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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Northern Wisconsin, 1881":

History of Independence

-As transcribed from pages 1065 - 1067


INDEPENDENCE, located in the southeastern portion of, and the most prominent point in, Burnside Township. Independence, though the result of the completion of the Green Bay road, was not laid out until 1876. The country round about had been settled some years before, in fact, was among the earliest settled of the townships in this portion of the county.

In the spring of 1856, John Markham with his family, accompanied also by the Rev. Mr. Davis, from Dane County, came in and located on Section 24. About the same time, Dr. Traverse, a pronounced Mormon, paved the way for the coming of his followers by locating a farm in what has since been known as Traverse Valley. Giles Cripps came up from Dane County in the fall of the same year. and opened the first farm in the town of subsequent Burnside. His son Frederick, born during the following year was the first birth in the county.

In 1857, George Hale removed from Hale to Burnside, and soon after his advent, he was followed by D. C. Celley. For the next ten years, the immigration was comparatively limited. H. W. Rumsey, H. P. Rumsey and some others came into Burnside, and located on Sections 13 and 14. Between 1860 and 1870, there was quite an influx of Norwegians and Polanders into the town near the village, including Gunder Christianson, John Hoganson, Ole Oleson, Charles Oleson, E. A. Bentley, Michael White and James Reed also became identified with the town, and located at points not far distant from the village. Between 1870 and 1880, the accessions were large, and before the dawn of the latter year, the lands in the town were almost entirely taken up.

The first death in the town was a Norwegian by the name of Mrs. Churchill, in 1858, who died in Traverse Valley, but upon the location of a graveyard at another point, was removed thither. The first marriage is shrouded in obscurity.

Thus premising, it may be stated, that, for several years prior to the location of Independence, the necessity of farmers for an accessible point of shipment of their products was, in truth, the occasion of the birth of present Independence.

A place one mile nearer Arcadia called "New City," containing a tavern and grocery aspired to the proud position awarded Independence, but miserably failed of its efforts. It is said to have been possessed of no single redeeming feature in its character for wantonness and disorder. Its name was a synonym for all that was vile, and the frequenters of the place as familiar with guile and cunning as a Zulu, and ferocious and blood-thirsty as Capt. Jack or Shack Nasty Jim. In short, they were very bad men, and the pretentious ambitions of "New City" to be dressed in corporate authority and wield the metropolitan baton in fact, as also in name, though commendable, were not to be considered when the fate of a township, perhaps a county, hung in the balance.

Out of the requirements cited was Independence suggested; by reason of their absence was Independence brought forth, but without convulsion or collusion. Early in May of the Centennial year, D. M. Kelly, of Green Bay, who was possessed of title to lands upon the greater portion of Independence was subsequently built, caused forty acres of the same to be surveyed and platted for village purposes. The original plat contained eighteen blocks of regular dimensions, fronting Washington, Adams, Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Jackson and Lincoln streets on parallel lines intersected by streets from First to Sixth. On the map, the village presents the appearance of a parallelogram, and only needs to be illustrated with bright colors to convey an absolute conviction in the eyes of the beholder as to its appearance in the mind of those who projected the enterprise. Great things were expected would result from the venture. The destruction of "New City" was inevitable, and was realized; its location as a shipping point was deemed invaluable and is undeniable. But that it would become a great city or even a place of prosperous prominence is a question, though still mooted, and undetermined by some, has been decided in the negative by those who reason from cause to effect, and are confident of the correctness of their premises. On the 25th of May the lots which had been ex-appropriated earlier in that merry month were offered for sale in the market, and while no crowd of purchasers elbowed their way into the madding crowd and shouted precedence above the multitude, quite a large number were disposed of, and these to men who have since become residents as also men of wealth and import among their neighbors. The first to offer bids which were accepted, and be entered as of contracts executed, were J. C. Taylor, Edward Elstad and David Garlick, the latter of whom appeared on the ground accompanied by Mrs. Garlick, the first lady to identify herself with the growing village, and whose attachment then formed has never been dissipated. These gentlemen purchased the first lots offered for sale, and completed the first improvements concluded in the village. Mr. Taylor erected a drug store at the corner of Main and Railroad streets; Mr. Elstad a general store on Washington street, and Mr. Garlick a home on Adams street. These initiatory efforts still stand on the spot where they were born, and are still occupied and owned by the gentlemen who accomplished their creation.

