The year 1832, celebrated in Wisconsin history as the time when the
lead miners and other pioneers destroyed the power of the Rock River
Indians, was remembered by later-coming German immigrants for a very
different reason. It was toward the end of March in that year, the
place Trier (Treves), the ancient capital of the western “Cæsars,” a
city which is still rich in the massive ruins of its Roman foretime.
As the story goes, the boys of one form in the old _Gymnasium_ were
being entertained at the house of a professor, where, boy-like, they
were playing indoor games accompanied with much laughter and general
hilarity. Suddenly one of their younger classmates rushed breathless
into the room, exclaiming: “Goethe is dead!”[38] During the balance
of the evening, the less serious of the youngsters having returned to
their interrupted play, this boy engaged with his instructors in eager
discussion of Goethe’s life and writings.

The youth in question was Karl Marx, whose later history exhibits a
wide divergence from the exclusively literary career prophesied by
his boyhood scholastic interests. The classmate who is authority for
this incident continued in Marx’s company the _Gymnasium_ studies; he
then performed his one year minimum of military service, and having
secured some business experience sailed away as an immigrant to the
new world, settling on a Wisconsin farm. In the course of a long life
he often reverted to the story of Goethe, whose works, as well as
those of Schiller and Lessing, made a part of his home library. These
great names never failed to kindle his pride in the intellectual
achievements of the German people, whose governments at the time of
his emigration in 1841 seemed to him a compound of despotism and

Doubtless there were Germans of the immigration to Wisconsin who
knew not Goethe, or if in a hazy way they did know who he was, had
no intellectual right to judge his merits. But the more intelligent
were sure to possess some knowledge of the writings of their greatest
poet and of lesser men who still were great in the world’s estimation.
Hence it was that Germans who at that period went to the new world,
while acknowledging by their flight the political, economic, and social
obstacles to a successful life in Prussia, Bavaria, Baden, Westphalia,
or Luxemburg, were always able to maintain a self-respecting attitude
when confronted with the pretensions of those Americans who were
unsympathetic, jingoistic, or boastful. German immigrants might grant
much to superior cleverness, to the stupendous achievements of a
liberty loving race, domiciled in a peaceful continent and dowered with
free lands and boundless opportunity; but they remembered that _William
Tell_ and _Faust_ and _The Laocoön_ were written by Germans.

Though many immigrants were far from being literary, they doubtless
possessed, on the average, a knowledge of German masterpieces
fully equivalent to the knowledge which Americans possessed of the
English Classics. For education was looking up, and while most of
the immigrants from German states, like those from other European
countries, were of the peasant class, which was usually the most
backward, still by 1840 nearly all were sure to have enjoyed some
systematic schooling. At an earlier period this might have been
otherwise. The condition of limited serfdom, removed but a generation
earlier, operated powerfully to neutralize such benevolent plans for
universal instruction as kings and ministers proclaimed. For the
peasants were directly subordinate to the local lords, who often felt
“that an ignorant labor supply was less likely to seek to better its
condition by demands upon them….”[40] The great national reform
movement which came to fruition after the close of the Napoleonic wars
swept away many of the disabilities of the common people, and developed
in Prussia and other states a system of universal education as the
surest means of national upbuilding.

The excellencies of the Prussian school system prior to 1840 became the
theme of flattering reports on the part of educators in many lands.
The celebrated philosopher Victor Cousin made it the basis for his
plan of educational reform in France; the Scotch, English, and Irish
discussed it; Horace Mann proclaimed it to the school authorities of
Massachusetts, and Calvin E. Stowe recommended it to the legislature of
Ohio. That system may not have possessed all of the virtues which the
ordinances quoted by Cousin imply.[41] Yet it had the one excellence to
which educationally all others are subsidiary–a well-trained teaching
force. Indeed, if there is anything which seems miraculous in the swift
and thoroughgoing transformation of school conditions in Prussia during
the first forty years of the nineteenth century, it is explained by
the provision which the state made for normal schools and the supply,
through their agency, of teachers enough to man all the schools. “In
the lowest school in the smallest and obscurest village,” says Horace
Mann, “or for the poorest class in overcrowded cities; in the schools
connected with pauper establishments, with houses of correction or
with prisons–in all these there was a teacher of mature age, of
simple, unaffected and decorous manners.” Mann also made it clear
that every such teacher was possessed of adequate scholarship and
special training for the work of the schoolroom.[42] Such a statement
could not be made at that time about Massachusetts, where popular
education was already two hundred years old, nor could it be made with
equal confidence of other German countries, though several of these
approximated the Prussian standard and most of them were earnestly
promoting education along the same lines and by the use of similar

We must therefore regard the generation of the German exodus from
which Wisconsin profited so largely in the later 1840’s and the
1850’s, as almost universally literate and usually well grounded in
the rudiments of an education. The intelligent, reading, writing, and
slow but careful figuring German peasant immigrants constituted the
best testimonial to the efficacy of German systems of instruction for
the common people. The _Gymnasia_, the _real Schule_, the universities,
sent forth representatives of the highest German culture to honor
the learned professions, the literary, philosophical, and scientific
circles of America.

On the basis of formal school instruction alone, the historian of early
Wisconsin would be compelled to assign first place in social fitness to
the immigrants from Germany. Neither the Irish, the English, nor even
the Yankee pioneers on the average had enjoyed as thorough a training
as had Prussians, Saxons, Hessians, or Badeners. Yet, school training
is never all there is of education, and it may constitute but a small
portion of it. No one questions that the social character of Prussian
and other German peasants was far higher in 1840 than it had been in
1800, and this was due to a variety of causes, of which schooling was
only one. In part it was due to the abolition of serfdom, in part to
the reorganization of municipal life; also, largely to the religious
agitation of the period, to the movements for political reform, and
especially to the widespread, momentous, and gripping spirit of

Nevertheless, despite their superb educational equipment plus other
incentives, the Prussians still seemed to intelligent American
observers in a very retarded social condition. Horace Mann, who wrote
most enthusiastically of their schools and was sympathetic toward the
Germans in every respect, in a passage of almost classic force and
beauty written in 1843, tells us why education in Prussia accomplished
for the people so much less than one might expect. For one thing,
he says, the pupils left school too early–at the age of fourteen,
which was their time for beginning regular and heavy work. Then, too,
books for further self-instruction were lacking. There was in Prussia
nothing analogous to the Massachusetts district school libraries.
“But,” he continues, “the most potent cause of Prussian backwardness
and incompetency is this–when the children come out from the school
they have little use either for the faculties that have been developed,
or for the knowledge that has been acquired. Their resources have not
been brought into demand; their powers are not roused or strengthened
by exercise. Our common phrases, ‘the active duties of life’; ‘the
responsibilities of citizenship’; ‘the stage, the career, of action’;
‘the obligations to posterity’;–would be strange sounding words in
the Prussian ear…. Now, although there is a sleeping ocean in the
bosom of every child that is born into the world, yet if no freshening,
life-giving breeze ever sweeps across its surface, why should it not
repose in dark stagnation forever.” The bill of particulars with which
the great educator clinches his indictment of the Prussian system,
while it aims to describe accurately only the then existing condition
in Prussia, might be equally applicable to almost any other absolutist,
paternalistic state. All responsibility for the people’s welfare was
assumed by the monarch, who in turn was actively aided by a hierarchy
of officials in state and church, in the central government and the
local administrative areas.

Of this officialdom, particularly in its military and civil aspects,
the nobility was not merely the corner stone but the essential part
of the structure. The church, loyal to its traditions, was much more
democratic, men of every class being found in each of its official
grades. The newly developed educational system gave to the common man
another significant opportunity, since teaching candidates were drawn
in large numbers from the middle and lower classes, and were given
at public expense the training necessary to fit them for permanent
positions in the various types of schools. On the whole, however, life
beyond the school, which among Americans of that day commonly yielded
the major part of education, was in Prussia far less fruitful. For, the
American, whose formal schooling had been limited, was sure to multiply
its efficacy many times through the intensely original character of his
activities. In these he was apt to employ everything he had learned,
and constantly to learn more for the sake of applying the new knowledge
to challenging situations.

The contrast between the average Prussian’s life and the average
American’s life was sharp and decisive. The boy leaving school at
fourteen in Frederick William’s country was thrust at once into a
routine of severe labor, controlled by others. Either he might be on
a farm, where his duties were fixed by custom and minutely directed
by parent or employer; or he might be apprenticed to a trade which
would give him seven years under an exacting master. Assuming that
he remained in his native region, his career thenceforth would be
determined with the minimum of personal effort. The American boy whose
schooling stopped at an early age might go west and start a new farm
home in a new environment, with every incentive toward employing his
best powers to win unusual success; he might go to the city and engage
in some business; attend school to prepare for a profession; or settle
down on the ancestral acres under social and economic conditions which
called for almost continuous readjustments, and kept his mind on the
stretch to bring these about.

The governmental arrangements in America were inherently educational;
in Prussia they were the reverse, save when, with revolutionary fury,
the people rose to seek their destruction or reform. In Prussia, says
Horace Mann, “the subject has no officers to choose, no inquiry into
the character or eligibility of candidates to make, no vote to give.
He has no laws to enact or abolish. He has no questions about peace or
war, finance, taxes, tariffs, post office, or internal improvements to
decide or discuss. He is not asked where a road shall be laid, or how a
bridge shall be built, although in the one case he has to perform the
labor and in the other to supply the materials…. The tax gatherer
tells him how much he is to pay, the ecclesiastical authority plans a
church which he must build; and his spiritual guide, who has been set
over him by another, prepares a creed and a confession of faith all
ready for his signature. He is directed alike how he must obey his King
and worship his God.”

The schools of Prussia inculcated religion and morality as sedulously
as they taught geography, singing, and writing, the methods used
being highly praised by American pedagogical experts. This universal
insistence on the ethical content of life could not fail to produce
results more or less in harmony with the aims of great ethical
philosophers, like Kant of Königsberg, a teacher of the learned whose
“categorical imperative,” popularized in that epoch, has not yet gone
into the philosophical discard. The average German immigrants of the
1840’s knew little of Kant or the Kantian school of ethics. But of
honesty, truthfulness, and fidelity to the plighted word they knew
much, because those were practical virtues with which in school if not
at home all were indoctrinated. Thrift and industry were additional but
fundamental virtues which were widely diffused. It is hard for an empty
sack to stand upright. The reason why in America a German’s note was
more often worth face value than that of some other classes was because
the German usually labored unceasingly and saved what he earned, thus
enabling him to meet his obligation.[43]

They were not all saints, these Germans, and in the matter of personal
morality the Prussians particularly seem in those days to have deserved
much of the criticism directed against them.[44] However, it is not
necessary to regard even the Prussians as more lax than most other
continentals, and their character is always explainable as a vulgarized
aping of the low if gilded immoralities of court and aristocracy.
Matters of this sort do not lend themselves readily to statistical
inquiry. But it can hardly be doubted that in France, Prussia, Austria,
or any other country of continental Europe the private morals of the
common people were better on the whole than those of the upper classes.
In America, where immigrants from those countries came into contact
with a self-governing people of simple habits and prevailingly high
ideals of personal conduct, though with numerous individual divergences
from the type, sharp attention was bound to be directed to this feature
in the character of foreigners, and the Germans attracted their full
share of suspicion and disfavor from the stricter sort of Americans.

Such suspicions were heightened by certain social customs of the
Germans to which Americans reacted adversely. Sunday amusements were
all but universal among them. Travelers in Germany dwell upon the
gaiety observed in the villages, or in the city parks and the beer
gardens, the distinctive costumes of different localities lending
color and interest to the scenes. Music was cultivated in every
German community; all Germans could sing and a large proportion could
perform on musical instruments. One was “as certain to see a violin
as a blackboard in every schoolroom.”[45] Wherever Germans gathered
together–and Sunday, since it was the weekly holiday, was their day
for assembling–there was singing and dancing, usually accompanied by
the drinking of beer or wine to stimulate hilarity. This drinking was
not necessarily excessive, because most Germans were moderate in their
appetites for alcohol, some were unable to spend much, and all were
economical (_sparsam_). The dances differed from those favored in this
country, being mainly “round dances,” and the standards of decorum in
the relations of the sexes were different also. No wonder that, when
German families settled in groups near our own people, Yankee fathers
and mothers often shook their heads doubtfully in contemplating the
influence upon their children of these unfamiliar social customs.

