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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"


Chapter  37 - The Newspapers of the County

Reminiscence

(-as transcribed from pages 508 - 510)
 

On April 1, 1869, I left Kendallville, Indiana, with Eau Claire as the objective point, arrived in Chicago in the evening of that date and proceeded via Watertown; had our breakfast the morning of April 2 at Tomah, arriving at Black River Falls at eight a. m., the end of the line. Took Price's stage at ten a. m. and wended our way through ten inches of snow and any quantity of sand toward the then village of Eau Claire, where we arrived at three o'clock a. m., April 3d. About that date the first bridge across the Chippewa was open for travel; previously the crossing was by ferry, operated by Mr. Gans. At this date Eau Claire was without railroad accommodations nearer than Black River Falls; the most of the shipping was done by boats plying between Eau Claire and Reed's Landing; goods from eastern cities came by way of Sparta or Prairie du Chien.

Here let me quote a few of the prevailing prices of grain and foodstuffs: Pork, $40 per barrel; young Hyson tea, $1.50 per pound; "Black Strap" molasses, 75¢ by the barrel; fresh beef, 10¢ by the carcass; flour, $8 per barrel; potatoes, $1 per bushel; plug tobacco, $1.50 per pound; fine cut tobacco, $1.50 per pound; oats, $1.25 per bushel; hay, $15 per ton; stumpage for pine, $1 per thousand feet. There were located on the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers twenty-seven sawmills. At the time of my arrival in Eau Claire there was but one house beyond the Omaha station, and that the residence of Tom Randall. In order to reach the East Side hill one had to go by way of the street now leading up from Eau Claire street. The population of the city at this time was estimated at 2,500. On May 26, 1869, the "Big fire," which started in the Chandler Hotel, spread, laying in ashes all of tinbusiness places on Barstow street from the building now owned by Bruce B. Brown on the east side of the street, and from the Peoples' store on the west side as far down as the opera house building. The west side of the river on Water street at this time did quite an important share of the business of the then flourishing village, having a steamboat landing for receiving and shipping, not far from the Niagara and Monongahela Hotels, which at this date did a flourishing business, but after the fire which later burned the larger portion of the business places on Water street, though rebuilt, were unable to regain their old time business, as the natural tendency of trade was toward the railroad which reached Eau Claire in 1871.  There was not much business on the North side of a commercial character, mostly confined to boarding houses and hotels. The principal hotel on the East side at this time was the Eau Claire House, owned and operated by Mr. Newton, who later on sold the building which was moved and became part of the Hart House, which was removed to make space for the Y. M. C. A. building.

The Chippewa river, which 1 recently had the pleasure of tracing from Eau Claire to "Lake Hallie" (originally known as "Blue Mill") and return, gave the writer the opportunity to draw the contrast of the appearance along its banks as compared after a lapse of forty years, since floating on a lumber raft over this same distance. Forty years ago the river was lined with mills, piers, booms and logs, which took away all of the natural scenery which now pleases the eye of all true lovers of nature who may chance to pass over this portion of this beautiful stream, where one can feast the eye on the beautiful camping grounds and the changing view of foliage interspersed with trees and shrubs in full bloom, which cast their fragrance on the twilight breeze as if inviting admiration.

But few reminders of the olden days remain, and those in the form of piers and "deadheads" remain to mar the beauty; hope is entertained in the near future the "deadheads" at least will he removed for commercial profit. At Chippewa Falls was the Union Lumber Company mill, at French Town (now South Chippewa) Mitchell & Co., at "Gravel Island" "Jim Taylor," at "Blue Mill" (so named from the original owner, whose face always took on a blue appearance and he was known as "Blue Tom"), now owned by John Barron, uncle of John E. Barron, of the Union Savings Bank. The LaFayette mill, owned by John Robinson, just above the Dells (now obliterated by the paper mill dam) were the mills of J. P. Nelson, Prescott-Burdette Company and Ingram & Kennedy. At Eau Claire were the mills of Ingram & Kennedy, Smith & Buffington, Daniel Shaw Lumber Company, W. B. Estebrook and Boyd and Randall and the Pioneer Mill of R. F. Wilson. All of these ceased operation, the Daniel Shaw Company mill being the only one still operating under a new ownership. The New Dells Lumber Company and the John E. Kaiser Lumber Company are conducting a successful business at the present time.

The writer has seen the thinking village of forty-five years ago grow steadily in business and population until today Eau Claire is recognized as one of the thriving cities of the state. Many industries have come in to fill the places made vacant by the departure of the several lumber mills, which have more than filled the call for employes, and by the combined action of our commercial club, and the booster spirit of our citizens, may we not in the near future see Eau Claire doubled, not only in population, but in our manufacturing and general business enterprises. If all will pull for that success, with no North, South, East or "West side to raise its hand, but in one united effort to build up Eau Claire to the point where all as citizens can justly feel a pride in having it known that they are residents of the beautiful, prosperous city of Eau Claire. This is no dream, but can be made an accomplished fact if all will boost for Eau Claire, so get at it, you slow ones, and "boost," help the "Booster Club" to boost! boost! boost! for your home city, Eau Claire, first, last and all the time.

(Signed) L. A. Brace.

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