The Chippewa Valley

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Geological Features and Climate

The valley of the Chippewa river extends from township forty-four north, to township twenty-two north, where the stream unites with the Mississippi river at the foot of that part of it called Lake Pepin. This tract of country is about 150 miles long, from northeast to southwest and seventy-five miles wide or thereabouts. Geologically the valley belongs to the Potsdam sandstone period. The rock in sight rests upon the Azoic — the granitic-silurian. The Laurentian hills in the extreme northern section of the state are a part of the old “backbone” of the continent, which reaches from the northeast of Maine, through Canada, northern New York, the Sault Ste. Marie, the northern peninsula of Michigan and the Lake Superior country into eastern Minnesota, with its lateral branch running southerly, via New York, Pennsylvania, etc., into northern Georgia, commonly called the old Appalachian range. Geologists are now arriving at the conclusion that this “ backbone” is the oldest, or first land raised above the water of creation, when “the waters covered the whole earth,” and that our own Penokic range of the Chippewa Valley may have been, and probably is, the very first of mother earth that felt the warmth and life-producing element of the sun’s beams. And from this point of rock could have been seen, had there been an eye to behold it, an old silurian sea, where now lies the valley. It might have witnessed, too, the starting into life of the primal fruit of the earth — the first blade of grass.

The Valley on the western border meets the outcroppings of the lower magnesian limestone, which rests upon the Potsdam sandstone. The valley is generally of the drift period. The hills and bluffs have all been much higher than they are now, and were once capped, or covered with a rock approaching the limestone, which is rich in the earlier fossils — shells — notably that of the little orbicula-prima, a small round mollusk, clam-shaped, composed mostly of carbonate of lime. It is of great interest and value, from a geological standpoint, being, so far as is known, the very first animal, or fish, or form of life, that was provided with a house or shell. This, with the trilobite, one of an extinct family of crustaceans peculiar to the paleozoic era, and spirifer, one of an extinct genus of brachiopod mollusks, are about the only fossils common in the Valley. The hills were ground down by glacial and drift action, and this shell-impregnated rock thus became disintegrated and mixed up with the drift and sand all over the valley. The result is a soil rich in the carbonates and silicates so important to a luxuriant growth of the grasses, small grains, and fruit trees now in cultivation. The more this soil is worked and exposed the better will be the product, both in quality and yield, especially of grass.

The climate of the Valley is exceptionally good, protected as it is by the forests surrounding it, especially in the north. Consequently it is not so cold as it is on the prairies south and west of the state, and there is much less bleak wind from the north. Sleighing is generally good in the winter. Spring comes early, and with warm, growing summers and lovely autumns there is nothing to be desired in this regard.

The Chippewa River and Its Tributaries

The sources or heads of the Chippewa river are in the southern half of Ashland county and the northern half of Sawyer county, in the old “Laurentian Hills” — the granitic and Huronian Penokie iron and copper range, so rich in those minerals — some twenty or twenty-five miles south of the southern shore of Lake Superior. This immense body of fresh water, the largest in the world, is about 600 feet above the level of the sea. The divide, or range, is 1,100 feet above that level, and the mouth of the Chippewa, where it enters the Mississippi river, about 600 feet above it, giving the river an extreme fall of some 500 feet from source to mouth. An enormous volume of available water power over its course, and those of its tributaries, is thus created. The several sources of the river unite in the center of Sawyer county, where it is contributed to by the Burnette on the east and a tributary on the west, which owes its source to Lake Court Oreilles. Pursuing a serpentine but southerly course, the Chippewa river enters the county of that name, and continues in the same direction to Emet. Before reaching this point it has been joined on the west by Wiegar creek, Elder brook, and Mud, Maple and Potato creeks, and on the east by the Thornapple river. Turning suddenly to the southwest, and flowing about five miles in this direction the Chippewa unites with the Flambeau river, which has its sources in the great park of Wisconsin, in Ashland and Oneida counties — the wonderful lake country where the Manidowish (the orthography of which is also the Manatouish), the Lac de Flambeau, and hundreds of other fine bodies of water are located, and justly celebrated for their splendid specimens of fresh-water fish.

