Madison's Past


Public Programs

Historical Research



Order Form

Site Map


only search HMI

Roseline Peck

Roseline Peck (1874)

Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID: WHi-3941

First Children

The first children born in Madison after it was named the territorial capital of Wisconsin were Wisconsiana Victoria Peck and James Madison Stoner.

In April 1837 Eben and Roseline Peck and their three-year old son Victor came to Madison from Blue Mounds to operate a tavern and boarding house for the workers who were to build the first Capitol. On September 14, 1837, Roseline’s daughter was born in the tavern. A week later Madison’s founder, James Duane Doty, and Charles Sholes arrived from Green Bay with money to pay the Capitol workers. Learning of Roseline’s new child, Doty ordered the table in the tavern filled with wine and threw a party. He then named the girl Wisconsiana after the new territory. Simeon Mills suggested Victoria as a middle name, after the Pecks’ son Victor and to honor the new queen of England, who had come to the throne only a few weeks earlier. Roseline accepted the name, but thereafter called her daughter Victoria.

Three years later, after leaving the tavern business, the Pecks moved to Baraboo, becoming the first residents of that community, where they farmed. In 1844 Eben went West and was never seen again. Some said he was killed by Indians on the plains, some that he abandoned his family. At any rate, Roseline raised her two children alone. Victoria claimed that Eben wrote three letters from California, where he was in the honey business, asking if he could return, but each time Roseline said no.

Victoria married twice, first Baraboo lawyer Nels Wheeler, then, in 1899, after Nels’ death, A. S. Hawley, a cement contractor who was 20 years younger. She had no children. She died in 1922 and was buried at Baraboo.

The John Stoner family arrived in Madison in September 1837. As related by a son, George Washington Stoner in the Wisconsin State Journal on June 18, 1885:

“For a number of days after our arrival we camped in the woods, now on the avenue between the post office and city hall, where we were fortunate enough to rent a room ten by twelve feet in a cabin nearby at $20 per month. But as we could not afford to indulge in this expensive luxury, a home was purchased down in the marsh near Fourth Lake. It was a mere shell of a house, built by a Frenchman named Merschel, and comprised nothing but the bare logs laid up in the rough, an oak stave roof badly warped, without a floor, door, window or fireplace, for which the sum of $200 in silver was paid. Here in this rudely constructed domicile, during a raging snowstorm, which prevailed about as bad inside as it did outside, on the night of December 19, 1837, the first white male child was born, and he wasn’t so very white either! The next morning Simeon Mills came down bright and early and with emotions of rapture and delight, declared the newcomer must be named Madison.”

John Stoner founded the second farm in Dane County on what became known as Stoner’s Prairie south of Madison. James grew up helping on the farm. In 1860 he went west with Madison doctor Andrew J. Ward to Pike’s Peak, seeking gold. That winter he went south to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, returning to Colorado in February 1861. One of Colorado’s pioneers, he lived there most of his life, returning to Madison destitute in the summer of 1911. That fall citizens raised money to put him in the old people’s home in the town of Burke. Later he was moved to the county poor farm at Verona where he died on November 11, 1921, penniless and without a friend.

“Without ceremony of any kind, either at the church or at the cemetery, and accompanied by no relatives or friends, James Madison Stoner… was laid to rest in Forest Hill Cemetery in the lot of his father. It was only through the intervention of Emil J. Frautschi, undertaker, that Stoner was not buried on the poor farm.” Only Frautschi and the gravedigger attended the ceremony. Although James was buried in the family plot, his grave is unmarked to this day.

Mark Gajewski