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Bohi, M. Janette / A history of Wisconsin State University Whitewater, 1868-1968

1 In the beginning: nation, state, and village (1837-1868),   pp. 7-[18]

Page 16

Whitewater University 1868-1968 
in 1880 amounted to over a million and a half dollars, the price of a good
building on the modem campus.38 
While the Civil War interrupted the basic pattern of life, it accentu- 
ated the puritan impulse to expand the boundaries of Whitewater's 
cultural prairies. Lincoln's call for a day of fasting and prayer in 1864
"was observed by many and others kept still."'39 When Lee surrendered
songs were "sung by men who never tried to sing before and never dared
to again," and when Lincoln died the churches were turned to houses
mourning.40 The village felt the pride of having shared in the nation's joys
and sorrows and in the triumph of ideals which squared with the Scrip- 
tures. By 1870 its 4,296 population made it twice the size of any other place
in the county and gave it command of 1/6 of the human resources. Spas- 
modic attempts to adorn the place with an institution of higher learning
were concentrated into one grand push for a pearl of superlative price, the
normal school for southeastern Wisconsin. 
The story of Whitewater's development during the first three decades 
is significant more for its similarity to the wilderness pattern than for
uniqueness. The conversion of a spot within one generation from the 
wastes left behind by Black Hawk to a self-supporting town happened too 
often in Wisconsin to make headlines, but the phenomenon did strike 
Alexis de Tocqueville as worthy of comment. "The same man has given
his name to a wilderness which none before him had traversed, has seen 
the first forest tree fall and the first planter's house rise in the solitude,
where a community came to group itself, a village grew, and today a vast
city stretches.' While the frontier put its stamp upon these rapidly 
expanding communities and set for them a price on material progress, 
one generation removed them only slightly from the culture they had 
appreciated back East. For puritan pioneers there was no better way to 
express their optimism, to perpetuate material efforts, and to "bare
religion to the light of day" than to establish in their midst a center
learning which would draw all men unto them. 
One Wisconsin historian who followed the migration patterns of the 
state explained Whitewater homogeneity quite simply. During the 1820's 
the lead and zinc area in the southwest drew large numbers of Scotch- 
Irish, Welsh, English, and Pennsylvania Dutch across the Appalachians 
into the midcontinent. These did not mix with the 1830 migration from 
New England and New York who were drawn to the open farm lands of 
southern Wisconsin, and who were settled before the immigrants from 
Germany and Scandinavia arrived in the 1860's.42 Whitewater, like the 
rest of the county, did not readily assimilate the foreign elements. In 
1850 it numbered 985 American-born to 245 foreign, only 96 of whom 

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