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

Chapter  40 - Hotels of Eau Claire

Monongahela House (aka Britton House)

(-as transcribed from pages 546 - 547)

The Monongahela House was located at about what is now known as 228 Water street. It was on the north side of the street. The Niagara House was on the south side of the street and but a little distance from the Monongahela. The house was opened about 1857 with William Gans as proprietor. He was afterwards widely and favorably known throughout the Chippewa valley as Uncle Billie Gans the Ferryman. He continued in the hotel for about a year and one-half and then built a residence on the Chippewa river at about what is now the corner of Grand avenue west and First avenue. This was where the ferry landed. He ran the ferry for some eight years, during which period occurred the famous Indian scare of 1862. The tradition comes down that the "Committee of Safety," who had gathered women and children at Reed's Hall and were preparing for defense, sent a representative to Mr. Gans with orders to under no circumstances ferry the Indians across the river.

He was born December 18, 1813, in Springhill, Fayette county, Pennsylvania, and died in Eau Claire April 5, 1886.

Following Mr. Gans as landlord came H. H. Deyarman, who conducted the business for several years. During that period Thomas Carmichael, afterwards a member of the Assembly, City Clerk, Alderman and a wheel horse of Democracy, presided at the bar.

In October, 1866, the house was purchased by Joseph Hadley and leased and ran by a Mr. Allen, who had formerly conducted the Falls House at Chippewa Falls. About 1873 G. W. Britton purchased the property and changed the name to Britton House.

In June, 1876, a Mr. Wright was proprietor of the hotel, the fee remaining with Mr. Britton. On June 15, at four A. M., the house was discovered to be on fire. It was the work of an incendiary. Cloths soaked in kerosene had been thrown about. The guilty party could not be discovered.

Early in May, 1881, the premises were leased from Mr. Britton by Rufus Farr, for many years the proprietor of the Chapin Hall House at Hudson. Mr. Farr's fame as a landlord spread over both Wisconsin and Minnesota. He had been in business about ten days and had partially refurnished the premises when, on the early morning of Saturday, May 14, 1881, the building and contents were completely destroyed by fire. A late arrival, while preparing for bed, heard an explosion in an adjoining room and investigated. Receiving no reply to his calls, he broke in the door and rescued a drowsy guest, who had gone to sleep, leaving the lamp burning, which had exploded. The place burned rapidly and a number of guests were driven out in scant clothing. The house was not rebuilt.

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