Date in History: 1830’s-40’s
One of Fort Atkinson’s earliest settlers was Charles Rockwell, a carpenter by trade who settled here in 1837. Like most pioneers, Rockwell first tried his hand at farming, claiming land along the Bark River. However, he soon transferred his land over to his brother and moved into the village of Koshkonong, now Fort Atkinson, to practice his craft.
Over these early years Rockwell built whatever the growing community of Fort Atkinson needed including the first coffin, the first store, the first school house and the first church in town. Rockwell also built the 1841 Foster House that now sits on museum grounds and the museum is fortunate to have his actual toolbox and the tools that he used to construct so much of early Fort Atkinson. Though all of his work is now gone, his name lives on at Rockwell Elementary School.
This historic document aired on the radio as an Historic Minute on 09/29/2003. The following similar biography aired as an Historic Minute on 04/19/2004.
Charles Rockwell grew up in upstate New York where he learned carpentry skills. In 1837, at the age of 27, he came to this area and claimed a section of land along the Bark River and built a one-room cabin. The next year he tacked on a little addition and stocked it with some good shipped to him by his brother back in New York and began the first commercial enterprise in the Fort Atkinson area.
Unfortunately, in 1841 when the land finally came on the market, Rockwell didn’t have enough money to enter his claim. So he moved into the little village of Fort Atkinson and took up carpentry – much to the benefit of our community. It was Rockwell who built, among other buildings, Fort Atkinson’s first store on Main Street, the first school house, and the first church. Given Rockwell’s skills, it is most appropriate that his name is memorialized on a building – Rockwell School.