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

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

Chapter XVI: The press of Menomonie,   pp. 124-133


Page 126

HISTORY OF DUNN COUNTY
the Menomonie River. If I remember rightly, the act creating Pepin County
provided for the change. However that may be, 'Menomonie,' as it was christened
by Mr. S. B. French, was unanimously chosen for the county seat. Almost the
first thought after that was settled was a county paper. In order to carry my
readers back to those times, it will be necessary to explain that the country was
then "new" in a very real sense. What is now Menomonie consisted of Knapp,
Stout & Co.'s mills; the company store, a large and well stocked establishment,
where could be bought almost every article of food, apparel, ornament, or shelter,
either for man or beast; Bullard's hotel on the knoll just west of the company store,
where the best kind of mince pie and coffee could always be had; Andrew Tainter's
house, still nearer the store to the northward-a modest two-story frame; Capt.
William Wilson's rambling one-story and story and a half frame, only a few steps
to th6 southeast of the entrance to the store; Mr. S. B. French's house, and a few
others which I am not able to recall. There was, besides, a considerable cluster of
other buildings down the west bank of the river below the mills, some large, as the
dining-hall and dormitory, and others small, and used as lodgings for the mill
hands and their families. These buildings were all frames, as I recall them, and
they furnished cUumfortable quarters for a population of probaLy 500 : abitants.
There was no bridge across the river then and the only mode of crossing was by
ferry boat attached by sliding pulleys to a rope stretched across the river at a point
just above the dam. All that plateau where the 'village,' and later the city of
Menomonie now is, was unbroken prairie without a single house, and was not yet
platted on paper.'
After mentioning the members of the Dunn County bar and the county officials
of that day, Mr. Bundy continued:
'The whole population of Dunn County was probably below 5,000. Farming,
beyond the raising of potatoes and a few garden vegetables, had not then begun.
There were no farms immediately around Menomonie, Mud Creek prairie, Sher-
burn prairie and Elk Creek prairie had each a few settlers who raised enough of
grain and vegetables for their own use and probably some potatoes for sale at the
mills. The company had begun to raise potatoes on their farm at Rice Lake and
possibly were then able to supply their own wants, but the people generally de-
pended upon the lower country for their bacon, beans, corn, wheat and fruit; in
fine, everything except rain, sunshine and fuel. Prairie roads soon became sandy
from travel, but as there were no fences, wherever the sand became too deep each
traveler could turn out of the old tracks and make a new path for himself. In
summer time this worked admirably in practice, since all the driver had to look
out for was the gopher hole that was liable to trip the horse; but in winter, especially
for night travel, this freedom of choice led to occasional wanderings from the
straight and narrow paths that led to warm fires, supper and lodgings. There was
a stage route from Black River Falls to Hudson by way of Menomonie. This
stage carried the mail. This is the merest glimpse of the field which was to sus-
tain the new paper. Captain Wilson was a born optimist, and he was the'whole
push' in Menomonie. He had determined to have a newspaper. With plenty of
money at his command, it was an easy matter to procure a press, type and materials,
and it seems that he had a printer in mind who would do the mechanical work.
All he lacked was an editor. Turning to me one day, he says, 'Bundy, I believe
you would make a pretty decent editor. Suppose you try it?' As I had never
yet read anything in type of my own composing and had never seen the inside of
a printing office, I had no grounds for doubting my qualifications for the post, and
I cheerfully signified my willingness 'to try.' That was the genesis of the first
Dunn County newspaper, founded in 1860.'
To resume the main narrative: "The paper, under the editorship of Mr. Bundy,
who, it may be said, is now living at a venerable age in Washington, D. C., was a
seven-column folio, and in politics was Republican, as it had been during the half
century of its existence. When the Civil War broke out Mr. Bundy enlisted in
Company K, Fifth Wisconsin Infantry, serving as orderly sergeant. Upon his
departure the editorial chair was filled by his brother, E. B. Bundy, later for many
126


Go up to Top of Page