Argyle’s first settlers tended to come from New England, Scotland or England. These included John Saxton, Robert M. Threadgold, Allan Wright, and J. S. Waddington. This started to change as the Argyle area attracted immigrants from a wide range of countries, including Ireland, Germany and Switzerland; however, it was the Norwegian immigrants who dominated in the latter half of the 19th century.

Immigrant Influx

The Norwegians

Norwegian Family

Nearby Wiota attracted many Norwegians in the 1840s and 1850s. The East Wiota Lutheran Church was established by Norwegian settlers in 1844, and was the mother church for many other Argyle area rural churches—such as Adams in 1856, Yellowstone in 1868, West Wiota in 1889, and Apple Grove in 1893. And as Norwegian settlers gradually moved into the village, a Lutheran church, known as the Scandinavian church, was established there in 1876, with the building completed in 1881. Many of these churches were still offering church services in the Norwegian language well into the 1930s.

The Norwegian immigrants were predominantly farmers, but some established businesses in the village. Henrik J. Hendrickson and Lars A. Rossing immigrated to the Argyle area as children and worked as store clerks before starting their own businesses around 1870. Hendrickson first clerked for John Saxton and then went into the hardware business. Rossing clerked in Warren, Illinois and then bought a general store in the village from J. S. Waddington . Both businesses flourished due in no small amount to support from the growing Norwegian community. Hendrickson was able to build the largest house in Argyle at the top of the hill, which was later converted into a funeral home by Elmer Erickson. Rossing and his wife, Helena Monson Rossing (1851-1931), an astute business woman and talented milliner, were able to pass their business on to their three children, and they in turn passed it on to a third and fourth generation.

Similarly, brothers John P. (1863-1957) and O. Bennett Nelson (1860-1928), from the Nelson-Sjaahem family which had homesteaded in the Mud Branch area just west of Argyle, set up the Nelson Mercantile Company in 1887. This was eventually passed on to Nim Nelson (1868-1939) and his brother-in-law, Oliver Vinger (1866-1967), and then to Nim’s son and grandson. Another brother, Lewis Nelson (1865-1930), ran a harness shop next door—and next to him was the shoe store of Martin J. Rude. Rude immigrated from Hadeland, Norway with his parents, wife, and siblings in 1883. His son Hjalmar (1886-1966) had a chiropractic practice above the store in the early 1920s. Fellow Norwegians John Grahn (1869-1951) and wife Emma Johnson Grahn (1867-1947) were also pioneering chiropractors in the village about this time.

Present day Norwegian influences include the annual Yellowstone Lutheran Church Norwegian Dinner, Adams Lutheran Church’s Syttende Mai celebrations, and the opening of the Norseman Supper Club in 1971 by seven local businessmen, six of whom were from Norwegian descent.

The Irish

At the same time that the Norwegians were moving into the Argyle-Wiota area a considerable number of Irish were settling in the town of Adams, located just east of the village. Like Argyle, the first settlers in Adams tended to be “Yankees,” moving there from New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. However, gradually more and more Irish and Norwegian immigrants established farms there, which led to the formation of the two main churches in Adams—the Norwegian Lutheran Church and St. Francis Catholic Church. The first Catholic mass was held in the home of Michael Crotty in 1852—and in 1861, a small frame church was built at the intersection of Biggs and Puddledock Roads to serve this fast growing community of farmers. Today only the cemetery remains. One of Crotty’s sons, Michael B. Crotty, became a miller and an owner of the Argyle mill in 1878, partnering with James Sardeson. Later, his younger brother Frank bought into the mill, and another brother, George, went into the furniture business with his brother-in-law Andrew Monson. Another prominent village resident descended from Irish settlers was R. Finley Barry a long-serving local attorney, whose grandparents, Edmund and Elizabeth Barry, emigrated from County Cork in 1850. As they started to gain in numbers in the village, there was a growing call for a Catholic church to be established in Argyle. In 1897 a subscription for funds that met the local bishop’s requirements was initiated by George Crotty and John Monaghan. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church was dedicated on November 17, 1898, with Father Dowling as its priest. Three years later, St. Francis was rebuilt and in 1903 a large rectory was constructed next to St. Joseph’s, all under Father Dowling’s guidance.

