Mount Pleasant

As published in "Commemorative Biographical Record of Racine and Kenosha Counties" (Chicago: 1906), pages 476-479

William See and Edmund Weed settled in Mt. Pleasant in January, 1835. Mr. See located at the Rapids, and Mr. Weed on a claim which now comprises the farm of Mr. Fratt. At the time of their arrival two men, one by the name of Carpenter and the other Harrison K. Fay, were at the Rapids. In the fall of 1835, Carpenter left the Rapids and settled within the limits of Captain Knapp's claim, on the north side of Root River. After his death his widow, who was the first white woman who came to Mt. Pleasant or Racine, removed further north, and continued to occupy what was long known among the old settlers as "the Widow Carpenter's Claim."

In January, 1835, William Smith, now of Pike Grove, made a trip from Chicago to Milwaukee. George Smith, in later years the eminent banker, accompanied him, and they came through to Milwaukee upon an Indian trail via Grose Point, Skunk Grove and the Rapids. Mr. Smith tells me that at that time See was the only white man living between Grose Point and Milwaukee on the route which they traveled. In this connection it may not be uninteresting to mention that on the 13th of May, 1836 Mr. William Smith sold eighty acres of land which he owned or claimed in Milwaukee for ten thousand dollars, and re-purchased it in 1838 for one thousand dollars.

In April, 1835, James Walker came to Racine on a vessel with Captain Knapp. He was just starting in life, made a claim in Mt. Pleasant, built a cabin, purchased at the land sales in '39 the lands to which he had previously made a claim and has ever since resided on the same. After Mr. Walker's arrival, Carpenter, whose cabin was on the north side of the river, died, and was buried on the bank of Duck Creek in the depths of the forest. Mr. Walker made the coffin in which Carpenter was buried, and this was the first burial of a white man within the limits of Mt. Pleasant or Racine.

During the same year, William See built a sawmill at the Rapids, and Mr. Walker established a turning lathe at the same place. Mr. Walker also laid the original foundation for the dam, in the river at the Rapids.

The Pottawotomie Indians were then abundant in the neighborhood. The principal Indian trading post was at Skunk Grove, on what is now the farm of Benjamin Reynolds. -- Another saw mill was also erected at the Rapids, and a stock of goods brought in by James Kinzie. James Walker was a member of the jury convened at the first term of court held by Judge Frazier in Racine County.

In July, 1835, Thomas Place settled in Mt. Pleasant. He was accompanied by his father, Andrew Place, and by Alva and Zadock newman. They came with ox-teams from Chicago to Skunk Grove, overtaking Daniel B. Rorke at Grose Point, who became their companion the remainder of the journey. Andrew Place, Alva and Zadock Newman had been there in June before, and made their claims, upon which they now permanently located, and which comprise the farms ever since respectively occupied by the families. During the first season Mr. Andrew Place and the Newmans had to go to St. Joseph, Mich., for flour. They went in the winter, with ox-teams, and were gone two months. In 1836 they were obliged to go to mill at a point sixty miles distant, on Fox River, and in subsequent years they had their grinding done at Geneva.

Mr. Thomas Place lived six months with Jambeau and was employed as his clerk. Twice a year the Indians had their great corn dance, when prayers were vehemently offered for a good crop of corn.

Mound Cemetery was an Indian burying ground, and filled with large mounds. Mr. Place remembers the burial of an Indian chief. A pen was constructed large enough for the reception of the body, and chinked up with moistened earth and other material: the Indians then placed their dead chief within it, in a sitting posture, surrounded by some of the relics of his race. For a considerable time thereafter the survivors habitually visited the grave, where they moaned and wept, pouring whisky on the body of the dead as their offering to the Great Spirit.

In November, 1835, Mr. Alanson Filer made a claim in Mt. Pleasant of a fractional half-section, and subsequently purchased at the land sales. His premises were the same now known as the homestead of Judge Doolittle. Mr. Filer came first to the West in the spring of 1833 and settled in Chicago. It was also in the year 1835 that Samuel N. Basye, Mr. Hague, Silas Lloyd, Orville W. Barnes and Mr. Cleveland settled in Mt. Pleasant.

