Bio: Tainter, Andrew Capt. (b. 1823)
Contact: Sandra Wright
Surnames: Tainter, Richards, Dodge, Burnham, Payne, McCrillis, Gorham, Cook, Pelton, Brunson, Burt, Hurd, Knapp, Wilson
----Source: Historical and Biographical Album of the Chippewa Valley, Wisconsin (1891 - 1892) Pages 395-397
Tainter, Andrew, Capt. (b. 6 Jul 1823)
Capt. Andrew Tainter, lumberman, Menomonie, was born July 6, 1823, in Salina, N.Y. The genealogy of this family dates back to four brothers who came to America in the latter part of the seventeenth century. The family is of Scotch, English and French extraction, qualities and characteristics of each nation being represented in the make-up and character of Capt. Tainter, the subject of this sketch. His grandfather was Dr. Stephen Tainter, a man singularly gifted with great force of character and strong convictions. He was a physician in the truest sense of the word, ever ready to relieve the sick and afflicted, often rendering valuable service without the hope of reward except that which comes from above. He died a comparatively poor man, at the home of his son Ezekiel, aged over four score and ten years. The historian in unable to tell much about his parents except that they were pious and strict Scotch Presbyterians, a fact which may have been conducive to the Doctor’s religious inclinations and poetical turn of mind, he having published a volume of religious hymns which attracted considerable attention at the time, especially the hymn entitled the “Judgment Day.” He was the father of the following children: Gorham, Ezekiel, Clarissa and Mrs. Nancy Richards, the last named a daughter of his second marriage.
Of these Ezekiel was born in Kent, Vt. He worked in the copper mines in New Jersey, and later held the position of foreman in the salt mines of Salina, N.Y. In 1828 he went to the copper mines in Galena, Ill., where he worked for two years, then went to Fort Crawford, Wis., where he became a government contractor, supplying the fort with beef and wood. Later on he removed to Prairie du Chien, where he kept a hotel for many years, entertaining many distinguished people, among others Gen. Dodge, who became famous in the Sac and Fox Indian war. In political matters Ezekiel Tainter was a Whig, and was sheriff of Crawford County for some time. Adversity overtaking him, in 1844 he removed to the Kickapoo River, Wis., where he made a settlement. In 1860 he moved to Menomonie, where he died. September 29, 1822, he married Miss Ruth Burnham, who was born January 29, 1805. She was a daughter of Parker and Sarah (Payne) Burnham, who were married November 14, 1793; the latter was a cousin of Thomas Payne. Parker Burnham died May 12, 1845, in Syracuse, N.Y. Mrs. Ruth Tainter died at Rice Lake, at the home of her daughter. To Ezekiel Tainter and wife were born thirteen children, namely: Andrew, Sarah A., Emeline, Eliza, Mary, J. Burnham, Harriet, Emily, Laura, David L., Ellen M., Mrs. Marilla McCrillis (who died of cancer), and S Gorham. Of these J. Burnham was born January 19, 1836, and came to Monomonie in 1856. His wife, Margareta Cook, has borne him two children: Ruth Sophia and J. Burnham.
Capt. Andrew Tainter’s boyhood was spent in Salina, N.Y., until the age of nine years, when, in 1832, the family moved west to join the father at Prairie du Chein. They were accompanied by Mrs. Tainter’s father and her brother, Stephen Burnham. From Buffalo to Mackinaw the trip was made by schooner, while the rest of the voyage was made in a birch-bark canoe to Green Bay, and from there in a keel-boat up the Fox River to Fort Winnebago. At the latter place a portage of three miles was made to the Wisconsin River, which they descended to Brunet Ferry, where they were met by the father, Ezekiel Tainter, who took them with an ox team to his home. Andrew attended school in Prairie du Chein, and then worked awhile for Ed. Pelton. Having small opportunity to exercise those great business qualities which have distinguished him in later life, and being of an energetic, restless and fearless disposition, he was induced to go to the pineries. In August, 1845, he went to Chippewa Falls, followed an Indian trail for sixty miles, and made hay that summer under contract. That fall he went to Galena on a raft, and from there to Kickapoo, to visit his father. At Prairie du Chein he met Ben Brunson, who owned a mill in Chippewa Falls, which was built by Silas Burt in 1837. He worked for him for twenty dollars per month for a little over one year. In the autumn of 1846 he came to the Menomonie River, where he made lath in partnership with Blois Hurd. That winter he worked at Chippewa Falls, but returned to Menomonie in the spring and operated a mill with Blois Hurd on Irvin creek.
In 1848 he sold out his share in the mill and got out square timber and saw logs a mile below Irvin’s mill. He sold this product of his labor in the summer, and in August, 1850, was enabled to buy one-third interest in the John H. Knapp & Wilson firm, at that time valued at $12,000, Capt. William Wilson being the silent partner. At that time the mill had an up-and-down saw with a flutter wheel. That year a new mill 60x100 feet, with a couple of sash saws and an iron water-wheel, was built. Two years later a gang saw was put in, and since then improvements have been added until to-day it is one on the very largest establishments of its kind in the northwest. Capt. Tainter’s part of the business consisted in supplying the mill with logs, taking the manufactured lumber down the river to the Mississippi, and returning with supplies, in the early days boating them back with keel-boats. It was a rough life, fraught with dangers, hard work and exposure, but he did not shrink from it, and worked with the men and shared their course but wholesome fare. He often got wet through and through, even in cold weather, and slept on the ground at night; yet the participator of these hardships says: “It was fun, lots of fun, in those days.” In 1858 the firm bought the first steamboat which was used by them on the Chippewa River, and which was for a couple of years commanded by Capt. Tainter. Finally other steamboats were added. Later on he again supplied the mills with logs, but since 1886 his son, L.S. Tainer, has performed that part of the work.
Capt. Tainter has partly retires from the active duties of the business, being well provided with this world’s goods, and enjoying the fruits of his early work and hardships in his spacious home in Menomonie near the great mills. He has been a benefactor to the town on many ways, beautifying and supplying the city with a handsome public library and memorial hall, which building was dedicated to the memory of his daughter, Mabel Tainter. The building is of stone and was furnished at his expense. It is the chief ornament of the town, and contains the library, reading-room and club-rooms, with billiard-rooms, theater and pastor’s study, the theater being used for church purposes by the Unitarian church. Our subject is not noted for pious ostentation, but his devotion to his friends, his straightforwardness, honesty, integrity and appreciation of real worth in man, in all stations of life, are qualities which are more appreciated by his fellow men than any mere cant or creed. When he has gone to his last resting place these qualities will cause him to be thought of with respect for many generations. Mr. Tainter has a fine physique, being five feet and eleven inches in height, and stands firm and perfectly erect. In his prime he weighed 210 pounds, and although for many years he was one of the hardest working men on the whole range of Wisconsin pineries, his shoulders looked as though the burden of life had rested lightly upon them. Few men were more active ten years ago or capable of performing more labor than he. Forty-two years ago he began with no capital, save his willing hands and a will-power that yielded to no difficulty, and to-day he is the wealthiest man in the whole Chippewa Valley.
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