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Histories:  Trempealeau County Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 11:


-As transcribed from pages 240 - 245

Independence is a thriving village located at the junction of Elk Creek and the Trempealeau River, on the line of the Green Bay & Western, and at the mouth of the far-reaching Pleasant Valley.  It is an important shipping point for stock, poultry, butter, eggs, cheese and pickles, and aside from the usual business activities, has four elevators, two banks, a creamery, a mill, two stock yards, a pickling station, and a newspaper.  Municipal improvements  include the village hall, electric lights, waterworks and sewer systems, and a public library.  There are three churches, the Catholic and the Norwegian Lutheran, and one which is used n common by the Methodists and the Evangelical Association.  The streets of the village are paved with petrified brick, and macadam roads extend in all directions. 

There are a number of beauty spots in the village.  The railroad right of way south of the track has been parked, furnishing a beautiful approach to some sightly houses which parallel the track.  Elk Creek, dammed at this village, forms a beautiful artificial lake, admirably suited for bathing, boating and fishing.  A bath house was erected in the summer of 1917 by popular subscription, and the beach is being improved.

Independence was incorporated in 1885.  A survey having been made May 5, 6 and 7, by H. B. Merchant, a census was taken Oct. 21, 1885, by J. C. Taylor, showing a population of 350.  A petition was accordingly presented to the court by E. s. Hotchkiss, J. C. Taylor, P. Husom, J. A. Johnson, A. W. Liver and John Sprecher.  Judge A. W. Newman, on Dec. 16, 1885, granted the petition, and appointed an election.  This election was held at the lumber office of E. S. Hotchkiss Jan. 22, 1886 in charge of L. E. Danuser, J. W. Runkel and E. S. Hotchkiss (clerk), and resulted in a favorable vote of 49 to 29.  Officers were chosen Feb 26, 1886 as follows:  President, M. Mulligan; trustees, Thomas Thompson, J. C. Taylor, Edward Linse, John Sprecher, E. S Hotchkiss and Frank Tubbs; clerk, W. B. Faulds; treasurer, George H. Markham; supervisor, J. A. Johnson; constable, Daniel Garlick; justice of the peace, B. M. Johnson; police justice, A. W. Liver.

The Independence Public Library was organized some time in 1907, under the auspices of the Wisconsin Library Commission.  The first board consisted of  George A. Markham (president), and Dr. C. F. Peterson (secretary), and Anton Senty.  When the village hall was built, provision was made for a library, so, upon the organization of the board, $500 appropriated by the board was wisely spent in buying books, and the library opened, with Edna Elstad as librarian.  The village appropriates some $200 or $300 annually, and the library is open three evenings a week, in charge of Mrs. Minnie Cole and daughter, Sadie Cole.  The present board consists of Dr. c. F. Peterson (chairman), Mrs. George A. Markham (secretary), and Mrs. E. E. Runkel.

The first village hall was a two-story wooden building, purchased from John Sprecher June 21, 1886.  Later the need of a larger and modern building was apparent, and accordingly on May 5, 1902, the village voted bonds of $8,000 for a village hall and electric light system, the village voted a close one of 98 to 79.  The hall is a sightly, two-story building fully adequate for all purposes.  It houses the public library, the council chambers, the fire apparatus, the jail and the opera house.  A splendid clock adorns the stately tower of the building.  The hall was partly demolished by the cyclone of 1903 and was not completely rebuilt until 1906.  In 1903 the electric light system was installed, separate bonds having been voted.

The village has an excellent system of waterworks and sewer, consisting of six wells, a pumping station, and a reservoir at the top of the neighboring bluff.  The elevation of 176 feet gives adequate fire protection for all needs, a volunteer fire department being equipped with all necessary apparatus.  The first waterworks consisted of wrought iron mains covering about three blocks, and a pump which the village put in at the mill.  Water was obtained from the pond.  This system was inaugurated in 1886.  In 1895 the system was extended, an artesian well drilled and a reservoir built.  In 1898 a shallow filtration well was dug.

On June 22, 1909, a special election was held to determine the issuing of bonds for putting in a complete sewer and water system.  The proposition was rejected by a vote of 65 to 54.  But in the meantime, the old system was condemned by the State Board of Health and on April 25, 1911, sewer and waterworks bonds were authorized by a vote of 93 to 37.

A system of street grades was established Aug. 5, 1908.  Oct. 20, 1915, the village voted $1,000 tax for highway purposes, and with this beginning some 12,000 square yards of petrified brick have been laid.  There are also some two miles of limestone macadam in the village limits.  Two miles are macadamized west to New City, a short link being missing.  South, the macadam extends a mile.  North the macadam extends up Elk Creek four miles, one mile being in the village and three in the township.  In 1916 the business men subscribed $1,000 to help build a macadam road east from the road to the town limits of Lincoln.  The permanent street improvements for the two years cost the village $2,500 without creating any bonded indebtedness.

