University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Rivard, John T. / Triple centennial jubilee souvenir book : Somerset

Chapter III: life in the Apple River settlement,   pp. 14-15

Page 14

THE VILLAGE, aside from the mills, contains a hotel, store,
blacksmith shop, a good substantial school house and about
thirty dwellings. It is pleasantly located on Apple River, which
affords an abundant water power. Such is the home of SAM
HARRIMAN, where he lives, thrives and has his being, and head-
quarters for the Superior Land Grant Agency, "of whom he
is which," by recent decision of the powers that be in
Another feature (good one at that) is ED. FANNING, right
hand supporter and aid-de-camp to the General.  Ed. sells
sugar and calico, lumber and tape. Ed. entertains company in
princely style, and attends to business like one born to the trade.
To him are we indebted for much information regarding the
town and its prosperity this season. Over one thousand acres
of new breaking has been done this year, and the teams are
still at work. New farms are being opened up, new dwellings
and fences erected, and business of every class flourishing. And
there is yet room for improvement. Lands are cheap and emi-
grants can find plenty of chances to make homes. Somerset is
a success, and is destined to be one of the best towns in St. Croix
County. Drive on, Somerset!
The first settlers who came to the Apple River from 185o
to 1 856 were drawn here by the possibility of obtaining a
homestead from the land owned by the United States of America.
First they would choose a likeable piece of land suitable for
farming. The settler would build himself a log cabin. Between
clearing the land and sowing what he had cleared in wheat and
rye, he would work in the woods or on the log drive down the
Apple River or the St. Croix.  Our hearty pioneers were
adapted to any kind of hard labor. Sometimes immediately, or
being in no rush to decide permanently yet, sometimes a year
or two after settling, they would file an entry or claim at the
U. S. Land Office in Hudson, the county seat. This entry
would be sent to Washington whereupon a patent, or first
deed, signed by the President of the United States himself, would
be issued to the homesteader. Upon payment of about z5c per
acre the homesteader received his patent and the land was his
to have and to hold. Several families in the township have to
this day their original patent issued by Presidents: Fillmore,
Pierce, Buchanan, Lincoln, Johnson and Grant, from 185o to
1870. David Germain made the first claim on July 18, 1851.
Ambrose Martell Log House
The Oldest House, Logs Are Covered with Tin
Jroseph Parent made the next claim on December 1, 1852.
he claims were usually made a year or two after settling.
This whole territory was then known as La Pointe de ]a
Pomme de Terre, in English - Potato River. This was the
name given it by the Parent brothers, or the Indians. Pomme de
Terre word for word means apple of the earth. When the
English speaking loggers and trappers came they translated the
pomme to apple and dropped de terre, called it the Apple River
and let it go at that. The old Frenchmen still call it La Pomme
de Terre.
After General Harriman named his little village Somerset,
the French speaking pioneers by common usage began calling
the territory Somerset also, but it did not come out the same
way. In the Province of Quebec most small places are called
after the title of the parish: St. Anne, St. Pascale, St. Jean, etc.
When the Frenchmen heard the name "Somerset" it sounded
to their French ear like "St. Morrissette". So the early pioneers
called it St. Morrissette; Some oldtimers still do.
Little by little the pioneers pushed back the forest and set
their breaking plows to the virgin soil. These hardy Frenchmen
would then take their poche a semance (broadcasting sack) and
sow wheat. What about the tough pine stumps?  With a team
of oxen and a block and tackle they would grub and pull them
out, spending hours on one stump. No dynamite those days!
Le jaivelier (cradlescythe) and the fleau (flail) were their instru-
ments of harvest. The women would use the lighter faucille
(hand sickle) to cut the wheat, tying the wheat into javelles
(bundles). After flailing the wheat they would vanner (fan)
the grains by pouring the grains from a bread pan in the air so
that the wind would blow out the chaff. No grain was ever
lost. The men and especially the women and children would
take a rateau (wooden toothed rake) and go over the field.
When they needed supplies or clothing they would throw in a
few sacks of wheat and make their way by ox cart (charette) to
the nearest grist mill, having it ground to flour or selling it to
the miller. The dairy industry did not develop until the cheese
factories came in the 8o's and 9 's. They had only a few
cows. Mother skimmed the pans of milk and made butter with
her baratte (churn). Outside of the cabin was a four (oven
made of masonry) where Mother baked bread. Mother also
made her own soap. Un rouet a filer (spinning wheel) stood
handy in the main room of the house. Many an hour did our
randmothers spend at that wheel! La machine a tisser (hand
om) weaved the thread into cloth. And the heavy wool stuff
was plenty picky! Le foin (hay) was cut, raked and stacked
by hand -   no big barns those days! La Charrette (ox cart)
was the transportation for hay, wheat and people.
Felix and Adolph Parent threshing machine 1893. Note that first
steam engines were horsedrawn. Joseph Sicard, Amable Parent, Sr.,
Edward Dumais, and Albert Germain.

Go up to Top of Page