 1837, he went to Stephenson Co., Ill., where he bought a claim and built a log cabin. In the spring next following he returned to Ogle county, but soon afterward went to what is now Sabula, Jackson Co., Iowa, where he built a saw mill. He worked also at the same business in Carroll Co., Ill. During the fall of 1838 he returned to his claim in Stephenson county, where he remained the following winter. He was accompanied by Samuel Rowe, who came to this county with Mr. Dawson, and became his partner. Mr. Rowe worked and improved the claim, and Mr. Dawson continued his business of millwrighting. In the spring of 1840 he returned to Jackson county with the intention of buying land, but came back to Stephenson county without having made a purchase. Green Co., Wis., having been highly recommended as a desirable place to settle, Mr. Dawson and his partner, Mr. Rowe, came here in the spring of 1840 and entered 240 acres of land, 160 of which was a part of his present homestead farm, where he has since lived. Here he commenced life’s work in earnest, and has been successful. He now has a farm of 360 acres, and for many years has been known as one of the prominent farmers and stock raisers in the town of Decatur. Mr. Dawson has been twice married, first in November, 1840 to Mary Ann Parriott, a native of West Virginia. She died in 1862. By this union there were eight children, six of whom are now living, three sons and three daughters. His present wife, to whom he was married Oct. 22, 1871, was Harriett Baird, daughter of William Baird, and a native of the town of Clarno, this county. They have had six children, four of whom, two sons and two daughters, are living – George Elmer, May Elisabeth, Sarah Fannie and Jessie W. The children by first wife are – John P., deceased; Ann Genett, Adrianna, deceased; Bevans Adie, Samuel N., Elmira Ann, Wolford P. and J. F. Mr. Dawson was originally a Whig, then a republican, now he is a republican and prohibitionist. He is a member of the M. E. Church.
Thomas Chambers came early in 1840 with his family, and settled on section 19. He was a son-in-law of John Moore, the first settler in the town. After a few years residence in the town Chambers removed to Galesburg, Ill., from thence to Kansas, and finally went to Colorado, where he died.
Edmund T. Fleek and Robert Mattox came in the fall of 1841. Mr. Fleek entered eighty acres of prairie and forty acres of timber land on section 17, where he still lives. Mr. Mattox entered eighty acres on section 17, adjoining Mr. Fleek’s on the north; and bought eighty acres of timber land on section 4. He remained here until 1848 when he removed to Baraboo and afterward went to Missouri.
Edmund T. Fleek, one of the most prominent men in the town of Decatur, was born in Hampshire Co., Va., Jan. 20, 1817. His parents were Adam and Mary Ann (Putnam) Fleek, who removed from Virginia to Licking Co., Ohio, in 1836. The following spring the family settled on a farm adjoining the city of Newark. His father was a miller and distiller, at which business Edmund engaged when a boy. Mr. Fleek is a half brother of John Dawson. The first winter of his arrival in this county he cut and split 10,000 rails and stakes on shares, receiving one-half for his work. This was his start in this country. Many a young man might profit by this example. He at once began improving his farm, and has kept adding from time to time to his first purchase, until he now owns 1,000 acres in a body, being one of the largest grain and stock farms in the county. During the past four years he has expended for land, over $17,000. Thus it may be seen that Mr. Fleek is a man of energy and good business capacity. His parents, Adam and Mary Ann Fleek, came to this town in 1846, accompanied by seven children. Of the family already here at that time, beside Edmund and Benjamin Fleek, were John Dawson and Mrs. Northcraft, who were children of Mrs. Fleek by a former marriage. Adam Fleek settled on section 17, where he lived until his death, which occurred in 1854, at the age of seventy-nine years. The mother survived him until October, 1883, when she died, in her eighty-eighth year. Adam Fleek was twice married. By the first marriage there were seven children, and by the second nine, who lived to an adult age. Edmund T. Fleek, the subject of this sketch, was married to Sarah Ann Bowen, daughter of John and Isabell Bowen, who was born in Fayette Co., Penn., Feb. 20, 1828, and removed to Johnson Co., Iowa, during the spring of 1844. Her father died the following August. Her mother died at Waukon, Iowa, where she was visiting her children, Dec. 25, 1875. Mr. And Mrs. Edmund Fleek have ten children, four sons and six daughters – Rinaldo, Emma V., Fannie F., Arthur E., Florence L., John L., Annie L., Alta J., Nellie M. and Howard H. Mr Fleek originally was a whig, and still adheres to those principles, but votes with the republican party, as they most nearly represent those principles. Religiously, he was at one time a Universalist, but for many years has been a Materialist. He is now well advanced in years. Adam Fleek, the father, first married Ebiotut Umstott. By this marriage there were seven children, all of whom reached an adult age, but are now all deceased.
In 1842 William Jones came and settled on section 22, where he improved a farm. He threw a dam across Sugar river, on section 15, and in 1847-8 erected a saw mill, the first in the town. He was also the original owner of the plat of Decatur village. About 1860 he removed to Kansas and is now deceased. Mr. Jones was a native of the State of New York, but came here from Racine Co., Wis.
Among those who came during the years 1843 and 1844, were Donald Johnson, David Bigelow, Thomas Stewart and Perry Mitchell.
Mr. Johnson settled first on section 28, where he lived for a few years, then went to the village of Decatur. He finally removed to Washington Territory, where he died.
Mr. Bigelow settled on section 23, where he died in 1846. His was the first death in the town.
Mr. Stewart settled on section 5, where he lived until the time of his death, which occurred in 1875.
Perry Mitchell located on section 28, where he lived until the time of his death. He was a native of Fayette Co., Penn., and a man who was held in the highest esteem by all who knew him.
