Thursday, August 25, 2011

Planning for my visit to Dodge County, Wisconsin

On our Midwest vacation in September, I plan to visit Dodge County, Wisconsin to search for records pertaining to two of my ancestral families - the Devier J. Lanphear Smith family, the Samuel Vaux family, and any Lanphear families.  They both owned land in Burnett township in Dodge County, according to the 1860 plat map I have of Burnett and Oak Grove townships. 

My goals in Dodge County are:

1)  Visit the Ranslow Smith home location:

As I noted in The Four-Mile House of Ranslow Smith in January 2008, and in Santa comes early - what a gift! in December 2007, Ranslow Smith (1805-1875) built the Four-Mile House in Rolling Prairie (a village in southern Burnett township), and this is where his adopted son grew up.  The restored Four-Mile House is now located at Old World Wisconsin, near Eagle, and I plan to visit there also on this trip.  I described the 40-page portion of a larger typescript, commissioned by Old World Wisconsin, in the earlier post.  This typescript has maps of Burnett township showing the location of three Smith homes, including Ranslow Smith's, plus a small plat map of Rolling Prairie showing the exact location of the Four-Mile House in 1860.  This small plat map shows the Hotel at the southwest corner of Beaver Dam Road and Smith Street (the street running north-south named Watertown Road in the 1873 plat map).  I don't have digital images of these maps for my use, so I will scan them on Sunday at Scanfest.

The image below is from Google Maps satellite view of the area:

From my evaluation, I think that the typescript indicates that the Four-Mile House was located on the southwest corner at the intersection of County Road 1 (running vertically on the map above, on the left of the image) and Prospect Road (the horizontal road about 35% of the way up the image, just above the railroad that runs nearly horizontally at the bottom of the picture).  I think those roads used to be Beaver Dam Road and Smith Street on the 1860 plat map.

Obviously, the Four-Mile House is not there any longer, but I still want to visit the site as best I can.

2)  Cemetery Visits

I went looking in Find-a-Grave for Smith and Vaux persons buried in cemeteries near Burnett.  I found Ranslow's wife Mary Smith, Devier's adoptive mother, and Walter T. Vaux, a nephew of Samuel Vaux, buried in Burnett Corners Cemetery several miles north of their homesteads.  I printed out the pages for the cemetery, which has a map and directions to the cemetery.  I also captured images of the gravestones and entered the source into my RootsMagic database.

3)  Local Newspapers

What newspapers were published in Dodge county, Wisconsin in the 1840 to 1870 time period?  I went to the Library of Congress Chronicling America website and clicked on their link for "Search U.S. NewspaperDirectory, 1690 to Present" and found 29 newspapers that published in that time frame.  Here's a screen capture of the first 20:

From this, I can determine which newspapers were published for specific dates in specific places.  Unfortunately, the Chronicling America site does not have any newspapers digitized in Wisconsin yet.

How do I find if these newspapers are available in a library or archive, and where are they located?

I went to the Dodge County, Wisconsin USGenWeb site ( and they had a link for "Dodge County Newspapers."  What a wonderful resource!  This lists the newspapers published in the county history, the issues available, and the location of print or microfilm pages, and if indexes are available.

Likely candidates include:

Beaver Dam Argus - English language paper: 7 Dec 1860 - 12 Jul 1956.
Microfilm available from the Beaver Dam Community Library, 311 N. Spring St., 920-887-4631. This paper is indexed, though the index is not on microfilm, but in book form at the library.

Dodge County Citizen - English language paper: 10 Apr 1856 - 16 Apr 1924.
Microfilm available from the Beaver Dam Community Library, 311 N. Spring St., 920-887-4631. This paper is partially indexed.

Republican & Sentinel - (English language?) paper: 10 Feb 1853 - 5 Mar 1857.
Microfilm available from the Beaver Dam Community Library, 311 N. Spring St., 920-887-4631. This paper is indexed.

Dodge County Gazette - English language paper for Dodge Center: May to June 9, 1852.
Microfilm available from the Wisconsin State Historical Society through interlibrary loan.

Horicon Argus - English language paper for Horicon: 7 September 1854 - 30 November 1860.
Microfilm available from the Wisconsin State Historical Society through interlibrary loan.

