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Orlando S. Jones: Pioneer Farmer Extraordinaire

>Location: Southwest Wisconsin Room, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Platteville Wisconsin.
>Citation: Platteville SC 3, Orlando S. Jones Diary and Family Clippings, 1852-1903, 1922. Southwest Wisconsin Room, University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Platteville, Wisconsin.


Collection Summary

Orlando S. Jones was a pretty interesting guy. He was a Wisconsin farmer that lived his life on what, at the time, was the very edge of the United States border! Through his diary, we can read all about his regular tasks and his day-to-day life on the frontier. Orlando’s Diary is actually two separate diaries. The first details his life from 1852-1873, and the second one has entries from 1873-1888. Use these to explore the routine life of a pioneer farmer trying to make ends meet in the newly formed state of Wisconsin. (Wisconsin became a state in 1848, a mere 4 years before the first entry!)

Orlando’s diary can be used in tons of different ways, because it shows many different things going on in the 19th century. For example, along with being a farmer, Orlando also worked as a school teacher. Therefore, you can discover for yourself what duties and tasks a teacher performed almost two-hundred years ago! This is just one idea for ways that Orlando’s diary can be used among a variety of others only limited by your own shrewdness and eye for ideas.

This finding aid will focus on the importance of routine in order to maintain and thrive as a pioneer farmer in Southwest Wisconsin. By following it you will find examples of joy, sadness, money problems, and most commonly, the farming routine of Orlando S. Jones. Consider it an adventure into Orlando’s life from 1852-1858!

Important notes:

• Orlando will be referred to by his first name throughout this finding aid because it’s just way more fun to use than his last name.

• Orlando’s handwriting may be hard to read at first, but once you get used to how he writes, it gets really easy to read.


Collection Description

Orlando S. Jones was a farmer, school teacher, and town clerk somewhere around Grant County. Orlando kept a hand-written diary of his regular life in a bound book, from 1852 until 1888, with footnotes that go all the way up to 1903. The diary logs the various chores, work, expenditures, and trips that he would go on every single day. Orlando also gave a brief description of what the weather was like at the end of each daily entry in the diary.

The footnotes range from interesting to mundane, but they are always worth looking at! For example, in some months Orlando details the type, and amount of various crops he harvested. In other months he tallies up the total of how much money he made, compared to how much money he spent, over the course of the month. Also in the footnotes Orlando gives details on the personal things that have happened. For example, When Orlando’s father died, the daily entry merely states “Father died. 2 ½ A.M.” however, at the bottom Orlando details HOW exactly his father died (diabetes). It’s important to note that any daily entry that has a footnote at the bottom of the page associated with it was a big deal to Orlando.

You’ll start to notice a pattern as you read farther into the years of Orlando’s life and realize that certain crops were prepped, planted, harvested and cleaned on a rotating basis, depending on the month, as well as the weather. The same was true with livestock. This pattern is the key to Orlando’s survival on the frontier that is Southwest Wisconsin, and is also the reason that this diary is such a great historical tool!


Reading Guide

Every page is headed with the year and covers one complete month from start to finish. Each month is then broken down into a line per day. There is space at the bottom of the page for footnotes.

Quite a few days or even weeks in a row have one recurring entry. For example, one day will simply say “Chores,” followed by 5 days of nothing but quotation marks indicating that those days were also just full of “chores” as well.

Important note: In the next two sections, Orlando’s life will first be broken down into a chronological list of important or interesting diary entries from January 1852 through December of 1858, followed by the routine that makes up his everyday life. Each bullet point in the FFA will have questions underneath that should be considered when looking through Orlando’s diary.

Second Important Note: The reason this portion of the FFA starts with the interesting events is because they’re just a little more… well interesting than Orlando’s daily routine. However, keep in mind that the routine IS interesting because it shows how people survived on the frontier in the mid-1800s.


Events of Note

Reminder: This section goes chronologically through the interesting events that happened in Orlando’s life from 1852 through 1858. If you’re having trouble finding the specific events, refer to the first point of the reading guide.



April 22, 1852: Orlando is married to Sarah E. Jones.

  • Check out the footnote at the end of the month



March 1853 shows lots of work on Orlando’s fence.