Biographies of Noteworthy Settlers

William S. Hamilton (1797-1850) Second youngest son of Alexander Hamilton, first United States Secretary of the Treasury. Born in New York and attended West Point. Moved to Illinois in 1817, served in Illinois Militia and elected to Illinois House of Represtentatives in 1824. Moved to Southern Wisconsin in 1827 and established a lead mining operation near present day Wiota known as Hamilton's Diggings. It was the one of the earliest settlements in this area, pre-dating Argyle. During the 1832 Black Hawk war, Hamilton again served in the militia and erected a fort called Fort Hamilton. Hamilton left the area in 1849 to pursue California gold and died of cholera in 1850.

Allan Wright (1807-1887) Original Scottish settler who was appointed first postmaster in 1844 and named the Argyle settlement after the Duke of Argyll. Wright was responsible for bringing other Scottish settlers to the area including the Mitchells, the Pattersons and the Arnots.

Robert Threadgold (1807-1854) Came to the area in 1839. Operated Owego mill on Whiteside Creek (Wiota area) from 1850-1854 but location failed to develop as a community because Threadgold would allow no nearby homes or busineses to be built. One of the first town officers along with Saxton and Wright. Buried in a private cemetery at Mud Branch.

Allen Mitchell (1813-1890 ) Born in Scotland. His trade was paisley shawl weaver. Married Helen Wright, who was sister to Allen Wright, who named Argyle. Emigrated to America in 1838. After earning enough money to bring his wife and son to America, they lived in Connecticut. Attracted by promise of wealth in Wisconsin lead mining, he moved here in 1847 and acquired land, later moved his family here. Life was difficult at first. They were joined by two other families of Scottish origin, the Arnots and the Pattersons. All three families lived together for a time in the Mitchell home.

Andrew Arnot came from the Firth of Forth in Scotland and was a widower when he arrived with his three children. He had interesting tales to tell of his experiences as a soldier in our war with Mexico. He fought in the Battle of Vera Cruz. Two of his sons, Andrew Jr. and James, both enlisted in the Civil War. James fathered three children one of whom, Jesse Robert, served in the army in Arizona during the border conflict with the famous Pancho Villa in 1915. His brother, James H., lost his life at the Argonne Forest in World War 1. Our American Legion post #375 is named in his honor.

Joseph Eldred (1797-1850) Eldred, born in Hancock MA, was an early settler who, with John Saxton, platted some thirty four blocks of land on the west side of the river. He built a water powered sawmill with A.U. Gibson on east bank of the river in 1850, and died shortly therafter. Joseph Eldred was the first burial in the Argyle Cemetary.

John Z. Saxton (1792-1872) Along with Joseph Eldred, platted 34 blocks on the west side of the river in 1850. Deacon at the Baptist Church. First township meeting was held in Saxton's house. Operated a general store. Served as town chairman and postmaster. Stepfather of Robert A. LaFollette.

Daniel S. Hawley. (1817-1893) Born in Vermont and came to Gratiot area with his parents. Built City, aka Rock, Hotel in 1853. The Hawleys were some of the first people to settle in this area. Mr. Hawley’s father was killed by Indians near Gratiot’s Grove. Later business interests included stock buying and insurance.

W.B. Thurston ( -1900) Located near the Baptist Church was a long, frame structure that was the home and office for Dr. W. B. Thurston.  In those days, doctors usually ran the drug stores, such as they were, offering a limited supply of liniments, potions and herbal medicines.  They spent much time journeying from farm to farm to attend to sick people.

Thurston’s home was also used as the meeting place for Argyle’s Masonic Lodge, a fraternal order very popular in that era.  The lodge began in 1869 and met there for nearly two decades.  Dr. Thurston eventually moved to Idaho and died there in 1900.

James Seymour Waddington. (1831-1917 ) Nephew of John Saxton, J.S. Waddington came to Argyle in 1850 at age 19 to clerk in his uncle's store, and later bought an interest in the business. He shared the house with John Saxton for some time before purchasing 40 acres at $0.12 per acre on what is now the village's south side. He divided the land into lots and sold them for home sites. Having prospered in real estate, he built a grand home facing Monroe road. In the 1870’s he became a Country Judge. In 1895 he established the Argyle State Bank. His son, Frank, donated money to build a lovely memorial for his father, our Community Building, which many people use everyday.

Allanson Partridge (1831-1925) moved to Wisconsin in 1858. Partridge was known for his skills as a carpenter and cabinet maker. He built the structure now known as Partridge Hall which served as his workshop and residence. Events such as political caucuses, dances, and banquets were held in the upstairs hall. Since Partridge was an advocate of prohibition, no alcohol could be served at any of these events.

