Search billions of records on

This web site and its contents in the format presented, except where otherwise noted on the page, are copyrighted by Debbie Barrett and may not be copied, altered, converted nor uploaded to any electronic system or BBS, nor linked from any "pay-for-view" site, linked in such a manner as to appear to be part of another site including "frame" capturing, nor included in any software collection or print collection of any type without the express written permission of the author of this site, namely, Debbie Barrett.  If you have arrived here in someone else's frame, please click here to break free. Please report any such violations to Debbie Barrett


Fifty Years in the Northwest, cont.

Page 218

of River Falls, called at first, Kinnikinic, setting apart fro that purpose two hundred acres of land.  This plat included the upper waterfalls within the present city limits.  The largest water power they donated to C.B. Cox as a mill site, to encourage settlement in the village.  The brothers co-operated in building up the village, amongst other things building a frame store, and stocking it with goods.  This was the first store in the Kinnikinic valley.  The dealt also in real estate and lumber.  The name of River Falls, as applied to the village, dates from the establishment of the first post offices, in 1854.  Charles Hutchinson was the first postmaster, and the office was held in this pioneer store.  J.S. Rounce, in 1870, built the first foundry in Pierce county.
     The water powers of River Falls have been extensively utilized, many saw and flouring mills having been erected at various times on the Kinnikinic.  Of these, in 1886, the more notable are, the Junction mills, owned by Freeman, Rhyder & Co., with a capacity of 400 barrels daily, and  a barrel manufactory attached which gives employment to 40 men and turns off from 300 to 400 barrels daily.  The Greenwood mills, owned by Geo. Fortune & Co., capacity 50 barrels; the Cascade mills, owned by the Baker estate, capacity 50 barrels; the Prairie mill, built by C.B. Cox in 1858, and now owned by J.D. Putnam, capacity 150 barrels.
     In educational matters River Falls has taken and maintained an advanced position.  The first school house was built in 1854, by seven men, at a cost of five hundred dollars.  Helen Flint taught the first school.  In 1856 a joint stock association was incorporated as "The River Falls Academy.:  A building was erected, 36x66 feet, ground plan, and two stories in height.  Prof. Wilcox was the first principal.  This school was maintained as an academy until 1860, at which time it was superseded by the free schools.  In the fall of 1879 the building was destroyed by fire.  Subsequently a commodious brick structure was erected in its place at a cost of $15,000.  Excellent private schools were maintained by Hinckley, Cody and Baker, for five years during the '60s.  The State Normal School, of which a more extended account is given elsewhere, was established here, and a building erected in 1874, at a cost of about $65,000, the people of River Falls and other towns contributing to this fund $25,000

Page 219

with private subscriptions to the amount of $12,000, and a donation of ten acres of land.  Of the $25,000 River Falls gave $10,000, Troy $4,000, Clifton $3,000, while Pierce county contributed $5,000, and Kinnikinic, St. Croix county, gave $3,000.  The building, a handsome brick, four stories high, including the basement, stands on an elevated plat of ground in the south eastern part of the city.  The first board of instruction consisted of W.D. Parker, president, with the following assistants:  J.B. Thayer, conductor of teacher's institute; A. Earthman, history, geography, music; Lucy E. Foot, English literature, reading, spelling; Julia a. McFarlan, mathematics; Margaret Hosford, Latin and English literature.  Model department, Ellen C. Jones, teacher, grammar grade; Mary A. Kelly, teacher, intermediate grade; Lizzie J. Curtis, teacher, primary grade.
     The following are the churches of River Falls, with date of establishment and name of first pastor when known:  Congregational, 1855, Rev. James Stirratt; Baptist, 1857, Rev. A. Gibson; Methodist, 1858,; Episcopal, 1871, Rev. Chas. Thorpe; Catholic, 1875, Rev. Father Connelly; Seventh Day Adventist, 1881.
     With the exception of the last named, these church organizations have good buildings.  The congregational church building erected in 1857 was superseded by a building in 1867 that cost $10,000.  This was destroyed by a tornado in 1868, but has since been rebuilt at the cost of the building destroyed, and a parsonage has been added at a cost of $2,000.
     A Sunday school was established in River Falls in 1853, and the first sermon was preached, in 1850 or 1851, by Rev. Julius S. Webber, a Baptist missionary.  Rev. John Wilcoxson, an Episcopalian, held occasional services as early as 1859.


