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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

Dodgeville to Rowan's

Editor's Note:

Although Rev. Marsh arrived in the vicinity of Madison on this day, we cannot be sure precisely where he was. Wallace Rowan came up from Kentucky during the lead mining boom of the 1820s, but preferred trading for furs to digging for lead. Ebenezer Brigham, who passed around Lake Mendota's western shore in 1829, made no mention of him, but he was living on the west side of Lake Mendota in the vicinity of Gov. Nelson State Park (map) by the time the Black Hawk War broke out in the spring of 1832.

In May of that year 5,000 Ho-Chunk assembled near his cabin for a council, and promised Col. Henry Dodge that they would remain neutral. As the war came closer that summer, Rowan took refuge at Fort Winnebago, in Portage, and sometime in 1834 he moved across the isthmus to Lake Monona. He bought up most of what we know today as Winnequah in order to have better access to the Rock River, the route to two Indian villages and his suppliers in Galena. Once permanent buildings began to be erected in Madison, Rowan apparently decided the place was becoming too civilized for his taste and left to become the first white settler of Poynette, in Columbia County. He died at Baraboo in 1846. He was, of course, precisely the kind of frontier ruffian, living in filth and selling liquor to the Indians, whom Rev. Marsh despised.

Mon [Sept] 15th

Appearance of rain in the morn[ing], and the wind from the South. Mr. M. expressed his strong desire for the welfare of his children and said although he was not good himself still he wished his children to be and for that purpose he invited ministers to visit his family.

After breakfast set out in company with a young Mr. Shaunts and Mr. Blish for Helena. Before we arrived it begun to rain. Country very much broken by high ridges and valleys and some of them were rocky occasionally there were groves of timber and some good land.

About noon we arrived at H[elena] and there met with Mr. D. B. Whitney's family just arrived from Statesburg; after a pleasant interview of a few hours we parted after a season of prayer with many kind expressions of affection and good will.

About the middle of the P.M. set out, having a young Winnebago for a guide, to go to a Mr. Rowan's 18 miles distant and 35 from the Portage. About 11 o'clock reached there in safety after a tedious ride over much broken land.

When I arrived at Mr. R's I found him sleeping with a part of his family upon the floor. He turned out my horse and then introduced me into a room where there was no door on the outside and only a part of one put up to keep out the creatures. I lay down upon a feather bed having no sheets or blankets under me and but one a kind of counterpane over me.

In the morn was awaked by the hogs trying to make their was into the house and soon a pig found his way in.

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