Area History

The East Troy Area Historical Society serves an area of about 100 square miles in northeastern Walworth County. The “Area” includes all of the Town of East Troy, the Village of East Troy, the Town of Troy, approximately the eastern half of the Town of LaFayette, and the northern half of the Town of Spring Prairie. Included in that “Area” are Little Prairie, Troy Center, Troy, Vienna, Midway, Honey Creek, Bowers, Peck Station, Mayhew Station,and Lake Beulah (Beulah Station) among others.

The following geographic and historical information concerning the early history of the East Troy area is taken from THE HISTORY OF WALWORTH COUNTY by C. W. Butterfield. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1882. Further information on all these topics is available at the East Troy Area Historical Society.

GEOGRAPHY OF THE TOWN OF EAST TROY

“East Troy, the extreme northeastern town in Walworth County, and know in the Government Survey as ‘Town 4, Range 18′ was organized by act of Legislature March 21, 1843. From 1838, the time when the five original towns of the county were formed, up to this date, the territory comprised in the present towns of Troy and East Troy (‘Towns 4, Ranges 17 and 18 east’) constituted; a single town, known as the town of Troy.”

NATURAL FEATURES

“The scenery of East Troy is varied and very picturesque, the norther portion in the vicinity of Crooked Lake [Lake Beulah, today], being broken and hilly; the southern and western, level or gently rolling and the eastern rolling.
The soil in the higher portions is mixed with clan, and, on the lower and level portions, a rich dark loam.”
Major water features include Honey Creek which enters the town in Section 30 and meanders through the town along the south side of the Village of East Troy and leave the town in Section 25. Crooked Lake or Lake Beulah as it is known today, is the largest of the lakes comprising about 800 acres. Beulah along with Army and Potters Lake are in the norther portion of the town. Spring Brook which has its Source in the Town of Spring Prairie runs through the southern sections of East Troy.

There is comparative little prairie in East Troy, the land being rolling, with openings of oak similar to the nieghboring towns. The leveler portions of the town are in the southern and western sections. The eastern and northern parts are rolling with occasional hills about the lakes. The soil is a clay loam on the higher lands, and a dark marl on the lower tracts. It is rich and well adapted to the growth of cereals, and excellent for pasture lands.”

GEOGRAPHY OF THE TOWN OF TROY

“At the organization of Walworth County in 1838, all the territory covering the northern half of the northeast quarter of the county being Town 4, Ranges 17 and 18 east was given the name of Troy. The territory was divided by act of Legislature,. March 21, 1843, the eastern half (Town 4 Range 18 east ) receiving the name of East Troy and the western half (Town 4, Range 17 east) maintaining the original name [Troy]. This portion of the sketch is a narration of events connected with the town as existing within is present [post-division] geographical limits.”

NATURAL FEATURES

“The southwestern portion of Troy is swampy, but the central, northern, and eastern parts are diversified with lakes, groves of oak and other varieties of wood, beautiful prairie lands, running streams and all the various accessories that help to make a lovely and attractive landscape.” Water features of the Town of Troy include Honey Creek, Crooked Creek and several small lakes. Honey Creek, it is said, was named for the numerous bees and bee trees that inhabited the prairie areas of the town. This important water feature enters the town in Section 31 and meanders through Sections 29, 28, 27 and 26 before leaving the town in Section 25. Crooked Creek enters the Town of Troy in Section 9 and meanders considerably until it empties into Lulu Lake in Section 2.
Lakes in the town include Booth Lake with its little Fairy Island near it middle lies in Sections 13 and 24. Swift Lake lies in Section 8. “There is a large swamp, covering about 3,000 acres in the southwestern part of the town…There is also quite an extensive swamp in the northern part of the county[sic] on sections 9 and 10.”
“The soil varies according to the locality, that of the level portions and the small prairies being a vegetable mold, and the higher grounds and oak openings being mixed with clay or sand. Like all the towns in the county, it has lands well adapted to all the various branches pertaining to agricultural pursuits and that its natural advantages have not been neglected, the find farms, orchards and harvest field bear witness.”

EARLY SETTLERS TOWN OF EAST TROY

“The first settlers of East Troy were not emigrants fleeing from the malarious districts of Indiana or Ohio, or leaving the rocky and sterile farms of New England to find a richer soil and more abundant harvest in the your and growing West. Neither were they men wearied with business cares and anxieties, seeking change and rest in a new life, away from the turmoil and noise of a great city. On the contrary, “the tide of immigration,” which afterward peopled the town with all of these classes, ‘set in’ early in the spring of 1836, in the person of one lone young man, who, having just sold his claim a few sections further west decided to ‘pitch his moving tent’ and make another claim in Section 29. This pioneer was Mr. Roberts by name, was soon joined by Mr. Asa Blood, who settled on the same section, built a house, and boarded the younger man. Then house was on the north bank of Honey Creek, near the present site of the mills and was the first house in East Troy.” The two men worked on plans to build a saw mill on Honey Creek . Work on the mill was started in the fall of 1837 after they sold their interests in the property to Mr. Jacob Burgit. Burgit completed the mill in 1838.”

“Austin McCracken built t;he second log cabin on the north side of Honey Creek, near where the East Troy Hotel now stands. Soon other settlers joined the ranks of the early pioneers of the town including Daniel P. Griffin, Allen Harrington, Cyrus Cass, Lyman Hill, Oliver Rathburn and J. Haller. “The first blacksmith to move to East Troy was Gorham Bunker. Elias Jenning settled on Section 23, and in 1847 built a grist-mill ;there now [in 1882] known as ‘Atkinson’s Mills.” Dr. James Tripp built a saw mill in Sections 5 and six on what was known as Tripp’s Lake {now Lake Beulah} but shortly sold his mill and moved to Whitewater.”

