Mystery Place: Nelson's plaque commemorates Jacobsville community

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Ginny Hall | January 22, 2016

The Nelson farm is located on Hazel Ridge Road just west of Elkhorn in Sections 33 and 34 in the town of Sugar Creek. In the 1970s and 1980s this farm also extended into Section 28.

Checking the 1857 plat map, I discovered that there were at least seven different owners of sections of this present farm. They included H.B. Rice, J. Burson, Dan Hall, C. Golder, R.A. Hollingshead, John C. Martin and Ben J. Rodgers.

The 1873 plat book shows that the owners of various portions of this property included L. Baurson, L. Ingalls, Sam Salverson, Jno. McGill, T. Jacobson, Slaughter and O. Kettleson.

The 1900 plat book again shows many small farms in this area. Owners listed included J. Nelson, R. Nelson, Elizabeth Briggs, J. Gronzo, J. Burtard and T. Jacobson.

Multiple owners continued in the 1891 plat book. They included I. Burson, S. Salverson, E. Francis, T. Jacobson, T. Bassett, A.E. Bassett and J. Barthard.

By 1907 many of these small farms had consolidated and there were three major owners: J. Nelson, O.C. Larson and T. Jacobson.

The 1919 Prairie Farmer's Directory of Farmers and Breeders lists Carl A. Nelson, who came to this area in 1876,  as owner of 105 acres in sections 33 and 34 in the town of Sugar Creek. He married Clara Jacobson; their children were Ormal and Agnes. The name of their farm was Oak Lawn dairy farm. 

Carl raised Guernsey cattle and had breeding stock for sale. He drove a Dodge car and had a wood stave silo on the farm.

Ownership outside of the Nelson family again changed in the 1921 plat book. Owners included Mrs. E.N. Olson, Winter Eckholt, Geo. M. Feaslee and J. Nelson. In 1930 the owners of the properties included E.E. Olson, Winter Eckholt, Mrs. Marie Nelson, Carl Nelson and Emma Swan.   

In 1960, more than 500 acres of the farm were listed under two different names: Ormal Nelson and Paul & Ormal Nelson. This covered the major part of the previous owners' farms.

Ormal and Paul helped to preserve the history of Jacobsville.  This small community was located at the intersection of Cobblestone and Hazel Ridge roads. There is a plaque on the northwest corner of this intersection with a brief history of this early community.

Jacobsville was a Norwegian settlement with residents focused on home, church and school. The earliest Norwegians came to this area in 1839 and tended to cluster because they did not speak English.

In the early days of this township, this nationality was the most prominent among foreign born; Irish was next in predominance. However, by 1905 those of German heritage exceeded those from other countries.

There were other Norwegian settlements in this area of the state ... Muskego, Koshkonong and in Skoponong in the northern part of the town of LaGrange. This community got its name from the Jacobson family who lived in this area for many generations beginning in 1847. 

The first family to come to this community was a Mr. Olson who arrived with his daughter, Andrea, from Norway in 1843.  They walked from Milwaukee to this area. The next year a Mr. Kittleson came and resided at the Olson home; the following year Kettleson married Andrea.  It was the first marriage in this tiny rural community.

Today, it is hard to imagine but at this crossroad, there was a creamery, post office and a small store — all in one building on the northwest corner and several houses. In the late 1800s Alfred Olson carried the mail from Elkhorn and Henry Hanson was the storekeeper.

At one time about 60 farmers brought milk to this South Sugar Creek creamery on an almost daily basis. This crossroad bustled with horse and wagon traffic. Another Norwegian, Harry Hanson, was a butter maker here and worked in the store. Another news article indicated that a Norwegian named Holgerson also ran the creamery at one time.

In 1910, John Harris bought the creamery. He owned the Wisconsin Butter and Cheese factory in Elkhorn. For a short time the Jacobsville factory served as a skimming station, whereby the cream was removed from the milk and sent to the Elkhorn factory; the remaining liquid was given back to the farmers so they could feed it to their pigs. 

Soon the Jacobsville creamery was torn down and the milk was taken to the Elkhorn plant.  As a result the community is only a memory.

To prevent this historic community from being forgotten, Ormal Nelson and his son, Paul, erected this monument, which reads: 

“In the nineteenth century a building was erected on this corner for the purpose of a milk plant. It also contained a general store and living quarters on the second floor where the butter maker lived. It was called the South Sugar Creek Creamery.  Local farmers brought milk to be processed — for the most part into butter. 

“A post office was established in 1896 and named Jacobsville. 

"In 1910 the creamery was bought by John Harris of Elkhorn who had established a similar operation. A short time later the South Sugar Creek Creamery was torn down and milk was hauled to Elkhorn. 

“A two-story dwelling across the road to the south was sold and occupied by various tenants.  It was destroyed by fire in the 1920s. 

“There was another house east on Hazel Ridge, which was moved and remodeled; it is possibly in use in 1995.”

The most famous former resident of this old community was Knute Nelson who came to the area in 1850. He attended Albion College in Rock County and then moved to Madison. He became a member of Congress in 1883 and then governor of Minnesota and then a U.S. Senator. He died in Alexandria, Minnesota, in 1926.

If you have never stopped by to see this plaque and read its history, it is well worth the trip.  We thank Ormal and Paul for preserving a bit of history.

 Ginny Hall, a Delavan historian, is author of the “Walking around ...” and “Meandering ... ” books, which highlight the history of Walworth County communities.

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