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William Wright Sacia Recalls

William Wright Sacia Recalls

William Wright Sacia (1808-1885) was truly a Wisconsin pioneer. In 1873, thirty-seven years after first coming to Wisconsin, he sent this to the (Watertown, WI?) Banners Journal. We have added the foot notes to clarify or expand the historical significance of this pioneer's excellent record. Some of the dates differ from those in similar accounts.

Larry L. Borchert, 2001.


Geo. W. Bird,

Dear Sir.

I send you a few sketches of my frontier life, if you think it worthy of note. I was an early setter here. I will attend the reunion next week if possible.

Very truly yours,

Wm. Sacia.

I was born in Schenectady, N.Y, in the year 1808. Started West at the age of twenty-five. Spent some years in Michigan, which was then a new country. On the first day of January, 1836 I left Michigan and started for Milwaukee by the way of Chicago. There was three stage loads of us, all young men. On arriving in Chicago we ascertained that there was no way of reaching Milwaukee only on foot. Chicago at that time was only a small village. Owing to the very severe cold and snow none of the company but myself would undertake so tedious a journey, so one cold morning I started on foot and alone. There were only four small shanties on the way from Chicago to Racine. On the road between Racine and Milwaukee there was only one house, a log inn kept by Eilhu Higgins. I arrived in Milwaukee, which was little more than a wilderness; it was then a trading post of the French and Indians. Solomon Juneau was there, well known as the founder of Milwaukee. I remained there until the following May, when I concluded to make a tour of the surrounding country. In Janesville I stopped and found Squire Janes; he had settled the previous Autumn and was the founder of Janesville. In company with three others- Dan Smith, Curtis Davis and Dan Smilie- I took up the Indian trail at Janeville and went up to Lake Koshkonong. On our route we made claims at Prairie du Lac (now called Milton.) North-east of Milton we discovered a bright stream with the banks covered with otter; we named it Otter Creek and made claims there also.

On the east banks of Lake Koshkonong we found Indian mounds of various shapes. The walls of one in particular were perfectly square, and its general appearance led us to conjecture that it was the ruins of an ancient fort. I returned to Janesville, built a log house, kept "bachelor's hall" and went to farming about half a mile up the river. In the fall of 1836 I sold my property there and returned to Milwaukee. Our mode of living then was very simple. The bill of fare consisted simply of pork and bread, sometimes varied by wild game, birds and juicy bear steak. We slept in the open air with our blankets wrapped around us.

In the spring of 1837 my two brothers(1) and myself took our provisions on our backs and started for Watertown. We found a few white people living there. Timothy Johnson and family were there. The most of the settlers were bachelors. I made claims there also nine miles east of Watertown, (my present home). In the summer of 1837 I disposed of my property in Milwaukee and came to my home in Concord, which was a heavy timbered country and erected a log house on the bank of the Oconomowoc River. The first day I commenced cutting logs for the house I saw coming up the river forty canoes..filled with Indians all of whom on seeing a white man here at work, landed and came to where I was. They were friendly and peaceable and were taking their furs to Milwaukee. My place was then known to travelers as the "Three Brothers," but I was the first white man between the town of Summit and Watertown. I kept bachelor's hall and entertained a great many travelers. A.A. Bird stayed with me one night with his company of men going to Madison to commence building the Capitol. The woods abounded with deer, black bear, and wolves. Often in the night we would hear the whining of wolves at the door, hunger making them very bold.

When I commenced farming I purchased potatoes in Milwaukee for five dollars per bushel, pork thirty-two dollars per barrel and flour twenty dollars per barrel. On starting for Milwaukee for provisions the roads were not passable, so lashing together two canoes, placing my wagon upon them and fording my oxen at a point up the Oconomowoc river as far as Battletown, I landed and proceeded the remainder of my way with my team. Returning in the same manner to Battletown, I encountered a party of men from Watertown who had come out for the purpose of making causeways and bridges. I joined them, and as I now look back at the miles and miles of marshes, rough country and streams we made passable for teams, it seems hardly credible that our spirits never sank: but nothing daunted we worked with cheerfulness, and when night shades hovered around us, we sang songs, told stories and rested as only those can when conscience is clear and whose body is healthy and tired with fatigue from hard labor. But there was suffering among some of the settlers who were coming in at different points in the surrounding country. Many were out of money, and lived from fish caught from the river, without salt.

In the autumn of 1842 I married(2), having then quite a farm cleared and a comfortable frame house. Civilization rapidly continued; and at the present time Concord, Jefferson county is a rich and beautiful farming country. Watching its growth from a wilderness to its present position I feel that my 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 has been for the old settlers to convert the forest into a blooming country, cultivating orchards, founding schools and churches; but we look back with pride that we claimed it, made it what it is, and now live to enjoy it.


1.His brothers were Harmon Van Slyck Sacia (1816-1893) and David Sacia (1805-1850).

2.His wife was Delia Ann Rouse (1825-1888).

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