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Colby, Wisconsin centennial
(1873-1973)

Echoes of pioneer days,   pp. 5-17


Page 5

ECHOES OF
PIONEER DAYS ...
Among the first families to make a settlement on the
Marathon County side (before the town was named) were
Richard and William Tennant. They made entry under the
Homestead Act receiving 80 acres each. They set to work
building a log shanty on William's claim filling the chinks
with yellow clay that could be found anywhere under a
foot of black loamy soil. Other settlers, without their fami-
lies, came in numbers soon after. Most of the houses were
log shanties but Richard Tennant built a story and a half log
house with a shingle roof, the material of which was hauled
80 miles by team.
The families of the Tennant brothers arrived on March 21,
1871 in a pair of sleighs belonging to Edgar Tennant. For
over two days they followed the Central "Tote" Road, the
turning point being a blazed tree which marked the point
where they were to turn to go to their forest home. The snow
was over three feet deep and by five p.m. the team had be-
come so tired from wallowing through the deep snow, that
they refused to go on. The party, not knowing how far they
were from their destination, and with night coming on, began
preparing to spend the night camping in the woods. Then
Edgar let out a yell and when the echoes died away, they
heard an answering call. Soon, brother Wm. Tennant came
through the snow with a yoke of oxen to guide them the
rest of the way. This was a happy meeting and an even more
joyous one later when they feasted on warm potatoes, bread,
tea, and hot flap jacks.
More families came and within a few years, every piece of
land was taken and things began to assume a more civi-
lized aspect. In the spring when the snow began to leave, they
tapped maple trees and made maple syrup and maple sugar;
occasionally there were candy pulls for the boys and girls.
0
About mid-November of 1871, H. A. Fergusen (a settler
in what is now the town of Weston) and George W. Holeton
took a trip north to look over land along the Wis. Cen. R.R.
They began at section 40, where Spencer is now located.
About the 14th of Nov., they came upon a camp of land-
lookers north of Colby where the coal kilns were later lo-
cated. They had found the land they wanted to claim, but
weren't sure how to go about taking descriptions of them
which was legally required to make a homestead. Fergusen,
who was a good soul, did it for them. The camp of home-
steaders included Richard, Joel and Edgar Tennant and Rufus
Barker. They all selected their land and took out their papers
at the same time.
A supply road was being cut through the west side of town
and there was a camp of railroad engineers on the N.E. quar-
ter of section 19 south of where Colby now stands. Mr.
Holeton received his papers confirming the acquisition of his
land about the 19th of Nov. in 1871. He knew of no other set-
tlers either in the town of Holeton or Town of Hull at that
time.
He brought his first load of goods and material for build-
ing to what is now the Town of Holeton on March 6th of
1872. About this time, Fitzgerald a railroad contractor, had
built a camp south of Colby and was getting in supplies and
equipment so they could begin to clear the right of way.
There was no settlement at that time, and because of the
deep snow, little work could be done at this time. The snow
was over 3 feet deep on the level.
William Shannon, a single man, together with his brothe14
John, and a brother-in-law named Sawyer, had built a shanty
in town 29 Range 2 and moved into it the latter part of Feb.,
1872. Hubbard Moss, Richard and Wm. Tennant, Rufus and
Henry Barker were also building shanties in March, 1872.
Soon after that, Judah Lyon and Henry Demarest came.
On March 25, Mrs. Holeton, her children and her sister,
(who later became Mrs. Gus Homested), arrived from Stevens
Point. They were piloted to their new home in the forest
primeval, arriving on All Fool's Day. Sam Vangorder came
a few days later. In June, Hiram Kavhart and Rolof Ammund-
sen came, followed by Sam Williams, Nels Empey, and
Thomas Pecham in the fall of that year.
While lowering Mr. Pecham into a well being dug on the
Williams' place, the chains became unhooked and he fell a-
bout 30 feet breaking one leg in three places and dislocating
the bones of the heel on the other. There was no physician
nearer than Stevens Point. He was carried by five men for
14 miles through the woods on a stretcher. This happened
about Nov. 5, 1872.
Mr. Holeton proved his homestead in Dec., 1873 and re-
ceived his patent, signed by President U.S. Grant in August,
1874.
On April 5, 1875, a school district was formed. It was
known as Dist. No. 1 of the Town of Hull. The order was
signed by I. C. Gotchy, G. W. Holeton and Wm. Crawford,
supervisors of the Town of Hull. The first school house was
16 x 28 x 7 ft., built of logs with a double scoop roof. Occa-
religious services were held in it, conducted by Elder Dix and
the Rev. Mrs. Pitcher.
At a meeting held in May, T. B. Carpenter was elected
Chairman and James F. Barr, clerk, pro tem; Wm. Tennant,
director; Rufus Barker, treasurer and Holeton Dist. Clerk.
In the fall of 1875, the town of Holeton was organized,
and the first town meeting was held in the spring of 1876
at R. C. Tennent's log cabin. A. G. Stoughton was the first
chairman.
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