Town of Pleasant Springs

             2354 County Road N

             Stoughton WI 53589

                  (608) 873-3063


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HISTORY

Once part of Madison,  then Dunn, the township was formed in 1848

The History of Pleasant Springs, Wisconsin

By: Lorraine Hawinkson, 1992 for the Stoughton Courier- Hub

By an act of the Wisconsin territorial legislature in April of 1846, the township now known as Pleasant Springs became part of a newly formed town, the town of Madison. The area now known as Dunn was also included in this act. In 1847 the areas of Dunn and Pleasant Springs were merged into a town called Rome and the next year the same legislature divided Dunn and Pleasant Springs into separate towns.


The first meeting of the town was held on April 4, 1848, at the home of John Patterson. Officers elected were: supervisors, Daniel Wheeler; Chairman, John Ketcham and John Patterson; clerk, John Sunderman; treasurer, Winard Dinman; fence viewers, Jacob Patterson and Jacob Waldruf; assessors, John Patterson and Robert McComb; and school commissioners, Jacob Stombought, John Sunderman and Archibald Griffith.


Pleasant Springs Township, located northeast of Stoughton, is bordered on the north by the town of Cottage Grove; the east by Christiana; the south by Dunkirk; and the west by the town of Dunn. An interesting fact is that the bar room of the Stoughton Country Club is in the town of Dunn and the pro shop is in Pleasant Springs.


The Yahara River, first known as the Catfish, flows through part of the town. Entering from Lake Kegonsa to the west, it winds its way southward, exiting

southwest of County Road N on County Road B.  Another stream, Door Creek enters and exits the town at its northwest corner.

The Town received the name Pleasant Springs because of the numerous natural springs found in the area by the early settlers. The largest springs were  found in Section 27 on the farm of Ole Evenson.

On the western edge of Pleasant Springs a substantial park of Lake Kegonsa’s shoreline projects into the town, providing beautiful home sites for many town residents. Most of the old summer cottages that once lined the lake have now been replaced by substantial year-round homes. The sanitary sewer system around the lake has added impetus to the revitalization of Lake Kegonsa's shoreline including an upswing in building new homes overlooking the lake.


The geography of the town consists of rich agricultural soil, oak openings, marshes, streams and pastures well-watered for grazing. The largest hill, in early days called Liberty Mound, is located on section 2 and is the highest point of land in Dane County with the exception of Blue Mounds. On a clear day a fine view of Madison and the countryside toward Stoughton, Sun Prairie, Utica, Ft. Atkinson and Jefferson may be had.


The very first resident of Pleasant Springs was a fur trader named Abel Rasdall. He was born in Kentucky in 1815 and came to Wisconsin in the early 1830's. After working for some time in the lead mines near Blue Mounds, he became an Indian trader. He moved to the four lakes area and built a cabin on the east shore of Lake Kegonsa in the town of Pleasant Springs, about half a mile south of its outlet. Here he carried on his trading business. He married a Winnebago Ho-Chunk woman who was a great help to him in the native trade. Following her death from smallpox, he married another of the same tribe. When the woman's tribe was forced to move westward, Abel's wife elected to go with them. Then, invoking the customary Ho-Chunk mode of divorce, Rasdall and his Ho-Chunk wife cut a blanket in two - each taking a part.


For years an old Indian trail was visible in the town. This trail between Lake Kegonsa and Ft. Atkinson crossed sections 13, 23 and 24.


The 1832 census of Dane County reports only 36 people in the county. Most of these lived in the Blue Mounds mining area. Also counted were three families living in Madison and Abel Rasdall and wife at Lake Kegonsa.


Among the earliest Norwegians settlers in Pleasant Springs were Knut H. Roe and wife, Anne, Ole Trovatten, Aslak Kostvedt, and Osmund Lunde. On the 3rd of August, 1843, Knut Juve, his brother Knut Gjotel (Joitil) and his sister Toni Lien and her children arrived to make their home. Also in 1843, another group came; G.T. Sundbo, Tostien Bringa, Halvo and Ole Fosseim, Ole Dyrland, Tobjorn Vik, Aslak Groven, Ole Naset, Gunnar Mandt, Henrik Haeve (Havey), Anfin O. Holtan and Ole Iverson.


