History: Clark County (1860)

Contact: stan@wiclarkcountyhistory.org

Surnames: Clark, Paully, O'Neill, Green, Douglas, McCollum, Nichols, Miller, Myrick, Levis, Vanduser, Perry, Eaton, Weston, Parker, Reynolds, Merrill, Huntzicker, Petingal

---------Source: Galesville Transcript, (Galesville, Wis.) 06/08 & 15/1860

Ride to Neillsville - Trempealeau Valley- Silver Mines - Mound Indians - Arrow Manufacotry - Thumps on the Pine Stumps - Trouble Over

Neillsville, May 23, 1860

Mr. Editor -- In company with Ryland Parker, Esq., I left Galesville Monday morning for this place; by the way of Trempealeau River Valley. We found a good road over the Ridge, and took dinner in Trempealeau Valley with our friend, Mr. Reynolds. In the afternoon we followed up the valley and put up for the night with Benjamin Merrill, Esq., east of what they call the Silver Mines. Our route for the afternoon was through a broad and rich valley under a good state of cultivation. The broad fields of wheat look fine. The next morning, Mr. Merrill proposed that we should take a look at the "diggings," which we readily assented to. We visited the northwestern bluff, nearly four miles distant. At the west end of the bluff two or three holes had been dug about ten feet deep in the sand rock, bringing to view some half inch veins of iron ore. The rock was generally called the Potsdam sandstone by geologists, but colored nearly red by iron. We followed the bluff east for three-quarters of a mile and saw many of the holes that had been dug many years since, evidently for flint for arrow heads, etc. At one point we found scattered through the top soil, piates of iron mixed with sand in all manner of shapes from that resembling parts of old kettles to whiskey flasks. I brought along one so nearly resembling a flask that an old toper would likely to "take a swig" without an examination of its contents. Interstratified with the sand rock were strata and beds of flint rock, much of which is very compact, affording an excellent article for arrowheads. The sand rock, flint and iron, show evident signs of having suffered an intense heat at some time since its original deposit. The flint seemed to have been made by the fusion of the sand rock. I obtained specimens with the granular sand rock on one edge and the translucent flint on the other, with the line of demarcation very distinct. This heat might be accounted for from the fact that the trap rock shows itself near the falls of Black River, running nearly in a line with this region of the country. Some of the flint is more granular, out of which a small pair of mill stones have been cut and are now running in the neighborhood. I did not go on to the southeaster bluff, but learned from Mr. Merrill, that it was quite similar to the one we examined. I saw no signs of silver or other metal except Iron Mr. Merrill showed me part of an agate, which had been broke, the inside of which, had a small piece of copper half as large as a grain of wheat. This was found in a small cave with some pottery and might have been brought there from abroad.— I saw no agates in the rock or flint. What attracts attention more than, anything else in this region, is, the many holes which have many years ago been dug, not only in the bluffs, jut on the high prairie west of the southeastern bluffs. I examined many of these holes on the bluff and found them quite uniformly, extending to the flint with evident signs that they were dug to obtain the flint. No examination has been made of the bottom of the holes on the prairie. They may reach to the flint or may have been dug for suitable clay for either pottery or paint. I could sec no signs that the holes were dug for houses or fortifications, nor were there any other signs of fortifications in that region. That great quantities of arrows, etc. were manufactured out of this flint by the aborigines, cannot be doubted by any one who will examine the piles of chips or scales of the flint, not only about the holes, but scattered over the surrounding country. That many of these holes were dug to obtain the flint from under the surface in preference to that which had long been exposed to the atmosphere, is more than probable, from the notorious fact that at the present day, gun flints are manufactured only out of the flint that has lately been taken out of the earth and not long exposed to the air.
That these digging were made by the ancient mound builders who inhabited this region of country for many years, as the number of mounds would indicate, I infer from the fact that pottery was found in one of the large holes where evidently a great amount of the flint stone had been taken out. That the mound Indians used flint arrow-heads cannot admit of a doubt, from the fact that they often hurried them with their dead in the mounds. That these diggings are quite ancient is evident from the amount of dirt that has washed in and filled them partly up. and the size of the trees that are growing about them. To the antiquarian, this is a point of great interest, but to the practical miner it is labor lost.

