Walworth County Historical Society


" A cabin of logs was at once decided upon, and immediately commenced, yet it was some two weeks before the exceptionally cold weather yielded sufficiently to admit of filling in the crevices between the logs, so as to make it habitable. After two weeks of dreary waiting, the cold so far abated as to admit of digging up the earth to the south side of the cabin, and, with hot water, obtained a plastic mud, with which, with wooden paddles, the chinking was done, and the new residence was thus completed. The inhabitants of the whole town were Rockwell, Bradley, Latham and Ogden —four- persons— who occupied the new building, the first dwelling of Elkhorn. the future county seat of Walworth County.

"The larder question next became the paramount subject of solicitude and inquiry; so Milo Bradley improvised a hand-sled, with which he and Ogden made a trip to Spring Prairie for supplies. Be it borne in mind that flour, meal and salt pork were, at that time, the standard necessaries of the day. Having successfully made the trip, they there also learned that one Alpheus Johnson, who had a cabin in what was then and is now called the Dwinnell Settlement, in La Fayette, had a few potatoes, and it was decided to add that excellent vegetable to their frugal fare. Accordingly, the next day Ogden, equipped with the hand-sled, made his way through the brush for the much-coveted luxury. The trip was void of success. The old man positively denied the suspicion of having any potatoes. As he was slowly wending his way homeward, he discovered in the softening crust of snow, coon tracks, which were but another confirmation of the maxim that Providence or Hercules helps the persevering. A new field of enterprise was here opened; he followed the trail until he found where the coon had ensconced himself for his night's repose. Returning to the cabin for an axe and re-enforcements, the siege of the coon commenced. The coons had probably heard of the discussion of one of his relatives with Capt. Scott, and, being like-minded, surrendered. Two of them were captured and brought alive to town, and, for a few days, the colonists fared sumptuously on "baked coon." But at that time, the example of the boy and the woodchuck had not materialized, but the analogy of being "out of meat" had. The day of such a luxury was drawing to a close; so Hollis Latham started on foot for Milwaukee for the purpose of purchasing provisions. He went by the way of Skunk's Grove, Racine County, near what is now Franksville, and contracted with Mr. Joseph Nickson to haul out some provisions. Reaching Milwaukee, the provisions were purchased, and Nickson agreed to be at Elkhorn as soon as Latham, who determined to return by the way of Mukwonago, a nearer route. When he arrived here, no Nickson had appeared, and the sequel showed that Nickson on his return by way of his home, had concluded to accept an invitation to a wedding in Kenosha County, and it was some ten days before he put in an appearance. In the meantime, having nothing except the rib bones of some salt pork, Ogden's rifle was brought into requisition, to the detriment of the prairie chickens, of which, with the rib bones, they made a stew: and the chickens feeding at that season of the year upon hazel buds, they were about as savory as the celebrated political crow, which politicians sometimes diet upon, and it is a notable fact that at this day, none of the old settlers at that period enthuse worth a cent during the chicken season."

The house was not entirely finished till the middle of the summer, but sufficiently so for the occupancy of a numerous family, on the arrival of the Bradley families early in June. It was, for the times, a veiy pretentious structure. Its size was 18x30 feet. It was a story and a half high. It had two outside doors, the main entrance being on the south side, the other at the southeast corner, on the east end. The whole east half of the lower floor was in one room, being kitchen, dining-room and general sitting-room. The west half was divided into three small rooms. The upper floor was unpartitioned and constituted a grand dormitory, sheets being hung up to define personal rights and insure privacy. It was guiltless of paint, and a stove funnel, stuck through the roof, did duty as a chimney. A small dairy or cheese-room was subsequently attached to the northeast corner of the house. The order of architecture was undefinable, and suggested comfort and utility more than aesthetic taste. It has given way to more modern and convenient dwellings, but is still remembered as the abode of comfort by the early settlers, and the welcome place of sojourn of many a weary traveler of the early days.

Rockwell returned from Indiana with his drove of stock early in June—about the 5th. He brought some twenty-five cows, three yoke of oxen and a horse. They were not what a farmer of Walworth County would to-day call a fancy lot; there is not, probably, in all the county, among the thousands, twenty-five as scurvy as those which constituted Rockwell's drove. As they were safe from the disgrace of comparison, there being no others near, they were satisfactory to their owners, and were put to grazing on the fresh-grown grass of Elkhorn Prairie. The colony luxuriated on bread and milk till the women might arrive. It is not believed that either of the men attempted to churn before that time.

Soon after Rockwell's return, Daniel E. Bradley arrived in Racine with the families of himself and Milo. The ox-team was immediately dispatched for them, and they reached Elkhorn and took up quarters in the frame house, not yet plastered, June 12, 1887. This addition of women and children made the colony complete. The families who arrived with Mr. Daniel E. Bradley consisted of three women-—Mrs. Daniel E. Bradley and daughter (now Mrs. Hollis Latham), and Mrs. Milo E. Bradley, with six children, the oldest of whom, then a youth of fourteen years, is the present Postmaster of Elkhorn—Mr. Henry Bradley. The census taken at that time showed the population (all inmates of the new house) to number fourteen, viz., five men, three women and six children. Mr. Bradley, Sr., with his wife, constituted the head of the united family. Business began in earnest. Some twenty-five acres of prairie were broken during the latter part of June, partly on the claim of the company on Section 5, in what is now the town of Geneva, and a few acres on each of the claims of Latham and Ogden, on Sections 6 and 1, within the present limits of the town of Elkhorn. So the first land broken by the plow for cultivation was by Messrs. Latham and Ogden on their respective claims. The crops that year consisted principally of corn, with a bounteous crop of rutabaga turnips, taken from six acres, which helped the cows through the following winter.

Bradley's house, besides being the home of the colony, was"Bradley's" tavern at Elkhorn designated that locality. Bradley's house, besides being the home of the colony, was a tavern and a favorite stopping place for travelers. It was the first tavern in Elkhorn, and in subsequent sketches it should be so understood. Travelers never asked Mr. Bradley to "show them a room" there was only one, embracing all up-stairs they were only too glad to be shown a bed.

Excerpt from History of Walworth County Wisconsin by Albert Clayton Beckwith