Horicon Gazette - English language paper for Horicon: 9 January 1861 - 1 January 1862.
Microfilm available from the Wisconsin State Historical Society through interlibrary loan.

*  The Watertown Library has copies of The Democrat, The Republican and The Watertown Daily Times dating back to the 1850's. They are all indexed. They are not specific to Dodge Co. but do have whatever Dodge Co. residents live in and near Watertown.

Uh oh, that gives me weeks of work to do, I fear!  Or I could hire a researcher there.  Fortunately, the Four-Mile House typescript lists many articles from these newspapers that refer to Ranslow Smith, but I'm really interested in the Devier J. Lanphier Smith and Abigail Vaux family (my second great-grandparents), who married there and had their first three children thereDevier's age, and perhaps his birth parents and potential siblings.  News of the Samuel Vaux family will be sought also. 

It looks like a visit to the Beaver Dam Community Library is mandatory, and then there's the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison and the Watertown Library.  I probably need more than two days to do this, so I'll need to prioritize places and details.  And make a later visit if I run out of time.

4)  Review Family History books, Local History books, Maps, cemetery transcriptions/indexes, and vertical files at the Beaver Dam library for Smith, Vaux and Lanphear persons. 

5)  What else should I do in Dodge County?  I welcome your ideas! 

My next step is to review the local libraries for open hours, location, and access restrictions (do they permit digital cameras, notebooks, laptops, flash drives, etc.).  Then I'll look at the Madison, Deerfield, and Eagle, Wisconsin areas to prepare for the trip.

One thing I need to firm up is possible hotels in Dodge County for at least a one night stay.  We have the AAA book.  If you have any ideas, please let me know!  I figure Watertown or Beaver Dam are the closest to Burnett.

As you can see, I have used online resources extensively this morning (yes, all this morning in about two hours) to find the material above.  I find that by writing it on my blog, in an organized way, and saving images and web pages to my computer (and to my laptop), I can organize my plans quickly, and can ask my readers to contribute information and resources that I've overlooked or not thought about.


Brian said...

Didn't know you were going to be so close to where I live. I'm in Ozaukee County, which is 2 counties to the east on the lake.

If you need any help with local research, let me know. While I don't have any Dodge County relatives, I've been doing Wisconsin research for a long time.

NickMGombash said...

I have some research I need to do in Dodge County, as well! :)

RBrass189 said...

I have a few thoughts for you. If you enjoy wildlife, you might want to take a look at Horicon National Wildlife Refuge north of Horicon in Dodge County. The marsh is "famous as a fall stopover location for over 250,000 interior Canada geese." It's pretty impressive and attracts many people. You'll be right next to it in the town of Burnett.

I live in Dane County, but I'm from Jefferson County. You might consider staying on the northeast side of Madison if you are flying to Madison rather than Milwaukee. There are many chain hotels and restaurants in the vicinity of the intersection of US-151 and I-90/94/39.

It's an easy 35 mile drive up the 4 lane divided US151 to Beaver Dam. It's also less than 40 miles to Watertown if you drop down to I94 and up WI26. You would also be close to the village of Deerfield in Dane County as well. Easy access to downtown Madison as well via US151 (aka east Washington Ave.) There are a couple hotels in Watertown, near the municipal airport on highway 26. There are similar Days Inn type hotels just south in Johnson Creek near where 26 hits I94. I'm not too familiar with lodging in Beaver Dam, but there must be some there too.

I'm sorry, but I can't help with library info. I haven't been to the Watertown library in years and I haven't reached the library and courthouse phase of my genealogy hobby.

As far as navigation, I will warn you that Wisconsin county highways are lettered and the letters often change at county lines. For example, County BB in Dane County changes to County B in Jefferson County. And many counties have highways with the same letter that do not connect. It can be confusing to people from other states.

You probably already know this, but townships in Wisconsin are called "Towns." The Town of Deerfield would normally be known as Deerfield township in other states and it is a different entity from the village of Deerfield, which would be the incorporated "city" rather than the township. Sometimes that can be confusing to people as well.

Hope you enjoy your trip.

buy codeine online said...

This is such a helpful reading material for me, I’ve learned a lot of new things. Thanks for the great post!

Chris Klauer said...

Have you checked out the Dodge/Jefferson Counties Genealogical Society??? They are online but also have a great library from what I am told.