  • What work was he doing on his fence?
  • Why do you think he spends so much time working on a fence?

April 5, 1853: Orlando wins an election.

  • What does he get elected to?

June 6, 1853: Orlando raised a log barn

  • Did he have any help?

September 19, 1853: Orlando’s father passes away

  • What happened before his Dad died? Check the entries before to find out.



January 15, 1854: Orlando’s Uncle Leyman passes away

  • Notice how often Orlando visited Uncle Leyman before he passed, try to count the number of times went to and from Leyman’s.

May 16, 1854: A MASSIVE rainstorm

  • Note the language Orlando uses to describe the storm. See if you can find anywhere else that he uses language like this.
  • Consider how the weather impacts the work that Orlando does.
  • Can you find other examples of the weather impacting Orlando’s livelihood?

The footnote for July is a ledger of wages paid to someone for help with the hay work

  • What does this imply about Orlando and his farm?

October 7, 1854: Orlando got Daguerreotypes taken in Platteville.

  • A Daguerreotype is an old style of photograph common in the 19th century



What does Orlando do in June of this year in his position as a town clerk?

September 5, 1855: Orlando and his Uncle Obed go to see “Ms. Bell’s” leg amputated.

  • The diary doesn’t say, but why do you think she needed her leg amputated?
  • I hope she came through it alright!

October 14 – November 23, 1855

  • What’s going on every day throughout this stretch?

November’s footnote:

  • What is Orlando complaining about?



February 5-7, 1856

  • What neighborly act is Orlando up to?

March 11, 1856: “Went to Platteville to have Daguerreotypes taken.”

  • “Photo-shoot fresh, looking like wealth, [Orlando] called the paparazzi on himself!”

March 13, 1856: “Mary Alice born.”

  • Do you think Orlando was giddy or excited? Check the footnotes and see if you can tell!

May 18, 1856: Orlando’s Uncle Obed gets married

  • Ain’t that just sweet? Did they do anything to celebrate?
  • Do you think Orlando and his uncle were very close?



February 20, 1857: “Went to pull teeth for Mr. Winter”

  • The diary doesn’t say, but whose teeth do you think Orlando was pulling?

September 28, 1857 – October 2, 1857: Orlando takes a vacation

  • Where does he go, and what is he doing?
  • Did he have fun?



January 17, 1858

  • Read this entry. What do you think it means? Are there any footnotes to go along with it.
  • January’s footnote:
    Orlando is complaining! What is he on about THIS time?

March 1858

  • What does Orlando spend most of his time doing this month?

June’s footnotes:

  • June 10: How does Orlando feel about the prospects for his crops?
  • June 30: Has his opinion changed in the past 3 weeks?

July 1-14, 1858

  • What does every entry start with during this stretch?
  • How does it affect him?

August: What is Orlando focused on this month?

October-December 1858: Orlando is working on building a sawmill

  • What type of work is he doing? How is the work going? What sort of supplies does he need to get the job done?
  • Does the weather effect his work at all?



Reminder: This section is broken up into the 12 months of the year. Each month contains bullet points of the routine work done during that specific month in any given year. Read the questions under each bullet point and try to find the answers for them in Orlando’s Diary. Be sure to pay attention to the variety of work Orlando must do to survive.



Grain work

  • Who does Orlando do the work for?
  • What type of work is he getting done?

Day Trips

  • Where does Orlando go?
  • What is he doing when he travels?

School work starting in 1853

  • What type of school work is Orlando doing?
  • Does the work change over time?



School Work

Looks specifically at February 1854 and 1855, where is Orlando spending a lot of his time?


  • What kind of chores do you think Orlando was doing?
  • Why would he be doing chores in February, instead of farming?

Day trips

  • Same questions as before?
  • Do the day trips change with the months or are all day trips fairly standard throughout the year?




Sawmill work as well as sawing and chopping wood for personal use.

  • What do you think Orlando uses his wood for, and what do you think he did at the sawmill?
  • Why does Orlando do so much wood work in March as opposed to a different month?

Town Clerk duties from 1854-1858.

  • How many different jobs go into being a Town Clerk?
  • Is there a specific job that is more common than others?

