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Dunn County History

Early Days in the Chippewa Valley by Charles Smith Bundy (1831-1928)

Early Life Among the Indians

Eau Galle History

Extracts from the Menomonie Times, Feb. 10, 1882

Extracts from the Menomonie Times, Feb. 17, 1882

History of Northern Wisconsin - Dunn County

History of Knapp-Stout Company, Part 1

History of Knapp-Stout Company, Part 2

History of Vanceburg

Knapp-Stout Company Founders


John Marshall Johnson, Civil War Veteran

Whistler Family - Connorsville

Hedlund Family


From “History of Northern Wisconsin, An Account of Its Settlement, Growth, Development and Resources; an Extensive Sketch of its Counties, Cities, Towns and Villages.” Volume 1. Chicago: the Western Historical Company, A. T. Andreas, Proprietor, 1881.

Location and Resources

[p. 272] On February 19, 1854, Dunn County was created out of Chippewa County with the county seat at Dunnville.  The county was named for Charles Dunn, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin Territory. Dunn had been appointed by Pres. Andrew Jackson in 1835.  

Several parties, presuming on the growth of a shire town in a new county, at once invested in Dunnville property. But its rival up the river, nearer the center of the county, had other views, and under legal provisions for a vote of the people, a large majority, in 1859, designated Menomonie, which had just been laid out, as the future headquarters for the county.

The county has Barron on the north, Chippewa and Eau Claire on the east, Pepin on the south and Pierce and St. Croix on the west.

It is six tiers of government townships in length, from north to south, and four wide, from east to west. The Chippewa River meanders across the southeast corner, forming the northern boundary of the towns of Peru and Rock Creek.  The county is remarkably well watered, the Red Cedar coming into the county by two branches from the north, the west branch being the Hay River, and uniting in the town of Tainter, near the center of the county, finds its way in a southerly direction to the Chippewa. The Eau Galle runs across the southwestern corner of the county, through the towns of West and Eau Galle. The Chippewa is navigable for small steamers, the Red Cedar and Eau Galle for rafts only,. These streams, with their numerous tributaries, furnish log-driving facilities and a large number of water-powers, many of which are still unimproved. Saw-mills, flouring mills and other manufacturing establishments are, however, springing up all over the county, opening new fields for labor and capital, and furnishing a permanent home market for the productions of forest, farm and garden.

Lumbering is yet, and must be for years, the leading manufacturing interest. Every man able to work can find steady employment in the pineries, on the river, or at the mills. The immigrant who has at first to depend upon his hands, will find this a favorable place to locate, for his services will be in instant demand; and the skilled mechanic and manufacturer will here have an opportunity to turn their attention to other industries, the development of which will prove  remunerative.

The wealth stored up in the hardwood forests of the western half of the county is almost untouched, and awaits energy and enterprise. In addition to the pine, there is oak, maple, ash, elm, basswood and butternut, of the best quality, and in great profusions, inviting the industrious mechanic with certain promise of rich rewards.

Stave mills, hub and spoke factories, manufacturers of furniture, agricultural implements, wagons, sleighs, etc., will find here material and never-failing waterpower. Woolen mills would find a home market for their products.

A streak of limestone runs through a part of the county. Clay banks, with brick-making qualities, are numerous, but little developed. Sandstone quarries abound, and, with the lumber, constitute building material at once cheap and accessible.

The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway runs through the middle of the county, from east to west, with a branch down to Menomonie, so that a dozen hours ride takes one to Chicago, or a few hours to St. Paul. Other roads are projected.

No more healthful climate can be found. The atmosphere is clear and dry, and the general healthfulness most remarkable.

Fish and game abound in great variety. Pike, pickerel, bass and speckled trout are the most common fish. Bear, deer, squirrel, pheasant, prairie chicken, grouse, wild geese, ducks, and other desirable game, are here to tempt the hunter and sportsman. And the trapper can secure the beaver, otter, mink, muskrat, and other fur-bearing animals.

Considering all the points, there is no place in the Northwest with more varied inducements to the home-seeker than Dunn County. The county has 24 government townships, with a total area of 552,960 acres. The eastern portion is mostly prairie and light openings and some marsh land, which makes fine meadows. It is, as a rule, quite level, and has an easily worked and productive soil. The western portion is more rolling and covered almost entirely with extensive forests, with excellent soil, producing splendid crops. Winter wheat is a profitable cereal, producing from 20 to 40 bushes to the acre.  Oats, rye, corn and potatoes particularly are fine.

Today (1881) there is probably not 100,000 acres under cultivation in the whole county. About 200,000 acres are owned by actual settlers, and the price of land in these farms is about $8 an acre.

There are still some sections in the northern part of the county subject to homestead entry. Considerable timber land, where it has been denuded of pine, has been suffered to lapse into the possession of the State, to prevent taxation. Thousands of acres are owned by the mammoth lumber firms, and what will be the final disposition of these lands will depend upon the character of the future owners of the property.