     The following are the social and benevolent associations of River Falls, with dates of organization:  Masonic Lodge, June 1859; I.O.O.F., 1872; I.O.G.T., March 15, 1877; Juvenile Temple of Honor, March 15, 1877; Temple of Honor, March 31, 1878; A.O.U.W., 1878.  The hall, fixtures and charter of the Odd Fellows Lodge was destroyed in the fire of 1876, but the lodge was rechartered the same year.

Page 220


Was organized Jan. 1, 1874.  ____ Bartlett, president, Joseph M. Smith Cashier.  Capital, $15,000.  It was organized in 1883, under state law, R.S. Burhyte, president; W.D. Parker, vice president; J.M. Smith, cashier.  Capital stock $35,000.  Total business in 1885, $5,770,733.98.


     This road was built in 1878, the people of River Falls contributing $60,000 to its construction.  The road is ten miles in length.  In 1885 it was extended to Ellsworth, a distance of twelve miles.


Was established in 1884.  A.D. Andrews, president; C.H. Keys, secretary.


     In 1875 the Metropolitan Hotel, costing $15,000, and other buildings were burned; loss $30,000.  The insurance was light.  In 1876 a large portion of the town was destroyed by fire.


     River Falls was incorporated as a city in 1885.  At the first election for city officers, held April 7th, three hundred and nineteen votes were cast, and the following persons were declared duly elected to the positions named:  Mayor, A.A. Andrews; treasurer, G.E. Pratt; assessor, E.H. Daniel; aldermen, First ward, W.W. Wadsworth; Second ward, L.M. Rosenquist; Third ward, R.N. Jenson; Fourth ward, L. Styles; marshal, R.N. Bevens; city clerk, Allen H. Weld.  The license for the sale of intoxicants was fixed at $200.  The population of River Falls in 1886 was 1,700.  It is a lively, prosperous city, planned on a liberal scale, with wide streets, well shaded with ornamental trees.  The mills have reservations by which they are separated from the business part of the city.  The beauty of the original waterfalls is somewhat marred by the mills and their debris.  Originally they were very beautiful and picturesque, and were widely celebrated, and much visited by the lovers of Nature.  Of these falls there are four, two on the south branch, one on the north

Page 221

branch, and one some rods below the junction of the two streams.  The falls were not noted for their grandeur, but rather for their quiet beauty, the water falling over ledges but a few feet in height, and so broken in two of them as to present the general appearance of a succession of stairs, or steps, of unequal elevation, over which the water falls.  An interesting feature at the junction of the two rivers is the cave in which the pioneer settler, Judge Joel Foster, with his negro boy, spent the winter of 1848-49.  From his cave cabin he had full view of the falls on the two streams, no less beautiful in their winter dress of gleaming icicles, with the frost-whitened boughs of the willow and alder drooping over them, than in their summer brightness.  The judge has told me that he loved, almost worshiped, this spot.  The cave cabin stood about one hundred feet from the sparkling stream.  There, in the early morning, he could cast his line, and have for his regal breakfast the speckled trout.  Above him towered a precipice crowned with evergreen trees, and around him, on the borders of the streams, were the elm and maple, and an undergrowth of alder and birch.  There certainly could have been no fairer scene in the West.  To-day no traces remain of the old cave cabin.  The Junction mills have effaced the more beautiful and poetic features of the scene.  The judge has passed away, and found a grave on an elevation overlooking his old home and the scenes he loved so well.   The judge, although a friend to progress, and active in advancing the material interests of the locality in which he lived, was unalterably opposed to the movement to incorporate River Falls, and did all he could to defeat the measure.  When the incorporative act had been passed, he moved outside of the city limits, declaring that he would neither live nor die within them; but having been fatally injured by an accident, he was brought back to his old home, and died within the city.


