The small town of Chilton, Wisconsin, with a population of approximately 3,240, is located about 76 miles north of the city of Milwaukee. And, it was originally founded in 1845 by a prominent African American minister from Rhode Island, by the name of Moses Stanton.

In 1844, after marrying his wife Catherine Ross — a full-blooded Indian and direct descendent of the great Indian sachem King Phillip, of Colonial fame, the couple relocated to this then wilderness area of Wisconsin — clearing a spot on the banks of the Manitowoc River and naming the settlement Stantonville.

In addition to erecting both a saw and grist mill, which enabled the supply of flour for they and Stantonville’s other early settlers, the Stanton’s were known for their generous hospitality, opening their home to all who sought shelter. In fact, their home was reportedly a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Other Stantonville settlers included their five children, plus Moses’ two brothers and their families. Moses died in 1862 at the age of 68, while Catherine lived to see 93, passing on in 1904. In later years the name of the town was changed to Chilton, and Catherine was affectionately known as “Chilton’s First Lady.” Now predominantly a White community sans Afrocentric businesses, churches, and so on, Chilton still recognizes the generosity and loyalty Catherine bestowed upon them by her donation of many churches and public buildings. Both Moses and Catherine are buried in the family plot in Breed Cemetery in Chilton.

Cheyenne Valley

A very stable community built by free persons and individuals who had escaped slavery, Cheyenne Valley was located in northeastern Vernon County. This settlement was eventually infiltrated by Irish, Bohemian and Norwegian immigrant families. As the area became integrated in the 1870s and 1880s, intermarriages occurred and the local schools and churches became shared institutions.

Pleasant Ridge

Established in 1848 and located near Lancaster in Grant County, Pleasant Ridge was about half the size of the Cheyenne settlement, and inhabited by Africans who had been formerly enslaved by the Horners, a Caucasian family from the South. Although, the school district and the small United Brethren Church were integrated, black folks were expected to “keep their place.”

The community went into decline by the 1880’s due in most part to a lack of opportunities for black citizens and growing resentment against them from the white population.


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