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  Genealogy: Family Histories

"Redford Pioneers"

by Sarah Redford

Transcribed and Edited by Michael R. Reilly

Last Revised 03/17/2015

also see Redford Family Index to Images, Photographs, and Articles and Thomas Spencer Redford Famil

and Redford Family Index to Images, Photographs, and Articles -Page 2 and Redford Family Index to Images, Photographs, and Articles -Page 3

which includes Van Vlack family,


Hodgson / Redford Family Images

    In May 1933, Sarah Redford, daughter of Henry, who was brother to T. S. Redford read this paper "Redford Pioneers" to the Waukesha County Historical Society. Source: Waukesha Freeman, Thursday, June 8, 1933, page 5, cols 2-4.

    Our earliest records of the Redford family begin in England with one John Redford, who was born at Charing Cross, London, in probably the 1750's. His father owned a glass works there.

    About the time of the Revolutionary War, they had company on e time at their home and when ready to leave, Grandfather Redford, then a young man, took them to Charing Cross Station, and while doing so, was kidnapped and pressed aboard an English man-of-war to fight the Colonies, leaving his horse and chaise standing in the street.

    He came to America, landed at New York, and as soon as he could, he deserted the English army, throwing his interest with the Colonies, as his family's sympathy was with them in England.

    After the war he married and settled in Cattaraugus county, and Livingstone Co., N.Y., where he raised a family.

    The oldest son was Arthur A. Redford, born Dec. 23, 1793, in Livingstone Co., N.Y. He enlisted in the War of 1812. He married Mary Scott, and they resided in Genesee Co., N.Y., where his eldest son, Henry, was born, Dec. 22, 1815. Then Thomas S., July 11, 1818, Erwin, Morris, Ira S., and Jane. 

    On April 23, 1836, he and his family came to Milwaukee with the exception of his eldest son, Henry. I think they traveled by boat. They stopped with Solomon Juneau until they could find a place to live. He went out into the country to what is known as the Town of Menomonee and took up claims for himself and sons and built a log cabin and a stable. In the spring of 1837 his family moved there.

Calf Caught

    My Uncle Erwin, then a young boy, told us they got up one morning and going out to the stable, they found a calf had switched its tail between the logs and was caught and a bear had bitten off the tail as bear tracks were found.

    They had another daughter Emily, born after they moved to the Town of Menomonee, she being the first white girl born there.

    Their eldest son, Henry, had remained in New York State as he was hired out on a farm, the custom in those days, and had to finish his time. He left New York State in the fall of 1836 and rode on horseback from Buffalo to Milwaukee, as he owned a fine four-year old and had his saddle and clothes. He encountered some narrow escapes on his journey. Houses were far apart and traveling dangerous.

    He stopped at one home where there was just a middle-aged couple. He wasn't much taken up with the place. He left his tallow candle burning near his bed and as the partitions were just boards, he could hear the couple whispering to each other and soon, to his surprise, the wife opened the door and peeked in and he just looked at her. Later she came again and he looked at her. She said, "I see you are not asleep yet." He replied, "I hear my horse and I will go and see what is the matter, then, I might get some sleep." He saddled his horse and left in a hurry and that ended that night.

    Then the next place he stopped in which he was in danger was when there were two young men. In the morning as he was leaving the two young men got onto their horses and said they were going on a little hunt. They asked him to ride out a ways with them and he was up against it again. "Ride out this way, " they said to him, but he took a circle to get a start. Then he lit out and they followed him for several miles. As one of their horses was white he could distinguish it a long way. They gave up the the chase as he neared a little settlement of a post office, blacksmith shop, tavern and store, and a few families. He spoke of his experience and was told that he was lucky to have escaped, as many people had said they would write when they reached their destination but were never heard from again.

Meets Solomon Juneau

    When he arrived in Milwaukee, the first man he met was Solomon Juneau who said, "Young man, where have you come from? Henry replied, "I have just come from Buffalo." Mr. Juneau asked him if he had a place to stay over night and he said no. "Well, come to my cabin," Juneau replied, and so he did.

    He worked a while in Milwaukee and I have heard him say he helped to build a pen to house some cattle for Plankinton.

    He then went to Menomonee where his father and brothers were, and took up some land, some of which he sold in 1861.

    When he came to what was then Prairieville, he worked for Morris Cutler, splitting rails, and lived in a log house near Bethesda Spring where they got their water and helped Mr. Cutler do the cooking. He could make pan-cakes and could flip them as well as any woman he said. He and Mr. Cutler became good friends.