     The constitution of the State, adopted in 1848, provides "that the revenue of the school fund shall be exclusively applied tot eh following objects:
     "First-To support and maintenance of common schools in each school district, and the purchase of suitable libraries and appurtenances therefor."

Page 222

     "Second-That the residue of the income of the school fund shall be appropriated to the support of academies and normal schools, and suitable libraries and appurtenances therefor."
     No effort was made to take advantage of this provision of the constitution for the endowment of normal schools until 1857, when an act was passed providing "that the income of twenty five percent of the proceeds arising from the sale of swamp and overflowed lands should be appropriated to normal institutes and academies, under the supervision and direction of a 'board of regents of normal schools,'" who were to be appointed in pursuance of that act.  Under this law, the income placed at the disposal of the regents was distributed for several years to such colleges, academies and high schools as maintained a normal class, and in proportion to the number of pupils i the class who passed satisfactory examinations, conducted by an agent of the board.
     The law under which these schools are organized provides that "the exclusive purpose of each normal school shall be the instruction and training of persons, both male and female, in the theory and art of teaching, and in all the various branches that pertain to a good common school education, and in all subjects needful to qualify for teaching in the public schools; also to give instruction in the fundamental laws of he united States and of this State, and in what regards the rights and duties of citizens."


     Tuition in free to all students who are admitted to these normal schools under the following regulations of the board of regents:
     First-Each assembly district in the State shall be entitled to eight representatives in the normal schools, and in case vacancies exist in the representation to which any assembly district is entitled, such vacancies may be filled by the president and secretary of the board of regents.
     Second-Candidates for admission shall be nominated by the superintendent of the county (or if the county superintendent has not jurisdiction, then the nomination shall e made by the city superintendent) in which such candidate may reside, and shall be at least sixteen years of age, of sound bodily health and good moral character.  Each person so nominated shall receive a certificate setting forth his name, age and character.

Page 223

     Third-Upon the presentation of such certificate to the president of a normal school, the candidate shall be examined, under the direction of said president, in the branches required by law of a third grade certificate, except history, theory and practice of teaching, and if found qualified to enter the normal school in respect to learning, he may be admitted after furnishing such evidence as the president may require of good health and good moral character, and after subscribing to the following declaration:
     I, _____ _____, do hereby declare that my purpose in entering this State Normal School is to fit myself for the profession of teaching, and that it is my intention to engage in teaching in the schools of the State.
     Fourth-No person shall be entitled to a diploma who has not been a member of the school in which such diploma is granted, at least on year, nor who is less than nineteen years of age; a certificate of attendance may be granted by the president of a normal school to any person who shall have been a member of such school for one term; provided, that in his judgment such certificate is deserved.
     As an addition to the work of the normal schools, the board of regents are authorized to expend a sum not exceeding $5,000 annually, to sustain teachers' institutes, and may employ an agent for that purpose.  Institutes are regarded as important auxiliaries and feeders to the normal schools.  At present on professor from each normal school is employed conducting institutes very spring and fall.
     The normal school fund now amounts to over $1,250,9000, and yields an annual income of about $100,000.  It will be increased by the further sale of swamp lands, and will prove ample for he objects for which it is set apart.
     In 1865 the legislature divided the swamp lands and swamp land funds into two equal parts, one for drainage purposes, the other to constitute a normal school fund.  The income of the latter was to be applied to establishing, supporting and maintaining normal schools, under the direction and management of the board of regents of normal schools, with a proviso that one-fourth of such income should be transferred to the  common school fund, until the annual income of that fund should reach $200,000.   During the same year, proposals were invited for extending

Page 224

aid in establishment of a normal school, and propositions were received from various places.
     In 1866 the board of regents was incorporated by the legislature.

