The "O" Word
Conservative by Nature, Christian by Choice
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The Wisconsin Cartters – Chapter Seventeen

November 23rd, 2007 . by Cary


David Kellogg Cartter, son of James and Isadora, was 29 years of age when he married Adella H. Willard on Sept. 29, 1886 in Farmington, La Crosse County, Wis. Della, as she was always called, was the fifth child of John H. and Charlotte (Greer) Willard, early residents of Burr Oak in La Crosse County. Della was born at Farmington, Wis. Sept 23, 1861, had become a teacher in the Jackson County schools, and taught school at the Disco Corners.


John H, Willard was born at Pike, in Allegheny County, N. Y. and Charlotte Greer in Hampton, Washington County, Vermont. Their marriage had occurred Nov. 17, 1841 in Venergo, Erie Co., Penn. Their children were as follows:

1. Clifford R. b. 11-3-1843 in Greenfield, Erie Co., Penn. d. 2-23-1854 in Michigan City, Laport Co., Indiana
2. Joseph F. b. 7-23-1846 Hillsdale, Spicio Co., Mich. d. _____
3. T. J. no dates – married 1-3-1866 to Josie L. Roberts in Farmington, La Crosse Co., Wis.
4. Mary J. b. 3-3-1856 Farmington, Wis. d. 8-13-1922 – Melrose, Wis. married 2-8-1877 in Melrose, Wis. to Charles Newland (d. 12-30-1926)
5. Adella H. b. 9-23-1861 – Farmington, Wis. married David K. Cartter 9-29-1886 d. 5-24-1892 Black River Falls, Wis.
6. Edith G. b. 12-14-1871 – Melrose, Wis. d. 10-29-1928 Sparta, Wis. married 11-14-1894 in Irving, Wis. to Carl F. Rhyme (b. 8-3-1866 d. 5-4-1924)

To date the ancestry of John Willard has not been determined by the author. (Can someone help?)

After their wedding David and Della took an extended honeymoon trip. Part of this trip took them to the Dakota Territory for a visit with the Swift brothers. If David had ever entertained any desire to move west that idea was dispelled on this trip. A letter written home from Aberdeen included this statement.

“We are of the common opinion that we do not like Dakota as a place to live.”

By this time David had shouldered the responsibility of managing the home farm. New buildings had to be built including additions to the original house. Added lands were cleared and more fences built. His interest in community affairs and local government was being whetted by his own reading and by his father’s keen interest and knowledge of history as well as government.

It was in 1881 that David had his first taste of local office, being appointed as school treasurer to fill an unexpired term of a neighbor. His interest and contributions won for him successive elections as school clerk the next six years plus periodic service thereafter including the organization of a graded school district at Disco Corners in 1902.

In 1883 he was elected to the Albion town board where his keen interest in public matters and his ability to work with people won him in 1886 and 87 he position of Town Chairman and member of the County Board of Supervisors.

This was quite a challenge as the Town of Albion at that time still contained the present town of Brockway which covered a large area. Town Chairman was a position in which he served periodically for several years, also taking his turn as assessor in 1892. His greatest satisfaction came from the effort he put in to improve “farm to market” roads and bridges that would better withstand the periodic spring floods. Living, as he did, ten miles from Black River Falls, he knew the problems of transporting livestock and crops to market and returning with building supplies and materials.

Many of the roads in those days were very sandy. Gravel as a road-building material was not available in many parts of the county. The author remembers well, in later years, his father’s great satisfaction when shale, as a road building material, was discovered in the area. The deep and sandy ruts were replaced with this hard surface material. Shale with its hardening qualities served the purpose of concrete on secondary roads.

Six years spanned the married life of David and Della Cartter, for Della died May 24, 1892 after an extended illness diagnosed as “Lagrippi.” One child, Irene had been born October 9, 1889. She was only two and one-half years old when her mother died and was buried in the family lot at the Melrose Cemetery. During her limited life at Disco Della was accepted as a most valued member of the community. In her obituary is found this statement.

“The halo of influence that moved with her through life was an uplift to all her associates.”

For nine years Isadora took the responsibility of both grandmother and mother for Irene. Her adaptability was to be admired and many were the hours that James Bruce too entertained or played with “his little girl.” These were days to be happily remembered by Irene, sister of the author, in future years.

David tried bravely to overcome his grief by turning his attention to the welfare of his daughter and by intensifying his farm and community effort.

The health of James Bruce remained about the same through these years. Careful attention to eating habits and Isadora’s loving care for his needs seemed to have brought to both a deep satisfaction and a happy realization of their early desire for a home of their won with family around them. Louise Curran in her reminiscing says “Grandmother’s everyday life on the farm had few incidents which I recall. She was efficient in running her home and in providing food. She always had help in the house so there was no rush ever. No one was cross, scolded, or yelled at. I can’t remember her ever waiting on grandfather, or his demanding to be waited on.”

In spite of his health problems, largely stemming from a dyspeptic stomach, James outlived his parents, his four brothers and his one sister. It was in April 1887 that he received word of the death of Justice David Kellogg Cartter in Washington D. C. This was followed eight months later by word of his only sister’s death, Mrs. Elizabeth Millicent McCarthy of Syracuse, N. Y.

Each member of this original David Kellogg Cartter family had made his or her particular contributions during times of much stress and strain in a rapidly growing and expanding country. They had borne their own share or tribulations and awards as had James and Isadora and now James, the last, was to depart.

On October 30, 1897 at the age of 82 years 9 months and 17 days, James Bruce departed this life, having by most human measures lived it to the full. He and his life’s partner had seen their dream of a new home in a new country come true. Each had made their particular contributions to the stream of life that flowed from and by that home. Contributions which in many ways had made others’ lives easier and more fruitful. They had been blessed during his lifetime with two children, four grandchildren, and with the promise more to come.

James was leaving behind in the hearts and minds of others a clearer sense of values, a humanness of purpose, and a faith in mankind.

