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The history of Columbia County, Wisconsin, containing an account of its settlement, growth, development and resources; an extensive and minute sketch of its cities, towns and villages--their improvements, industries, manufactories, churches, schools and societies; its war record, biographical sketches, portraits of prominent men and early settlers; the whole preceded by a history of Wisconsin, statistics of the state, and an abstract of its laws and constitution and of the constitution of the United States
(1880)

Chapter XI,   pp. 665-697 PDF (18.3 MB)


Page 693


HISTORY OF COLUMBIA COUNTY.
that mingle with the growing shrubbery bear ample evidence that the hand
of Death has not
been idle.
                                     LOCAL REMINISCENCES.
      There are many good stories of early times in Columbus, but they are
mostly of the char-
 acter of the majority of good stories-they lose their best qualities when
told in print; press
 a rose between "1morocco " or "1 sheep " and its fragrance
will vanish. The knowledge-box of
 the average " early settler" teems with pioneer reminiscences,
ludicrous and pathetic ; but it
 takes the " average early settler " to relate them. It is beyond
the pen of the historian to por-
 tray, with any depth of interest, the incidents in John Swarthout's first
pilgrimage to Colum-
 bus. It is an easy matter to say, in bare words, that John was the captain
of a "1prairie
 schooner" propelled by several yoke of oxen, and that he found himself
"' unequal to the
 occasion   whenever it became necessary for him to "1 talk ox "-for
John had been reared a
 city boy and knew more of the efficacy of pills and squills than he did
of the language usually
 applied to beasts of burden. of the bovine species. Stripped of the intonations
and gestures of
 the narrator, the story loses its charm.
      It would also be a difficult matter for any one besides Uriah Davies
to describe the appear-
 ance of Mr. Swarthout when he came to Columbus the second time, dressed
in new "store
 clothes," his young and tender brow shaded from the torrid rays of
the sun by a genteel, and
 at that date very stylish, white soft hat. Quite a difference of opinion
existed among the set-
 tlers as to the nature of the stranger's calling; some insisted that he
was a minister, while
 others declared this view to be a libel upon the church. It was some days
before the new-comer
 found favor in their sight.
      Nor can a correct history be written of the "Codfish Society,"
so long ago has it been
 since their martial tread was heard in the streets of Columbus. They were
wont to rouse "the
 boys " from their slumbers and "1 press them in" at all hours
of the night. This once famous
 quasi-military society acquired its name from the alacrity with which its
members could sur-
 round and annihilate a salt codfish. Its eminent commander saw actual service
during the
 rebellion, leading the gallant Twenty-third through the domain of King Cotton.
Codfish
 was then a luxury.
     There were initiations by that immortal brotherhood, the A. 0. 0. T.
0 (Ancient Order of
 One Thousand and One), which, in point of thoroughness, rivaled all other
initiations ever heard
 of.  Patent-medicine men, patent-right sharps and such like adventurers,
willing to sacrifice a
 little principle to gain "Ibusiness prestige," fell easy victims.
 Occasionally a resident candidate
 took the "degree " and became honored with membership. But the
order is no more. It has
 passed away, with many another institution, whose existence was in accordance
with the con-
 ditions of society.
     It has been deemed proper to preserve a few incidents of early times,
as illustrating what
those conditions of society were.  One of the first settlers in Columbus,
who is still living, says
the first winter he spent in the place he boarded at the hotel. If there
is one thing about that
hotel he remembers more distinctly than another, it was the landlady, who
was a large, masculine-
looking woman, well proportioned (though rather too corpulent to be considered
a good figure), and
withal a woman of great strength.  She sometimes displayed her physical powers
in leading
unprofitable customers out by the ears, and was, at times, something of a
terror to the boarders
generally.  Our pioneer informant recollects on one occasion hearing an unusual
noise in the
kitchen of the ancient hostelry, and upon going to see what wonderful thing
had happened, found
one of the male boarders being used as a, rolling-pin by the female Samson.
The unfortunate
man had in some way interfered with the landlady's prerogative. She was engaged
at the time
rolling out biscuit on a large table, and had taken the offending boarder,
and, sprinkling him well
with flour, forcibly laid him across the table, and was rolling him back
and forward over the dough,
in place of the wooden instrument commonly used for that purpose. The astonished
observer of the
proceeding thought it best not to interfere.   But the old lady soon after
came to grief at the
hands of her victim. It was in this wise: She very frequently put in an appearance
when
693


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