Histories: Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:
"Trempealeau County" by Clarence J. Gamroth:
Volume 1B Supplement:
Summary of the Diary of Arthur A. Markham
October 1, 1855 to September 17, 1868
by Blanche Markham Neis, his daughter.
The diary of Arthur A. Markham in the month of October 1855 when the family was temporarily residing in Dinan, a small town near St. Malo, Northern France. The youngest son, Albert, is in the navy training school and the eldest, John, is already in the diplomatic service in China. So the household consists of: the parents, John and Marianne; their sons, George and Arthur; Mr. Lyne, the tutor; and two maid servants apparently from the Isle of Guernsey. The boys share some of the outside work, have a French tutor in once or twice a week and the entire family is addicted to long walks.
The boys also go hunting frequently although seldom is mention made of anything they shot. The father has been subject to epileptic seizure which had necessitated his retirement from the British Navy in which he had been captain. He is on half pay and his incapacity for duty must be attested in six months. During their stay in Dinan, they were apparently formulating plans to make the trip to America, preferably to Southern Canada. Finances see to be the chief deterrant in getting started. An acquaintance of the family - a Mr. Davis, went ahead and when word was finally received from him, he had located in western Wisconsin, he urged the Markhams to settle. During the spring, Walter Maule, joined the Markham family with the idea of accompanying them to the new world. Apparently his father had been a rector of the church the Markhams attended in England. Mr. Lyne was the one who took care of business transactions and had charge of the silver plate and Grandmother's jewelry when they are sent to be stored.
About the middle of August, they set sail from Southampton in the S. S. Herman.
After having said farewell to several relatives who came down to see them off, Tanfuey's and Lynch's, Uncle John gave George and Arthur enough money to the boys, and they purchased a rifle and revolver to use in hunting in the new world. After an uneventful passage of 15 days they arrive at quarantine harbor in New York, then went through customs and took rooms at the St. Nicholas Hotel, when they immediately wrote to close relatives of their safe arrival. Next day they left for Chicago by train and from there took a steamer to Milwaukee, where they put up at the Fremont House. The first of September, they left Milwaukee by train for Watertown, the end of the line. From there they went by stagecoach to Columbus, where mail awaited them. Davis wrote directing two of them, Mr. Lyne and George to come and meet him at Yorktown, while the remainder of the party remained at the Inn, run by the Lover, in Columbus. Davis was to go to the Mississippi to learn what sort of farming country was there. About the middle of September, Mr. Lyne returned with the information that they had purchased 300 acres of good farming land in the Trempealeau valley, reported that the rest of the men were to build a log house. Meanwhile those at Columbus had a wagon made, with spring seats, to transport their luggage for $98.00.
While at Columbus, George, Mr. Lyne and Mr. Davis went to a Justice of the Peace, to be sworn in as United States citizens (father [Arthur] was too young) but the Justice of the Peace had not the authority and recommended that they have it done in Portage on their way to Trempealeau.
The day before they were to leave to the west, while the family was out for a walk, someone broke into grandmother's room and stole a number of things, including clothes, jewelry and money. A thorough search revealed a bundle of clothing in the barn but the valuables were never recovered. A start was finally made November 23 with two wagons, each drawn by horses. There had been a thaw, and the roads were so muddy that the first afternoon they were to come only ten miles. Father walked the entire distance as the wagons were so heavily loaded. Finally Mr. Davis left on foot because he feared that Mr. Lyne and George would run out of provisions; the rest of them with the luggage, were to come after there was hard enough frost to make the roads passable. December 6th the final start was made with sleighs. A distance of 30 miles was covered the first day, bringing them across the Wisconsin River at the Delles (the bridge near Kilbaen). The next day they reached Sparta and the following morning after a miserable night, (their beds were set up in a bar room) they headed for Black River Falls, but after covering about 20 miles, they met Mr. Davis who said the roads were all impassable. So they turned back in a heavy snow storm, to Black River Falls, when they stopped at the Black River House. Davis said that the house builders were almost starved and Mr. Lyne had gone on foot to Galesville, a distance of 24 miles to get provisions. On one of his walks about the vicinity, grandfather met some Indians and talked with them.
Grandmother usually stayed at the inn nursing Sally's puppies, which were born at Columbus. the weather was so severe that the windows of their rooms had frost one-half inch thick - so the landlord finally put up a stove in their room. Early the orning of December 17th they wer aroused by cries of "fire" and from the windows flames reaching up 40 feet can be seen. Apparently an incinerator had lit the fire in the sash factory which burned to the ground. They spent Christmas at the Mason's Inn and shortly had word from Mr. Davis, that he had frozen his feet so badly walking back to the log house, that he was unable to walk, and since the snow was so deep he had countermanded the order for teamsters to get the family to take them to the new farm on the Trempealeau River.