Isadora, nineteen years his junior, was to live nine years after James’ death, years in which she continued to make her contributions to the family. During those years she also found a greater freedom to travel.

In order that the reader may have a clearer picture of James Bruce as others saw him, the following excerpts are taken from a eulogy printed at the time of his death. Unfortunately neither the name of the writer or of the paper in which it appeared is known, but it was found as a newspaper clipping in grandmother’s scrapbook.

“Mr. Cartter was a grand specimen of manhood both in body and mind. Standing erect six feet two inches, with clear-cut features, and a massive forehead resting over expressive eyes, he was a man whose personal presence would inspire the beholder with his superiority of wisdom. These impressions were greatly strengthened by a close acquaintance with him. The better he was known the more highly he was respected.

“He possessed in a marked degree an unswerving honesty of purpose and a fixed determination to do right. He was a great reader, a profound thinker and the possessor of a broad and varied source of information and knowledge. He had wonderful conversational powers. He was calm and industrious in his investigations and deliberations but when he had once reached a conclusion he was firm and steadfast in his conviction. He never censured without cause or condemned without a hearing. The freedom of speech and belief which he claimed for himself he freely accorded to others. As a neighbor and friend he endeared himself to his associates by his many acts of kindness, his wise counsels and his tender sympathies; as a Mason he was beloved by all his brethren, and his presence in the lodge room was the sure harbinger of harmony and good will. As a husband and father he was kind, generous and just. He loved without ostentation, reproved without wounding and admonished without bitterness. – – –

– – – He was a charter member of Black River Lodge of Masons, No. 74 and continued a valued and devoted member until his death. A goodly number of brethren under the direction of the Black River Lodge, attended his funeral, and prepared the last sad rites of an honored and esteemed brother, in the presence of a large concourse of sympathizing friends and neighbors. He was a universalist in his religious convictions. He believed in the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and the ultimate salvation of mankind. But he had great respect for the Presbyterian Church on account of it having been the chosen church of his mother.”

In the book Fathers of Wisconsin written by H. A. Tenney and David Atwood this review of his life is given:

“James Bruce Cartter was born in Rochester, N. Y. January 13, 1815. His father David K. Cartter and mother Elizabeth were both from Massachusetts. He had a common school education and his general occupation has been that of a farmer. He was married July 7, 1855 to Isadora F. Swift. He settled in Racine County in February 1843 and many years since removed to Black River Falls, Jackson County, where he now resides having during all this time persistently avoided holding any office, public life seeming to have no attraction for him.

As Mr. Cartter did not take his seat in the 1st Constitutional Convention until two weeks after it had organized (due to illness) no conspicuous part in its work was assigned to him. His career as a pioneer citizen, however, has been one eminently worthy and useful to the communities in which he has resided, and his neighbors and old friends unitedly bear testimony to his sterling worth, integrity, and valuable services as a frontier citizen.”

Col. Carl C. Pope of Black River Falls, friend of James Bruce since 1856 says in his eulogy:

“James B. Cartter was a man of broad information and genial character, but he was content to live in comfort and independence on his farm. He was of that sturdy pioneer class to whom Wisconsin owes so much – – “

James was buried in the Sechlerville rural cemetery, located on the crest of a hill overlooking what has come to be known as the Trempeleau Valley. Nestled in a small clearing, surrounded by a combination of pine and hardwood trees it is a fitting spot for one like him who chose the pioneer rural life to that of crowded urban living. He was later to be joined here, in this quiet cemetery, by Isadora and by David’s third wife Edith (David) Cartter with her two infant children. This too is the Adams family cemetery

The Wisconsin Cartters – Chapter Sixteen

November 21st, 2007 . by Cary


Time moves on and children grow up. Julia finished part of her high school course at Black River Falls before transferring to an academy, or advanced school, which was started in Sechlerville by Mr. Wells, a Presbyterian minister who also built the church there and preached for twenty years.

Louise (Adams) Curran, referred to earlier, writes as follows. “Mother (Julia) and Dad (Parker Adams) both went to school here. Subjects taught included Algebra, Geometry, Physics, Latin, Greek etc. School was held upstairs in Sechler’s first store, a two story building.”

After finishing the Academy Julia taught school at Irving, at the Curran school and at Disco. On Nov. 7, 1877 she married Parker Chapman Adams and they took over the operation of the Adams farm at Sechlerville about ten miles distant from the Cartter farm.

Parker was the son of George Monteith and Henrietta (Chapman) Adams. They had come with their family from Ellsworth, Ohio to Jackson County in 1855 the same year the Cartters had arrived. George Adams was for several years Jackson County’s surveyor. He lived fro some time at Black River Falls and later developed a farm on the Trempeleau river near Sechlerville.


The Adams family record may be found in The Adams History a book written by Andrew N. Adams in 1898. Following is the direct male line of descent in America as found in this reference.
1. HENRY b. uncertain – d. 10-6-1646
Henry was believed to have arrived in America in 1632 or 1633 and settled in Braintree, Mass. He brought with him his wife, eight sons and one daughter. His son Joseph, brother of Peter below was the direct ancestor of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.
2. PETER b. 1622 d. 1690
3. JOHN b. 1651 d. ____
4. CAPT. JOHN b. 12-14-1695 d. 1-16-1762
5. CAPT. JOHN (2) b. 12-15-1744 or ’45 d. 12-10-1818
6. MOSES b. 9-28-1786 d. 4-10-1828
7. GEORGE MONTEITH b. 8-15-1826 d. ____
8. PARKER CHAPMAN b. 3-27-1855 d. _ _ 1916
9. HAWLEY CARTTER b. 5-18-1882 d. 12-13-1969

Parker and Julia Adams raised three children; Ruth Gertrude born 1878, Chloe Louise in 1880, and Hawley Cartter in 1882. Needless to say the visits back and forth between the Adams and Cartter farms were frequent, for James Bruce and Isadora thought the world of their grandchildren. Chloe Louise (referred to as Louise) now 92 yrs. young, remembers her grandparents very well, and relations with them are vivid in her memory. She tells of a wind, rain, and hail storm which struck Sechlerville when the three children were small. It was reported to have produced the largest hailstones ever seen in the Northwest. Stones came in every shape and form from a triangle to a four-cornered piece as large as nine to twelve inches in circumference. The Adams farm was one of those hardest hit. She writes:

“At the time of the storm mother, dad and we three children, little then, were living in a house near Sechlerville about three-fourths mile from home because the house on our farm was so cold and impossible. The day of the storm Grandpa and Grandma Cartter came up to spend the 4th of July. Dad had gone to Merrillan for a load of lumber. He was planning on building a new house on the farm.

