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Histories:  Trempealeau County Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 14:


Geographical Landmarks
 
-As transcribed from pages 277 - 279


Chapultepec Peak is named from Mount Chapultepec, Mexico, at whose base, two miles from the City of Mexico, the Battle of Chapultepec was fought Sept. 12 and 13, 1847.  Charles J. Cleveland, whose father was a veteran of that battle, was an early settler of Big Tamarac.  In the spring of 1856 he located at Big Bend, in charge of the lumber and rafting business of Thomas Douglas.  In one of his trips to La Crosse in 1856, he purchased a rifle, and instead of returning home by the usual route, he sent his team by a hired man, and returned by way of McGilvray's Ferry, traveled through Galesville, up along Beaver Creek, and crossed the divide into Trempealeau Valley.  He observed a mountain on the top of that valley, which appeared to him to resemble the description of the Mexican mountain described by his father.  He therefore called it by the name of Chapultepec.

Chimney Rock is a towering, ragged pile, caused, as other similar formations in Western Wisconsin, by the erosive action of the wind, snow, frost and rain, wearing away the surrounding formations and leaving the rock in its present shape and condition.  The work of erosion is still going on.  The rock is the highest point in the vicinity.  It was originally called Devil's Chimney and was a landmark to guide the traveler of the early days.  The rock is now obscured by trees.

Decorah Peak was named from the Indian dynasty of Decorah, of which extended mention is made in the Indian chapter in this work.  The name is variously spelled, the form "Decora" being possibly in more general use in Trempealeau County than the form "Decorah" used in this history.  Charles E. Freeman writing to Stephen Richmond on Jan. 21, 1912 (manuscript in the library of the Trempealeau County Historical Society) says:  "I remember quite distinctly a visit my parents made to Decorah's encampment at the mouth of the Little Tamarack, when I was very small.  My father saw him and tells me that he was lying down, resting upon his elbow.  He was naked to the waist, and was the finest specimen of manhood he ever saw, tall, big-muscled and having the appearance of a bronze statue.  He was nearly blind and was very old.  There is a legend that a battle was fought on the Black River, just south of Decorah's Peak, and that after Decorah's warriors were beaten he hid himself in a cave of the peak until it was safe for him to make his way to Prairie du Chien.  In confirmation of this, Bert Gipple, editor of the Galesville Republican, tells me that when a boy attending Gale College, he, with several others, accompanied a man from Washington, D. C., over to the Peak and was there shown a photo where Indians had been buried.  The boys dug into the mound and found a confused mass of many skeletons in a very mouldy and decomposed condition.  One skull, however, was well preserved.  This they took home and gave it to the Winona High School to place in their museum.  This mound is about 40 rods south of the Peak.  Mr. Gipple says he looked for the mound some years after this and found it only with the greatest difficulty."  The Prairie was originally called Scotch Prairie, but gradually assumed the name of the Peak.

Oak Openings, or The Openings, was the name applied by the early settlers to a stretch of land embracing parts of Caledonia and Trempealeau townships.  The name is self-explanatory.  The fall and spring fires since the earliest time had swept down the valleys and the bluffs and over the Prairie from the northwest, dying out when they reached the southern part of the Prairie, where they encountered the region of sun-dried and wind-swept sands.  Thus safe from fires, and protected by the Mississippi and Black rivers, the timber made a struggle for life in what was a small desert, converting it into a desirable tract for agricultural endeavor.

Trempealeau Prairie is one of the distinctive geological features of the county.  The causes that have made the Prairie are explained by George H. Squier elsewhere in that work.

Whistler Pass is one of the remarkable geographical formations of the county.  The winds from the northwest sweep through it with great force, and with a whistling sound that has caused many to make an incorrect guess as to the origin of the name.  It has been said that Selfus Spain, an early settler of Cross Township, in Buffalo County, and later a resident of Fountain City, gave the name.  He and is family crossed the pass in 1856, having to chain all the wheels to get his wagon down the bluff.  He camped at the foot of the bluff on the north side, and during the night noted the moaning and whistling of the wind in the depression of the hill over which he had just passed.  However, the name of Whistler's Pass had been given some time previous.  Reese Whistler had filed on a claim in section 14 in 1853, but so far as is known did not then settle there.  In 1855 Martin Whistler settled in Pine Creek Valley and opened a trail over the bills into a branch of Tamarack Valley to meet the road leading to Trempealeau, his market-place.  This trail became the main road into the upper part of Pine Creek Valley and later was the main road from Trempealeau to Arcadia.  The portion over the divide toward Whistler's place was known as Whistler's Pass.  Ichabod Wood, also an Englishman, came and settled near Whistler within about a year.  Of the unusual scenery in this vicinity Dr. Pierce has said:  "Last August we drove up the west side of Tamarack Valley and over Whistler's Pass.  It was a lovely day, cool and refreshing and breezy, and the farmers were busy in the spreading harvest fields cutting grain.  From Whistler's Pass it was a beautiful sight down the Tamarack, and off on Trempealeau Prairie.  Field after field of yellow grain spread out over the country and here and there the grain was shocked.  On the stubble fields the red wild buckwheat showed its gaudy color.  For across the prairie the Trempealeau bluffs loomed green against the blue sky.  Then we turned and on the other side of the Pass, in Pine Creek Valley, a new panorama opened to view with broad fields of golden grain and green meadow lands.  What scenes one encounters along the country road, among our cozy Wisconsin hills in the summer time.  Strange-shaped bluffs peering down with their green slopes adorned with grazing herds of cattle, rocky peaks with their white limestone, and then the little valleys, the woodland haunts and waving grain and rustling cornfields."






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