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

Chapter II: early lumbering operations,   pp. 7-19

Page 7

The first lumbering operations in Dunn County or in the Red Cedar Valley of
which it is a part, were in 1822, when Harding Perkins, backed by James H. Lock-
wood and Joseph Rollette, rival fur traders, erected a mill at the confluence of the
Wilson or Meadow Creek and the Red Cedar or Menomonie River, the present
site of the city of Menomonie.
The next was the logging operations of a military expedition from Prairie du
Chien in 1829 under the command of Lieutenant Levin Gale with the purpose of
securing logs and timber for the defense of Fort Crawford at that place.
Shortly after this came the building of a second mill at Menomonie in 1830 and
a mill on the banks of the Gilbert Creek, a short way down the river in 1831, both
by James H. Lockwood, backed by Joseph Rolette.
A third location was selected by Hiram S. Allen on the banks of Irvine Creek, still
further down the river from Gilbert Creek. This mill was evidently built in the
middle 30's, as Allen probably did not come into the valley until 1834, and mills
seem to have been running on Wilson, Gilbert and Irvine Creeks when John H.
Fonda, who had been a member of the military expedition of 1829, started his
second operations here in 1836 or 1837. Allen in addition to building the Irvine
Creek mill bought the Gilbert Creek mill and possibly an interest in the Wilson
Creek mill. Allen originally came to cut logs and get out squared timber to float
down the river, but found that to make the lumbering business profitable he must
have means of mill sawing. The Wilson Creek mill was called the upper mill,
the Gilbert Creek mill the middle mill, and the Irvine Creek mill the lower mill.
Recorded information regarding these early operations is found in the narrative
of James H. Lockwood published in Vol. II of the Wisconsin Historical Collections;
the narrative of John H. Fonda, published in Vol. V of the Wisconsin Historical
Collections: and the account of Henry R. Schoolcraft of his trip down the Red
Cedar River, on pages 388-389 of his "Personal Memories of a Residence of Thirty
Years With the Indian Tribes, 1812-1842."
Of the operations of Hardin Perkins, Mr. Lockwood says:
"About the year 1822, a man by the name of Hardin Perkins, from Kentucky,
came to Prairie du Chien for the purpose of building a saw-mill in the Indian
country, and obtained permission from Major Taliaferro, then agent for the Sioux
Indians, with the consent of the Indians, to erect a saw-mill on their land on the
Chippewa River and tributaries; but Perkins not having the capital to carry out
his project, nor sufficient influence to obtain the permission of the Indians to erect
this mill, solicited Joseph Rolette and myself to join him, which we did, and con-
tracted with Wabashaw's band of Sioux, who claimed the Chippewa River country,
for the privilege of erecting a mill and cutting timber for it, paying them about
81,000 per year in goods, and furnished Perkins the necessary means for the purpose;
and he was to take charge of and conduct the business. He proceeded to Men-
omonee River, a tributary of the Chippewa, and on a small stream running into
the Menomonee, about twentv miles from its mouth, erected a saw mill and had
it so nearly done that he expected to commence sawing in a very few days, when one
of those sudden freshets to which hilly countries are subject, came upon him and
swept away the dam, mill and appendages, and Perkins returned to Prairie du Chien
with his family and hands, having suffered during his residence there considerably
from fear of the Chippewa Indians who resided near, and sometimes visited the
mill builders.
"Col. Snelling, who commanded at Fort Snelling, had frequently since Perkins
and his men commenced operations, threatened to send a force and destroy the
mill, saying the Indian agent had no authority to give permission to build mills in

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