The grain, corn, and fruit trees were ruined and not a green thing was left on the ground. Grandpa took mother and us kids home to live until next spring. He said he didn’t know what he’d find but at least there’d be enough to live on. Dad worked where he could, mostly on a threshing rig that fall. In the winter he stayed at Cartter’s and in the spring put in his crops and built a new house.”

Louise, now Mrs. John Curran, relates the following bits of family interest as she is the only living descendant at this time who knew both James Bruce and Isadora. She says, “Grandpa was afraid of fires and every evening before going to bed he would go outdoors to see if the chimneys were O.K.. – – – In the summer they milked the cows outdoors, loose in the barnyard. Christmas day we always spent at their house. There was a tree, lots of presents and food and just a happy time. One year Grandmother and Uncle David gave Grandpa a rocking chair. Grandma also had bought him a big safety pin but he didn’t even notice the new chair.”

How the author wishes Grandfather might have lived longer in order that he could have known both grandparents better. Sister Irene who was eight years old when Grandfather died had that opportunity. Even at her age she sensed the deep and abiding love that united James and Isadora and which they held toward each other throughout life. Irene told her daughter, Ruth Forssen how fond Grandfather was of teasing. He really had a strong sense of humor.

Irene told of remembering her own delight in seeing him chase Isadora who would, on such an occasion, pick up her long skirts and fly, leaving him far behind and chuckling. He liked to bait Irene too. One time when she was small she remembers he goaded her to the point where she picked up her sewing scissors and threw them at him. Immediately she was crushed with remorse thinking what she might have done to him. He gathered her up on his lap in the rocking chair and sang the song he always sang to her at night before bedtime. “Rock the cradle Lucy; rock the cradle slow.”

Says Louise: “I remember one instance that happened which grandmother never let grandpa forget. Whenever he seemed to be getting out of hand she would remind him of the day when he spilled a whole pan of milk over her. It happened this way: The time was before cream separators were used. To separate the cream the milk was set in shallow pans holding about 6 quarts of milk. These pans were set in a cool place, which on the Cartter farm was the cellar under the house. Milk was left to sit for 1-1/2 to 2 days before skimming.

Well, this was a team endeavor. Grandpa would fill the pans with milk and then hand them down to grandma in the cellar who would place them on shelves. This particular day either grandpa slipped, or the pan slipped out of his hands. At any rate grandma got the full six quarts of milk drenching her from head to toes.”

Later of course an outside stairway was built to the basement; then came improved cans fro drawing off skim milk and finally the cream separator which made larger herds of cattle practical in areas away from cheese factories.

By 1889 changes had been made in the Cartter farm. David was taking over more and more of the decision-making, still with the guiding counsel of his father. The Agricultural Census of that year, 1880, shows changes in emphasis. Total acreage reduced – more cultivated acres – more diversification.

Tilled land, including fallow and grass in rotation, had increased from 100 a. to 150 a.
Woodland and forest 250 a.
Farm value – Land – Building fences $4000.00
Machinery value 220.00
Livestock value 500.00
Estimated value of all produce sold – consumed or on hand 1879 900.00
Cultivated acreage mown 1879 7 a.
Produce harvested from grass land (Hay 7 ton
(Clover 13 ton
Horses all ages 4
Milk cows 11
Butter made 600#
Cheese made on farm 50#
Sheep on hand 6-1-1880 25
Purchased 5
Clip – or to be shorn 12
Weight 100#
Poultry (Barnyard) 50
Eggs produced 125 doz.
Barley – 500 bu.
Wheat – 35 a., 200 bu.
Corn – 12 acres, 100 bu.
Hops – 1400#
Oats – 20 acres, 500 bu.
Potatoes – 100 bu.

During these years the land in T 20 N was well used as a source of wood fuel for heating purposes. Louise recalls “My father (Parker Adams) always got his year’s wood supply from the Cartter woodlot south of Disco. He hired the trees cut, sawed and split into chunks. Dad would start out before daylight and go to the woods (about twelve miles). He would load up and get back to grandpa’s for dinner, then home about dark.” What a hard way to get heat! The Curran Valley where the Adams lived, didn’t offer such a ready wood supply.

These long all-day hauls were not unusual in the Disco area. The author can personally remember driving team and sleigh, some years later, 8-10 miles to a millpond in mid-winter for loads of ice cakes to be stored in an ice house on the Cartter farm for use during the summer. The ice-box made an early appearance in our home. Stretches of our road to Black River Falls were quite sandy, making the hauling of heavy loads in the summer a real test for a good team.

By 1880 the spirit of migration must have been rekindled in Oliver Swift’s nature as it had been with James Bruce in 1854. By 1881 he had sold the Swift farm, where he seemed to have done so well, to William Caves a neighbor. The call of the Dakota Territory had been too great to resist with its promise for large acreages of wheat, a crop which was fast giving way to a dairy economy in Wisconsin. Just what influence Oliver’s move had on David is hard to assess, but it must have stirred some sparks of adventure in his blood.

David was now twenty-three and as a result of Oliver’s move he would lose his closest chum, Arthur Swift. Arthur was just his age. The two had grown up and gone to school together. They had shared many experiences. Now Arthur was going west with his father and was taking up a homestead for himself near Watertown, where Oliver also settled. The responsibility felt by David for his parents, and the investment he had put into the Cartter farm in terms of sheer hard work and management planning, was to keep his feet firmly planted on Wisconsin soil until his death in 1941, sixty years later.

