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

Chapter X: The Knapp Stout & Co. company,   pp. 60-70

Page 60

The original Knapp, Stout & Company was organized on August 20, 1853.
The co-partnership was based on an inventory of an estimate value of S70,000 hold-
ings by the gentlemen who entered into the agreement. The story of the acquiring
of the various interests dates from 1846.
William Wilson, a resident of Fort Madison in the then territory of Iowa, who
previously had had some experience in lumbering operations in northern Penn-
svlvania, having been informed that there were vast pineries and excellent induce-
ments and opportunities for investment on the Chippewa River and its tributaries
in the territory of Wisconsin, concluded to make personal examination. Accord-
ing!:" he made the trip to the Chippewa and Red Cedar coiinties, and his compre-
hensive business grasp, practical knowledge and keen insight enabled him to see
and determine at once that here was a rare opportunity for investment in pine
lands and to engage in the manufacture of lumber. He returned to his home full
of enthusiasm and confidence, and told his friends of the beautiful rivers, vast forests
of pine and rare opportunities for investment and labor and the securing of re-
numerative reward for each.
He found in John H. Knapp, also of Fort Madison, one who saw like himself
his life's best opportunity, and who earnestly and enthusiastically offered to join
him in an effort to gain a competency in th{e almost uninhabitable wilds of the
Chippewa Valley. On May 19, 1846 the two men executed a co-partnership agree-
ment for lumbering operations in the Chippewa Valley. They were not, however,
the first arrivals or pioneers in this business here, though the enterprise they started
in time so far over-shadowed the comparatively insignificant work of their pre-
decessors that the latter has almost been lost sight of. Mr. Freeman's story of the
evolution of the Knapp-Stout concern, together with the antecedent facts, referred
to at the end of the previous chapter, is as follows.
"He who studies the past growth of this city gets at the same time the history
of the city and the story of a great lumber enterprise. Until recent years the history
of either well might be taken as the narrative of the other. Among the fruits of
that enterprise are two of our city's important benefactions-the Memorial Library
and the Stout schools. That this lumber business was a great enterprise is a fact
attested by tradition, by the pages of contemporarily published lumber magazines and
periodicals, by the statements of some now living who were engaged in its later year
activities and by the business records of the company that conducted the enterprise.
"A writer for the Wisconsin Historical Society Collections, in a book of the
Industries of Wisconsin during and after the Civl War, has stated that Knapp,
Stout & Company was said, in the early '70s, to be the greatest lumber corporation
in the world; that it in 1873, on the Red Cedar and Chippewa Rivers, owned 115,000
acres of pine lands, and had in its employ 1200 men. The real estate book of this
company shows that during its existence it owned in the valley of the Red Cedar
River alone some 490,000 acres of pine lands.
"The first occupancy here for the lumber business was in 1822 or 1823. The
first permanent settlement, that which has continued to this day, was in 1830.
In 1830-31, 100,000 feet of lumber was cut here. At our river mill the last log was
sawed in August, 1901. There was a continuous cutting of logs into lumber for
70 years, the once appointed term of a man's life, but more years, by far, than the
actual span of life of many a man who in those years worked here.
"It is evident, in the association of past events and in years of settlement, that
this is an old city. Its age, measured by years, is best understood by a comparison
of its permanent beginning with the time when other cities near and far had their

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