This county, like some of its neighbors, is not a very fruitful field for the student of geology.  This is especially so in the department of paleontology, as the number of different fossils is very limited. This region lies near the southern border of the first continent which was lifted from the ocean's bed. It extended from Labrador southwest along the margin of the St. Lawrence and the great lakes, and crossed into [p. 273] Michigan and Wisconsin, and thence northwest to McKenzie's River. As this land gradually neared the surface with an ever-advancing shore, it was subject to the action of the waves, the heat and cold, and all the vicissitudes of that tempestuous period, and the disintegration of the rock-bound coast followed, pulverizing the formation and forming numerous beds and drifts.  In the process of time, these became cemented and indurated, and the rock produced we call Potsdam sandstone, because it was first studied at the village of that name. That this rock was formed by the disintegration of an older rock, by aqueous action, is shown by the ripple marks everywhere seen on this formation, and that it was comparatively early in the history of the rocks, is gathered from the fact that so few animal remains exist in it, and those of a simple form. The trilobites are quite numerous, and two varieties of lingula--only three fossils in the rocks found here. While the water over this section was comparatively shallow, innumerable icebergs, crowded into the ocean by glacial action, and holding in their frigid embrace the boulders and other material, called the drift, accumulated in a more northern region, deposited their debris, as they malted, which accounts for this formation that is found so generally distributed here.

The county now is at an altitude of 1,000 feet above the level of the sea, in its highest part.  All the indications show that, while what are called the coal measures were forming, all this region was above the sea, but long years afterwards it sunk to receive other deposits. Above the drift alluded to, the sandstone crops out wherever they have been denuded by water. At the various falls, so numerous in the county, the sandstone rock is visible, and the wearing action of the river is plainly seen.  Ledges, thus exposed, are visible along the Chippewa, Red Cedar, Wilson's and Gilbert's creeks, as well as on other branches. The Niagara limestone, so extensive lower down in the State, runs through the southern part of the county only, in a narrow strip, appearing above the glacial drift in the towns of Sherman, Eau Galle and Lucas. No veins of copper or iron, or other metals are found in the county, and prospecting for valuable metals or for coal will be a hopeless task; for the conditions which must exist for a successful deposition of metallic treasure, were wanting here, and if stray fragments of copper, or gold, or silver are found, they come from a distance, the result of glacial action, and no time or money should be expanded in a local search for the mine. The most valuable treasures locked up in the soil of the county will be discovered by the agriculturist in the vegetable, and not in the mineral kingdom.

In the Summer of 1875, Mr. A. MacKnight, at his place near Hay River bridge, while digging a well, found twenty feet below the surface, a white oak floor, 5 inches thick, and 2 feet lower down another similar floor, and under this was found, quite well preserved, four human skulls, four stone axes, a like number of spear heads, stone pipes and earthen kettles. No solution as to the problem of how these relics were deposited has been found, and what else might have been unearthed by further explorations, is unknown. Sometime in 1877, a small slab of sandstone was found near the village, inscribed as follows: "J.S.W., April 15, 1771."  Of course, there is no way of determining whether this was a Pickwickian relic or otherwise.  Occasional metallic or other stray fragments of natural or artificial construction are found. But as a rule, Dunn County is not a fruitful field for antiquarian search.

Settlement and Growth

There will ever be some uncertainty as to when the magnificent pineries of the Red Cedar River were first visited by white people. It is highly probable that the lumber used for building the shanties occupied by the old French settlers in Prairie du Chien, called Fort Crawford afterwards, was obtained here a century or more ago, for there were found several saw pits by the early settlers, where considerable lumber had evidently been sawed by hand.

It is certain that the American Fur Company, in 1820, sent sawyers into this part of the country to procure lumber for the use of their trading posts down the Mississippi. In 1822, Hardin Perkins, from Kentucky, began the construction of a mill on the Red Cedar, and when it was about completed, a freshet carried it down the river. The Indians made demonstrative threats concerning a renewal of the attempt, and so the undertaking was abandoned. Some time in 1827, James H. Lockwood, an Indian fur trader, visited the site of the mill in company with an expedition from Fort Crawford, and seeing the value of the timber and the natural facilities for its manufacture and conveyance to market, he returned and obtained the cooperation of Gen. Street of the United States Army. They obtained a permit from the great Sioux Chief, Wabashaw, and also from the chiefs of the Chippewas, who claimed the lands up the Red Cedar, to build a saw mill, cut pine timber and occupy a certain amount of land, in consideration of so much merchandise, blankets, beads, whiskey and other specified articles, to be delivered--a part of what is no Winona for Wabashaw, and the rest at the mills for the Chippewas.

