This article appeared in the Nonpareil-Journal, of West Salem, WI on November 20, 1930. It was written by Lincoln Sacia's oldest daughter, Edna Sacia Wallum. It is remarkably accurate and has served as a guide for those studying the history of the Sacia family. The few annotations are added to clarify some of the points made by Mrs. Wallum.--Larry L. Borchert, 1997.
HARMON VAN SLYKE SACIA
Paper Written for the County
Historical Society Contest
Harmon Van Slyke Sacia(1), a pioneer of La Crosse County and of this community was born in Schenectady, New York, July 24, 1817 (2) of French and German Parentage, his father being French(3) and his mother German(4).
At the age of seventeen Harmon and his brothers Peter(5) and William started for Milwaukee by way of Chicago(6). There were three stage coach loads of young men in this party and upon their arrival in Chicago, when that was only a small village, they learned that the only way of reaching Milwaukee was by walking. There were only four shanties between Chicago and Racine and when they arrived in Milwaukee they found only a trading post of the French and Indians.
In 1837 the three brothers took provisions on their backs and started for Watertown where they found a few white settlers. Here they took up a claim and built a log cabin where they kept "Bachelor Hall" and entertained several travelers. A.A. Bird and the company of workmen stayed with them one night. They were on their way to Madison to begin work on the capitol(7).
The food of these pioneers consisted of bread and pork varied by wild game, birds and bear steak. Neither salt nor matches could be obtained this side of Milwaukee and many settlers lived on fish without salt. The only method of building fire was by striking flint. One neighbor would carry a fire brand from another who had succeeded in getting a fire started in is home. At night the men could hear the whining of wolves at the door, hunger making them very bold.
June 23, 1841, Mr. Sacia was married to Cordelia Sophia Packard of Milwaukee(8).
Cordelia Packard was born in Vermont, January 16, 1826 of New England parents, her ancestors having come to America in 1638. Her family records show the names of several Revolutionary patriots of note, including Captain Samuel Packard(9).
Mr. and Mrs. Sacia began housekeeping at St. Francis, a suburb of Milwaukee. When Mr. Sacia heard of the discovery of gold in California he left his family with relatives and made the trip, with friends to California in a covered wagon. Enroute they were attacked by bands of hostile Indians and upon reaching California Mr. Sacia was keenly disappointed in not finding gold and returned by boat, around Cape Horn and up the eastern coast to New Orleans and then up the Mississippi river and overland to Milwaukee. The families' next place of residence was Galena, Ill(10).
In April 1851, Mr. and Mrs. Sacia and four children, Charles, Sylvia, Frank and Marian, an infant only three weeks old, came by boat to La Crosse, then only a hamlet. Leaving his family there Mr. Sacia set out on foot looking for a suitable place for a home. He chose a spot in a valley six miles northeast of the present village of Holmen and this was the first home of the Sacia's in this locality. Here they lived in a rude shelter made of rough boards and poles covered with sod and furnished with only home made furniture. The roof of the hut was slanting and so low in places that Mrs. Sacia's head used to touch the ceiling and she told of how the hair was worn from the top of her head by being caught on the rough boards.
One day she was startled to see the bloody hand of an Indian thrust through the blanket which served as a door. Her first thought was that her young husband had been massacred but this Indian only came to bring the white family a piece of freshly killed venison(11).
The nearest neighbors to the south was the family by the name of Jenks six miles away, Wells in Lewis Valley and the Gordon family to the west. The nearest trading post was La Crosse and annual trips were made to Milwaukee for clothing and other supplies. Indian trails through the woods were the only roads.
To be on the main trail from Black River Falls to La Crosse and to be near a spring of fresh water the family in 1852 moved a mile northeast and settled on what is now the Vern Sacia farm. Here a log house was built and it was here that the late Harmon G. Sacia was born.
A few years later Mr. Sacia erected a large residence where the family kept hotel and a store(12). This was the social center for the community for miles around and was the best hotel this side of La Crosse. Later an addition which served as a dance hall, was built.
When the Civil War broke out Mr. Sacia enlisted in Co I Eighth Wisconsin Infantry. One son born in 1860 was named for Abraham Lincoln and is now well known as "Uncle Link".
