Friday, April 15, 2005

James Mahoney

(From The Reporter, May 20, 1946)
Descendants Mark Date With Picnic At Site Where He Pitched Tent
Descendants of James Mahoney, who 100 years ago today first set foot on the soil of what is now Eden, Fond du Lac County, held a family reunion picnic today on the site where Mr . Mahoney first pitched his tent a century ago. After attending a high mass for him in the Eden church, the daughters and son and numerous grandchildren visited the cemetery where he and other member of the family are buried. The story of Mr. Mahoney’s arrival here takes up a good share of Eden history. On May 20, 1846, Mahoney, a boy of 19 arrived in Eden. He came by boat by the way of the Great Lakes and Lake Winnebago from Canadaigua, N.Y., to Sheboygan to join a group of eight surveyors. His only sister, Ann, the wife of one of the young surveyors, had written him of the beauty of the surrounding country. They had pitched their tent some months previous on what is now known as the John Killilea farm west of Eden village near a spring of fresh water, a requisite to a tenting place as they neither had nor could they buy and "old Oaken bucket" to draw water from a well if they had one. Mr Mahoney described Eden as a veritable paradise of beautiful trees and flowers. He spoke of the wild crabapple trees and plum trees being in full bloom besides the lillies, violets, honeysuckle, ferns and many other wild flowers of all colors; the beauty and song of

the birds. On his trip from Sheboygan he hired an Indian with a pony to guide him through the wilderness. There were no roads, bridal paths or bridges in those days. The first settlement in what is now the Town of Eden was made in November, 1845 by Joseph Carr and sons, John and Sam, who hewed lumber for a log house and which was the foundation for the first settlement in the Town of Eden. In February 1846, Samuel Rand and Peter Vandervort came from the East and put up log houses near the spring at the foot of the hill now owned by H. F. Martin. On May 20, 1846 James Mahoney arrived to make his home followed later by A. C. Bishop, Daniel McCarthy, Michael Mahoney, Nicholas Martin, Jeremiah McCarthy, John Lynch, John Flynn, Michael Salter, J. C. Bishop, Florence McCarthy, and others. They obtained their land by patent from President James K. Polk. The first crops, raised in 1847, were of such abundance as to exceed by far the expectations of the hopeful settlers. In the fall of 1847 large numbers of settlers began to arrive to make their homes or to pre-empt land upon which to locate in the spring. There were Irish, English, Germans, Swedes and Norwegians, and Yankees from New York and New England.
Name Is Chosen
At this time, James Mahoney was present at a meeting called at the home of Peter Vandervort for the purpose of selecting a name for the town, as Wisconsin was soon to be admitted as a state. Mrs. Samuel Rand, one of the ladies present, was called Eve. One of the members proposing names was Adam Holiday who commented at great length upon the beauties of the flowers, trees, birds, lakes, streams, and fertile land. He finally said, " Adam lived in the garden of Eden." A chorus of voices shouted out, "We also have our Eve, so the town will be named Eden!" These early settlers lived in log cabins made home hewed logs. Greased papers was used for windows. At first they had earthen floors, and later on they used rough boards for flooring. The furniture had consisted of home made benches, tables, bedsteads and cupboards. The settlers learned to grind their corn and wheat with what they called a mortar and pestle, a device used by the Indians. The mortar consisted of a large stone hollowed out on the top. The pestle, which was also a stone was shaped like a hammer that broke or ground the grain or corn and the hollow in the mortar protected it from waste. The farming implements were very crude and home made. Two limbs or sticks fastened in V shape were used for a plow. They cut their grain at first with a scythe, raked it up and bound it into bundles by hand. Later they used a cradle and then a machine that would cut the grain but it was raked off by hand and left for hand binders. The Marsh harvester was the first binder although the grain was bound by men who rode on the machine. A few years later, McCormick brought out the first self-binder which has been greatly improved. The settlers threshed their grain at first with a flail. Later, they used the horsepower and then the steam thresher outfit. Their farm work was done with ox teams.
Neighbors Were Indians
In the early days of the settlement the principle neighbors were the Indians. The settlers found them very congenial and if well treated they shared their wigwam, food, and dried meat with the settlers. There were no roads in those days, only foot trails through the forest not wide enough for a wagon. When the settlers walked to Green Bay, Sheboygan, or Milwaukee to have their axes sharpened or to buy the new ones, they blazed the trail by hacking the trees with their hatchets, which would enable them to find the trail homeward. Later they drove ox teams or crude wagons for supplies. This took about two weeks to go and come from Milwaukee or Green Bay if the weather was good. In a rainy season, it sometimes took a month to make the trip due to fording swollen streams, rivers and creeks and getting stuck in the mud which was fathomless in some places. They figured they needed supplies once in every three months and some of the settlers banded together and couple of the men went each time alternating and in that way each member had to go about once a year. It was very hard to get money enough for the trip although there was no fare to pay. There was feed for the

