Chapter 21
READ'S LANDING AND PEPIN TOWNSHIP
Pages 149 ~ 152



From the book
"HISTORY OF WABASHA COUNTY, MINNESOTA"
Compiled by Franklyn Curtiss-Wedge and Others
Published Winona, MN by H. C. Cooper, Jr., & Co., 1920
Republished Currently by Higginson Books



Read's Landing is one of the historic spots of the upper Mississippi Region. It has been a place of much importance, and is still a most beautiful and picturesque spot. The location is a delightful one and most admirably adapted for the purposes of early Indian trade. Above it the river broadens out into the beautiful waters of Lake Pepin, around whose shores the natives were wont to gather, and associated with whose waters and rocks are some of the most plaintive legends of the northwestern tribes. Just across from it is the mouth of the Chippewa River, down whose current the fur-laden canoes came in early days, only to be followed in later years by the rafts of the Wisconsin lumbermen, each raft the tribute of a forest. The village occupies a narrow strip along the river, at the base of the cliffs or bluffs which here rise, quite precipitous, almost from the rocky shore, leaving footing, however, for the business houses and dwellings of what was the most thriving town.


View of Reed's Landing

Brewery Creek is a small stream fed from springs in the ravine back of the village, and emptying into the Mississippi river just west of Riverview cemetery. It forms the boundary line between Reads and the corporate limits of the city of Wabasha, and during some of the floods that have poured down the sides of the bluffs, during the excessive rainfalls of this season, has been swollen to a destructive torrent. The most disastrous rise was that of July 21, 1883, when in a hour's time it overflowed its banks, flooded Burkhardt Brothers' brewery to a depth of eight feet, swept out as though it were brushwood the sold stone abutments of the bridge on the main road from Reads to Wabasha, and carried the solid granite block, weighing tons, rods down the stream, leaving scarcely a stone to mark the old foundations.

Read's Landing has a traditional history dating far back into the opening years of the ninteenth century. It is said that Joseph Rocque had a trading post here in 1800 or soon afterward. Edward Hudson established a post here in 1840. He died three years later. His widow married Lewis Rocque, tho, in 1847, sold to Charles R. Read.

Fordyce S. Richards came here in 1850 and established a trading post. Some five yuears later he built his storeroom and warehouse on the northwest corner of Water and Richards streets. This was a three-story building as seen from the levee, two stories from the street in front, and in this Mr. Richards did a very large business for years. The following season Knapp, Stout & Co., one of the heavy lumber firms of the Chippewa Valley, built their store and warerooms on the west of Richards', adjoining, and so business multiplied. Prior to this, in 1854, a hotel was built, and later the Bullard House was erected, which from 1859 to 1865 was known as the best hotel on the river. In 1863 the storage and commission house of Charles Nunn was established. Helmick & Warszawski followed, with others, until at the close of the war there were few points of its size on the Upper Mississippi River where so thriving a trade was carried on as at Read's Landing.

The river at Read's was the meeting-place of those hereditary foes the Chippewas and the Sioux, and to their mutual hate was often added a common enmity against their white neighbors, whose presence on both sides of the river was frequently resented. The old settlers still tell an interesting story illustrative of this: Late in November, 1856, two white men, Sam Sutton and Jerry Landerigan, were paddling down the river in a canoe past Nelson's Landing, where a party of whites, half-breeds and natives were sitting near the shore. Among the bucks was the son of old Ironcloud, second chief of Wacutah's band. Young Ironcloud had for some time aspired to the honors of chieftainship, and on being taunted by the young men of his tribe with having done nothing to deserve such distinction, had declared he would shoot the first white man or Chippewa he met. The present seemed a fitting occasion to display his prowess, and remarking that he wondered if his gun would carry that far, drew bead on the men in the boat and shot them both. Sam Sutton was mortally wounded, surviving, however, about twenty-four hours. Jerry Landerigan was severely wounded in the breast, but recovered after being laid up several months. Wahshechah-Soppah, known by the English name of John Walker, was in the company with young Ironcloud, and immediately crossing the river to Read's Lading, gave information of the affair. As both the wounded men resided at Read's the excitement was intense. Sutton had made his home at Charlie Read's for more than a year, his principal occupation being the manufacture of ox-bows for the lumbermen in the pineries. Landerigan had recently come to the landing. It was not considered prudent to allow the matter to pass, as young Ironcloud was known to be a dangerous character. A party was soon started across the river who captured the murderer and brought him to Read's for trial. He was arraigned before Justice Richards, but the justice was powerless in the case, the crime having been committed in another territory. To obviate this difficulty resort was had to Indian law. The culprit, of whose identity there was not the smallest doubt, was quietly escorted to the place from whence he came by a band of determined whites, led by Charles R. Read, and was there lynched. The squaws tracked the party by their imprint in the snow, and the next day cutting down young Ironcloud's body, brought it across the river and buried it. The snow lay deep upon the ground at the time. The margin of the river was frozen on either side, the current in the main channel only open. Wrapping the body in blankets, the squaws tied a rope around the feet and dragged it to the margin of the stream, placed it in a canoe and brought it over to the Minnsota shore. A ball was in progress at Read's Landing the evening of the lynching, and the excitement was most intense among the young people there assembled, many of whom had only that summer come to the county, and were totally unused to such scenes of blood, or to such a summary mode of dealing with a murderer.

