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Knapp-Stout Company Founders

Knapp, Stout & Company Founders
From Rice Lake Chronotype September 21, 1927

John H. Knapp

William Wilson

Henry L. Stout

Andrew Tainter


  Knapp, Stout & Company! This name is closely interwoven with the early history of Barron County, a history of pioneering among huge forests that once surrounded cities and lakes of this region - carrying on of an industry that was the inevitable forerunner of the present dairying and agricultural prosperity.

  Upon the early pine forests, hewed down by the relentless axe of the lumbering men, the history of Barron County is based. Logging of the forests brought the lumbermen here, and settles who remained to establish the farms where once stood primeval pine forests. Cities and villages sprang up on the sites of the lumber camps.

  The organization of the lumbering company that logged nearly all of Barron County was accomplished by four men whose pictures are shown in this article - John H. Knapp, Henry L. Stout, William Wilson and Andrew Tainter. Of the four, William Wilson was the builder of the partnership. In 1846, he made a trip to Menomonie and viewed the vast pineries of the upper Red Cedar River, which were shown him by an Indian guide. Much impressed with the possibilities in the wooded region, Mr. Wilson return to Fort Madison, Iowa, and persuaded John H. Knapp to invest with him in a sawmill at Menomonie. In 1850, they sold an interest to Andrew Tainter, and in 1853, they sold an interest to Henry L. Stout, a capitalist and lumber dealer in Dubuque, Iowa.

  May 1, 1854, Thomas B. Wilson became a member of the firm and a number of years later John H. Douglass, of St. Louis, a nephew of John H. Knapp, became a member. March 18, 1878, the firm was incorporated as the Knapp, Stout and Co. company, with a capital stock of $2,000,000, which was doubled by 1882. The shareholders were John H. Knapp, Henry L. Stout, Andrew Tainter, William Wilson, Thomas B. Wilson, and John H. Douglass. John H. Knapp was made president, Thomas B. Wilson secretary; and John H. Douglass, treasurer.

Tainter Interested
  Captain Andrew Tainter, who had been connected with logging and mill activities at Chippewa Falls and along the Menomonie, started logging some eight miles north of Turtle Lake, with four ox teams, and a few helpers, mostly Indians and half breeds. His wife, Poskin, gave her name to the region. When he reached Menomonie with his drive in the spring, he intended to take the proceeds and follow the Gold Rush to California.

  Instead, he became interested in the operations of Messrs. Knapp and Wilson, and soon after, as already stated, became a third partner, thus he use to say, discovering a gold mine in the timber of Wisconsin, instead of in the quartz of the Pacific coast. Mr. Tainter died of pneumonia in Rice Lake in 1898 while up with his racehorses at the county fair.

Largest in World
  Under the active leadership of these men, the Knapp, Stout & Co. became the largest lumber company in the world, with a capital stock in the 80's of $4,000,000 paid in and an annual lumber cut that approached 90,000,000 feet.

  In 1873, this firm owned 115,000 acres of pine lands on the Chippewa and Menomonie Rivers, from which it cut and manufactured during the year in its various steam and water powered mills, 55,000,00 feet of lumber, 20,000,000 shingles, and 20,000,000 lath and pickets. It maintained at Menomonie in addition to its mills, a foundry, machine shop and blacksmith shop, a grain warehouse of 40,000 bushels capacity, and a gristmill for grinding grain. It owned six large farms in Dunn and Barron Counties, containing 6,000 and 7,000 acres of improved land, upon which were raised its supplies of wheat and pork. It conducted general merchandise stores, the annual sales of which amounted to $750,000.

  To the men who are familiar with the lumber camps, the scene about them will never be forgotten. A picturesque descriptions of these camps is given in the History of Barron County:
Camp Described
  "A typical lumber camp in any of the Wisconsin pineries presented to the spectator a combination of animated sounds and sights. The rapid tap of the chopper's axe, the swish of the needles as the branches were trimmed from the trunks, the commands of the foreman, the voices of the drivers, the rattle of the chains as the logs were snaked into piles, the jingle of the bells of the sled with its loads of gathered logs slowly moved off to the river or lake bank, or returned on the run for a new burden of logs, the hearty shouts of the red-shirted lumberjacks as they hastened about their work in the keen and exhilarating air - all this was the foreground for which, in strange contrast, the background was the solemn grandeur of the forest."

  Life in a lumbering camp might have given the inspiration for the poet, but it was no life for a tenderfoot, however. He had to endure the discomforts of cold and dampness, the dangers of a rolling log in the ice-cold river current.

Few Mills Remain
  Today, there are only a few sawmills in the country and most of these are a small portable type. The 'big mill' of this city at the Edward Hines Hardwood and Hemlock Company remains supreme among those in this section.
  The dairy farm reigns today; the logging boss belongs to the days of yore.

Transcription by: Timm Severud, Winter Wisconsin


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This page last updated: 02 April 2003 09:39 PM -0500