Government sanction to this arrangement was also obtained. This was in 1828, and an expedition was soon fitted out and propelled up the river from Prairie du Chien. A mill was erected on Wilson's Creek, a short distance from the Red Cedar which was too large a stream, and required too much capital to be handled by the limited means of that firm. This was the first mill put in operation in the valley of the Chippewa, and it has practically been running ever since. We can only realize how far these men were in the wilderness when we are reminded that at that time all the territory now comprising the States of Iowa, Minnesota, nearly all of Wisconsin and Michigan, the northern half of Illinois and parts of Indiana and Ohio, were claimed and held by various Indian tribes.

At that time there were military posts at Green Bay, Rock Island, Prairie du Chien and Chicago. As to the men who were employed in the construction of the mills, to boat the supplies, serve as operatives, and raft the lumber, they were composed of discharged soldiers to a great extent, with a certain number of French Canadians, who were river men, and were called voyageurs. They were a hardy race and making a virtue of necessity, in the absence of more congenial companions -- and sometimes following the [p. 274] example of their employers -- took to themselves the unwashed and uncombed daughters of the forest, not unfrequently, however, setting them adrift when their pale-faced sisters dawned upon the scene. As these squaws would, of necessity, be compelled to some habits of cleanliness, and to learn housekeeping methods unknown in the miserable wigwams of the unkempt native, they became in instant demand by the chiefs and braves, and the schooling thus received was most valuable to them, as well as to the families they subsequently entered.

The superintendent of the business of Street & Lockwood was George Wales, an ex-lieutenant of the regular army. As the business prospered. Mr. Wales built for the firm another mill on Gilbert's Creek, a mile or so further up the stream. After these mills were in operation, the American Government, having resolved to rebuild Fort Crawford, which had been occupied by the British during the war of 1812, sent a Lieut. Davis, with others, up the Red Cedar for lumber. The story, as told by the old settlers is that this was the redoubtable Jeff. Davis, which is probably true, as Davis was located at the Fort.

The lumber for Fort Crawford was cut at the mill and sent down to the Chippewa in cribs, where it was united into a raft, with an experienced voyageur as pilot, who safely guided it past the quicksands and bars of the upper stream. When near the head of Beef Slough, the old Frenchman gave the order, "to se right hard!" "Here, you scoundrel," said the dapper little West Pointer; "you'll run this raft right to Hell. I tell you, to the left, where the main channel is!" The men obeyed the last order, and the channel being completely blocked there, the whole raft was lost in Beef Slough, and we can easily imagine that Davis, when he got back to the fort, wrote a book to attach the blame to somebody else.

The mills kept on running during the season, and a supply of logs would be put in during the Winter. They were, however, so convenient that logging operations did not require the expense of camping equipage and long hauls, that each succeeding year made more imperative. The operations were unmolested by the Indians, who could dispose of their furs and berries for luxuries to them previously unknown. There were occasional scares, caused by some savage demonstrations or personal encounter; but misunderstandings were generally amicably arranged.

In the year 1832, Mr. H.S. Allen, who had come West from his native State of Vermont, to Galena, the largest city in the then Northwest, turned his attention to the Chippewa lumber region, going up the river as far as the Falls of the Chippewa, but located finally at Menomonie, where he engaged in getting out square timber and logs, soon, however, discovering that without booms to secure the logs, they must be sawed into lumber here. In 1835, Mr. Allen bought an interest in the Street & Lockwood mills, and in 1837, the company built another mill. Mr. Allen put his good business qualities, his energy and perseverance, all imbued with a public spirit, into the business, and in 1839, he bought the whole interest of Street & Lockwood, and associated with him G.S. Branham. In 1844, Mr. Green purchased the upper mill. The middle mill was sold to Samuel Gilbert & Son in 1846.

Meantime, Capt. George Wales built a mill on the Eau Galle, taking Capt. Dix, a millwright, into company, with Thomas Savage. This was in 1828-9. As this mill went into operation, two enterprising young men, one from Canada and the other from New England, William Carson and Henry Eaton, put in an appearance on the lower Eau Galle, and began, in a small way, to shave shingles and get out square timber. By hard knocks and a rigid economy, the business was remunerative. This firm, by using the finest timber and somewhat interfering with getting down lumber from the upper mills, seriously annoyed the Eau Galle Lumber Company, although that firm had no exclusive right to any thing, except their own mill property and improvements, and notwithstanding the pressure to induce them to leave, they kept on for several years. The company finally sold an interest in the mill to Carson & Eaton. The withdrawal of Savage and Dix soon afterward, left a strong firm in the name of Carson, Eaton & Wales. Capt. Wales had his wife here, although he spent most of his time below, selling lumber, and is said to have involved the firm in financial embarrassment. At all events, there was considerable gossip connected with the affair, and he retired from the concern, while diverse opinions prevailed as to the merits of the case. About 1840, a Mr. Lamb, an old soldier who freely patronized his canteen, came to Dunnville, which was considered a valuable location, and built the first house there. It soon became a noted tavern. He married Margaret De Marie, at the Falls. His lack of business habits made a failure of his attempt to supply the wants of the public, and he sold his place to Arthur McCann, who had just married Rosalie De Marie. The three McCanns, Stephen, Arthur and Daniel, came upon the Chippewa in 1840. In 1843, Arthur, in company with J.D. Thomas, built the Blue Mill below the Falls. He was killed by a man named Sawyer, and his tavern was occupied by Philo Stone, while Rosalie went home and subsequently married George P. Warren, the first Chairman of the Board of Supervisors at the Falls, and a Chippewa interpreter.

