The following is taken from the Montello Express of May 27, 1876:
“The first land claim within the territory now comprising the Village of Montello, was made in the month of February, 1849, by Josiah H. Dartt, and included the water power site on the Montello River. In March of the same year, J.N. and G.H. Dartt came from Kingston, where they were then residing, and made claims, spending a few weeks here cutting and hauling timbers for the houses. They did not, however, build their houses until late in the summer, and did not move to this point with their families until September.
“Jason Daniels was the first actual settler in the place, bringing his wife here the first of June, and taking possession of a log cabin he had built a few days previously on a claim made shortly after the first of Messrs. Dartt. The ‘house’ stood near Jason’s present residence (1876) and was about as ‘airy’ a building as any family ever inhabited. The roofing was made of elm bark and carpets served as doors.
“At that time the country hereabout was entirely wild, the nearest accessible town being Kingston, sixteen miles distant, and only a few families scattered through the country south. Mrs. Daniels was the first white woman across the Fox River, as she was the also the first landlady in this section, the family having to keep open house for a time to accommodate many of the new settlers and the land hunters who flocked in here that summer.
“In June, quite a number of the families settled in and about the place, forming a hamlet of sufficient importance, it would seem to bear a name distinctive from the town (Buffalo). A meeting of the citizens was called for the latter part of that month or early in July, to consider the subject.
“This meeting was held about where Dodge and Seaver’s Grist Mill now stands and among those present were J.H., J.N., G.H. and Riley Dartt, a Mr. Goodsale, Mr. Kilby and we believe, Mr. Daniels. ‘Montello’ (meaning mountain or hill – and – water) was proposed by Riley Dartt which was, after some little discussion, adopted unanimously as the name of the embryto village. During the summer and fall a large number of houses (all logs) were built in the neighborhood, Mr. Daniels assisting at twenty-one ‘raisings.’
“Early in the summer of 1850 the dam was completed and a saw mill erected and put into operation. That summer Montello had its first frame building, built by Dr. Phillips and R. Giddings for a store. Soon after E. K. Smith put up a frame hotel. September 23, 1850, a post office was established at Montello, with J.N. Dartt as postmaster and weekly service from Kingston. The only other post office in the area at that time was at Roxo (a place long since defunct in 1876).
“The Fox Rier was navigable for boats but transportation by water was on rafts. During the summer or fall the Fox and Wisconsin River Improvement Co. sent a dredge up the Fox, which removed the bars and deepened the channel, encouraging the people along the line to believe they would soon see vessels passing by their doors, laden with the products of many nations. The only thing that came of it that season was a few horse drawn boats employed in rafting lumber.
“A considerable addition was made to the population of Montello and vicinity during the year of 1850 and several business enterprises were begun. Trade was a lively portion of it, consisting of swapping with Indians who were numerous in the area. The splendid rice fields and fishing and hunting grounds rendered it a most attractive rendezvous for several bands of Indians. Although greatly outnumbering the whites, the Indians were peaceably disposed toward them.
“The first school was opened in 1851. That summer the first steamboat, the John Mitchell, came up the Fox. “The township of Montello was created in 1852, the territory being detached from Buffalo. At the first election for town officers, held that spring, E.B. Kelsey was chosen chairman of the board of supervisors; Bonaparte Baker, treasurer; D.K. Devany, clerk; Mr. Farrington, justice; and Joseph Lake, constable. That year a bridge was built across the Fox River, under a charter granted by the State Legislature.
“A grist mill was erected in 1854 by E.B. and C.S. Kelsey, but it was not in operation until the winter or spring of 1855, when it had one run of stone, and ground corn and other grain that did not require bolting. “In February, 1855, the first newspaper was printed at Montello. F. A. Hoffman was the publisher. It was named Montello Young American and was filled principally with miscellaneous matter and advertisements of patent medicines.
“In 1856, the Catholic Church building was erected. In 1858, the first Protestant church was erected by the Baptists. “In 1858 also the county was divided, with this portion which is now Marquette County retaining the original name, with the county seat located at Montello.
“During the five years of the Rebellion [Civil War], there was little or no change for the better.
“One of the most complete woolen manufactories in the West is located [in 1876] at Montello, built in the summer of 1867 by the Wisconsin Industrial Association and owned and operated in 1876 by the Montello Woolen Mills Company.
“In 1876, there are two flouring mills, one on the Montello River owned by Dodge and Seaver. The other on the Fox River known as the South Side Mill, originally built by C.S. Kelsey and improved later by John Lewis.”
Montello Granite Company
The Montello Granite Company’s quarry was opened about 1880, and was operated until the 1960’s. Tests have proved that for durability and strength there are few granites that anywhere equal the Montello granite. Its qualities are so enduring that it will be found standing in many of our cemeteries uninjured long after the monuments and mausoleums constructed out of most kinds of stone have crumbled into decay.
The blocks which were too small or unsuitable for building or monumental work were crushed for macadam. Many thousands of granite blocks for paving came from the quarries and were sold in Milwaukee and Chicago. Some of the finest monuments of the country have been constructed from Montello granite. They may be found by the score in cemeteries in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin. Among the more important pieces of work may be mentioned the Custer monument and the monuments to Wisconsin soldiers at Gettysburg and Chickamauga. The sarcophagi for General and Mrs. U.S. Grant at Riverside Park, New York, were hewn from Montello granite, having been selected by a special commission in competition with granite from many parts of the world. These sarcophagi were cut from single large blocks measuring approximately ten feet six inches by five feet six inches by four feet ten inches.
Montello granite has also been used for building purposes. In Chicago, it has been used in the Herald Building, the Stone Building, the Pickard Residence, the Miller Residence, the Kirk Block on Madison Avenue and 55th Street and many others.