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Curtiss-Wedge, F.; Jones, Geo. O. (ed.) / History of Dunn County, Wisconsin
(1925)

Chapter VIII: mill and dam locations at Menomonie,   pp. 50-52


Page 50

CHAPTER VIII
MILL AND DAM LOCATIONS AT MENOMONIE
About a year or two after Hardin Perkins, backed by James H. Lockwood and
Joseph Rolette, secured permission to erect a mill, in 1822, a dam was built across
Wilson's Creek, and a mill was there constructed. Dam and mill were soon swept
awavbv a sudden freshet, the mill not yet having been put into operation. In 1830
Lockwvood and Rolette sent a second crew here, the foreman of which selected as a
site for his dam the identical place built upon by the former crew. The number in
the respective crews is not stated, but from things that are stated by Mfr. Lockwood
in his narrative of these two expeditions it is inferred that there were from 20 to 25
men in each. No woman is mentioned in the first crew but in the second was a
Menomonie squaw who served as cook and as interpreter with the Chippewas.
She was the only woman and the only member of the force who could speak the
Chippewa language.
Again a freshet broke the dam after about 100,000 feet of lumber had been sawed.
Probably at this time the mill was not carried away, as Lockwood in his account of
the incident does not mention the mill and only states that the dam was carried
away. Schoolcraft, who passed here in 1831 soon after the freshet, mentions par-
ticularly the work of replacing the dam, but says nothing about a mill having
been destroyed.
These two consecutive dams and the third one, built in 1831, it is now confi-
dently affirmed, stood where the present dam across this creek now stands. To
support such a conclusion there is not only Lockwood's statement and School-
craft's report, but there are the statements of men who saw this dam rebuilt and
repaired in later years. The then position of old timbers, they say, clearly indicated,
at this certain place, the foundation of a former very old dam and no other founda-
tion for such a purpose, either above or below it, was thus, or in any other way
shown.
It seems to be a matter of general knowledge that a dam has been continuously
maintained on this early site. As before, so since 1831, it has, at times, been swept
away by freshets, once, within the memory of many now here, when the yellow-
brown water of Wilson's Creek was forced through the channel of the Red Cedar
River, then itself at freshet stage, and across the lake to the foot of the bluff below
the City Hall. The broad band of muddy water could be easily traced this whole
distance by one standing above on the bank of the lake. This current of water
from the creek then cutting transversely that of the river, then at its flood, shows
the terrific force of a freshet on this small stream.
The shape of the lower valley of this creek is such that an on-coming freshet
has no opportunity of lateral expansion. - The descending flood cannot spread.
The basin of the creek at its mouth is bottle-shaped. For 100 rods above the dam
it is straight and narrow and the water is confined between high banks. The exit
of a flood into the river is as through a chute, that a government surveyor reported
in 1849 to be 150 links (99 feet) wide.
This site on Wilson's Creek for a dam has been accounted a fairly safe one,
not withstanding the frequency of its visitation by disastrous floods. The destruc-
tion each time, although annoying and expensive, was not wholly financially ruinous
to those who owned it. In 1838 and in 1846 the first dams were built at Chippewa
Falls and Eau Claire and they were soon injured by freshets and in 1847 they were
completely washed away by floods, entailing so serious a loss that all of the proprie-
tors were made bankrupts. These dams have since frequently been swept away
by high water.
While the historian may with confidence locate the three first dams across Wil-
son's Creek on the site of its present power dam, some unc~rtainty creeps in when
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