Philo Stone had a full-blooded Chippewa squaw for a wife, who got along quite well as a hotel housekeeper.

A mill was built, in 1839, by Mr. Allen on the west side of the Red Cedar, some two miles below Gilbert's Creek, making three mills run by him at that time. This mill was rebuilt in 1841, and about that time the lower, or Spring Creek mill was sold to Stephen McCann. Simon and George Randall, who figure largely in the early settlement of Eau Claire, first worked in this mill.  In 1843, this mill was burned, and the loss fell upon Mr. Allen.

In 1841, the mill on Wilson's Creek was sold to Mr. Green, and soon turned over to Mr. Pearson, who began the erection of a dam across the Menomonie, but his means were inadequate, and he finally sold out to an old gentleman named David Black.

Such was the condition of affairs when Capt. William Wilson, of Fort Madison, Iowa, made an exploring [p. 275] tour through the county to find a location. He came up the Mississippi in a steamboat to Nelson's Landing, and meeting Mr. Branham, he learned that openings were plenty on the Red Cedar, and came up with him on foot. Capt. Wilson was rich in ambition, energy and hope, supplemented by health and vigor, but had little money. Learning that an interest in Black's mill was for sale, he made an exploration up the river in a canoe, with a single Indian as a guide, going fifty miles to learn how the pine would hold out, and of course he was more than satisfied on the supply question. He determined, if possible, to obtain an interest in that mill. He at once returned to Fort Madison, and induced John H. Knapp, a young man just from an eastern college, who had some money, to look into the project, which was so enthusiastically described by the Captain, that Mr. Knapp returned with him, and finding the prospect satisfactory, they returned down the river. They bought a half interest in the property. Mr. Black soon after died, and the property was in the possession of Knapp & Wilson.

As soon as arrangements could be made, Capt. Wilson, his wife and four children, with Jason Ball and wife, made the trip to their new home, going up the Chippewa and Red Cedar in a keel-boat. Three weeks after this, Mr. Knapp came up in  like manner, working at the poles or tiler the whole distance. Mr. and Mrs. Lorenzo Bullard also came up on this boat with their son Eugene. They had been employed to keep the boarding-house. Mrs. Clair and son, who had been engaged as help, came also at that time.

The firm name was at first Knapp & Black, but after a settlement with the administrator of Mr. Black's estate, Mr. J.S. Lockwood, of Prairie du Chien, the firm name was Knapp & Wilson. In September 1850, Capt. Andrew Tainter became a partner. The firm was then known as Knapp, Tainter & Co. Soon after the admission of Capt. Tainter, a new mill was erected, comprising two gang saws and two rotaries.

In 1853, H. L. Stout, a man of some means, bought an interest in the property, and the firm then took the name of Knapp, Stout & Co. Previous to this time, however, Capt. Downs, their millwright, held an interest in the mills for one and one half years, but it was afterwards sold back. J.B. Wilson, of Read's Landing, also had an interest in the firm. It is understood that the whole amount paid Mr. Black and his heirs was $4,000.

Such was the success of this firm in the lumbering business, that ten years afterwards the property was worth $500,000, and in March, 1878, the company was incorporated with a paid up capital of $2,000,000.

In 1850, as already stated, Capt. Andrew Tainter, who had been with the company since its early struggles, as foreman, in charge of the boating, rafting lumber in the Summer, and organizing and superintending logging camps in the Winter, and log-driving in the Spring; and whose energy, decision, industry and fidelity had contributed largely to the success of the firm, was offered a one-fourth interest in the rapidly accumulating property. on very favorable terms, which were of course accepted, and he has since been an honored member of the firm.

The present condition and late operations of the company will be described under the head of manufacturing interests of the county.

To return to the earlier period in the history of the Red Cedar Settlement. Soon after Wilson and Knapp came up, Blois Hurd, a millwright, brought his wife to reside at Gilbert's Mill, three miles below; and for some time she was the only white woman there. The lady is described as being refined, beautiful and intelligent.

Other families gradually came in, and social affairs began to assume form. Mrs. Clair, the charming widow, who came up as housekeeper with Mr. Knapp, was married by Esquire Bass, who came down from the Falls for the express purpose, to William Whitcomb.

