History of Waterford Township, Racine County, Wisconsin
From: Racine, Belle City of the lakes
and Racine County, Wisconsin.
Fanny's Stone, Supervising Editor
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago 1916


Situated in the northwest corner of the county is the Town of Waterford, which includes Congressional Township 4 North, of Range 19 East, and has an area of thirty six square miles. The Fox River enters it from Waukesha County near the middle of the northern boundary and flows in a southerly direction, leaving the township near the Village of Waterford. In the northeastern part, in Sections 11, 12, 13 and 14, lies Tishigan Lake, a beautiful little body of water about one mile in length. The surface is slightly undulating and the soil is generally fertile.

The settlement of this part of the county began in May, 1836, when Samuel E Chapman, P. R. Mygatt, Ira A. Rice and Arad Wells made claims in what is now the Town of Waterford. Chapman and Rice brought their wives with them and were the first to establish homes. Levi and Hiram Barnes came a little later; Benoni Buttles and his family arrived in June; Hiram Page came in August; Archibald Cooper in September, and before the close of the year Henry and Austin Mygatt, Elisha and Osborne L. Elms, Alpheus Barnes, Samuel C. Russ and Adney Sampson had located in the neighborhood. Joseph and Tyler Caldwell settled in the northwestern part, where a postoffice called "Caldwell's Prairie" was afterward established. They were soon afterward joined by Abram Ressigue, William A Cheney and Calvin Gault, and in the fall Charles Dewitt, Paul W. Todd and Wesley Munger settled upon the prairie.

During the year 1837 a number of pioneers came to the Town of Waterford. Among them were: Louis D. Merrills, Frederick A. and Harvey Weage, Israel Markham, Orrin Barry, James and John Cooper, Sautell Whitman, Dyer Buskirk, William Wade, J. S. Cooper, Lorenzo Ward, Victor M. Willard, T. W. Gault, William Jones, John Fisher, and a man by the name of Burbank. The following year Nelson H. Palmer, Elijah K. Bent, Jefferson Brown, Ira Coleman and a few others came into the township.

The first settlers located on or near the Fox River. Samuel E. Chapman built his house on the site of an old Indian council house called "Cadney's Castle," not far from the present Village of Waterford, of which he was one of the founders. Ira A. Rice went a little farther from the river and located his claim in Section 27, where he developed a fine farm, upon which he continued to reside for many years. The Caldwells, when they first came, built a small shanty, but in 1837 Joseph built a frame house, which was probably the first in the township

Concerning the manner in which these pioneers lived, Judge Dyer, in his address to the Old Settlers in 1871, said: "The hardships of these pioneers, during the first seasons of their settlement, were often severe. They had not only to contend against thieving Indians, but were obliged to transport their provisions and seed with ox teams from Racine, Southport and Chicago. There were no roads in the country; streams had to be forded, marshes traversed, and all the difficulties of travel which prevail in an unsettled region encountered. At some seasons, hunting and fishing afforded the chief means of subsistence. The men worked days, and hunted game and speared fish by torch light at night. But amid all their privations the settlers were happy, for they enjoyed the freedom and independence of their rugged life. New corners were always welcome to their humble hospitality; every cabin and shake roofed house was open; friendship and brotherly love prevailed. There were no drones in those days. Every man and woman had work to do, and did it, and when one of the settlers had a job on his hands that he could not manage alone, all his neighbors gave him their gratuitous assistance."

The first crops raised by the settlers in this part of the county were potatoes and rutabagas. Archibald Cooper used to tell how he and his family lived for two weeks upon rutabagas alone. He also said that the first johnny cake he ate after coming to Racine County was made of corn meal ground in a coffee mill at the house of Osborne L. Elms, and the molasses they had with it was made from watermelons. Flour was a luxury. Louis D. Merrills paid twenty dollars for the first barrel of flour that he bought after coming to the county, and paid for it by splitting fence rails. He sowed the first crop of winter wheat in the fall of 1836, and the following summer made the cradle with which it was harvested.

The first white child born in Waterford was Louisa, daughter of Israel Markham, who was born in 1837. The first justice of the peace was Samuel E. Chapman, and the first physician was a Dr. Blanchard. Harriet Caldwell taught the first school in 1840. The first saw mill in the settlement was built in the fall of 1837, when a number of pioneers joined together and built a dam across the Fox River to furnish the power. In 1840 Samuel E. Chapman erected a grist mill at the same place. The first mill stone was only twenty two inches in diameter. It was kept as a relic by Mr Chapman for many years after the mill ceased to do business. Levi Barnes was the first preacher. He was not a doctor of divinity, but he was not afraid to rebuke the sins of those who listened to him. Some of the settlers were in the habit of going fishing on Sunday, and it is said that Mr. Barnes, in one of his sermons, reproved them for this practice, as follows: "Pioneers and sinners! I come to call you to repentance; and as one so called, I declare to you that unless you repent of your sins, you are gone, hook and line, bob and sinker." The language was certainly more forcible than elegant, but it is not known what effect it had on the recreant fishermen.

Ira A. Rice succeeded Mr. Chapman as justice of the peace. While he was magistrate, a man was brought before him on the charge of stealing a sheep. The evidence was conclusive, the culprits was found guilty, and "Squire" Rice sentenced him to twenty days' hard labor. The prisoner served out his time in helping to build a bridge across the Muskego Creek, which was then within Rice's jurisdiction. The sentence may not have been strictly according to law, but the offender evidently did not know it and no one else offered any objection.

Mr. Rice was also the first captain of the Waterford militia, of which Archibald Cooper was first lieutenant Samuel E. Chapman had formerly been a captain of light infantry and when the Waterford company assembled for drill he presented himself with a wooden sword "about six feet long," apparently intending to take command. But Captain Rice disarmed him and reduced him to the ranks.

Just when Waterford was set off from Rochester is not certain, as a careful search through the session laws of Wisconsin fails to reveal any act establishing the township as a separate civil jurisdiction. It was probably created about the same time as Norway, which was in February, 1847. The township has no railroad and the Village of Waterford is the only one within its limits. In 1910 the population (exclusive of the village) was 935, and in 1915 the assessed value of the property was $2,640,682:

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