    He cleared his place and built a home and then married. He often told how he rode horse-back to Milwaukee from Menomonee and carried out groceries.

    There were no roads then-just clearings made and oxen did most of the traveling for a good many years. He often told how in making the trip when horses were able to travel on the road such as it was, many times he would have to swim the horse across a stream as there were no bridges.

    Soon after that, however, logs were cut and bridges made. Saw mills sprang up all over the country and labor was cheap and roads were made. They went all over the country by ox-team.

    Church services were held in the barn of William Weaver, who lived near Sussex, local preachers of different beliefs taking charge of the services.

    Henry Redford was married twice. First, in 1840,  to Lucinda Baker, who died in 1852, leaving four children, Spencer, Walter, Charles, and Almary. He married 2nd, Adeline Doney, by whom he had the following children: MacArthur, Emma, Frederick, Sarah, Ella, Etta, George, Frank, Nellie, and Annis.

    All of the above children have passed away, except four girls and three boys. The mother died Aug. 26, 1877.

    Later on, when Arthur Redford was settled in a home, Solomon Juneau used to stop at his place when he was near and my Aunt Jane used to say that he would pick her up in his lap and she would sing for him. Then he would give her a large copper penny - her daughter said it was around the house for a long time but she doesn't know what became of it. This is the song that she sang:

"The north wind blows and we

shall have snow.

And what will poor robin do

then, poor thing?

He'll go to the barn and keep

himself warm.

And hide his head under his

wing, poor thing."

    Another time when Solomon Juneau came he brought a game-bag full of blackbirds and skinned them and she made him a pie out of the breasts.

    Henry Redford died Jan. 26, 1899

Made Land Claims

    When Arthur Redford went to the Town of Menomonee, he made claims of land for himself and three sons, Henry, Thomas, and Ira, who later occupied adjoining corners on this tract of about 600 acres and it was well-known as Redford Corners for years, where they all became highly respected farmers. Their word was always good and kept. The choice of this tract of land was largely influenced by some wonderful springs thereon.

    At this time the country was occupied by frequent roving bands of Indians who would often stop at the Redford homestead and were friendly. One of them was known as George. He would frequently stop there and work for a chance to sleep by the fireplace, with his promise to keep the fire burning all night, which he did, and his honesty was never doubted.

    There was a great Indian scare about September 1862, when a man came by on horseback, saying "The Indians are coming and are near Menomonee Falls. Prepare to leave for Milwaukee at once." My father, Henry Redford, loaded up a wagon with his wife and children, quilts, etc., and sent us to Milwaukee while he stayed on the farm to look after the stock. This scare proved to be false and we soon returned home.

    It was precipitated by the massacre at New Ulm, Minn., in August, 1862.

    The Redford men were great horse fanciers and had a fine reputation for raising good blooded stock, always owning good horses. 

    Thomas Redford, the second son of Arthur Redford, was born in Genesee Co., N.Y., July 11, 1818, being 18 years of age when he came with his parents to Wisconsin, in 1836. Not long after he drove the first stake for a claim in the Town of Lisbon, and built a cabin. He was married three times, the first being Caroline Van Vlack, of Dutchess Co., N.Y. whom he married on Dec. 25, 1848. She died in 1853, leaving two sons:

    Albert, born March 17, 1850

    Sylvester Thomas, born April 16, 1853.

    Married Again

His second wife was Jane Realy, of England, who died in 1864, by whom he had three children:

    Emily, born Nov. 13,1855, who married W. Hodgson, and went to California to live.    

    Martha J., was born June 12, 1861, who married W. H. Edwards of Sussex, and still resides there.

    George L., born Feb. 11, 1864, and died Jan. 22, 1865.

    His third wife was Abigail Newell, whom he married on July 11, 1864. She was born on April 3, 1834, in Dutchess Co., N.Y., and was the daughter of Whipple and Maplet (Newman) Newell. Two children were born of this marriage:

    Erwin W., born Sept. 2, 1872, and died April 10, 1873.

    Maplet, who who was married to Ernest W. Trakel of Waukesha.

    Thomas Redford lived on the farm the rest of his life and died Nov. 27, 1903. His widow died March 29, 1931, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Trakel.

    Ira and Morris went to California in the gold rush of 1849-1850 where they tried mining for several years. Ira Redford's knowledge of horses brought him to the notice of race horse owners out there. At one race in 1854, he rode as a "heavy" rider, a horse named "Paddy", over a quarter mile straight in 19 seconds which record they say has never been surpassed and won a purse of $100,000.00 for the owner, for which he received $1,000 fee.

