This township occupies the southwest corner of the county. On the north it is bounded by the Town of Rochester;
on the east by Dover Township and Kenosha County; on the south by Kenosha County, and on the west by the County
of Walworth. It is six miles wide from east to west and seven miles in extent from north to south, having an area
of forty two squares miles. The surface is pleasantly diversified, the Fox River flowing from north to south through
the central portion, and in this township are three pretty lakes - Long, Brown's and Bonner's.
The settlement of the township began about the middle of December, 1835, when Moses Smith and William Whiting located
claims near the present City of Burlington, Whiting selecting his claim on the east side of the Fox River and Smith
on the west side, near the place where the Perkins mill was afterward erected. Their claims were what the pioneers
called "jack-knife" claims, the boundaries being marked by cutting their names in the bark of trees,
with the date when the claim was made. Such a title would hardly have been respected some years later, but in 1835
land was plentiful and new comers had no difficulty in locating claims without infringing upon the possessions
of their neighbors.
Smith and Whiting were soon afterward joined by B. C. Perce and Lemuel Smith. Judge Charles E. Dyer, in an address
delivered before the Old Settlers' Society at Burlington, February 22. 1871, says: "On the 27th of December,
1835, Moses Smith, William Whiting, B. C. Perce and Lemuel Smith built a shanty in a little grove in the river
bend on the east side of the Fox River. They cut a large white oak tree near where Muth's Brewery now stands, built
a rude log but on the present farm of David Bushnell, spent three days prospecting and surveying on both sides
of the river, and finally constructed a cabin on the west side."
The following month Enoch D. Woodbridge settled on the east side of the river and built the body of a log house,
which was afterward completed and became part of the tavern kept by Ruel Nims. In February, 1836, Nathan H. Darling
made a claim on what was afterward known as the Rooker farm. He was acting as the agent of Nelson R. Norton, who
perfected the title and improved the claim. Other settlers of 1836 were: James Nelson, David Bushnell, Origen Perkins,
Herman Loomis, Silas Peck, George Newman, Charles and Jared Fox.
James Nelson came in May and built a log house and a blacksmith shop on the east side of the river, near where
Durgin's bridge was afterward thrown across the stream. He was the first blacksmith to ply his trade in that part
of Racine County. David Bushnell came in July and his first residence was the log hut which had been built by Whiting,
Perce and the Smiths the previous winter. This he reconstructed and lived in it until he could erect a better house.
It seems that all the parties interested in building this but had abandoned their claim except Whiting, whose interest
was purchased by Mr. Bushnell, and at the land sales in 1839 the land was bought by Stephen Bushnell. Origen Perkins
located his claim in August and built a log house, to which he brought his family early the following year. Heman
Loomis came in September and located a claim southeast of the present City of Burlington, which claim afterward
became known as the Loomis farm. Silas Peck arrived with his family a little later and built his cabin on the claim
adjoining that of B. C. Perce. George Newman and the Foxes came later in the year.
Among those who came to Burlington in 1838 were: William F. Lyon, Ruel Nims, Stephen Bushnell, Pliny M. Perkins,
Samuel C. Vaughan and Lewis Royce. Mr. Lyon remained but a few months, at the end of which time he removed to Walworth
County. Ruel Nims acquired the log house that had been started by Mr. Woodbridge two years before, occupying it
for the first time on January 10, 1837. He subsequently opened a tavern the first established house for the entertainment
of travelers in Burlington. Stephen Bushnell came in March and afterward purchased the land claimed by David Bushnell,
as above stated. Pliny M. Perkins first came in May, bringing a drove of hogs and cattle from Joliet, Illinois,
but did not become a resident at that time. He returned the following year, however, and took a claim. Samuel C.
Vaughan formed a partnership with Moses Smith and they built the first mill, which was known as the "up and
down saw mill." The mill building is said to have been the first frame structure in Burlington. Lewis Royce
was a New Englander. He arrived in Burlington on the first day of September and soon afterward established a lime
kiln, burning about three hundred bushels before the close of the year. Mr. Royce was the first lawyer to locate
in Burlington, but there were few lawsuits in those days and he found his lime kiln more productive than the practice
of his profession, though he was learned in the law.
The year 1838 witnessed the arrival of Liberty Fisk, Ephraim S. Sawyer, Henry Edmonds, Nelson R. Norton and
a few others. Mr. Norton came in February and took possession of his claim that had been made for him two years
before by Nathan H. Darling. In the spring following he built a frame house, bringing the lumber from Chicago,
where he had formerly lived. It is said that he built the first bridge over the Chicago River. Mr. Sawyer bought
275 acres of land at the land sale and lived upon his farm for many years. Henry Edmonds built a small log blacksmith
shop near the mill. The first school in the town of Burlington was taught in the summer of 1838 by Sarah Bacon.
The first towns (townships) in Racine County were established by the act of January 2, 1838. Under the provisions
of this act the territory now comprising the Town of Burlington was included in the Town of Rochester. On March
9, 1839, Governor Henry Dodge approved "An act to establish certain towns in the Counties of Milwaukee, Brown,
Racine and Walworth, and to provide for the election of officers therein."
Section 21 of this act provided: "That the country bounded on the north by the Towns of Rochester, on the
east by the Towns of Racine (Mount Pleasant) and Southport, on the south by the Town of Salem, and on the west
by Walworth County, be, and the same is hereby set off into a separate town by the name of Burlington; and the
polls of election shall be opened at the house of S. Nims."
As originally created, the Town of Burlington included all the present Town of Dover, in Racine County, and a large
part of the present Town of Brighton, in Kenosha County. The returns of the election held at the house of Mr. Nims
cannot be found, but it is known that Origen Perkins was the first justice of the peace. The following incident,
illustrating "Squire" Perkins' methods of transacting legal business, was told by Judge Dyer in his address
to the Old Settlers' Society: "On one occasion a man called upon him for a warrant with which to make an arrest.
He found Mr Perkins digging a ditch. The complaint must be made then and there, but the justice had neither paper,
pen nor ink Perhaps Mr. P. did not deem the offense a very grave one, but in the emergency of the case he pulled
off one of his boots, took from his pocket a piece of chalk, wrote the complainant's statement on the boot leg,
made him hold up his hand and swear to it, and then told him he would issue a warrant as soon as he went to the
The first white child born in the town was a son of George Newman, who was born in May or June, 1837. The first
marriage was that of William McLaughlin and Amanda (or Alvira) Hayes. Mrs. McLaughlin died a few months after her
marriage and was the first white person to the in the township The first crop of grain was harvested by Moses Smith,
in 1837, and in the fall of that year the first bridge was built over the Fox River. It was floored with hewn logs.
The first school house was built in 1839.
For several years the growth of Burlington was "slow but sure," but with the completion of the Racine,
Janesville & Mississippi (now the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul) Railroad to the Village of Burlington
in 1855 the development was more rapid. Burlington is now one of the most populous and wealthy townships in the
county. In 1910 the population, exclusive of the City of Burlington, was 1,129, and in 1915 the property (not including
the city) was valued for tax purposes at $2,871,043. A history of the City of
Burlington will be found in Chapter VIII