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Darlington City

Darlington City Hall is located at 627 Main Street, Darlington, WI 53530; phone: 608-776-4970.

Darlington was incorporated as a city in 1877.

Beginnings [1]

The first white man's residence within what are now the corporate limits of Darlington was a large log house belonging to Jamison Hamilton, the pioneer of this section, and the original owner of the surrounding land. It stood west of the Pecatonica River. This building was constructed in a very thorough and finished manner for a frontier dwelling, under the direction of B. Martin, the pioneer architect and millwright of the country, and stood for many years a monument to early days and early efforts. In early times, this cabin was the only point on the trail through this portion of the country where travelers could get accommodations for the night. For some time after Mr. H.'s arrival, there was no bridge on which to pass over the Pecatonica, and even in later days, after the people began to construct bridges and corduroy roads in different parts of the country, this stream was often minus the necessary appliance to a safe passage over, owing to the fact that the first spring freshets, unheeding the wants or "rights of man," generally swept the structure away in toto. At those times, when there was no bridge, and the stream so high that fording it was very dangerous, Mr. Hamilton would go to the rescue with his canoe, but woe to the man who could not sit steady while he was being paddled over, for, as all canoe-men can testify, the least unusual lurch was sure to upset the frail vessel and give its occupants a bath. The road here was such for years as the people chose to select, existing only in the form of a trail. When the county arrived at that state where roads became fashionable and necessary, this section was not behind the rest of the county in laying out thoroughfares, and thus we find Darlington provided for in that respect before there was a town, or, indeed, any guarantee of one.

In 1850, the first frame building was erected in the place by J. M. Keep, and stood where Tully & Wilson's store now stands. Here the first store was kept by S. S. Reed and J. S. Fassett & Co., and from this time dates the real business growth of the place. What their stock was can only be surmised; but, doubtless, it consisted of such articles alone as were needed to supply the real wants of the settlers. At the present time, the old building, having been moved, is used for a shoe-shop, and for several blocks up and down the street may be seen, as successors to the old store, an array of mercantile establishments that will compare favorably with any in the country, and where anything can be purchased from a paper of pins to a thrashing machine.

The second store in the town was erected by Mr. Driver, in 1851.

The first hardware store was opened by the Willett Brothers in 1852.

The first drug store was started by J. Collins and Dr. Blair, the latter being the first resident physician in Darlington.

A shanty was built in 1851 which was the first blacksmith-shop used by Blakely & Wright. In 1851, the partnership was dissolved, and the men proceeded to erect substantial stone shops, probably with the intention of doing an opposition business. However, be that as it may, Wright's shop, which stood on the land later occupied by H. C. Nash's carpenter-shop, was never occupied by him, but, very soon after its construction, passed into the hands of Keep & Lynde.

One of the early enterprises engaged in the village was the erection of a building for a foundry and plow factory, by George Hurst.

In 1853, the first wagon-shop was started by Mr. Driver and Mr. Willey.

The village of Darlington was, from its infancy until 1865, connected with and ruled by the town government. By this time the place had become a prominent and prosperous village, with a population of about 100, and public interest had become of such a nature that the town could not, or did not, adequately provide for the wants of the aspiring little burg. The streets were in bad condition; there were bridges, crosswalks and sidewalks particularly needed, and the latter could only be obtained through private contribution.

Liquor licenses were granted, and the money accruing was appropriated by the town, the villagers having no authority to say how many should be granted, or how much charged (as an independent body), while their interest in the matter was confessedly much greater than that of the town, inasmuch as the traffic was conducted among them, bringing all of its ill effects, against which they were comparatively powerless, and imparting no compensatory benefits.

  1. History of LaFayette County, Wisconsin, Western Historical Company, Culver, Page, Hoyne & Co., Printers, Chicago, 1881.
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