Histories: Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:
"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":
-As transcribed from pages 196 - 202
The site of the now busy and thriving village of Osseo was surveyed and platted Sept. 22, 1857, by a company, W. A. Woodward of the state of New York, C. R. Field and W. H. Thomas of Richland County, Wisconsin, and they commenced the improvements - W. H. Thomas and a company of men, including our first blacksmith, Dye Ellis. Mr. Thomas and family boarded at Green & Silkworth's Station until the barn was built, when they moved into it and used it for a dwelling until the hotel was erected. They then moved into the hotel, where they lived until Mr. Field and company arrived and took possession in 1859,at which time Mr. Thomas moved into his house, which had been completed at the same time as the hotel.
The arrival of these new immigrants form Richland County took place October 14, the party consisting of the Hon. C. R. Field and family, J. D. Tracy and family, E. Hyslop and family, with a few young men and others, E. S. Hotchkiss, W. S. Hine, Freem Coats, and some others who did not come to stay. Mr. Thomas and crew had arrived in the fall of 1857.
At the time the Field party arrived Osseo consisted of a few scattered buildings. The principal building was the hotel. Next in importance was the residence of W. H. Thomas. That house is now a part of the residence of Erick Nelson and stands west of Hume's blacksmith shop. A shanty occupied the present site of the Congregational church. Dye Ellis had erected the frame of what is now the dwelling of Mrs. Newman, and a little east of the frame stood his blacksmith shop. The shop consisted of a few pieces of jack pine trees arranged to form a forge with some kind of a cover over them, his anvil being outside. When Mr. Ellis got a job of work to do he went out into the pines and gathered pine knots and such-like material to make a fire of. Such was Osseo's first blacksmith shop and blacksmith.
On our arrival there were probably only about half a dozen families at the old Beef River Station of Green & Silkworth. About the same number were over in the south Valley, Jim King, from whom the creek takes its name; H. G. Daniels and family, Jefferson Gorden and family and a young man, John Spaulding; James McIntyre and family, with whom were William and Mary Lindsay, brother and sister to Mrs. McIntyre. William Henry had taken his first crop that summer of 1859, but did not build a home until 1860. East of Osseo, on the farm now owned by James Crawford, Austin Ayers and family lived. On section 8, a little below the Linderman mill, Dennis Lawler lived for a time before taking up his later home.
The post office (Sumner postoffice) was at the Beef River Station, owned by Green & Silkworth, with Mr. Silkworth as postmaster. The postoffice was in a barroom of the old log house, the letters being kept in a little box, or desk rather, where their account books were - a desk probably about eighteen inches or maybe two feet square, which anyone had access to. Beef River Station was on the stage road from Sparta and Black River Falls to Eau Clarie and Menominee. Although we were few in number in those days there was lots of fun and amusement for all who wished to enjoy it.
After the arrival of those immigrants there was a school meeting called to organize a school district, and it was voted to build a schoolhouse, so there were bids called for, R. C. Field and Mr. Silkworth being the only bidders. Their bids were $500 each and to get the contract Mr. Field promised to put on a belfry without extra charge.
At that time there was a small store kept in the house of W. H. Thomas and owned by him. In the other end of the house a Mrs. Bucklen, afterwards better known as Mrs. barber, taught the first school in Osseo, a school of four scholars - two Lawler girls and Della and Julia Thomas. After our arrival the next school was kept in the barroom of the station and taught by Ruth Griswold, who had arrived in our company from Richland County. Then there were a few new scholars. The next school was kept in that shanty spoken of and taught by Hattie Field, afterwards Mrs. E. S. Hotchkiss of Independence.
At the time of building the school house in Osseo the school house in South valley was built, Mr. Silkworth having the contract. The work was done by Mr. Smith, then of South Valley.
In the summer of 1859 Mr. Field contracted to have a lot of marsh hay put up on what was then called the "big marsh," just beyond what is now called the Stillman farm. In the fall there was a prairie fire coming over from the west and to save that hay Mr. Field hired a lot of us to go down and fight the fire, which was done successfully.
One day during the same fall, or it may have been winter, hay was needed at the hotel, so Stoddard Field hitched up "Buck" and "Booch," and another team of the same kind, and he and I went down to the big marsh for a load. He drew up alongside of a real nice stack or rick and I went onto the rick to fork the hay onto the load. I had not got much off before I went right down through. That nice rick of hay was quite hollow-hearted, for under a covering of hay there were two tamarack stumps, supporting poles against which brush had been piled. Mr. Field had contracted with a man to put up twenty tons of hay on that marsh, and W. H. Thomas was to estimate the amount of hay in each stack, each to abide by his estimate. This particular stack had been highly estimated. "Billy" Hines says that man was a preacher and Mrs. Fields says so, too. In those days there were more preachers than there was good preaching.
