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"History of Northern Wisconsin, 1881"

The Dells Fight

(-as transcribed from page  312)


No history of the city of Eau Claire would be complete without at least a brief allusion to the long and bitter contest that finally resulted in the construction of the dam with its assorting booms, the canal and tunnel to Half Moon Lake, and other connecting improvements. Early in the history of the place the project was contemplated and the interests on the river above were arrayed against it. A satisfactory bill was finally passed by the Legislature of the State in March, 1871. Governor Fairchild interposed a veto for reasons which might have been satisfactory to him and the opponents of the measure, but which were considered far otherwise by the friends of the bill.

Defeated, but not conquered, the Eau Claireites organized new campaigns, employing political sappers and miners, who by regular approaches, parallels and zigzags, succeeded in carrying the enemy's works, and thus securing the construction of their own. The object was finally obtained through an amendment to the city charter, which the Legislature of Wisconsin is supposed to always have a weakness for granting for the mere asking.

It is not proper in this place to go into the particulars as to this contest; many persons are now living who were active participants in the struggle on either side. It will be sufficient to say that the controversy was between the residents and owners of property on the river, and the nonresident owners of pine lands, who had no interest in manufacturing lumber, but who wanted to use the stream to float their logs unobstructed down the river as far as possible without expense to them. It was absenteeism over again, and that interest enlisted local interests and jealousies into the contest. J. McIntire, of New York, had the contract for constructing the dam, lock and other work.

The cost was between one and two hundred thousand dollars.

Some unlooked-for difficulties were encountered. A part of the coffer-dam above the permanent structure was carried away by a sudden rise in the river, Jan. 3, 1878. On Saturday, March 27, 1878, the dam was so far completed that the water was shut off, and a special train came down from the Falls to see what had been done.

Half-Moon Lake is to-day full of logs secure from any vicissitude. The enterprise is a great success.

The amount of freight received by railroad at this point was: 1879, 31,376,372 lbs.; 1880, 75,614,626 lbs. Forwarded: 1879, 38,558,804; 1880, 58,514,475. Showing a very healthy increase.

A few miles east of Eau Claire, beyond the river crossing, the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Company have secured a site, and are preparing to build a round house and machine shops, and it is likely that this point will be the junction of the Chippewa Falls & Northern with the trunk line. At all events this will be a thriving village at an early day, and must be a very healthy spot as it is high and dry. No name has as yet, to our knowledge, been given to the new village.


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