The exhibition of confidence thus offered inspired others to come laden with purchase money: and, as the prospects of the old city went glimmering as the dreams of childhood, those of Independence were brightened and correspondingly augmented. The week following brought with it G. W. Parsons and family; Ira Smith, who became the first lumber dealer; Hans Melgard, Ernest Walters, Edward Gordon, who opened a store with his first improvement; John Kuderman, the first carpenter; Hans Christianson, Andrew Anderson and some others. who came from different portions of the county to enjoy the opportunities for speculation, it was thought existed in Independence. All began to build, and carried their improvements to completion. Walters had been a tavern-keeper at "New City," and came hither to Independence, whence he removed the "Green Bay House" which still furnishes accommodations to the hungry and weary. These were followed before the actual coming of summer by J. W. McKay, who added to the appearance of the village which was becoming quite chipper, by the way, with each day's arrivals, by the building of the Tremont House, a piece of enterprise which caused many who were debating the expediency of building, to stand no longer idle in the market place. The spirit of emulation thus created produced its natural result; and, during the summer, the sound of the artisan as he plied with his tools was heard from all points of the compass of industry and enterprise. Nor did the waning summer witness any cessation. So long as it was permitted, work was carried on, and houses and stores came to the surface where they had previously been unknown. Business, too, was conducted with that brusqueness visible when purchasers are numerous, and none but the modest refrain. Among those who entered upon merchandising were C. J. Lambert and 0. P. Larson, who began business in a building erected by Ernest Walters adjoining the Green Bay House; Edward Gordon built a store and loaded it with goods; E. H. Warner deserted Whitehall and opened a hardware store in Independence, etc. Residences were erected by Mary E. Noteman, D. M. Short, John Halekson, Theodore Gospelder, West Snow, O. P. Clinton, Charles Clawson, Nathaniel Nichols, the first attorney, with briefs and authorities, in pursuit of clients; Edward Linse, C. A. Raetz and John Hofer-all of them new-comers, and all of them deserving of the commendation men of character and enterprise do not always receive.

During this year, after the village was created, occurred the most important events that can be associated with its history. The first birth took place this year. It was a little daughter to George Parsons and wife. The event happened in July and the youthful stranger was welcomed personally and audibly welcomed to its new life with praises and kisses and thanksgivings. It clapped its little hands with joy at its surroundings, and had scarcely learned to pipe its lay of wants before it crossed over into the summer lands beyond the Jordan, and another home was rendered desolate. Blest be the innocent lives who lead the way to everlasting bliss may their memory always be kept green and their innocence be emulated until the voyage of mankind is ended and the great world is resolved into space. In the fall, the first marriage was announced, between Lewis Benjamin and Susan Jenny. The celebrants sought the home of George Parsons, who was a Justice of the Peace, and invoked his aid in effecting the combination.

But "Squire" Parson being in doubt as to his authority under the law to act, at first hesitated, and finally refused absolutely to be a party to the contract. Such being his decision, the sighing twain were reduced to a condition of disconsolateness, described by an eye-witness melancholly to behold. In the emergency, J. C. Taylor, who, it may be parenthetically observed, was saddled with the honors of Justice, one day after his arrival in Independence, came to their rescue, and Lewis and Susan were so indissolubly united as that no power could thereafter put them asunder.

At the close of 1876, the population of Independence was quoted at 400, including men, women and children. These were gathered in forty houses, built during the year for residence purposes, and the conclusion seems irresistible, that the capacity of each was taxed in a way the reverse of delicate. But everybody kept boarders, remarked the authority for these facts, and comfort, protection, rather than convenience, was the object sought to be obtained. In the fall and through the winter, the building was continued to the end, that by spring of the ensuing year, accommodations for the "crowd," it was thought, would reach out, Octopus like, to gather within its embrace, the few desirable sites still on the market.

In 1877, two additions were made to the village out of lands set apart for that purpose by Samuel Coy, and a total of twenty acres were surveyed and platted into lots fronting on Warren, Greene, Putnam and Wayne streets. Early in February Dr. W. R. Allison, the first physician to offer his services to diseased frames located in Independence, was welcomed to the village, and W. R. Turnbull purchased the Tremont House.

