Histories: Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:
"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":
George H. Markham's Reminiscences
-As transcribed from pages 208 - 211
George H. Markham is one of the oldest settlers in Trempealeau County. He came to Independence with the Markham party in 1856, and has since continued to take an active part in local affairs. His diary is replete with interesting incidents of the early days, and his memory of those far-distant times is most vivid.
The family, then consisting of John Markham and wife and two sons, George H. and Arthur A., accompanied by Walter Maule, a retainer, and Charles F. D. Lyne, the tutor of the two sons, came to America in 1856, embarking from Southampton. In originally planning their trip they had purposed going to Canada, but had changed their destination upon the advice of Rev. William Davis, whom members of the family had met in France.
They landed in New York, went to Chicago by rail, thence to Milwaukee by boat, thence to Watertown by train, and from there to Columbus by stage. At Columbus they were joined by Mr. Davis. There also they were met by David Wood, who offered to guide them to Trempealeau Valley, where homesteads were awaiting.
Consequently, leaving john Markham and his wife and Arthur A. Markham at Columbus, the remainder of the party, consisting of George H. Markham, Walter Maule, Charles F. D. E. Line, William Davis, Mrs. Davis and two children, started out to seek a new home, guided by David Wood, still a resident of the county. The trip, which was made with an ox team, was filled with interesting adventures. Through Portage, Mauston and Sparta they found their way to Billings Ferry, over the Black River, passing near the present site of the city of Melrose, and thence entering the Trempealeau Valley near the present site of Blair. The first settler encountered in the valley was William Thompson. The first night in the valley was spent at the home of Edmond Reynolds. A short stop was made at the home of Alvah Wood, where David Wood remained. They found a poor bridge across Pigeon Creek, and continued on to Hiram Stratton's, where a short stop was made. Stratton accompanied them down the valley to the mouth of Elk Creek, and assisted them in selecting a location. He also assisted them in procuring some poplar logs near his place, and with these logs they erected a cabin, 24 by 24, a few hundred feet south of what has since been known as the Markham or English castle. A shed for the cattle was built of poles thatched over with marsh grass. Some marsh grass was also cut for the use of the cattle.
The remainder of the month of October soon passed, and before long came the famous winter of the deep snow. Miles from the nearest habitation, unaccustomed to the rigors of pioneer life, and with only the crudest of equipment, the little party spent the long hard winter. Both oxen died as a result of the poor food and inclement weather. The people themselves would have perished had it not been for two trips which George Markham took to Black River Falls with a hand sled. On one of these trips, when the snow was four feet deep, he stopped at the home of Gullick Olson, near the present town of Blair, obtained there a pair of snow shoes, and within a short time learned their use.
Mr. Markham remembers distinctly those settlers living along the Trempealeau River between Independence and the Jackson County line with whom he was acquainted. First came the home of Elder Moses Ingalls and his two sons, Francis W. and Moses D. They were south of the river. North of the river not far away was Hiram Stratton. Above the present village of Whitehall was Alvah Wood south of the river, then came William Van Sickle, Ed. Weeks, Cyrus Hines, John Debow and Wessel Lowe north of the river, and then John Hopkins, Simon S. Rice, Henry Lake, Herman Snyder, Chester Beswick, John B. Dunning, Edmond M. Reynolds, William Welch and Gullick Olson, all south of the river. Ebenezer Thurston was north of the river. Then came Robert Thompson and Severt Johnson south of the river. Messrs. Stirling and Culver were north of the river over the line in Jackson County.
To this list David Wood, who accompanied Mr. Markham on his first trip to the county, has made a number of interesting additions. The Ingalls family, Hiram Stratton and brother Albert, and Alvah Wood, father of David, settled in what is now Lincoln in 1856.
Of those in what is now Preston Mr. Wood believes Sivert Johnson to have been the first in 1854, followed in 1855 by Gullick Olson, Lars Olson Bjorgo Olson, Sigbjurne Ellickson, Peder Pederson, Gullick A. Storlee, Bengt Danielson, Nels Halverson, and Jacob Tenneson.
Ebenezer Thurston, Robert Thompson, Edmond M. Reynolds, John b. Dunning, Henry Lake, Simon S. Rice and john Hopkins, with his sixteen-year-old son James, arrived in 1855, and Wessel Lowe, Herman Snyder, Chester Beswick and probably William Welch came in 1856.
Others who took land in 1855 and became residents here were William A. Conger, Hiram Walker, Isander P. Armstrong, George W. Malory and Richard Porter, the last named of whom died a short time after his arrival.
While the little Markham colony was spending the winter of 1856-57 at Independence, John Markham and his wife and son Arthur A. had started for their new location. They were met at Stirling's, near the county line, by George H. Markham. Near the Culver home, with the assistance of Culver, they built a raft and thus made their way down the Trempealeau River to the mouth of Elk Creek. The next summer was spent in breaking the land, but no crops were raised except vegetables.
Settlers came in but slowly. In the summer of 1857 Giles Cripps and family arrived and settled three miles up Elk Creek, the first settlers in that valley. No more settlers arrived that year.
In 1858, George Hale, accompanied by a friend, arrived at the Markham home on April 30. On their trip up the river they had lost their guns. The Markhams took them ten miles down the river in boats and they recovered the missing firearms. In the fall George Hale brought his mother and located nine miles up the valley, being the first settler in the township which now bears his name. It was this year that George H. Markham and Charles F.D. Lyne blazed the first trail between Independence and Arcadia along practically the route of the present wagon road, the trip being made for the purpose of allowing Mr. Markham to cast his first vote. The river and creeks were swollen and had to be crossed in several places. In order to accomplish the passage it was necessary to construct temporary bridges across which the oxen were led and across which the wagon was carried after being taken apart.
In 1859 came David Watson, who settled still further up the valley near the present site of Pleasantville. In 1860 came a great influx of population.
Of these first settlers John Markham and his wife died here and are here laid to rest. George H. and Arthur Markham have since continued to live here. Charles F. D. Lyne first took a claim nearby, then left for Missouri and for many years was assistant rector of St. Joseph's Parish, St. Joseph, in that State. Walter Maule never married. He took a claim near the mouth of the cooley which has since born his name, and spent the rest of his life here. He died in 1898 and is here laid to rest. His brother George is still here.
Giles Cripps died here and is here buried. George Hale moved to Carrington, N. D. David Watson stayed a dozen years or so and then went to Michigan.
Before the war there was a large settlement in Burnside Township. Peter Sura and Lawrence Bautch, the first of the Polish people, arrived, and soon influenced many of their countrymen to settle in the same locality. About the same time came George Parsons, Talcott Moore, James Reid, John Reid, Reuben Meggs, George Meggs, William Cramer, Hamlet Warring, Dr. James Kelly and his two sons, John and James, Lowell Fay and his two sons, Henry and Aaron, Thomas Bennett, George Bach, D. C. Cilley, H. W. Rumsey, H. P. Rumsey, E. A. Bently, Michael White, George Bartlett, Robert Brookings, William Nichols and others and obtained farms.
Alfred and Harrison Rogers, and Abraham and Samuel Coy, settled near New City, and up Travis Valley settled Dr. Joshua Travis, an Indian herb doctor; Jessie Kidder, Lovell Kidder, Albert Spaulding, Elias Spaulding, Frank and L. D. Tubbs, Theodore Hutchins, John Raymond and ____ Vance with his two sons, Irving and Washington. There also lived Elder Isaac Hickey, of the Mormon faith, around whom was gathered a scattered settlement of his own belief.
Martin Borst, an early settler in the Borst Valley, soon acquired a large tract of some 1,600 acres of the best land in that valley.
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