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

Chapter IX: Early settlement of Menomonie,   pp. 53-59

Page 53

The modem history of Dunn County dates from the beginning of the lumber
business at Menomonie in 1822-23. The permanent settlement dates from 1830.
Milwaukee was settled but a few years earlier; Madison in 1837, seven years later;
Chippewa Falls, 1838, eight years later; Black River Falls, 1839, nine years later;
Hudson, 1841, eleven years after; and Eau Claire, 1845, fifteen years after. Going
outside of the state it is found that Chicago had but two families one year after
the site of Menomonie was first occupied; that St. Paul was not settled until 1838,
eight years after permanent settlement in Menomonie.
The occupation of 1822-24, told about by Lockwood, cannot be said to have
been a settlement; it was at best only an attempted settlement. This was followed
by an occupation of the river banks near Dunnville in the winter of 1829-30 by
officers and soldiers of the United States to the number of 74, engaged in getting
out timber and lumber, but there was no thought by them of making a settlement.
Quite a full account of the doings of this force, detailing the character of their work
and the mode of their life has been given by one of its members, from which it
appears that the expedition was purely military.
The occupation here in 1830 is the first that can truly be called a settlement occu-
pation. That of Gilbert's Mill was close upon its heels as it was begun in 1831.
The life of these camps can only be conjectured. The workmen were French-
Canadians who had formerly served in the fur trade and discharged United States
soldiers, or, in some cases, deserters. In general, rough crews, whose daily life of
work, with recreation of cards, music, dancing and drinking can be imagined from
many accounts extant of western pioneer life. The Indians furnished venison,
bear meat, fish, game birds, maple sugar and berries. The men so inclined, on
leisure days hunted and went fishing. Some ate in the company kitchen and slept
at the company's bunk house; some, by couples, or more, organized a mess and
lived by themselves, and some took to themselves squaw wives. All traded at
the company store and their supplies were occasionally pilfered by thieving Indians.
The crews were for the most part hired for a season; came here in the fall and during
the next summer from May to November went on company rafts to Mississippi
River towns. Some came back, others did not return, and new men were hired to
take their places. Often brothers or chums came at the same time and went away
Schoolcraft reports a Mr. Wallace with ten men as being here in August, 1831.
Randall in his papers on the Chippewa Valley states that George Wales, an ex-
army officer, was then in charge here. As the name of Wallace, as a lumberman,
is not known in this region, and Wales is known to have engaged in other lumber
enterprises in this vicinity, it seems proper to consider that the man interviewed by
Schoolcraft was named Wales and not Wallace.
John H. Fonda was the member of the military force of 1829-30 who wrote an
account of the expedition. He also came to this mill in 1837-39. He has recorded
the fact of his living here, but his account is very meager. He brought here his
wife and children, but we are not informed that any other family resided here at
the same time. He has, however, stated the method of transportation in and out.
He and his family came from Prairie du Chien to Reads Landing on a steamboat,
thence up the Chippewa and Red Cedar Rivers on a Machinaw boat. When he
went away he got a Machinaw 30 feet long in which with his family he floated down
the rivers to the place from which he came. He expresses himself with having been
pleased with his work and his life here, and tells us of the Indians as providers and
as pilferers, and describes the quite, stealthy and serpent-like glide of an Indian
war party on its chase through a forest.

Go up to Top of Page