Mills and Manufactories, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin

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The first milling done at or near the city of Prairie du Chien, was the grinding of small grain, such as wheat, peas, barley and oats. Two or three farmers would unite in the construction of a horsepower mill. The buhrs were large stones cut from the granite rock, found about the city. The product of these mills was sifted by hand. The first regular grist-mill within the limits of the city of Prairie du Chien, was erected by Edward Pelton in 1847. This was a frame structure, except the engine room, which was built of brick. It was situated on the east bank of the Mississippi river, in the northwestern part of the city. It was still doing service in 1884. The original building was 50×50 feet, four stories in height and contained two run of stone. But in 1867 the property passed into the hands of J. Fameshon, who remodeled the building and provided new machinery throughout. In 1884 the mill was propelled by a sixty-horse power engine and operated as an exchange mill. In 1878 after the artesian wells in the city were pronounced a lasting success, Henry Weniger conceived the idea of securing a power sufficient to propel a flouring mill by means of two of these wells. So he opened one having an eight-inch bore and one with a six inch bore. These wells were sunk 1,044 feet, and the streams give an upward force equal to the requirements of this mill, which contains two run of stone with a capacity of grinding 100 bushels per day. This is the only mill known in the world that derives its power directly from an upward stream of water, coming from the earth. This mill is located just north of Bluff Street and east of the “slough.”

The first sawmill at Prairie du Chien was built in 1857, for the purpose of cutting hard wood lumber. It stood near the site of the present round house. Soon after its erection, it was burned down, and through aid derived by private subscription; it was rebuilt and continued a few months.

The next saw-mill in or about Prairie du Chien, was that owned by Stauer & Co., which was operated in McGregor for about a year, and in 1872 moved over to Prairie du Chien, in order to get more yard room in which to operate on a larger scale. This mill is one of the largest between Minneapolis, Minn., and Clinton, Iowa. Its propelling power is a 125 horsepower engine, which drives machinery sufficient to cut 85,000 feet of lumber per day. At this mill, besides the immense quantities of lumber sawed, there is one of the largest shingle and lath mills in the county.

The location of this mill is on the east bank of the east channel of the Mississippi river, just northwest from the railway depot of the C. M. & St. Paul railway, the track of which passes through the mill yard.

Most of the logs used by this mill are rafted from Stillwater and the Chippewa country; and the major part of the mills product finds a market in Iowa and Dakota.

The first brewing done at Prairie du Chien was in 1855, by Theodore Schumann and Otto Georgii, who operated in a small wood building near the base of the bluffs, where they excavated a large cellar, which was stoned up and arched over. In 1870 M. Menges bought into the company, as the successor of Fred Kalpel, who had purchased Mr. Georgii’s interest a year or two before. On the 29th of April 1872, this brewery was destroyed by fire, causing a loss of $8,000, while $12,000 of its value was covered by insurance.

A few weeks after this fire a new brewery was commenced, which was still running in 1884, and known as the City Brewery. This concern fronts Church Street from the west side, and is situated in block No. 1, and is the property of Theodore Schumann and M. Menges. This building is 45×160 feet, two and three stories in height. It is a stone and iron structure, erected at a cost of $23,800, including machinery. It has a capacity of 6,000 barrels per year, which finds market in Wisconsin and Iowa, where eight salesmen are constantly employed. This concern uses from 12,000 to 14,000 bushels of malt of their own manufacture, and from 1,000 to 3,000 bushels imported. It also consumes 1,800 tons of ice per season.

Harris & Benson are manufacturers of steel plows and cultivators. Their business was established in 1855, by D. G. Harris, and conducted by Mr. Harris, and various partners, till 1871, when he formed a partnership with H. J. Benson. This firm does an extensive business in the manufacture of steel plows and cultivators, of which they make several varieties. For the year 1882, they made 4,000 plows and cultivators. The senior partner has had thirty-four years’ experience in the business, while Mr. Benson has devoted several years to the same line of work. Their plows and tools are sold throughout the west, and are held in high favor.

Just before the Civil war, H. H. Hall found money for Capt. Chase and Alonzo Pelton to put in operation a soap factory, which they continued to run till April, 1864, when they sold to J. D. Humphrey, of Galena, Ill., who operated successfully until Jan. 12, 1883, and then sold to Haskins & Wallan, who carried on the business until December of that year, when Mr. Haskins purchased his partner’s interest; the concern then going under the name of Leroy Haskins’ soap and candle factory.

No little importance is centered about industries of this character; indeed, they are the vitality of any city. Five standard grades of laundry soap are here manufactured “Eureka,” “Palm,” “Old English,” “Favorite” and “Economist.” The capacity of these soap works is 11,000 sixty-pound boxes per annum. These soaps find market in Iowa, Wisconsin and Dakota, in which States salesmen are constantly employed. This factory is situated in one of the pioneer buildings of the city. It was formerly the “Rioleto House,” kept by a Frenchman at an early day. It was next used as an office for the Indian agent, and later still, as a select school. Since 1870 this concern has been superintended by Jeremiah Cannon, an experienced soap maker.

The Vinegar works, of A. H. Reitemeyer, another enterprise of manufacturing industry of Prairie du Chien, was established in 1870, in the three-story brick business house, in Lower Town, built in 1857 for a bank. Up to 1879, the product of these works was made by use of spirits, which were imported; but at that date Mr. Reitemeyer, put in new machinery and has since produced the best grades of vinegar, by the “vaporizing process,” employing spirits obtained from malt, corn and rye, purchased and extracted at his works. The capacity of these works is 1,000 barrels per year; however, the average amount produced is about 600 barrels, which is sold to the retail trade of Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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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