JOEL FOSTER.-Judge Foster was born at Meriden, Connecticut, Dece. 15, 1814.  He was liberally educated.  he came to Edwardsville, Illinois, in 1830, and to Hudson, then known as Buena Vista, in 1848.  After a careful exploration of the country he made choice of the valley of the Kinnikinic, and made him a home in the fall of 1848, at the junction of the two braches of that stream, and within sound of its beautiful cascades.  He was the pioneer settler of the River Falls of to-day.  He built the first dwelling house, raised the first crops, and ever proved himself a worthy citizen, first in every good work and enterprise.  He was a man of far more than ordinary intelligence and moral worth, was temperate, industrious, public spirited, sagacious and independent.  He has filled many position of responsibility, amongst them that of judge of St. Croix county.  During the Mexican War he served as a quartermaster in Col. Bissell's Second Illinois Regiment.  Judge Foster was married at Chicago in 1856 to Charlotte Porch.  He died at his home in River Falls, Aug. 9, 1885.

JESSE B. THAYER was born Oct. 11, 1845, in Janesville, Wisconsin; was educated at Milton College in 1870, and is by profession a teacher.  During the Rebellion he served in the Fortieth and Forty-ninth Wisconsin Volunteers as a private.  He served five years as principal of the public schools in Menomonie, and since 1875 has been connected with the State Normal School at River Falls as conductor of institutes.  In 1885 he was elected to represent Pierce county in the state assembly.

A.D. ANDREWS.-Dr. A.D. Andrews was born in Lowell, Maine, Sept. 21, 1830.  He graduated at the Chicago Medical College in 1860, and i 1861 was commissioned assistant surgeon of the Sixth Wisconsin Infantry, of the famous Iron Brigade, with which he served up to the battle of Gettysburg.  After retiring from the army he came to River Falls and engaged in milling, in which business he successfully continued until 1880, when he retired.  He was elected state senator in 1878.  He was appointed a regent of the Fourth State Normal School in 1877.  he died at his home in River Falls, after a short illness,

Page 225

July 23 1885.  He was mayor of the city at the time of his death.

JOSEPH A SHORT.-Mr. Short was born in Madison county, New York, April 16, 1806.  He learned the trade of a millwright.  He visited the East and Wet Indies.  He came to Milwaukee in 1842.  In 1849 he went to California, but returned in 1854, and settled in River Falls, where he built a saw and planing mill, laid out an addition to the village and in various ways promoted the interests of the settlement.  Mr. Short was a member of the Methodist church sixty years, and of the Masonic fraternity fifty years.  He was married Aug. 25, 1831, in New York, to Olive Prossen.  He died at his home, May 6, 1886, aged eighty years, leaving a son and thee daughters.

ALLEN H. WELD.-Prof. A.H. Weld, widely known as a pioneer educator, and as the author of an excellent grammar, was born in Vermont in 1810.  He graduated at Yale College.  He came to River Falls in 1858 and taught the first graded school in the village.  For two years he was principal of the high school at Hudson, and for six years was superintendent of schools in St. Croix county.  He was a member of the state board of regents nine years, and was prime mover in securing the location of the State Normal School at River Falls.   The excellent character of the schools in St. Croix county, and the high educational position of River Falls, are due ot his untiring effort and wise direction.  Mr. Weld was a member of the Congregational church and a consistent Christian as well as a progressive, public spirited man.  He died in 1882, at his home in River Falls, leaving a widow and one son, Allen P.

ALLEN P. WELD was born in North Yarmouth, Maine, in 1839.  In 1859 he graduated at Dartmouth College.  He studied law and was admitted to practice in 1867, at Albany, New York.  He taught school  at Albany three years, and came to River Falls in 1859, where he is a dealer in real estate.  He was married in 1872 to Alice Powell, daughter of Lyman Powell.