Read's achieved its first importance as a convenient point for the fur traders. Next it became a steamboat point of wide fame. In the steamboat days of the fifties and sixties, the period of about two weeks in the early spring between the opening of the Mississippi River and the opening of Lake Pepin, changed the hamlet into an active metropolis.

The steamers arriving from below, a score or so in number, loaded with north-bound passengers, were impatiently awaiting the opening of the lake. The crews had no better business on hand than to make the most of their time on shore, and the passengers, those of them who did not take stage northward, only served to swell the tide of impatient discontent. Bets would accumulate, and money was freely wagered daily on the question of an opened or closed lake within a given period. Burbank's stage route, which connected La Cross with St. Paul during the winter season, was fully utilized at this season by those desirous of making their was northward for opening navigation, without delay; and as the rattling vehicles clattered over the gravel and cobble-stones with which the streets of Read's are so plentifully sprinkled, the little town took on an appearance of active business.

The building of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway along the Mississippi in 1871 robbed Read's of its importance as a steamboat center. It still continued a busy place as a center of supplies for the lumbermen of the Chippewa Valley, but this business was taken away by the building of the Chippewa Division in 1882. For many years the town was a favorite resort for lumber jacks, and many scenes of violence and lawlessness were staged on the streets, but in time this trade was also diverted to other points.

It was during the season of Read' greatest prosperity, before the opening of the railway to Eau Claire, that the incorporation of the village was deemed advisable by th einhabitants of the little big trading and freighting post, and steps accordingly taken to accomplis that object. This incorporation was effected under an act of the state legislature approved March 5, 1868, and the election to fill the various offices created by said act was held on the second day of the following month, April 1, 1868. The officers to be elected were five trustees, one clerk, one treasurer, one marshal, one justice of the peace and one assessor. The judges of election were: J. Sauer, C. R. Read and Wm. B. Haines; the clerks were: P. B. Cline and Claude R. Haines. The highest number of votes cast was for the office of trustee, ninety-seven being polled. The successful candidates were ~ trustees: F. S. Richards (president), D. W. Wilson, Joe Dieterich, Jacob Sauer, Christ. Neihardt; clerk, Joseph Warszawski; treasurer, B. Brass; marshall, Wm. F. Clock; justice of the peace, Wm. B. Haines; assessor, Chas. Hornbogen. After several years of municipal government the incorporation was abandoned, and the hamlet merged in its original affiliation with Pepin Township.

