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

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

Page 46

On Black's account during the summer there are five separate memorandum
charges for lumber delivered for his benefit, to which no price is attached. These
charges taken in connection with this definite measurement amount found due,
indicates that the basis of this account was a certain quantity of logs or lumber
belonging to David Black which was not included in the sale to Knapp and Wilson
and which he left at the mill for the then present use of the firm, to be at some time
returned to him in kind.
On this same trip Lockwood closed up, for the time being, the co-partnership
business of Black and Knapp. His account is credited with the sum of 8595.94 on
settlement of partnership business to Dec. 1, 1846. There is a statement on the
account that this sum is to be paid according to an agreement entered into, the
terms of which are not stated.
These adjustments only touch the difficulties consequent upon the death of Mr.
Black as to business already done. They did not provide for the future operation
and development of the lumber enterprise. The ownership of the property was
still left clouded with an uncertainty as to who would eventually own Mr. Black's
one-half interest.
This interest could be and doubtlessly was considere I from two different stand-
points. Mr. Lockwood claimed the mill and buildings to be property owned in
common in which Mr. Black's estate held a one-half part. Mr. Knapp claimed
them as personal property which he and Mr. Black had held as partnership property
and the full ownership and control at Black's death came to him as surviving
partner. Probably Mr. Knapp's position was correct. The private rights ac-
quired here in the improvements made were merely the rights of squatters on the
public lands. The land belonged to the United States. It had not been surveyed.
It had not been thrown open to sale. Had the improvements become actually a
part of the land then they would have been the property of the United States.
Evidently they were personal property the same as logs cut, lumber manufactured
or goods put into the store or warehouse. The license from the government to
Black and Knapp merely permitted them to possess the site and cut timber in the
Indian country. Lockwood, as administrator, proceeded to make, if possible, at
public auction, a sale of Black's supposed separate one-half interest, ignoring Mr.
Knapp's claim of right to sell it as a part of the whole assets of the firm.
Knapp and Wilson did not help to further this public sale. In one of Lock-
wood's reports to the court he complains that Captain Wilson failed to post up at
the mill a notice of this sale. A public sale meant for Knapp and Wilson great
annoyance if not considerable financial loss. It was next to impossible for them to
raise the money to buy in Black's one-half interest, and it was not desirable to them
that a stranger become a part owner of the mill.
The public sale was not made and the matter was allowed to drag along for four
years. On May 4, 1850, Lockwood as administrator transferred Black's interest
to Knapp and Wilson. In the price paid there was probably included such sum as
the parties agreed upon for all unsettled partnership affairs of the firm of Black and
To keep the business running after Black's death it is apparent from the partner-
ship books that many makeshift schemes were resorted to and dummy accounts
kept, and probably with the knowledge and consent of Black's administrator.
To get logs for the mill required an obligation of some one to pay for the cutting
and driving. As Knapp and Wilson were to assume any such debt and it could
not be made a charge to the business of Black and Knapp, they entered upon the
work of logging. This was done in the name of several partnerships. In some the
name of Capt. Wilson openly appears as a partner, while the accounts of others
but thinly veil the fact that he and Mr. Knapp were interested parties adverse to
Black and Knapp.
Of these companies there was Bliss and Whitcomb, Whitcomb  and Wilson,
Bullard and Wilson and Wickham & Co. There were also three other partnership
logging companies operating in this immediate vicinity that furnished logs to Knapp
and Wilson. In two of these three companies Mr. Bullard was interested. One

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