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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

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

Donated by Bill Russell

Independence Becomes a Village...

Independence became an incorporated village on December 16, 1885 by virtue of an order signed by Judge A. W. Newman.  A survey established that the boundaries of the village included 565 acres of land.  The population numbered 350.

Pursuant to the Order of Judge Newman an election was held in January 1886 in the Hotchkiss Lumber office. (Some sources gives the date as February 26, 1886.)  The voters approved the proposal to incorporate and elected officials:  President, Mike Mulligan.  Trustees:  Thomas Thompson, J. C. Taylor, Ed Linse, John Sprecher, Ellis Hotchkiss, and Frank Tubbs.  The county board member was J. A. Johnson.   Other officers were W. B. Faulds, village clerk; George H. Markham, village treasurer; David Garlick, constable; D. N. Johnson, justice of the peace; and Anton Liver, police justice.

The first recorded meeting of the newly elected village trustees occurred on March 8, 1886 and the first order of business was to set the village treasurer's bond at two thousand dollars.  The trustees also agreed to meet every Monday evening.  Subsequent records show that the meetings were more frequent and often were held during the day.  Apparently the village board was confronted with a multitude of problems as a consequence of incorporation.

For example, many villagers kept cows, horses, mules and hogs which were not always confined.  To cope with the problem the village board adopted ordinances, in March of 1886 and on subsequent dates, that animals were not to be allowed to roam at large on any village street between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. from April 1 to November 1.  It was made lawful for any adult person and a duty of the marshall and street commissioner to impound any such free roaming animals and be paid 25¢ per head.  The marshall to receive 25¢ per day for keeping the animals plus the cost of the feed.

At the April 20, 1886 village board meeting several beer and liquor licenses were issued, and Druggist Taylor was granted a permit to sell liquor for "scientific purposes."

Absenteeism must have troubled the village board of trustees because on May 27, 1892 they voted to impose a 25¢ fine on an absent member unless excused.  Subsequent minutes of the board proceedings do not indicate if any fine had ever been collected.  Speeding on village streets was dealt with by ordinances.  Horses were limited to 6 m.p.h. except on a race track and later automobiles were restricted to 12 m.p.h.

The minutes of the proceedings of the village board back in the eighties leave the impression that the village experienced many growing pains in the early years of its existence.

Dates to Remember

Without a doubt the founding of the Village of Independence in 1876 was an event of great importance to the people in the area.  However, on the national scene it produced no stir and on the pages of history it was but a dim dot.  Yet the founding of the village, and of thousands of other communities like it, was the manifestation of the dynamic growth of the nation since the Revolution.  New lands were being opened up, beckoning people to take up the challenge to carve out a new life for themselves.  Great expectations, manifold disappointments, but numerous rewards, accompanied the pioneers as they headed west and settled and resettled themselves.  The pioneers in the Independence area were part of those stirring events.  Their descendants can well be proud of them.

Let us briefly consider some of the events:

1836 - Wisconsin became a territory; President Andrew Jackson was in the White House; the province of Texas broke away from Mexico and became the Republic of Texas.  It was annexed to the United States in 1845.

1848 - Wisconsin became the 30th state in the Union, first governor was Nelson Dewey; The United States and Mexican war ended by a treaty which gained vast territories for the United States; Discovery of gold in California triggered great migration to the west.

1863 - Township of Burnside, Trempealeau County, Wisconsin was established,  George E. Parsons, First Chairman; American Civil War was in progress; President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves; The Battle of Gettysburg, lost in the South, proved to be a decisive defeat.  The famous "Iron Brigade" composed of men from Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana, lost two-thirds of its strength in the first days fighting.  The Homestead Act became a law which facilitated acquisition of acreage for farming.

1873 - Green Bay and Lake Pepin Railroad (now Green Bay and Western) was constructed through Township of Burnside; Millions of buffalo still roamed the plains.  Indian wars still raged in the west. Settlers in covered wagons were moving west in great numbers.  First transcontinental railroad completed in 1869.

1876 - The village of Independence was founded May 26, in Town of Burnside at the confluence of Elk Creek and Trempealeau River; In June of same year General Armstrong Custer and his 264 troopers were annihilated by Sioux Indians in the battle of Little Big Horn River, Montana; Alexander Graham Bell invented and patented the telephone, an event destined to touch the lives of people all over the world.

1885 - Independence became an incorporated village, with population of 350.  Mike Mulligan became first president of the village; Vast forests in Northern Wisconsin were producing great quantities of lumber for the nation's booming construction industry.

1942 - Independence became a city of fourth class in January 1942, John A. Markham, first Mayor; United States was mobilizing all resources towards winning WWII which it entered in December 1941.  Armed forces expanding rapidly.  Many young people being called into service and entering into defense production.  Rationing was a fact of everyday life for the duration of the war.

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