oxen to be provided, living expenses, and their supplies to be paid for. Wheat to be ground into flour was taken by ox team to a grist mill in Mayville, the trip taking two days. The social functions were principally were corn husking bees, the older folks doing the husking while the younger ones danced to the tune of "Money Musk" or "The Virginia Reel" played on the violin or accordion. There were also quilting bees when the women and girls sewed or tied quilts all day and the men joined them for a social evening of games and song. There was also a Granger society which had a very large enrollment after the population increased. There had been a fierce Indian massacre in Minnesota in 1861 and in the fall of 1862 some one started a cry of an Indian attack. The news spread like wildfire and the settlers gathered up their children and supplies and started the oxen on the run for a place of refuge. Mrs Mahoney was very ill in bed, but Mr Mahoney bundled her up in a feather bed and they all went to her father’s home for protection. Most of the settlers loaded their families and supplies on a wagon with an ox team and made haste to get to Fond du Lac for some kind of organized protection. On the Tripp farm about four miles south of Fond du Lac, an Indian was employed to chop wood and when he saw the fast moving cavalcade going past he got curious to know what was going on and he ran to the road with his ax to ask the reason for the excitement. When they saw him coming they thought he was the first attacker and they lashed the oxen into a wild gallop to escape him. They arrived in Fond du Lac and waited overnight. Nothing happened, so they peacefully went homeward again. The first railroad, called the Air line, was built through this territory in 1873. Later the name was changed to the North Western. The West Bend Road was the first wagon road built connecting Milwaukee with Fond du Lac.
New Crops Added
When the settlers were able to get better machinery they raised potatoes, rye and oats to add to the corn and wheat. A store and grist mill was built in Eden by A. Alderman in 1873. A new steam elevator replacing the old one was built by L. Batterson from which they shipped their wheat and other products. A lime kiln was opened by B. Potter, which was sold to Nast Brothers who developed it into a million dollar industry providing work in slack time for farmers. A cheese factory was erected and managed by E. B. Wescott which was the starting of the dairy industry there. In the early days the teachers used to board around with different families of the district. The terms of school were two or three months of the year. They received as low as $1.50 per week for their services. In the present school districts the terms are nine months with salaries ranging from $1800 to $2200 per year.
Personal History
Mr. Mahoney came from Ireland in 1844. He worked in New York for Sam Steele, a rich industrialist, until he had enough saved to pay for his transportation from Ireland and his way to Wisconsin. Upon arriving in Wisconsin, he pre-empted the farm know as the Pioneer farm of 144 acres from the government. It is located three-quarters of a mile west of where the Village of Eden now stands. In 1870 he purchased Brook farm consisting of 107 acres adjoining the Village of Eden. He erected a modern farm home on this farm and took up residence in 1900. After coming to Eden in 1846 he found it very difficult to earn money with which to pay for and improve the land. The grants of land from the government cost $1.65 per acre, but they also needed money for machinery and supplies, so he worked in Wisconsin during the spring and summer and when the grain was threshed returned to New York as

New York as a coachman for his old boss, Mr. Steele, at nine dollars a month. That was considered very high wages. He did this for seven years. In 1855 he was united in marriage to Miss Mary Kelly, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Patrick Kelly, early pioneers of the Town of Byron. Eight children were born to them and Mrs. Mahoney was taken sick and died. In 1873 he was united in marriage to Miss Catharine Twohig, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. B. Twohig, pioneer residents of the Town of Osceola, and a teacher in the public schools of the county. Four children were born of this union. The names of James Mahoney’s children are: Patrick Mahoney, Mrs. Ann Mahoney Buckley, Mrs. Margaret Mahoney Cunningham, James Mahoney, Michael Mahoney, Mrs. Mary Mahoney Killilea, Daniel Mahoney, Mrs. Elizabeth Mahoney Carr, Mrs. Nora Mahoney Flood, Steven Mahoney, Mrs. Katheryn Mahoney O’Brien, and William F. Mahoney. Mrs. William Carr, Mrs. George Flood, Mrs. John O’Brien and William Mahoney are the four surviving of the immediate family. There are also 26 grandchildren, 49 great-grandchildren and 9 great-great-grandchildren. The Mahoney home was a meeting place for years for the younger set whose principle pleasures at that time were kitchen dances, the music furnished by violin, flute, organ, or piano. He always gave liberally of time and money for those in need and for civic improvement and educational needs. He provided means for seven of the members of his family to become county school teachers. Mr Mahoney joined St. John’s Church in Byron when the parish was organized, helped to build the church that was started in 1846 and attended services there until 1867. In 1867 he joined St. James in South Eden which was nearer his home and gave liberally of labor and money to help build that church. In 1888 he helped organize and work for subscriptions of money to help build St. Mary’s Church in Eden Village. He died at the age of 89 at his farm home in the Village of Eden on June 16, 1914, after a few days of illness. Mrs. James Mahoney died December 5, 1916, at Eden. They are buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery near the Village.


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