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

Chapter VII: some economic aspects of 1846,   pp. 43-49


Page 43

CHAPTER VII
SOME ECONOMIC ASPECTS OF 1846
James H. Lockwood, to show that his comtemplated enterprise of lumbering,
on the Red Cedar River, was in the nature of a public benefit, set forth in his
application, in the year 1825, for a government permit, that "the improvement
now going on in the country between this valley and St. Louis and the probable
increase in population that will come into the mining country, makes timber neces-
sary, there being none cut in the Indian country."
The mining country mentioned was the Galena District on the Galena River.
Its population did soon increase, but its supply of lumber, in a few years, came
largely from the Wisconsin River, cut from Indian lands under government per-
mits. In fact one of its lumbermen, about 1835, built a sawmill in this "mining
country." Evidently Mr. Lockwood failed to foresee the enterprise of others.
No record appears on the account books at Menomonie of sales of lumber in
this mining country. The only entry found pertaining to it seems to indicate
merely a tie-up of the raft at that point. It is a cash credit, in 1848. "By provi-
sions for man at Galena $2.92."
Lockwood seems to have been too sanguine about trade at the mines, and also
as to a quick settlement of the Mississippi River Valley. As a matter of fact there
was no considerable settlement in this valley between Prairie du Chien and Fort
Snelling before 1846. It has been stated by a good authority that the only settle-
ment between these places up to 1845, was that at La Crosse and but seven males
and five females were then living there, and that in that year the first frame house
was built between Prairie du Chien and Red Wing. In 1846, below Prairie du Chien
and above the rapids of the Mississippi River there were only the mining settlements
mentioned and the small towns of Dubuque and Ft. Madison.
St. Louis was the first market place below the rapids. To run lumber to St.
Louis added greatly to the expense of up-river lumbering. There was not only
the increase of cost in wages and board of the raft's crew for the additional distance
down and back, but the breakage in passing the rapids at what is now Keokuk.
This loss of breakage has been estimated bv a Wisconsin River lumberman who in
the early days of lumbering ran his lumlber to St. Louis, at five per cent, one-
twentieth part of the whole amount of lumber run over the rapids.
The river towns below Prairie du Chien had greatly increased in importance
from 1829 to 1 F46, but their condition at the end of that period was oll( uf depres-
sion. This is what the newspapers of the valley in 1846 said, and they evidently
voiced the talk of the people in their conventions and upon the street. One leading
paper in presenting the situation stated it to be such, that, "our river towns are
languishing."  The cause of this sickly state was said to be the neglect of the
general government to improve the channel of the Mississippi River at the rapids.
By reason of this neglect it was said there was not available sufficient transportation
facilities and all trade was being diverted to Chicago and other great lake towns.
During the summer, conventions were held at Memphis and at Chicago. The
former to urge improvement of the river and the latter to make further known the
fact, that at the head of Lake Michigan there was a natural distributing depot
from the West to the East and also from which to distribute the goods of the East
over the West. At this convention there were present 2,300 delegates.
Whether during the latter part of the period from 1829 to 1846 the demand for
lumber on the river below was too limited; whether the proprietors. of the mill at
Menomonie did not give the business proper attention; whether the financial back-
ing of this enterprise was too small, or whether from all these things combined the
result came, it is not easy to determine, but the fact is, the business here was not
prosperous. It does not appear to have been as successful in 1846 as it was from
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