“John Fox Potter came to the Town of East Troy in the spring of 1838. He settled on Section 11 on the banks of a lake which is now named for him–Potters Lake. [Further biographical information about Potter can be found elsewhere on this web site]. Lucius Allen, Stephen Field Samuel Chafin, Christopher Chafin,Martin Pollard, Wilder Howard and Sewall Smith were among the rapidly increasing numbers of early settlers to come to the Town of East Troy in 1838.”

EARLY PIONEERS OF THE TOWN OF TROY

“The two men who first visited the region of Honey Creek, appreciated its bounty and natural advantages for a prominent lo location and decided to make it ‘their home and the home of their kindred’ were Jesse Meacham and Adolphus Spoor.” According to local histories, more in know of of the life of Meacham than that of Spoor. Spoor was born into a farming family and educated in district schools of Oswego, New York. He moved to Lodi, Michigan and from there he along with Meacham travelled to Wisconsin territory in search of opportunities.”

“Young Meacham was infected with the prevailing {patriotic] spirit of the time [around 1812], and, at the breaking of the war of 1812, he entered the American army. He was taken prisoner, and, after suffering many hardships and dangers, barely escaping shipwreck in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and enduring much suspense as to his ultimate fate, he was finally exchanged and reached his home in safety. Hit title of ‘Major.’ therefore was not an empty one, but earned by actual service. In 1828 he was married to his brother’s widow. He never had children of his own, but her three sons stood to him in their place, and he was to them a father. Soon after his marriage, he removed to Lodi, Mich., bought a farm and remained there about eight years.”

“Meacham and Spoor travelled from Lodi, Michigan to Wisconsin landing in Milwaukee and moving southward toward what is today called Honey Creek. ( Honey Creek was named by Meacham and Spoor.) They evenutally returned to Lodi, but their enthusiasm for the area around Honey Creek never waned. They planned for their return the next Spring. The planning was no small challenge for Meacham and Spoor had families of eight and six respectively. They did, however, make their return to the Honey Creek area in May of 1836. Other early settlers were beginning to make claims in the area including Othni Beardsley, Levi Godfrey, Alexander Beardsley, and Sylvanus Spoor as well ad John Spoor. Claims were bought and sold as settlers moved around the area. Other new settlers of Troy began to arrive within a year or so including John R. Roberts, Albon Percy, Horace Smith and Soldan Powers. George Blanchard came with Soldan Powers in 1837 and settled in Section 11. J.R. Kling located on Section s 29 and 30. Jesse Mayhew settled in the southern part of the town. The Powers family arrived creating what was then known as the “Porter Settlement” in the west central portion of the Town of Troy. Schools anbd churches were soon set up and the first mail was carried from the post office established by Meacham to Elkhorn in 1838. S. B. Edwards set up a blacksmith shop in 1839 after moving from New York where he learned the trade.”

SEPARATION OF THE TOWNS OF TROY AND EAST TROY

“The old town of Troy was divided by an act of Legislature, March 21, 1843. The question of didvidion had been agitated for some time, as the size of the town proved a source of on convenience in arranging for public meetings which embraced the citizens from extreme limits. The western part of the town was gradually becoming known as West Troy, and letters to the residents were so addressed. As that portion had the claim of priority of settlement, the settlers wished to retain the old name, and accordingly,, a petition was presented to the Legislature signed by leading citizens of the west part of the town, praying that their portion might be set off from the township as it then existed, and that it might still retain the name of Troy. The petition was partially granted–the town was set off, but, to the utter disgust and indignation of Maj. Meacham, it was given the name of ‘Meacham.’ The Major was not a man easily thwarted when he had set his mind on carrying a measure, and, believing that it was through the influence of citizens of the eastern portion of the town that the old name was denied, he lost no time, but immediately started for Madison to fix things more in accordance with his sense of justice and propriety. He arranged matters top his entire satisfaction: as he expressed it, ‘I let them know there was a God in Israel.’ The petition was granted according to the original request, and the citizens and the Major rejoiced at the name of simple, unprefixed ‘Troy.’ So the older (by a few weeks) received no more letters bearing the offensive address of ‘West Troy,’ and the younger, to its sorrow, had no office for ‘East Troy’ letters to be addressed for the space of a year.”

THE VILLAGE OF EAST TROY

“Although not officially a municipality by act of the Legislature until 1900, the Village of East Troy was known by that phrase almost from the beginning of the history of the East Troy area. The earliest settlers, as noted earlier, were H. Roberts, A. Blood, A. McCracken and J. Burgit. “The platting of the village occurred in March, 1847, Martin Fields, of Mukwonago and Burgit doing the surveying. All the part of the village lying north of the main street, was owned and platted by Austin McCracken, and that south of the main street by jacob Burgit. McCracken and Burgit, the proprietors of the village, offered special inducements to the peopling of the village by giving each person a lot, providing he would build on this lot a house and improve it in various other ways. They also set apart a certain number of lots for religious societies on which churches have since been built. In the manner, numerous persons were induced to settle n the village, and in a few years it assumed considerable importance, and is now one of the most prosperous and flourishing villages in the county.”

“The first school in the village of East Troy was taught by Miss Auger in 1839. It was held in the methodist Chapel, which was the first frame building erected in the village. The first schoolhouse was built in 1853 or 1854.”

“The first and second stores were built for Sewall Smith and Austin Wright in 1841 and 1842 respectively. Other early merchants in the village were Mr. Mallory, Mr. Marhkham, H.J. Cowles, Mr. Stone, Mr. Hurlburt, and H. H. Austin.”

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