Day trips



Lots of farm prep work

  • What type of work does Orlando do to set his farm up for the spring?
  • What does he mean when he says that he is “Harrowing” a field?

Town Clerk duties (from 1853-1858)



Farm Work

  • What work is most common in May?
  • Is he working on his own farm, or is Orlando working on other people’s farms?



Cheese making

  • How much cheese does Orlando make on average?
  • What kind of cheese do you think he makes?

Hay work

  • How does Orlando word his entries when he works on hay?
  • How important do you think the hay work is for Orlando?


  • What kinds of crops would you see if you visited Orlando’s farm?
  • Why do you think he grows so many different things?

Road work

  • Why do you think Orlando (a farmer) would be working on fixing a road?
  • Does Orlando specify which road he is working on, or the work he is putting into them?

Hay work

Cheese making




  • Consider how and why the crops that Orlando is working on have changed since May

Hay work

Day trips



Harvesting fruit

  • What kind of fruit does Orlando grow?

Day trips




  • It’s harvest season! How did Orlando’s crops do every year?
  • Were there good years and bad years?



Collect taxes for school

  • Is he collecting the taxes as a town clerk or as a school teacher?

Vote in general elections

  • Note how regularly Orlando votes
  • Who does Orlando vote for?
  • Can you tell Orlando’s political alignment?

Prepare crop fields for winter

  • What goes into preparing his fields for winter?

Day trips

Tax work

  • How many days does Orlando spend on this?
  • The diary doesn’t say but what do you think tax work entails?

Hauling and cleaning corn and grains

  • Why do you think Orlando needs to clean his grain?
  • How do you think someone cleans grain?



Day trips to sell goods

Tax work

School inspections

  • Where does Orlando go to inspect these schools?
  • How do the inspections go? Are there any schools that fail?


Reviewed by: Tim Olson

Murphy’s Area Research Center (ARC)


> Location: Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin- La Crosse
> CITATION: William Koch, interviewed by Howard Fredricks, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, September 1971 – February 1972.

Collection Summary

William Koch was born in 1882 in La Crosse to a family that lived on the North Side. He left school at the age of fourteen to begin working and help support his family. Throughout his life, Koch worked many jobs in La Crosse, including at the lumber mills, the railroad, and the Pearl Button Factory. He was married in 1910 and had two children. This interview was done in 1971-1972, when Koch was about 90 years old, however, Koch speaks very clearly about his whole life and is never shy to give his opinion!

This interview touches on many many subjects, however, this finding aid focuses on two major topics discussed by Koch:

  1. Life in La Crosse during the late 1800s and early 1900s (relationships, working class family life, child labor, sickness, adventuring in La Crosse, industry, ethnic and racial groups)
  2. Being a factory worker for the Pearl Button Company in La Crosse

The whole transcript is typed and a total of 348-pages long! But never fear, this finding aid lists just the pages needed for the two topics above.

Collection Description

Life in La Crosse

Pages 2-14: In this opening section of the interview, Koch describes his German immigrant grandparents and other family background. He tells what his childhood was like growing up on the North Side of La Crosse in the late 1800s, including information on his education, all of the jobs he and his family members had—including his young sisters—and interactions he had with some nearby Ho-Chunk children. Koch started working when he was 14-years-old, and his early jobs included the Milwaukee Coal Chutes, the railroad, La Crosse Rubber Mills, Pearl Button Factory, Coleman Lumber Co., and even picking potatoes in South Dakota. Koch also remembered hunting with his Dad and seeing passenger pigeons (now extinct)!

On pages 75-82 Koch talks about lumber production at the sawmills.  Never one to shy away from expressing his opinion, Koch also shares is view on harvesting logs in Wisconsin, the building of a road through the La Crosse marsh, and the effect logging had on Native Americans in Wisconsin.