Daniel Dye came from Cattaraugus Co., N.Y., at about the same time. He made several claims which he held and sold for speculation. He finally removed to the far west.
J. I. Bowen and A. B. Axtell came in 1844. The former is still a resident. The latter went to California in about 1850.
Jared I. Bowen resides on section 17, town of Decatur, where he settled in December, 1882, which place is the original homestead of Adam Fleek. Mr. Bowen was born in Fayette Co., Penn., near the Monongehala river in the Forks of Cheat, in 1823. He learned the trade of cabinet maker and carpenter. In the spring of 1844 his father, John Bowen, removed with his family to Johnson Co., Iowa, where he died the same season. His mother with family came immediately afterward to the town of Decatur, this county, where her brother, Thomas Stewart, then lived. Jared I. Did not accompany the family to Iowa, but learning of the death of his father and of the removal of the family to Green County, came here at once, reaching Monroe on the last day of December, 1844, and immediately afterward settled in the town of Decatur, where he has since lived. He resided for many years on section 5. He was married to Lacey Ann Fleek. They have three children – Dr. D. H., now practicing physician at Waukon, Iowa; Wilder Lee and Edmund Fleek. The two younger sons live on the homestead farm, on section 5, which Mr. Bowen still owns.
In 1845 Benjamin H. Fleek and Samuel Northcraft came. Mr. Fleek settled on section 17, where he died Jan. 2, 1883. At the time of his death, he was the wealthiest farmer in the town of Decatur. When he came here, with his wife and two children, he was a poor man, having no money or property. Industry, economy and good management made him a rich man.
Benjamin H. Fleek was born in Hampshire Co., Va., Oct. 27, 1818, where he was reared. At the age of eighteen years he removed to Ohio with his father. When he came to Green county his family consisted of a wife and two children. All the goods, chattels and money he possessed at that time did not amount to $200. He took a claim of forty acres, which he sold to his father in 1846. With the money he received for this land he began a successful career. At the time of his death he owned about 1,000 acres of land, besides having previously distributed several hundred acres among his children. He also possessed many thousand dollars’ worth of personal property. His success was attained by his skill in raising large crops of grain, and the safe and profitable investment of his money. He was an honorable and upright citizen, liberal in providing for his family, and for all charitable purposes, and in the support of the gospel, being a consistent member of the M. E. Church. He was married in Ohio, on the 2d of September, 1819, to Susan, daughter of Henry Fleek. She was born in Hampshire Co., Va. The result of this union was nine children, six of whom are living – Adam G. B., John J. D., Allen, Clementine C., Hattie and Tamson. Three children – Henry M., Demarius and Samuel J. are deceased. The children are all married except the youngest and live within two miles of the old homestead. Adam lives on section 27; John J. D. lives on section 19; Allie, wife of Jacob Roderick, lives on section 20; Clementine C., wife of Sylvanus D. Fisher, lives on section 16; Hattie, wife of John C. Murdock, living int he town of Sylvester, and Tamson, living at home. John J. D. Fleek was born in the town of Decatur, Aug. 29, 1845. He married Martha Erickson, born in Wisconsin. He lives on the homestead farm.
Samuel Northcraft resides on section 28, where he settled in 1847. He came to this town Nov. 7, 1845, and for two years worked the farm of John Dawson. He was born in Washington Co., Md., Feb. 15, 1812, where he lived until seventeen years old, when he went to Hampshire Co., Va., where he was married in 1832 to Elmira Ann Dawson, a sister of John Dawson of this town. He then went to Allegany Co., Md., worked in a mill three years, then returned to Hampshire Co., Va., and engaged in farming, where he lived until he came to Green county. With his wife and five children he came all the way by wagon, being twenty-seven and one-half days on the route. The parents of Mr. Northcraft have but two children – Michael, the brother of Samuel, lives in Minnesota. Mrs. Northcraft was born in Hampshire Co., Va., April 17, 1819. They have had ten children, seven of whom are now living – Mary E., Lucie Ann, Thomas J., Lewelan M., Franklin P., Martha C. and Josephine. One son, Isaac, died in Grundy Co., Mo., Sept. 4, 1872, in his thirty-eighth year. Emily Jane died Sept. 15, 1846, in her ninth year, and John M. died Sept. 5, 1846 at the age of five years.
Many came in 1845, some of whom will be mentioned in this connection.
William Frazee came during this year and settled on section 18. In 1881, he removed his family to Iowa, but still owns the farm, and intends to return.
Fitch Armstrong came at about the same time and settled on section 21. He died in the fall of 1856.
A. Armstrong, a resident on section 21, is a son of Fitch Armstrong, who was married in Portage, N. Y., to Amelia Scoville, a native of Connecticut. After his marriage he removed to Genesee county, where his wife died, leaving him with four children to mourn her loss. In the fall of 1845 he started with his family in a lumber wagon for Wisconsin. It took him about eight weeks to reach Green county. That fall he purchased a claim of 160 acres on section 21, for which he paid $40. He died on the old homestead in August, 1856. His children consist of two sons and two daughters – Arminda, wife of B. F. Coon, residing in Iowa; Arteus, Lura, widow of Sylvanus Graham of this town; and Lycurgus, residing in Waverly, Iowa. Arteus was born in the town of Portage, Livingston Co., N. Y., Sept. 5, 1831. He came to this county in 1845. In 1852 he went to California, overland, with an ox team, being six months on the road. He was absent two years, and returned by the Isthmus route. He has been married twice. His first wife Elizabeth, daughter of Anson Sheffield. His present wife was Mrs. Pluma (Howard) Bryce, daughter of Philander Howard, of the town of Avon, Rock Co., Wis. Mr. Armstrong had five children by his first wife – Mary, wife of Charles Thompson, residing in Waverly, Iowa; Charles F., mayor of Clyde City, Kansas; Frank, resident of Waverly, Iowa; Orr, a station agent and telegraph operator; and Nettie. Mr. Armstrong has one child by his present wife – Madge, born Aug. 10, 1876. Mr. Armstrong purchased his present farm of Donald Johnson, and settled thereon in 1856.