It is certain however that letters such as the one written by E. K. Trudell, a friend, on Dec. 20, 1881, must have stirred within him a call to adventure. Trudell was in Ouray, Colorado when he wrote the following:

“This is a new country as well as a peculiar people and the chances are you would not desire to make this your home. – – -The country here is well adapted to mining and is good for that only. – – – There is no society, no women, no culture, no anything pertaining to civilization out here. Most of these miners are good-hearted decent and well behaved people but occasionally you meet with one who has none of these qualities. – – -“

If David had any desires to look elsewhere for a home, he never revealed it to his family. It is likely that his challenges to adventure took the form of community participation, for he early took active part in school, town and organization affairs. He was looked to with respect for his counsel on such matters.

Chloe Swift was successful in selling her home at Black River Falls by 1882 and although it was a sever wrench at her age to leave old friends and part of her remaining family, she followed Oliver and his family to the Dakota Territory. Here she lived part time with Oliver, and part with Arthur who was by now married. Charles later joined them, settling at Aberdeen. This was wide-open country, very sparsely settled, but promising for wheat farming. Some of Chloe’s letters to Isadora paint a picture of another pioneering experience, and the final one for a woman who had spanned the distance from Mass. To Dakota in her life time with many new starts in between. The following are short extracts from her letters written after she went to Dakota, most of them addressed to Isadora.

“I have been waiting to get a letter from you, it has just come. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry I was so glad to hear from you. – – -Our meals have no change from one month to the other. Our fare is fried pork, black strap (molasses) cookies and dried apple pie.” She speaks of “Our new town Castlewood. – – -We eat so much fried pickerel it makes me dull. – – – There is a river 4 miles from here – – – One hundred and twenty-five dollars worth of grub, a barrel of sugar, dried fruit of every kind a plenty for one year.” – – – “I must write Lizzie (a cousin in Mass.) she thinks I have gone up in one of these blizzards.”

She continues, “Jeanette (Charles’ daughter) is teaching school. Her school will be four months. It is 2-1/2 miles from home and she rode horseback until this morning. She gets twenty-two dollars a month and has 13 scholars. – – – we are all hard at work. We have had thrashers all the week, I wish you could see the stacks of wheat, barley oat and straw they have. – – – – – – Arthur has bought a stove for the sitting room. I never saw one like it, there are glass doors all around it, lights up the room, it’s hansome.”

A letter dated February 24 th has this statement, “I haven’t been out this winter – we have had what I call very cold weather – we had one blizzard that lasted 204 hours. It is the worst we’ve seen, couldn’t see the barn.”

Chloe died at Castlewood, April 27, 1884 at age 81. In reviewing her life the author can’t help but think of a tribute written by Mrs. Emma Robinson Bush to her mother and other early pioneer women. Mrs. Bush had lived near Black River Falls and had herself been one of the first teachers in the Disco Valley school. Julia and Dave had gone to school with her. The tribute is found in a paper prepared by Mrs. Edith (Davis) Cartter, 3rd wife of David and seems to fit Chloe Swift in many ways.

“A frail woman from a refined Quaker family, she left her brothers and sisters and relatives to some unto the wilderness to toil unceasingly for others, but she had a brave heart and was equal to the emergency. What heroes they were who laid the foundation for posterity. People who talk of hard times now don’t know all that the words have meant to others. Still those were days of adventure and interest and excitement and thrills. I always feel that I had an interesting childhood.”

How impossible it would be to attempt numbering the individuals and families that Chloe Swift’s presence, her friendly words, and humble understanding had reached, comforted, and otherwise influenced.

Tuesday Update

October 23rd, 2007 . by Cary

So – I’m just a normal citizen again.

Well, a citizen, anyway.

The remodel project I’ve been working on is at a point where the rest of the scope needs to be determined before I can continue, since how I proceed will be determined by what the next phase’s objectives are.

I am starting to get more interest in my business. My chiropractor is moving into a new office, so in exchange for treatments I am doing some updating and reconfiguring of his fixtures from the old office. All around, some money-saving moves.

If you, dear reader, are interested in obtaining my business card, drop me an e-mail. I’ll drop a card in the mail, just for you. Along with a personal thank you note, of course.

I may be traveling to Florida in January in connection with my genealogy blog, in order to pick up the files that my grandfather had compiled over the years. Currently, the plan is to fly there, rent a car, load up the files, and drive back. If you, my dear readers, happen to live along the interstate corridor between Tampa Bay and Phoenix, and would like to be a part of a “places I’ve visited, people I’ve met” type of series on this blog, drop me a line.

Here’s hoping the rest of the week is a joyful blessing, and that God shines his face on you.*

* – please note that this blessing and well wishing, while entirely in keeping with the author’s faith, in no way should be taken as an order or a command. the author does not wish you to be insulted, unless you, the reader, wish to be indignant and, quite honestly, would not be happy unless you were feeling put upon or insulted, in which case, grow up and figure out that the world does not revolve around you.

Thank you for stopping by, God bless you all, Wear Red on Fridays, and support Warriors for Innocence!

The Wisconsin Cartters – Chapter Fifteen

September 7th, 2007 . by Cary


The years 1861 to 1880 were filled with many experiences both happy and saddening for the Cartter family at Disco. Recalling a few may illustrate some of the stress and strain of early pioneering life in the mid-west as well as bring back memories of the happy occasions.

It was in 1861 that James Bruce with several others organized the Jackson County Agricultural Society which later developed into an annual event which still carries on. He was a good gardener and proud of his produce. Louise Curran tells of an incident that happened which changed his enthusiasm about competition. “One year he was especially proud of his onions and had prepared an excellent exhibit. He returned to the fair, after judging had been completed, to find that someone had substituted their inferior onions for his, and had taken first place with them. This so disappointed him that he never exhibited again.”