It is probable that the vigor with which among this resilient people
amusements were carried on had a definite relation to the intensity,
monotony, and sordidness of the labor from which they were a recoil. At
all events, with more leisure on week days and an opportunity to do his
work under pleasanter conditions, the German readily adapted himself to
a type of relaxation which was less boisterous and more genteel. His
work and his living being what they were, it is doubtful if anything
better in the form of amusements could have been expected of him.
Travelers from England and America, on their visits to Germany, were
impressed with the wholesomeness of the Sunday picnics, the rambles
through the forests, the frolics on the village greens and in the parks
adjacent to the towns and cities.[46]

With all his sociability, joviality, and occasional levity, the German
was not devoid of an element of austerity. This was one secret of his
ability to achieve. Whatever the work might be, he settled himself to
its performance with a grim determination expressive of century-long
training. The mechanic, from his apprentice years, was habituated to
long hours of unremitting but improving toil. The farmer (_bauer_)
was a traditional daylight-saver and a night-worker besides, such
excessive labor being compulsory under the system of serfdom, when the
peasant’s time was levied upon to a very large extent by the lord. The
German schools inculcated similar habits of relentless application
to the work in hand, and even the government bureaus, under rigorous
task-masters like old Friedrich Wilhelm and his son Frederick the
Great, enforced compliance with the ideal of a patient, steady “grind”
which not inaptly typified the German in the eyes of other peoples. The
German often performed less work in the time consumed than an alert
Yankee would have performed in a shorter day; his tools and implements
were generally awkward and inefficacious; even in scholarship he not
infrequently took the long way around to reach his goal–but he usually
reached it because he had no notion of turning back or of stopping
at a halfway point on his job. Persistent rather than brilliant,
more industrious than inventive, the German toiled on, content if he
always had something to show for his labor. The contrast, in that
generation, between the German at work and the German at play is the
contrast between a man governed by an intense purpose to accomplish
a given task, whether interesting or not, and the same man intent on
accomplishing nothing with every physical, intellectual, and emotional
evidence of enjoying the process. Some men carry into their play the
morale which governs them in their work; others import into their work
the spirit of their play. In the case of the mid-nineteenth century
German the two aspects of his existence, work and play, differed in
spirit quite as much as in content.

The Germans had their Puritan sects, like the Moravians and other
pietists, whose attitude was distinctly other-worldly, to whom play
was a sedate if not a solemn activity. Such people disapproved of
dancing and beer drinking Germans quite as heartily as of profane
whiskey drinking and quarrelsome Americans or Irish. Individuals and
colonies of the pietistic classes passed into the emigrations, and
thus Wisconsin’s German population contained most of the elements to
be found at the same time in the German states. This illustrates one
difficulty in generalizing about social characteristics; there are so
many exceptions to be noted that the generalization loses much of its

Craftsmanship was a prevalent accomplishment among the Germans of
the early emigration. Every shipload of emigrants of which we have a
social analysis had a large proportion of craftsmen, who were either
established members of the city and village industrial class, or else
belonged to the peasantry and had learned a craft in order to improve
their status. Trades were learned exclusively under the apprenticeship
system, the candidate usually living in the master’s home and giving
service at the master’s will. When he reached the journeyman stage he
was privileged to find work for himself, a quest which though usually
fruitful in educational results often proved disappointing from a
monetary point of view. In those cases the journeyman was peculiarly
open to the temptation to emigrate. Arrived in this country, the
chances of finding employment in the line of his training varied.
Sometimes they were excellent, at other times poor, depending mainly
upon the craft represented. Carpenters were in great demand, as were
also blacksmiths, wheelwrights, millwrights, masons, bricklayers,
plasterers, and in general all representatives of the building trades
and of trades ministering to farmers. Others were in occasional demand.
But, if a dyer, or a slater, or a cabinet maker, or a silversmith, or
a tile maker, or a weaver, or a wood carver happened to find himself
in America without a market for his peculiar skill, he always had the
resource of taking land and commencing as a farmer. Many craftsmen,
indeed, came with the set purpose of doing that immediately upon their
arrival; others contemplated a farming career after a period devoted
to their specialty. In some or all of these ways Germans trained as
craftsmen came to be widely distributed over the farming areas of
Wisconsin as well as among the cities, towns, and villages.

The possession of special skill in any line, like the possession of
special scientific knowledge, raises a man in social estimation, and
every trained worker properly regards himself with satisfaction as
being not quite “as other men are.” In addition to the social training
which came to him as an incident of his apprenticeship and journeyman’s
experience, the German craftsman often was able to challenge the
respect and admiration of his American neighbors by making articles of
cunning workmanship which to them seemed wonderful because they did
not understand the processes involved. Agriculture being regarded as
an unskilled occupation, the artisan farmer also was very apt to lord
it over the peasant farmer of his own nationality. Craftsmanship, in a
word, established a kind of rank among Germans in this country because
it was a recognized means of personal and social progress at home.

Statistics are impossible to procure, but the testimony of men and
women familiar with early conditions in Wisconsin proves that the
German population of the state in early days varied quite as widely
in social characteristics as did the American population, though
America had no distinctive peasant class. Accordingly, although in the
beginnings of American contacts with their Prussian or Westphalian
neighbors these were lumped together indiscriminately as “Dutchmen,”
differences soon began to emerge. In the course of a few years a
class of “fine old Germans” was recognized in almost every community
to supplement the well-known type of “fine old Yankee gentlemen.”
These select Germans were very apt to be men who had been trained as
craftsmen, or men who had enjoyed the advanced scientific or literary
instruction afforded in the higher schools and the universities of the
homeland. In the cities, especially Milwaukee, were many Germans who
had been prominent in business lines as well as in the professions.

The question has sometimes arisen why so many of the second-generation
Germans appear inferior in social character to their immigrant parents.
A hint of the reason is found in what has just been said. Whatever
elements of superiority were shown by the immigrant artisan-farmers or
the highly educated Germans, the social advantages accruing therefrom
were personal, and in a slightly developed western society could not
be handed on to the next generation. In the cities it frequently was
possible for men of high ideals and fine social status to provide
equivalent opportunities for their children. But not so on frontier
farms. There it was a rare case when an education or training like
that received by the father in the old country could be supplied.
Accordingly, the sons of the most intelligent, dignified, and worthy
German farmer, if they became farmers in succession, might perhaps
turn out mere farmers, with none of the graces or exceptional social
virtues of the parents, and little except the memory of a parent’s
high respectability to distinguish them from the farmer sons of the
clumsiest peasant.

However, this is but half the story. If the superior Germans reared
families incapable of remaining on their own social plane, other types
of Germans, who in their own persons counted for less, frequently
had the happiness to see their children advance to a position
perceptibly higher than their own. Natural gifts, industry, the social
opportunities which yield to the key of economic success availed much.
Sometimes the presence of a good school, a wise and helpful pastor or
some other worthy friend gave the necessary impulse. The process, in
fact, does not differ essentially from that which, throughout American
pioneer history, has enabled the deserving to press forward and
permitted the weak, indolent, or vicious to fall behind in the social
competition. It is impossible to say how many German families made a
step, or several steps, upward, and how many others slipped back. The
delinquents may perhaps exceed the meritorious in number, but probably
not, and the impression that the children of German immigrants shame
their parents is almost certainly an illusion which would be likely to
disappear if the facts were fully known.

The social institutions of Wisconsin, based on the earlier Yankee and
southwestern immigrations, were profoundly influenced by the German
immigration of the late forties and the fifties of last century.
Milwaukee, the center of German influence (the _Deutsche Athen_),
became a city in which the German language was spoken and read by
many English speaking persons, in order to facilitate communication
and trade with the numerically dominant German element. The Germans
maintained advanced schools for instruction in both English and
German; their parochial schools were conducted mainly in German; the
immigrants themselves felt no compulsion to learn English, and their
children, in many cases, however well educated, spoke the language of
the country with very imperfect accent.

The universal respect in which the German language was held, and the
extent to which it was affected by others than Germans, provided an
admirable social soil for the development of German music and the
cultivation of German literature. Hardly had the immigrants established
themselves when, in 1847, they founded at Milwaukee their first singing
society, which was followed three years later by the famous and
far-reaching _Musikverein_. A German theater followed promptly, and
became a permanent feature of Milwaukee’s intellectual life.[47] The
_Turnverein_ fostered in America Father Jahn’s conception of athletics,
while restaurants and beer gardens gave an old world, continental
atmosphere to public recreation. Holidays assumed a German aspect. The
_Christ Child_ displaced _St. Nicholas_ not alone in Milwaukee, but
in scores of towns, villages, and hamlets, and innumerable farm homes
scattered over Wisconsin. The joyous German _Weinacht_ made way easily
against the more somber Puritan Christmas, which, however, had already
brightened a good deal in its progress from the seventeenth century to
the nineteenth century.

In general, Germans did not insist with extreme pertinacity upon the
retention of their own social customs, and wherever people of that
nationality were intermingled with a larger number of Americans, the
process by which they assimilated American habits of living, American
social usages, and even ways of acting, speaking, and thinking was very
rapid. In the schools of a Yankee neighborhood the children of German
settlers, in many cases, could not be distinguished by their manner
of speech from the Yankee children. On the other hand, in communities
made up wholly or mainly of Germans, the grandchildren continue to
have trouble with the _th_ sound in English words, and manifest other
linguistic peculiarities. And this difference is merely symptomatic. To
this day, it is easy to reconstruct, in case of the average person of
German descent, the atmosphere in which he was brought up. If he comes
from Milwaukee, or from some rural “Dutch settlement,” that fact is
usually clear from a hundred trifling intimations. If he was brought
up in a non-German community (so adaptable is the race), a change of
name from the German _Weiss_ to the English _White_, or from _Schwartz_
to _Black_, would ordinarily suffice to disguise the fact that he is
of German descent at all. Germans thus brought up are apt to have made
their religious affiliations and their intimate social relationships
harmonize with those of the leading American element of the community,
so that these quite as much as their speech would tend to conceal their
racial origin.

Wisconsin writers have made much of the fact that emigrating German
revolutionists came to this state largely in 1848 and the years
following. That fact, significant as bringing to Wisconsin Carl Schurz,
who became the most noted liberal American statesman and publicist of
German birth, has perhaps been overstressed. At least, it can safely be
said that for every revolutionist disembarked at Milwaukee or Sheboygan
or Manitowoc, probably a full score of plain, everyday, conventional
Germans filtered into the state’s population during the same time.
The important point about the revolutionists is not their relative
numbers, but their character and the leadership they helped to supply
in the affairs of the new commonwealth. Newspaper editors who possessed
exceptional literary and scholastic attainments came from that class;
some found their way into the legislature, and many served the cause
of liberal government on the local plane.

The name of Schurz was one to conjure with, as American politicians
were quick to discover. He figured prominently in Wisconsin state
politics only a few years, but as a national leader his influence in
attaching the Germans to the causes he advocated was especially strong
in this state, which claimed him as her own. Schurz’s high character
and attainments, coupled with his political successes in this country,
were a source of pride to thousands of Wisconsin Germans who shared
not at all his revolutionary views. Enough that, like Goethe, he was
a great German, and that he had gained the respect and confidence
of large sections of the American people. It ministered to the
self-respect of the average German settler to feel that his people had
contributed something of value to the life of the nation and state.

