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

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

Page 54

The enterprise of lumbering called for a united effort of a crew of men or of
several crews of men located at one place or at nearby places, to cut, draw, skid and
float logs to the sawmill; to there saw them into timber and lumber; and grade, pile
and raft the same, and from the mill run the rafts to market. The sawmill was the
central point of each particular enterprise; the place where the logs came, where
they were sawed and from whence the product was shipped. It naturally became a
center of settlement, a place where proprietors and those employed lived and to
which their respective families came and remained. The lumber business decidedly
fostered community life. To this business this valley owes its first settlements made
at the very earliest period of settlement of the upper Mississippi River basin above
Prairie du Chien.
The year 1846 ushered in here a new era; it is the date at which, socially, perman-
ent and abiding things began at this place and have continued to this day; it
separates the present period of records and recorded knowledge, concerning what
has and is now happening here, from accounts before traditional and conjectural;
it marks the time of the advent into the settlement at Wilson's Creek of woman as
a permanent factor, and the commencement time, when marriage was instituted,
in this valley, and after which children were born and reared, the time when the
family became established in this prior' settlement of gregarious woodsmen massed
in crews.
Captain William Wilson established permanent family life on the present site
of Menomonie, when in 1846 he established a home here, and brought here his
wife and -family. -Mr. and Mrs. Lorenzo Bullard came with them. John Vail,
one of the workmen, already had his wife here. A little later than the Wilsons and
the Bullards came Mr. and Mrs. Jason Ball. These four were the only families
living in Menomonie in 1846.
Of the arrival of Mrs. Wilson and Mrs. Bullard, Randall has said: "At this
early day there was no means of ingress or egress to any part of this valley except
by the river, the keel boat, propelled by men with poles, going back and forth on
the running boards, the lower end of every pole being furnished with a steel pointed
iron socket, which was thrust against the bottom, while against the other end pressed
with all his might if need be the shoulder of the "living engine," whose duty it was
to drive the boat over sand-bars and rapids to its destination."
On the first trip up the Red Cedar, the river being low and the boat heavily
laden, got around four miles below their destined home, and these ladies with their
children, took the foot path winding along the side hills, and over the steep rocky
bluffs to their new homes.
Of the many amusing incidents related by these ladies of their first experience
in their secluded and nearly embargoed domicil, there is room here for only one.
Soon after their arrival, Mrs. Blois Hurd came with her husband, who was a mill-
wright, to reside at Gilbert's Mill, three miles below, and for some months, was the
only woman residing there-a beautiful intelligent lady, but whose health was very
delicate. Near the close of a day in September, Mr. Gilbert, (the old gentleman)
came up and requested the immediate assistance of one or both of these neighbor
women for Mrs. Hurd who had been taken very ill. How they were to get there,
was now the difficult problem to solve, to walk three miles over the difficult, in-
tricate foot-path, after the fatigues of the day, was too much for their strength.
Their husbands were ready to accompany them, and a bright thought seized one of
the party, a raft with oars all on, "ready to pull out," lay just below the mill; to
"tie loose" was only the work of a moment, but not one of the men had ever run
those rapids, or knew how to handle a raft, but in high glee away floated the party,
their hearts full of benevolence, and their heads with novel ideas of traveling;
down they went with wonderful speed, and hair-breath escapes from wreck, over
the first falls, but on the second chain, where the intricate channel wound along
between great boulders, the necessity for the guiding hand of an experienced pilot
was soon made apparent, by the bow running high and dry on the rocks while the
stern was whirled around by the rapid current, which threatened to break up the
whole contrivance. No boat was near, night was coming on, the water was deep

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