The most important improvement commenced this year was the Independence Flouring-mill by S. M. Newton. It was designed to supply the absence of a mill in so perfect a manner that nothing should be wanting, and fully equaled expectations. It was completed in the fall at a cost of $22,000. In addition to this structure, Ira Smith erected the Merchants' Hotel and two buildings adjoining; Albert Bouch a storehouse on Adams street; Cargill & Van a grain warehouse; John Sprecher, a building for the storage of agricultural implements; Meuli & Danuser a hardware store, and A. Emery, the handsome private residence opposite the depot. The accessions to the population are represented as having been equal to those of any previous year, though from this date there has been an apparent falling-off in that particular. In 1878, the International Hotel was built, also a two-story brick dwelling opposite the depot, since when, until 1881, when John Sprecher erected a grain warehouse near the depot, nothing worthy of mention has been completed.

The same causes which elsewhere throughout the county have retarded the growth of its villages, obtained with depressing effects. The successive failure of crops for the period extending from 1878 to, and including 1881, has been attended with results that could not be otherwise than disastrous to Independence, as it proved to be to Whitehall and other points, but those most affected, by no means disheartened, continued their labors, confident of the future, and the prosperity of the village and town.

The population of Independence is quoted at about 400, and its value, as a shipping point, is annually appreciating. Independence is included within School District No. 6, which was duly organized according to law in July, 1876. During that summer no school was opened, but in the fall pupils were received in Taylor's Hall, where a comparatively limited number assembled for the space of two years, and were taught the English branches from primary to a more advanced grade. Upon removing from the hall, a storehouse on Adams street was procured, in which the number of pupils increased, until it became necessary to obtain more commodious quarters, when the present schoolhouse was built, being completed in 1880, and costing, with the lot whereon it stands, a total of $2,000.

A graded school is now taught, employing a force of teachers at an annual expense of $1,600, and enjoying an average daily attendance of one hundred pupils.

The religious element is well established in Independence, no less than four church societies having been established there since the village was laid out.

The Congregational Association was organized in June, 1879, at Taylor's Hall, under the direction of the Rev. J. H. Pollock with twelve members. At first, services were regularly conducted, and efforts were suggested to procure the erection of a church edifice. But a multiplicity of reasons prevailed to prevent the consummation of this undertaking, and the members of the congregation still worship in the hall wherein its organization was perfected. The society is now without a pastor.

The Methodist society, organized about 1877, also meet in Taylor's Hall, at intervals, for prayer and worship. It numbers thirty members.

The Norwegian religious association convene in Taylor's Hall monthly, when it is addressed by transient ministers, no stated supply having been thus far obtained. The Evangelical association was organized in 1878 with eighteen members. Its members meet every Sunday for worship in Shork's building, and have preaching semimonthly by the Rev. M. C. Werner, of Arcadia.

Sts. Peter's and Paul Catholic Church, organized in 1869 by the Poles of this portion of the county, at the residence of Peter Sura, half a mile from the village, is the largest congregation in the vicinity. Here services were conducted until 1873, when the present frame church edifice was commenced. It was completed during the spring of 1874, at a cost of $2,800, and has since been occupied. The following year a neat parsonage was erected opposite the church, the same costing $1,500. A ten-acre lot, attached to the lot upon which the church edifice stands, is used for cemetery purposes.

The congregation numbers 150 families, under the pastorate of the Rev. Herman Klemetski.

Independence Mills were erected in 1877 by A. M. Newton, at an expense of $22,000, and are as complete in their mechanical and other arrangements as skill or money can render them. The building is of frame, four stories high, compact and substantial in all its features. It is supplied with five run of stone, and possesses capacity to turn out 100 barrels of flour per day. In 1880, Messrs. Comstock & Gaveny, of Arcadia, purchased the property for $13,000, and have operated the same continuously since the date of their obtaining possession.

Elk Creek supplies the water power.

The Independence Elevator, adjoining the track of the Green Bay Railway, and near the Independence Mills, was erected in 1876 by Messrs. Cripps, Comstock & Noltman, by whom it is still owned. It is of frame, costing $4,000, and has a storage capacity for 16,000 bushels of grain.



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