The Village of Merton in the early 1800’s was populated mainly by the Potawatomi or Chippewa Indians. An encampment located in now the Bark River Estates, which was John Mitchell’s farm. The farm was then inherited by William Kuntz, the son of John Mitchell. The encampment is located on the top of the hill on the south side of the Bark River. The Immigrant Trail and Indian Trail intersected about ½ mile west of the encampment. Mr. Kuntz had collected many artifacts when he would plow the farm for planting. The historian has received some of the arrowheads collected by Mr. Kuntz and donated by Granddaughter K. Davis. These will be on display when we move into the Community Center. Many stories were told about the Indians that lived here. Grandma Mahoney told of times she would play with the children. Tom Nelson’s Grandma Kate White remembered and told stories about the Indians. The encampment is still here and has been cleaned up for all to see. In 2005 a young scout from Sussex needed a project to complete his Eagle Scout, so Dave Canada proceeded to clean out the area, he marked the area. There is a state historical marker at this sight. The Mitchell and Kuntz families will be discussed in later issues of this history update.
This information came from Newspaper clippings and family members.
In 1840 the Village of Merton was established with the first home made of logs was built at the crossing of Immigrant trail and the Indian trail, located on the south side of the Bark River approximately one quarter of a mile west of the Indian encampment. This encampment is still visible today thanks to the assistance of Eagle Scout Dave Canada, who cleaned the pathway to the encampment and cleared the mound to allow a better view. He then placed signage to the encampment for all to view. This project was completed in 2005.
On July 28, 1840 William and his son Austin staked claims south of the Bark River and purchased 80 acres for $200.00 which was paid in full. Making our first settlers Mr. William and wife Harriet O’Dell who then built the first log cabin at the intersection of the Immigrant Trail and Indian Trail being only about ½ mile west on the Indian Encampment. William and his wife came from Manchester Vermont, to Perry New York then after the War of 1812, which William had served in, the family moved westward down the Erie to Milwaukee. People moving on foot went quite slowly, as stated in the Peoples Press of Batavia New York, travelers could cover about 140 miles a day of foot. Going down the Erie Canal finished in 1825, the boats would make traveling safer and faster. William and Harriet were married in 1794 and had 8 children before arriving in Merton, most of which were married or had died before this time.
William found himself to be very active as one of sixteen new Waukesha County Board members in 1846. He represented the Town of Warren, soon to be changed to the Town of Merton. When the Town of Merton name was changed a new post office was opened where William became the first post master. Sadly on Sept. 6, 1847, Harriet was stricken by palsy and crippled for 5 yrs and 4 mo. until she died.
In 1848 William remarried, then sold his land and moved to Blue Mounds, WI. In 1854 his second wife Doretta O’Dell died and William remarried the third time. In 1879 William O’Dell died at 88 years of age, being one of the oldest settlers in Wisconsin. He died in Okee, Mt. Pleasant in Lodi, WI.
This information was provided by Mrs. Rachel Levine Gr. Gr. Gr. Granddaughter of William and Harriet O’Dell from Fairbanks, Alaska
Arriving to this area in 1838 as one of our pioneers found that in 1840 Martin H Molster was the first death to occur in the Town of Merton. The Molster farm was located on EF then the Town of Merton which was annexed in the late 1950’s to the Village of Merton.
Some of the blazing pioneers of the Village of Merton to be highlighted in this section will be John Cadby-Jonathon Finch-Henry and William Kuntz- LM Moore-Henry Shears-Phillip Schneider-Peter Weeks-