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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 10:

The Banner Robbery

-As transcribed from pages 177 - 178


In the spring of 1860 there arrived in the Big Tamarack Valley an Englishman who called himself John Banner.  He seemed to have means and bought for cash eighty acres of land described as the south half of the southeast quarter of section five, township numbered nineteen, range nine (S. ½ of S. E. ¼ 5-19-9).  For this he received a deed which he confided to the care of a neighbor.  On this land he built a shanty and ox-shed, hired some breaking done, planted sod, corn and potatoes, bought a yoke of oxen and a cart, plow and a few other implements and tools.  In the fall of 1860 he sowed six acres of winter wheat.

Mr. Banner passed the winter of 1860-61 in the neighborhood, getting acquainted with the settlers, having a good time and being a good fellow generally.  In the spring of 1861 he prepared to plant corn and make further improvements on his farm.  About the middle of May, 1861, another Englishman, calling himself Nathan Mitchell, came on from England to visit his friend Banner, and incidentally, to invest a few "sovereigns" in American unimproved real estate.

Mr. Mitchell arrived at Mr. Banner's on Friday.  Saturday and Sunday Mr. Banner entertained his friend by walking with him from farm to farm and introducing him to the neighbors as "My especial friend, Mr. Mitchell, direct from Liverpool, looking for land," etc.  On Monday morning Mr. Banner proposed to initiate his visitor into the American art of planting "maize," and, after getting started and working a while, asked to be excused "while he went to a neighbor's for some seed potatoes."

Mr. Mitchell worked away at his new job until hunger and thirst warned him the mid-day lunch ought to be due.  On going to the shanty the first thing he saw was his carpet-bag with the side cut open, and, lying near, was his "friend's" razor with lint on the edge.  A hasty examination showed that a package containing one hundred and thirteen gold "sovereigns" had been taken, and that it was very evident that his friend Banner was the robber.  After "a nine days' wonder" and unavailable efforts to trace the missing appropriator of his coin, Mr. Mitchell took legal process against Banner's personal belongings that were left behind, such as the oxen, cart, plow, cooking stove, shotgun, grindstone, bedding, etc., including the growing crop of winter wheat, sold the whole at sheriff's sale, pocketed his loss, shook the Big Tamarack dust from his square-toed gaiters and returned to Old England.

Thus closed the John Banner-Nathan Mitchell "tragedy."

The first Polish settler in Dodge, Michael Chisin of Winona, was, in the spring of 1862, piloted to the John Banner farm by Charles J. Cleveland.  To that farm he brought his bride, there his children were born, there he passed the rest of his life, and there he died.  Several other Poles came into the Tamarack in the fall of 1862 and later.  One of the later arrivals was also named "Michael" (Kolodsey or "Collins") and, as everybody was called by the person's given name, to distinguish the two "Mikes," Mrs. Chas. Cleveland gave Chisin the nickname of "Tamarack Mike" and Kolodsey was called "Winona Mike."  The two men were very proud of their American names, announcing themselves to English speaking strangers always thus.

(By E. H. Cleveland.)




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