Knapp-Stout Company

Ancient History of Knapp, Stout Company
From: Chetek Alert, August 18, 1916


  From the statement made by James H. Lockwood the last known before 1841, as to the ownership of the Wilson and Gilbert Creek Mills was that Lockwood and Rolette owned them with an interest of Isaac Saunders in the Wilson Creek Mill given to him to induce him to take charge of the business there. By Fonda's statement it would appear the in 1837, 1838, and 1839, Lockwood owned these two mills and a third on Irvine Creek. In December 1842, Rolette died at Prairie du Chien and his estate was administered upon the following year in Crawford County. An examination of the proceedings does not disclose an inventory of his property nor a decree assigning his estate. At Madison in the Historical Society Library, there appears to be copies of drafts of an inventory and of a final account in Rolette's estate, but no mention is made of an interest in these mills. It is probable therefore, that his interest had been transferred before his death. There is no evidence of a transfer of the interest of Saunders in and to the Upper Mill. Yet it is probable that not only the interest of Rolette, but also that of Saunders, was at sometime, conveyed, for by a deed recorded in Crawford County, a transfer was made of the Wilson Creek Mill to James Green by James H. Lockwood and Hiram S. Allen. This deed bears the date January 8, 1841. By the same record it appears that Green, by a deed, dated May 18, 1842, conveyed this mill to William Black. The records of County Court of Crawford County show that William Black died in 1844 and that David Black described in the petition for administration of his estate as the nearest living relative in the vicinity became administrator of his estate. An inventory was filed which shows only personal property.  David Black asked for and got an extension of two years in which to settle the estate, which in fact never was settled so far as the records show. Before the two years for which the extension was given had expired, David Black died. It is conjecture that David Black in some way acquired title to the Wilson Creek property through these administration proceeding, for by a deed recorded in Crawford County, dated June 16, 1846, for a consideration of $2,000.00 he conveyed to John H. Knapp an undivided one half interest therein. It was but a few weeks after the giving of this deed that David Black died.

  A partnership was formed between David Black and John H. Knapp at the time of the sale of the one-half interest by which Mr. Knapp was to carry on a lumber business at the mill for the firm styled 'Black and Knapp' for a term of five years.

  David Black's estate was administered through the County Court of Crawford County and the administrator thereof became authorized to and did give to Mr. Knapp a deed of the one-half interest remaining in David Black. The deed is dated May 4, 1850. For this one-half interest $2,600.00 was paid; one thousand dollars in cash and two short time notes of $800 each. It will be remembered that for the first one-half interest Mr. Knapp paid $2,000. By the record it appears that now John H. Knapp became sole owner of the Wilson Creek Mill, paying therefore the sum of $4,600. As a matter of fact, however, Mr. William Wilson, through who enterprise this purchase was made, was a joint owner with Mr. Knapp. On the death of Mr. Black it was the legal duty of Mr. Knapp to close up the partnership business, but it is evident that this sacrifice of the property was avoided by the contracted entered into with the administrator of Black's estate.
 

Ancient History of Knapp, Stout Company
From: Chetek Alert, September 8, 1916

 

  Generally speaking it may matter but little to the general reader in giving early local history whether events be placed within five or even ten years of their real occurrence, or whatever names of settlers and owners be given as Jones or Brown, but, to the local resident it is sometimes exasperating to find the antecedents of his present personal surroundings grossly misstated.

  In the present instance it is well established that the first mill here was built in 1824 or earlier; that no mill was built here in 1828, but this in 1830 and 1831 two mills were built by Lockwood and Rolette and none at any time by Street and Lockwood; that Mr. Black mentioned by Randall did not in 1844 or at any other time transfer the property to Knapp and Wilson, but that another Black did transfer a one-half interest in such property in 1846 to John H. Knapp. That Mr. Stout did not associate himself with Knapp and Wilson in 1845 or 46, but not until 1853; that Andrew Tainter acquired an interest in 1850 instead of 1860, and prior to Mr. Stout's purchase, and before the formation of Knapp, Stout & Company.

  How Allen got his interest in the Upper Mill that he transferred to Green does not appear, but Randall's statement does not seem to solve the doubt as to such acquirement. On the sale to Green for a consideration of $5,000 a mortgage for $4,671, of the purchase price payable in lumber was given to Lockwood. This would indicate would indicate a large interest of Lockwood in the property at the time of the sale or a large indebtness from Allen to Lockwood. It is possible that Rolette, in 1835, sold his interest in these mills to Allen as he in 1836 entered a firm that commenced building a mill at Chippewa Falls. And possibly on this sale to Green a division was made by which Lockwood took the mortgage from Green and released to Allen his interest in the Gilbert Creek Mill.

  As the records show a deed to Green in January 1841, and one from Green to William Black in May 1842, it seems improbable, in the absence of evidence, that there was an intermediary grantee named Pearson, as stated by Randall to be the fact, who made who made some progress in the erection of a dam across the Menomonie River. Regarding the dam across the river, we find in the deed of David Black, given four years after the time stated as being the time when Pearson entered upon its construction, this proviso; that the grantor also transfers an equal undividable interest in and to a contract "in relation to the building of a new mill on and a dam across the said Menomonie River." This proviso would seem to indicate a project or the building of a dam and mill rather than a completion of an enterprise already well forwarded. In the accounts of Black and Knapp there is no appearances of this contract having been in any way entered upon or carried out, although the fact is a dam had been constructed across the river before October 1849. Perhaps the death, soon after the deed was given, of Mr. Black may have put the project in abeyance.