I will relate another little true story of two or three years after. An Irishman came in to Osseo - Mike Murty by name. He had an ox team and the settlers needed hay. One day Mike came to me and asked me to go with him down onto what was called Lawler's Creek, where there was real nice marsh grass to cut for hay. Son on Sunday we went down and cut hay. On a Sunday after we went and stacked it. In the fall, to save the hay from prairie fires, I went one Sunday and ploughed two furrows a little apart around the stack and then set fire between the furrows so as not to let it run over the prairie. When we had got almost around the fire leaped over our firebreak on the other side and into the stack of hay, which all went up in smoke,. On Sunday, too! Well, some people will say, "So much for working on Sunday;" but in pioneer days we had to do and work every way to make a living. As for Mike, that was about all the hay he had for winter fodder, and seemingly it almost broke his heart. I had to a good deal of hay on other marshes, so I gave Mike a stack on one of them to help tide him over. He left Osseo and I never knew what became of him.
In 1860 the Second National Republican Convention was held and men around Osseo were anxious to get the news of the convention. Mr. Field was an enthusiastic Seward man. Maybe partly because he was a New York man himself, and it seemed to be sure that Seward would be the man. In due time after the convention I went up tot he post office to get the weekly newspaper. On coming back to Osseo I met Mr. Field. "Well, who's it?" said he. "Who do you think?" "Seward?" "No." "Chase?" "No." The others he named I do not remember. "Well, who is it?" "Lincoln." "Lincoln, Lincoln, Lincoln, who is Lincoln, anyway?" "Don't you remember Lincoln stumping the state of Illinois against Douglass two years ago?" "Oh, yes." And he went to get his paper to read the news of the convention. Although he did not get Seward, he did not go back on Lincoln.
On the first call for troops there left three young men to walk all the way to Sparta to enlist. These three young men were F. N. Thomas, W. S. Hine and Hank Robbins. In my mind I can see them yet take the road. Road? No, the wagon track. We had no roads in those days; did not need them. Those men served Uncle Sam faithfully during the war, Mr. Thomas being sorely afflicted, Billy Hine coming back safe and Hank Robbins settling in some part of the state east.
In December, 1859, there occurred the birth of the first white child born in the village of Osseo. That child is now Mrs. Barbara McIntyre, and she is here yet. True, they went to Seattle once to make a home, but on account of poor health there, or perhaps because they were too far from Osseo, they came back to stay.
The old blacksmith, Mr. Ellis, was a character in his way - he and his old horse Jimmie. That old horse was the slowest horse that ever stood. Trot? No, he didn't know how. (Oh, now, Hyslop, be easy on old Jim. You must remember how you used to like to get him and the old cart when you wanted to take your family in a buggy riding over to the South Valley.) A whip was of little use, but he did not like a stick with a brick tied on the end of it. Ellis was a widower, I suppose, at least he lived by himself here at first. In about a year or two he had an addition to his household, a step-son, two daughters and a son coming to keep him company.
I bought a claim on land of C. R. Nelson, on the east half of 15. There were 15 acres broken on it, but I had no way of putting it into crop. Mr. Ellis had his horse, this old Jim, and another he had got some way, and his boy, Ruff. So I let the 15 acres to Mr. Ellis. He rigged up an old plow and sent Ruff to plow the land for the crop. But the plow would not work, or Ruff thought so. In fact he would rather that it would not. So he brought it down to the shop. Mr. Field had had before this a shop erected about where the furniture store now is. Mr. Ellis was busy working and poor Ruff had to take it. When he got the job done at which he had been at work: "Now we will just see whether that plow will work or not," took the team and plow onto the prairie on the south side; he took hold of the plow and Ruff had to drive the team. It was probably the old man's emphatic and picturesque language that frightened the horses, but they went at it and that old plow did turn over a furrow or two. "That's as good a plow as ever God made," said he, so Ruff had to go back to his plowing.
In those early days Mrs. Della Field, then Della Thomas, used to ride horseback up to the station and get the mail from the Sumner postoffice. One day the mare, who had a colt, got in too much of a hurry to see the colt, jumped over the fence or bars rather, with Della on her back, but Della kept her seat just the same. She was gritty in those days, though a young girl.
Now why did we all come up here from Richland County? Well, just to see if we could find better openings. Variety is the one thing needful, and the way of the world generally always has been so and always will be. Probably another matter which had an influence was that there was a prospect of what is now the C., St. P., M. & O. Railroad being built down Beef River Valley. But the projectors thought there was a better prospect for them to go further north and did so, leaving Osseo in the lurch. Then the Augustaites could lord it over Osseo and often laughed at us Osseoites. Oh, Osseo was nowhere, and the prospects were quite poor for a good many years. but they don't laugh quite so much nowadays, and we are all real good friends and neighbors.