W. B. Mack, of Brodhead, is a son of I. F. Mack, the original proprietor of the village of Decatur, also one of the original proprietors of the village of Brodhead, and for many years a prominent citizen of Green county, but since 1869, a resident of Chicago. I. F. Mack is a native of Springfield, Mass., where he was born in September, 1806. His father was a clergyman. I. F. was educated at Munson Academy, one of the oldest and best institutions of learning in Massachusetts. He went to Rochester, N. Y., when twenty years of age and engaged in teaching school about eighteen months, when he went to Cincinnati and taught the first public school in that city for one year, during which time he was instrumental in initiating the public school system there. He returned to Rochester and engaged in teaching again. He took a course of law, reading during the time. He afterwards engaged in mercantile operations, built two stores and three flouring mills and operated one for twelve years. This was at the time when Rochester possessed the largest milling interests of any city in the United States, if not in the world. He was for many years prominently connected with the educational interests of that city, and was the first superintendent of the city schools, under the free school system, of the State of New York. He came to Green county in 1848. He laid out the village of Decatur and was the principal business man of that village, being engaged in merchandising, milling and farming, also practicing law, having been admitted to the bar after coming to Decatur. He dealt largely in real estate, and was owner of a large amount of land on Sugar river. He was attorney and land commissioner of the Northern Iowa Railroad Company, and invested extensively in lands along the line of that road. He was also in the employment of the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad company, settling claims, etc. In 1856 the village of Brodhead was laid out on land owned largely by himself, and he being one of the principal proprietors transferred his business headquarters to that place, also taking up his residence there in 1864. He was the first superintendent of schools under the present charter. He drew up the first charter for the village, and upon its incorporation was made president of the board of trustees. In 1870 he removed to Englewood, a beautiful suburb of Chicago. There he also aided in building up the schools, which now rank among the best in Illinois. He was one of the officers of the school board there. Seven buildings were erected under his supervision, and he erected seven residences, and dealt largely in real estate. He moved into Chicago proper in 1878, where he now lives. Although he has reached an advanced age, he is still actively engaged in business. He retains his powers of mind and body to a remarkable degree. He has been twice married. His first wife was Clarissa Beebe, a native of Vermont. She died in Rochester in January, 1848. He was married in August, 1848, at Oberlin, Ohio, by Rev. Dr. Finney, to Frances S. Day. He had by his first marriage seven sons, two of whom died quite young. The others came here with their father and four of them are still living – W. B., the subject of this sketch, is the eldest; I. F., Jr., is editor of the Sandusky, (Ohio) Daily Register, and is president of the Editorial Association of Ohio; William C. is postal clerk between Chicago and Centralia, and is also engaged in business in Chicago; John T. is associate editor and part proprietor of the Sandusky Register. E. B. Mack, deceased, was a journalist, and at the time of his death, which occurred in December, 1881, was the eastern manager for the Chicago Times, the St. Louis Republican, the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Cincinnati Gazette. He was an able journalist and a successful business man. There are also four surviving children by the second marriage, one son and three daughters. W. B. Mack was born in Rochester, N. Y., April 22, 1832. He received his education at the public schools in Rochester, N. Y., and at Oberlin, Ohio. He came to Green county in February, 1849. In March, 1852, he went to California where he engaged in mining and mechanical work, and for two years was book keeper for the Yuba River Water Ditch Company. In 1858, he returned to Green county and engaged in farming and mechanical occupations. He was for three and one-half years with the F. B. Gardner Company, of Chicago, at their milling and ship building establishment on Green Bay as head joiner; having charge of finishing their vessels. For nearly two years he was book keeper for the lumber firm of A. M. Spear & Co., on the east shore of Green bay. He has held the office of treasurer for two years, also held the office of justice eight years for the town of Decatur, and is at present village justice in Brodhead. He was married in June, 1858 to Ophelia Wicks, of New York city. They have four children living – Martha Wicks, Edward A., Ophelia and Cornelia M. They lost one child in May, 1879, Freddie, aged ten and a half years.
Jerome Bonaparte Fleek is one of the seven children of Adam Fleek, who came with his parents to this county in 1846. He was born in Hampshire Co., Va., Aug. 23, 1830. After coming to this county he remained with his parents until his twenty-eighth year. He was then married to Margaret Hightshoe, daughter of David Hightshoe, of the town of Sylvester, and settled on section 21, where he resided till 1868. In that year he sold his farm to Philip Kilwine, and removed to his present residence. He now owns 490 acres of land. Mr. And Mrs. Fleek have three children – Kate, Virgil and Wade Hampton. Mr. Fleek was the youngest of nine sons. Like other members of the numerous Fleek family in the town of Decatur, he has acquired a competence.
Warren E. Gardner resides on section 2, where his father, Dewey Gardner, settled in 1846. Dewey Gardner was born in Bennington, Vt., Sept. 10, 1807, where he was reared. He was married to Samantha Wadsworth, also born in the town of Bennington, Dec. 9, 1806. In 1845 he brought his family, consisting of a wife and three children, to Wisconsin, locating in Waukeaha county. He only lived there one year, however, when he came to Green county. He improved his farm, and afterwards increased it ot 508 acres. His widow still lives on the homestead with her son. They had three children – Gurdon, Warren E. and Martha. The latter is now the wife of Andrew Hall, who resided in Minnesota. Warren owns the homestead. He was born in Bennington, Vt., in 1839. He owns 548 acres of land, and is extensively engaged in stock raising.