On one of his many walks, shortly after New Year's Day, father froze one of his ears so badly that it swelled to the size of an orange. Grandmother pitched in sewing shirts for the Mason family and nursing the baby when it arrived January 14th. The end of January, Mr. Lyne came from the farm having worn snowshoes to do so. On one of their walks grandfather and Arthur visited an iron mine and observed the smelter in operation. February 17th father and Mr. Lyne started out with a hand sled loaded with provisions for the farm, but had to turn back as one of the runners of the sled gave away. At the Falls they got a team and again started and with half a barrel of beef, and other supplies, getting half way by night. From their stopping place, they returned the team and went on with what they could drag on hand sleds. At the house they found all well, although Mr. Davis was still laid up with his frozen foot. Walter Maule and father did the housework, while George and Mr. Lyne left for Black River Falls to rest up for a week or two. The young men, Arthur and Walter even made bred as Mrs. Davis had a bad finger. Their routine seemed full, chopping and bringing in wood, cooking, cleaning the cabin, repairing snowshoes, mending clothes and soxs, in other words, just in an effort to supply food and to keep them warm, practically every entry during the winter read: "up at five, built the fire and prepared breakfast while Mr. Davis dressed the children." By Mark, an entry mentions washing and ironing clothes their duty, and the next day doing the same for the garments left there by Mr. Lyne and George.
The lady in quesiton apparently did nothing but look after her offsprings. Walter and father even made bread and prepared most of the meals.
In April the Davis's were leaving and so Arthur and Walter walked on to Strattan's for an ox team and wagon in which to carry the family as far as the Stratton home where they would be picked up by coach. Whent he two boys were leaving Stratton's for Black River Falls, Mr. Stratton rowed them across the river in his home made boat. First he took Walter and then came back to get Arthur, but somehow they overturned and father had to swim back to shore. He said it was most difficult trying to swim with his overcoat on; not to mention a water-proof bag with powder and bullets. The last 20 miles of the walk to Black River Falls was taken in a snow storm, so they did not reach their destination until five thirty "most tired to death" to quote the diary.
While staying in Black River Falls, he tells of watching rafts of logs go down the Black River, with eight or ten men on each. At another time he saw a Mr. Perkings catch a muskelunge from the Black River.
Late May, lumber was rafted down the Trempealeau River, to the site where the Markhams planned building a house. Mr. Stratton had been hired to plough seven acres, so George and Walter went down when the lumber was rafted down the Trempealeau. They planted corn, potatoes, and garden seed. They also dug a well. There had been so much rain early in June that the Black River raised twenty feet and their trip to the new home had to be postponed a couple of weeks. Mr. Davis' preemption rights to the land were sold to Captain Markham for fifty dollars. Mr. Lyne went to La Crosse to stage to cash grandfather's remittance and to secure the deed to the land, there being no bank in Black River Falls.
On June 29, 1857, the entire family set out for the Trempealeau valley, after having spent nearly a whole year at the Mason's Inn for which they paid $484.79. Part of the time there were six persons eating and sleeping there.
After a space of about four years and as many months, the diary resumes October 14, 1860 when the oldest brother, John, had just paid a visit on his way back from China. George had just driven him to Fountain City where he took a boat for La Crosse, from where he could get a train for Chicago and New York. They drove to Bishop's settlement (Arcadia) ten miles for mail and consulted James Warren, my mother's uncle, about building a house. That fall they dug and put in the root cellar, two hundred bushels of potatoes, one hundred fifteen bushels of carrots, three hundred forty bushels of rutabagas, five bushels of beets, besides cabbages, onions and mangelwurzels and pumpkins for the stock.
The relatives back in England subscribed L 160 (160 pounds English money) toward building the new home. In those days that would amount to about $800.00. Grandfather's dividend from the stock was L 56 annually besides his half-pay from the Navy. Most of the timber for the house were hauled from the "Tamaracks" by ox team. At this time the Markhams had a span of horses and two yoke of oxen. Even the grain for grist had to be hauled to Fountain City or to Pigeon Falls, to be ground, an all day trip if the miller could not grind immediately. If not, another day must be devoted to returning for the flour, etc. Many travelers planned to stop overnight with the Markhams and the boy who carried the mail made it a regular stop. A dry kiln was constructed to care for the green lumber for the house. The carpenters had to "dress" all the siding which comes from the pinery in rough finish. Rails for fencing also had to be hauled from the "Tamaracks."
In March 1861, prairie fires threatened the homestead and all hands had to get out to fight it for more than a day, digging fire breaks and setting back fires. Warren and his helpers were living here and preparing the material for the house, going home each Saturday. All the late winter was devoted to hauling lumber and making rail fences. At the spring election held in what is today Arcadia, Uncle George was elected constable and overseer of roads and Mr. Lyne was made school superintendent and Justice of the Peace.
Life on the farm, aside from caring for the stock seems to have been a never-ending struggle. To cut down trees for fuel, to grub out roots, break the land and erect fences around it for protection of the crops. Mention was made of going to Arcadia for the mail and coming home with 22 trout caught on the way. On June 16, 1861 Miss. F. Bishop, who taught school came on horseback to attend divine services. The Markhams always read the Psalms and lessons every Sunday.