Pages 84-94 cover “river pirates”. These are people who stole logs right off the river from the lumber companies. In addition, Koch also brings up log jams, logging accidents, and his memories of the rowdy lumbermen in La Crosse. In this section Koch also discusses La Crosse’s Redlight district and other memories of downtown in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

On pages 95-100 Koch describes the rivalry between the North and South sides of La Crosse.  He discusses other La Crosse memories as well, including farm animals and community pastureland right in town! He gives his opinion about the Ho-Chunk in the area, and why many lived on “Indian Hill.” Koch eagerly shares his opinion on the sale of liquor to local Native Americans, and the role whites played in bringing liquor and disease to Native Americans. It is important to note that during this part of the interview, he makes anti-Native American racist remarks. In your notes, make sure to put all his questionable language in quotation marks.  That way, people won’t think his language is your language.

Page 122-142: In this section, Koch talks a lot about helping fight fires with the firemen as a kid—not unusual at the time. He had fond childhood memories of horses being used in town, which he describes, but he also recalled common diseases and dangers faced by La Crosse youth.  (Just a hint, some of the diseases and dangers were connected to the river.)


Pearl Button Factory Work

On pages 15-41 William Koch begins to talk about his job at the Pearl Button Factory.  (Most of this 348-page interview is about the Pearl Button Factory!) He describes exactly how the button factory worked: first how cutting buttons worked, then what the clam shell industry was like, then clamming along Wisconsin rivers and the Mississippi River.  He also uses great detail describing how pay worked at the factory for the various jobs. He remembers workers rioting because of their pay.

Pages 42-74 cover why Koch eventually left the Pearl Button Factory. He shares information about the people he worked with, including many female factory workers. He also describes the social life of the factory, like the breaks the workers were allowed to take, and other changes that made the workday more enjoyable. In this section Koch also describes further how the factory ran, including the machinery they used. Eventually, the topic turns to how the invention of plastic helped lead to the factory’s closure.

Pages A-Z: These pages are different. They are lettered, not numbered, and are inserted right between pages 74 and 75 of the transcript. (Weird) This section is a kind of “grab bag” of a whole bunch of topics, some new, and others touched on previously. Here is a highlights list:  Koch talks about how river pollution made it hard to find clams for the factory. He further describes some of the people he worked with, including his fellow female factory workers. In particular, he discuses their work roles and wages at the factory. He vividly remembers innovations made at the La Crosse factory and how these helped the button industry nation-wide. Finally, Koch also mentions attitudes towards Germans during WWI.

On pages 176-190 Koch remembers how the Pearl Button Factory ground up extra shells and sold them to be used as chicken feed. He again describes the machine he designed, his career at the factory, and manufacturing at the factory.

Pages 209-214 give more information about the making of buttons.

Pages 237b-242 address Koch’s memory about unions, strikes, and labor organizers at the Pearl Button Factory.

Pages 302-304 return to the subject of the Ho-Chunk.  This time Koch mentions their role digging shells for the Pearl Button Factory.


Reviewed by: Jennifer DeRocher


“The Third Term Panic”  www.harpweek.com


> Location: Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin La Crosse
> CITATION: Hastings, Samuel D. Manuscripts. La Crosse Area Research Center, Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.

Collection Summary

Samuel D. Hastings was a lawyer, real-estate broker, and merchant who lived in La Crosse during the mid 1800s. During his time in La Crosse, Hastings dealt mostly with buying and selling land in the general area (La Crosse County, Trempealeau County and parts of Winona), but he also had strong political ties and eventually became Wisconsin State Treasurer.

This collection is made up of one box with a letter book and five folders full of letters written (in cursive) to and from Samuel D. Hastings.  They are about Hastings’ business and political activities, and date from 1838 to 1872. Each of the five folders varies in length but on average there are somewhere between 100 and 150 letters in each!  This finding aid, however, covers only the letter book and folder 1, and highlights only a couple of pages and letters from each.  That’s because most of the correspondence is about land transactions and real estate deals, however there are some letters that focus on the Civil War, abolition, and the creation of the Republican Party. There may be only a few gems in this collection, but they shine brightly!

Collection Description

The letter book has page numbers so finding specific letters is not difficult, however the letters in folder one do not.  They are identified by year, but take this as fair warning, you may still have to hunt!


Letter Book

This is a bound book, which holds around 400 pages (it is the largest piece of this collection), and is filled mostly with land transaction receipts and correspondence between Samuel D. Hasting and Francis Newland spanning a number of decades. Only the first 150 pages of the book were reviewed for this Aid, but in those pages there are a few worth noting:  Page 49, relates to the Union; Page 68 covers a Republican Party conference that was held in Madison; and Page 91 is about the Trempealeau County militia. If these gems entice you, keep reading, there may be more!