Between 1845 and 1850 the town settled rapidly. Among the arrivals during this period were: John L. McNair, I. F. Mack, Samuel Mott, Anson Sheffield, J. B. Fleek, Dewey Gardner and a Mr. Pettibone.
Samuel Mott had a large family and made several claims. He joined the Utah Mormons in 1854.
Anson Sheffield came in 1846 and entered forty acres. In 1853 he sold to J. W. Stewart, joined the Mormons and went to Utah.
Mr. Pettibone came from Milwaukee in 1846 and located on the Sugar river, on section 10. With him came his two children, Harmon and Loretta. Mr. Pettibone died of cholera in 1849. The farm upon which he settled was divided between the children. The girl returned to Milwaukee, where she married and died. Harmon was rather an awkward boy, and fond of reading. He went to Ohio and attended school, his teacher being James A. Garfield, who was his cousin, and finally graduated at the Michigan State University in 1859. He studied law with Hon. J. E. Arnold, at Milwaukee, Wis., and entered into practice at La Crosse. When the war broke out he enlisted, and became major of the 20th Wisconsin regiment. In 1865 he resumed the practice of his profession at Greenville, Tenn., under the name of A. H. Pettibone. He has grown to be a prominent man, and is now serving his second term in Congress.
The first birth in the town was that of Caroline Chambers, daughter of Thomas and Rebecca Chambers, born in 1840. She is now the wife of Dr. Stair, of Black Earth, Wis.
The first school in the town was taught by Jabez Johnson, in a log school house, on section 20, on Mr. Moore’s land. This was in the winter of 1844-5.
The first sermon preached in the town was delivered at the house of Thomas Chambers, in 1842, by Rev. Ash, a Methodist divine.
The first marriage in the town was that of Delilah J. Moore, daughter of John Moore, to William Riley, of the town of Jefferson. This was in 1842. Riley died in the town of Sylvester. His widow married again and removed to Kansas, where she died.
The first mill in the town of Decatur was erected in 1845-6, by William Jones, on section 15, on Sugar river.
During the early autumn of 1846, the first deaths in the town occurred. The season was a very sickly one. The first adults to be called away by death were: David Bigelow, and a young man named William Nipple, a brother of Fred Nipple. The first children to die were: John M. and Emily J. Northcraft. The former died Sept. 5, 1846, aged five years; the latter Sept. 15, 1846, aged nine years. These were children of Samuel and Elmira Northcraft.
The first blacksmith in the town was J. D. Cooper, who opened a shop in the village of Decatur in 1842.
The first dwelling was a log house erected by John Moore, on section 20, in the fall of 1839. It was on the farm now owned by Jacob L. Roderick. The cabin was removed from the spot where it first stood by Mr. Roderick, and is now used as a tenant house on his farm.
The first bridge in the town of Decatur, as well as the first in Green county, was built across Sugar river on section 14, in 1842. It was 100 feet in length. All the neighbors for miles around gathered to raise the bridge, but as there was no one to engineer the work the gathering did not succeed in the undertaking, and the structure was afterward raised with machinery by a man from Beloit. Joseph Woodle, of Sylvester, built the bridge. It was in use until 1856, when, the road having been vacated, it was taken down.
There are seven full school districts in the town of Decatur, and educational facilities here are fully equal, if not superior, to those of any town in Green county. The districts are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 9. The following items, showing the condition of the various districts, were taken from the reports of the district clerks for the year ending June 30, 1883:
District No. 1. W. E. Gardner is clerk of this district. Number of pupils of school age, twenty-three; have a frame building, first cost of which was $400, present valuation, $200.
District No. 2. William H. Murray, clerk. Total number of pupils of school age, twenty-eight. The school house in this district is a brick building.
District No. 3. W. L. Bowen, clerk; number of pupils of school age, nineteen; frame building in good condition, cost $800; present value, $500.
District No. 4. J. N. Davis, clerk; total number of pupils of school age, thirty-seven. This district has a brick house which cost $1,200; at present it is in good condition and is valued at $800.
District No. 6. E. D. Hall, clerk; number of pupils of school age, forty-three. This district has a stone school house, which cost about $1,000. Its present valuation is $500.
District No. 8. A. A. TenEyck, clerk; number of pupils, thirty. The district has a frame structure, the present valuation of which is $75.
District No. 9. J. L. Roderick is clerk. Number of pupils thirty-three. The district has a frame building which cost $800.
There are two joint districts which embrace territory in this town. District No. 9, joint with Sylvester, has a building in the latter town. Nine of the pupils belong to this town. District No. 1, joint with Albany, embraces some territory in Decatur.
There are but two churches in the town of Decatur, outside of Brodhead: the M. E. Church on section 19, and the Baptist on section 6.
The first services of a religious character in the town, were held at the residence of Thomas Chambers, on section 19, in 1842. They were conducted by the Rev. Mr. Ash, a Methodist Episcopal missionary. Services were also held at the house of John J. Dawson at about the same time. Late in 1842 a class was formed. Among the members were: John and Mary A. Dawson, Thomas and Rebecca Chambers and Mrs. John Moore. Services were held at private houses until about 1844, when the log school house was erected on section 20. In 1848 a frame church 24x30 feet in size was built. The class increased gradually after its formation, and revivals were frequently held. John J. Dawson is the only one left of the original members. Nearly all of them are deceased. Regular services continued to be held until 1883, since which time most of the members have attended at Juda.