Later arrivals from Germany, and especially from Prussia, brought
with them an intense pride of nationalism and enthusiasm for German
achievement in the wars against Austria and against France. The
difference in attitude between immigrants of 1880 and those of forty
years earlier was antipodal. Many of the former had served in the
victorious wars and abounded in military incidents and in stories of
Bismarck, of Kaiser Wilhelm I, and Crown Prince Frederick William
(_Unser Fritz_). These men obviously belonged to a new generation of
Germans, and they have exerted a powerful influence upon our recent
history. But the Germans who deserve special recognition along with
the Yankees, as founders of the commonwealth and its institutions,
are those of the earlier immigrations from a Fatherland which as yet
was united only in culture, while politically its states remained

The “Sons of the Pilgrims” of Milwaukee held in December, 1850, their
customary banquet to celebrate the historic landing on Plymouth Rock.
The occasion was one which stimulated the flow of oratory and the
display of quaint Yankee humor and sparkling wit. Among the toasts,
some of which embodied genuine wisdom, was the following: “Our adopted
state. She has gathered her sons from many lands and given them all a
home amid her bounty and her beauty. May the elements of strength and
greatness peculiar to each be here transplanted and united to form a
perfect commonwealth.”[48]

The sentiment was notably generous, voiced as it was by one out of
the many and diverse population elements, and we now see that it was
also prophetic. But the attainment of the ideal here advanced was not
to result from an effortless, unconscious process. Much history is
involved in the relations of Yankee and Teuton–to say nothing of other
stocks–which reveals a general tendency to helpful coöperation, but
presents, on the other hand, episodes marked by animosity, jealousy,
and social estrangement. If there were social harmonies, there were
also discords.

As early as 1850 Milwaukee contained more Germans than Yankees. Out
of an aggregate population of 20,059 the census taker had designated
3880 as natives of the New England states and New York, while 5958
were born in Germany. The entire American element (aside from natives
of Wisconsin, who were children of the foreign born as well as of the
American born) amounted to 5113, while the number of foreigners was
12,036. Of these, more than 3000 were Irish and about 1300 English.
Thus the German was numerically the dominant social factor in the city.

Nevertheless, in all but numbers the Yankee element remained, as it
had been from the beginning of the town’s growth, in a position of
acknowledged leadership. There would be no difficulty in proving that
socially, industrially, and commercially the places of power were
occupied by the “down-easters,” while in politics, although their
control was being challenged from one side or another, they were still
far from recognizing a master.

Yankees were the promoters of those far-reaching improvements, like
the various plank roads, and especially the railroads, which were
destined to unite the extensive new settlements with Milwaukee and
thus guarantee the future greatness of the city. They were largely
engaged in the carrying trade on the Lakes. They controlled the flour
milling business, the leading industry of the city, in which was
concentrated probably more capital than was invested in all other lines
of manufacturing carried on at that time. They were also prominent in
wholesale merchandising and owned the most pretentious retail stores.

Their general preëminence in the professions was undisputed. They had
most of the lawyers, a large proportion of the physicians, the editors
of English language papers, the Protestant clergymen, the teachers.
Public opinion, with a reservation to be stated presently, was mainly
of their making, both in the city itself and–through the agency of a
widely read newspaper press–in the state at large. On all questions
affecting public education, social morality, health, and recreation, as
well as business or industry, the American portion of the community was
very apt to mass behind Yankee leadership; and the English speaking
section of the foreign population was not averse to doing the same,
at least under ordinary circumstances. Often, indeed, such was the
prestige of the Yankees, their initiative was followed unquestioningly
by American and foreigner alike.

But the weight of numbers being with the Germans, the bulk of whom did
not speak or read English–though there were numerous exceptions,–it
was natural that there should have developed a community leadership
within their own group, and such leadership would be determinative in
cases of divergence from American ideas. The presence of this great
body of non-English speaking persons, clothed with political power
and wielding also a goodly share of economic power, especially as
manifested in consumption, tended in itself to generate a more amiable
attitude and more moderate policies on the part of the dominant class.

For the Germans were a coherent, prosperous, and growing element in the
city. They began coming in 1839, and during the succeeding decade the
annual accretions waxed gradually larger. After the revolution of 1848
the tide of emigration, especially from the countries and provinces
along the Rhine, was swollen to unprecedented proportions, Milwaukee
and the whole state profiting largely therefrom. But, already before
1850 Milwaukee’s streets, business places, and homes were so habituated
to German speech, that most visitors unhesitatingly described it as a
German city. “In the colony of Herman alone,” wrote Carl de Haas in
1848, “among all the United States is the population so preponderantly
German.”[49] This writer also says, as do other chroniclers of
his race, that not alone the speech of his country, but also the
national habits and customs prevailed exceedingly in Milwaukee;
that the Americans made many concessions to the Germanism of the
environment–merchants, for example, learning the language themselves,
or at least keeping clerks in their establishments who could speak it,
in order to attract German trade.

The emigration which began in 1839 as a religious movement, a
congregation of Old Lutherans fleeing the pressure of the illiberal
policy of Prussia’s king, was continued thereafter mainly from economic
and social motives. An examination of the census schedules of 1850
for Milwaukee reveals its general character better than volumes of
reminiscent testimony. The census shows that, among the 5958 Germans in
the city, 1165 (if the count is accurate) were craftsmen. There were
house carpenters, ship carpenters, smiths, wheelwrights, millwrights,
cabinet makers, masons, plasterers, painters, brickmakers, tailors,
shoemakers, saddlers, watchmakers, coppersmiths, silversmiths and
goldsmiths, barbers, bakers, brewers, cigar makers, musicians, sailors,
and many more. In contrast to the large number of craftsmen, those
employed at common labor numbered only 461, while the aggregate of
those who may be described as business men was 248. A total of 45
persons fall in the class of professional men. Many, even of the
laborers, possessed some property, thus showing that they were of a
substantial, home-making type. A good many of the craftsmen owned
homes, some of the business men were possessed of real estate to
an appreciable extent, and there were a very few capitalists whose
properties were valued at from $20,000 to $50,000.

The significance to the city of having among the population so large
a body of thoroughly trained and skilled artisans cannot readily be
overstated. It toned up all building operations and enabled them to
keep pace with the city’s rapidly growing needs; it facilitated the
establishment and expansion of industries depending upon a full supply
of skilled labor; it gave the city a fine body of industrious, well
paid residents as homemakers and citizens–at a time when American
artisans were very prone to seek land and raise farm produce. American
business and industrial leaders in Milwaukee appreciated the German
craftsmen who contributed largely to the prosperity of the city; and
the same may be said of the common laborers.

The appearance of Germans with capital which sought investment in lines
of business already pursued by Americans was no doubt less welcome,
and to some it may have seemed like an intrusion. Generally, however,
Germans began their business enterprises on so modest a scale, and
built them up so gradually, that no serious economic dislocations could
have been felt in consequence. In some cases the German business men
merely undertook to meet demands created by the presence of their own
people, which demands were not fully cared for by existing American
enterprise. Perhaps no better illustration of this tendency can be
found than the local tobacco trade. “Groceries,” of course, carried
the “plug tobacco” used so widely in those days by Americans of all
classes, while drug stores handled cigars. But smoking was more nearly
universal among European immigrants than among Americans. Germans
accordingly set up tobacco shops, which usually included a department
for the manufacture of cigars. The investments were all small, ranging
from $50 to $4000, but the payroll was of some consequence to the
city and the output considerable. It is believed that all firms of
tobacconists or cigar manufacturers listed by the census takers in 1850
were Germans.

Another industry in which Germans were prominent in 1850 was tanning.
This they did not monopolize, for several non-German tanners were
operating at the same time. But G. Pfister and Company, Tanners, had
an investment of $35,000 and, employing thirty-five men, manufactured
an annual product valued at $45,000, while all other tanneries taken
together had an aggregate investment of less than $7500.

In boot and shoe manufacturing one American firm was far in the
lead.[50] Yet, on a smaller scale, German firms were participating in
the business actively, while German craftsmen were an important element
in the success of all shoe manufacturers. A similar statement will hold
true in the department of brickmaking. A large number of Germans worked
in the brickyards as experts, and several had small plants of their
own. But the big brickyard of the city was not managed by Germans.[51]
There was one single rope maker, who was a German, and also one glove
and mitten manufacturer, who was also German. Both of these industries
were small.

There remains the historically important Milwaukee industry of
beer-brewing, popularly supposed to have been introduced by immigrants
from Munich and other centers of beer manufacture in the fatherland.
The census lists a total of ten establishments designated as breweries.
Of these, seven were owned by Germans and three by non-Germans. The
investments by the latter aggregated $27,000, those of the former
$20,900. But the sum of the annual products of the German breweries
was $41,062, while the aggregate product of the others was $32,425.
The non-German brewery which had the largest investment was doing an
annual business valued at less than the investment, while one of the
German breweries having only $3000 invested reported a product valued
at $18,000.[52]

When we consider mercantile lines as distinguished from the industrial,
Germans were prominent in those which called for moderate investments.
They had many small grocery stores scattered through the city, a number
of meat markets, and of course a goodly proportion of liquor saloons.
There were also several German clothing stores, confectioneries, and
bakeries. That their business men expected to sell almost exclusively
to Germans is indicated by the fact that for the most part they
advertised only in the German language papers–the _Wisconsin Banner_
and the _Volksfreund_,–not in the English papers. On the other hand,
the American merchants, as we have already seen, catered to the German
trade by providing German salesmen,[53] and they also advertised
extensively in the German papers.

There were German taverns which did a thriving trade; the restaurants
made the sojourner from Berlin feel at home; and the German beer
gardens were the despair of the pious Yankee mothers of boys. So
indispensable did German musicians become, that when the Sons of the
Pilgrims banqueted, a brass band directed by a German bandmaster
discoursed “martial as well as festive” music.

One other form of coöperation between Yankee and Teuton deserves to be
mentioned–the employment of German girls in Yankee homes. This custom,
testified to by German writers and indicated unmistakably by the
census, was widespread. Such service was an immediate resource to the
poorer immigrant families, and a boon to the American families as well.
By that means numbers of future German homemakers came promptly into
possession of the manners and customs of the Yankees, acquired their
speech, and gained some insight into their distinctive views of life.

The least numerous of the special classes into which we have analyzed
the German population of Milwaukee, in 1850, was the professional
class. Yet it is not for that reason least important, for the little
group of forty-five[54] persons contained most of the individuals
whose views swayed public opinion among the 6000 Milwaukee Germans.
Among them were two newspaper editors, each in charge of a German
language paper. There were six lawyers, nine teachers, and eleven
clergymen and preachers. Four of the preachers are described as German
Lutheran, one was Evangelical, and one Methodist.[55] Two, Joseph
Salzman and Franz Fusseden, were Catholic priests. One, F. W. Helfer,
was called a “rationalist preacher.” Two, John Mühlhauser and G.
Klügel, were merely called preachers.

It is not strange that medicine, among all the professions, should
have had the strongest representation. A physician, wherever trained,
is equipped to practice anywhere, while a lawyer, clergyman, editor,
or teacher is obliged to prepare for service by first fitting himself
into the community he is to serve. German medical education was far
superior to American at that time, and, in the western states at least,
the supply of trained physicians was below the requirements. There were
communities in Wisconsin where not one-fourth of the practitioners
were graduates of medical schools or had honestly earned the title of
“doctor.”[56] This condition made a splendid opportunity for German
physicians, who could hope to win the patronage of Americans as well
as Germans. That the prospect was alluring to them is shown by the
fact that Milwaukee at the census date in 1850 had seventeen German
physicians, some of them already men of note in the community.

The Yankees and the Germans came into such close and intimate contacts
in Milwaukee, that it is easier to study their normal attitudes
there than in the outlying portions of the state. On the whole those
relations, in the period terminating with the Civil War, appear to
have been marked by mutual respect, if not active friendship. At all
events, if there were differences causing ill will on one side or
the other, these–so far as they were the outgrowth of the social,
economic, or commercial interplay of the two groups–rarely became
serious enough to be reflected in the public press. The prosperity of
the city, providing usually full employment and adequate returns to
all who wanted to work, made the bond between capitalist and employees
satisfactory, and this solved one important aspect of the class
problem. The absence of any decided public interest in the immigrant
problem as affecting the city–other than politically–is a fact which
obtrudes itself upon one who canvasses the Milwaukee papers, English
and German, during the fourteen years which intervened between the
first constitutional convention and the election of Abraham Lincoln to
the presidency.

