History of Rochester 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


The Town of Rochester is the smallest in the county, as it is comprised of the north half of Congressional Township 3, Range 19, and has an area of only eighteen square miles. It is situated in the western tier; is bounded on the north by the Town of Waterford; on the east by Dover; on the south by Burlington, and on the west by the County of Walworth. The Fox River flows in a southerly direction through the eastern half of the township and it is joined near the village of Rochester by the Muskeg Creek, the outlet of Wind Lake. The outlet of Eagle Lake touches the southeast corner and falls into the Fox River in Section 14. A little of the north end of Long Lake lies in this township and there is a small lake between it and the Village of Rochester.

Levi Godfrey and John B. Wade came into what is now Rochester Township on foot in the fall of 1835. To the former belongs the honor of being the first white settler. He was looking for a water power and finding a place that looked suitable for his purposes near where the Village of Rochester now stands, he made a claim on the west side of the Fox River at that point. His shanty, sixteen feet square, was the first structure erected by a white man in the township. When it was completed he brought his wife to their frontier home early in 1836. Mrs Godfrey did not see a white woman during the first six weeks of her residence in Racine County. Her nearest female neighbor was Mrs. Betsy Call, at Call's Grove, in what is now the Town of Waterford.

Mr. Wade also made a claim and his wife was the first person to die in the township, her death occurring on New Year's Day in 1837. In that year Levi Godfrey opened his hotel in Rochester.

A few settlers located in Rochester during the year 1836, among whom were G. W. Gamble, Gilman Hoyt, John T. Palmer, L. O. and Martin Whitman and Mary Skinner. The first bridge over the Fox River at Rochester was built in the fall of that year by Ira A. Rice and John T. Palmer.

Quite a number of immigrants came to the township in 1837, among whom may be mentioned George E. Duncan, George W. and Tristam Hoyt, Benjamin Flanders, Alonzo Snow, James H. Gipson, Thaddeus Earl, David M. Fowler, Joseph Clark, Philander Bartlett, Benjamin Bartlett, Horace Frost, Royal Flanders, Patrick Laughrin, John Freelove and Sela Whitman. Toward the close of the year John Freelove, Sela Whitman and Seth Warner also settled in Rochester. Seth Warner's son, Henry, was the first white child born in the township.

In 1838 Horace Andrews, Calvin Earl, I. O. Parker, H. S. Hurlbut, Hilliard Hely and William G. Lewis all made claims in the township, and the next year the population was increased by the arrival of Obed Hurlbut, G. M. Hely, Eleazer Everit, Jacob L. Myers, Jedediah Healy, Henry Cady, Luther Whitman, Abial Whitman, J. H. Hickox, Richard E. Ela and Pinkston Wade.

A saw mill was built at Rochester soon after the first settlements were started, and when Eleazor Everit arrived in 1839 he decided to have a frame house. He therefore cut and hauled two saw logs to the mill and had them sawed into boards. Then he cut down four small trees and planted them firmly in the ground for corner posts. To these posts he nailed the boards and also used some of his lumber for a roof. The house was not exactly "a thing of beauty," but it served as an abode for himself, his wife and two children on the farm where he afterward built a substantial residence and made other improvements second to none in the county. The first season he occupied his farm he sowed six acres of wheat, which yielded a good crop. In marketing his wheat he was especially fortunate Southport (now in Kenosha County) was the most convenient market town and to that place he hauled a load of wheat, for which he received thirteen dollars in currency, but upon trying to pass the money learned that the bank which had issued it had been in bankruptcy for two years.

Some idea of the hardships encountered by young women on the frontier may be gained from the experience of Emily Hoyt, daughter of Tristam C. Hoyt, who came with her father and brother to Rochester in 1837, when she was only thirteen years of age. She was the housekeeper for the family and after preparing breakfast on summer mornings she would hurry up with her work, fasten the door of the cabin as well as she could and go with her father and brother to the field, where she would remain all day following the plow, rather than stay in the cabin, because Indians in considerable numbers were constantly prowling about the neighborhood and she was afraid to be by herself.

The first physician in Rochester Township was Dr. Solomon Blood; Seth Warner was the first justice of the peace; Rev. C. C. Cadwell was the first resident minister, who preached for the Baptist Church, organized in 1837, which was the first religious society. Philo Belden built the first brick chimney, hauling the brick from a yard at the mouth of the Root River, a distance of about twenty five miles Martin Whitman began the improvement of a water power on Muskeg Creek in the fall of 1837, and in January, 1840, Oren Wright put in a turning lathe. He manufactured chairs, tables and bedsteads - the only furniture of that description made any place within a radius of many miles. The first marriage was that of a Mr Cole and a Miss Fowler. The groom walked to Racine for the marriage license, which cost him four dollars.

When Rochester Township was first established by the act of January 2, 1838, its boundaries were described as follows: "Commencing at the southwest corner of the Town of Mount Pleasant; thence due west to the line dividing Racine and Walworth Counties; thence due north to the north line of Racine County; thence east to the northwest corner of the Town of Mount Pleasant, and thence due south to the place of beginning."

These boundaries included all the present Town of Rochester, the Towns of Dover, Norway and Waterford, and the north half of Burlington. The next Legislature passed an act, approved by Governor Dodge on March 9, 1839, creating a number of new townships in the state and modifying the boundaries of those previously established. Section 21 of that act provided: "That the country included within the following limits, to wit: Commencing at the northwest corner of Racine County; thence due east to the northwest corner of the Town of Mount Pleasant; thence due south to the northeast (southeast) corner of Section 13, in Township No. 3 North, Range 20 East; thence due west to the line dividing Racine and Walworth Counties; thence due north to the place of beginning, be, and the same is hereby set off into a separate town by the name of Rochester."

As thus described, Rochester included the Towns of Norway and Waterford, the present Town of Rochester and the northern half of Dover. There is clearly a misprint in the eastern boundary, where the northeast corner of Section 13 is given as its southern terminus The southeast corner of that section is on a line with the southern boundary of Rochester as it is at present, and was unquestionably meant. This theory is borne out by the fact that the Town of Burlington was created by the same act, its northern boundary being fixed as the "Town of Rochester," and there is no record of the north line of Burlington having been changed.

In the act of January 2, 1838, the places of holding elections were designated as the house of Stebbins and Duncan, in the Village of Rochester, and Moses Smith's house, in the Village of Burlington. When Burlington was established the next year, the house of Stebbins and Duncan remained as the voting place for Rochester.

Although the smallest township in the county and without a railroad, Rochester is not behind in other respects. The population in 1910 was 766, and the assessed valuation of property in 1915 was $1,297,385, or nearly seventeen hundred dollars for each person living in the township

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