The town of Decatur was organized in 1849. The first election was held at the school house, near William Jones’ residence, on the 3d of April, 1849. At that time the following town officers were elected: Supervisors, George Gardner, chairman, Fitch Armstrong and Horace Countryman; clerk, Martin Mitchell; treasurer, Roswell D. Bigelow: assessor, Perry Mitchell; superintendent of schools, Erastus Hurlburt; justices of the peace, Thomas Stewart, Martin Mitchell, William Wilford and John B. Sawyer; constables, Samuel Rowe, Walter W. Wheaton and Stephen B. Saunders; overseers of roads, Nelson F. Roberts and Charles A. Warner. At this meeting $120 was appropriated for school purposes, and $240 for contingent expenses. The judges of this election were: William Jones, Thomas Stewart and E. T. Fleek; D. Johnson was clerk of the election.
In early days the dead of Decatur were buried on section 20, on the farm of John Moore. This was continued for a number of years, when a cemetery association was organized, to which Mr. Moore donated one acre of ground. This took the name of Moore’s Cemetery. It is located not far from the spot formerly used for this purpose, and most of the bodies have been removed from the old to the new grounds.
The Monticello Baptist Church association have a cemetery in connection with their church on section 6, in this town. It was laid out in 1856. The first burial here was of the remains of Edmund Wheeler, who died Dec. 28, 1858. Bodies from other cemeteries, generally belonging to Baptist families, in adjoining towns, were re-interred here. The cemetery and church lot contain three acres.
Decatur village was laid out in the spring of 1848, by William Jones. He had already built a house and soon afterward erected a hotel. A few years later I. F. Mack bought the greater part of the village. At this time the plat had not been recorded. Mr. Mack platted eighty acres and had it put upon record as Floraville, as a compliment to his wife’s mother. Mr. Jones insisted that it should be called Decatur, and in 1852 it was so named by an act of the legislature. In 1857, the village had five stores, two hotels, two blacksmith shops, a wagon shop, a shoe shop and about 400 inhabitants.
A postoffice was established in the winter of 1841-2, with John Moore as postmaster. He had the office named Decatur, in honor of Commodore Decatur. From that the election precinct took the name, and later the village and town.
EARLY DAYS IN DECATUR, BY I. F. MACK
The following is a letter received from I. F. Mack, regarding the early history of Decatur:
Chicago, March 18, 1884.
“Your favor of the 10th inst., was received at my office during a weeks confinement at my home from a very severe attack of winter cholera. I am now in poor condition to either write or think. You can learn from my son, residing in Brodhead, many facts of Decatur’s early history, and also from the Messrs. Fleek, of that town, who were among the earliest settlers. I reached Decatur in September, 1848, and found, settled in the township, four Fleek brothers, two brothers-in-law of theirs and John J. Putman, an uncle, all of them energetic, thrifty men.
William Jones had run out his shingle from the door of a log house, and there kindly entertained strangers in that part of the town afterwards platted as the ‘village of Floraville,’ subsequently changed to ‘Decatur.’ Poetic names did not take well on the frontier at that day.
In the spring of 1849 the village was platted and soon it numbered 100 souls. Martin Mitchell was the first man to dispense candy, pins and needles to the children and ladies, and Dr. R. Morris was the first disciple of Esculapius that dared to meet the straggling Indians (squaws) that yearly came to fish and trap in the bayous of the river, the Indian name of which was ‘Sweet Water.’
The doctor and merchant above reached there in 1848, a few days or weeks before the writer, but it was reserved for the latter and his family to purchase William Jones’ squatter rights in the town, complete the platting, and finish the saw mill began by him.
In 1851 M. B. Edson and John Brown were attracted to the place and erected a small mill near the site of the saw mill and operated it a short time until fever-heat, resulting from severe friction, led to their separation and sale of the mill to the family of the writer, by whom it was operated for a time until sold to the Messrs. Hendries, who afterwards merged it with the Brodhead mill property and razed it for that purpose.
In 1851 or 1852 Mr. Mitchell left for the gold mines of California, and J. B. Sawyer figured for a time as merchant in Decatur, but soon gave place to William, Joseph and Isaac Porter, who conducted a very respectable store of general merchandise for several years, and until some time, even, after Brodhead started, and until many of the buildings in Decatur had been taken down and removed to the new town, insisting that Brodhead would not ‘make much of a shower,’ and that Decatur would prove the lode-stone for the country around. They succumbed at last and removed to the town of Porter, Rock Co., Wis., where they are now thrifty farmers.
Monroe furnished a man who was a sheriff, and who was charged with letting a murderer escape from his custody at a hotel, who erected and ran for years previous to 1856 a very good public house at Decatur. (This man was C. H. Thomas.) Others will give you his history. William Jones sold his remaining lands in Decatur soon after Brodhead started, and removed with his family to Iola, Kansas, where he died many years ago.
The writer has witnessed the opening up and settling of more than one new settlement of farmers, and he has never known one compare with the town of Decatur, in regard to the frugality, integrity and unyielding energy of its early settlers, and if their descendents fail to make a judicious use of their inheritance, the guilt of great ingratitude will lay at their door.”
Among the prominent farmers of the town of Decatur are the following named:
Adam Fleek, oldest son of Benjamin H. Fleek, was born in Licking Co., Ohio, in 1842, and came with his father to Green county in 1845. He was married to Margaret Dixon, daughter of Martin Dixon, and they have three children – Fanny, Llewellyn and Adam. Mr. Fleek purchased his farm, which is located on section 27, of his father. It was entered by Christopher Waterkot and Anson Sheffield, and contains 282 acres. He also owns considerable land elsewhere in this town. Mrs. Fleek was born at Juda, in this county, in 1850. Her parents were early settlers in the town of Jefferson. They now reside in Evansville, Rock county.