Yet, there are not wanting evidences that the two groups were quite
distinct and that the Germans, as a foreign group, were sensitively
class conscious. This is shown, for example, by the race appeals in
their business advertisements. To call attention to one’s nationality
when offering services of a personal nature, like those of the
physician, or the dentist, or even the druggist, is reasonable and
correct. But there is no good ground for assuming that nationality
makes a difference to the purchaser of lime. Why then the advertisement
of a _Deutsche Kalk Haus_ (German lime house), unless there was a
feeling that the German dealer would be favored by German buyers simply
because he was German? This is a typical example which goes to show the
existence of a city within a city, a German Milwaukee which tended to
live its own group life, for which, as already explained, it possessed,
within itself, great facilities.

Occasionally some relatively minor happening threw this feeling of
separateness into strong relief, as when, in 1850, a German scholar
published in the Milwaukee papers of his language the story of his
relations with the chancellor and board of regents of the University.
He thought they had promised him a chair, but afterwards they made it
plain that no contract had been closed with him. He may or may not
have had cause of complaint. But what he professed to do was to lay
the whole matter before the Germans of Wisconsin, in order that they
might know how the board of regents “flouts the wishes of the German
citizens,” how it keeps its promises “to Germans,” and how little it
regards the rules of ordinary courtesy “in dealing with Germans.”[57]
No doubt the design was to bring political pressure to bear on the
regents, but the device would not have been resorted to had not the
recognized racial unity among the Germans rendered that a hopeful plan.

In a society like the present Milwaukee, where inter-racial marriages
are a daily occurrence, and one is rarely conscious of race in
cases of that kind, the condition of seventy years ago seems almost
incomprehensible. For, a close scrutiny of the entire census record
for Milwaukee in 1850 reveals that marriages between Germans and
Americans of all derivations at that time were excessively rare. The
aggregate number of such unions was twelve. But of marriages between
Yankees and Germans I can provisionally identify only six, as follows:
Margaret, twenty-six years of age, born in Germany, was the wife of
John H. Butler, a livery-stable keeper, born in New York. Hiram Brooks,
twenty-seven, born in New York, was married to Mary, twenty-three, born
in Hesse Darmstadt. James Ridgeway, thirty, a cooper, native of New
York, was married to Mary, born in Prussia. Abram Davis, twenty-five,
a cooper, born in New York, was married to C–, twenty-three, native
of Bavaria. Joseph Stadter, thirty-three, physician, rated at $2000,
who was born in Bavaria, was married to Sarah Ann, nineteen, born
in New York (but a female who was a member of the family, and may
have been this woman’s mother, bore a German name). Finally, William
Stamm, thirty-two, painter, native of Bremen, was married to Lucy,
twenty-eight, a native of Massachusetts.

It is not possible to determine how many of the American born persons
represented in the six cases may have belonged to German families, but
doubtless some did. At all events, we can assert that in Milwaukee
at that time, with its nearly 6000 Germans and nearly 4000 Yankees,
not more than six cases can be found of marriages between them. No
commentary is needed to establish the fact of the virtual segregation
of the two great population groups.[58] If Chevalier, the French
philosopher, was right in his conviction that “the Yankee is not a man
of promiscuous society,” it is equally true that the German at that
time was excessively clannish. His clannishness was due, no doubt, to
natural and inevitable causes, but the fact needs to be recognized by
the student of history.

This disposition on the part of Germans to “hang together” was promptly
discovered by American politicians and exploited for partisan and
personal ends. The outstanding fact of the political history of the
period under review is the attachment of the immigrant Germans to the
Democratic party. That relation was all but absolute and universal
during the 1840’s, though a gradual change took place in the last half
of the next decade. There was nothing mysterious about it. Germans
found the country, on their arrival, living under a Democratic
administration, to which they looked for favors and usually not in
vain. The Democratic party was liberal in the bestowal of lands; it
contended manfully against the principle of monopoly, especially in
banking and other corporate activities; and it emphasized the doctrine
of the equality of all men. The Germans, like the Irish and, in fact,
all immigrants, were strongly attracted by the principles professed
in Democratic platforms. The very word “democracy,” had its winning
appeal. “Democracy,” wrote the editor of the _Banner_ in 1850, “is a
glorious word. There are few other words, in any language, which can
be compared to it. To the poor man it is peculiarly precious since he
is aware that he owes to it his escape from the serfdom in which his
oppressors held him, and can now look up into heaven and thank his
God that he has ceased to be a serf. Democracy knows no distinctions
between man and man. She sets all upon the broad foundation of

The enormous prestige gained by the Democratic party under Jackson’s
leadership easily floated the administrations of Van Buren and Polk.
But, as an influence toward captivating the foreign element in
Wisconsin, no other Democratic principle had quite the efficacy of the
liberal suffrage provision which the party in power adopted at the
beginning of our history as a state.

In Michigan the makers of the state constitution had granted the
voting privilege to all aliens who were _bona fide_ residents and
who had declared their intention to become citizens. That clause in
her organic law drew the criticism of Whig members of Congress, but
she was admitted to the union in spite of their opposition, and thus
was established the principle that men might be voters without being
citizens. When, in 1846, the territorial legislature of Wisconsin
provided by law for the holding of a constitutional convention, a
similar proviso was made to govern the election of delegates to the

In Milwaukee County the Democrats nominated eight candidates for
delegates. Dr. Franz Huebschmann was the sole German named. The
_Wisconsin Banner_, while remarking that Germans constituting one-third
of the population were to have but a single delegate, urged Germans to
vote as one man for him. He was needed, said the editor, especially
to contend for equality in the voting privilege, for which he had
striven manfully during the past three years. In the neighbor county
of Washington, Germans were urged to support two Irish candidates who
favored equality of the voting privilege and whom the Whigs (so it was
asserted) were trying to defeat by the same wiles they employed against
Huebschmann. The moral of the _Banner_ editorials was: “Don’t trust the
Whigs. They have always opposed the rights of the foreign born.”[60] In
preparation for the vote on delegates, Milwaukee Germans who had not
declared their intention were given every direction for completing that
formality, and the indications are that a large number of voters were
newly made for the occasion.

Dr. Huebschmann, in the first convention, was a powerful advocate of
equality, giving as the chief ground in favor of the principle that
it would tend to bring Americans and foreigners into more harmonious
relations with one another. “The more distinctions you make between
them politically,” he said, “the more you delay this great end
[amalgamation], which is so essential to the future welfare of this
state. And, in fact, I regard only one measure equally important as the
political equality which I ask for, and that is a good common school
system…. Political equality and good schools will make the people of
Wisconsin an enlightened and happy people. They will make them one

On the educational question Huebschmann found the Yankee majority
of the convention eager to welcome his coöperation. On the subject
of suffrage their unity was less complete. While party lines were
not strictly drawn, the chief contenders for equality were leading
Democrats and the chief opponents leading Whigs. But both conventions
adopted the principle, the first not quite frankly, and with the
admission of Wisconsin into the union all foreign born persons who had
resided in the state one year prior to any election had the right to
vote, provided they had declared their intention to become citizens of
the United States.

The adoption of such a liberal suffrage provision in the teeth of the
nativist movement which had affected all parts of the country more or
less, was considered a great triumph of Democratic principles. And
there is no doubt about the gratitude of adoptive citizens to the party
which secured them the boon. To the Germans it seemed thenceforward a
simple question of loyalty to support the Democratic party, through
thick and thin, through good report and evil report. Inasmuch as the
Democratic party also supported the Germans’ views on the subject of
temperance (prohibition), soon to become a burning issue,[62] and in
their contest with the more serious manifestations of Know-Nothingism,
which in this state reached its climax somewhat later, one almost
wonders how any of the Germans were able to detach themselves from
that party, despite its failure to represent them on the slavery and
free-soil issues.

The temperance movement and nativism were the chief grounds of
political contention between Germans and Yankees during this period.
The first of these broke, in 1853-55, on the rock of German–which
meant Democratic–opposition. For, although a referendum vote had gone
in favor of the enactment of a “Maine Law,” the Democratic legislature
chosen at the same time refused to accept the result as mandatory,
and did not pass the law. And when the first Republican legislature
did pass such a law, in the early months of the year 1855, Barstow,
the Democratic governor, vetoed the bill. Never thereafter did the
temperance issue become as acute as it had been during the seven years
immediately following statehood, but it is not strange that their
record on that question was one of the standing arguments against
Republicanism among the German voters.[63]

The Know-Nothing issue, which was supposed to be dying out at the
time of the Wisconsin constitutional conventions, 1846-1848, revived
after the Mexican War, figured prominently in the defeat of General
Scott in 1852, and in this state as well as in some other states rose
to dramatic and even tragic interest in 1855. Thereafter it declined,
to pass away for the time being with the election of Lincoln and the
engulfing of the nation in war.

But the Know-Nothingism of 1855 was regarded by the Democratic party
as sinister because, as that party professed to believe, it had got
itself incorporated as an important if not controlling element in the
new Republican party. This the Republican leaders and organs denied
with vigor, but it is true that the general council of the _American_
party in this state urged the support of the Republican candidates
and professed to have contributed 20,000 votes toward the election of
Bashford. The Republicans had no objection to Know-Nothing votes, but
they feared that the endorsement of their ticket by the Know-Nothings
would cost them more foreign born votes than it would gain them
nativists. It was tactically wise for the Democrats, and especially the
German Democratic press, to keep the “Republican-Know-Nothing” idea
before their people–and they made the best use of the opportunity.

“Temperance,” after all, was regarded by the Germans as merely
a manifestation of Puritan fanaticism, which must be opposed in
the interest of personal liberty. Much as they disliked it, their
opposition does not seem to have developed excessive bitterness against
the believers in or practicers of temperance. But nativism, which
demanded that the suffrage be limited to citizens; that naturalization
be made more difficult; that in some departments, as in the army,
natives be favored to the exclusion of the foreign born, this they
felt to be a deliberate and vicious attack upon the rights of the
foreign born as a class. The advocacy of these principles involved
much discussion of the unfitness of foreigners, their ignorance, their
sordidness, their “un-American” habits and customs, in one important
respect their “anti-American” religion.

All of this inevitably roused a bitter, fighting resentment on the
part of all foreigners, as it did among radical natives also, and it
is well known that many parts of the country suffered in consequence
from riots and other manifestations of a class war. In Wisconsin
there was less overt hostility than in some states where the foreign
elements were not so powerful.[64] The Know-Nothing party as such
functioned seriously only in the one year 1855, and its propaganda was
relatively mild-mannered.[65] Its chief objects of attack were the
foreign born Catholics, which class included a majority of the Irish
but only a fraction of the Germans, most of whom–probably–were either
Lutheran or Reformed, with an appreciable number of non-churchmen
or “free-thinkers.”[66] Nevertheless, nativism, as entangled in the
political psychology of this eventful year, had its full share in
producing a tragedy in this state also.

It came in the form of a lynching, carried out with hideous barbarism
by a body of the ruder Germans of Washington County, in August,
1855. It seems that a sickly, weak witted boy of nineteen, named
George DeBar–a native of New York State–felt himself aggrieved by
a German farmer and proposed to administer a beating. This he partly
accomplished, at the farmer’s home, but his victim fled into the field,
where he found a hiding place. Meantime, DeBar ran amuck, and meeting
the man’s wife stabbed her severely but not fatally. He next pursued a
fifteen-year-old boy, Paul Winderling, who was living with the farmer,
attacked him with his pocketknife, and killed him. He then burned the
farmer’s cabin. DeBar afterwards solemnly assured his attorneys that
the only part of the transaction he could remember was striking the
farmer himself with a stone knotted in his handkerchief. The belief
was widespread that he became unbalanced mentally at this point, which
theory is really the simplest explanation of his horrible crime,
committed without assignable motive.

