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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Northern Wisconsin, 1881":

Organization of Trempealeau County

-As transcribed from pages 1035 - 1037


In 1853, Marvin James and Wesley Pierce, who were at Montoville, now Trempealeau, in 1852, established themselves at Waumandee, and at the extra session of the Legislature in July, procured an act setting off Buffalo County from the west part of Jackson County.

The citizens of Buffalo were in high glee at this maneuver, arguing that Buffalo County was set off in such a manner as left no chance for the formation of a new county between it and La Crosse. But Judge Gale visited Madison and perfected plans by which these conclusions were thoroughly overturned. The constitution provides that the Legislature shall not divide a county comprising less than nine hundred square miles. Buffalo was within that limit and stood directly in the way of the accomplishment of that scheme. To avoid this, Judge Gale, at the regular session of 1854, had a portion of Chippewa County on the north annexed to Buffalo, thus enlarging the latter to the desirable area; he then appropriated its two eastern tiers of townships, took one tier from Jackson and divesting La Crosse of its trans-Black River northwest corner, made the present county of Trempealeau. The bill providing for its creation was adopted by the Legislature without delay, and in 1854 Trempealeau became a county de facto as also de jure.

On March 11, of the same year, the town board of the town of Montoville convened with Horace E. Owen as chairman, Isaac Noyes and William Nicholls as Supervisors and Charles Cameron, Clerk. At this meeting the town of Gale was set off with the proviso that the first town meeting be held at the house of B. F. Heuston, on April first following; it was also declared that all territory not of Gale be attached to the town of Montoville.

At a meeting of the County Board, held in May, at which George Batchelder presided, William M. Young was appointed Clerk, and Charles Utter, Treasurer, the same to serve until the regular election, which was directed to be held, in November following. Charles Utter was also appointed a Commissioner, to act with the Commissioner from Jackson County, in laying out roads from Montoville to Black River Falls, via Beaver Creek, and one to Douglass' Mills, now North Bend.

Thus was the towns of the county organized. In September, 1854, B. F. Heuston was elected County Judge, and in November, the following county officers were elected: Charles Utter, District Attorney; Ira E. Moore, Sheriff; George H. Smith, Clerk of the Court; Charles Utter, Clerk of the Board; A. W. Armstrong, Register; Hollister Wright, Treasurer; George J. Turton, Surveyor; and William Adams, Coroner. There were forty-four votes cast, thirty-six in Montoville, and eight in Gale. George H. Smith appointed Dr. William M. Young Deputy Clerk, and Hollister Wright made John Nicholls his clerk, to perform the duties of County Treasurer.

Thus was the county organized.

The appropriations made by the County Board at its first annual meeting, in November, 1854, aggregated $1,124.15, of which $500 were for bridges. The following year, $2,352.24 were appropriated for county expenses, in addition to a school tax of $69.21, and the valuation of property assessed at $71,038, was equalized by the State Board at $149,093.

For fully one year, the towns of Montoville and Gale comprehended the entire county, but on November 24, 1855, the town of Preston was laid off, the subsequent town apportionments being as follows: Arcadia, November 21, 1856; Caledonia, November 11, 1857; also the town of Sumner; Chase set off from the town of Sumner November, 1860; also the town of Lincoln; Ettrick, December, 1862; Burnside, December, 1863; Hale, in February, and Chase, 1864; the latter, however, being subsequently vacated, and restored to Sumner; Albion, June 20, 1870; Dodge and Pigeon, January 5, 1875, and Unity, November 20, 1877.