The next marriage was that of Thomas Piercewell and Margaret Scott. The want of a civil magistrate to sanction the union was provided for by a mutual contract duly signed and witnessed. Even as late as 1855, when S.B. French was married to Virginia Bullard, Capt. Wilson, in the kindness of his heart, went to Hudson and brought the Rev. Mr. Thayer to perform the wedding ceremony.

Those were indeed primitive times; a single piece of calico would make the best dress for every woman in the place; the mournful tale of "nothing to wear" was never heard by the husbands and fathers of that period. The dry goods side of the store could be carried off in a wheelbarrow, and the grocery department was exceedingly limited in variety. The staple articles were whiskey, pork, flour and beans. If with a dozen barrels of whiskey there came two or three barrels of flour, the question was, "what in the dickens is to be done with so much flour?"

For some time the nearest post-office was Prairie du Chien, which was the capital of Crawford County, which embraced the whole northwestern part of the State.

There was at this time usually plenty of game and fish, and , in their season, wild fruits; but the hardships of pioneer life, while not perhaps involving actual suffering for food, and the accustomed comforts of life, were nevertheless serious, and the monotony of existence, sent many early adventurers back to the purlieus of civilization under more favorable surroundings. It was not until the land was opened up for homestead entry or purchase that immigration became active, the country began to fill up, and the necessity of a village became obvious.

Every thing was subordinate to the company, until, in 1859, the village of Menomonie was platted, and the actual sale of lots began soon after. As to the Indians, little trouble was experienced with them. There were personal troubles which sometimes threatened the peace of the whole settlement, but the Indians at such times were placated in some way by the superior tact and talent of the whites. As dams were thrown across various streams, the natives were sometimes restless, and complained that their wild rice would be destroyed, but no demonstrations beyond words were made.

At one time, a rather good looking young squaw, named by the boys "Mary Dirty Face," was purchased by a mill hand, as a wife. Mary utterly repudiated the pale face, and refused to share his bed and board, so [p. 276] he seized the goods he had given for her and burned them, and to have ample revenge out of his wife's relations, he procured a gallon of whiskey, put some ipecac in it, and invited the Indians to have a big drunk with him. Every available red skin put in an appearance, the whiskey was soon disposed of, and such a woebegone lot of Chippewas never struggled together to invert their stomachs. As soon as they were sufficiently recovered for concerted action, they sounded the terrible war cry, and started to hunt him down, but George, realizing what he might expect, and not being willing to become their victim, escaped. While their war paint was on, vengeance against the whole white race was threatened, but the affair was soon quieted.

There were several noted Indians who were more or less troublesome; among them Big Rascal, who was one day prowling around the mill-men's sleeping quarters. Mr. Harris ordered him away, and, on his refusal, Harris used his fists and boots in such a lively way that the Indian made no unnecessary delay in placing himself beyond the jurisdiction of that kind of law.

Big Rascal induced a chief by the name of Ma-sou-a-quet to take up his cause, and, followed by a war party, they came down upon the settlement. The sight would have been comical to a disinterested spectator. There were the Indians in their fantastic paint and feathers, gesticulating with their tomahawks and scalping knives, and their squaws trailing along behind, dismally wailing, and begging them to desist from their murderous purpose.

Mr. Bullard went out boldly to meet the advancing horde. The chief halted in amazement at such daring, giving Bullard time to explain. The chief was compelled to acknowledge that Big Rascal was served just right.

Really the greatest trouble with the Indians was on account of their thieving propensities. After one of the sugar seasons was over, the Indians came down and sold their camp-kettles. The next season they wanted to borrow them, on the promise of their prompt return, with a certain amount of sugar for their use. This was agreed to; but when the season was over the band undertook to leave, carrying off the kettles. They were pursued and a gun seized from a straggler as a reprisal. The kettles promptly came back, with a demand for the gun.

The Sioux and Chippewas had an occasional skirmish, but the old settlers here never suffered as did the pioneers in other parts of the Union from the Indians.

In 1856 the Sioux and Chippewas near Gilbert's Creek indulged in their periodical amusement of holding a treaty of peace. The usual forms and feasting having been indulged in, they agreed, in order to decide their prowess and show which was superior, to select a brave from each side who should go out on a hunt, and the one bringing the first game, his tribe should be declared the victor, and it should settle the question of superiority.

The Sioux succeeded in shooting an elk, and his rival, who was skulking near, then shot the Sioux and immediately fled northward. The Chippewas, on learning what had happened, hastily left. A single old man and two women remained behind, who were at once pounced upon and murdered by the Sioux, who made no unnecessary delay in getting back to their own hunting grounds.

In making improvements at the point where these parties were buried, a few years ago, their bones were disinterred.