Other early pioneers were Walter Alderman, Knut Kittleson, John Luraas, Francis A. Ames, James Bronte, A. Seaverson, Abraham Devoe, Zina Gilbert and Ezra Hortan, also Gunder K. Rinden, John S. Bailey, Peter S. Markman, and Gunder Felland.


Some of the settlers had their wives and families with them, while others established themselves, bought land and built buildings and then brought their wives and families to their new homes.


Many of the early immigrants were obliged to use building materials that happened to be hands. Many had to live in dugouts until more substantial homes could be built. The dugouts, built into hillsides, usually had roofs of poles covered with hay and sod. Measuring about 24 by 18 feet and being seven feet deep, the walls were paneled with boards.


The outer walls of the dugouts were made of sod - large chunks of hard sod piled up in layers like bricks - and at the front a doorway was built and sometimes a window. These homes were difficult to live in but were cool in summer and warm in winter. They were safe from fire and substantial enough to last for a number of years. In these hovels families cooked, ate and slept. Similar hovels were provided for the family's animals.


Early furniture was very primitive; log stumps serving as stools. An immigrant chest often served as a table, and bunks supplied with hay or straw mattresses over hard boards and covered with sheepskin or coverlets bought from the old country, provide the beds.


Eventually log homes were built, and later, white frame houses dotted the landscape.


Early Pleasant Springs farmers produced wheat, oats, corn, barley, rye, potatoes, hay and tobacco in abundance. Fine horses, sheep, dairy cattle and hogs also contributed to the farm economy. Pleasant Springs continues to be prominent as an agricultural area.


From the beginnings, the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America had its start on Koshkonong Prairie, of which Pleasant Springs is a part.


A young, newly-ordained minister, Johannes W.C. Dietrichson, came from Norway to minister to the early settlers in America. He came to Koshkonong Prairie in August of 1844, and under an oak tree on the Knut Juve farm, on September 2 of that year, the preacher preached one of the first Norwegian sermons ever heard in Wisconsin. When the service was over, the entire group trudged to a high gravel knoll nearby and there held a belated burial service at the grave of a baby, the child of Knut and Anne Roe. This was the beginning of the West Koshkonong Lutheran Church, the first Norwegian Lutheran Church to be dedicated in America.


The first church building, constructed of logs, was later replaced by a large eight-cornered brick church. This building was eventually torn down and replaced by the present church. In Christiana township, in the fall of 1844, and also by Dietrichson, the East Koshkonong Lutheran Church was founded. The Western Koshkonong Lutheran Church, located a short distance from the West church, was founded later, in 1891.


Seven school districts were organized in the town: McComb, on Church Road; Door Creek, on Highway MN; Kegonsa, on Highway N; Magelson, on Highway B; Pleasant Springs, on Spring Road; Burritt, on Williams Drive; and Rinden, on Rinden Road. Consolidation of schools in Wisconsin caused the demise of these neighborhood rural schools.


As the township grew, residents and visitors, too, enjoyed the recreational areas of Lake Kegonsa. A large grove of sugar maple trees growing on the John Williams farm - a farm that bordered Lake Kegonsa - became a gathering spot. A railroad track was built by the Milwaukee-Saint Paul and Pacific Railroad to this site - called the Sugar Bush Grove - and passengers were taken from Stoughton to enjoy the recreational pleasures of the lake. The area became a favorite place for fishing, camping and picnicking.  A carriage house was built there as well as a depot. For a number of years, The Emma, a 57 foot steamboat, owned by Mr. Williams, cruised the lake carrying happy holiday crowds. The boat could carry as many as 65 passengers.


The years have brought may changes to Pleasant Springs. From the scene viewed by the early pioneers, of rolling hills, lush prairies, thick timber stands and marshes, a visitor to the town now sees prosperous looking farms, large urbanized areas, scattered new homes, and as always, the beautiful and well-maintained Koshkonong churches.