The events of 1855, included the organization of a Board of Trustees for the building and government of Gale University, and settlements throughout various portions of the county, principally about Arcadia, Ettrick, Lincoln, etc. Improvements were completed as rapidly as lumber and service could be procured, and considerable progress, considering the length of time the county had been inhabited, was being made in farming. In October of this year occurred what is believed to have been the first death in the county-an infant daughter of B. F. and Catharine Heuston, who were then residing near Galesville. During the winter of 1855-56, there were no arrivals nor changes in the condition of affairs as they had existed previously. In April, of the latter year, an election for Circuit Judge took place, at which 138 ballots were cast in Trempealeau County. On the 29th of the same month and year, the first term of the Circuit Court was held at Galesville, Hiram Knowlton presiding, with A. M. Brandenburg, Sheriff, and G. H. Smith, Clerk. The court sat one day and the proceedings were limited to the admission to practice of Romanzo Bunn, the first attorney in the county. The session was held in the lower part of the court house, then in process of building, by Isaac Noyes and Amasa Webb. The premises were completed and accepted on July 23, of this year, and were first occupied for judicial purposes, on October 28 following, when Judge Knowlton began the October term of court. The docket contained two cases, one of which was non-suited, and the other continued. At the same session, John F. Brewin and Christian Schmitz were admitted citizens of the United States. The arrivals were numerous, particularly at Trempealeau, where a company from Pittsburgh located and began the building of a planing mill on a scale which would compare favorably with those that have since been built in the lumber regions of Northern Wisconsin. Settlements were also made about Independence, Osseo, and at other points, while those already established were prospering in a manner that must have been gratifying to the residents.

This year the ubiquitous Mormon attempted a settlement in Traverse Valley. The delegation included Dr. Traverse, the high priest, with John Raymond, Theodore Hutchins, Elder Post, Elder Hickey, Nathan Daniels and Jesse and Lovell Kidder, saints. They are said to have practiced secretly what the sect now argue as indispensable to a complete communion with the deity of the Mormon Church, but in time began quarreling among themselves, and after burning their property disappeared. The year was without notable events, the good times continuing until 1857, when the financial stringency experienced in that year was sensibly felt in Trempealeau County. Provisions rose in price beyond the reach of any but the more independent, and during the winter, in some portions, the inhabitants preferred game, which included bear, deer, elk, etc., to paying the extravagant prices asked for pork, bacon and other edibles which are classified under the head of "provisions." This year also the mill at Galesville was fully in operation, and the settlers who had previously obtained their flour at La Crosse, Prairie du Chien and elsewhere, were able to secure accommodations nearer home.  During 1858 and 1859, some progress was made in the development of the internal resources of the county. Roads were built, farms opened, improvements completed, etc. Business became more general in the villages, and Trempealeau became the shipping-point for wheat from this section of the State. In the former year, the Trempealeau Times, the first paper to be published in the county, was established, a college building was commenced at Galesville, and the preparatory department opened in the spring of 1859. In the same year, the Trempealeau Agricultural Society was organized, and at the annual exhibition held in 1859, the Rev. Samuel Fallows, since elevated to the Bishopric of the Methodist Church, delivered the address.

The war came, producing an effect similar to that to be observed in other portions of the country. Trempealeau County was prompt and liberal in responding to the calls made by the National Executive for men and money, but the material advancement of the county was retarded in consequence. This, aggravated by the New Ulm massacre and consequent fright to settlers, particularly in the townships bordering upon the Mississippi, did much to prevent the rapid growth which was obtained in the past ten years. Many settlers in the town of Hale were obliged to seek safety in flight from their homes, and took refuge in the houses of the Markhams, Cripps, and others at points distant from the apprehended danger. The Winnebago Indians, it is believed, took part in this bloody emeute, for they left Trempealeau a short time prior to its happening, and upon their return were laden with powder, calicos, household utensils, etc. Soon after, they were removed, and though there are still representatives of the tribe residing in the county, the greater portion of them have since been removed beyond the Mississippi.

During the past ten years the growth and enrichment of the county has been gradual but substantial. The material interests of the county are carefully cultivated, agriculture has reached a degree of perfection commensurate with the labors and diligence employed in that behalf, the causes of religion and education are in a high state of advancement, and all things seem to combine to promote the growth of the county as also the independence of its inhabitants.

The county seat remained at Galesville until 1876, when it was removed to Galesville, thence to Whitehall in 1877, where it still remains. The county buildings, which are really limited to a court house improvised out of the town hall, is regarded simply as a temporary resort; should the permanence of the location at that point be established at a future election, buildings adequate to the purpose and of imposing appearance will be erected.

The County Agricultural Society, which was organized in 1858, is a leading association of the county, owning commodious exhibition grounds near Galesville, and holding fairs annually. The present officers are: Joshua Rhodes, President; H. L. Bunn, Secretary, and A. Kribs, Treasurer.

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