Some time in 1848, Capt. Wilson, seeing the trouble caused by whiskey, suggested to Mr. Knapp that the next time he brought up supplies he should forget the whiskey; which he did, much to the disgust of the crowd who were waiting to see the stuff unloaded. They never dealt in the article again.

It is supposed that the first steamboat up the Chippewa was the "Dr. Franklin," of Galena. This was in the early Spring of 1848, and the boat was bound for the upper Mississippi, which, above the mount of the Chippewa, was blocked with ice.  Mr. Knapp was on board with a crew of workmen, and considerable freight. He chartered the boat to take him up the Chippewa, acting as pilot himself. He brought the boat safely to the mouth of the Red Cedar. This settled the question of navigating the river, to this point, at least. H.S. Allen, from the Falls, soon followed with his boat, and navigation on the river, as far as Eau Claire, has been continued with more or less regularity ever since.

The Old Settlers

Only brief mention can here be made of those who came previous to 1862. Some of them will be more fully alluded to in the personal sketches. Joseph Benson was one of the earliest comers, and claimed to have been with Jeff. Davis in his ill-starred expedition.

Perry Curtis opened the first farm in the county in 1846. It was near Eau Galle. Frank Ames and sons followed in 1847. In 1852, B. Fowler settled in Mud Creek Valley. H.M. Stenes began the Massey Settlement in 1856. Capt. Moore laid out a farm of 2,200 acres about twelve miles up the Red Cedar.

John Rogler began work for the company, before the war, as a tinner; enlisted, served his time, and returned to work.

Simeon Morugg, the general outside foreman for Knapp, Stout, & C. came in 1854. He was the first man to enlist in the valley. Was wounded at Gettysburg.  Was elected Sheriff in 1864. The mill-wright A.J. Depew, arrived in 1855.

J.B. McCann's store was the first on the east side of the river, and the second one in town. Dr. W.A. Burry located in Cedar Falls in 1855-56.

Among the settlers in 1858, was Mr. G.M. Fowler, a mill-wright and surveyor. Both himself and his accomplished wife have been closely identified with the prosperity of the place.

Jacob Miller, an artist, came in 1856.  Dr. E.G. Benjamin was also one of the early comers, and the first resident physician. He was editor of the Lumberman, which he transformed into the News. Was also County Judge. S.B. French located here in 1853, and was for fourteen years bookkeeper for the company.  Theodore Nye, mill-wright and machinist, came about 1857.

W.M. Dunn, the filer, came to Menomonie in 1854. B.S. Thorn claims 1857 as the date of his first appearance [p. 277]. J. B. Sprague, the stage man, first drove up in 1856. John Noulan was here in 1854. William Schults and Albert Quilling were among the 1855 boys.

James Galloway located here in 1854, and began farming two years later.

T. S. Heller looked in on the place in 1857; permanently located here in 1860. A. J. Brunelle, the millwright, engaged with the company in 1865. Carroll Lucas located on Mud Creek in August, 1854. John Kelly, Jr. came to the county in 1859. Mr. William McKahn, with his family, were among the arrivals of 1857.

To secure instruction for their own and other children in the settlement, a school house  was built in 1854, and Rev. Joshua Pitman was employed in the double capacity of teacher and preacher, which continued several years. In 1856, there was a regularly organized district school.

The first meeting for religious services was in the Summer of 1855, by the Rev. Mr. Wayne.

The land having been surveyed by the Government, most of the pine lands on the Red Cedar were brought into market, and large lots sold to non-residents. Among others, Hon. C. C. Washburn was a heavy buyer, and took 12,000 acres on other branches of the Chippewa. The next year, large entries were sold to Morrison & Woodman, and transferred to Messrs. D. Shaw  & Clark.

To cut up his lumber, Mr. Washburn erected a steam mill at the foot of Nine Mile Slough, on the Chippewa. Mr. Downs about the same time placed a dam across the Red Cedar, at Downsville, and built a mill.  This was in that terrible panic stricken year, 1857. these mills never recovered for their owners the broken promises of their creation, and in a few years they, and all the pine lands connected therewith, were swallowed by by the big company at Menomonie.

From 1857 to 1861 there is little to be recorded. The country was quietly being filled up, the mills on the Red Cedar were rapidly turnout out lumber to build up the Western cities which were springing up. Knapp, Stout & Co. were every year getting more and more solid, increasing their possessions and manufacturing capacity.  And when the clarion notes of war rang out in a call for troops, patriotic hearts were not wanting to respond to the summons, and the usual scenes so well remembered by those who joined the ranks of the army, or those whose hearts only were enlisted in the cause, were enacted here on the frontier, away from the sound of the locomotive or steamboat whistle, or even stage coach rattle. It would be a pleasure to record the name of every man who went from Dunn County, when the country was in danger; but the list is too long, and a less extended account must be given. The county more than filled its quota. Many who survive will be mentioned in the account of the several re-unions which are presented.