Immediately on DeBar’s arrest a plan was hatched to storm the jail,
take him out, and hang him. The death penalty had been abolished at
the instance, as many felt, of the Yankee sentimentalists, and the
ignorance of some suggested that, since hanging was only justice in
a case like this, and the state refused to execute a criminal, the
people themselves had a right to take the matter into their own
hands. Unfortunately, a similar case had happened two weeks earlier at
Janesville, in which the avenging crowd was made up of Americans.[67]
It was suggested by some that DeBar was himself a Know-Nothing, or
at least trained with the Know-Nothing element, and there were dire
whispers about the trial judge, Charles H. Larrabee. Doubtless these
rumors were altogether wild. The nineteen-year-old DeBar, practically
_non compos mentis_, was of no possible political consequence, while
Judge Larrabee at the time was as sound a Democrat as could be
found.[68] But passions once fully aroused hurl reason from its throne,
and so it was in this case. The rowdies gathered at a drinking place in
West Bend, and decided on a lynching.

Judge Larrabee convened a special session of court, impaneled a grand
jury, and having summoned two companies of militia–the Union Guards of
Ozaukee County, a German company, and the Washington Guards, another
German company, of Milwaukee–to come up for the protection of the
prisoner, had him conveyed to the courthouse and examined. The grand
jury brought in a true bill, charging murder in the first degree.
To this the prisoner, on the advice of his attorneys, pleaded “not
guilty.” The multitude which had been permitted to press into the
court room, despite the judge’s instruction to the militia to limit
the number to the seating capacity of the room, fairly raged when they
found a trial would be required, and before the prisoner took many
steps in the direction of the jail, they seized him and made way with

The severest censure was leveled against the militia companies and
their leaders. All the American writers whose statements appear in the
_Sentinel_ charge that these companies fraternized with the lynching
party, and practically assert that they had an understanding by which
the prisoner was to be given up to them. The captain of the Milwaukee
company, who was a veteran of the Mexican War–though a German
immigrant–insisted with vigor that his company did all it could to
prevent the lynching. He did not speak for the Union Guards of Ozaukee.
All witnesses agree that one of the Union Guard officers, Lieutenant
Beger, performed his duty manfully and heroically, but the weight of
the testimony condemns the companies as organizations, and especially
their captains. It would seem that two companies of militia, if well
led, ought to have been able with the butts of their guns to hold off a
rabble of three hundred men, and no witness puts the number higher than
that, while some declare the rush was made by not more than thirty-five

In the Milwaukee captain’s statement, as in the statements of other
German apologists for the militia, we come at once upon the political
note. They could not expect the “Know-Nothing American writers” to tell
the truth about the tragedy. In other words, they found in the politics
of the time an opportunity to charge prejudice against Americans, and
by that means to dodge the real issue. Two German writers of West Bend,
one of them the undersheriff, bitterly denounced both the militia
companies and the lynchers, and both more than hint that the passions
which led to the lynching were partly religious. Here, undoubtedly, we
come upon one of the signs of division among the Germans themselves. It
is possible that these two Germans were politically opposed to the main
body of their fellow-countrymen, for by this time a light minority had
already been attracted away from the Democratic party. However, we do
not know that this was true, and merely call attention to the several
psychological attitudes which, from the testimony, we know the case

Of greatest interest is the attitude of English and German language
papers of Democratic and Republican proclivities. The _Sentinel_
continued to admit contributions on the West Bend tragedy for
approximately two weeks. It also published the results of an
investigation made on the ground by one of its staff, and a petition to
the governor, said to have been signed by 186 residents of Washington
County, who asked for the disbandment of the two accused companies
and the withdrawal of their officers’ commissions. But the _Sentinel_
does not appear to have tried by means of the incident to influence
the political situation which was about to become superheated. At all
events, what it published would all have been legitimate as news. On
the other hand, the _Banner und Volksfreund_,[69] while condemning the
lynching, made no demand for the punishment of the lynchers. It tried
to exculpate the militia companies (accepting the Milwaukee captain’s
testimony as against all other evidence), and deliberately charged
that the _Sentinel_, in publishing the above-mentioned petition, was
playing for political advantage. This charge was absurd on its face,
for the success of the new Republican movement which the _Sentinel_ had
espoused depended on its ability to detach Germans from the Democratic
party, which assuredly could not be done by playing into the hands of
the Know-Nothings, and the _Sentinel_ did not hesitate to declare the
Know-Nothing support a handicap to the party.

Both American and German testimony discloses the existence in
Washington County of a strong German party of law and order. They
deplored the lynching and urged the apprehension and trial of the
ringleaders. They realized that the crime would put a stigma upon their
race as well as upon the county and the state. But, as a matter of
fact, although some of the lynchers were identified in the verdict of
the coroner’s jury, it must be recorded that no earnest effort was made
to punish them.[70] Nor was any step of an official character taken (so
far as I have been able to find) to determine the guilt or innocence of
the militia companies and their officers. In fact, the Democratic press
of the state, evidently fearful of sacrificing some German Democratic
votes, which that year were all needed, deliberately tried to darken
council by confounding this case in principle not only with the
Mayberry case, which it resembled, but also with another of an entirely
different nature, to which we must give passing attention.

In the previous year, 1854, occurred at Milwaukee the famous Glover
rescue. Glover was a runaway slave who had been apprehended by his
self-styled owner, brutally man-handled, and confined in the Milwaukee
County jail for safekeeping. Sherman M. Booth, editor of the _Daily
Free Democrat_, one of the founders of the Republican party, a vigorous
free-soil and antislavery partisan, and the man in the state who was
perhaps most feared and hated by the Democracy, had argued hotly for
the protection of Glover’s rights against the man claiming him under
the “unconstitutional” compromise law of 1850. Booth called a public
meeting at the courthouse for the purpose, as he claimed, of concerting
measures for helping Glover without the use of force. But the upshot
was a rescue party which battered down the door of the jail, took
Glover out, and by various shifts and transfers on the underground
railway, carried him to Canada and freedom. Booth was then made to
suffer for all that had been done; he was tried in the federal court,
convicted, fined, and given a jail sentence.

We cannot go into the details of the Booth case, a _cause célèbre_ in
ante-Civil War political history. But the Democratic papers, after the
DeBar lynching, ostentatiously bemoaned the fact that due to recent
events “neither national nor state laws” could hereafter be enforced
in Wisconsin. The beginning of the trouble was the setting at naught
of the national law for the rendition of slaves, in which the arch
Republican Booth was ringleader. The Mayberry lynching and the DeBar
lynching followed in natural sequence. These editors did not choose to
analyze the difference between the Glover case and the others–the fact
that the one was a rescue performed at their own risk by philanthropic
men, the others brutal killings committed by men crazed with the lust
of blood vengeance. In other words, the Democratic press, including
those papers printed in the German language, attempted the impossible
feat of arranging in the same straight line the “higher law” and the
lower law.

Of course, the Republican press retorted handsomely, and probably
with considerable political effect, that if the apologists for mob
law in Kansas were “in favor of the execution of the fugitive slave
act in Wisconsin” they would like their avowal to that effect.[71] It
is well known that during the 1855 campaign, as in the previous year,
a good many Germans were converted from their old-time Democratic
allegiance.[72] But both parties were too intent on their immediate
political objects to risk pressing for an investigation of the West
Bend tragedy, which might have alienated a large section of the German
vote in three German counties.

It is not impossible that politics was responsible for the severity of
the onslaught upon the militia companies, since the nativist propaganda
for an exclusively American militia would be quick to seize upon such
an opportunity, and it is not to be supposed that the politics of the
case was all on one side. Yet, unless the governor was in possession of
facts which were withheld from the public, the least that could be said
against the companies is that they exhibited criminal inefficiency.
From this distance, it looks as if politics affected the Republican
attitude as well as the Democratic; as if crime was condoned in the
interest of party success, since one party was intent on holding its
former German adherents and the other was determined to take as many of
them as possible into the opposition camp.

Whether or not the incident leaves the stain of blood on the path
of Wisconsin politics, it marks the nearest approach to a race war
between Germans and Americans which this general period affords. And
by Americans we practically mean Yankees. For it was a truth which the
German press sensed instinctively, that the Republican party–made
up of “shreds and patches,” as was said,–embracing prohibitionists,
abolitionists, free-soilers, nativists, and Whigs, was dominated by
the “Puritan” element.[73] A glance at the history of its origin in
Wisconsin will at least convince the reader of its Yankee paternity.[74]

However, the Republican party changed radically in character
during the next few years, and as the German population came to be
distributed between it and the Democratic party, a healthier social
tone was the result. The political campaign of 1856, when Frémont was
candidate for the presidency, was conducted with such enthusiasm by
Wisconsin Republicans, as to make serious inroads on the Democratic
German vote. A number of prominent German leaders took the stump
for Frémont, speaking in the German language to German audiences
with telling effect. Thereafter, in successive state campaigns and
in the presidential canvass of 1860, the Germans of Wisconsin were
electrified by the compelling oratory of their greatest campaigner,
Carl Schurz, to whom the success of the Lincoln ticket, both in
Wisconsin and other western states harboring many Germans, was largely
due. Such participation was doing much to justify the prophecy of Dr.
Huebschmann–that political equality would help to make the people of
Wisconsin “one people.”


_Photo by Edward C. Nelson_


MUSCODA, 1763-1856


The light which local inquiry can shed upon general history is well
illustrated from a variety of viewpoints in the story of the Wisconsin
village which is the subject of this sketch.

Muscoda as a present-day railway station is inconspicuously located on
the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul line, Prairie du Chien division,
at the distance of fifty-six miles almost due west from Madison, one
hundred and fifty-two from Milwaukee; it is forty-two miles east from
Prairie du Chien. The village was begun at the river bank on the south
side of Wisconsin River, in section 1, township 8 north, range 1 west
of the fourth principal meridian. It stretches south from the river
toward the flanking hills about three-fourths of a mile, the main
portion now clustering about the depot, whereas the “Old Town” lay
farther north and hugged the river bank.

The ground on which Muscoda stands is a portion of the sandy plain,
the outwash of the erosion process by which the Wisconsin and its
larger tributaries worked their way through the sandstone stratum. The
upper courses of these tributaries and the smaller streams which feed
them have laid down flood bottoms of rich alluvium. Often, too, the
bench land of their valleys is a fertile limestone soil intermingled
with clayey patches and occasional streaks of sand. These are all
characteristics of the “Driftless Area,” as the geologists have named
this region, because the various primordial movements of glacial
ice, so influential in modifying the topography elsewhere, passed
around instead of over it, leaving no “drift” upon it. The terrain
is just what the eroding waters in the course of countless ages made
it–a system of regular valleys perfectly drained and bounded by
symmetrically sculptured hills or bluffs, which exhibit a level sky
line and decrease in altitude steadily till at the heads of the streams
they merge in the great plateau or “prairie” of southern Wisconsin. The
valleys make natural and not ill-graded highways from the prairie to
the Wisconsin River, while the ranges of bluffs separating them appear
like promontories running out fingerwise from the main plateau and
terminating either where two smaller streams converge or at the edge of
the lower plain laid down by the Wisconsin.

The principal stream entering the Wisconsin from the south, in the
neighborhood of Muscoda, is Blue River–the “Riviere Bleu” of the
French traders. It has several head streams rising in township 6-1 E,
and a large affluent named the Fennimore rising in 6-1 W, the Six Mile
Creek, rising in 7-1 E and Sandy Branch which heads in 8-1 E. There are
also several small branches entering the Fennimore from 7-2 W. In its
lower course the Blue River swerves to the west, entering the Wisconsin
near Blue River Station, in Township 8-2 W, but its rich upper valleys
and those of its tributaries have always been mainly within the trade
area of Muscoda. North of the Wisconsin the valleys most intimately
associated with Muscoda are Indian Creek, Eagle Creek, and Knapp’s
Creek in Richland County. The “Sand Prairie,” by which name the sandy
plain along the Wisconsin on the south side has long been known, and a
narrow tract of shelving land between the river and the hills on the
north are also within the Muscoda area.

