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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 10:

Holcomb Cooley

-As transcribed from pages 171 - 172

Holcomb Cooley lies partly in the town of Trempealeau, the greater part being in the town of Arcadia, and is in townships 19 and 20 north of range 8 west, opening into the Tamarack Valley, or running back east and northeast about two or three miles in width and footing up against French Creek and the Galesville hills more than three miles from the Tamarack Valley.  Near the center it is widest.  On the south side are several small valleys or coolies in the hills, with much the same conditions as on the north side, where in the early pioneer days stood dense forests of tamarack timber.  Al and Abe Holcomb, brothers, who had settled on West Prairie and who had put in a dam in the Tamarack Creek, in section 5, township 18 north of range 9 west, and erected a saw mill, filed claims on much of the land in this cooley and, taking possession, began to cut and carry to their mills saw logs which were cut into lumber for use by the settlers.  Hence the name Holcomb Valley, or Cooley, was given to the region by early settlers and has not been changed, though the men after whom the valley was named have been long dead.  In 1870 the saw mill did little work, and about 1875 the mill and power were converted into a grist mill by Square A. Picket, who had come into possession of it, and who later sold it to other parties, who continued to operate it til 1885.

Much of the land in and about the region of the Tamarack Valley was marshy, and to reach the cooley when the ground was frozen was an almost impossible task, except by way of the French Creek Valley, until a series of corduroy roads was built over the marsh places.  The Holcombs also built and for a number of years operated a windlass on the hills to facilitate transportation.  The teams were unhitched fro the vehicles and driven singly up the bluff and the loads dragged up by the windlass.  In fact, teams descending could not be driven down the bluff side hitched to a wagon.  This was in operation as late as 1868 or 1869.  It is a fact almost forgotten by the oldest living pioneer today, though familiar to all of them at the time.

The first settlers to permanently locate and improve lands in the cooley were Wenzel Brom, known as Big Wenzel, and his cousin, Wenzel Brom, known as Little Wenzel, and John Holemy, Bohemians, who had immigrated in 1859 with Mathias Brom, who later settled in Pine Creek in what is now a part of the town of Dodge; also Ole O. Chestleson, still living in the cooley on the land he homesteaded or pre-empted; John Johnson, who later removed to the State of Nebraska; Oluff Olson, Hendrick Olson, Mat Olson, and perhaps one or two other families.  These settlers came in at various dates from 1861 to 1865.  John Brom later than 1868 homesteaded lands in the cooley.  Among those who came before 1869, not mentioned above, were Hans Hanson, John Hanson and Easton Hoverson.

In 1868 a log schoolhouse was built in the cooley on the site of the present one, and the first school taught in the winter of 1868-69.  The nearest business place was Old Arcadia, where Gay T. Storm conducted a store and David Masseure owned and operated a grist mill in 1868.  The road over the ridge to this store and mill was a rough unimproved tract.  Frank Brom first visited these business places in the late fall of 1868 with Matthias Olson, they going to mill with two yoke of oxen and a cart, having to lead the oxen up and down the steep hillsides, and then it was a dangerous journey to make.  The country was indeed wild and desolate in that late fall day, being a series of hills and bluffs on all sides, with scarcely a settler anywhere in sight till they trundled down into Arcadia.

(By Stephen Richmond.)

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