Folder 1

This folder contains letters from the year 1838 until May of 1856. The early letters in this folder deal with Samuel D. Hastings while he was secretary for the Union Anti-Slavery Society based in Philadelphia. Letters dated in 1838 talk about the society helping to free 500,000 slaves calling it “the greatest day on Earth since the death of Christ.” Another letter from that same year describes the role Philadelphia churches played in the “fight for freedom” for all men.  Besides these two letters, there are two more that discuss the Republican Party.  One dated 1855, speaks about a branch of the part forming in New York State, and another, dated 1856 reference Geneva Wisconsin.  The writer is very impressed with the party’s activities there, calling it “the self of true republicanism.”


Reviewed by: Allie Schmitt


Family of Robbie Moss


> Location: Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin La Crosse
> Citation: Robbie Moss, interviewed by Dr. Gretchen Lockett, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, 1982, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Collection Summary

Robbie Moss was an African American woman that lived in La Crosse from the 1930s through to her death in 2004. She was born in Mississippi in 1912 and moved to La Crosse when she married Orby Moss, the grandson of Zacharias Louis Moss, one of the first Black American settlers in La Crosse.  He settled here in 1852 and opened a barbershop. (This was just two years after La Crosse became established as a town, making the Moss family one of La Crosse’s pioneer families.)

Robbie was interviewed by Dr. Gretchen Lockett, a professor at UW- La Crosse, who is also African American. In the interview, Moss and Lockett talk about their experiences being African American in La Crosse between the early 1940s and 1982. They also cover major national and local events, such as WWII, workers’ strikes, and the Muriel Boatlift.  Prejudice – theirs and others – and segregation is addressed throughout.  There is also a fair amount of discussion about the relationship between La Crosse’s African American and Native American communities.  Overall, this interview is a great window into what life was like as a minority in a small Midwestern city during the middle part of the 20th century.  Although Moss and Lockett are the main “voices” in this oral history, there are others who speak as well, and everyone in the room has different experiences and different opinions about the racism they faced.

Collection Description

This oral history interview was recorded in 1982. It consists of two cassette tapes, each an hour long, but there is also a written transcript of the interview, which is 68 pages long.

There are many people talking in this interview. The interviewers are Dr. Gretchen Lockett, a professor at UWL, and an unidentified student. Robbie Moss is the primary person being interviewed, however her granddaughter and at least three other people are in the room as well, and they all talk. Because of this, the transcript can get confusing. Many times it lists people as, “GUEST,” “GUEST 2,” or “?????.” The person who typed the transcript often mixed up who was speaking. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you listen to the interview while you read the transcript. As you listen, you will begin to recognize the voices, making the whole interview much clearer.


Pages 1-7

Pages 1-7 are the part of the interview where Lockett and Moss talk about the Moss family and Robbie’s childhood. In addition, she talks about her experience being one of the few African Americans in La Crosse. In particular she remembers being refused service at places of business, segregation signs during World War II, Black soldiers at Fort McCoy (previously named Camp McCoy), and a La Crosse woman that was involved with in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  Especially interesting is the part where Moss reflects upon her own prejudices against Native Americans.


Pages 10-22

On pages 10-22 the other people in the room begin to talk more. They share common experiences of racial discrimination. In particular, Moss remembers Black American soldiers being refused service in downtown La Crosse, which she compares with her own experience being turned away at a La Crosse drugstore. In addition, this section covers a number of very important local and national events.  For example, Moss remembers the time during the 1980s when there were Cubans (many who were Black) in La Crosse due to the Mariel Boatlift. She remembers community backlash against Black Americans and Native Americans, and the La Crosse Telephone Company Strike of 1977.  When the workers went on strike, the company responded by finding replacements – Black and white – from the South willing to come up and work. Robbie shares her theories of La Crosse’s prejudices at this time.

A very interesting part of this interview is the conversation about Black organizations in La Crosse, like the NAACP, the Black church in La Crosse, and Black settlements around the region, such as the one near Hillsboro.  Nathan Smith is mentioned.  He was a prominent Black American in La Crosse in the late 1800s and early 1900s.


