Just a coincidence? This story about our ancestor, Philo Belden, may have determined why I live in Racine instead of Rochester, Wisconsin.
"Rochester Mill 1842 to 1977

The first Gristmill in this territory was built in 1842 on the west shore of the Fox River in Rochester by Messrs. Philo Belden, Jeremiah Ford, and Timothy Green. The third mill building on that site which was ninety-three years old, was demolished this year (1977) to make room for new development. The original water wheel was built in England. Breakfast foods, flour and feed were stone ground at first.

The first mill burned in 1858 and was rebuilt the same year. To accommodate the business the four story wood building was built in 1884. This business existed until 1976 when the last owner, Mrs. Henry Davis, sold to Ray Kempken who, razed the building in 1977." From The Grassroots history of Racine County Racine County (Wis.). Historical Museum. page 249.

"J. I. Case Company

In its earliest years, Racine was engaged in trying to become a port on Lake Michigan. Its devoted citizens had cleared the river's mouth, which had been chocked with snags and roots, and had taxed themselves to dredge a channel through the sandbar and build a pier. By the 1840's. the tiny town, with a population of only 1,920, was in the process of becoming an ideal location for rising industry and, eventually, the state of Wisconsin's third largest city. It provided the waterpower one man needed to expand his soon-to-be agricultural manufacturing empire. That man was Jerome Increase Case.

Let's go back to the beginning, to the year 1842, when Case, at the age of twenty-three, was just setting forth on his way to becoming the Threshing Machine King of the United States.

Case was a student of agriculture. He read all the latest magazines, kept up with the latest innovations, and even attended an engineering school to develop his skills. He had read that the new Wisconsin territory was destined to become a major grain producer. He believed these reports and decided on a plan of action that was destined to make the name of J. I. Case a major influence in farm and construction machinery to the present day. Emigrating from Williamstown, New York, Case set out to devise a method to thresh and winnow wheat in a single operation. He came to Wisconsin and founded his threshing company in a little town called Rochester.

For two years. Case worked to improve a crude "ground hog" thresher he had brought with him in his travels. With the help of Richard Ela, a manufacturer of fanning mills, Case soon found a way to combine the threshing and fanning processes into a single machine that could not only beat out the kernels, but also separate them from the straw, delivering the cleaned grain into one place while blowing the straw chaff into a pile. In 1844, with the development of this new thresher, Case felt he was able to do a better threshing job than currently available. However, when he tried to set up a manufacturing facility, he was blocked by local Rochester merchants who controlled the water power. Without a word, Case packed his wagon and the next day was twenty miles to the east in Racine, Wisconsin." From The Grassroots history of Racine County Racine County (Wis.). Historical Museum. page 200.

"First Threshing Machine Made Here

The first J. I. Case threshing machine was made in Rochester. Glenn A. Aspinall has had several inquiries regarding the sieves or screens, made by his grandfather, the late Allen Aspinall, for the J. I. Case threshing machine. The first machines did not have sieves. These wire sieves were hand woven in 1855 and later, as several receipts for payment for same and signed by J. I. Case and are now in possession of the grandson.

One order called for several hundred feet of hand woven wire sieves, some 25 inches wide and others 22½ inches wide, made of No. 19 wire with three mesh to an inch.

The first Machine was made by J. I. Case in this village in a building located in the rear of the Cady house. At that time Mr. Case was a resident of Rochester and would have continued his manufacturing here had he been able to secure adequate accommodations for his business. He went to Racine from here. From the Burlington Standard Democrat, Friday, August 26, 1938

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