GEORGE W. NICHOLS was born in 1795, at Braintree, Vermont.  His father was a soldier in the Revolution.  At the age of seventeen he enlisted and served in the war of 1812.  He lived in Vermont fifty years, in Massachusetts ten years, and in 1855 came to River Falls, where he engaged in farming until he was eighty years of age.  he was married in Vermont to Deborah Hobart,

Page 226

who died in 1874.  His sons George H. and William H. reside in River Falls.  They were soldiers during the war of the Rebellion.  His son Isaac N. was a member of Capt. Samuels' company, and was killed at Perrysville, Kentucky.  The Grand Army of the Republic post at River Falls has his name.  He died in 1887.

W.D. PARKER.-Prof. Parker was born in Bradford, Orange county, Vermont, in 1839.  He received a common school and academic education.  At the age of sixteen years he entered the Janesville High School, and four years later graduated.  He taught two years in Janesville, four years at Delavan, and one year in Monroe, Green county, Wisconsin.  In 1867 he visited Europe, after which he taught two years at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.  He was superintendent of schools five years at Janesville.  In 1875 he was elected to the presidency of the Fourth State Normal School at River Falls.  In 1886 he was elected state superintendent of public instruction.  Prof. Parker was married to Justine B. Hewes, of Chicago, in 1869.

THE POWELL FAMILY.-William Powell, the father, came to River Falls in 1849, where he lived with his sons until his death, Nov. 30, 1865.  His second wife was the widow of ____ Taylor, and the mother of Horace and Lute Taylor, the well known journalists.  Mrs. Powell did in July, 1884.

LYMAN POWELL came to River Falls with his family in 1855.  He was married to Lucinda Taylor, sister of Horace and Lute Taylor.  Mr. Powell died at River Falls, Nov. 9, 1872, leaving a wife, two sons and five daughters.

NATHANIEL N. POWELL, the second son, was born May 11, 1827, in St. Lawrence county, New York, came to River Falls in 1849, and pre-empted the northeast quarter of section 1, now a part of the site of River Falls city.  He was married to Martha Ann Hart, Sep. 28, 1842, at Hudson.  He died at River Falls, Sept. 28, 1862, leaving one son and one daughter.

OLIVER S. POWELL, the youngest son, was born June 19, 1831, and came to Hancock county, Illinois, in 1843, where he lived eight years.  He had no great opportunities for gaining and education.  he came to Stillwater in 1849, bringing with him the first threshing machine north of Prairie du Chien.  He threshed the first gain threshed in the county in the fall of that year, for Fiske, on a farm three miles below Stillwater.  In November

Page 227

1849, he located at River Falls, pre-empting the south half o the southeast quarter of section 36, town 28, range 19, lands lying jut north of those claimed by his brother, and which afterward became a part of River Falls.  Mr. Powell was a representative in the state assembly in 1870-71-71, and was a county commissioner many years.  He was married in 1860 to Elmira Nichols.  They have three sons, Harvey C., Newell N. and Lyman T., and four daughters, Lucy M., Sarah H., Amy E., and Miriam.

NILS P. HAUGEN was born in Norway in 1849, came to America i 1853 and to River Falls in 1854.  He graduated in the law department of Michigan State University in 1874.  Mr. Haugen was phonographic reporter of the Eight and Eleventh Judicial circuits for several years, and a member of the assembly from Pierce county in 1879 and 80.  He was elected railroad commissioner for Wisconsin in 1881, and re-elected in 1884.  In 1886 he was elected representative to Congress.

H.L. WADSWORTH was born July 10, 1821, in Erie county, New York.  He learned the trade of a shoemaker, came West in 1846, and settled at River Falls some time in the '50s, and engaged in farming.  He has filled many positions of trust in the St. Croix Valley, and in 1867 represented St. Croix county in the assembly.  In 1841 he was married to Miss A.R. Baldwin.  Eight children have been born to them.