In September, 1837, William Bull and Daniel Slauson came together by their own conveyance from Detroit. They had previously met Jonathan M. Snow, at Grand Haven, who had there told them of the "promised land" on the west side of Lake Michigan. Upon their arrival here they stopped at a log tavern kept by Lewis G. Dole, where now Orville W. Barnes resides. They then learned that Mr. Snow held a claim near Dole's tavern, upon which there was a frame house. Mr. Bull immediately located in Caledonia, and Mr. Slauson purchased a claim from a sister of the wife of Samuel Mars, upon which he planted fruit trees, in '37, and which ultimately became the noble farm upon which he lived to a ripe old age, and where he died ater a career of usefulness and prosperity unexcelled by that of any of the early settlers who preceded or followed him, in the journey to their last home.

In the spring of 1839 Mr. Bull removed from Caledonia, and having purchased the claim of Jonathan M. Snow settled in Mt. Pleasant and has ever since occupied the farm upon which, nearly thirty years ago, he began his career as a successful Racine county farmer.

E. D. Filer, June 27th, 1837, bought a claim in Mt. Pleasant, upon which there was a poorly constructed log house. Mr. Filer could not buy a cook stove at that time in Racine, and the cooking had to be done in the yard by the side of a log. Mr. Filer assisted Morris and Waterman in building the courthouse at Racine, and was also for a considerable period engaged in the construction of Racine harbor. One cold, blustering Sunday, Mr. Filer, with his rifle on his shoulder, while in pursuit of a wolf, encountered an elder of the church, and after considerable discussion, permission to pursue the hunt was granted, on condition that he proved himself a good shot, and gave the elder a good dinner.

Nathan Joy was one of the early settlers in Mt. Pleasant. He came in June, 1836, by the lakes, from Buffalo to Chicago. He sailed in the first three-master that made a voyage around the lakes. At Chicago, he took passage on a little schooner called the "Llewellyn" for Racine. He bought the claim which in late years was the farm of Albert DeGroat. Wallace Mygatt was then at the corners named for him. Mygatt had a little square frame house on the heights at the corners, which on a clear day could be seen miles away, and which the settlers called the lighthouse. Soon after his arrival, Mr. Joy and his brother Orsamus made a trip on foot to Fox River.

They took with them a piece of pork for food and a compass for their guidance. They followed Indian trails, going by the way of Rochester. Returning, they traveled by night as well as by day. As the shadows of evening began to fall, and they on a wild, untrodden prairie, they set their compass by the stars, and far into the night they journeyed on alone, until they were worn and weary. Pausing to rest for a moment, they heard in the distance the murmuring tinkle of a cowbell -- indicative, surely, of a human habitation. They listened again, then turned their course in the direction from which the sound of the bell seemed to come. Pushing on in the same direction, dismissing compass and stars from their thoughts, they soon found themselves in Alva Newman's house, where, thanks to the music of a cowbell on that lonely prairie, they rested until morning.

In 1838, as the expected land sales were approaching, the settlers found themselves without means to make their purchases. It was a critical time. Many had made valuable improvements, and there was danger, in consequence of the expected sales in November of that year, that many would lose all, which, through many hardships, struggles and privations, they had hoped to secure. A plan was, therefore, inaugurated to raise money at the east. A public meeting was held and it was determined that the settlers of the county should execute their agreement to mortgage all their lands after getting title at the land sale, and that Nathan Joy and Michael Myers should go as their delegates to Eastern cities to make a loan of $50,000. The bond was executed, giving Messrs. Joy and Myers full authority, and promising to make their mortgages as mentioned. Schedules of the names of the subscribers to the bond, and of the lands claimed by each, with the improvements they had made upon the lands, and stating the amount of money each settler required, were also prepared. Messrs. Joy and Myers proceeded to the East upon their great enterprise, and after months of absence returned and made the disheartening report that not a dollar could be borrowed upon any of all the lands in the county of Racine. Fortunately, however, the postponement of the land sales until the spring of 1839, relieved the settlers of the extremity apprehended and banished the cloud that appeared to be darkening their fortunes.

Among the other early settlers in Mt. Pleasant whose names I now recall, are two who are members of your society, Augustus B. Crane, who came into town May 15, 1839, and Seth P. Phelps who arrived during the same year. Joseph Nixon and John R. Bassett should also be numbered among the earliest settlers.