The first election for county officers, in November 1854, resulted as follows: Supervisors, William Wilson, J. McCain, William Carson; County Judge, William Cady; Treasurer, Henry Eaton; Register of Deeds, J.M. Green; Clerk of Circuit Court, J. R. Green; Sheriff, Amos Colburn; Surveyor, D. Beeman.

The county has no debt, which is a valuable consideration for new settlers. The valuation, as fixed by the State authorities in 1880, was $3,870,757, and the State tax was $9,085.21.  The valuation of the county in 1877 was $2,927,448, which shows the extent of improvements within the past few years.

The present county officers are: Sever Severson, Sheriff; Ch. Swan, Deputy Sheriff; W.H. Landon, Clerk; Carroll Lucas, Treasurer; Clerk Circuit Court, W.J. Cowan.

[Milton Coleman, the Under Sheriff, was killed by the Williams brothers.]

The Judge of the Circuit Court is E.B. Bundy; W.J. Cowan, Clerk; County Judge, Robert McCauley. John Kelly, Jr. is County Judge elect.

The present Senatorial District is composed of Dunn and Eau Claire counties, M.Griffin, of Eau Claire, being the present Senator.

The court-house is a building of brick and stone, in the center of a park embracing a whole square, in the village of Menomonie; was built in 1871 and 1872. It cost about $36,000, although the contract price was $32,359.  When the court-house was built, the Supervisors were T.W. Macauley, J.W. Granger and A. Sherburn. A.J. Kenney was the architect; C. Thompson, builder; J. Cavanaugh, stone cutter.

The jail, which embraces a residence and jail, was constructed in 1875, at a cost of $7,500, and additions and improvements since that time have cost about $1,000 more.  Besides the six iron cells, it has rooms for female prisoners, and a dwelling suite.

The correction line of the Government survey is on the lower line of the upper tier of towns, making an offset of nearly one mile to the west.

There are a few lakes in the county. elk Lake, in Spring Brook, and another in Red Cedar, are about three-fourths of a mile long. The pond of Knapp, Stout & Co at Menomonie, for storing logs, is the largest in the county.

The county was at first associated with several others, to form an Assembly District. As the population increased, these have, from time to time, been dropped, until it is now an Assembly District of itself.

The following gentlemen have represented the county in the legislature: Wm. Wilson was State Senator in 1857 and 1858. In the Assembly, 1863, William H. Smith, Eau Galle; 1865, Francis R. Church, Menomonie; 1868, John W. Hunt, Menomonie; 1870, Jed. W. Granger, Menomonie; 1872, Rockwell J. Flint, he was also in the Senate in 1870 and 1871; 1876, M.R. Bump, Rock Falls; 1877, Samuel Black, Menomonie; 1878, Fred C. Barlow, Rock Falls; 1879, Henry Ausman, Elk Mound; 1880, John McGilton, Cedar Falls; 1881, G. H. Chamberlain, Rock Falls.

Politically, the county is divided into twenty-one towns; of these, fourteen are equal to a township of Government survey in form and size. Peru and Rock Creek are smaller, while the remainder are larger.

The names of the towns are as follows: Colfax, Dunn, Eau Galle, Elk Mound, Grant, Hay River, Lucas, Menomonie, New Haven, Otter Creek, Sheridan, Sherman, Spring Brook, Stanton, Tainter, Tiffany and Weston.

There are several county societies, among them the Bible Society. The present officers are R.C. Bierce, [p. 278] president; Dr. J. R. Branch, secretary; Mrs. S.M. Mott, treasurer; J. Gates, Robert Macauley and A. Quilling, executive committee.

A most important and highly prosperous association is the Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance Co., which has been in operation five years, and now has insured property to the amount of $328,485.  It has paid for losses $1,176, being at the rate of $8.50 on the cost of $1,000 insurance for five years. The officers of the company are: Thomas Dixon, president; Theodore Lewis, Ole Larson, J.J. Merrick, W.H. Landon; Wm. Witcher, treasurer.

The County Agricultural Society was started in 1872, and a single fair held but on account of the difficulties of transportation only a single fair was held.

The only railroad line is under the control of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Company, and was formerly the West Wisconsin; the main line passes a few miles north of Menomonie and has a branch to the town. Two passenger trains daily each way accommodate the people.

There are several mail routes carried by stage.

The Durant daily stage runs in connection with a line to Prairie Farm, via Lochard, Tiffany Creek and Granger, alternating through these places. Louis Beresenn, manager.

Fall City and Menomonie, twice a week; contractor, E.W. Parker; driver, Mr. Bradford.

Menomonie to Dunnville, twice a week; E.W. Parker, contractor; P.F. Orr, carrier.

Menomonie and Lucas, once a week; Z. Bliss, proprietor.

Menomonie, Sand Creek and Rice Lake, three times a week; F.E. Smith, contractor; E.L. Doolittle, carrier.