Franklin J. Burt lives on section 6, town of Decatur, on a farm (on Jordan Prairie) which his father purchased in 1847. He is a son of John Burt, who was born in Washington Co., N. Y., Jan. 13, 1800, and came here with his family in 1847, and remained until his death, which occurred in 1853. His wife, Samantha (Lamb) Burt, was born in Washington Co., N. Y., in 1799. They were married in Onondaga Co., N. Y., in 1825, and she died in 1873. Two sons and one daughter came with them – Frank J., Harriet and Russell. The latter was always an invalid, and died in October, 1865, aged thirty years. Harriet was married to Lyman Dexter in 1847, and died in 1852. Frank J., the subject of this sketch, was born in Chautauqua Co., N. Y., in 1826, and came to Decatur with his father, as before stated, in 1847, from which time he has been a resident. He was married to Emily A. Turman, daughter of Benjamin Turman, who came to Green county from Indiana in the fall of 1847. She was born in Sullivan county, that State, in November, 1826. Benjamin Turman was born near Harper’s Ferry, Va., in 1802, and when but a boy removed with his parents to Urbana, Ohio, and was married at Vincennes, Ind., to Prudence Nash, also a native of Virginia. Until he came here in 1848 he owned the homestead in Indiana, and was always a large land owner. Among other real estate, he owned for a number of years that part of Milwaukee known as “Walker’s Point.” Merchandising in Perrysville, Ind., was a part of his business while there. A year previous to his coming to this county he resided in Texas, and was a man of ability, having served a number of times as a member of the legislature from Indiana. Politically he was a democrat, and took quite an interest in the welfare of that party. He removed to Missouri in 1867. His first wife died in 1841. His second and present wife was Mrs. Mary (Miller) James. They reside in Higginsville, Mo. Mrs. Burt was born in Sullivan Co., Ind., on the old homestead, in 1826, and had good advantages for securing a good education. Her father, being in affluent circumstances, was able to give his family such opportunities. She came to this county with her father in 1847, and taught school for three years, being among the early teachers of the county. She is a lady of more than ordinary culture and ability. Mr. And Mrs. Burt have two sons – John A. and Frank Henri. The former was born Dec. 13, 1854, and the latter Feb. 25, 1864. They lost one son, called Charlie, at the age of fifteen years. Mr. Burt is a thorough going, successful farmer, and is engaged quite extensively in stock raising. He makes the raising of fine horses a specialty. Although he seems to have had his share of reverses, yet by the energy and perseverance of himself and his wife he has secured a competence, and is now in the enjoyment of a home honestly gained.
Frederick Enfield is a resident of section 29, where he settled in 1848, and which he purchased of the government. Mr. Enfield has resided in the county since April 29, 1844. He lived in the town of Spring Grove, about one year, then removed to the town of Jefferson, where he also lived about one year. He finally settled in the town of Spring Grove in 1846, on forty acres of land, which he entered. He came here from that town. Mr. Enfield was born in Somerset Co., Penn., Jan. 13, 1819, where he was reared to manhood on a farm. He is a son of Frederick, and Catharine (Boyer) Enfield, who resided in Pennsylvania until their decease. His father was born in Somerset county, and his mother was born just across the line in the State of Maryland. The subject of this sketch came direct to this county from Pennsylvania. His wife was Matilda Mitchell, daughter of John A. and Rebecca Mitchell. Mrs. Enfield was born June 9, 1825, in Somerset Co., Penn. They had thirteen children, eleven of whom are living. In the fall of 1862, Mr. Enfield enlisted in the 22d regiment, Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, and served until the close of the war. He was captured at the battle of Spring Hill, Tenn., and was sent to Libby prison, where he remained a prisoner one month, when he was exchanged. Although his prison life was short he had passed through trials and hardships that he will ever remember. Being too ill to accompany Sherman on his march to the sea, he rejoined his regiment on the Atlantic coast and took part in the grand review at Washington. He was formerly a strong man, but his army life left him broken in health. He still suffers much from disease contracted in the army. Mr. And Mrs. Enfield began life in limited circumstances, in Green county, but by industry and economy, have secured for themselves and family a beautiful home. His farm contains 160 acres.
John A. Clemmer, who now lives on section 6, town of Decatur, has been a resident of this county since April 12, 1850. He was born in Fayette Co., Penn., in 1832. His parents are Jasper and Delilah Clemmer, of the town of Sylvester, where they settled in 1850. John A. came to the county with his parents. He was married to Rhoda U. Whitcomb, daughter of James and Nancy (Goltry) Whitcomb. She came to this county with her parents, in 1849, and settled in the town of Mount Pleasant. Mr. Whitcomb was a native of Steuben Co., N. Y., born May 17, 1812, where he was married and removed to Indiana with his family, coming here from Indiana. Mrs. Clemmer was born in the State of New York, in 1834. Mr. And Mrs. Clemmer have six children – Laura A., Clara L. C., Nannie D., Cora A., Letha J. and John F. The farm contains 186 acres.
