Ferries and Fire Department, Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin

Ancestry US

In 1836 Alexander McGregor established a horse ferry between Prairie du Chien and the Iowa side of the river. The point of debarkation, on that side, soon received the Iowa name of McGregor’s Landing, where now stands the city of McGregor.

In 1840 the United States government commenced to build Fort Atkinson, and as supplies had to reach that point from Prairie du Chien (or Fort Crawford) by way of this landing, this ferry became one of much importance to the public and of great profit to its owner, who had been granted the exclusive right to ply a ferry at this point, under a charter issued by the State.

One of the conditions in the license granted Mr. McGregor by the court, was that not more than the following rates should be charged for ferriage: One person, twenty-five cents; man and horse, seventy-five cents; wheeled carriages, twenty-five cents per wheel; horned cattle and horses, fifty cents per head; sheep and goats, six and one-fourth cents per head; mules, jacks and jennets, fifty cents per head; freight not in wheeled carriages six and one-fourth cents per 100 pounds. This ferry continued under the management of McGregor till 1856, when his energies were bent more especially in founding the city, which now bears his name. He then willed the property to a relative, W. B. Gardner, who, in company with Ole Oleson, operated a short time and sold to John Lawler; he run it until the spring of 1882 and sold to H. Schlader, who has run it on a diminished scale, owing to the building of Lawler’s pile pontoon bridge.

Bass & Rice operated a ferry about 1840, for the government; this was operated as an opposition line to McGregor’s ferry, and only continued a short time.

Fire Department

Another mark of wisdom upon the part of the city is the well-organized fire companies, whose vigilant eyes watch the property of the city, by day and by night, and through whose skill and watch-care the populace of the place feels secure against the fire fiend. This department, which is under the direct supervision of the city authorities, is composed of three fully equipped fire companies, the “Phoenix,” No. 1, consisting of forty-three members; the “Badger,” No. 2, consisting of thirty-two members; and the “Aetna,” No. 3, having a membership of twenty-three; forming a grand total of 103. These companies are all uniformed and regularly equipped with the most modern fire-extinguishing apparatus, including three hand engines, the total cost of which was about $1,800. These engines are made effective by means of 3,000 feet of the best quality of rubber hose.

This department was organized in 1872, since which date, no disastrous fires have occurred within the city, except the burning of the Mondell Hotel; this being occasioned by the inferior quality of hose then in use, which gave way at a critical stage of that long-to-be-remembered conflagration.

These companies are provided with a never-failing supply of water from the artesian wells for which Prairie du Chien is so noted.

History of Crawford and Richland Counties, Wisconsin: Together with Sketches of Their Towns and Villages, Educational, Civil, Military, and Political History, Portraits of Prominent Persons, and Biographies of Representative Citizens ; History of Wisconsin : Embracing Accounts of the Pre-historic Races, and a Brief Account of Its Territorial and State Governments, Part 1. Crawford County (WI): Union Publishing Company, 1884.

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