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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"100 Year Historical Album of Independence, Wisconsin, 1976":

Donated by Bill Russell

Independence - In the Beginning

The City of Independence is situated at the confluence of a creek and a river. Elk Creek flows from the north through the beautiful Pleasant Valley into the Trempealeau River, a tributary of the Mississippi.

The city lies on a plain which is surrounded by wooded hills and valleys, with good roads radiating in all directions through excellent farm land.

Independence is a flourishing city with a metropolitan population of over 1100. It enjoys orderly municipal government, has public and parochial schools, churches, a bank, retail stores, manufacturing plants, a post office, publicly owned utilities, a medical clinic, a tri-county mental health clinic, a tri-county telephone system, a weekly newspaper, a well organized fire department, a large feed mill, a lake, a locker plant, parks, taverns, restaurants, a large beer distributorship, and many other enterprises.

The citizens of the city and surrounding area are descendents of early settlers who braved the frontier and came to the west from New England, England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Poland, and Bohemia.

Events Preceding The Founding of Independence

What we know today as Wisconsin had been for centuries the homeland of the Indians who subsisted on its bounties. Spain, France, and England claimed sovereignty over it by virtue of discoveries, explorations, and conquests. The Revolutionary War brought it under United States control.

The Ordinance of 1787 established the Northwest Territory, which included all of the country north of the Ohio River and west of Pennsylvania as far as the Mississippi River. Within this territory the domain of Wisconsin remained, until 1800 when it became a part of Indiana Territory formed that same year. Next, Wisconsin was made a part of Illinois Territory, then of Michigan Territory, which included all of the present State of Iowa. Wisconsin was created a territory in 1836.

By the year 1837 the Indians of western Wisconsin had been induced to surrender their land to the United States Government and remove themselves to areas west of the Mississippi River. The government then opened the land for settlement at $1.25 per acre. In 1848 Wisconsin became the 30th state of the union.

Shortly after, Trempealeau County was created in 1854, there was an influx of settlers into the present Township of Burnside. Among the first was William S. Werden, who in 1855 filed a land claim and in 1858 obtained title to it from the United States Government. Nothing is known of Werden or the location of his dwelling if any, nor whether he cultivated any of the land.

In 1872 Werden sold out to Lawrence Pampuch, a Polish Silesian, who had recently arrived with his family from the village of Poppelau, Upper Silesia, Prussia. For a time the family lived in a log house, on the present Osseo Road, on property now owned by Edward J. Kulig. Pampuch raised wheat on 280 acres, part of which was to become the business district of Independence.
Burnside - Cradle of a City

It is fitting that we pause and consider some of the highlights in the history of the Township of Burnside, Trempealeau County, Wisconsin. It was through the efforts of its early settlers that resulted in the building of the railroad depot in Independence in 1876, a landmark in the history of the village and the City of Independence.

The township was created in 1863 and named in honor of Ambrose E. Burnside, a general in the Union Army during the Civil War 1861-1865.

The first town meeting was held on April 6, 1864 in the home of Giles Cripps one of the very early settlers in the then non-existent Burnside Township. The house was built of logs in 1856 and was replaced, on the same site, about 1863 by the present dwelling, located two miles north of Independence on Highway 93 near the former Cripps School, the dwelling is unoccupied and is currently owned by Andrew Deino.

The nine men who attended the first meeting were: A.C. Baker, Charles Lynn, Peter Sura, Lawrence Bautch, Talcot Moore, Giles Cripps, George H. Markham, H. C. Rurnsey, and George E. Parsons.

The following were elected to office for the year of 1864: George E. Parsons, Chairman; Talcot Moore and H.C. Baker, Supervisors; George H. Markham, Town Clerk; H.D. Rumsey, Justice of the Peace; H. L. Rumsey and Lawrence Bautch Constables.

Giles Cripps was unanimously elected overseer of the highways. Board supervisors were appointed to confer with Giles Cripps and H.W. Whitemore about a purchase of a burial ground for which $5 had been appropriated.

It was voted that the next town meeting should be held in the school house, District No. 1, (Cripps) this being the only school at that time.

The financial statement for the first year 1864 to April 1865 was: county and state tax $245,17; town tax $155; school tax $270; for a total of $670.17. After the orders were paid for the year the town had a balance on hand of $99.06.

In the pioneer days grain was the source of money income. The crop report of 1875 showed that there were 5082 acres of grain in the fertile soil of Burnside of which 2483 were seeded in wheat.

The April 7, 1874 meeting raised $40 expense money for George H. Markham and James L. Hutchins to see the railroad officers in Green Bay regarding the location of a depot in the township.

Because the town clerk's duties were getting bigger and more complicated James Post was appointed deputy clerk.

In 1879 the people living in that part of Burnside which presently comprises the Town of Chimney Rock, Township 23, agitated for a separate township of their own. In the 1880 spring election the Chimney Rock proposition was defeated by a vote of 162 to 148. However, there was a favorable vote in the spring of 1881 and Chimney Rock became a separate township on November 22, 1881.

On March 29, 1898 the boards of Independence and Burnside Township met to divide property jointly owned as of April 26, 1897. It was agreed that the Town of Burnside shall have and own all property owned jointly and that in consideration of the interest of the Village of Independence had in the property Burnside shall pay $200 to the village. An agreement to this affect was signed by the two boards on May 29, 1898.