Methodist Episcopal Church. ~ The planting of the church in this place was a proceeding of no small difficulty, and it was more than a decade after the first attempts were made before the seed had germinated sufficiently to predicate a fact of life in the case at all. As Read's Landing and Wabasha have always been connected for church purposes, save during those years from 1856 to 1866, in which it does not appear that Read's Landing was eve thought of in connection with the religious work of the Wabasha circuit, with which from 1854 to 1856 it was connected as a missionary station. In 1857, by vote of a quarterly conference held at Wabasha for the Lake City and Wabasha circuits of the Red Wing district, it was decided that the Wabasha circuit should include Wabasha, Read's Landing and Cook's Valley, but there is no record of any services at Read's, nor, as before said, is there authentic account of further work there until 1866. The importance attached to Read's at this time may be inferred from the fact that in the fall of this year, when the annual estimates for minister's salary were made up, it was hoped that a deficiency of seventeen dollars, remaining after other apportionments had been allotted, might be supplied by Read's. Whether this modest hope was realized or not, does not appear from the record, and in fact for ensuing two years no promise of life appeared for Church organization at Read's. Its life as a lumber depot, and center of rafting operations, called together the wrong class of people for any very marked interest in church work. Exceptions of necessity there were, but so little hold had all attempts hitherto made taken upon the life of the place, that at this time the church had neither class nor organization of any kind, nor did it have for the ensuing two years. In 1868 Rev. S. G. Gale was transferred from the New York East conference to the Minnesota conference, and appointed to the Wabasha and Read's Landing circuit. His salary was fixed at eight hundred dollars, six hundred and fifty dollars of which to be paid by the churches, the remaining one hundred and fifty dollars from the missionary fund. In the following winter, 1868-69, Rev. Gale entered vigorously upon his work of building up a church at Read's, as the village incorporated the previous spring was called. A series of meetings was held with gratifying success, and steps taken to build a church. A lot was secured in a central location, one street back from the main business street of the village, and on this property, the gift of some generous-hearted Christian whose name is not recorded, a comfortable frame church, 30 by 60, with spire and bell, was erected. The original board of trustees, incorporated according to state law and church usage were: W. W. Slocum, B. G. Welch, W. W. Cassady, W. B. James, S. Bullard, Geo. J. J. Crichton, W. F. Kennicott, Daniel Dansion and Franklin Berins. Rev. W. C. Rice was pastor of the church from the fall of 1869 to 1870. Rev. B. Y. Coffin was his successor, and in the fall of 1871, Rev. S. G. Gale was reappointed. During this, his second pastorate, a substantial frame parsonage was erected on the lot adjoining the church on the east, commanding a pleasant view of the river and the Wisconsin bluffs. Rev. Gale remained two years, leaving behind him as monuments of his three years' ministry, a commodious church, a comfortable parsonage and a flourishing "class." Other early pastors were: Revs. W. C. Shaw, M. O. M'Niff, W. H. Soule, James Door, W. A. Miles and D. J. Higgins.

PEPIN TOWNSHIP

Pepin Township is a fractional township lying along the shores of Lake Pepin and the Mississippi River. Pepin Township is virtually a ridge or narrow tableland, lying between the Mississippi river and the Zumbro, at an elevation of from three hundred feet to five hundred feet above the level of the Mississippi river. This tableland breaks off abruptly on the north or lake side, but descends more gradually on the south toward the valley of the Zumbro; but this southern declension does not begin within the limits of Pepin Township, so that the high character of the ground is preserved to its extreme southern limit. The surface of this tableland is quite rolling, at times even broken, but all lies elevated, and is, with the exceptions of some ravines jutting up from the lake, of tillable character. There are no streams crossing the face of the township, though a small one, in which water is found running at nearly all seasons of the spring, summer and fall, empties into the lake near the north-eastern corner of the township, through the ravine technically known as King's cooley. There are two of the "cooleys" within the limits of Pepin township ~ Kint's cooley in the northeast, and Smith's cooley in the southwest. Through both of these the water rushes, an impetuous torrent, after copious rains, or when the deep snows, lingering late on the uplands are suddenly melted by the ascending sun of late spring, but at other times they are dry, and in Smith's cooley for most of the time no water is found running.

The soil of Pepin Township is a friable clay, yellowish in color, and with a very slight admixture of sand. It was originally covered with scrub oak.

The first claims outside of Read's Landing were taken in the middle fifties, but the first permanent settlers outside the village did not come until 1859. They were Henry Schmauss and Ben Lager. Henry Schmauss settled on the northwest quarter of section 30, buying out the original claimant. Ben Lager settled on the northwest quarter of section 238, Also buying out the original claimant. In after years he said that in 1859 there were not more than fifty acres of ground broken on the ridge between Schmauss' and Read's Landing, which is virtually to say there was not more than that amount under cultivation in the entire township. The fact that the elevation above the lake was high, no streams affording water for stock, and the situation naturally exposed to the wind, seemed to overbalance the considerations of productiveness of soil and nearness to market, to such an extent that the lower-lying and well watered valleys of the interior of the county were settled from four to five years before Pepin was really taken for farming purposes.

The formal organization of Pepin Township was effected in common with that of the other townships in the county, May 11, 1858. This meeting of the electors of the township for the purpose of formal organization was held in the hamlet of Read's Landing, at the office of S. A. Kemp.

End of Chapter



The Sea Wing Disaster
Lake Pepin on "River Roads"
Reconstructing Lake Pepin's Natural History