The extreme head, or lake country, of the Flambeau river is a weird, wild district, uninhabited, except by hunters and a few Indians. The legends of the lakes are like fairy tales and romances, and present an immense field for another Fennimore Cooper, or another Longfellow. Many knolls on these miniature inland seas are pointed out as being haunted, or as the scenes of thrilling incidents. The Chippewa then runs due east for about four miles, when Deer Tail creek flows into it. Turning south, it is joined by the Jump and Fisher rivers from the east. Pursuing a southwesterly course to Chippewa Falls, the water of the Yellow river is added to it, and those of O’Neil and Duncan creeks from the west. Still following the same route it unites with the Eau Claire river at Eau Claire. The south fork of this stream has its numerous sources in Clark county, while the north fork rises in Taylor county, and is joined by the Wolf river in the northeast corner of Eau Claire county. This stream has its beginning in Taylor county. The Chippewa then takes an almost westerly, but serpentine, course to Dunn county, and turning southwest the Menomonie (Red Cedar) ((This river is called the Menomonie in the southern section of the Valley, and the Red Cedar in the northern section.)) is added to it. This important river owes its source to Cedar lake, in the northeast corner of Barron county. The Yellow river, which rises in the same county, is a tributary to it. The creeks and rivulets that flow into these two streams are almost innumerable. The Chippewa next runs in an almost southerly direction for about twenty-five miles, until it reaches the Mississippi, several creeks and small streams emptying themselves into it from both Pepin and Buffalo counties on its way.

The Enormous Water Power in the Valley

Passing up the Chippewa, the first water power on that river is at Eau Claire, where the stream has a dam of twenty feet, and a horse power of about 8,000 at low water. The Eau Claire river has three dams at this point of twelve to fifteen head of water each, making the available force at Eau Claire equal to 10,000 horse power, with large reservoirs, of great log-storing capacity. At Chippewa falls there is another dam with about twenty feet head. Duncan creek has also a good but smaller water power at this point. A few miles above the city is the big water power of the Paint creek dam, with those on the Yellow river. From this point on up the river there are numerous fine water powers, notably those at Jim’s falls, Brunette’s falls, Little falls, and on the Flambeau river.

Advent of the Pioneers

Louis Hennepin and his companions, Michael Accau and Antoine Auguel, appear to have been the first white men to traverse the Chippewa River from its mouth northward. This was in 1680. James Carver was the next white traveler of whom there is any account to pass up this stream. This was in 1768. The pine lands were, therefore, known to exist more than a hundred years ago, but it was not until 1822 that the first saw-mill was constructed to convert the lumber into timber, and to float it down the Mississippi to the markets on its banks. The resources of the Valley in this respect gradually spread far and wide, even to New England, and slowly the tide of migration to the pineries set in. Thus this now famous lumber region became peopled, although scantily, with the general exodus from the eastern states which set in in 1835, and continued for many years. These were the sturdy pioneers who have made the Valley what it is today — the men and women who endured terrible hardships and privations in order to make the after years of their lives worth the living. The immigrants from Europe, especially Sweden, came later on, until the population became a mixture of French Canadians, Indians, half-breeds, Americans, English, Scotch, Scandinavians, Germans, etc.

The Sioux and Chippewa Indians

The delta of the Chippewa and the territory lying between the Mississippi and Menomonie (Red Cedar) rivers were claimed by Wabashaw’s band of Sioux Indians, although it was in truth the neutral ground between the Sioux and Chippewas, among whom a deadly feud existed. The whole of what is now Wisconsin was, up to about 1825, held by various tribes of Indians, in some instances by force of arms. Their respective rights in the land became so complicated, and were the cause of such frequent bloodshed among them that the government determined to obviate this condition of things if possible. Under its direction and authority a treaty was entered into at Prairie du Chien, in the year named, by all the Indian tribes within a distance of 500 miles each way, and approved by Gens. William Clark and Lewis Cass, on behalf of the government, whereby the boundaries of the respective territories of the Indian nations represented were definitely fixed.

