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MEMORIES OF EARLY WISCONSIN AND
THE GOLD MINES
JOHN B. PARKINSON
The Parkinson family is of English origin. My Father's grandfather, who was a Virginian, served as a captain in the Revolutionary War. The family afterward removed to eastern Tennessee, where my Father was born in 1805. My Mother's maiden name was Valinda Barber. Her family was of Scotch-Irish origin, coming to America from the north of Ireland. Her father, James Barber, was a Cumberland Presbyterian minister. She was born in North Carolina, but removed with her parents at an early age to southern Illinois. My Father's parents removed from Tennessee to Illinois while he was still a boy, and there Mother and Father became acquainted about the year 1817.
My Father was a farmer by occupation. A relative, Colonel D. M. Parkinson, had settled in southern Wisconsin in 1827, and he induced my Father to move there in 1836. Although I was but two years old I can still remember some things about the journey. We came in a covered wagon drawn by a span of horses. At night we camped out unless, as sometimes happened, we were fortunate enough to find a place to lodge. I do not recall these incidents, but I remember our arrival at the cabin Colonel Parkinson had in readiness for us. Father tried to strike a fire with a flint and his powderhorn, but through some mischance the powder exploded, burst the horn, and cut Father's forehead. Not until many years later were friction matches used. Fires were struck with flint and a little powder, and once started, people took great pains to keep them going. Sometimes, when the fire had gone out, coals were borrowed from the nearest neighbor. I can recall, when a boy, going on such errands.
The farm on which my Father settled was near Fayette, in Lafayette County. He lived there until his death, in 1887. My Mother died in 1845, at the early age of thirtyeight. Several years later Father married Margaret McKee. Her sister was the mother of the late Bishop Bashford of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and of Judge Bashford of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Besides myself my parents had one child who died in infancy, and my sister Margaret, two years my elder, with whom I grew up.
Colonel D. M. Parkinson came to Wisconsin in 1827, and was here during the Black Hawk War. He had three sons, Peter, Nathaniel, and William; Peter was located about two miles above the place where Father1 settled. The log house into which we moved on coming to Wisconsin had a single room, perhaps sixteen by twenty-four feet, which served as parlor, kitchen, dining-room, bedroom, and in fact for all the needs of the family. Over it was a loft which was reached by climbing a ladder. The floor was made of puncheons-half-logs laid with the split surface up-and there was a huge fireplace. There was but one door, on the side of the cabin, and, I think, two windows. Through the door Father would roll in backlogs for the fireplace, so large that one of them would be two or three days in burning. Aside from keeping the house warm, all the family cooking was done over the fireplace by my Mother.
I attended the first school ever taught in the town, which was held in this house. Before long Father built a new house, and our removal from the old one made it possible to equip it with benches for the pupils. My first teacher was a man by the name of Trevoy, who later lived in Madison. The teachers were usually young men, generally from the East, who boarded around in the district, and whose pay was subscribed by the parents who sent children
'Professor Parkinson's father was called "Sucker Pete" to distinguish him from his kinsman, "Badger Pete."