University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

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

14. Notable people,   pp. 249-261

Page 251

Craig, J. A.
J. A. Craig was responsible for the development of Janesville's largest industry, the General
Motors assembly plant. As manager of the Janesville Machine Company during the early
twentieth century, Craig successfully lobbied the General Motors Company to establish its new
Samson Tractor Division in Janesville by acquiring the Janesville Machine Company. In 1919,
General Motors built a large, new factory in the city for production of the Samson Tractor line.
When the tractor failed to sell as expected, General Motors converted the factory to production
of Chevrolet automobiles and Fisher truck bodies. Over the next several decades, the General
Motors assembly and manufacturing plant grew into the most important industry in all of Rock
County, employing thousands of workers. Craig took his place as a civic leader and
philanthropist in twentieth-century Janesville. (Fifty Years of Progress 1973:6; "GM Began
Dunwiddie, Benjamin F.
A prominent attorney and judge, Benjamin F. Dunwiddie was a Green County native who studied
law at the University of Wisconsin. Dunwiddie had a distinguished legal practice in
Janesville with several partners before being appointed district court judge in 1899. He served
in that capacity until 1907. (Brown 1908:730-733)
Fifield, Elbridge G.
An early resident of Janesville, Elbridge G. Fifield had a direct hand in building the
community during the pre-Civil War era. A native of New Hampshire, Fifield came to
Jefferson County in 1837. In 1845, he sold his farm there and moved to Janesville, opening the
first lumber yard in the city. Later, his three brothers joined him in the lumber business. The
Fifield lumberyard was one of the most significant commercial businesses in mid-nineteenth-
century Janesville, providing materials to build the city during its growth period in the 1850s.
In 1855, Fifield moved back to Jefferson County to operate a business in the city of Jefferson. He
returned to Janesville in 1863, where he lived in retirement until his death in 1907. (Brown
Fifield, Charles L.
Charles Fifield was an important turn-of-the-twentieth-century jurist in Janesville. Fifield
was born in Janesville in 1865. After attending Janesville's public schools, he received a law
degree from the University of Wisconsin and joined the law firm of Fethers, Jeffris & Fifield.
He practiced law from 1888 to 1898, when he was appointed a municipal judge. Fifield was
reelected to this position three times, then was elected county court judge in 1913, 1919, and
1925. (Rock River Valley II 1926:127-128)
Ford, 0. B.
0. B. Ford helped establish the city's industrial base. Raised in Vermont and New York State,
he worked as a clerk in two stores before opening his own store and also entering the real estate
business. In 1847, he moved to Beloit, remaining less than two years. In 1854, he moved
permanently to Janesville. At first, Ford operated an inn, then built a small sawmill. In 1859,
he built Ford's Grist Mill. One of the most successful flour mills in the city during southern
Wisconsin's mid-nineteenth-century wheat boom, the mill produced 150 barrels of flour a day
during its heyday. (Butterfield 1879:706)
Notable People

Go up to Top of Page