The eastern boundary of the Sioux commenced opposite the mouth of the Iowa river on the Mississippi, ran back two or three miles to the bluffs, followed them to and crossed Bad-axe to the Black river, from which point the line described was the boundary between the Sioux and the Winnebagoes, and extended in a direction nearly north to a point on the Chippewa river, half a day’s march (ten miles) from Chippewa Falls. From this point on the Chippewa, which was fixed at or near the mouth of Mud creek (close to Rumsey’s Landing), the line became the boundary between the Sioux and the Chippewas, and ran to the Red Cedar river, just below the falls; from thence to the St. Croix river, at a place called “Standing Cedar,” about a day’s paddle in a canoe above the lake on that river; thence passing between two lakes, called by the Chippewas “Green lakes,” and by the Sioux “The lake they bury the eagles in;” from thence to the “Standing Cedar,” that the Sioux split, and thence to the mouth of the Rum river on the Mississippi. The boundary line between the Chippewas and Winnebagoes commenced at a point on the Chippewa river, half a day’s march (ten miles) below the falls, and thence to the source of the Clear Water (Eau Claire) river; thence south to Black river; thence to a point where the woods project into the meadows, and thence to the Plover portage of the Wisconsin river.

Indian Reservations

By a treaty entered into by Big Thunder and twenty other chiefs and braves, on the part of the Sioux Indians, and Joel R. Poinsett, secretary of war, in behalf of the government, at Washington, D. C., on September 29, 1837, all the lands of the Sioux nation east of the Mississippi, and all the islands belonging to them in that river, were, for the considerations therein mentioned, ceded to the United States. To-go-ne-ge-shik, with forty chiefs and braves of the Chippewas, executed a treaty at La Pointe, on Lake Superior, October 4, 1842, whereby all the Chippewa lands in Winconsin became vested in the United States. No sooner had this contract been made than several bands of the Chippewas expressed so much dissatisfaction with it, and with the reservation set apart for them above Sand lake, in Minnesota, that the government, in 1854, returned to them a considerable tract of land on the Court Oreilles and other branches of the Chippewa river. The Valley was not, however, free from the Indians until some years after 1842. They had miserable, dastardly butcheries among themselves now and then, but very little annoyance was experienced from them by the white settlers after about 1855. Finally they ceased to locate near the villages, and withdrew to the reservations at Lac du Flambeau, Lac Court d’Oreilles, Bad river and Red Cliff. There are new nearly 5,000 of them at those places.

The Timber Forest

The area of the valley within the water shed is some 7,000,000 acres or 10,000 square miles, of which some 6,000,000 acres are forests, and the balance is prairie and oak openings. The northern section is the forest and the southern portion the prairie, the southern limit of forest being in township twenty-nine, range eight, on the river bearing to the southeast and northwest from that point, and extending north, without a break, to the extreme limit of the state. This forest is made up of pine, hemlock, maple, oak, basswood, elm and other hard woods, with the tamarack (larch) and white and yellow cedar in the swamps. There is another tree that has latterly come into notice and is of great value — the white, yellow and black birch. The product is being utilized for furniture and house finishing. It is nearly if not quite as good as Honduras mahogany. In this forest are hundreds of millions of feet of this valuable timber. Indeed, in worth and importance as a source of supply to the adjoining prairie states of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, etc., the 6,000,000 acres of this forest area is in future values as one to ten acres at least of the prairie lands referred to.

The estimated amount of pine timber in the Chippewa Valley in 1880 was 15,000,000,000 feet, as timber was being then cut to twelve inches, twenty-four feet from the stump. In the past ten years there has been cut, say, one-half of this amount; but as timber is being cut now, much smaller logs being taken, there is still a large amount of pine timber left in the valley. The estimate of hemlock timber at the same date was some 3,000,000,000 feet. Very little of this amount has been cut or removed. This is, next to southern New York and Pennsylvania, the great hemlock forest to be gone into by the tanning industry. A beginning has already been made, as two tanneries have just been started at Medford, on the eastern side of the Talley, which employ 500 men. The next ones will be in the Yellow river country, north of Cadott or Boyd.

