The founders of Baraboo were not ordinary people.For the most part they were remarkable for personality and capacity.Not all were shining examples to be followed, but they have left a lasting impress on the community.To mention Abe Wood, Geo. Hiles, Dan Kelsey, Maj. Clark, Col. Maxwell, Col. D.K. Noyes, Philorman Pratt, Geo. Brown and many others seems like stealing from Homer’s list of the good and otherwise composing that old mob that went bumming round the hills of Troy.
But not all were men; the women also were represented, and as usual, kept well up to the front of the process.On these, none were more conspicuous than widow Garrison, as she was usually called.She appeared early on the scene of activity attending the planting of Baraboo more than half a century since.It was not in her nature to share with others in the upbuilding of a town; she must have one of her own.So on the Baraboo river just above the great gorge or narrows of the Greenfield bluffs, wonderful in beauty and picturesqueness, this bold adventuress selected the now deserted site of Garrisonville which was to rival if not entirely overshadow Baraboo itself.But Baraboo had a water power, which in those ante-railroad days doubtless determined along with lake Diabolis, its location.Our heroine must not be outdone; she must have a water power for Garrisonville.It is doubtful if she possessed any resources at all except her personality which long proved sufficient.A familiar acquaintance with quite all the prominent men of those territorial days was hers, and she never failed to exploit the possibilities of her foster child on the river.
She was able to enlist sufficient capital to construct a dam there right in the face of no natural adaptation, and even in spite of there being much more eligible places near at hand; but of course unfortunately, not on the site of Garrisonville.A saw mill was soon in operation sawing oak logs of large dimensions cut from the surrounding hillsides by the pioneers of those days.To hear the music of the saw converting these logs into planks relieved the lonliness (sic) of the valley round about and even encouraged the early settlers in the hope that perchance they were on the outskirts of a soon to be city.In this they were further beguiled like those who had faith to furnish the money by the appearance of a little cluster of cottages at the dam, to be the nucleus of this dream city.
It will surprise our young people to know that in those days long rafts of pine lumber went down the Baraboo and often went to pieces in going over the slide or apron of the dam at Garrisonville.On either side of the apron, the water poured over several feet in plunge making a deafening roar and attracting fish in such abundance that net fishing there was rewarded with ample catch.The waters of the river above the dam were set back so far owing to want of fall as to seriously overflow and injure the valley lands for miles above and cause malarial disease.
But like all other efforts contrary to the natural fitness of things, this enterprise was doomed to failure.No sufficient power to run the mill was ever developed and could not be from lack of fall.That was the turning point in the affair.Gradually activities slackened.The dam needed repairs which could not be met by the necessary funds from former dupes.Finally the mill stopped, even while many denizens of the forest lay prostrate in the yard, and finally were consumed by the tooth of time instead of the ringing saw that had before glided so keenly through their companions.
Slowly, but surely, the fate of Garrisonville drew near.Decay attacked the mill.The dam went also, piece by piece, until there was nothing to vex the smooth flow of the stream.And with all these changes in material things, age had drawn it’s fire quenching mantle over the spirits of our heroine.The sparkle had forsaken her eye, and beauty had vanished even as the fabric she had woven on the river.
I saw her often in the later days when almost seventy years had done their work.She was then the wife of an Englishman of towering proportions; a veritable country squire, but a scholar, and aside from an irritable temper and unbounded firmness, a gentleman in every respect.His manner so brusk and domineering, completely cowed her former dashing independence.She found it the proper thing to use endearing expressions to the lordly doctor, which he seemed to take in good part and as sincere, which I must not gain say.I have learned that both died not many years ago in Chicago, that great and heartless city, literally of starvation.Here ends my narrative; for my heroine is gone; so also those I named in the beginning.They are all dead now, and the earth that so seldom seemed to have a resting for them, lies green and peaceful above their dust.They are gone and there are no more visible traces of them than of the lines on the sand which the wave washes away.They left no fortunes or fractions of fortunes.Most of them had not even the happiness of a quiet decline.Failures?Wrecks?Perhaps not.The annals of every community has among its founders such as these.All had their good traits even if now and then diluted with evil ones.I fear that if any are to be measured by any other standard than how we average up, none can pass.“Let him that is without sin cast the first stone”