The new High school building, erected at a cost of some $40,000, is one of the finest in the state, and is constructed along the latest improved lines.  It was first occupied in January, 1916.  The building is of brick.  It is excellently equipped, and surrounded by spacious grounds.  Aside from the usual graded and High school studies, there are special courses in domestic science, agriculture and the manual arts.  The school history of Independence is a most interesting one.  The district was organized in July, 1876.  In the fall, school was opened in Taylor's Hall.  A storehouse on Adams street was next used.  In 1880, a brick schoolhouse was erected on a tract of land donated by D. M. Kelley, the village proprietor.  Two additions were later erected.  In 1914, the agitation for a new schoolhouse was started, and a bitter controversy ensued, resulting finally, however, in the decision to build the new structure.  Frank Tubbs and B. L. Hutchins, who had just platted a new addition, made the village what was considered an excellent offer of 24 lots, most of them 50 by 120 feet, on the most advantageous terms.  A committee was appointed, consisting of John A. Markham, August A. Mish, John F. Kulig, Frank A. Hotchkiss, C. J. Peterson, H. O. Carthus and Peter C. Schrock, to consider suitable plans.  The committee decided upon the present model, and the decision has since met with general favor. The old school is still used for several phases of the school work, the original donor not having yet canceled the clause in his dedication of the property, which provided for the revision of the property to him in case its use for school purposes would be abandoned.

Independence had its beginning in 1876, and received its name from the fact that the Centennial celebration of American Independence fell on that year.  The agitation for a village at this point started in 1873, when it became certain that the Green Bay & Lake Pepin, now the Green Bay & Western, was to build a railroad down Trempealeau Valley, and a proposition was made that the town of Burnside aid the company by voting bonds of $20,000.  But at a special election held for that purpose, May 3, 1873, the result was 9 for and 93 against the proposition, with one vote deficient.

During the summer of 1873 the question of a depot was strongly agitated.  The railroad agreed to build a depot in the town if given a bonus of $5,000, and a special election was held Nov. 10 to vote on the question of granting bonds to that amount.  The vote stood 29 for and 53 against.  The vote resulted from the agitation over the location of the depot rather than from opposition to voting the bonds.  At that time the present town of Chimney Rock was a part of Burnside.  Those living in the north part of the town wanted the depot on the northeast side of Elk Creek, while those in the southern part of the town wanted the depot about a mile south of Elk Creek at New City.

New City was quite a flourishing hamlet.  It had been started about 1869, when Elliott J. Carpenter came to the mouth of Travis Creek and constructed a dam and a mill, also opening a small store.  He was followed by Michael Fugina, who opened a store and saloon, and by Peter Eichman, who opened a tavern and saloon.  Henry Gibson opened a small store and was appointed postmaster.  Carpenter sold the mill to Albert Bautch and Gibson sold his store to David Garlick, who succeeded him as postmaster.  

A man named Fancher had a blacksmith shop there, also.

At the Corners, half way between new City and the present site of Independence, Ed Gorton erected a store, and across the road from him, Ernest Walthers erected a small tavern and saloon.

In the fall of 1875 the question of a depot was again strongly agitated.  J. C. Noteman, at that time station agent at Dodge, took up the matter with the officers of the railroad with the result that the railroad agreed that if the people would raise $5,000 by subscription, giving their notes for that amount, the request would be granted.  It was finally agreed that the depot was to be located between Elk and Travis Creek, and that George H. Markham was to hold the notes until the railroad company should fulfill its part of the contract.  If the railroad failed to build the depot the notes were to be returned to the makers.  The full amount was subscribed, and the depot was erected at its present site in the spring of 1876.

At this time the present site of the village was a wheat field, operated by Lawrence Pampuch.  David M. Kelly secured a tract of land here, and on May 13, 1876, had John Stewart lay out a town.  The letter which Mr. Kelly wrote to George H. Markham, thanking him for his hospitality at that time, is now preserved by the Trempealeau County Historical Society.  Lots in Independence were offered for sale on May 25, the first to purchase being David Garlick, Edward Elstad and J. C. Taylor.

Then came an influx from New City, Gorton, Walthers, Fugina and Garlick all moving in.  Gorton moved his stone building to the southeast corner of block 2, at the corner of Third and Washington streets.  Walthers moved his tavern building to lot 6, block 1, on the east side of Second street, between Washington and Adams streets.  This building is now occupied by the Farmers & Merchants Bank.  Later, north of this building, Walthers erected a large structure, with rooms for a saloon and store on the first floor, and with a public hall on the second floor.  This hall was the social center of Independence for many years.  Fugina moved his store to the northwest corner of block 2, at the corner of Third and Adams streets.  Later he erected another building to the east.  Garlick erected a building east of the Fugina buildings, on the south side of Adams street, between Second and Third streets.  In the lower front room of this place he kept the post office and a small store.  Mrs. Garlick was the first lady to take up her residence in the village.