Pages 23-37

Pages 23-37 are all about racial attitudes and behavior in La Crosse and the Midwest.  The group discusses their personal experiences and theories about race in La Crosse, but also the difference between racism in the Midwest and racism in the South. (This subject is especially interesting because for many white Midwesterners, northern racism is a subject they may have never considered.  Here you get to learn about it by someone who directly experienced it.) They also talk some more about the racism Cubans faced in La Crosse in 1982, why they could not find jobs, and how the media reported about them.


pages 37-50

On pages 37-50 Robbie Moss’s granddaughter shares her views and experiences as a Black American college students in La Crosse (mostly Viterbo, where she went to school). This turns into a discussion about religion and racism in the community.  Moss weighs in as well, telling what it was like for her children in terms of school, dating, going to events like prom, and all the other typical things children do in general. This section also returns to the subject of the hardships for women of color, and what it was like to live in such a prominently white community. Robbie Moss’s memories of what it was like when famous Black musicians came to La Crosse is really interesting!  (By the way, Duke Ellington, Peaches & Herb, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, and Louie Armstrong – whom Robbie and her son met – all came to La Crosse during Moss’s lifetime.)


Pages 50-66

Pages 50-66 return to the subject of Black churches in La Crosse and employment challenges. Moss remembered not being able to get a job at Trane Company and the National Gauge and Register Company. They voice their different theories on the subject of jobs.


Reviewed by: Jennifer DeRocher


Murphy’s Area Research Center (ARC)


> Location: La Crosse Area Research Center, University of Wisconsin La Crosse
> CITATION: Casterline, Alvah, Blacksmith Ledger, 1849-67, La Crosse Area Research Center, Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin – La Crosse

Collection Summary

Alvah Casterline was a blacksmith in the town of Burns, Wisconsin. This collection contains his daybook, which tracks the work he did along with how much he charged for his work.

The organization of this book can take some getting used to. He organized it by placing the name of the customer at the top of each page. He then keeps track of all their orders and what they owe him until they settle the account. Some of these unpaid accounts can last for over a year! Something that is frustrating with this book is that the page order is out of place, certain chunks of the pages are not where they should be.  So, if you cannot find a certain page it might be farther back in the book.

At the far left of each page there is the date the order was completed, followed by the name or description of what he made, then the price with the left column being dollars and the right column cents. Very rarely did anything cost over a dollar. At the bottom of the page he will total up the cost and note the date that the account was settled.

Collection Description

This is the general order of the pages in the book:

Pages 1-42
Pages 97-120
Pages 169-202
Pages 123-168
Pages 45-96

Originally the pages were all in order by number, but at some point sections of pages got jumbled around and ended up in this order.

This finding aid has been organized into three categories: farming, bartering, and logging.



The first category is pages that serve as good examples of farming activity in this book.

Pages: 1-4, 6-32, 36-42, 97-110, 112-120, 169-195, 197-200, 123-139, 141-145,  149, 150, 152-168, 45, 47-52, 54-69, 71-90, 91-96.

It should be very clear that the majority of the work that Alvah was doing was making and repairing tools for farmers. In many of these examples you can also see examples of Alvah bartering for food with these farmers.



On most of the pages in this book Alvah will include items he bartered for with his customers in order to subtract it from the total cost of the money he made. However, these pages are ones where there is a lot of bartering going on.

Pages: 13, 17, 105, 107, 114, 177, 196, 146, 148, 151, 53

The majority of the bartering is farmers giving Alvah food, such as wheat, corn, and oats as a way to help pay for their orders. There are also unique examples, such as on page 146, Henry Vonus worked in Alvah’s garden for a day to help pay for his orders.



Pages: 4, 5, 33-35, 105, 111, 177, 201, 140, 46, 63, 70, 91

These pages show Alvah making a lot of equipment used for logging. Rodney Lower (Pages 5, 105, 63) appears to have done a lot of logging, on page 5 Alvah makes him axes and wedges for splitting wood as well as hooks and a sled for dragging the lumber.


Reviewed by: James Derr