While home on a furlough Mr. Sacia's oldest son Charles, who had been ill with typhoid fever was so anxious to get into war that he was taken on a cot, in a wagon drawn by a team, to La Crosse to see if he could not enter service. He was not accepted, but his brother Frank, who was only sixteen years of age enlisted as seventeen year old and fought shoulder to shoulder with his father until the close of the war. Another son Marion was in active service in the war also(13).
In 1877 the family purchased a farm near Galesville where the famous apple orchards of Fred Sacia and Son are located. Some of the apple trees set by Mr. Sacia over fifty years ago are still bearing fruit.
The farm near Stevenstown came into the possession of the late H.G. Sacia some years after his parents purchased the farm in Trempealeau county, and his son Vern now owns the farm which has been in possession of the Sacia's since 1852.
Mr. and Mrs. Sacia were the parents of ten children, two of whom survive, Lincoln of Holmen, who is my father and Clarence of Galesville. The deceased children are: Charles, Frank, Marion, Harmon, Sylvia, Lillian, Minnie and Sarah(14). There are living today forty four grand children and one hundred and six great grand children of the pioneer couple(15). The majority of these descendants live in the vicinity of Holmen and Galesville.
Mr. Sacia passed away in October 1893 and Mrs. Sacia in 1908(16). Their remains rest in a sacred spot in a little family cemetery on the Sacia farm where five(17) of their children are also buried.
We, the grandchildren and great grandchildren of this worthy couple treasure their beautiful memory, and feel that their footsteps were not misdirected. No one, but those who have endured the privations and hardships of pioneer life, can truly conceive how hard a task it was for the early settlers, to convert the wilderness into a country of cultivated fields and blooming orchards. We look back with pride, to our grandparents who did their bit, to help make our community what it is today.
The writer of this paper is a granddaughter of the pioneer couple and a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln Sacia(18).
Mrs. Edna Wallum, Holmen
1. Van Slyke can be spelled several ways, often it is seen as Van Slyck. Harmon obtained his middle name from the surname of his fourth great grandfather, Cornelis Van Slyck, who emigrated to New Netherlands (New York) in 1640 from Breuckelen, The Netherlands. Cornelis married Ots-Toch, a Mohawk maiden. They had four children who became famous as traders and translators.
2. According to the record of the First Reformed Dutch Church of Schenectady, NY, Harmanus Van Slyck Sacia was born to Philip Sacia and Saresinah [sic] Wright on September 10, 1816 and was baptized May 3, 1817.
3. The origin of the Sacia family is still a mystery. Harmon's father was Philip Sacia. The first Sacia of record is Harmon's grandfather, David Sacia. His surname was legally established after the Revolutionary War, prior to that there were at least a dozen different spellings recorded.
4. His mother was Sabrina Wright. Little is known of her except that she is recorded as Harmon's mother in the Schenectady church records, she came to Wisconsin after the death of her husband and is buried with two of her sons, William Wright Sacia and David Sacia in Pipersville Cemetery, between Watertown and Concord, WI. Her national origin is unknown. Her daughter Lucinda Dunning Taylor also came to Concord. Harmon sold her husband a plot of land in 1840.
5. David Sacia, not Peter, came to Wisconsin. David, who never married, died August 5, 1850 in Concord, WI.
6. According to the first hand account of his arrival in Wisconsin, William Wright Sacia preceded his two brothers by one year. He explored what are now Jefferson and Rock counties before returning to Milwaukee in 1837 to meet his two brothers for the trip to the Watertown area to claim land. This description of the desolation of Wisconsin Territory is similar to that described in the W.W. Sacia account in the 1873 issue of Browners Journal..
7. W.W. Sacia states that the Sacia brothers established a travelers inn on the Milwaukee to Madison trail in what is now Concord, (just off I-94, at exit 275). A quote from travelers of that era: "When that gentleman, with his family and a party of settlers, were en route to Aztalan, they reached Concord after dark and took possession of a cabin occupied by three bachelor brothers named Sacia. The emigrants made their supper on potatoes, and slept on the floor, the bachelor hosts keeping guard through the silent watches of the night, standing barefoot in the corners of the cabin, nearly paralyzed with amazement at the presence of women in their stronghold." (Page 345, History of Jefferson County). Mr. Augustus A. Bird, with thirty men, four women and six yoke of oxen came to Madison in June 1837 to construct Wisconsin's capitol building (Mollenhoff, D., 1982. Madison, A History of the Formative Years, page 27).
