Friday, February 3, 2017

The Towns of My Ancestors

The primary focus of Genealogy is often concentrated on individual ancestors and there connection to others in the family. It is concerned about birth, parents, marriage, children, work, service, accomplishments and eventually death. These are the markers of a life and form a thread that connects each generation to the next. The place where they lived is another point of data but not always the focus of a Genealogy. Place was certainly an important part of each individual's life and yet, one constant seems to be that these folks were always on the move. It took a lot of work to put down roots and build a life but often, just as they had make a place for themselves, they would pack up and head out, usually toward the horizon of the setting sun. Still, those places . . . their home . . . was everything to the colonists and pioneers of America. Being able to settle in a place of one's own was the very definition of the freedom these people were looking for.

Town of Blue Mounds, Wisconsin. A survey from about 1833 shows the military
 road (on the ridge at the top of the map) and one settler (upper left corner). Like
the calm before the storm, over the next 30 years the town will fill up; first with
 Yankees from the east, then a mix of Germans, Norwegians, Swiss and others.
 
Some of the important places where my ancestors lived, is the subject of this report. They stretch all the way across the country from Boston to Los Angeles. Thomas Holcombe and the many others from the allied colonial families ventured across the Atlantic on a perilous journey to reach the "New World." It seems only fitting and probably inevitable that their descendants would continue to trek west across the great expanse of North America, which came with its own peril. Sometimes they stopped and stayed a while. There they would interact with a new group of immigrants, mostly from the European Continent and create the so-called "melting pot."

This post, which is a work in progress, will provide a link to short articles about some the towns and places that became the home of my ancestors.

Important Places - Where they Lived

Windsor, Connecticut
Noted as the first town in Connecticut, Windsor was established by a group of Puritans from the Great Migration. After a short time in Dorchester, Massachusetts, one of the early Puritan towns on Boston Harbor, these families headed into the frontier. The new towns along the Connecticut river would be the first wave of an endless march west across North America,

Read about Windsor, Connecticut here . . .

Salmon Brook, Connecticut
When the next generation of men from the Connecticut River valley needed land of their own, the colony encouraged them to move west to the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. This was a wild frontier filled with danger and these new settlements would form a sting of strategic outposts at the edge of the British Empire.

Read about Salmon Brook, Connecticut here . . . coming soon

Freeburg, Illinois
Located on the far western extreme of a new country, the area around Freeburg was first claimed by the Colony of Virginia. The earliest settlers arrived just before 1800 in what was then Saint Clair County of the Northwest Territory (the county covered over 1/2 of present day Illinois). The closest thing to white civilization, at that time, was Saint Louis but it was across the Mississippi River and in the domain of a foreign power. Some of the generation that fought in the Revolution would venture west into a vast wilderness that stretched from the Application mountains to the Mississippi. This wilderness would become Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Read about Freeburg, Illinois here . . . coming soon

New Glarus, Wisconsin
Some places are named after immigrant's former homes in the "old country" but in the case of New Glarus, it really was the place settled by scores of Swiss from Canton Glarus in western Switzerland. The Glarus government sponsored the new settlement in America and encouraged immigration to help ease the burden of hard economic times at home. It thrived as a "Swiss Colony" and resulted in even more settlement, from all over Switzerland to south-central Wisconsin. The Swiss farming traditions, including cheese making, contributed to the development of the "Dairy State."

Read about New Glarus, Wisconsin here . . . coming soon

Blue Mounds, Wisconsin
Named from two mounds that rise up from the rolling countryside and located along an important military road that stretched from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River, Blue Mounds would start to see settlement in the 1830s. Like many places in the vast expanse of the Northwestern Territory, the first to arrive would come from the east, usually men seeking a claim. In southwestern Wisconsin, it was Lead. Most of the early speculators did not stay but the next group, mostly Germans and Norwegians would plant themselves on 40 or 80 acres. There they would farm, build churches and one room schools. With the arrival of the railroad, small settlements would follow.

Read about Blue Mounds, Wisconsin here . . . coming soon

Maple (Mapleton), Iowa
In far western Iowa on the flat and endless prairie, towns like Mapleton grew out of the homesteader's need for supplies and bit of civilization. The coming railroad would encourage these settlements and for a while, they would thrive. Some would disappear but Mapleton would continue as a small but stable farming center.

Read about Mapleton, Iowa here . . . coming soon

Research Notes: Available information on most of these places is plentiful and can be found across the web as well as in older, more traditional, history texts (mostly local publications). Some of the more prominent and useful sources will be mentioned at the end of each of the individual articles.

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