Living Room of the McFarland House
William Hugh McFarland was born in London, England in about 1820. McFarland immigrated to America at the age of 14. He eventually reached Milwaukee where he worked as a carpenter. He built the first boxcar used on the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad Company line, later named the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad. Company officials desired a station between Madison and Stoughton and proposed to McFarland that he should buy land, build a depot and become a salaried agent.
William McFarland did purchase 160 acres of government land and had County Surveyor William Hough plat the “Village of MacFarland” in 1856. (Eventually, it was changed to “McFarland” a spelling even William used later in life.) As he had agreed to do, William McFarland built a depot next to the railroad tracks. He retained 3 lots for himself to build an imposing 2½ story structure, the McFarland House, in 1857. William and his family lived on the first floor. The second floor provided temporary lodging for families arriving by train. The third floor was used over the years for dances with live music, weddings and church services.
This lobby display represents the McFarland family living room or parlor. The furniture actually came from the McFarland House and was made in about 1880. The melodian was ordered by William and came by rail in 1863.
William and his first wife Mary had no children. Mary died in 1879. Six months later, William married the widow Celia (aka Sela) Nelson and treated her five children as his own. All except her eldest daughter took the McFarland name and were raised in the McFarland House. William and Celia had sons Joe, Charles and William Jr. who died at age 10.
William and Celia donated land for the Methodist Church and the public school in McFarland. William was always deeply involved in the community that bore his name and was beloved and respected by his neighbors. William lived in his home to the age of 88, passing away in 1908. He was buried in the family plot in the cemetery across from McFarland Lutheran Church on Broadhead Street.