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Bio: Myrick / Merrick, Nathan (1822 - 1903)




Surnames: Myrick, Merrick, Buchllamp, Hatch, Weld, Dousman, Ismon, Harmon, Pierson, Miller, Hatch, Dibble, Levis, Spaulding, LaFlesh, Cawley, O'Neill, Morrison, Eaton, Van Dusen, Polley, Samford, Harris, Cooley


----Sources: Clark Co. Records, History Books, Census, Research by Duane Horn

Nathan Myrick, 1822 - 1903

Early Clark County, Wisconsin Lumberman


Between 1843 and 1844, Nathan began furnishing provisions to the Mormons on the Black River who paid him in logs.  These he made in rafts to run down the river to St. Louis.  This had never been done before.  The Mormons on the Black River left that summer and returned to Nauvoo.  In the fall, they returned with twenty or thirty families and settled at what was later called "Mormon Cooley".  The men worked at cutting cord wood and some of them went up the Black River to what is now called Neillsville, Wisconsin.  Nathan continued supplying them goods, taking payment in logs.  The next fall, they burned all of their buildings and before returning to Nauvoo, but Nathan managed to make a settlement with them before they left.


The Myrick Trading Post and Dwelling at LaCrosse (1842).


In 1843, Nathan became the first Postmaster at LaCrosse.  His wife, Rebecca, and Harmon J. B. Miller's wife, Louisa M. (Pierson), were the first two white women at La Crosse. 


In 1845 Major Hatch arrived in LaCrosse and opened a store.  That same year, J. C. Davis, William Gibbs, Henry O'Neill, O. H. Dibble, Calvin Potter, William Moran and John Perry went up the Black River for trading purposes.  Upon his return, O. H. Dibble said he'd discovered a mill site on the west forks of the Black River, where there was good power for a saw mill.  Nathan made arrangements with him to build a saw mill there in partnership.  They purchased the machinery and put up an old fashioned double mill in 1846.  Harmon Miller, a butcher from La Crosse and his wife, Louisa Miller managed the camp.  The mill ran that fall and the following fall as well.  In 1847, Myrick and Dibble had three rafts of logs and Jacob Spaulding had seven rafts.  Nathan sold his logs to Spaulding who went to St. Louis with them.  They hired about 100 men from St. Louis to take the rafts down.  They made arrangement to run the saw mills the next summer, but while he was away, a freshet nearly left the mills in total destruction.  When Spaulding returned, he said the river had been so low that the logs had stuck on every snag and sand bar in the river.  It was such an ordeal that he made no profit.  Nathan told him the freshet had about broke him too and the two agreed to break their contract with Myrick paying Spaulding $250.  After disposing of his logs, Nathan sold the remains of the mill to W. K. Levis and retired from the lumber business.


Myrick wrote in a letter at the time that the river being low, lumber was exhausted the first season and a stock of logs cut in the vicinity of the mill was hauled and rolled upon the ice to the mill pond.


"In the spring," he wrote, "the mill started sawing; also about 300,000 feet of lumber was rafted but there was not sufficient rise of water to run it out of the unimproved river, and it lay tied up to the bank a short way below the mille.  "J. H. B. Miller and wife were living there at the time and had charge of the mill and stock of goods.  Late that year the great flood of 1847 came and not a boom on the river withstood the raging waters, nor was there a mill which was not damaged more or less.  Jacob Spaulding's mill at the falls was taken out but the dam stood the test.


"The wreckage Jammed at the mouth of the river, where 100 men worked about six weeks to clear it out and raft the logs after separating the marks.  When they got through Myrick and Miller had three Mississippi log rafts and Mrs. Spaulding seven.


"Mrs. Spaulding went to St. Louis and hired about 100 men to come up and man the rafts to run them down the river.  After disposing of logs I sold the remains of our mill to W. K. Levis and retired from the lumber business."

The government surveyed the lands in 1845-46, but they weren't marketed until January of 1848.


In 1847 there were but few newcomers to Clark County, Wisconsin. Among them were Samuel Cawley who gave his name to Cawley Creek; I. S. Mason, Thomas La Flesh, Nathan Myrick, Harmon J. B. "Scoots" Miller, his wife, and a man named O. H. Dribble who built a mill on Cunningham creek.  Jonathan Nichols built a mill on Cawley Creek. On June 7, 1847, there was a disastrous flood that practically washed away all the improvements so laboriously planned and executed. 