After examining the mines to our satisfaction we left to complete the labors of our journey. Our road passed a beautiful prairie near Mr. Merrill's, and after crossing Hall's Creek, about seven miles distant, we entered the small pine timber. After suffering many tribulations in the shape of thumps, racks and bruises on the rocks, roots and pine stumps, with fears of the bridges without and the fears of tipping over within, we at last reached our good friend, Mr. Green, of the Neillsville House w ho soon cured our sorrows with an excellent cup of ten, an abundance of maple sugar and maple molasses. Let any dyspeptic, ride through the pine woods to Neillsville. and it will not only cure his disorder, but he will solemnly and sincerely affirm in the presence of Job, that Mr. Green keeps the best Hotel and has the prettiest girls, of any Hotel keeper in Wisconsin.
When I recover from my bruises, I will try and enlighten you about the pinery, pine saw logs and how the "logs come down."

The Pinery of Black River—Varieties of Pine—Other Timber—Extent— How the togs Come Down —lumber—Dangers — Dr. Gibson —R. Parker—Conclusion.

NEILLSVILLE, May 24, 1860

MR. EDITOR —In my last letter from Neillsville, I promised to write you of the pinery and Clark County. The pine timber commences on Black River about twenty miles below Black River Falls, in Jackson county, and extends to Iron Mountain, within twenty miles of Lake Superior. A large portion of the way it alternates with proves of hard wood. The first pinp down the river is the Gray Pine (Pinus Banksiana,) sometimes called Hickory Pine and Jack Pine, with scattering trees of Red Pine (P. Rcsinosa, ) sometimes incorrectly called Norway Pine. White Pine (P. Strobus) and Yellow Pine (P.Mitis.)
As we proceed up the river to the Falls, the Gray Pine diminishes, and nearly disappears ton miles above the Falls. A change of the sandy soil to ft loam. clay, and in wet places, to hard pan, takes place some three miles below Wedge Creek on the east, and three miles above the creek on the west side of Black River, twenty miles above the Falls. Where this heavy soil appears the red pine nearly disappears, and lofty groves of white pine alternate with splendid tracts of hard wood timber composed of Sugar Maple, (Acer Saccharinurn,) White Ash, (Fraxinus Americana.) Basswood, T. Americana), Cherry Birch (B.Lenta,) White Oak (Q.Alba) and Red Oak (Q.Rubm.) The hard wood timber region in its soil, flora and and timber presents nearly the same appearance as the hard woods of New England, except the Oak has taken the place of the Beech. Indeed, I failed to discover a Beech tree (F. Ferruginea.) in the entire Black River region. Along the banks of the river and large branches, the Balsam Fir (A. Balsamea), Hemlock (A. Canadensis.) and White Spruce (A. Alba,) may be found scattered, in small trees. The white Pine, I estimate, covers about one fourth of the soil of Clark County. I make this estimate from my own knowledge after spending several days in looking out pine timber, five years ago, from the opinions of lumbermen and from the Land Office plats after the close of the pine entries in June 1856. What are regarded as pine lands are estimated to contain twenty thousand feet to the acre. The county contains 1.584 square miles, one fourth of which are 390. This will make 253,440 acres which multiplied by 20,000,will.give 806,880,000 feet of pine in the County. To this amount of pine might be added with safety an equal number of feet of hard wood, with an addition of hewing timber not yet estimated, say 100, 000,000 of feet.
The pine is now being taken off by cutting the trees nearest the Black River and the Eau Claire, and their tributaries, hauling the logs into the streams and driving them down to the mills and to the mouth of the rivers at high water. The logs are driven down, by starting the logs into the stream, lining the banks with men and following down rolling them off the banks and breaking the jambs when they lodge. They at times lodge in such quantities that they dam up the river and raise the water until the power of the water sweeps them out with a terrible crash and then the river will howl louder than ten Niagaras. The Black River above the Falls is a rapid and rocky stream, filled with granite boulders and the water rushes down at times with great power, and velocity. A few mills have been erected above the Falls, but the many losses of dams and destruction of the lumber, in attempting to run it out, have nearly taken away the profits. The running down of lumber from above the Falls, is attended with great danger to life and it takes a stout heart to face the music of the cataracts. Dr. Gibson, late State Senator, was formerly considered the best pilot and the most fearless man on the river, but his many hair breadth escapes would terrify a soldier of Chepultipec. He has many times been hurled from his raft and pitched into the boiling flood by the sweeping round of the oar stem, and once came near being cut in two by being caught between the raft and a rock. Mr. Ryland Parker, when running once the dam, near the Angles, was struck by the oar stem, but pitched over it and caught the binder and hung on, until his crib of lumber, which had sunk in a whirlpool, rose again to the surface of the water. The danger with the oar stems arises, by the oars striking county currents of water and whirlpools, that no prudence can guard against, in the rapid decent down the river.
The greatest danger in driving logs, originates in attempting to break jambs, when the strong current will often take them under the logs.
The logs are caught in booms at the month of the river, rafted and run below. The losses by the logs getting into sloughs, out upon the banks and stolen by the settlers and river thieves is very considerable, and on an average, is supposed to amount to one-third. This vast quantity of pine timber, must in time, come to the Mississippi, and if a railroad was constructed to the Pinery, it would pave to the lumbermen more than three times its cost and make lumbering a sate and profitable business. The length of this letter admonishes me that I must speak of the improvements of Clark County in my next.