On occasion he made the weekly newspaper with articles such as the following:

“It was reported that James B. Cartter of Springfield (town) produced an egg on his farm to stop all boasting as to egg size. It was layed by an ordinary Bramah hen and weighed 4 and a half ounces. It measured 8-3/4 inched the large way around and 6-3/4 the other.”

Sadness came to the family in 1860 and 61. Nettie Swift, Isadora’s younger sister had married Andrew Stevens before the family left Wheatland. The Stevens later moved to La Crosse. Nettie was a very good correspondent and her letters, many of which were preserved, are full of youthful enthusiasm and optimism. Her first pregnancy was very difficult, complicated by the fact that she had contracted T.B. Chloe Swift, her mother, ready always to help her family, was with her. The following found in a letter to Isadora, is Chloe’s description of what occurred after Mrs. Pliney, the Mid-wife, came. “- – -On examination she found there was trouble for us all the child was coming double. She went out after a little and motioned for me to come. She told me there was trouble. It gave me such a shock I was so weak I could hardly stand. Well the child was born half past one oclock Tuesday morn. She was spaird but the little boy was taken from us. His head was the last to be born, her panes left her just the time she needed them the most so the little fellow must die about a half an our before it was born. She had a hard time of it. I wouldn’t not have been away from her if I had all my things gone to ruing. I should think the baby would wae between seven and eight pounds, the prettyest babe I ever saw.”

Nettie (Maria Jeanette) put up a brave fight against a disease for which there was little cure in those days. Her death occurred April 1, 1861. Her letters were always full of cherrful optimism in spite of her affliction.

The collection of letters made by Ruth (Knapp) Forssen and referred to in chapter eleven contains many letters between Isadora or her mother Chloe, and relatives who lived in Falmouth, Mass., the Swift’s original home. An excerpt taken from a letter written by Lizzie Nye to Chloe reflects the concerns of the time. It is written Feb. 27, 1863 shortly after Lizzie had been out to Wisconsin for a visit.

“It does certainly seem like a dream to think I have been way out to Wisconsin and back – – – I would like to take that journey again and have my husband and Feemy with me. – – But what times we are having. Provisions and cotton goods are high. Calicos are 28 cents, cloth 48 cents and sugar – you can get but a handful for a dollar. – – – We see by the papers the Conscription Bill has passed. That is worse that all the rest, to force men – seems cruel, but something must be done. – – “

A letter written just a month later gives the reaction of a young man 35 years old, married and with two children. The writer is Charles Swift, Isadora’s oldest brother who is writing to his parents March 8, 1863.

“With a troubled spirit I seat myself to address you today. It is this infernal conscription act that exempts all the business and moneyed men of the country and draws all into service that are poor unless he should be so fortunate as to have a little money. – – –
You have read the act and are as conversant with its details as myself and must know that you have two sons that are prescribed by this act. I do not know how Oliver feels about it but for me I am most indignant and shall not go if drafted if it be possible for me to pay the price of my liberty – – -“ As it turned out neither Charles or Oliver were conscripted and the war closed in 1865.

Work on farms was hard in those days as so much of the farm help was enlisted in the war effort. Those producing the crops had to do double duty to maintain production. Less effort to expand acreage was apparent. Shortages of some products changed some farming practices. It was during this period that, due to shortage of sugar, many settlers planted their own sorghum cane. Oliver Swift built and operated on his farm the first sorghum mill in the community to process the syrup. It was used by many of the neighbors. Another significantly different crop was added to the production list in the ‘70’s, hops, was just being introduced in northern Wisconsin. By 1880 the Cartters raised up to 1400# of hops. Oliver Swift had gone heavily into this crop employing during harvest time up to 25 to 30 pickers. The crop did not prove profitable in the long run for Wisconsin farmers. This move had been tried in an effort to find a substitute for wheat, which became an inefficient crop to raise due to rust.

Disease, sickness, and death within the Cartter and Swift families seemed to have peaked during these years. 1863 saw an epidemic of scarlet fever in Jackson County. Both Julia and David then seven and six years old were stricken, but fortunately recovered without ill effects. News came that same year of the death of George, James’ younger brother, in Portland, Oregon where he had gone from Sacremento. Only 36 years old and just recently married he was the first of the six children of David Kellogg Cartter (1) to die. The cause, typhoid fever. Two years later 1865, James received word of Phederus’ death, he being the oldest brother. Jane (Scrantom) Cartter, Harleigh’s wife, died that same year. Harleigh died in Arizona in 1874. Of the Swift family, Charles lost his first wife, Jenny Paine, in 1860 and married Sarah Douglas in 1867. He and his son, Charlie had lived with John and Chloe Swift at Black River Falls during this period. After the second marriage Charles moved his family to Eau Claire where he carried on his carpenter trade and tried his hand at selling.

John Swift died June 11, 1867 leaving the family home in Black River Falls to Chloe. However, after his death she spent much of the time with her three children. She was a very motherly soul and thought very much of her grandchildren. Finally in the fall of 1870 Chloe’s family convinced her to take a trip back to her old home in Falmouth, Mass., and to Utica and Venice in N. Y. State. She spent over a year visiting friends and relatives many of whom she had corresponded with throughout the years. Two weeks at each place was her visiting pattern. Her letters home indicated that the trip was a moving experience for her and the vivid portrayal of her visits made Isadora and James feel much better acquainted with their New England cousins and ancestors. While in Mass., Chloe attended a Falmouth Town Meeting where she met one of her old teachers, John Parker. About this experience she writes: “Tell Jim (James Bruce) I haven’t taken so much comfort in thirty years.” Her house was very much on her mind. It was closed up but it seemed that each letter would suggest something for Isadora to “look in” for.

Isadora in a letter to Chloe March 1871 mentioned that “her hens had begun to lay and wasn’t she fortunate.” This explained by the fact that in those days it was expected that hens didn’t lay during the winter months. In order to have eggs all winter they were put down either in salt or in oats in the fall as a means of preserving them. Chloe answers this letter saying “Hens here lay all winter – eggs are 45¢ a dozen – butter the same.”