George H. Markham and Giles Cripps were two people who had much to do with the affairs of Burnside when it was only an infant. Markham was its first town clerk and later held public offices in Burnside and Independence. He also served in the state assembly. Cripps was the first town treasurer, clerk and supervisor and also town chairman for five years.

Herman Wolfe was town clerk from 1921 to 1953. Julius Sylla was town chairman for 4 years and town clerk from 1900 to 1921, a total of 25 years. James Hunter was town chairman from 1898 to 1922. Henry Russel was chairman for 17 years. Peter A. Woychik was treasurer for 4  years and chairman for 13 years a total of 17 years, George Graul served the town board as supervisor, assessor for 9 years and clerk of the New City School District for a total of 42 years of public service.

Many other people devoted long years of service to the township and other organizations.

Of the present town offices, as of 1976, Adolph Gierok, has served the longest. He was town treasurer for 13 years and has been town clerk for 23 years a total of 37 years. He had also been a school district clerk for 7 years. William "Bud" Kwosek also has a long period of township service. He was assessor for 8 years and treasurer since 1953 for a total of 30 years. He also served on the district school board from 1941-1948. Since 1974 he has been the township's first full-time maintenance man. Alex Killian and Lawrence Bautch have been township supervisors for approximately 3 years. Vince Karasch was recently appointed as assessor. Gerald Wronske became constable about 2 years ago.

John Watek served on the town board from 1953 to 1971 - 2 years as supervisor and 16 years as chairman. He has been a member of the Trempealeau County Board since 1957 and its chairman since 1963.

Prior to the district school consolidations there were several schools in the township, among them Cripps, New City, Wickham Valley, Borst Valley, Farmers or Zimmers School.

Burnside Taxes - A Century Ago

Taxes of every kind are a touchy subject and can generate heated arguments. They are always too high but never too low. Today the variety of taxes seems infinite in contrast to what they were a hundred years ago. Our pioneers were mainly confronted with taxes on real estate and personal property and if they had any comments they are unrecorded.

Below are a few examples of real estate and personal property taxes paid as shown in the 1875 Town of Burnside tax receipt book when James Reid was treasurer. Land valuations are not given in the tax book, but remember that settlers had recently bought the former Indian lands from the government at $1.25 per acre. Frank Shivek paid $12.11 on 80 acres plus personal property; David Garlick paid $10.03 on 160 acres plus personal property; George H. Markham paid $69.45 on 640 acres plus personal property and tax on "Ronceval" the Markham Castle; George Burrows paid $53.85 on 1080 acres; Giles Cripps paid $53.93 on 478 acres; Martin Borst paid $66.94 on 1416 acres plus personal property; lgnatz Gierok paid $4.96 on 40 acres plus personal property. Records are not readily available as to taxes on land presently covered by the Independence business area.

Current taxes on the above items would probably seem astronomical.

The 1895 township assessment role listed 12 bicycles and 33 gold and silver watches all items of which were taxable. Horses were assessed at 20 to 30 dollars, cattle at 5 to 20 dollars and swine at 2 dollars each. Charles Weideman had 40 head of cattle and 8 horses. John Sprecher had the most personal property, evaluated at $6205.

Letter to the Editor

The following is an exact copy of a letter which appeared in the May 19, 1876 issue of The Trempealeau Republican of which C.A. Leith was the editor. In the second paragraph correspondent William Hunter refers to activities which gave birth to Independence though when he wrote the site had not yet been named. The Jack Bampoo in the second paragraph apparently referred to Lawrence Pampuch, owner of the site.

The May 19, 1876 issue featured many articles and illustrations on the Nation's Centennial exposition at Philadelphia.

Burnside May 14,1876

Friend Leith-Since spring again has shown its fine face, the flowers begin to smile again and cheer the toiler on. Since spring set in everyone has been busy with their spring's work although the spring has been considerable earlier than we expected after such a mild winter it has come at last and most of the farmers are through with their small grain seeding. Some few who were behind with their fall plowing are still busy yet, and on a good many places the grubbing picks are started, and as soon as the weather will warm up a little, corn planting will be on hand. Grass comes very slow as there is little or none to be seen yet, it is hard on the cattle as the hay is nearly all played out.

While the farmers are busy I see they are getting quite a stir in the neighborhood of New City with the depot. They have started to build at last. There is quite a number of men at work. They have commenced to build the station house. It is to be 26 x 50 feet. They are building it on the grounds formerly owned by Jack Bampoo of Elk Creek about a mile and a half above New City and the surveyor with his crew are busy at work laying it out in lots and the lots will be for sale in a few days and Mr. Noteman thinks the company will sell some at very reasonable prices. As the grounds are about five feet above high water mark there will be no danger of people being flooded out by every thunder storm we have in the spring as has been the case so far at Arcadia, and we should get the county seat here as it will be about the center of the county, there will be no danger of the sheriff having to open the jail door to save the prisoners from being drowned every spring or heavy rain that comes as would most likely be the case at some of the other points on the R.R., who think they have a better right to it than we have. We will have quite a number of new buildings going up soon.

Wm. Hunter

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