Since the bluffs are mostly rough land, with only limited areas
on their summits where the soil is deep, free from stones, and
sufficiently even for cultivation, and the sand prairie comparatively
infertile, Muscoda as a trade center suffers from the low average
productivity of her territory. Still, from pioneer days the long
valleys beyond the sand prairie have yielded abundant harvests;
the roads through them from the high prairie to the south opened to
Muscoda’s merchants for some years a great trade in livestock and
grain beyond her legitimate boundaries; while the cross ranges which
run out from the high prairie northward approximately fifteen miles
forced the only rival railway,[75] when it came, back upon the great
ridge, leaving the north trending valleys still as a whole tributary to


According to Father Verwyst, a distinguished authority, the name
Muscoda is a corruption of the Chippewa word “Mashkodeng” which means
“prairie.” A similar corruption occurs in the name “Muscatine,” a town
in Iowa, and there was a tribe of Indians on the Upper Fox River called
Mascouten (prairie Indians).

The earlier name of the place was English Prairie, and while it is
clear that geography suggested “Prairie” (or Savannah), there are
various traditions to explain the association of the word “English”
with it. One is that some English families were settled there as early
as 1812 and that they were massacred by the Indians. Another, that the
place was so named from the fact that Colonel McKay, who descended the
river in 1814 with a regiment of British troops to capture Prairie
du Chien, encamped at this place which thereafter was called English

A more hopeful clue to the origin of the name occurs in the journal of
Willard Keyes, a young New Englander who passed down the river with a
party in 1817. He writes, under date of August 29, 1817: “pass a place
called ‘English meadow’ from an English trader and his son, said to
have been murdered there by the savages, 20 Leagues to Prairie du
Chien.”[76] Now, the fact of “an English trader and his son” being
murdered at some point on the Wisconsin River between the Portage and
Prairie du Chien is well established. In the journal of Lieut. James
Gorrell, the first English commandant at Green Bay after the ejection
of the French, we read, under date of June 14, 1763: “The traders came
down from the Sack [Sauk] country, and confirmed the news of Landsing
and his son being killed by the French.” When all the Sauk and Foxes
had arrived at Green Bay a few days later they told Gorrell that their
people were all in tears “for the loss of two English traders who were
killed by the French in their lands, and begged leave … to cut them
[the French] in pieces.”[77]

In the following summer, 1764, Garrit Roseboom testified, that “about
the latter end of April, 1763, he was going from the Bay [Green Bay] to
the Soaks [Sauk] to look for his Partner Abrah[a]m Lancing who had been
up there, being told that he was killed, that on his way he met some
Indians coming down with some Packs [of furs], which he knew to be his,
and which they said he could have for paying the carriage. That both
the French and Indians told him, Mr. Lancing and his son were killed
by two Frenchmen” who were servants of Mr. Lansing and who afterwards
escaped to the Illinois Indians.[78]

When we reflect how persistent is the memory of great tragedies and
recall that some of the French traders and voyageurs who were on the
river when the murder took place remained there for many years and
handed down the traditions of the river to their successors, it is not
hard to believe that it was the story of Abraham Lansing and his son,
slightly altered, which Willard Keyes heard from the rivermen as his
boat drifted along the “English meadow” in 1817. The French traders
in whose company he was would not be likely to ascribe the murder to
their own people so long as there were “savages” who might just as
well serve as scapegoats. We may consider it almost certain, then,
that the place came to be called English Prairie from the gruesome
crime of 1763, which had occurred almost three-quarters of a century
before the postoffice of that name was established, and more than half
a century prior to the voyage of Willard Keyes. Jonathan Carver, who
visited a village of the Fox Indians at that place in 1766, does not
use the name; but neither does he mention the story of the murder which
occurred only three years before.

No definite information about the fur trade at English Prairie, aside
from the record in Lansing’s case, has come down to us. Tradition
has it that Laurent Rolette, brother of the famous Prairie du Chien
trader, Joseph Rolette, traded there for some years, going later to the
Portage. It appears also that some time before the arrival of white
settlers a trader named Armstrong operated in that neighborhood. But
no details have been preserved and we can only infer from the fact
that Indians were still numerous when settlers came that the trade at
English Prairie in earlier times was probably important.

It was the Black Hawk War and the treaties following it that produced
the revolutionary change in the life of the natives in this region.
From that time forward Indians could live south of the river only on
sufferance, though they were permitted to roam the forests to the
northward for about a quarter of a century longer. During the Black
Hawk War a detachment of Colonel Henry Dodge’s Mounted Volunteers
went to English Prairie, another detachment going at the same time to
Prairie du Chien. Between them these two bodies of troops scoured both
sides of the Wisconsin from the mouth to the Portage, dislodging all
natives. English Prairie was also the camping ground for a military
company composed of friendly Indians recruited at Green Bay and led to
Prairie du Chien by Samuel C. Stambaugh in July, 1832. The route of
march was from Green Bay to the Portage, thence to Sugar Creek (near
Blue Mounds), thence to Fort Dodge (Dodgeville), thence to English
Prairie, thence to Prairie du Chien “with one other camping between.”


History repeats itself in making the Indian War of 1832 the impulse to
a great new expansion movement among American pioneers. Just as the
Pequod War of 1638 by familiarizing the coast settlers of Massachusetts
with the rich lands of the interior enticed them westward, and as the
Seven Years’ War destroyed the last obstacle to western and northern
expansion in New England, so in a very real sense this war made the
beginnings of the agricultural settlement in Wisconsin. Immediately
after the Black Hawk War the survey of the lands in southern Wisconsin
began. In the four years, 1832 to 1836, the entire region from the
Illinois line north to the Wisconsin, the Fox, and Green Bay, and from
the Mississippi to Lake Michigan, was checked off into townships and
sections. Hardy, resourceful government surveyors, with their crews
(usually two chainmen and one axman) traversed every square mile,
whether prairie, forest, valley, or bluff. In 1834 a land office was
opened at Mineral Point for the sale of lands in the western portion of
Michigan Territory (as it was then).

The ranges of townships numbered 1 W and 1 E, of which the townships
numbered eight (Muscoda and Pulaski) bounded by the Wisconsin, were
for some years the northernmost, were surveyed by Sylvester Sibley in
1833. The next year those lands were offered for sale and some tracts
along the river were actually sold to private individuals. Among the
purchasers were Thomas Jefferson Parrish and Charles Bracken, who
were well-known lead miners and smelters living farther south. Others
among the early land owners of Township 8-1 W have been identified as
mining men.

[Illustration: THE LEAD REGION

After Owens’ Geological Chart, 1839; drawn by Mary Stuart Foster]

The lead mines, while known and worked by Indians and a few traders
for many years, received the first large body of emigrants in 1828,
when several thousand came scattering out widely over the territory
which now constitutes Grant, Iowa, and Lafayette counties in Wisconsin,
together with adjacent parts of Iowa. These were the lead miners who
under Dodge and Hamilton fought the Black Hawk War. It was these hardy
pioneers who as troopers patrolled the Wisconsin River and who finally
delivered the coup de grace to Black Hawk’s band far to the north on
the banks of the Mississippi.

Many of the lead miners were shrewd business men always on the lookout
for good financial prospects. With the knowledge of new regions
gained during the war, either from personal observation or from
reliable report, with the sense of a new era opening to settlement and
expansion in the region dependent for transportation facilities on the
Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers, it is not strange that some of them
should have been interested in river points lying as far outside the
mineral belt proper as did English Prairie.


For it is clear that it was water and not lead that the pioneers of
Muscoda sought. Surveyors and prospectors had found no hopeful signs of
mineral north of townships 6-1 W and 7-1 E. A few years later (1839)
Dr. David Dale Owen, the geologist, made his famous survey of the lead
region and excluded from it everything north of the heads of Blue River
in townships 6 and 7-1 E. When the lands in township 8-1 W were offered
for sale in November, 1834, it was precisely the river front lots and
subdivisions which were taken first. Parrish entered fractional lots
2 and 3 of section 1; Frederick Bronson the northeast fraction of the
southeast quarter of section 1; Isaac Bronson the south half of the
southeast fractional quarter; Garrit V. Denniston the southeast half
of the fractional southwest quarter; and Denniston and Charles Bracken
fraction No. 4 of fractional section 1. Other water front tracts in
section 2 were bought by Denniston at this time; between 1836 and 1841
other tracts in the same sections were bought by others. All of these
lands were obviously deemed favorable locations for a prospective town
dependent on river transportation.

The way in which the village was begun, by the erection of a smelting
furnace, is rather startling, in view of the absence of lead in the
region adjacent. The motives which induced Colonel William S. Hamilton
of Wiota to build a furnace at English Prairie can only be conjectured.

Colonel Hamilton was the son of the great Alexander Hamilton,
Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury. As a lad of seventeen in 1814
he entered West Point but resigned in 1817 to accept a commission as
deputy surveyor-general under Col. William Rector, surveyor-general
for Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas. From that time young Hamilton
was almost continuously in the West, though he made one trip east, on
horseback, to see his mother. He was in Wisconsin as early as 1825 and
in 1827 began his career as a lead miner and smelter in what is now
Lafayette County at Wiota or Hamilton’s Diggings. He took part in the
Indian troubles of 1827, and also in the Black Hawk War.

It is not known with certainty when Hamilton established his furnace
at English Prairie. Tradition says it was in the year 1835. If the
furnace was operating then, it is strange that so careful an observer
as Featherstonhaugh, who dropped down the Wisconsin in August, 1835
and stopped at English Prairie to draw a sketch of its landscape,
should have failed to note that fact.[79] We are probably justified
in asserting that the furnace was not there at that time. But we know
it was there in 1837, for Captain Frederick Marryat, a famous English
writer who descended the river in that year, saw “a small settlement
called the English prairie” where there was a “smelting-house and a
steam saw-mill.”[80] I incline to think the year 1836 was the date
of its beginning. In 1835 Hamilton was a candidate for member of the
Council from the western part of Michigan Territory. His canvass was
conducted in the lead mining region and his advertisement appeared
in the Galena papers. He was elected to and became president of the
so-called “Rump” Council which met at Green Bay January 1, 1836 and
sat for two weeks. During that session the town of Cassville, on the
Mississippi, was designated as the territorial capital, Hamilton making
the principal argument in favor of the movement. Much interest was
manifested in internal improvements designed to develop a through line
of transportation via the Wisconsin and Fox rivers.[81] The territory
of Wisconsin was just being organized by Congressional action and great
expectations were being awakened in consequence.

The miners and smelters had theretofore sold their lead through the
commission merchants of Galena, by whom it was sent to St. Louis.
But as new mines were opened farther and farther north, the cost of
transportation to Galena–by means of the “sucker teams”[82]–steadily
increased. Moreover, in the year 1836-37 the price of lead declined
so alarmingly that little of it was made and the smelters had nearly
all ceased to operate. Yet, it was felt that prices would rise again
promptly in response to the demand for lead. In the same period, due
no doubt partly to the hardships of the miners and smelters, there was
widespread and loud dissatisfaction with the treatment accorded the
lead owners by the Galena middlemen. Efforts were made to establish
some other lead shipping port as a rival to Galena, which helps to
explain the rise of both Cassville and Potosi.

The inference from these facts is that Hamilton probably thought he
saw in a smelter located at the steamboat landing at English Prairie a
possibility of immediate profit, even though margins were very narrow,
and a chance to build up a flourishing business. He could buy the
cheapest ore–that which was produced near the northern edge of the
lead region, Centerville, Wingville, and Highland. The haul from those
places would be short and all down grade and if the mineral were taken
direct from the mines there would be no rehandling until the bars of
pure lead were ready to be dumped from the furnace floor into the hold
of the steamer. The teams employed to bring down the raw mineral could
carry freight back the fifteen or twenty miles to the mines much more
cheaply than it could be transported from Galena or Cassville three
or four times as far. Finally, abundant supplies of wood were at hand
to feed the furnace, and French rivermen were a source from which to
recruit labor.

To an enterprising, speculative, acquisitive character like Hamilton,
who had no family to tie him to a particular spot, such arguments would
appeal strongly, and there is no inherent reason why the venture should
not have succeeded. Hamilton operated the furnace, either personally or
by proxy, at least till 1838 and possibly longer, selling it finally to
Thomas Jefferson Parrish, whose principal mining and smelting business
was located at the head of Blue River, afterwards Montfort.