In Richland county there was no land to be got by the moneyless. But Uncle Sam had lots of land up this way that he was anxious to give - no, not quite give yet, for the homestead bill did not pass until 1862 - but he was anxious to dispose of it; so land was some inducement, too. Oh yes, there was land to be had, nothing but land, save that already taken up by the few scattered settlers, and, oh, there was water. Yes it was a well-watered country. One Sunday I went over the ridge and down onto Elk Creek to look for land. Yes, the land was there and nothing else. For the time being I was monarch of all I surveyed, but I believe there was some one away down near Elk Creek who would dispute with me the monarchy. That was too far from Osseo, so I came back and let Mr. Hale have it all. In course of time the Norwegians and other Scandinavians began to arrive and take up the land.
In 1861 two men came to Osseo from Eau Claire with the purpose of building a mill. They located the site of the proposed mill below the forks of the river, near where the railroad crosses it, but had some trouble getting the right of water-power from the owners of the land - the state land, I think - and before that could be accomplished the war started and they packed up their tools and took themselves back to Eau Claire. That put an end to the building of a mill in Osseo until 1867, when it was started again by W. L. Fuller, a miller from Black River Falls, W. H. Thomas and E. S. Hotchkiss going in as partners, the mill being that now owned by Lee & Sons. In 1873 and 1874, I think, the Linderman mill was built by J. L. Linderman of Eau Claire and E. S. Hotchkiss.
In 1861 I had built a house for myself and family on the lots now owned, I believe, by H. P. Williams, formerly the Gates property. In 1863 I got up a bee of ox teams and moved it onto my then claim on section 15. I presume it is still there and used as a dwelling. We had quite a time taking it up onto the prairie, on the way from the bridge and up the side, breaking two or three neck yokes. The first house erected in Osseo after our arrival was the front part of the house now owned by Ellis Johnson and then owned by Mr. Field; that was built in 1860. All timber for buildings had to be sawed out of jack pines. I have my old saw now. I wish some of those carpenters would buy it and go to work again.
The first garden on Osseo was on the block now owned by Messrs. Harris and Smith, where Mr. Field had his garden in 1860, and where it was supposed he would build his residence. But "the best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley," so instead of building in Osseo he built on the farm. In 1866 Thomas Love and family arrived from California, where he and his newly wedded wife went to from New York in 1853, during the golden days of California. He built that part of the house now owned by E. Remington, where Mr. Carpenter now lives.
In 1865 and 1866 the postoffice was moved from the Beef River Station to Osseo and the name changed from Sumner postoffice to Osseo, with, I think, W. H. Thomas as postmaster. The stage then came down on the south side through Osseo to Eau Claire, the road, or track rather, being over the high land of Olson farm on over the ridge to Otter Creek and on to McLellan's.
In one of those early years A. B. Ayers moved from the farm now owned by J. Crawford and started a store in the building now owned by Frank Smith, on the corner by the big tree, afterwards building the house now owned by Mr. Nessa. He afterwards built a shoe shop near where the livery barn is, and Mr. Shurtleff moved into it as shoemaker.
In 1861, I think, R. C. Field donated one acre of land on what is now cemetery hill for a cemetery, and that, with other land acquired by purchase, now comprises the Osseo cemetery. It was Dr. Dickie, who died while living with his stepson, John Spaulding, in South Valley, on what used to be the William Anderson farm, who was the first to be interred in the cemetery. I made the coffin and W. H. Thomas and I took it over there on the day of the funeral. The room was so constructed that the coffin had to be put in at the window and the remains taken out the same way. You will see that we had no undertakers and fine caskets in which to lay the dead away.
As for the roads in those days, they were anywhere, and as for bridges, if we had good corduroy bridges, that was enough. Oh no, no steel bridges, and only corduroy roads now and then. And pasture for the flock, that was everywhere - north, south, east and west! the great thing was to find the cows at night, when they failed to come up. Many had to search all over for miles around.
Now we will do a little breaking up of land. On Mr. Field's arrival in Osseo he had a number of yokes of cattle. Those, or at least part of them, he disposed of to men to do breaking; that helped men to own cattle and him to get his breaking done on section 16. If I remember right, I think the bouts of breaking were about a mile long, so there was not so much turning. The land being all what was called grub land, there was a good deal of grubbing to do, the grubs being used for firewood. The first breaking of land in what is now called Tracy Valley was done by the writer on what is now the Yarnall farm on section 20, near that fine spring of water near the south section line. Being a carpenter, I gave two days' work for an acre of breaking, Mr. McIntrye getting ten acres broken for me in that way; John R. Brown, then of Thompson Valley, another ten - twenty in all, I stopping there and doing the grubbing when necessary and serving the victuals which my wife brought over from Osseo every day. That breaking was done in 1861.
About that time A. D. Tracy got what is now the Paul Christopherson farm, bought in on a tax deed from, I think, William Silkworth, if I am not mistaken, the price for the quarter section being $50.
Here is a little incident that has just come to my memory. John Wells' father had