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Spring Prairie home part of the Underground Railroad

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Ginny Hall | July 18, 2014

The house on the Britten farm is located at W1248 Potter Road in the Town of Spring Prairie.

Marcus Reynolds Britten owned this farm when Joshua Glover was being hidden in this township in 1854, via the Underground Railroad, a series of havens to help slaves escape to freedom. The BuR SPUR Trail map indicates that this was the first place to which Glover was brought from Racine on his way into Canada.

This property also is linked to the Oster family, owners of the Oster Corporation, makers of the Oster blender.

Glover spent about four weeks in the Spring Prairie area. Generally, slaves were not kept in one place for many days because it tended to be safer to move them around.

Britten owned this land beginning in 1839 with an original purchase of 400 acres. He went back to Little Falls, New York and married Caroline Klock on Jan. 3, 1941. The Brittens returned to the property in 1841 where they had four children: Ellen, Almy, Riley T., and Agnes M.

Marcus Britten joined the Rochester Baptist Church and became a deacon. In 1843 he became an abolitionist. According to the 1882 History of Walworth County, he then became a member of the American or Anti-Secret Society party.  He opposed Freemasonry. 

The Britten ouse has been enlarged — you can visualize the original house by following the gable lines. Grover was housed in the section with the high gable.     

M. R. Britten is shown as the owner through the 1891 Plat Book. By then his farm is shown as 200 acres. In 1907 the owner is listed as E. Britton.

In 1921 the owner is shown as Jas. Vanetta; in 1930 the spelling was changed to James Van Etta. He kept the property until sometime in the 1940s. 

The 1948 through 1964  plat books show John Oster as the owner. From 1970 through the 1975, the property was owned by John Jr. & Robert Oster. The Oster family owned the Oster Corporation in Milwaukee, makers of a variety of electrical appliances. 

For many years this farm, “Ostaval”, was managed by Goodwin Jacobson and his wife, Catherine. They raised pure bred Brown Swiss cattle. I remember seeing these cattle at the Walworth County Fair for many years. Goody and his daughters would lead their animals complete with Swiss bells during the parade of champions.

In 1969 there was a dispersal sale of all of the dairy animals. They then raised veal animals and crops.

In 1977 through the 2002 books, the owner of this property was listed as Junior South Corp.  Some of the books list it as Junior South Corp. c/o Robert Oster. 

The 2004 book shows the owner as W. & W. Ventures, L.L.C. This ownership continues through the 2012 book.
 
Ginny Hall, a historian from Delavan, is author of the “Walking around ...” and “Meandering ... ” books, which highlight the history of Walworth County communities.
 



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