Historic cemetery serves as resting place for soldiers
A photo gallery of this Mystery Place is HERE
Four soldiers from the War of 1812 are buried in the Hillside Cemetery, located on Wisconsin Street on the southeast side of Whitewater overlooking Cravath Lake. The lake was named for Prosper Cravath, an early settler in the territory, and his son, who platted the village.
Land for this cemetery was donated by Dr. James Tripp in 1848. According to historian C.W. Butterfield, the town first operated the cemetery. In 1858, the cemetery association organized and took over its operation. Tripp is the one who built the mill in Whitewater. My Sept. 16 column was about the mill and the cornerstone, which now resides in the village of Darien.
The 1812 soldiers buried in this cemetery are Adam Ehle, Morris Hawes, Tilly Littlejohn and Nathaniel Vilas.
Hawes was born in New York and came to this area in 1837 and settled in the town of Richmond. In 1839, he walked to Milwaukee to purchase 375 acres. On arriving there, he found out that the land sale was postponed, so he walked back another time to obtain the land. He eventually retired from farming and retired to Whitewater. He died in January 1868, according to Beckwith’s “History of Walworth County.” Hawes’ wife preceded him in death in July 1839. Hawes was a member of the state legislature and a local justice of the peace for many years.
Butterfield mentions Littlejohn as the father of Newton M. Littlejohn. The latter played an important role in Whitewater. You can see his historic house as you travel on Business Highway 12 in that community.
Also in this cemetery is the grave of John J. Downey, the “Drummer Boy of Shiloh.” He was born in 1845 and died in 1932. Although he was only 14 years old at the time, Downey was the first to beat the drums to wake up the Union soldiers during the surprise attack at Shiloh on April 6, 1862. In 1879, he was named captain of the Whitewater militia, called The Custer Rifles. They had organized in 1875 but were not accepted into the state service until July 7, 1877. They were now Company C, First Battalion of the First Regiment of Infantry, Wisconsin National Guard.
It was in this area that 20 early settlers put down their tents ... just to the north of this cemetery. Joseph Nichols was the leader of this party. Benoni Finch and his four brothers, Calvin West, William Barron, Joseph Nichols and his family, Mr. Kelly and family and Mr. Brown and his family were in this group.
The group had used an Indian trail, known as Finch’s Track for many years, to get here from Milwaukee. It went from Whitewater to Mukwonago by way of Round Prairie. They continued on west of this area, using the army trail of General Atkinson, for whom Fort Atkinson was named.
William Barron probably was the first white man to fell a tree in the area. He did this in section 4 of the township and made his claim. Alvah Foster, another early settler, gave up his claim because he said the area was too swampy and no one would live here for some time. He thought the area at Fort Atkinson was much more desirable.
The next person to venture into the area was Samuel Prince. Because he made his claim and stayed in the area, he is designated as the first permanent resident. Calvin West probably did the first plowing of land in the town of Whitewater.
Prince settled in Section 6 and built his home. It was 12-foot square with a height of 8 feet to the eaves and made of small logs. He was named as one of the fence viewers at the first town meeting of Whitewater on April 5, 1842. He died in 1867.