Julia and David were in school now both showing great interest in their studies. A scholarship report for one four-month term of Julia’s work was received at home as follows – quite different from today’s reports.

Julia E. Cartter
(Scholarship for 4 months)
No. days school – 86
No. days present – 86
No. perfect lessons in geography – 86
No. perfect lessons in Arithmetic – 84
No. perfect lessons in Reading – 169
No. perfect lessons in spelling – 153
Whole number of perfect lessons – 412
Times head in spelling – 20
Times absent – 0
Imperfect lessons – Geography – 0
Arithmetic – 2
Reading – 3
Spelling – 11

Signed – George Benedict – Teacher

Unfortunately the date and year are not given in this report.

James Bruce’s mother, Elizabeth (Hollister) Cartter passed away in Rochester, N. Y. September 1876 having outlived three of her sons, George, Phederus, and Harleigh. She lived to be 87 having been cared for in her advanced years by members of Phederus’ family, primarily Nannie Weaver, who had through letters kept James Bruce aware of family affairs in Rochester.

A letter written to James and Isadora by Charles Swift in 1876 indicates that his migrating spirit had not been dampened. Charles, when writing, was in Blue Springs, Florida. (Located west and north of Perry on Highway 98) where he has been commissioned to build a house for an Eau Claire, Wis. man. The letter makes especially interesting reading 100 years later for one, now retired, who spends part of each year in the Sunshine State.

“I write this from the midst of a fine orange grove of about sixty trees some of them are twenty years old loaded with the nicest oranges you ever saw. They lay on the ground, all I’ve to do is to reach and take what I want to eat. – – – The climate is the best – just the place for invalids and old folks to enjoy the remains of an ill-spent life or to enjoy their remaining days. The time will come when this will present the traveler superior attractions that we do not dream of.”

Charles had a good description of Florida’s natural setting and was considering investment in land which he felt would be wise. Whether or not he actually invested money there we do not know. We do know, however, that he did not remain in Florida, for within ten years’ time he was in the Dakota Territory along with Oliver. One thing evident from his letter is that most folks at that time were about ready to write off most of Florida to the east and south as not being orange grove territory, and fit largely for mere grazing land. How surprised he would be with today’s developments. The pioneering spirit was there but Florida must have seemed a long way from family, and ready cash was probably not available for investment

The Wisconsin Cartters – Chapter Fourteen

August 29th, 2007 . by Cary


Returning to the year 1860, five years after the Cartters arrived at Black River Falls, we find included in the Agricultural Census, reported in July for the year ending June 1 – 1860, the following statistics for the farm of James B. Cartter:

Improved land 95 acres
Unimproved land 505 acres
Cash Value of Farm $3000.00
Value of Mach. & Equip. $120.00
Horses – 2
Bushels of Wheat – 350
Milk Cows – 4
Bushels of Corn – 600
Working Oxen – 2
Bushels of Oats – 800
Other cattle – 2
Bushels of Irish Potatoes – 700
Swine – 7
# Butter – 175
Value of Stock $300.00
Tons Hay – 25
Value Animals Slaughtered $200.00

The Family census for 1860 – Town of Springfield, Jackson County reports as follows:

James B. Cartter 45 yr. – Farmer $5000 Real Estate, $2000 Personal Property, N. Y.
Isadora Cartter 26 yr., Mass.
Julia E. Cartter 4 yr., Wis.
David K. Cartter 2 yr., Wis.
Jacob Farber 21 yr. – Laborer, $100 Real Estate, Germany
Igaba Fening 28 yr. – Servant, Norway
George Rolph 23 yr. – Laborer, $40 Real Estate, England

From these statistics several observations might be made. First, real progress was underway in building an operating farm on the Cartter property; second, much land remained to be cleared; third, considerable money had already been invested in the enterprise; fourth, James Bruce, whose health had not been dependable in recent years, was employing help both on the farm and in the house. This was a common practice in those days for there were many single young men and women coming to America, with agricultural backgrounds, searching for opportunities to accumulate capital with which to establish themselves in land ownership. The three names found listed with the family illustrate the wide variety of countries from which these young people were coming. It can also be noticed that farming was very well diversified in an effort to provide home grown food for the family as well as feed for livestock and produce for the market. Produce was of both crop and animal origin.

The years 1857 to 1860 had marked a change in the sources from which new settlers were coming. A canvas of some of the early folks who settled in the Disco area with James Bruce shows their early origins as follows:

Madison Vincent – N. Y.
Noah Duehl – Canada
George Vincent – N. Y.
Michael Crawley – Ireland
Oliver Swift – Mass.
Wm. Caves – Ireland
Geo. Kimball – N. Hamp.
Wm. Harmer – England
Nat. Kimball – N. Hamp.
Charles Harmer – England

As lumbering tapered off many Scandinavian people who had worked in the woods during the winter purchased lands on which they could farm summers and where their families could live the year around. Gradually names such as “Johnson”, “Erickson”, “Olson”, “Haggnis”, “Peterson”, “Hoem”, “Gullickson” appeared on the list of land owners, most of them seeking out the more hilly areas – similar to the hills and valleys of their native lands. Many young women learned the ways of American life, housekeeping etc., in the homes of the older settlers, carrying this new knowledge over into their married lives. In 1870 25% of Jackson County’s population was foreign-born and over one-half of them, 944, were of Norwegian and Swedish descent.

Many were the “servants and laborers,” so-called by census takers, who became life-long friends and associated of the Cartters. Both James and Isadora seem to have had an understanding way with the immigrant and possessed personalities which bred confidence, trust, and loyalty. Many young immigrant men and women considered the Cartter farm to be their home in this new country. One example out of many may illustrate this trust.