Includes township 26, range 15.  It was organized as a town Nov. 16 1866.  The first town meeting was held at the house of J. Prickett.  The first commissioner was Sylvester fox, chairman.  The post offices are Rock Elm Centre, sections 16 and 17.  At the latter place is located Rock Elm Institute, a school of high grade, founded in 1880.  Harrison Lowater is the principal.  The town is well supplied with schools, there being as many as nine within its limits.  The town is well supplied with schools, there being as many as nine within its limits.  Among the first settlers were Loomis Kellogg, Charles A. Hawn and Sylvester Fox.


     Salem occupies township 25, range 16.  It is drained by Rush River.  It was organized as a town Jan. 13, 1862.  First

Page 228

board of supervisors, C.C. Carpenter, Eben White and J.H. Shults.  The first school was taught i 1857, by Thompson McCleary.  The first marriage was that of Harvey Seeley and Kate McKinstry.  The first child born was Sarah Fuller.  The first death was that of John McCleary, Sept. 2, 1863.  The first post office was established at Rush River, May 1860, Joseph Seeley, postmaster.  The first settlers were Jeremiah Fuller, from Ohio, and W. Wells, 1846; Harvey Seeley, 1848; Thomas Boyle and James White, 1854; john F. Davis from Ireland, 1856 (town clerk twenty years); John H. Brasington, from Pennsylvania (town treasurer fifteen years); Eben White, James Walsingham, John Strong, H.M. Hicks, from Pennsylvania, 1858; John Foley and brothers from Ireland, 1856; James H. Shults, Joseph Seeley, H.C. Brown, John McClure, from Ireland; C.C. and Ira W. Carpenter, from Connecticut, 1858.


Is in the extreme northeastern town of the county, occupying township 27, range 15.  The post offices are oak Ridge and Spring Valley.  The town was organized Nov. 10, 1868.  the first town meeting was held at the house of A.M. Wilcox.  The first supervisors were:  W.D. Akers, chairman; Jonas Nebb; Levi Hess, clerk.  The first school was taught i 1866 by Agnes Harriman.  The Methodist and Baptist churches have organizations, and the Methodists have a building worth five hundred dollars.  The first marriage was that of H.M. Wilcox to Mrs. Kate Rice of lake City, by W.D. Akers, justice of the peace.  The first child born was a daughter of Ole P. Gardner.  The first death was that of Leota Wilcox, in 1864.  the first postmaster was B.H. Preston, 1871.  The first settlers in the order of their coming were James Gilmore, O.P. Gardner, George Wilcox, John Francisco and W.D. Akers.


     Trenton contains about twenty-eight sections, those on the Mississippi having very irregular boundaries.  Twenty-four whole sections lie in township 25, range 18, and the remainder in township 24, range 18.  Trenton, in section 33, township 25, is its post village.  Trenton was organized by 1857; James Akers,

Page 229

chairman of supervisors.  Wilson Thing, pioneer settler, came in 1848.


     Trimbelle includes township 26, range 18.  Its post villages are Trimbelle and Beldenville.  It was organized March 2, 1855.  Its supervisors were F. Otis, chairman, and Aaron Cornelison.  Among its earliest settlers were the Cornelisons, F. Otis and M.B. williams.  It has four saw mills and one flouring mill, five school houses and one church (Methodist).

MARTIN B. WILLIAMS was born in New York in 1812.  He received a common school education, and at the age of sixteen years was thrown upon his own resources.  He learned he trade of blacksmith.  He was married in New York, and has four sons, Clark M., Frank T., G. Glen and A. Judd.  Mr. Williams is one of the pioneer settlers of Trimbelle, and has held many public town and county positions.  He served as treasurer of Pierce county for four years.  He has been a local preacher in the Methodist Episcopal church for over thirty years.


     Union consists of township 25, range 15.  It is drained by Plum Creek.  It has two post offices, Plum Creek, in section 24, and Ono, section 6.  It was organized Aug. 15, 1863.  Among its first settlers were Eleazer Holt, Hiram N. Wood, and Capt. Horst, who made their homes here in the early '50s.


Return to Towns

Return to Main page