In 1848, Wisconsin's statehood began.  That year, the emigration to Clark County brought J. W. Sturdevant, Mr. Van Dusen, Mr. Waterman, Leander Merrill, Benjamin Merrill, John Morrison, probably Moses Clark, John Lane, Robert Ross, Elijah Eaton, Albert Lambert, and perhaps a few others. The Merrills built a mill; also Lane, also Morrison, and Myrick and Miller had already built one. Van Dusen and Waterman began milling 18 miles above Neillsville and so did Albert Lambert. Later Elijah Eaton bought the Van Dusen mill and operated it for years, giving his name to the town of Eaton. In March 1849, Isabella Jane O'Neill was born to James and Jane O'Neill, the first birth in the county and the most important arrival of the year.





Pioneer settler, Indian trader, b. Westport, N.Y. He journeyed to Wisconsin in 1841 with letters of introduction to H. L. Dousman (q.v.) and others at Prairie du Chien. Although denied employment by the established traders because he had no knowledge of the Indian languages, Myrick found a partner, in Nov., 1841, borrowed an army keelboat and a stock of trader's goods, and poled up the Mississippi River to Prairie la Crosse (now La Crosse, Wis.). There they built a cabin, the first in La Crosse, and became successful in the Indian trade. In 1842 Harmon J. B. Miller replaced Myrick's original partner. A few years later Myrick acquired a sawmill on the Black River, and for several years sold firewood and lumber to river steamers on the Mississippi and also rafted timber to St. Louis. In 1848, at the government land sale in Mineral Point, Myrick acquired title to his claim at La Crosse, but during the same year profits declined due to flood damage to the sawmill and the removal of many Indians from the area. In 1848 Myrick also established a new trading post at Sauk Rapids, Minn. Thereafter he resided in Minnesota, and eventually built a chain of about 15 trading posts throughout the state. He retired in 1876, and made his home in St. Paul until his death. Although leaving Wisconsin in 1848, Myrick retained much of his land claim in La Crosse, and dealt in La Crosse real estate for many years.

Sources: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography; 1918 History of Clark Co., Wis.; The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the Nathan Myrick Papers for details. See also the Nathan Myrick Reminiscences.  A. H. Sanford, et al., Hist. of La Crosse (La Crosse, 1951); La Crosse Morning Chronicle, June 4, 1903; WPA MS.  A. D. Polley, Melrose Historian on the early Black River Lumber Period; Private letters of Nathan Myrick.



History of Wisconsin 1875; Chapter LXVI; Sketches of counties -- Page 664 [Cover]

Clark County .1 - This is one of the largest counties in the State. It is well watered by the Black and Eau Claire Rivers and their tributaries, and by some of the tributaries of the Chippewa River. Lumbering has been the principal business of the people of this county until within the last five years; now quiet a large number are engaged in farming. There is a large amount of excellent farming-land in the southern and eastern portions of the county, mostly heavily timbered. There county is but thinly settled, but is rapidly filling up with an industrious class of men, who are not afraid of the hard work that is inevitable where farms are cleared up in a heavily-timbered country. The greater portion of the settlers are from Eastern and Middle States, with a few Germans, English, Scotch, and Canadians. Many improvements have been made within the past five years. Roads have been opened in every directions, school-houses have been built; villages laid out and settled. A railroad has been built, running through the south-western part of the county, with a station at Humbird, sixteen miles from Neillsville, the county-seat. Other roads and improvements are in contemplations, which promise to add much to the prosperity of the county. Neillsville is a flourishing town.

--- Chapter LXVIII - Wisconsins Men, Page 739-740

Nathan Myrrick, the first white settler at, and the original proprietor of, the town of "Prairie la Crosse," was born at Westport, Essex County, N. Y., July 7, 1822.

His ancestors, paternal and maternal were among the first settlers of Westport. His grandfather was a solider in the army of the Revolution. His father was a merchant, and the proprietor of several mills, -- woolen, saw, and grist mills; and he represented the county in the legislature of the State several years.

Nathan was the second of three brothers. The youngest died at Westport; the next was killed in the Sioux massacre at Yellow Medicine in 1862; and the oldest resides in Minnesota. The subject of this sketch received his education at the academy at Westport, and was engaged in his fathers business until his nineteenth year; when he left home for the "Great West," to, as the saying then was, "seek his fortune."

In June, 1841, he reached Prairie du Chien, and was employed as clerk in the post-office by B. W. Brisbois, where he remained until the November following.

Conceiving that a fortune was not to be made in the position of clerk, and acting upon the proposition of "nothing ventured, nothing had," he purchased an "outfit" of goods for Indian trading. Securing a boat of about forty tons burden, and assistants to act as interpreters and laborers, on the 7th of November he stated up the Mississippi, using poles as the motive-power.

On arriving at La Crosse, he was struck with its peculiar adaptability as a "town-site," and determined to locate. There being no timber suitable for building purpose on the prairie, and not having a team, he built his first house, a "double cabin," on the island opposite, and prepared for business.