Neillsville, May 24, 1860

Mr. Editor -- In my last letter I attempted to describe the lumber interest of Clark County. I now propose to speak of its organization and history.

This county was organized by an act of the Legislature, approved July 6th, 1853, which was subsequently amended, so that the county is now bounded east by the east line of Range one east of the 4th principal meridian, west by the west line of Range four west, south the south line of township twenty-three, north, north by the north line of township thirty-one north, excepting from said included territory township 23 north of Range four west, which still belongs to the County of Jackson. This boundary give 44 townships to the county. The county was named after Moses Clark, a resident of the county on the Cunningham Creek, who was shot two years ago by William Paully in a fight at Neillsville. In the act, or the organization of the county the name is spelled with a terminating letter "e", which is incorrect as I have several autograph signatures of Mr. Clark which I saw him write, none of which has a letter "e" at the end of the name.

The original act established the county seat, on section two township 24 N., of Rage two west, but an act was passed March 23rd, 1854, submitting the question of the removal of the county seat to the west half of the northwest quarter of section 14, township 24, Range 2 west, to the electors of the county.

At the general election held in November 1854, a vote was taken on the question of removal, and carried in the affirmatives, which place the county seat at the present village of Neillsville.

Neillsville, the county seat, was laid out into a village in the summer or fall of 1855 by the proprietor, Hon. James O'Neill. The court house, a good size two story building, was erected in 1856. The village now has one good two story hotel kept by Anson Green, two stores, and one sawmill, one machine shop, with the usual variety of other shops, on Physician, three lawyers, and about three hundred inhabitants. Mr. O'Neill erected a large fine two story dwelling house last year that would be creditable in a much larger town.

Mr. O'Neill first settled at this point and built a sawmill in 1846, which was the first settlement in the county. He married Miss Douglas, a Scotch lady, sister to Hugh and Thomas Douglas, and moved his wife there the same fall. Mrs. O'Neill is a lady of amiable disposition, an accomplished housewife, and like the balance of her relatives, is possessed of treat energy of character. For a year or two she was the first and only white woman in the county, she has now an interesting family of three children. Mr. O'Neill was a member of the Legislature of Wisconsin in 1849, and made the journey in January to Madison on foot, nearly one hundred miles of the route, through a trackless wilderness. He first came to Black River in Sept. 1839 and settled two miles below the falls at the place afterwards occupied by James Perry.

Hamilton McCollum, now living at Fremont, Minn., one and a half miles above La Crescent, went on to Cunningham Creek in the Summer of 1847, and built the mill afterwards purchased and occupied by Moses Clark. Mr. Clark came in the next year, 1848, and commenced a farm between Neillsville and Weston Rapids.

Jonathan Nichols, in 1847, commenced the mill on Cauley's Creek, and finished it the next year.

H.J.B. Miller and Nathan Myrick, then of La Crosse, commenced the mill now known as Wm. K. Levis Mill in town 23, in 1847.

Mr. Vanduser commenced the mill near the north line of town 26, on Black River, in 1848. Mr. Eaton came in the following year. And assisted in completing the mill.

Improvements were commenced at Weston Rapids on Black River by Mr. S.F. Weston in 1855, who has now a spirited little village with one store, one saw and grist mill, on furniture establishment, on lawyer and about 250 inhabitants. It is the headquarters of Mrs. Weston's lumber operations, who carried on the most extensive lumbering business on the river.