With carpenters, masons, and regular members of the household including Mr. Lyne and Walter Maule, and frequent visitors, it seems as if Grandmother baked bread and cakes two or three times a week and certainly churned butter once a week, and churning was 11 pounds. Father seems to have taken most of the care of the garden and he states that they enjoyed green peas for the first time June 30th. Had green corn the 4th of August.
The Indians came and pitched their wigwams along the river just below Markham's fence. The Indians brought up venison they had just shot which they exchanged for flour, pound for pound. All of the family go up the bluffs on Sunday picking huckleberries. They bought the first reaper this year, I gather it was a little more than what a mower is these days, for the grain had to be bound by hand. While working on the house, Warren and his assistant several times pitched in and helped with the harvesting.
When the threshers came, father assisted mother cooking for the crew. A neighbor came to ask Warren to make a coffin for his wife, who died during the night.
It was necessary to borrow $300 from Healey to complete payment for the new house. Interest on the money from Healey was 10%. Taxes that year were $24.32. The winter of 1862 they began to have tibers for the new barn. On one trip to the "Tamaracks" they hauled out, with two teams, a couple of 40 foot timbers and one 16 foot stick. It seems that anyone who wanted timbers for building had only to go down and chop, haul it home. Another time, they hauled a 40 foot stick and 3 twenty-eight foot posts.
In early March there was a 30-inch snow fall. Grandmother and Arthur rode horseback to Arcadia for the mails and visited at Warrens. In getting on her hors grandmother had a bad fall on rough ice and hurt her hip and that same week Arthur injured his little finger in the feed cutter, taking off the nail and part of the quick. Pratically everyone of the men injured a finger in that machine.
Sunday, May 4, 1862, they slept and took their meals in the new house, having hauled beds and other furniture from Fountain City. Mr. and Mrs. Hale came to help for $400 a year and had their little Charlie with them. The men were still trying to clear the fields of grubs.
Captain Markham devoted the greater share of his time to taking long walks as he was frequently subject to seizures which left him feeling weak and miserable. The large orchard of 50 apple trees was wet out this year.
On October 8, 1862 George and Miss Bishop were married. Wedding trip was to Twin Cities via La Crosse.
A sewing machine was purchased in La Crosse. Before that Grandmother had made shirts, trousers, and so forth by hand.
On January 5, 1863, George took horses down to the river to drink and tumbled off one he was riding into the water. That winter wheat sold for $1.05 per bushel. They built an icehouse in February, making double walls with straw stuffed between for insulation. Little Charlie got in the way of the men making fence posts and the axe made a five inch wound in the fleshy part of his back. Miss Cole the seamstress, was kind enough to sew it up. The cut did not hurt the boy much.
In August, they got a Negro boy, Johnny, from Mrs. McMaster, who she had brought from Madison. He proved useful in running errands on the farm. In November Mr. Lyne became so ill that father rode horseback to Fountain City and took a boat from there to Winona to get a doctor, Dr. Staples and he got a steamboat at ? a.m. and reached Fountain City 2½ hrs. later. After having breakfast, they hired a team and reached Ronceval at 10 a.m. Three weeks later, Mr. Lyne was so much worse that father again rode horseback to Fountain City as the ice on the Mississippi was scarcely safe walke don the ice and islands, when he could, and reached Winona before noon; but the doctor could not get ready before 2 p.m. He had dinner and got a rig to take them up along the Minnesota side until they were opposite Fountain City and walked across. He hired a rig for the doctor and they reached thehouse at 1:30 a.m. The doctor prescribed for Mr. lyne and went back to Winona, but returned in a couple of days and opened the abscess from which he took a quart of pus. Father accompanied the M. D. to Winona and got some supplies for Mr. Lyne who was feeling better when father reached home again after a long drive. The week before Christmas father drove to La Crosse to see a lawyer about not being drafted, he was still an alien.
Christmas day was celebrated with roasted beef, turkey, and plum pudding. Mr. Lyne was still too weak to raise up in bed without help and both grandmother and his wife were busy nursing hi. The roads had over two feet of snow at that time, so that the mail boy failed to get there for 2 weeks. Mr. Lyne's side was still draining New Year Day 1864. In February the taxes were $79.50 almost 3 times what they were a couple of years previous. Mr. Lyne came downstairs March 11 for the first time since his illness. Grandmother was taken very ill the same night. Uncle George visited the Lynes in Missouri and came home with ague.
Early in May 1865 a steamboat went up the river (Trempealeau) and back the following day. The wool clip from about 50 sheep was about 150 pounds which were sent to Beaver Dam to make into yarn and cloth.
In October 1867, Albert, now a lieutenant in the British Navy, paid the family a surprise visit for two weeks. He felt badly because his father did not know him.
The wool crop in 1867 was 350 pounds and was sent to Beaver Dam to be manufactured into cloth, blankets and yarn.
-From the Independence Wisconsin Public Library. Compiled from the original diary by Clarence Gamroth. Retyped by Susan W. Hunn, July 1988.
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