The agency of the Winnebago Indians was at "Turkey River," in Iowa. Although the Indians had ceded their lands east of the Mississippi, yet they retained a quasi claim, and were jealous of white men settling so far north of the Prairie du Chien.

About two weeks after the "double cabin" was completed, the Indians, who had been to Turkey River to receive their annuities, returned; and about one hundred and fifty encamped on the island, near the store. The Indians had been there about one month, when they made an attack on the building, riddling the door and windows with bullets. Myrrick had but one man with him at the time. They returned the fire, fortunately not killing any of the Indians. During the fray, Alexis Bailey, who was well known to the Indians, returning from the "upper country," accompanied by several teams, appeared upon the ground, which put an end to the attack.

During the winter, he prepared the timber necessary, shoved it across the river on a hand-sled, and with it, in February, 1842, built the first house on Prairie la Crosse. Moving his goods, and occupying his store, he became the first settler at that important point.

The original plat of the town-site was surveyed by Ira Brunson, of Prairie du Chien, in the summer of 1842. In 1851 it was re-surveyed, which somewhat changed the original survey.

Myrrick, in 1843, returned to Westport, and married Miss Rebecca E. Ismon. Proceeding to the city of New York, he purchased a large stock of good and in the fall returned to La Crosse.

Mrs. Myrrick was the first woman who graced the embryo city, and the family the only one resident for about a year. The first interment was a child of theirs, who died in 1845.

Myrricks business energies could not be confined to "Indian trading." He early engaged in lumbering on the Black River, built a saw-mill, and, in 1844, run a raft of lumber to St. Louis, the first sent to that market from La Crosse.

In 1843, and spring of 1844, quite a number of Mormons were settled along the Black River, engaged in the manufacturing of lumber for the Nauvoo market, leaving in the spring of the latter year. In the fall of the same year (1844), between three and four hundred returned to La Crosse, and settled in what is now known as the "Mormon Cooley." Mr. Myrrick gave employment to most of them in the pinery on the Black River, cutting steamboat-wood, & c. They remained until the spring of 1845, when most of them returned to Nauvoo in flatboats, which they built.

During the year 1841, two or three steamboats ascended the Mississippi with supplies for Fort Snelling and the lumbermen on the St. Croix. In 1842 the little steamer "Rock River" was run from Galena to Fort Snelling, making a trip once in two weeks.

In 1844 Scribe Harris put "The Otter" in the trade, run her for a year or two, when she was superseded by other boats.

A post-office was established in La Crosse in 1844; and Nathan Myrrick received the appointment of post-master, and resigned in 1846. He was succeeded by E. A. C. Hatch, who had come out to La Crosse from Westport early in 1843.

The first election held was in 1844, for county commissioners. The whole country from Prairie du Chien to the St. Croix was included in the county. Nathan Myrrick and H. L. Douseman, of Prairie du Chien, were elected.

In 1847 occurred the heaviest freshet ever known before or since along the Black River. Nearly all the mill-dams, booms, &c, were destroyed. Millions on feet of logs, timber, manufactured lumber &c, were swept away. Mr. Myrrick losing upwards of twenty-five thousand dollars.

In January, 1848, he purchased of the United States the town-site of La Crosse; and in the spring of the same year he settled up his business, and moved to St. Paul, which has been his residence since, to this time (1875).

Idleness is not in consonance with his early training; and we find him still engaged in business on the frontier, --still pushing west. Since leaving La Crosse, he had his trading-posts at Watab, Long Prairie, Traverse de Sioux, La Sueur, Pembina, &c.

In person, Nathan Myrrick belongs - as did his father and grandfather before him - to the "sons of Anak," being sixe feet four inches in his stockings. Genial in his manners, brimful of kindness and hospitality, generous to a fault, often and again has he been the victim of misplaced confidence, as he will continue to be: so long as the "leopard cannot change his spots," so Nathan Myrrick cannot change his nature.

In all the vicissitudes of his varied and very extensive business, the writer, who has known him for nearly thirty years, has yet to learn of one, with whom he has had dealings, to deny him the title of "honest man."


Contributors: Duane Horn, Crystal Wendt & Janet Schwarze.




I am the local historian here on the Spirit Lake Nation, headquartered at Ft. Totten, ND.  I see Nathan Myricks story ends in Lacrosse.  He was the post trader at Ft. Seward, located at the now city of Jamestown, ND.

He had two other brothers who were in the fur trade.  One brother is the famous Let them eat grass which prompted the Minnesota uprising in 1862.  The other brother (name unknown to me) came here to the Spirit Lake (Devils Lake) nation.

The family today changed their spelling to Merrick.


Do you have any of the details of the above?  Andrew (?) let them eat grass is well documented.  Who was the brother who came here?  Louis Garcia, Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Ft. Totten, ND


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