Members of the Senate and Assembly

In the organization of senatorial and assembly districts throughout the Talley, frequent changes have become necessary, as the population increased and the country became settled. The territorial government was established under an act passed and approved April 20, 1836. The entire northwestern portion of the territory, with the settlements in the valley, were included in Crawford county until 1840. It was represented in the house in 1836, the first year, by James H. Lockwood and James B. Dallam, and in the second year by Ira B. Brunson and Jean Brunette. The first session of the second legislative assembly convened in 1838. Crawford was represented in the council, for the first time, by George Wilson, and in the house by Alex. McGregor. The second session of the second legislature was held in 1839. In this year Ira B. Branson took his seat in the house from Crawford. The third session of the second assembly was held in 1839 — 40. Wilson having resigned, Joseph Brisbois was elected to his seat in the council. St. Croix county was created at the extra session of this legislature, and with Crawford, formed one district. Charles J. Learned succeeded Joseph Brisbois in the council. At the first session of the third assembly Mr. Learned still retained his seat. The Rev. Dr. Alfred Brunson and Joseph B. Brown were in the house. At the next session, 1841-42, the seat of the former was successfully contested by and awarded to Theophilus La Chappelle. In the first and second sessions of the fourth legislative assembly, 1842 — 43-44, Mr. La Chappelle still represented the Crawford and St. Croix district in the council, with John H. Manahan in the house. At the third session of the fourth assembly, 1845, Wiram Knowlton was councilman, and James Fisher in the house for the same district. The counties of Chippewa and La Pointe were organized under acts passed at this session, but the four counties still constituted one district. In the fourth session of the fourth assembly, 1846, they were represented by the same parties, W. Knowlton in the council and James Fisher in the house. Benjamin F. Manahan was member of the council and Joseph W. Furber in the house during the first session of the fifth assembly, 1847, for the same four counties. Henry Jackson was in the house for the special session. They continued in the council and in the house for the second and last session, 1848.

The four counties of Crawford, Chippewa, St. Croix and La Pointe composed the third senatorial district under the constitutional apportionment in 1848, while the counties of Crawford and Chippewa constituted an assembly district. D. G. Fenton was the first senator and William T. Stirling the first member of assembly. James Fisher was in the senate for two years, and James O’Neil, of Black River Falls, in the assembly. William T. Stirling was again in the assembly in 1850. Hiram A. Wright was senator in 1851-52, and William T. Price the first year, and Andrew Briggs the second year, in the assembly. A reorganization of the districts took place in 1852, whereby the counties of Crawford, La Crosse, Bad Ax, Chippewa, St. Croix and La Pointe constituted the nineteenth senatorial district. Chippewa and La Crosse were made one assembly district. The Hon. Benjamin Allen was in the senate for the first term, 1853-54, and W. J. Gibson, of Black River Falls, for 1855-56. The members of assembly were: Albert D. La Due, of La Crosse, 1853; William J. Gibson, 1854; Chase A. Stevens, of La Crosse, 1855; Dugald D. Cameron, of La Crosse, 1856.

A re-apportionment occurred in 1856 whereby the Valley was included in the twenty-eighth senatorial district, which comprised the counties of La Pointe, Douglass, Polk, St. Croix, Chippewa, Pierce, Dunn, Clark and Burnett. The counties of Clark, Chippewa, Eau Claire, Dunn and Pierce composed one assembly district. The Hon. William Wilson, of Menomonie, was the senator for 1857; Daniel Mears, of St. Croix, in 1858-59, and Charles B. Cox, of Black River Falls, in 1860-61. The assemblymen for those years were: Orrin T. Maxon, of Prescott, 1857; Lucius Cannon, of Pepin, 1858; Richard Dewhurst, of Neilsville, 1859; W. T. Bartlett, of Eau Claire, 1860, and Rodman Palmer, of Chippewa Falls, 1861.