The total county treasury disbursements for 1880 was about $30,000.

One of the oldest men who ever lived in the county was Ambrose Edwards, who claims to have voted in 1779. He lived in the town of Weston.

On July 1, 1860, a new stage line was put on between Eau Claire and Hudson. it was run by Burbank & Company. A previous service over this route had been run by Woodbridge & Price.

As late as July 1860, a large delegation of Chippewas, about fifty in number, made a formal call upon Captain Wilson and  engaged in a vigorous dance for bread and meat. The captain's larder was equal to the occasion, and every girdle was let out several notches, when they retired.

The last Sunday in August, 1862, was a memorable one in the history of the whole Chippewa Valley. The massacre of New Ulm in Minnesota, had occurred a few weeks before, and the rumor started that the whole Indian population, incited and supplied by the rebel authorities, was on the war-path to obliterate every vestige of civilization. As the rumor flew, congregations were dismissed; men flew to arms; country people, where possible, packed their valuables and hurried with them to town. Reason seemed dethroned; the wildest confusion prevailed. But the scare was soon over, and the people returned to their usual vocations.

In the Summer of 1864, there was a severe drought through all this region.

There was a great freshet on the Chippewa, on the 27th of August, 1870. The water rose from eighteen to twenty feet above low water mark. Little damage was done in Dunn County.

In July, 1873, a new mail route was put on between Menomonie and Vanceburg, via Tiffany.

The valuation of Dunn County in 1873 was, personal, $528,731; Real estate, $552,777.

May 4, 1875, the school house at Rock Falls was burned, a total loss.

On the night of Aug. 21, 1875, there was a most destructive frost in the whole region. The newspapers of the time stated that "everything freezable froze."

During the Fall of 1875, bears were reported as being quite numerous.

In 1879, May 12th, there was a frightful hail storm across the county, five miles wide. It was estimated that 2,000 panes of glass were broken in Menomonie. An immense amount of damage was done.

June 12, 1880, was the time of the great flood on the Chippewa. Meridean and Spring Brook were under water.

A new bridge at Cedar Falls was blown down on the evening of Aug. 5, 1881.

The most profound excitement was caused in Menomonie, Durand and the whole vicinity by the murder of Milton Coleman, Under Sheriff of Dunn County, and his brother Charles Coleman, Deputy Sheriff of Pepin County, by Alonzo and Edward Williams, in the village of Durand, on Sunday, the 10th of July, 1881. The Williams brothers were desperadoes, and it is supposed had committed a burglary in Menomonie, and the Colemans were on their trail, and having overtaken them, and being on the point of making the arrest, the men turned and fired with fatal effect. The officers succeeded in firing one or two shots and it is thought wounded one of the men. They, however, escaped into the Eau Galle woods, and a large forced was at once organized and a pursuit instituted, which received recruits from time to time, being joined by some of the militia of the State, and was kept up for a month without success. The rewards offered by the several localities, desiring their apprehension, aggregated, $1,700.

The population of the county as determined by the State and United States census, makes the following exhibit: 1855, 1,796; 1860, 2,704; 1865, 5,170; 1870, 9,488; 1875, 13,427; 1880, 16,859.


This village of 3,500 people is in the town of the same name and has no separate village or city organization. It is on the Red Cedar River, and not far from the center of the county. The village proper is laid out in squares, and is on the bluff on the east side of the river. The squares are rather small and without alleys. The ground is mostly level, and the soil sandy. A single square, in addition to the Courthouse square, is set apart as a park. The residences of the proprietors of the mill are magnificent in their construction, appointments and surroundings. The business houses are rapidly improving in their buildings and [p. 279] stocks. The dwellings forming the greater part of the town, are of good size and tastefully built and surrounded. The account which follows of the schools, churches, and other institutions, will furnish a good idea of the place, which is so closely identified with the great lumbering firm of the Red Cedar.

The names of the town is spelled with "ie" instead of "ee" for the terminal letters, as with the other places of like name in this State and Michigan.

Schools -- The schools are in a highly prosperous condition, having a regular graded system and ample school room, in four school houses, as follows: be continued ...


     Other early settlers in Dunn County included Jean Baptiste Perrault (1788), Hardin Perkins (1822), John Fonda (1829), James Lockwood (1822), George Wales (1830), Henry Schoolcraft (1831), H.S. Allen (1835), Stephen C. McCann (1839), Mr. Pearson (1841), James Green (1841), William & David Black (1844), William Wilson (1846), John Holly Knapp (1846), Mr. & Mrs. Lorenzo Bullard (1846), Mr. and Mrs. John Vale (1846), Mr. and Mrs. Jason Ball (1846), Samuel Gilbert (1849), Andrew Tainter (1850), Henry Stout (1853)



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This page last updated: 26 December 2007 03:05 PM -0600