    He returned to the farm of his father in 18556, Bring in a quill, the first gold he had mined, . which he made into a wedding ring for his wife later on, who was Catherine Ross, daughter of Daniel Ross of the Town of Pewaukee, an early pioneer from Scotland, and a sister of the late John Ross of Waukesha. By this marriage there were six children, Everetta, Alice, John,, now a resident of Milwaukee, Carrie, Daisy, Pansy.

    In the political campaign of 1860, the Republican Committee of Waukesha put on a big parade with a rail-splitting float drawn by four horses, owned and driven by Ira Redford.

    Morris Redford, on his return from California had a lumber mill at Knowlton, Wis., later ,going to Calgary, Canada to live. He was married and there were four children.

    Erwin Redford went to Winchester, Tenn., to live.

    Jane Redford married Henry Weaver of Monroe, Wis., at whose home her father, Arthur Redford, died in 1877.

    Emily Redford married Joseph Cook and lived in Missouri.

    This ends a brief description of the early Redfords.


Retrospect: Celebrating Lisbon's first founder, Thomas Spenser Redford

Posted: January 14, 2009, Living Sussex Sun

Later this year the Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society will put together a display on “founders” about our original settlers. This two-part series is about one of them.

The year 2008 marked the 172nd anniversary of the beginnings of the settlement of the Town of Lisbon, dating back to its undisputed first land claimant, Thomas Spenser Redford (1818-1903), who claimed his first 160 acres May 15, 1836.

In 1986 Sussex and Lisbon honored Redford by having a year long sesquicentennial celebration.

But who was Thomas Redford?

According to the Redford family story, John Redford (born circa 1755) of was taking some friends to London’s Charing Cross Station Landing on the family horse and buggy when he was kidnapped and pressed aboard an English Navy man o’ war ship to fight against some revolutionaries in North America.

When he landed in New York, he promptly deserted and joined the revolutionary army.

John Redford married and had 11 children between 1782 to l797, 10 boys and one girl. The eighth child, Arthur Redford (1793-1877), fathered Thomas Spenser Redford.

Grandfather John and his family were among the early settlers to make a pioneer run to Fort Harrison in Indiana in 1817. They crossed the Allegheny Mountains on wagons to Olean on the Allegheny River, where their group constructed three rafts, which carried them and their household goods down the Ohio River and then up the Wabash River to Fort Harrison.

They were the first to settle Vigo County, Indiana, but the elder John Redford was not among them, having died on the way.

Arthur remained in New York, however, where he fought in the Battle of Niagara during a three-month stint with the army during the War of 1812. But when he applied in 1853 for “bounty land” in Wisconsin, he was refused because he had lost his muster and payroll records.

Arthur married Mary Scott in 1814. They lived in Genesee County in western New York and had six boys and two girls. Thomas was the second born on July 11, 1818. The family moved 12 years later to Perrysburg, Cattaraugus County, New York State.

Thomas was raised in the usual manner of farm lads and attended the common schools in New York. In his early teens, he learned the carpentry trade.

He left home Feb. 28, 1836, when he was just 16½ years old and started walking to the newly opened Wisconsin territory. After crossing Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, he came to the rough swamp town of Milwaukee on April 15, 1836 – a walk of 46 days. Milwaukee was just a small trading village when he arrived.

Joining up with the surveying party of Hudson, Vliet and Brink, he traveled to Lisbon where, on May 15, at the gateway to the town, he made his claim of 160 acres around today’s Silver Spring Road on the west side of Town Line Road. It cost him $200 ($1.25 per acre). It was the first land claim registered for the Town of Lisbon.

A month after staking his claim, P. Ray James Hanford, and William Packard came out from Milwaukee and helped Redford raise his first shanty, which became living quarters for all of them until each could build his own log cabin.

Later, in August of that year, a big influx of settlers arrived, the majority of them connected f the extended Weaver clan from England’s Sussex area.

Redford built his first home – a log cabin, a requirement for a homesteader – just north of Silver Spring Road, with a fire place outside for cooking. He used the soft, light basswood trees to build the cabin, rather than the heavy oak trees that were readily available and more commonly used.

After planting some crops during the summer of 1836, he traveled back to Milwaukee to make some money as a carpenter. He became a permanent Lisbon resident the following year.

In 1848, Redford built a “proper” sawn-lumber home next to it, which still stands today.