James Sardeson. (1830 -1914). The Sardeson family came from England. Sardeson operated the Owego mill on Whiteside creek after the death of Robert Threadgold (1854-1865). He married Threadgolds widow, Marilla, in 1855, and upon her passing, he wed Mary Wright. James, Marilla and son, Charles, moved to Argyle in 1865. Sardeson bought an interest in the flour mill, and operated a general store (the "old rock building", now the Argyle Fiber Mill). After arrival of the railroad, they did business in coal, lime, and feed with warehouses near the railroad depot. The Sardesons eventually built a large home and also donated the land on which Argyle Lutheran Church is located.

Henry J. Hendrikson. (1846-1910) Emigrated from Norway at age 6 (1852). Clerked for J.S. Waddington, then purchased the hardware part of Waddington's business (Rossing purchased clothing part). Pursued the trade of "tinner". Married Adelaide Hoober of Fayette in 1871. House built on site of present post office and first log cabin (1847) with Hendrickson hardware store immediately to the west. Built a grocery store addition to the hardware store in 1890, operated by Robert Peacock, with 2nd floor used as lodge for Odd Fellows and Woodmen. Later (1893) built a large house on the hill, which included a windmill, ice house, wood shed, bee house, horse barn, water tank supplying running water, now Erickson Funeral Home. Died after a fall on the stairs at age 64. The Hendrickson children continued to live in the area and were engaged in several successful businesses.

David Covey (1810-1874) Operated American House aka Covey Hotel, until his death in 1874 at which time it was taken over by son, David Smith Covey Jr, until his death in 1916. Covey often was at political odds with George Gaskill and the Prohibitionists, and as a result frequently arrested for violations of Argyle's dry laws.

Ole Nelson (1836- ) Born in Norway. Family arrived in Quebec, then through Great Lakes to Chicago, west by train to Warren IL, then to Wiota and established a homestead at Mud Branch (Cty G) where they built a log cabin and operated a dairy farm. Ole and brother headed west on horseback in 1859, pursuing gold in Colorado, then to California, Oregon and Idaho. After seven years of rambling, Ole returned to Mud Branch, married Mary Munson, and had three children, Nim, Oscar, and Helena. In 1892, Ole’s descendants established the Nelson Mercantile store that operated here for eighty years.

Gulbrand Vinger (1830-1924) Born in Norway, emigrated to America in 1850 and made his home in the Yellowstone area. Married Martha Carlson in 1854 and purchased land from the government in the town of York for $0.75 per acre. Civil war veteran. Moved onto a farm west of Argyle in 1894. Grandfather of Lawrence Vinger, Argyle businessman who sold International Harvester equipment at Vinger Implements.

William Campbell Machinist, woodworker, auctioneer. Limestone residence and shop located on North St. (now State St.) across the street from what is now Phillipson garage. Prior to arrival of ICC railroad in Argyle, Campbell built a steam powered flat boat, large enough to accomodate a wagon and horse team, with intention of moving goods down the Pecatonica River to railroad depot at S. Wayne. Navigability of the river was soon found to be extremely variable and generally useless, leading to early retirement of the vessel. Undaunted, Campbell followed up this venture with construction of a pleasure boat to be used for excursions up and down the river.

Lars A. Rossing (1845-1913) Norwegian born. Worked for a merchant in Warren IL (1866) Married Helena Monson in 1869 at Cherry Branch (E. Wiota) church. Arrived in Argyle in 1870 and purchased the J.S. Waddington store including the dry goods and clothing portion of the business. Built on a millinery business, run by Helena, after 5 years. Lived in the Saxton house before purchasing the house on North St. (now State St.) from Dr. C.A. Hansen in 1893. Son, Hjalmer, obtained a degree in civil engineering at UW and supervised construction of the new Rossing store in 1911. Children also include twins, Victor and Viola.

Martin J. Rude. (1854-1942) Born in Norway, came to the area in 1883. Operated shoe and leather business on Main St. for 50 years.

George Gaskill. (1862-1935) His father, Silas, built the first bridge across the Pecatonica River; made of wooden frame, it only lasted a few years. Editor of Argyle Atlas for nearly 50 years. Sunday School Superintendant at M.E. Church. Prohibitionist, who regularly used the newspaper to rail against the evils of liquor. Led numerous election fights to keep Argyle dry. The Gaskills were from England. Many of the families came by way of New England and settled on farms between what is now Blanchardville and Argyle, a place called Yankee Hollow. Some of the ancestors of these families, such as the Gierharts and the Rogers, came on the Mayflower and fought in the Revolutionary War.