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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


February 22, 2003 - Issue 81


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Barron County History (Part 1)

From the Barron County Shield - March 30, 1877
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

Original Outlines and Boundaries. Its Early History,
Details of its Pioneers; First Settlers and Their adventures;
Schools; Dams; Logging Camps, Etc. - Numerous Facts of Interest

Address of Alvah Dewey at Barron, Barron County, Wisconsin, July 4, 1876:

Three hundred and eighty four years ago a man stood on the shore of the sea looking over the waves and waited for three small vessels to be made ready for a voyage on which he was to enter. The lofty purpose, the indomitable courage and liberal philosophy of this man, were not understood. By the world he was called crazed. Saw you a man who for nineteen years had persistently proclaimed that he could fly around the earth in twenty-four hours, who among you would not pronounce him a lunatic? And not less improbable, to the people of that age, was the assertion of Christopher Columbus, that he could reach the East Indies by sailing west. At last he found a gentle but powerful hand, which had royally given, and the voyage actually commenced; and they sailed, as it seemed to his comrades, out into space. The wind was fair and their course a straight one. For days all went well; but then the weather changed; a storm arose. The three small ships were tossed like bubbles on that troubled seas, but amidst the superstitions of his men, who said it was tempting God to try and find out more than their forefathers had known. When the dangers increased and despair had seized up all, this man only, alone, hoped and fervently did he pray for the three days longer of this trial. Hour after hour this leader stood on the prow of his ship, longing and hoping as few other brave souls have hoped. Sullen and menacing stood his men; at the very last moment, when the aim and aspirations of a long and troubled life seemed about to end in disappointment and despair; something more precious than cargoes of gold, more valuable than diamonds, was seen floating in the waves - a little spray of green leaves. This solved the problem of the age. Columbus became immortal; a country was found destined to become "The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave."

I will pass the well-known history of the period from the discovery of the continent to the acknowledgement of colonial independence, and recall for a moment the memories of 1776, placing them in contract with the living pulsations of today. We shall make no attempt to picture the heroic deeds on Revolutionary fields of our illustrious ancestors of a hundred years ago; but I will contemplate the men who lived at that period and left impressions of their acts upon the social and political aspects of the generation in which they moved.

The thirteen colonies of the revolution were settled by a strangely different people: New England contained the descendants of the Puritans. To the Southern, they seemed austere, determined men, imbued with a gloomy religious sentiment. Many occupied cabins like our own; cultivating the cold, thin, sterile soil, which compelled them to habits of thrift and economy, with few amusements, a solitary Sabbath and much rum. They passed hours daily with their eyes chained up in tails of the Old Testament, or in listening to the threats and thunders of a terrible God. Among the wealthy of the cities we see the portraits of the period elegant, yet simple ladies, who looked at the same time fine women, yet modest maidens. Along the South Atlantic a different people had sought homes. They were found the descendants of the cavaliers, the men of grace, of courtesy and of pleasure. To the New Englander they appeared irreverent, frivolous and worldly. The portraits of the ladies of the south disclose ringlets of hair that stray over curves of rosy flesh, languishing, voluptuous eyes, enormous headdresses, the curls and fringes of which compel notice from the very heights of their shameless magnificence. From such elements sprung the Revolution. They fought the battle for themselves and won, they fought for the struggling millions of other lands, and we have met to pause a while from the busy tumult of life, to tour our thoughts with glory and pride towards those heroes of 'the times that try men's souls.' Our Republic commenced in 1776, one hundred years ago, with thirteen states, 851,615 square miles of territory, which was occupied by 3,000,000 civilized human beings. It has now a population of 44,000,000, who occupy thirty-seven states and nine territories, which embrace over 3,000,000 square miles. It has 65,000 miles of railroad, more than sufficient to reach two and a half times around the globe; the value of its annual agricultural production is $1,000,000,000' its gold mines are capable of producing $70,000,000 a year. It has over 1,000 cotton factories, 580 daily newspapers, 4,300 weeklies, and 625 monthly publications. This is a dazzling story of a country springing from insignificance into gigantic proportions with rapidity as if born of the Shepherd of the Clouds. I will now proceed to speak of one of those characteristics settlements brought into being by these people, known as a 'new country.'