L. N. Lewis, a resident of section 3, was born in Rensselaer Co., N. Y., in 1830. He settled in Green county, in 1850, but had entered his land in 1849. He entered 132 acres, but now owns 180 acres. He is a son of Leonard and Elizabeth (Allen) Lewis, also natives of the same county. They came to Wisconsin in 1852, and settled in Dane county, in the village of Mt. Vernon, where they lived until their decease. They had ten children, eight of whom grew to maturity. L. N. is the only one of the family who was an early settler of this county. A brother, John L., settled in Dane county very early. He is now chief-of-police of Madison. The subject of this sketch was married near Stoughton, Wis., to Sophronia A. Stillwell, born in the State of New York, in 1825. They have six children – Frank B., Laura, Arthur, Minnie, Ethan Allen and Marion Stillwell, twin boys. Mr. Lewis’ mother, Elizabeth (Allen) Lewis was a decendant of Ethan Allen, of Revolutionary fame. Mrs. Lewis’ parents were Ezra and Polly (Howe) Stillwell. They came to Wisconsin, from New York, in about 1852, and settled in Dane county, where her father died the following year. Her mother now lives in Waukon, Iowa.
Samuel Rowe was born in Lancaster Co., Penn., in 1808. When a young man he removed to the State of Illinois, where he was married. He came to Green county with John Dawson. He located on section 20, of the town of Decatur, where he made a claim of 160 acres, eight acres of which he entered. The other eighty acres was “jumped” by a man named Mott, who entered the same, and of whom Mr. Rowe purchased it. His wife, Margaret Brown, was a native of Centre Co., Penn. Mr. Rowe died April 18, 1872. Mrs. Rowe died on the 13h of the following September. They had eight children, seven of whom are living – John B., Catharine A., Amos C., Elmira (deceased), Elizabeth M., William F., Emma S. and Viola M. Amos C., who owns and occupies the homestead, was born here in 1846. He was married to Emma V. Fleek, daughter of Edmund T. Fleek. Mr. And Mrs. Rowe have two children (twins) – Lola B. and Lee B., born Dec. 18, 1883. Mr. Rowe’s farm contains 213 acres. He also owns twenty acres of timbered land.
Jesse Mitchell resides on section 31, town of Decatur, where he settled in 1853, upon a farmbought from his father, who obtained it from the government. Jesse Mitchell was born in the town of Wharton, Fayette Co., Penn., in 1813, where he was reared and married. A brother-in-law, Allen Woodle, had come to this county about 1835, and through his influence Mr. Mitchell was induced to emigrate from Pennsylvania to this county. On the 14th day of March, 1837, he left his home in Fayette county with his wife and child, and the following day took a steamer at Brownsville, on the Monongahela river, thence went down the Ohio, and up the Mississippi to Galena, and from there with ox team to the town of Sylvester, which place they reached April 19, forty-seven years ago. His brother-in-law, Joseph Woodle, with a wife and five children., accompanied him, and these men were the first settlers of what is now the town of Sylvester. Mr. Mitchell resided in that town until he came here, as stated, in 1853. He has been twice married. His first wife, who came with him from Pennsylvania, was formerly Priscilla Woodle, born in Fayette Co., Penn., in 1813. She died in 1849. His second and present wife was Mrs. Lucina (Oviatt) Damon, who was born in Trumbull Co., Ohio, in 1823, where in 1842 she was married to Alexis G. Damon, and came with her husband to Sylvester in 1843. Mr. Damon died in 1846. Mr. Mitchell had six children by his first marriage, four of whom are still living – Martha A., Hannah, Abner and Thomas. By his present wife he has seven children – Owen, Frank, Lois, Lucretia, Julia A., Cynthia and John A. Mrs. Mitchell had two children by her marriage with Mr. Damon – Samuel, who was a member of the 22d Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, and died in the service of his country at Danville, Ky., and one daughter, who died in infancy. Mr. Mitchell has been a member of the Baptist Church for fifty years. His wife is also a member of the same Church. His father, Abner Mitchell, came to the town of Spring Grove in 1844, and died in Decatur in the fall of 1883., on his eighty-fourth birthday. He was a man of considerable ability, and in 1853 was a member of the Wisconsin legislature.
Thomas Munger, of the town of Decatur, resides on section 28, on a farm purchased from Sanford Cochrain, who bought it from Noah Ball, the original owner. It contains 175 acres. When Mr. Munger purchased the farm, in the fall of 1854, but little improvement had been made. A log house had been built and about thirty acres broken. For this place he paid $15 per acre. Mr. Munger was born in Erie Co., Penn., in 1825, where he continued to live until he came to this county. His parents, Thomas and Pattie Munger, were natives of the State of New York, and removed to Pennsylvania in 1824, where they lived until death, the father reaching the age of sixty-six years, and the mother seventy-two. Thirteen children were born to them, of whom Thomas is the youngest, and he was married Feb. 13, 1847, to Nancy Colton, a native of Chautauqua Co., N. Y. They have four children, one son and three daughters – Judson, Polly A., Mary E. and Sophrona.
Walgrave Atherton came to the town of Decatur in 1854. He settled on section 9, in 1853. He was born in Licking Co., Ohio, Aug. 4, 1826. His parents were John and Clarissa Atherton. The former was born in Cumberland Co., Penn., the latter in the State of New York, and they moved to Licking Co., Ohio, where they lived until their decease. Walgrave Atherton is the only one of his father’s family who settled in Green county. He was married in 1852 to Ann Elizabeth Putnam, a daughter of John J. Putnam, and she was born in Athens Co., Ohio, in 1829, and came here with her parents in 1849. Mr. Atherton came to Decatur from Ohio, for his wife, with whom he was acquainted in Ohio. Mr. And Mrs. Atherton have had nine children, eight sons and one daughter. Their daughter, Florence V., was the eldest, and died when nineteen years old. Their son, (deceased,) was Charles Ernest, who died April 4, 1873. Their living children are – Edwin P., born April 27, 1855; John J. P., born Feb. 23, 1857; Oliver H., born June 21, 1858; George W., born April 28, 1860; Elmer E., born June 13, 1862; Harry C., born June 2, 1864; and Fred V., born Dec. 11, 1871. Mr. Atherton first purchased 157 acres without improvements. The farm now contains 300 acres. He also owns the farm settled by Thomas Stewart in this town, containing 192 acres.