The fact that Parrish owned the ground at the steamboat landing
and that in 1837 he was postmaster at English Prairie (then called
Savannah) suggests that he may have been a partner in the business from
the first and perhaps local manager of the furnace. At all events,
Hamilton continued his business at Wiota and very soon cut loose
entirely from the English Prairie venture.[83] That place, under the
name of Savannah or English Prairie, was a calling place for river
steamers as early as 1838 and is scheduled as forty-one miles from
the mouth of the Wisconsin.[84] It was said that the only boat which
regularly plied on the river in that year was the _Science_, piloted by
Captain Clark, who made his first voyage in June, 1838.[85] But there
were doubtless visits from steamers running to Fort Winnebago (Portage)
during that and earlier years.

In one of the Milwaukee papers for 1841 is a statement that “four
sucker teams” had brought in lead from Thomas Parrish’s furnace “near
Muscoday in Grant County.” This reference has been taken as proof
that the Muscoda furnace was still in operation. I think it refers
not to the Muscoda furnace but to one of several furnaces Parrish was
conducting in the lead region near the heads of Blue River. The phrase
“near Muscoday” used as far from the lead region as Milwaukee may very
well mean some place fifteen or twenty miles from the Wisconsin; and
the word “near” instead of “at” certainly excludes Muscoda itself.
Setting this evidence aside, there is no proof that the Muscoda furnace
was operated as late as 1841. Nor, on the other hand, is there proof of
its earlier discontinuance. We simply do not know how long it was kept
alive or how large a business it developed at the “Landing.”


Two things suggest that the little village failed to develop a “boom”
or even to gain a basis for healthy growth. These are the land
entries in the territory adjacent and the story of the post office.
Practically, there were no new entries of land between the years
1841 and 1849. This is true for all the townships in the tributary
region–7, 8, and 9, range 1 W, and 7, 8, and 9, range 1 E. The post
office under the name of Savannah appears in the government list for
the first time in the report for 1837. At that time Thomas J. Parrish
was postmaster. In 1839 S. A. Holley was postmaster, the office then
being listed as English Prairie. The postmaster’s compensation was
$5.68. Charles Stephenson’s compensation in 1841 was even smaller,
$3.36, the net proceeds of the office amounting to only $7.55. In 1843,
for the first time, the post office was called Muscoda. The postmaster
was Levi J. D. Parrish, who received as compensation $9.29, the net
proceeds of the office having risen to $16.51.

It is probable that most of the seeming prosperity of 1843 was due to
the presence of the land office, which had been removed from Mineral
Point to Muscoda in 1842. Some have charged that the change was brought
about through James D. Doty’s influence in order to save the town.
If so, the scheme failed, for the land office promptly went back to
Mineral Point in 1843, and May 16, 1845, the post office department
discontinued the office at Muscoda. Muscoda was not listed in the post
office report for 1847 or in the report for 1849. In 1851 it reappears,
with James Moore as postmaster. Now the compensation is $39.74 and the
net proceeds $53.09. The exact date of its restoration is not given
but it must have been as early as 1850, and possibly 1849 or even


The reopening of the Muscoda post office, about 1850, synchronizes with
the first movement of pioneer farmers into the good lands tributary
to that place. A number of tracts of land were purchased by actual
settlers in this and adjoining townships in the years 1849 to 1851.
Indeed, Conrad Kircher’s purchase dates from 1847. Charles Miller and
Emanuel Dunston bought land in 1849; Isaac Dale and Moses Manlove in
1851. We know also that the Moore family owned land at Muscoda as early
as 1851. Across the river, in township 9-1 W, Robert Galloway, William
Pickering, William and Andrew Miller, and two or three others bought
in 1849; several in 1850; and a few others before 1854, when the great
rush came.

A similar story can be told for township 9-1 E (now Orion) where
J. H. Schuermann and Daniel Mainwaring (settlers) bought lands in
1849; Albert C. Dooley in 1850; and Jacob Roggy in 1851. One of the
purchasers of 1848, John H. Siegrist, was probably the earliest actual
settler in the township. A half dozen families bought in township 8-1
E as early as 1849; and a few others were added before 1854. A very
few settlers were to be found in township 7-1 W prior to 1854, and
while there were a good many settlers and miners in township 7-1 E,
the greater part of that township was served from Highland where a
post office was established as early at least as 1847 and where there
was much lead mining activity, and from Blue River which had a post
office from 1839. These mining centers doubtless drew their supplies
from the steamers unloading at Muscoda, for the road to the river
at that point had been open for many years, but settlement was more
numerous and local activity much more intense, as revealed by the post
office returns. The Highland post office led the Muscoda post office in
importance for just about ten years–from 1847 to 1856. With the coming
of the railroad, Muscoda drew ahead.


If one had no other evidence than the sales of land at the United
States Land Office, it would still be clear that in the years 1854 to
1856 something important was astir affecting the value of lands in
those townships (7, 8, and 9-1 W, and 7, 8, and 9-1 E) which pivot on
Muscoda as the trading point. For, while up to 1854 only scattering
tracts of land had been entered, and those largely by speculators using
military land warrants in making payment to the government, by 1856
nearly every forty-acre subdivision of first-rate land and much of the
second-rate land also was under private ownership. And the state lands
in the townships had also been purchased to the same extent. Besides,
the vast majority of the purchasers of government land during those
years were actual settlers, with only an occasional speculator.[87]

These facts challenge attention and call for an explanation. Wisconsin
had been in course of settlement for about two decades. The earliest
settlements were in the southeastern and eastern parts of the state
where the economic support was the market reached by the Great Lakes
and the Erie Canal; and in the southwestern section where the basis of
prosperity had been lead-mining. The lead found its market mainly down
the Mississippi, though increasingly the superiority of the route open
to the lake ports had impressed itself upon the people.

At the legislative session of 1841-42 a bill was introduced for the
chartering of a railroad from Milwaukee, via Madison, to Potosi.
Despite continuous effort, the first railroad bill to pass, in 1847,
provided only for a railroad from Milwaukee to Waukesha. In 1848 this
was by law extended to the Mississippi.

The agitation of plans for a railroad from Lake Michigan to the
Mississippi tended to give the lake route an overshadowing importance
in the popular mind. Actual construction work on the Milwaukee-Waukesha
section began in 1849; that portion of the road was completed by the
end of the year 1850, and in another year it was practically completed
to Whitewater on Rock River. It reached Madison in the year 1854.

The intention of the company had been to build to the Wisconsin River
so as to intercept steamboat transportation at or near Arena. Thence
the road might run along the river to its mouth, or it might run along
the ridge between the Wisconsin and the south flowing streams, reaching
the Mississippi at some point, like Potosi, lower down. By the year
1853 it had been determined to follow the Wisconsin Valley route to
the Mississippi, and during that summer the line was surveyed from the
mouth of Black Earth Creek to Prairie du Chien.

It can easily be imagined how the clangor of railway construction
echoed in the minds and hearts of intending settlers. That they should
have watched, with greedy eye, the reports of progress of the location
of the road and hurried away to the land office as soon as it was
definitely located, to buy the good lands adjacent to the right-of-way,
is a perfectly normal phenomenon. The township plats showing original
purchasers of the government land tell the story. In section 1,
township 7-1 W, four forty-acre tracts were bought in 1854; eleven in
1855; and one in 1856. In section 2, one in 1854; twelve in 1855; and
two in 1857. A single forty had been bought as early as 1847. The other
sections of that township show very similar dates and proportions in
the entries; the same is true of the other townships of the group. The
1854 entrymen were those who pursued the railway surveyors with keenest
determination. The slower ones came mainly in the two years following,
during which trains actually were put on the roadbed. In October, 1856,
the village of Muscoda, which had maintained a precarious existence
for twenty years, awoke to newness of life at the sound of the puffing
locomotive. And the beginning of permanent prosperity for the village
meant the beginning of prosperity for the rural neighborhood tributary
to it.



Wisconsin has now a unique law on the subject of school history texts.
That law provides, section 1:

No history or other textbook shall be adopted for use or be in any
district school, city school, vocational school or high school
which falsifies the facts regarding the War of Independence or the
War of 1812 or which defames our nation’s founders or misrepresents
the ideals and cause for which they struggled and sacrificed, or
which contains propaganda favorable to any foreign government.

The method provided in other sections of the law for banishing
textbooks which have been adopted but which are repugnant to the above
provision is as follows: Upon complaint of any five citizens, filed
with the state superintendent of public instruction, a hearing shall
be arranged, to be held before the state superintendent or his deputy,
in the county from which the complaint came. Previous notice must
have been given through the press to the public and by mail to the
complainants and to the publishers of the textbook complained of. A
decision must be rendered within ten days. If the book shall be found
obnoxious to the provisions of the law, that fact shall be noted by
the state superintendent in the list of books for schools which he
publishes annually. Thereafter the book so listed may be used only
during the remainder of the year in which the state superintendent
publishes it as proscribed. The penalty for retaining it beyond the
time limit, shall be the loss to the school or district concerned of
the state aid normally falling to its share.

The passage of this bill in the senate with only one vote against it,
created a good deal of surprise, which changed to admiration for the
oratorical powers of its author and sponsor, Senator John Cashman of
Manitowoc County, when it was learned that his impassioned appeal to
patriotism figuratively swept senators “off their feet.”

History students can have no quarrel with the motive assigned by
Senator Cashman for the passage of this law. He says: “The history
of a nation is its proudest asset. It includes the record of its
great men, their ideals, sacrifices, and achievements. To preserve
that history in all its original purity and teach it to the rising
generations is a nation’s first duty.” With every word in that stirring
exordium the historically minded man or woman will cordially agree.
Thoughtful persons, whether historians or not, will also sympathize
with Senator Cashman when he undertakes to rebuke anything approaching
levity in characterizing the fathers of the Republic or captiousness in
criticizing their policies, motives, and achievements. Unfortunately,
there always have been among writers some who display a certain air
of “smartness” or superciliousness which hardly comports with the
inherent dignity of the historian’s office, or with the aim of doing
equal and exact justice to all persons and to all causes discussed.
Yet it will probably be no light task to convince an impartial umpire
that writers of textbooks which have been adopted for use in the
schools, after careful scrutiny by boards of education and other school
officers responsible to the people, have been guilty of “treason
to the nation,” as Senator Cashman seems to think has often been
the case.[88] The framers of the constitution, with wise prevision,
limited the application of the word “treason” in such a way as to
exclude that indefinite class of crimes known elsewhere under the name
of _constructive treason_, which in England and other countries had
provided a favorable soil for plotters of revenge against individuals
and in times of high tension always yielded a sinister harvest of
oppression and suffering. So they defined treason against the United
States narrowly as consisting only in “levying war against them or
in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort,” and they
also provided that conviction under a charge of treason could be
secured only on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act or
confession in open court.

This view of the fathers as relates to treason was of course lost sight
of during the Civil War, when in the North it used to be fashionable
for men to pillory as “fool” or “traitor” (with an emphatic expletive)
anyone who had the temerity to vote the Democratic ticket; it was
lost sight of in the recent war when men were called traitors because
they refused to buy liberty bonds or because they declared the draft
a violation of the rights of the individual; and it is likewise
lost sight of when we condemn under the term treason opinions on
history which we may regard as too favorable to our nation’s one-time
enemies, or too contemptuous of the characters or the acts of our own
distinguished men of a past age. It would be strange if the impulses
engendered by the war and the peace were not reflected more or less in
editions of books prepared since 1917. It is probably true that some
authors have overstressed the “hands across the sea” sentiment, while
others perhaps lean unduly in an opposite direction. But that any of
them have been guilty of treasonable acts or even intentions is what no
one who knows the historical profession can believe without the most
explicit proof.