J. C. Taylor erected a drug store at the southeast corner of block 1, on First street, between Washington and Adams streets.  Block 1 was irregularly shaped, the southeast corner being cut off.  When Mr. Taylor's building burned, he succeeded in having the village abandon a part of the alley, so that the present building covers what was originally the alley south of his first building.

Cyrus J. Lambert and O. P. Larson opened a store in the Walthers building, and also started buying grain.  Later this firm erected a large building on the southeast corner of block 2, at the corner of Second and Washington streets, the present location of the Lambert Brothers, who now conduct a general store as the successors of their father, Benjamin F. Lambert, who entered business here April 9, 1879.

E. H. Warner erected a hardware store on the north side of block 2, between Second and Third streets.  The history of this store is most interesting.  Christ Meuli bought the store in 1877, and A. W. Liver entered his employ.  Meuli later took in L. F. Danuser as a partner, and the company became Meuli & Danuser.  Then Meuli sold to Ferdinand Horst and the firm became Danuser & Horst.  In the meantime, since 1883, A. W. Liver has been conducting a place of his own.  In 1888 he bought out Horst and the firm became Danuser & Liver.  In 1894 Christ Torgerson bought out Danuser and the firm has since been Liver & Torgerson.  The Lang Brothers opened a harness shop on the present site of Paul Sura's place of business on the west side of Second street.  Nick Theisen opened a shoe shop on Washington street.  Later he erected a brick building and moved into it.

Ira Smith opened a lumber yard for White & Emery, on the site of the present lumber yard.  The same year Artemus Emery himself came and took charge.  Years later he sold to E. S. Hotchkiss.  George Hiles opened a lumber yard and sent George Hibbard here to conduct it.  The Payne Lumber Company, of Oshkosh, opened a lumber yard where the present stockyards are located.  Charles Hallenbeck was the general manager of the Payne interests in this region, but confined his attentions largely to Arcadia, while Charles E. Davis conducted the yard here.  J. C. Noteman was the first station agent and the first elevator man.  Giles Cripps, Noah Comstock and Mr. Noteman erected a warehouse, the one now used by John Sprecher & Son.  For several years all the grain bought in Independence by the different firms went through this warehouse.  Noteman lived in the station until his home was completed.  John Sprecher came here as the representative of Krumdick & Muir, implement dealers and gain buyers, of Arcadia, where he previously worked.  In 1878 he bought out Krumdick, and a year later bought out Muir.  In 1897 Mr. Sprecher sold a half interest of the implement business to William Steiner, and the firm became Sprecher & Steiner.  In 1897 Mr. Sprecher sold his remaining interest to Mr. Steiner.  He still retains his grain business under the name of John Sprecher & son.  Nathaniel Nichols, a lawyer, came over from New City.  Dr. W. R. Allison located here, and Drs. Lewis and Brandt, of Arcadia, opened a branch office here, Dr. Brandt attending to most of the practice.

J. W. McKay opened a hotel on the south side of Washington street, across from Gorton's store, which he called the Tremont House.  While the building was being erected he had kept boarders in a nearby shack.  The following year he sold to William R. Trumbull, who put no an addition, and changed the name to the Trumbull House.  Later the name was changed to the Welcome House.

Edward Elstad built a saloon about the middle of the south side of block 2, on Washington street, between Second and Third streets.  Later he erected a store where the firm of Elstad Brothers was established.  Hans Melgard opened a saloon at the northeast corner of block 2, at the corner of Second and Adams, where the Sura garage is now located.  Andrew Anderson opened a saloon east of the Walthers building on the south side of Adams street, between First and Second streets.  Eugene Webster opened a livery on the west side of Second street, where the warehouse addition to the Lambert Brothers' store is now located.  West Snow opened a livery east of the Tremont House.

Thus the business of the village started.  In addition to the places of business many residences have been put up.  Among them were two buildings north of the present business section, which were intended as hotels.  The main road then skirted the foot of the hills west of the village, and crossing Elk Creek, continued eastward along the present road to Whitehall.  But this route was soon abandoned for one passing through the center of the village and the hotels were never opened as such.

In 1877 a number of important enterprises were started.  S. M. Newton erected the dam and mill at a cost of about $22,000.  Later this mill came into possession of Noah Comstock and James Gaveney, of Arcadia, bought the mill and controlled it the remainder of their lives.  Ira Smith put up the Merchants Hotel at the foot of Washington street.  Previously he had operated a small hotel on the north side of Washington street, just north of the present Lambert Brothers' store.  John W. Runkle started a furniture store and undertaking the establishment.  It was this year that Artemas Emery erected the residence south of the tract which has since been a landmark.

The village gradually grew, the business section stretching from the depot north and west.  The residence section stretches north and west of the business section west of the artificial lake, north from the bridge east of the lake, and south and west of the depot.

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