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

4. Industry,   pp. 58-94

Page 59

Carol Lohry Cartwright and Randal Waller
hroughout the nineteenth century, the city's economic base was centered around
agribusiness-both processing agricultural products and providing services to these
industries and area farmers. In fact, after waterpower was first harnessed in 1844, a
series of saw, grist, and woolen mills developed on both sides of the river south of the dam,
with the majority of these mills located on the waterpower lots between the west bank of the
river and the upper race (not extant), which was located just north of Janesville's downtown
commercial district.
On the southwest side of the settlement, Ira Miltimore built the second, or lower, dam in 1846,
using stones from his quarry. The blasting in Miltimore's quarry was so loud that the neighbors
likened it to the battle of Monterey, a Mexican War action of the same year. The name
"Monterey" stuck to the dam and the neighborhood. The Monterey dam had an unusual L-
shaped configuration and once had both a headrace and a tailrace. Scattered traces of these
races may still be seen, including a portion of the headrace and parts of the original
embankment. (Douglas and Hartung 1976:202)
Janesville's location on early transportation routes provided further impetus to its emerging
industries. During the territorial period, a major roadway connecting Racine to the
southwestern lead mining region passed through Janesville. Later, two railroads-the Chicago
& Northwestern and the Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul-built lines through the city. With
the help of these transportation links, Janesville soon became a regional milling center,
processing the vast amounts of wheat grown in the area during the 1850s and 1860s. The wheat
boom in Rock County generated a number of related agricultural equipment manufacturing shops
in Janesville. (Smith 1973-538-539; Butterfield 1879: 563; Brown 1908: 571-572)
After the wheat boom ended, area farmers diversified their agricultural production and
Janesville's agriculturally related industries followed. Growing tobacco became very popular
in Rock County, and Janesville became a center of tobacco processing in the late nineteenth
century. Janesville's entrepreneurs also diversified into the processing of wool and cotton. The
Rock River Woolen Mills and the Janesville and Rock River Cotton Mills were important
employers during the second half of the nineteenth century.
During the twentieth century, Janesville's industrial base changed from one related to
agriculture to one that produced a variety of consumer products for a national market. During
the 1920s, the General Motors automobile manufacturing plant emerged as the area's principal
employer. The Parker Pen Company, manufacturing fountain pens and related products, was the
second largest employer in the city. By 1950, these two industries represented 75 percent of
industrial employment in Janesville. Other consumer products produced in the city included
shades, appliances, canned fruits and vegetables, and milk products. (Alexander 1949:131)
Janesville's industries, described in the following pages in alphabetical order, were located
near the power and transportation sources of the city. The earliest industries, the saw and grist
mills, along with the wool and cotton mills, were located at the sources of waterpower.
Industries of the later nineteenth century were located along the main railroad lines. In the
twentieth century, when power sources and transportation links could be brought directly to the
factories, most of Janesville's major industries were located in industrial parks, primarily in
the south part of the city near the large General Motors plant.

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