8. Cordelia Packard was the daughter of Zebedee Packard, one of the original white settlers of Milwaukee. Harmon and Cordelia were married October 6, 1842 by Asa Kinney, Justice of the Peace at the home of George H. Wentworth. in the Town of Lake, WI. This is according to Cordelia's and Wentworth's sworn affidavits.
9. Captain Samuel Packard came to New England in 1638, well before the Revolutionary War. Another ancestor of Cordelia Packard actually arrived earlier; Francis Cooke, her fifth great grandfather, one of the Mayflower passengers, arrived in 1620. One Revolutionary War ancestor was her great grandfather, Jonathan Ransom.
10. No primary documents have been found to support the gold rush and Galena segments of our subjects life, however because of the high accuracy of the rest of the document the events probably did occur.
11. The Sacia family has always been kind to Indians in the area. At the 1948 funeral of Ho-Chunk Chief Tom Thunder, a grandson of Harmon was a pall bearer and a granddaughter was the soloist.
12. In his turn of the century book Deacon White's Idees, Stirling W. Brown writes of pre Civil War days in the Coulee Region. In describing insecure "wild cat banks" he states: "The one which had accomplished the deacon's undoing, was known as the "Black River Bank", and was located at Stevenstown, a place of limited population. The main building in the place was Sacia's tavern, a wayside inn, famous as a resort for lumbermen enroute between Elross (La Crosse), a city on the Mississippi, and the pineries farther north." Actually the Inn was called the Fountain Hotel and it was destroyed by fire some years later.
13. The official military records of H.V.S.Sacia, Franklin Sacia and Marion Sacia obtained from the National Archives reveal some errors in this statement. Harmon Van Slyck Sacia entered service on his 45th birthday, September 10, 1861, five months after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. He enlisted in Company I of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers, famous for their mascot "Old Abe" the war eagle. He trained in Camp Randall at Madison, WI and saw first action at the Battle of Fredricktown, MO. He fell from a cliff in that battle, dislocating his right hip, an injury that bothered him for life. The 8th Regiment wintered in Cairo, IL. They saw their first action of 1862 at Point Pleasent, MO and Island No. 10, TN from March 21 to April 8. Major action was seen in Northern Mississippi where Harmon was wounded and taken prisoner by Confederate forces at the Battle of Farmington on May 9, 1862. He was held at Jackson, MS for five months (not Andersonville, as some accounts state.) He was exchanged at Vicksburg and returned to Cairo where he was hospitalized for two months prior to being discharged November 30, 1862, because of his hip injury. His son, Franklin M. Sacia enlisted at La Crosse, also in Company I of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry, almost two years later, on September 2, 1864. He stated his age as eighteen and indeed he was 18 years, 1 month and 25 days old. Frank saw his first action in the Battle of Nashville, TN, where he was wounded in the arm on December 16, 1864. He continued with his unit and was discharged after the War, on August 15, 1865. Marion Sacia did not see duty in the Civil War. After the Battle of the Little Big Horn in July, 1876, most of the U.S. 7th Cavalry was destroyed. Marion enlisted in that unit and spent five years with it in the Dakota's in what has been termed the "Indian Wars". He was discharged September 18, 1881.
14. There is no record of a Sarah Sacia, however the US census of 1850 lists a daughter, Sophia. She is not in subsequent census records so may have died in her youth.
15. In 1997, and after eight generations, Harmon Van Slyck Sacia has over 930 descendants. If spouses are counted there are over 1350 descendants.
16. Harmon Van Slyck Sacia died October 23, 1893 and Cordelia Sacia died November 7, 1907.
17. Only four of their children are buried in the Sacia Cemetery: Marion Sacia, Minnie May Sacia, Sylvia Sacia Snow, and Lillian Sacia Morrow.
18. This article was also published in the La Crosse Tribune and Leader Press, November 30, 1930. Another granddaughter of Harmon Van Slyck Sacia, Sylvia Sacia Fritzvold wrote a similar article for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Writers Project, 1936 - 1940. An unedited version of her manuscript resides in the Library of Congress.Please direct any comments or questions to Larry Borchert.