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The history of Columbia County, Wisconsin, containing an account of its settlement, growth, development and resources; an extensive and minute sketch of its cities, towns and villages--their improvements, industries, manufactories, churches, schools and societies; its war record, biographical sketches, portraits of prominent men and early settlers; the whole preceded by a history of Wisconsin, statistics of the state, and an abstract of its laws and constitution and of the constitution of the United States
(1880)

Chapter X,   pp. 588-664 PDF (39.1 MB)


Page 589


HISTORY OF COLUMBIA COUNTY.5
1860 may be denominated the speculative period in its development,; while
the era of permanent
progress occupies the time from the latter date to the present. The canal,
of course, was. the
improvement toward which every one looked and the thoughts of all reverted.
When it was
finally decided that there should be a canal, before the survey had been
made, great excitement
prevailed among the people owning and occupying the little cluster of houses
along.Wisconsin
street. It was generally believed that the two rivers would be connected
through Bronson
avenue, inasmuch as the two streams approached nearest together at this point,
and a demand
for property along the avenue was necessarily soon manifested. But, as some
experience has
long since taught, there is no telling where canals and railroads are going
until they get there;
the Portage Canal was no exception to the rule. Bronson avenue property owners
were seriously
disappointed when the fiat went forth that the canal, with a perplexing elbow
in it, should be
located some distance northwest of them.  This announcement created confusion,
and real estate
values were sadly effected. Immigrants were constantly pouring in, but very
few of them chose
to locate upon " the flat;'" they preferred high ground. And then
it was that the first settle-
ments were made along the brow of the semi-circular hill, then so clearly
discernible, in what
are now the Second and Third Wards.   The population of this new settlement
was composed
almost entirely of former residents of Fremont, Ohio.   A very brisk rivalry
soon sprang up
between the old residents of " Lower' Town" and the new comers
of "1Upper Town ;" and
when the latter became influential enough to secure the removal of the post-office
to the nort&
side of the canal, the name "1Gougeville " was immediately substituted
for "1Upper Town " by
the chagrined denizens of "1 The Flat. " The energy and industry
of all classes, however, soon
united in the common cause of progress.   The two settlements became one,
and local differences
of a character to retard development were thereafter seldom indulged in.
   J In the fall of 1853, there were ten drv goods stores in Portage, with
an aggregate stock
.worth nearly a quarter of a million of dollars.   Of other mercantile establishments,
such as
grocery, drug, clothing, hardware, jewelry and tin stores, there were sixteen.
This number did
not include the "grocery stores " where liquor was the chief commodity
dealt in.  In several of
the establishments mentioned, the daily receipts were from $100 to $150,
and it was generally
conceded that more business was transacted in Portage (then but three or
four years of age)
than in Jamesville, the latter having the advantage of three times the population
and twenty
years' experience.
      "Three years ago," says a writer of 1854, "it was but
a bare frontier settlement around
 the old Fort Winnebago; now it numbers 3,000 inhabitants, and is the center
of trade for a
 large tract of the best country in the State. Two freight and passenger
steamers are running
 to this place weekly from the Mississippi River, thereby connecting Portage
with St. Louis and
 New Orleans.   There is but one check to its growth, and that I regard as
only temporary; I
 mean the Veeder claim dispute, just decided by the Supreme Court in favor
of Veeder."
     During 1854, manufacturing institutions, schools and churches sprang
up on every hand.
 The very atmosphere appeared to throb with the pulsations of progress. 
 McNeal & Burgher
 completed their four-story stone flouring-mill on the canal in this year;
Smith & Blair estab-
 lished a furnace on Dodge street; work was commenced on the La Crosse &
Milwaukee Rail-
 road depot buildings ; a classical institute was placed upon a sound footing;
a daily mail was estab-
 lished between Madison and Portage; H. Orton organized a circus, and gave
a performance for
 the benefit of the poor" while numerous other progressive movements
were made.
      In 1855, D. Vandercook built and finished his substantial brick block,
46x65, three stories
 high; B. F. Pixley erecte4. a stim planing-mill, on the north bank of the
river, near the ferry.
 Arnold, Fargo, Mappa, Dmnn and McFarlane broke ground for an extensive brick
structdre
 (now the Corning House), on the northwest corner of Cook and Wisconsin streets;
Mr. Sexton
 completed a block of stores on Cook street; six brick buildings, the property
of Mr. McTighe,
 were in course of construction ; the Methodist Church was completed; the
Presbyterian Church
 was commenced; the Episcopal Church was finished, and numerous private residences
were
 occupied for the first time. A 'local editor sums up the work of two years
as follows: " Two
589


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