Philip Kilwine lives on section 21, where he has a fine farm of 158 acres, where he settled in March, 1868. This farm was obtained from Jerome B. Fleek. He was born in Baden, Germany, in 1820, and learned the trade of mason. He came to this country in 1853, and first lived in Illinois three years, where he worked at his trade. He was married to Julia Bach, who was born in Baden, Germany, in 1824. They have one son, Philip, who was born in Germany in 1845, and now lives on section 29, town of Decatur. Mr. Kilwine is one of the prominent farmers of the town Decatur. His residence, costing $2,000, was burned April 24, 1883. He rebuilt at about the same cost a fine dwelling, which he now occupies.
Russell J. Day settled on his present farm on section 13, of the town of Decatur, in 1855. The farm was purchased from Myron Hulsted by Warren Day, father of Russell, who received the deed from his father in 1864. The first transfer of the place was by Henry Hubbard to Franklin W. Day, in 1851; the consideration being $600. The next transfer was to Myron Halsted, the same year, consideration $850; and thence to Warren Day for $3,500. The farm contains 160 acres, and is situated one and one-half miles north of the railroad depot, at Brodhead. Russell J. Day was born in Herkimer Co., N. Y., in 1829, where he lived until 1856, then came to Brodhead, and has lived on this place since that time. His father, Dr. Warren Day, was a native of Vermont, and practiced medicine for forty years in Herkimer county. He came to this county in 1863, and lived with his son until his decease in 1871. Dr. W. Day’s wife died here in 1865. Russell J. Day was married in Herkimer county, to Sarah Wood, a native of Herkimer county. They have three children – Will R., Jane W. and Fayette W. Mr. Day has made many improvements on the place, and the farm is now a beautiful and attractive place.
George W. Chace came to Green county in 1856, and the first few months of his residence here, was employed in driving a stage which carried the mail from Albany to Footville, for S. F. Nichols. He then engaged in keeping the hotel, that is now the Nichols House, at Albany, about nine months. After this he joined the surveying corps, that was surveying the Albany Railroad, then engaged in farming in the town of Albany. In 1862 he enlisted in the 31st Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, and served till the close of the war. He continued with the regiment eighteen months, after which he was detailed in the quartermaster’s department until the end of the war. He was very near worn out in health when he returned from the army to Albany, where he opened a restaurant and meat market, which he continued one year, then exchanged his property for a farm at Spring Valley Corners, Rock county, where he resided five years. He then exchanged his farm for a meat market in Brodhead, which he carried on for about two years, then traded it for his present farm on section 14, of Decatur. This was in the spring of 1875. He did not settle immediately upon the farm, but worked the land and opened a restaurant and confectionery in Brodhead, also carried on the ice business in that village. Mr. Chace was born at Boston, Mass., in 1821. He resided in New England, and the State of New York, and Ohio, until he came to Wisconsin. He was married in 1843, at Portsmouth, R. I., to Abby Gifford, a native of that place. Mr. And Mrs. Chacehave three children – George F., Helen K. and Charles S.
A. A. TenEyck resides on land which his father obtained from the government in 1839, who first settled in the town of Spring Grove and commenced improvements on this farm about 1859. It is located on section 34, town of Decatur, and was occupied by A. A. TenEyck, in October, 1874. He was born in the State of New York, on the Hudson river, but came to this county from Canada with his father. He was married to Amanda Moore, a native of Vermont, and a daughter of Isaac Moore. They have six children – Albert M., Lena A., Saran J., Belle, Robert T. and Frank A. They lost one son – Walter. The farm contains 376 acres.
Jacob L. Roderick owns and resides on the first farm entered in the town of Decatur. It was entered by John Moore, in the fall of 1839, and originally contained 160 acres. It now comprises 237 acres. Mr. Roderick was born in Fayette Co., Penn., in 1850, and came to this county with his father, in 1862, and has been a resident of Decatur since that time. He was married to Allie Fleek, a daughter of Benjamin H. Fleek. She was born in 1851. They have four children – Iva M., Myrtle M., Susan A. and Benjamin H.
Mrs. Mary Cole, widow of Austin Cole, resides on section 32, town of Decatur, where they settled in November, 1867, but were residents of the county several years previous. He was born in Erie Co., Penn., Oct. 31, 1833, where he lived until his marriage, in 1857, when he came to Green county. He married Mary Shults, born in Erie Co., Penn., in 1838. Mr. Cole died May 24, 1878, in his forty-fifth year, leaving his wife and two children – Fred., born in 1868; and Ella, born in 1870. The farm contains 140 acres.
Andrew Smith resides on section 13, where he settled in 1866. His first settlement was on government land, in the town of Spring Valley, in Rock county, where he lived before making his present selection in February, 1866. He was born in Roxburghshire, Scotland, March 4, 1825. He came to this country with his father’s family, in 1840. The family lived three years near Portage, N. Y. The father settled in Rock county, in 1843, where he lived until his decease. Andrew was married to Ellen Atkinson, who was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1824, and came to the United States with her parents in 1843. Her family came to Wisconsin three or four years later, and settled in the town of Albany, where they still live. Mr. And Mrs. Smith have four children – Belle, wife of Ronaldo Fleek; Archie, Janie, wife of William Bell; and Bessie, at home. The farm contains 200 acres.
Transcribed by Janna
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