The Black River and its several large tributaries possess innumerable water powers, capable of running all the machinery necessary to carry on extensive manufacturing.

Should the county ever obtain rail facilities with the Mississippi River, it must, at no distant day, become one of the most wealthy counties in the state.

I leave today for Black River Falls.

----Source: Galesville Transcript, Galesville, Wis., Friday, May 31, 1861, Page 1

The people of Clark County have been dome what excited, for the last few weeks, on account of camp rows between Indian traders and their Indian customers.

It seems that some two years ago last March, an Indian trader, by the name of Ulysses Porter, on the head waters of Black River, mysteriously disappeared, and no trace of him or his property could tor a time, be obtained, but at last two Chippewa Indians acknowledged to other Indians that they had shot him, across Black River, and robbed his camp.— This soon circulated among the Indiana of the tribe, as they never keep secrets, and became known to the white people.

No attempt was, however, made to arrest the offenders, under the vague idea that our laws could not take cognizance of such murders, or at least, had always proved ineffectual.

During the past winter, George Petingal and Daniel Page had a trading establishment near Wedges Creek. A difficulty occurred between them and their Chippewa Indian customers, the latter part of the winter. Some 16 Indians came to the shanty in the evening, and although ordered off, insisted on entering. The door having been closed, the Indians battered it down and some 8 of them entered. Petingal knocked down three at the door with a club and the balance rushed over and a desperate fight occurred in which two Indians were shot through the head with a revolver and the balance knocked down with clubs. The Indians that came in do not appear to have been armed. On the discharge of fire-arms, the Indians on the outside yelled and run for their guns and lights, when Petingal and Page took advantage of the darkness and fled into the woods and made good their escape to a lumber shanty.
The next morning they went back with a company armed but the most of their property was gone and the Indians had left.

A few weeks subsequent to the affray, St. Germain, a French trader, with an Indian by the name of Pete, came to the shanty of one Huntzicker about 13 miles above Neillsville where Petingal Page chanced to be.
They all sat at the table and ate their dinners together, when the Indian got up from the table and stepped out the door. Whereupon, it is said, that Petingal recognizing the Indian as one that yelled for guns and lights at the fight at the shanty, got up from the table, took his rifle, stopped to the door and deliberately shot the Indian through the body— dead.

St. Germain reported the fact to the Indians and the chief. Scow-bey-wis came down to Neillsville and demanded that Petingal should be either punished according to our laws or else the Indians would take revenge according to Indian custom.

Petingal was arrested at La Crosse and sent to Neillsville last week for trial. An Indictment was found against him by the grand jury, but Petingal being unable to get his witnesses, the case was continued to the 3d of Sept. next, and Petingal remanded to La Crosse jail.

Of course it is not proper to discuss the merits of the case before trial but many of the people in Clark County openly justify Petingal in shooting Pete and threaten to rescue him if convicted. Others insist that Petingal shall be punished if guilty, and that if any attempt to rescue him is made that they will freely use their rifles. When the prisoner was being taken to Clark Co. by the sheriff of La Crosse, the sheriff was notified at Black River Falls by a messenger from Clark Co. that 60 lumbermen would meet him at Arnold's fully armed and rescue Petingal, but on arrival at Arnold's no belligerent forces were in sight. The Indian Agent, L. E. Webb, at La Crosse, has taken the particulars of the murder of Porter and when he reaches Bayfield will demand the surrender of his Indian murderers, which the Indian chief Scow-bey-wis offered to surrender if Petingal was punished. The chief, is said, to have marched into Neillsville with the American flag flying and to have made a patriotic and eloquent speech at the Court House.

The Indian Pete. who was killed, was well educated by a Catholic priest at La Pointe, Lake Superior, and is regarded as a serious loss to the Chippewa tribe.

Much complaint exists in Clark County against the Indians for stealing provisions in the lumber camps, and probably some of it is true; while it is conceded that a part of the stealing ought to be charged against the whites.

The authorities of Clark County have never attempted to suppress the sale of whiskey to the Indians, but the traders and lumbermen sell with impunity, from which originates frequent fights and camp rows. When the Indians are not intoxicated they ate said to be perfectly peaceable.

Government ought to make an extra effort to suppress the sale of intoxicating liquors to the Indians, and if successful, many lives of both Indians and white people would be saved, but those charged with the duty, are, more or less, engaged in it themselves.




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