Jacob Hummel, from Germany, had worked for the Cartters and accumulated money enough to buy a piece of land in the Disco area. The Civil War came and he enlisted as so many were doing. He found himself in at Murfreesboro, Tenn. May 21, 1863 where he wrote a letter to James Bruce with whom he had left his money for safe keeping. The letter says in part, “Under marching orders,” then proceeds to ask James to turn some money over to his brother on a note with this precaution, “I want you to see that it will be sure for me when I call for it and if not don’t let it go. I hate to refuse a brother but I want some show to get the money back if ever I should call for it.”

Unfortunately Jacob did not live to return for he was killed in action only days after writing this letter. As a boy the writer remembers well the wooden canteen on which Jacob Hummel’s name had been beautifully carved. This and his other personal items had been sent to the Cartters, Jacob’s only home in America. Jacob Farber, whose name appears in the 1860 census, also enlisted for the Civil War from the Cartter home.

Schools were early recognized as important to this pioneer community. From an article appearing in the Banner Journal, written by Clyde Harmer Oct. 5, 1960 we quote, “The first school built in the Disco community was built of logs and was located where Hugh Sharp’s house now stands about 2 miles north of Cartter’s. It was built in the late 1850’s or early 60’s. One of the first teachers was Susan Downer, a sister of Judge Downer, founder of Downer College in Milwaukee.”

We have in the Cartter files a school order which reads as follows:

“To J. B. Cartter Treasurer of School District No. two in the town of Springfield. Please pay to Susan Downer the sum of ninety dollars for teaching the District School three months at thirty dollars per month out of any money in your hands not appropriated belonging to said District. Dated this 10th day of Feb. 1866.

George Kimball, District Clerk
William Caves, Director.”

Continuing with Clyde Harmer’s article we read:

“In 1868 a township system of schools was organized according to a plan by the state Superintendent. As a consequence in 1872 the School board leased land from Charles Harmer and built a school house on the little hill at the Disco Corners where Potter’s house now stands. A building was constructed that year and Miss Josephine Roberts was the first teacher.

In those days they hired teachers by the term, four months in the winter and three in the summer, sometimes less. A box stove stood in the center of this building. The building was painted red.”

Later on, in about 1902, David Cartter, son of James Bruce, who was then clerk of the school board, was instrumental in getting the two school boards together. (The school houses of districts 9 and 10 had been located only about two and a half miles apart) As a result of this joint meeting the No. 10 school house was moved south to Disco Corners and located across the road from No. 9 so that a graded school could be created, four graded in each building with two teachers. A horse barn was built to accommodate ten horses. Families living at a distance thus provided their own transportation. Later those living beyond a two mile distance were paid transportation money. In 1911 the two buildings were joined together and operated as one unit with two teachers. The author had the privilege of attending this unique graded school.

In those days it was the practice for the teachers to “board out” in the neighborhood. Cartter’s home was usually open as a place for the teachers to board and room due to its convenient location within one-half mile of the school. In addition to providing education for the children this school served as the community center and the location for religious inspiration. Sunday school was first established in the original school building at Sharp’s Corners. Among the early Sunday school teachers were Mrs. De Witt, Mrs. James Cartter, and Mr. Burge. Later, in 1891 the Disco Sunday School was organized by Rev. Hitchings of Gale College.

Over the years ministers of various denominations conducted services at the Disco school, serving as limited circuit riders. (better described probably as “buggy riders”)

Mrs. Louise (Adams) Curran is the only living grandchild, at this writing, to have known both James Bruce and Isadora personally. She recalls many things from her associations with them as a little girl, such as –

“Grandmother was an influence in the community. For years she was superintendent of the Sunday school and, I’m sure, influential in having the early preaching brought to the community. For several years our Presbyterian minister, after preaching at Sechlerville Sunday A.M., would drive by horse and buggy to Disco and preach in the afternoon. Then he’d have supper at Cartter’s, go to Taylor to preach in the evening and then home, a distance of about twenty-five miles.” She adds in addressing the writer, “when Grandma was away, your mother, Aunt Emma, took over and when Edith (David’s third wife) came she did what she could to carry on the practice. The community by that time (1910) became strongly Norwegian and a Lutheran church was built within driving distance as well as a rural Catholic church.”

As a boy (born in 1899) growing up on the Disco farm the writer remembers well the effort that women of the community exerted, even at that late date, to maintain a religious influence in the community. During his boyhood, a Methodist minister from Black River Falls made his bi-monthly Sunday visits to the community school where services were held and where Sunday school was a weekly occurrence.

A look at Black River Falls history shows the early establishment of churches followed this order. Universalists in 1868 – Baptist in 1869 – Catholic in 1872, others followed.

The following account of Sabbath on the Cartter farm comes from Irene (Cartter) Knapp, the author’s older sister, now deceased, but as retold by Ruth (Knapp) Forssen, her older daughter.

“The Sabbath started at sundown on Saturday. No work was done, other than necessary chores. The Sunday meal was set to bake slowly for the next day so the time could be spent in resting, reading and writing letters, in addition to such time as was spent in Sunday school or church services. As soon as the sun went down on Sunday, Isadora would put on her wraps, no matter what the weather and set off on a walk usually to a neighbor’s. James and David would then tend the stock. There must have been much singing too for the song book belonging to Isadora is well worn. It contains songs now long forgotten, such as sea chanties and songs from other countries reflecting many peoples’ yearnings for the homelands they left behind.”

This pattern of Sunday observance held over into the writer’s boyhood. While still at home he well remembers his father’s practice of writing letters on Sunday to his daughter Irene after she was gone from home and the weekly letters he received from his father after he went away to college. Field work on the farm was never done on Sunday but walks out over the farm with his father are still remembered as very pleasant and educational experiences.

The family organ arrived early in this home and was well used. Playing it became Irene’s inspiration for a music career and for the later purchase of a piano for her use in 1910.

