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Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville's history

2. Immigration and settlement,   pp. 43-51

Page 43

Immigration and Settlement
Carol Lohry Cartwright and Randal Waller
uring the nineteenth century, immigrants flooded into Wisconsin. At mid-century, most
immigrants to Wisconsin were Yankees from New England or other areas of the eastern
United States and foreign-born immigrants from Ireland, Norway, and especially
Germany. These groups continued to enter the state throughout the nineteenth century, along
with Poles, Czechs, and other European groups, who created pockets of settlement in various
areas of the state. By 1900, parts of Wisconsin had a definite European flavor; most immigrant
groups were not fully assimilated into American society until after World War I.
The tendency of immigrant groups to settle together led to the establishment of ethnic
institutions. In areas where there were concentrations of a particular ethnic group, the
newcomers often established their own churches, societies, and schools. In some cases, these
ethnic institutions were so pervasive in a community that they dominated its culture and
lifestyle. (Wyatt 1986: Settlement, 1-1-1-2)
Yankee and Southern Settlement
Immigration and settlement patterns in Janesville were typical of many communities in
Wisconsin. But unlike some communities, Janesville was not dominated by any particular group
of foreign-born immigrants. Instead, American-born settlers maintained a strong influence on
the city's social, civic, and business life during the nineteenth century, with ethnic minorities
adding to the diversity of the community.
The conclusion of the Black Hawk War, which ended Native American land claims in southern
Wisconsin, focused public attention on the large tracts of land north of Illinois. In the eastern
United States, newspapers published glowing accounts of the rich country of northern Illinois
and its neighbor on Lake Michigan. Very soon thousands of settlers, principally from New York
and other New England states, but also from other parts of the eastern United States, began
entering southern Wisconsin and the Rock River Valley. (Kuehn 1932:7)
In July 1835, John Inman of Pennsylvania and William Holmes of Ohio left Milwaukee to
investigate the newly opened Rock River Valley. After traveling for two days, they came to
Fort Atkinson, then traveled southward down the Rock River to what is now Janesville.
Impressed with the natural resources of the site, they returned to Milwaukee to publicize the
area and gather homesteading supplies. In November, Inman and Holmes returned to the site
with George Follmer and Joshua Holmes. They erected a small cabin on the south bank of the
Rock River, opposite the Big Rock. This was the first settlement in what would become Rock
County. (McKay 1907:1)
During the next few years, many other Americans arrived to settle at the Janesville site. In
1836, Samuel St. John and his family arrived from Vermont and Judge William Holmes and his
family arrived from Indiana. Others who came that year included Dr. James Heath and his
Immigration and Settlement

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