But this question of treason aside, the problem still remains to
determine what is the history of our country “in all its original
purity.” What shall be the test of purity inasmuch as, happily, there
is no established list of authorized books or records from which
writers must derive their facts? Are they not compelled either to
investigate each point for themselves or to accept as probably correct
the results of other men’s investigations? To be sure, every important
event creates its own legend or tradition, and such legends tend to
be preserved and to be handed down from generation to generation. But
legends are not history. No one worthy to rank as a careful historian
would presume to write the history of the Great War on the basis of
legends now crystallizing about it. No more can one write the history
of the Revolution on such a legendary basis. This view, that much
which once was thought to be history but was in fact mere legend, is
not in any sense new. James Russell Lowell, who ranks among the very
distinguished Americans of the last generation, wrote, in 1864, that
the early reports of the battle of Lexington claimed for the Yankee
minutemen a non-resistant attitude.

The Anglo Saxon could not fight without the law on his side. But
later, when the battle became a matter of local pride, the muskets
that had been fired at the Red coats under Pitcairn almost rivalled
in number the pieces of furniture that came over in the Mayflower.
Indeed, whoever has talked much with Revolutionary pensioners knows
that those honored veterans were no less remarkable for imagination
than for patriotism. It should seem that there is nothing on
which so little reliance can be placed as facts, especially when
related by one who saw them. It is no slight help to our charity to
recollect that, in disputable matters, every man sees according to
his prejudices, and is stone blind to whatever he did not expect or
did not mean to see. Even where no personal bias can be suspected,
contemporary and popular evidence is to be taken with great
caution, so exceedingly careless are men as to exact truth, and
such poor observers, for the most part of what goes on under their

It is hardly necessary at this late day to insist that no writer is
justified in building his narrative of events on unverified tradition.
He must try to penetrate to the truth that lies behind the legend
(which in some cases will differ very widely from the legend itself).
It is no easy task at best to perform a successful piece of historical
research, and the questions on which final agreements have been reached
are not numerous. Accordingly, if the law should be so construed
as to enforce banishment from the schools of any book which can be
proved incorrect in some of its alleged facts without regard to their
importance, no textbooks will be left in the schools, for none are
impeccable. True, the Cashman law would condemn only for falsifying
the history of the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, leaving four
other foreign wars in which our country has engaged, and the great
Civil War, to be treated without other restraint than that contained
in the last clause of section 1, denouncing propaganda in favor of any
foreign government. But under that sole provision it might still prove
embarrassing for a writer to tell the truth about the Mexican War and
possibly the others also, for the term propaganda–as the whole world
has learned lately–is a most elastic one. Presumably, the propaganda
test applies as well to other phases of history as to the military
phases, wherefore an author of a textbook is apt, under a strict
construction of this law, to be hauled into court on the charge of
propaganda if he should consider it his duty to say a single thing in
commendation of any other nation. For, will there not always be found,
in any school district, five citizens whose views collide with those of
the author; and if so, what is to prevent a case being called? Surely a
word in favor of France would be resented by some; a word in favor of
Great Britain would be resented by others; a word in favor of Germany
would offend still others; and so on through the list. In the present
mournful state of general unrest and want of confidence among nations,
an author would tread unsafely on any ground outside the “three-mile

It does not follow from the fact that under the law it is easy to
bring cases, that convictions would be equally easy. Presumably the
state superintendent has had knowledge of all books now in use in the
schools and, in effect if not in form, has approved them. This he would
not have done had he considered any of them purveyors of treason or
excessively faulty in statement. Moreover, as judge in cases that may
arise under this law, the superintendent will be bound to take judicial
notice of some things. For example, it is common knowledge that no
history text is perfect either on its factual side, in its literary
qualities, or in the author’s perspective of events; that few writers
display at all times perfect taste, and none perfect judgment, in
their criticisms of men and their comments on historical actions and
movements; that a given textbook may be valuable, despite minor defects
in all of the above points, by reason of its superior arrangement, its
psychological adaptation to children’s needs, and the success with
which it communicates to them the main features and the spirit of
American history. He will also be obliged to rule that the truth is not
malicious propaganda and he is bound to maintain an author’s right to
liberty of research.

It goes without saying that if a book is palpably and grossly
inaccurate; if it gives the child a wholly erroneous view of history;
if it is crassly censorious of America’s great men; if it is written
in a spirit tending to destroy American ideals; if it tends to make
boys and girls ashamed of American character and achievements, not
in exceptional instances here and there, but generally; then there
would hardly be a question about the duty of getting rid of it with
all convenient promptness. But would it not be strange if, with the
superintendent and other educational experts on guard, such a book had
got itself adopted? On general principles one would expect that only
in the rarest cases would this law come into operation; for it ought
not to be easy for a thoroughly unworthy book to elude the critical
eyes of publishers, editors, school superintendents, teachers, and
school boards, to be finally detected and exposed by some school patron
or other private citizen. No doubt such cases are possible, but one
could hardly conceive them to be of common occurrence. Misgivings are
aroused, therefore, by the report that at the legislative hearing
Senator Cashman denounced, by name, five well known and widely used

If the Senator’s historical views, as published in the _Senate Journal_
under date of March 1, 1923, are intended to be made the platform in
a campaign to purify the history teaching of our schools, the upshot
may prove widely different from what is now anticipated; for among
those views, the derivation of which is not indicated, are some which
it would be difficult to find expressed in any existing textbook. For
example, Senator Cashman holds that our country is indebted to Holland
“for town and county representation in a legislature.” Americans
have long been taught that, in the picturesque phrase of John Fiske,
“self-government _broke out_ in Virginia” in 1619 by reason of the
fact that these people were English. We are aware of no investigations
which have brought forth evidence compelling the abandonment of that
view, though some very extravagant claims have been made for the
Dutch influence upon both colonial politics and colonial education.
He also holds that “our free public school system came from Prussia.”
If by this were meant merely that Prussian influence has been felt in
the creation of a system of state supervision of education, and in
the strengthening of a school system already in existence, we would
gladly concur. But the statement is too sweeping to admit of such an
interpretation. Wisconsin Germans ought to be very glad to assign to
New England colonies and states the chief influence in giving us the
public school system because, in the present state of research, that
appears to be where the credit belongs. To all that the Senator says
about the selection of immigrants for America, the development in the
colonies themselves of a new and vivid love of liberty which found
expression in the Declaration of Independence, the stupid tyranny of
George III, and the heroic sufferings and achievements of patriots in
the Revolution, we utter a hearty Amen; realizing, of course, that his
statement is necessarily a crowded summary, cast in oratorical mould,
and not designed as a complete exposition of his views. But, in thus
concurring we do not yield up our sympathy with the aphorism of Edmund
Burke, that in their reaction to tyranny the colonists “are descendants
of Englishmen.”

The same reservations might be made with reference to Senator Cashman’s
statement on the constitution. And yet a fair interpretation of what
he says on that subject compels us to class him with those extreme
worshipers of that document who, like the authors of the New York
teachers’ test oath, would maintain the constitution, unchanged, at
any cost. Speaking of the fathers and their work, he says: “Then
they wrote and the states adopted the supreme law of the land, the
American constitution, the most sublime public document that ever
came forth from the mind and soul of man, establishing a system of
government based upon the consent of the governed, with religious
liberty protected, inherent rights guaranteed, _to be written in
indestructible letters into the pages of the nation’s laws_.” [Editor’s
italics.] It is a well known view of the present progressives, as
it was of the framers themselves, that, great as was the original
constitution, it was still far from being perfect. Also, most
progressives now accept in principle the conclusions of Charles A.
Beard, the historian whose recent investigations on this point are
now well known, that the constitution represents a partial reaction
from the democracy of the Revolution, and was designed in part to set
limitations upon the popular will. While venerating the constitution,
progressives in the main believe that such restrictions as the
legislative election of senators, the appointment and life tenure
of judges (some would include the mode of electing the president),
were intentionally anti-democratic, and that these and other defects
which time has revealed ought to be subject to modification whenever
the people desire the changes. The mode of amendment having been
designed to make changes difficult, or impossible (though in recent
years several changes have been adopted), leading progressives have
long held that that fundamental article ought to be amended first in
order to facilitate other changes. This was Justice John B. Winslow’s
opinion, put forth in 1912; it was the burden of an important plank
in the La Follette national platform the same year; that doctrine was
preached, at least in spirit, by the late President Roosevelt. In
short, it is a progressive principle that the constitution must cease
to be a fetish–a dead hand upon the present and the future–and must
be adjusted, from time to time, to existing social, economic, and
political conditions. The document represents, for the time, a mighty
triumph of constructive statesmanship, so progressive leaders believe,
and it should not be changed “for light or transient causes,” much less
revolutionized, but “it was designed for a rural or semi-rural state.”
The men who made it “however able could not anticipate or solve the new
problems of life and government which have come upon us in the last
half century.”[90]

To follow Senator Cashman’s outline of American history into the
recent period to the all-engrossing event of the World War and
America’s participation therein would be fruitless. Not one of us can
conscientiously claim to be an impartial investigator with respect
to things which have wrenched our souls. We cannot abdicate our own
personalities. In treating the war, all that any historian at present
could hope to do would be to state his views with becoming restraint
and concede that those views may ultimately prove to be quite wrong.
A censorship law of fifty years hence (if our people shall then still
adhere to the censorship idea) would be sure to condemn the teaching
of what some of us now piously believe with reference to this feature
of history; just as a censorship law of today, if it included in its
scope the Civil War, would condemn the teaching of some things which
nearly one-half the voters of Wisconsin sincerely believed in 1864.
“Time is the great sifter and winnower of truth,” and we must consent
to leave these matters to the investigators of our grandchildren’s
generation. Yet the gravest danger to be feared from the law we are
now discussing lies in the psychological probability that every second
man’s opinion of a given history will be based not on what the author
says about the Revolution, or the Constitution, or the War of 1812,
but on what he says about the recent war and the League of Nations. In
other words, the reader who is prejudiced against an author on account
of his last chapter, which is almost sure to be unsatisfactory to many,
will find the first, the middle, and all other chapters reeking with
faults, and this even while personally he may be unconscious of having
imbibed a prejudice at all.

There is a possibility that, as an engine for expelling books now
used, the law will become a dead letter, first, because it may prove
unexpectedly difficult for a dissatisfied citizen to persuade four
others to act with him in making complaint, which however is not
probable; second, because of the clamor of those in the district who
are not keen for or against the book, but who realize that if it is
thrown out all old copies will be worthless and they will have to pay
for new books at the opening of the next school year; third, because
the first cases brought may go against the complainants and discourage
others from multiplying complaints. But, the popular psychology
being what it is, there is an equal chance that the law may foster
a widespread disposition to attack history books, geography books,
civics books, and even readers; that it may keep educational matters
in a state of turmoil, engendering much social bitterness due to
the clashing of parties and interests over questions raised in the
school-book fights. In such controversies teachers would be the first
to suffer, because their opinions would be called for at once, which
would place them between two fires; and no surer way could be found
to degrade the social influence of our schools than by keeping the
teachers in a state of perpetual anxiety.

We have reason to think that Senator Cashman, an acknowledged friend
and promoter of education, would deeply deplore such a result. If he
had anticipated anything of the kind, doubtless he would have refrained
from offering his bill. But laws, like children, when they get out of
hand, have a way of surprising their progenitors. However, we have the
law and must use it to the best ends.

If every one in position of leadership or authority in relation
to it–and among those are members of this Society–shall feel a
responsibility for guiding discussion into proper channels; if debate
on school-book questions shall be kept not merely free but also
parliamentary in form and spirit; if we all insist that differences
of view must be treated tolerantly; if we can secure from the public
toward the arguments and facts in these cases a measure of that
openness of mind which characterizes the American juror sworn to try a
case fairly on the evidence, it may be possible to mitigate or prevent
the evils apprehended.

And if, without discouraging research, the law shall merely enforce
through future adoptions the idea that good taste is as obligatory upon
the textbook maker as good manners are upon the private individual,
one point will have been gained. We trust this may not be won at the
expense of a disposition to whittle down the truth to fit a supposed
demand, or that it will result in substituting books written by
dishonest or spineless persons for those written by men and women of
real character and scholarship.