The little collection of facts pertaining to the locality in which we live, that I am now about to present, may lack in interest to many present, and I might say with the old authority that 'wicked men's deeds and other men's misfortunes have not yet give us a history.' If they should become of interest, and I hope of some value to posterity, we cannot too soon rescue and save elements of our county's early history, which year by year are constantly perishing from the records and fading from the memories of the past; and like sibylline leaves, those remaining are becoming more precious as their number decrease; and it was with difficulty that these fragments were obtained, even in the freshness of their you. Our tale is simple; there is a dearth of stirring events, but

"Let not ambition mock the useful toil,
Their homely joys, their destiny obscure;
Nor grandeur near, with a disdainful smile,
The short but simple annuls of the poor."

At the close of the Black Hawk War southern Wisconsin swarmed with immigrants, hardy and adventurers in search of El Dorado; as the most beautiful lady has some fault, so the most attractive country lacks some essential elements. The luxuriant prairies of the south needed the pine of the north; and hundreds of men were brought up to the lumber business sought on the Wisconsin, Black, Chippewa and Red Cedar rivers, even before the governments had extinguished the Indians title thereto, this valuable wood.

The first mill ever built on the Chippewa or its tributaries, was erected on the Red Cedar, now called the Menomonie, on what at present is called Wilson's Creek, near its confluence with the Red Cedar River, now the west side of the village of Menomonie. To this point, Jefferson Davis, the traitor chieftain, then a lieutenant, is said to have come in command of a party in search of lumber to rebuild Fort Crawford at Prairie du Chien.

In 1844 Mr. Knapp and Mr. Wilson bought a half interest in this mill; in the following year they obtained possession of the whole and associated Mr. H.R. Stout of Dubuque, under the firm name Knapp, Stout and Company; and this firm from a humble beginning, 'one thousand dollars in cash and a few traps' as capital, have within 30 years have increased this fund into millions, determined to grow rich by silent profit and persevering industry. Of the fourth partner in this firm, Uncle Tom Randall in his History of the Chippewa Valley says, 'In the early struggles of this company, a young, smooth faced, long nosed, keen-eyed man, a native of Prairie du Chien, was selected as foreman; his energy, decision, and fidelity, soon won the confidence of his employers and in 1850 he secured a fourth interest, and Andrew Tainter became a millionaire. To this man, incidentally more than any other individual is Barron County indebted for the progress it has already made.

I will now briefly refer to a claim made many years ago by the heirs of one Johnathan Carver of Connecticut, which, had it been recognized, would have changed the entire ownership of the soil we occupy. Nine years before the Revolutionary War Carver arrived at Green Bay with a small retinue of French and half-breeds, and voyaged up the Fox and down the Wisconsin to Prairie du Chien, up the Mississippi to Wabasha, where he wintered; the next summer north to west of Hudson Bay. On his return to England he published his observations and gave an account of the constant wars going on between the Chippewas and the Sioux. About the year 1800 his heirs claimed a grant by the King of Great Britain, George III, conferring a body of lands, contained within the lines from St. Anthony Falls, running along the east bank of the river to where the Chippewa River joins the same, thence eastward five days travel, thence north six days travel and from thence again to the Falls of St. Anthony, in a straight line. The Carver title to this territory was not acknowledged by the United States authorities and the claimants have disappeared.