Until 1896 there was no such thing as Rural Free Delivery of mail. For settlers in the Disco community mail was delivered at the Black River Falls post office; and neighbors going into town would carry mail for each other. On August 25, 1871 the government approved the establishment of a post office at the corners, serviced from Black River Falls by stage route. Until that time the Corners had no official name. The name Marengo was suggested by Col. Carl C. Pope and approved. Noah Duell served as the first postmaster. The office was discontinued in 1886 and when it came to be reestablished in 1892 the name Marengo had been taken by another town in Wisconsin. It was at this point in time that the name Disco was suggested by Mrs. William Caves after her home town in Illinois. This name was approved and has continued although now the post office is no longer in operation, mail being entirely delivered on rural routes from Black River Falls.

Disaster played its part too in the Black River Falls area. From Merrill’s Thesis we learn that:

“In 1857 the Jackson Co. Board contracted for the construction of the first court house at Black River Falls. The building was to cost $5000 and was nearing completion when in July, 1858 it was mysteriously burned.”

“On a March morning in 1860 a fire started in a bowling alley on Main St. and driven in all directions by a hurricane of wind swept everything before it. Seven-eighths of the town was reduced to ruins. This lead to a resurvey of the city area.”

These disasters were only matched or exceeded by the flood of Oct. 7, 1911 which washed away the major part of the business area of Black River Falls. This flood was caused by the breaking of the dam at Hatfield on the Black River, which sent a wall of water down stream cutting away an earthen wall above the Black River Falls dam, washing around it, and eroding the foundations of all buildings along Main street. Fortunately no lives were lost.

With health services ten miles away in Black River Falls Isadora and the other women of the Disco community needed to do many things for each other. There were times of family need, childbirth, accidents and disease epidemics. Perhaps one of the most disastrous epidemics came in the year 1879 when diphtheria, that dread disease, seemed to run rampant through the schools.

The following two bits of verse were written by Isadora and published in the weekly paper with announcements of how disaster had dealt with the families of two neighbors.

“Four children of the Caves family ages 7-9-2-11 died in the fall of 1879, the following verse was written in memory of them.

“Gone from the circle, dear children,
Gone to your home of rest,
We know you are watching and waiting
For the loved ones you have left.
We miss thee, dear children,
We miss thee gone from our fond embrace;
But all will be joy and gladness,
When we meet you face to face.
Mrs. J.B.C.”

In another issue of the paper that same year this announcement was found.

“Diphtheria has taken four children from the peter harmer family.” Again Mrs. Cartter had spoken for the neighbors.

“Forbid them not, whom Jesus calls,
Nor dare the claims resist,
Since his own lips to us declare
Heaven shall of such consist.
With flowing tears and sorrowing hearts,
We give them up to thee;
Receive them, Lord, into thine arms
Thine may they ever be.”
Mrs. J.B.C.

Many an early childbirth was assisted by Mrs. Harriet Deuel a mid-wife of much experience who lived just south of Disco Corners.

Mention has been made previously concerning the blacksmith shop which James operated on his farm. Built originally for his own use, it became a matter of community-wide accommodation. Iron work was needed on most farms, plow shares needed shaping and machinery of all kinds needed repair. With money scarce in those days much of his compensation for labor performed was made in the form of farm products. The writer remembers looking through an old ledger which James kept showing accounts balanced through payments made in wheat, potatoes, young livestock, etc. It is likely that James’ greatest work contribution in later years was centered in this shop. His son David, (the author’s father) early took over operation of the farm. He had not been able to go to school beyond the grades due to his father’s poor health, but he was always a reader and careful student of current events. Eventually a blacksmith shop was established in the Disco Corners doing a thriving business for many years.

A general store was started at the Corners by C. J. Hoag and Frank O’Hearn. This store is still in operation, having passed through the hands of Kimball, Zastrow, Willard Potter, Willard Potter Jr., and Raymond Zindrick. It served as the Disco post office for many years. Another early accommodation to settlers was provided at the Corners in the form of a grist mill which operated during the early years. In 1900 a creamery was built as an outlet for cream produced on the farms of the area. Before that time much of the saleable dairy production found market in the form of cream shipped in cans or as butter and cheese made in the homes and sold or exchanged for other household needs. Again we are indebted to Louise Adams Curran for this statement – – “Grandmother used to make her own cheese – – huge flat round ones that must have weighed 25 lbs. Of course they cured their own meat and the orchard provided abundant fruit. How delicious those Transcendent crabs were, so crisp and juicy.”

The orchard had grown in size and in variety of fruit. Cherries, plums, and raspberries augmented the wide variety of apples, plus the wild blueberries, and blackberries found on the farm. The cellar shelves were always well-stocked. James B. and Isadora seemed to enjoy very much their forays out to the berry patch and new trees added to the orchard were planted as a joint venture. Being the largest orchard in the community, fruit was shared with the neighbors.

Records in Jackson County show that the original town of Albion, mentioned earlier, was fast being sub-divided and that by 1856 five new towns had been organized including Springfield. It was in this town that the Cartter farm was originally located. The first records that seem to be available for this town, its organization and officers, are found in a book of records kept by the town clerk. The first meeting mentioned is one held April 2, 1867 at the home of Oley Anderson. James Bruce did take an active part in local affairs; he helped by drawing upon his experiences at Wheatland, Wis. and Utica, Mich. where he held town offices.

James held the office of Town Clerk in ’67, ’68, and ’69. In 1870 he served as chairman of the Springfield town board and member of the Jackson County board. James was again returned to the post of Town Clerk in 1871, a post which he held for the last time that year.

A petition was filed in 1876 with the County Board of Jackson County to transfer T 21 N R 5W from the town of Springfield to the town of Albion, with three exceptions. The petition was recognized by the county board and took effect April 1, 1877. This transfer included all of the Cartter property in T 21 N, making it much easier for the Cartters and their neighbors to participate in town affairs as Albion town meetings were held in Black River Falls which was the family trade center. The town of Springfield profited also for it could now have a more central meeting place at the village of Taylor. Prior to that time all meetings had been held in the homes of residents.

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