A new organization of the districts became necessary in 1861, owing to the continued increase in the population. Jackson, Clark, Trempealeau, Buffalo, Pepin, Eau Claire, Dunn and Chippewa counties became the thirty-second senatorial district. Two assembly districts were created; one included Chippewa, Dunn and Eau Claire, and the other Buffalo, Trempealeau and Pepin. The Hon. M. D. Bartlett, of Durand, was senator in 1862-63; Carl C. Pope, of Black River Falls, in 1864-65; the Hon. Joseph G. Thorp in 1866-67; A. W. Newman, of Trempealeau, in 1868-69, and William T. Price, of Black River Falls, in 1870-71. The assembly districts were represented as follows: Chippewa, Dunn and Eau Claire, by Horace W. Barnes, of Eau Claire, 1862; William H. Smith, of Eau Galle, 1863; Hon. T. C. Pound, of Chippewa Falls, 1864; Francis R. Church, of Menomonie, 1865, and Hon. T. C. Pound, of Chippewa Falls, 1866. Buffalo, Pepin and Trempealeau, by Orlando Brown, of Gilmantown, 1862; Alfred W. Newman, of Trempealeau, 1863; Fayette Allen, of Durand, 1864; John Burgess, of Maxville, 1865, and William H. Thomas, of Sumner, 1866.

In the last named year the assembly districts were again redistributed. Pepin and Eau Claire became one district and Chippewa and Dunn another. The former was represented as follows in the years named. Fayette Allen, of Durand, 1867; Horace W. Barnes, of Eau Claire, 1868; Fayette Allen, of Durand, 1869; Charles R. Gleason, of Eau Claire, 1870, and Henry Cousins, of Eau Claire, 1871. Chippewa and Dunn were represented as follows: Thaddeus C. Pound, of Chippewa Falls, 1867; Samuel W. Hunt, of Menomonie, 1868; Thaddeus C. Pound, 1869; Jedediah Granger, of Menomonie, 1870; James A. Bate, 1871.

The counties embraced in the Valley were, by the apportionment of 1871, made the thirtieth senatorial district. It was represented in 1872-73 by Hon. Joseph G. Thorp, of Eau Claire; in 1874-75, by Hon. Hiram P. Graham, of Eau Claire, and in 1876-77 by Rockwell G. Flint, of Menomonie. Under the same apportionment Chippewa and Eau Claire were each constituted an assembly district, and lists of the members to the present time will be found in the chapters severally devoted to those counties. Pepin and Dunn were made one assembly district and represented as follows: Elias P. Bailey, of Menomonie, 1872; Horace E. Houghton, of Durand, 1873; Samuel L. Plummer, of Waterville, 1874; R. G. Flint, of Menomonie, 1875, and M. R. Bump, of Rock Falls, 1876. In the last named year the counties of Dunn and Pepin were each made an assembly district, and lists of the representatives since 1876 are included in the chapters giving the special history of those counties.

The senatorial districts were rearranged in 1878, Chippewa being included in the eleventh district, Barron in the twenty-fourth district, Pepin in the twenty-ninth district and Dunn and Eau Claire in the thirtieth district. Thomas B. Scott, of Grand Rapids, represented the eleventh district from 1878 to 1882, both inclusive, and Charles M. Webb, of the same place, in 1883-84. The senators from the twenty-fourth district were as follows: Dana Reed Bailey, of Baldwin, 1878-79; S. S. Fifield, of Ashland, 1880-81: James Hill, of Warren, 1882-84. Those from the twenty-ninth district were: Alex A. Arnold, of Galesville, 1878; Horace E. Houghton, of Durand, 1879-80; Augustus Finkelnburg, of Fountain City, 1881-82, and Noah D. Comstock, of Arcadia, 1883-84. The thirtieth district was represented by Abram D. Andrews, of River Falls, 1878-79; Michael Griffin , of Eau Claire, 1880-81, and Rockwell G. Flint, of Menomonie, 1882-84. By a redistribution of the districts in 1884 Barron was included in the twenty-fourth district, Eau Claire and Pepin in the twenty-fifth, and Dunn and Chippewa constituted the thirtieth. Joel F. Nason, of St. Croix Falls, represented the twenty-fourth district in 1885-88. The senators from the twenty-fifth district were: H. B. Warner, of Ellsworth, 1885-86; William A. Rust, of Eau Claire, 1887-88. The thirtieth district was represented by George C. Ginty, of Chippewa Falls, 1885-88. Another apportionment was then made, whereby Pepin was transferred from the twenty-fifth to the twenty-ninth district. Charles S. Taylor, of Barron, was elected from the twenty-fourth district for two terms, 1889-92. William A. Rust was again returned from the twenty-fifth district for 1889-90, and Robert J. McBride, of Eau Claire, for the next term, 1891-92. John W. De Groff, of Alma, was the successful candidate in the twenty-ninth district for 1889-90, and Robert Lees for the ensuing term, 1891-92. William Miller, of Rusk, was the choice of the people in the thirtieth district for the two terms, 1889-92.