The first actual white occupants within the present confines of this county, of which we can obtain any positive knowledge, came from Montreal via Sault Ste. Marie's La Pointe and opened a trading post on Section 7 of town 35, range 11. Your speaker has examined the remains of the stockade, chimney, cellars, etc. No location in Barron County is so well adapted to the purpose for which it was chosen as this. The scenery is enchanting, the protection complete. The ditch or stockade, enclosed a space of fifty by one hundred feet. The only person now living of the Chippewa or early French who knew anything about this old French post is August Cordot, now aged 89 years, and living in Chippewa Falls. He says it was his grandfather who built the post ant that he was there killed by the Sioux for plunder. I have from the lips of Louis Nado, who has been in about this country during the last 18 years, and is a fur buyer and farmer, that the first Corbine, the grandfather of all, who died in 1858 at Lac Courte Oreilles, was on the ground 80 years ago, and the remains of the stockade was quite plain then; that the post was an important one; that the ground about the post was cultivated; that the Sioux in one of their raids murdered Cordot, who was buried in one of the two graves now visible within the enclosure. Many attempts have been made to recover money said to have been buried there, but more has been expended than found. Who were the makers of the dam nearby or what was the purpose of the construction, are questions, which, as yet, have received no solution. The dam is some 300 feet long, 8 feet in the perpendicular on the east sloping gradually to the west. It appears that the earth to make this dam may have been taken from the banks on either side.

In 1859, the State legislature, through the instruments of persons engaged in lumbering business, pass a bill detaching townships 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 and 37, ranges 12, 13, 14, and 15 from the Polk County and named it Dallas, after a distinguished Vice President of the United States, George M. Dallas, with the county seat located at the village of Manhatten, and attached to the county to that of Polk for judicial purposes. In 1860 townships 32, 33, 34, 35 36, and 37, ranges 10 and 11 were detached from Chippewa County and attached to Dallas County.

Portions of the present territory of Barron County belonged to Dunn County and was formed into a town in 1862 and named Dallas, during the existence of this town it had much of a shuttle like experience, if a town in Dunn County was hard up, the town of Dallas was attached; Red Cedar wanted funds, the town of Dallas was attached, her assessors came up and the bill was settled. The town of Menomonie ran behind, Dallas was attached and paid her bills.

The first voting was done by men in the employ of Knapp, Stout and Company. There were no families in the county then and the probable motive of the organization was to control the tax on pinelands.

The first election was held at the home of John Banks on section 22, town 32, range 13. There were present James Bracklin, John Banks, John Quarderer, S.P. Barker, James Vennette, Byron Tripp, James Neville and E.B. Bundy, now the acknowledged leader of the Menomonie bar, who came up to assist at the organization. At the proper hour Bundy said the Vennette, 'Announce the opening of the poles.' It was with much diffidence and after considerable arguing that Vennette stepped into the door of the shanty and in stentorian tones cried out to the only objects visible, viz. trees and wild animals, 'Hear ye, hear ye, all ye son's of bitches, I declare these polls now open.' The officers elected at this meeting did not qualify; hence there was no organization. The next year, 1863, S.P. Barker, James Vennette and John Banks were chosen Supervisors; John Quarderer, treasurer; James Neville, clerk of the town. The poll was now held at Quarderer's camp. In 1864 James Bracklin was elected treasurer; Supervisors, S.P. Barker, J.G. Johnson and James Vennette.

In 1863 by action of the legislature the towns originally detached from Polk County were again attached to that county. In 1865 Dallas was detached from the eleventh and attached to the eighth judicial district.

In 1865 Dallas County was organized for the county and judicial purposes with the county seat located at old Barron, or the southwest quarter, of the southwest quarter section township 34, north of range 12 west.

In 1869 an election was held for county officers to fill the places of those who had been previously appointed by Governor Lucius Fairchild; it resulted in the election of the name persons who had held their officers by appointment viz; James Bracklin, treasurer; James G. Neville, recorder D.T. Boswell, county clerk; Alfred Finley, county judge and Oliver Damers, county school superintendent.

On March 13, 1869, the first county board met, the town board of Dallas became the county board, S.P. Barker, chairman, C.P. Tuller and Roswell Kellogg, supervisors.

The first official act of the board was upon the motion of C.P. Tuller, and upon him belongs the honor of the first official act of the county; it was to instruct the clerk to procure necessary books on credit and at the best terms possible. It was also ordered and determined that the name of the town of Dallas be changed to the town of Barron.

Maps by Travel

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