  As to the time when Mr. H.L. Stout acquired his interest and as to the time when the co-partnership under the name of Knapp, Stout & Company was formed, an entry on the firm books of Knapp, & Tainter shows it to be as of August 10, 1853, instead of 1845 as stated by Randall.

  To corroborate Lockwood in his statement that he and Rolette built the mills, we have from the United States Department of the Interior, copies of the application of Lockwood for, and the permit by the War Department to build these mills, which show that Rolette was associated with Lockwood. Schoolcraft, when he in 1831, was at Wilson Creek Mill, was told by the man in charge that the mill belonged to "Mr. Rolette and Mr. Lockwood." The permit here mentioned required a contract with the Indians through the Government Indian Agent. General Street was at the time such agent at Prairie du Chien; popular suspicion may have connected him with the enterprise.
 

Ancient History of Knapp, Stout Company
From: Chetek Alert, September 15, 1916

  In this application of Lockwood's he states that he and Rolette had in 1824 secured a similar permit and had at that time erected a mill which had been soon after destroyed.  He further states that in the present instance he and Rolette contemplated building on the 'Folle Avoine River,' a tributary of the Chippewa River. In the report of his visit here in 1831 he states that he was told that a previous mill had been built at the mouth of Wilson Creek seven years before, and Schoolcraft in commenting on the name of the River says: "Red Cedar is quite inappropriate. Above Rice Lake it is characterized by the wild rice plants, and the name Folle Avoine, which is found in use on the Mississippi borders better expresses its character." This comment has added force from the fact that on the frontier the French misnamed wild rice, wild oats, and called it Folle Avoine.
  Lockwood and Fonda in their early-published statements of early times invariable mention this stream as the Menomonee River, spelling the last syllable nee. In the deeds to Mr. Knapp in 1846 and 1850 and in the earlier deeds, which have been mentioned, the name of this river is given in the same form. Yet from Schoolcraft's report it seems to have been known as the Red Cedar River as early as 1830. By a law of the Wisconsin Territory of 1840 the southeast corner of St. Croix County is located at the mouth of the "Meadows Ford of the Red Cedar River," that is, at the mouth of Wilson Creek. On the plats of the government survey of 1849 it is shown as the Red Cedar River.
  The Secretary of the Wisconsin State Historical Society has stated that the word Menomonee literally means, "Wild Oats (rice) Man." The Indians in possession of the region about Green Bay and the Fox River when the French first came there were called the Menomonees, from the fact that they lived largely on wild rice. The stream dividing in part Wisconsin and Michigan above Green Bay was with propriety named Menomonee River, the river of the Menomonees. In calling our river Menomonee the name carries with it no distinctive characteristics of its derivation. One has to think back and away to the characteristics of habits of men who lived somewhere else and who had been named from their habits. The upper reaches of our stream have been ever since the acquaintance of the white men, occupied by Chippewas and the lower valley was often a neutral ground between them and the Sioux. It was not the territory of the Menomonees although the bands of that nation occasionally sojourned on its waters. Lockwood on is midsummer expedition of 180 to the "Upper Mill" used the help of two lodges of Menomonee. He had previously placed as cook at the "Upper Mill" camp, a Menomonee squaw.

  Why the name Menomonee River was dropped and that of the Red Cedar River substituted is not known.

  There came a time when it seem desirable to change the name Upper Mill to some other name. Mr. Samuel B. French states, that he suggested the name Menomonee as the new name. As a reason for taking this name he called attention to the fact that Menomonee had been locally and geographically lost by the renaming of this river to the Red Cedar and he thought the place should be renamed Menomonee. When, where, why or by whom the spelling of the last syllable was changed to 'nie' are particulars unknown to me.

  In view of the positive statement by Lockwood in his application of 1829 that the former mill was erected in 1824 and the confirmatory statement of Schoolcraft as to what was told to him, that seven years before 1831 a mill was built there, it seems that the date of the first occupancy at the site of Menomonie must be placed as of 1824, although early narratives give the year as 1822, and by inference Lockwood's statement for the Wisconsin Historical Society might point to the earlier date as the time when the first mill was built.

  In the statement, documents and records related to the transfer of the Upper Mill is some material that cannot be correlated, pieced together nor made to serve the basis of a continuous narrative of the life on this river from 1824 to 1846. The number of persons, here, the output of the mill, the number of teams employed, the number of houses and other buildings at the different mills are all matters left for conjecture.

  Lockwood merely says that a force of carpenters, and laborers were sent here at the building of the first mill. Nothing stated from which the number could be estimated or calculated. Fonda states precisely of the military expedition of 1829-1830 that there were 74 persons. From an account by Lockwood of his picking up detachments of his returning crew of 1830 when they abandoned the mill, in July of that year, we can estimate the full force at from 20 to 25. As to how many he brought in 1831 or then had here in all it is barely possible to make a random guess. If we take the estimate of 20 to 25 for the first crew and supposed the crew brought to replace them to be equally strong then we can put the force of 1831 at from 40 to 50 persons. Schoolcraft on August 11, 1831, in an account of his voyage down the Red Cedar River, says, that a Mr. Wallace were at the Upper Mill. Lockwood being then engaged in getting out timber for the dam and mill at Gilbert Creek would naturally have a much larger force there. From Fonda's account of 1837-9 we can learn nothing of the number of people here at any one or all of the mills.


Transcription by: Timm Severud, Winter Wisconsin

 

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