Representatives in Congress

Under the constitutional apportionment in 1848 the state was divided into two congressional districts, the second embracing all the western portion, which included the Chippewa Valley. This division continued until 1863, when the valley was included in the sixth district. The representatives in congress were as follows:

Second District: — Thirtieth congress, 1847-49, Mason C. Darling; thirty-first congress, 1849-51, Orsanms Cole; thirty-second congress, 1851-53, Ben C. Eastman; thirty-third congress, 1853-55, Ben C. Eastman; thirty-fourth congress, 1855-57, C. C. Washburn; thirty-fifth congress, 1857-59, C. C. Washburn; thirty-sixth congress, 1859-61, C. C. Washburn; thirty-seventh congress, 1861-63, Luther Hanehett, Walter D. Mclndoe.

Sixth District: — Thirty-eighth congress, 1863-65, Walter D. Mclndoe; thirty-ninth congress, 1865-67, Walter D. Mclndoe; fortieth congress, 1867-69, C. C. Washburn; forty-first congress, 1869-71, C. C. Washburn; forty-second congress, 1871-73, Jeremiah M. Rusk.

The state was redistricted in 1872, when the counties of Eau Claire and Pepin were attached to the seventh congressional district and Chippewa, Dunn and Barron to the eighth. The members elected were as follows:

Seventh District: — Forty-third and forty-fourth congresses, 1873-77, Jeremiah M. Rusk; forty-fifth, forty-sixth and forty-seventh congresses, 1877-83, H. L. Humphrey.

Eighth District: — Forty-third congress, 1873-75, Alex S. McDill; forty-fourth congress, 1875-77, George W. Cate; forty-fifth, forty-sixth and forty-seventh congresses, 1877-83, Thaddeus C. Pound.

Another apportionment of the state was made in 1882, whereby Barron, Dunn, Eau Claire and Pepin were included in the eighth congressional district, and Chippewa and Price in the ninth. The members were:

Eighth District: — Forty-eighth congress, 1883-85, William T. Price; forty-ninth congress, 1885-87, William T. Price (he died December 7, 1886, and Hugh H. Price was elected to fill the vacancy January 18, 1887); fiftieth congress, 1887-89, Nils P. Haugen; fifty-first congress, 1889-91, Nils P. Haugen; fifty-second congress, 1891-93, Nils P. Haugen.

Ninth District: — Forty-eighth congress, 1883-85, Isaac Stephenson; forty-ninth congress, 1885-87; Isaac Stephenson; fiftieth congress, 1887-89, Isaac Stephenson; fifty-first congress, 1889-91, Myron H. McCord; fifty-second congress, 1891-93, Thomas Lynch.

The Circuit Courts and Their Judges

All the counties in the valley were included in the eighth judicial circuit from the date of its organization in 1853 to 1878, except in one year, 1861, when they were placed in the twelfth circuit. The judges were as follows: The Hon. S. S. N. Fuller from 1854 to 1861; the Hon. L. P. Wetherby from 1861 to 1866, and the Hon. H. L. Humphrey from 1866 to 1878. The circuits were redistricted in 1877. Dunn and Pepin were included in the eighth circuit, Barron and Chippewa in the eleventh and Eau Claire in the thirteenth. The Hon. E. R. Bundy was elected judge of the eighth circuit, and his present term expires in January, 1897. The Hon. H. D. Barron was elected judge of the eleventh circuit. He was succeeded in 1882 by Hon. Solon H. Clough, and he in 1889 by Hon. R. D. Marshall, whose term expires in January, 1895. The Hon. A. W. Newman was elected judge of the thirteenth circuit, but in the following year, 1879, Eau Claire was taken from it and added to the eighth.

Source: Historical and biographical album of the Chippewa Valley, Wisconsin, including ancestral records, biographies, and portraits. Edited by George Forrester. Chicago IL: A. Warner, Publisher, 1891-2.

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