Retrospect: Political triumph, personal tragedy: a tale of three wives

Second of two parts

Posted: January 21, 2009, Living Sussex Sun

Thomas Redford’s father, Arthur, followed his son to Lisbon in the fall of 1836. Rather than following in his son’s footsteps by walking to Wisconsin, he shipped through the Great Lakes. After arriving in 1837, he took some land in the Town of Menomonee.

Arthur Redford started his political life as a Jacksonian Democrat, but became a staunch Abolitionist and joined the Republican party as it emerged from the ashes of the old Whig Party, voting for Lincoln in 1860.

After several years at his Menomonee residence on Silver Spring Drive, he died in 1877 at the Monroe home of his daughter, Jane, the wife of Henry Weaver.

Besides Thomas, his seven children included Henry, a farmer in Menomonee; Ervin, a miller in Winchester, Tenn.; Morris, a farmer in South Dakota; Ira, whose farm lay where Menomonee Falls’ Silver Spring Country Club is today; Jane, the wife of Henry Weaver of Monroe; and Emily, who was married to Joseph Cook of Empire Prairie in northwestern Missouri.

Cook was a distant relative of the English explorer, Captain James Cook, who discovered the Hawaiian Islands, New Zealand and Australia. He was killed while landing in Hawaii on a peace mission.

The four Redford men who came to Lisbon and Menomonee owned more than 600 acres (640 acres is a square mile) on Town Line Road and Silver Spring Drive.

The Redford clan became known as great horse fanciers, and had a good reputation for raising blooded stock.

An active hunter in his early settler days, Thomas Redford boasted of killing five deer in one afternoon.

As a farmer he used the only beast of burden that could stand up to the harshness of the frontier, teams of oxen.

In 1840 he raised 1,100 bushels of wheat, cutting the grain with a cradle and threshing it with a flail. He then hauled it all to Milwaukee, where he sold the wheat for 50 cents a bushel.

In late 1848 he traveled back to New York and married Caroline Van Vlack, a native of Duchess County, on Christmas Day. They had two children: Albert, born March 17, 1850, and Sylvester T., born April 16, 1853.

Caroline died soon after Sylvester was born. Albert later became a successful farmer in Nebraska and had four children of his own. Sylvester became a farmer on Lindsay Road and the current Highway 74 in south Pewaukee. He and his wife raised eight children.

Thomas Redford married a second time Oct. 24, 1854. He and his new wfie, Jane Realy, had three children. Two of them lived to maturity: Emily, born Nov. 13, 1855, and Martha, born June 12, 1861. The couple had a third child, George L., born Feb. 11 1864, but he only lived 11 months. Jane, however, died just three days after his birth.

Emily Redford married William Hoden of St. Mary’s, Kansas. The couple later moved to California.

Martha (Matty) entered high society of a sort when she married William Edwards, a very successful teacher and later a career politician who served as Lisbon town chairman for many years, and as a state representative and senator for many more years.

Edwards was a member of the Lisbon’s powerful “Big Four” that also included John Small, John Rodgers and James Templeton. All four served had a a turn as Lisbon town chairman.

The Edwards home was in downtown Sussex, but in the 1980s, its new owners, Don Holt and his daughter Dianne Schuldt, moved it to Silver Spring Road across the street from the BP Petro Pantry.

Jane death was quickly followed by Redford’s third marriage July 11, 1864, to 30-year-old Abigail Newell. She came from an English family from New York state who had settled in New Berlin.

Thomas and Abigail had two children: Irwin, who was born Sept. 2, 1872, but only lived six months, and Maplet, born March 1, 1875. Abigail survived her older husband and lived to 96.

Maplet married Ernest Trakel of Waukesha on Aug. 5, 1905. They had four children. She died Nov. 16, 1964.

Thomas Redford belonged to the Sussex Methodist Church. He was 85 when he died Nov. 27, 1903. A majority of his family is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery, where his gray granite headstone serves as the front-most stone in the center of Rose Hill Cemetery near Highway 74 and Waukesha Avenue.

Politica1ly Thomas Redford supported “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” and in 1888, many years later, voted for General William Harrison’s grandson Benjamin Harrison. He took part in Lincoln’s election by playing the part in a rail splitter diorama.

He was elected town constable April 1, 1842, at the first Lisbon town meeting. His father, Arthur, was elected viewer of fences and overseer of highways.

Today the Redford name adorns Waukesha Avenue south of Lisbon Road to Busse Road by Highway JJ, all in the City of Pewaukee.

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