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Histories:  Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:

"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":

Chapter 23:  More Historical Papers

Borst Valley

-As transcribed from pages 901 - 905

This valley comprises parts of three towns.  Its two westernmost branches head in Dover, Buffalo County; the main east branch rises near the center of Chimney Rock; the lower half of the valley lies in Burnside, where its general slope is to the southeast.  In greatest length the valley extends about eight miles.  Its waters find outlet into Elk Creek near the east line of section 11, Burnside.

The valley never bore the name of its first settler, whose family and others called it Little Elk.  Afterward by many it was known as Warring Valley.  Later it sometimes was designated as Borst Valley.  Fifteen years after the coming of the first settler another name was added - Markham Valley, for a man who arrived in 1875.  All these names were current at the same time.  There never was concerted action on the part of the inhabitants to decide upon a single designation, nor rivalry as to choice.  The valley's present name appears to have been generally adopted about 1892.

William S. Cramer, a native of Connecticut, was the first settler.  His wife, Deborah Ann, nee Smith, was a native of Ohio.  They emigrated from Ohio to Marquette County, Wis., in 1851.  A few years later they went to Green Lake County, and in 1861 moved to Butler County, Iowa.  In October, 1863, they reached Borst Valley.  All these migrations were made by ox team, for the Cramers were typical pioneers.  They had five boys - George F., Elmer, Theodore, Charles and Willie.  Mr. Cramer squatted on the northwest quarter of section 11, town 22, range 9, a half mile above the valley's mouth, and began gathering logs to build a cabin.  A few of these were cut on his claim, the rest being taken wherever a suitable tree was found.  The red oak bolts from which he split shakes for the roof Mr. Cramer secured in the head of a coolie above George Hale's location in Pleasant Valley, about five miles distant.  In November the family occupied the cabin, moving in before the door was hung or the window fitted.

After finishing the cabin Mr. Cramer went to La Crosse to make homestead filing and learned the land had been withdrawn from entry pending determination of definite limits of a land grant to a railway that afterward became the Omaha line.  He returned home, built a shed for the oxen, gathered firewood sufficient for a year or more and laid in a stock of family supplies.  Then on Jan. 13, 1864, he enlisted at La Crosse and became a soldier of the Civil War.  His son George says Mr. Cramer's enlistment was credited to the town of Gale, that he received $450 bounty, was assigned to Company G, Thirty-second Wisconsin Infantry and sent to Tennessee.  Mr. Cramer died of dysentery in the military hospital at Nashville, Sept. 3, 1864, aged about 43.

Mrs. Cramer continued to occupy the claim, making only such improvements as would supply the family with corn and the necessary vegetables, until the land was restored to entry in 1866, when she sent her son George, then about 18 years old, to La Crosse to make homestead entry, instructing him to file in her name.  Finding this not permissible, George made entry for himself as head of the family.  In 1869 they sold relinquishment of the homestead to Henry B. Fay.

Wanderlust had a firm hold on Mrs. Cramer, an impulse acquired in early life.  On leaving Borst Valley she went to Bear Creek, between Mondovi and Durand, where he married Peter Vroman, who died six months later.  Notwithstanding the legal change of name, she was known through life as Mrs. Crmamer by her old acquaintances.  In 1876 she moved to Kansas and in 1878 returned to Wisconsin.  Three years later she emigrated to Oregon and took a homestead six miles west of The Dalles, where she passed a settle life for 25 years.  Then selling her land, Mrs. Cramer went to Western Oregon, and in 1911 to San Diego, Cal., where she died July 3, 1912, in her 83d year.

Of the Cramer children, Willie died in the spring of 1864, aged 3 years.  His was the first death in Borst Valley, and his burial in the plot that afterward became the Cripps Cemetery was the first interment there.  Theodore and Charles in the early '80s went to oregon, where the first named died in October, 1913.  Charles is near Mosier, Ore., and Elmer near Kellogg, Minn.  George was the last of the family to leave Trempealeau County, going to the West in 1887.  He lives near Hillsboro, Ore.


In the fall of 1863 Hamlet D. Warring, native of New York, and Lowell Fay, native of Massachusetts, came to view the valley and selected locations.  Both returned the following spring, and with them came Mrs. Lydia Meigs, Warring's housekeeper; Reuben and Harriet Meigs and James and Angeline Mosier.  Reuben was Mrs. Meigs' son and Harriet and Angline were Warring's daughters.  They came from Oxford, Marquette County.  Mr. Warring located above and adjoining the Cramer claim and Meigs directly west and adjoining Cramer's.  Mosier squatted on seciton 3, but in the fall abandoned the claim and returned to Marquette County.  Mr. Warring brought the first horses and the first reaper to the valley.  He lived htere until his death, Dec. 19, 1888, aged about 75 years.  Mrs. Lydia Meigs moved to Minnesota in the late '70s.  Reuben Meigs died in Montana.  His widow lives in North Dakota.

Lowell Fay located at a point where the valley merges into Pleasant Valley.  With him were his wife and son Lea.  In 1865 Mr. Fay was followed by his sons Henry B. and Aaron, both Civil War soldiers.  Henry settle first in Lincoln, but in 1869 he bought the Cramer relinquishment and built the first brick house in Borst Valley.  Except Aaron, the Fays moved to Minnesota in the early '80s.  Aaron died at the Milwaukee soldiers' home in 1916.

Samuel Beswick bought land at the mouth of the valley from an Eastern owner in 1864.  Mr. Beswick was a bachelor.  He died in the early '90s and his farm passed into possession of Fred Cripps.

In the fall of 1864 came James Kelly and wife, natives of Ireland, with their sons, James, Jr., and John, and daughters, Laura and Marcella.  They were from Marquette County.  Mr. Kelly located on section 4, Burnside.  James Kelly, Jr., married Cornelia, daughter of Talcott Moore, of Pleasant Valley.  This was the first marriage of a Borst Valley resident.  With the exception of James, Jr., who lives in Northern Wisconsin, the Kellys removed to Minnesota in 1869.

Daniel and Emily Borst, with four children, arrived in the valley in 1865, coming from Marquette County.  Their homestead was in section 34, Chimney Rock.  They went to South Dakota in 1870, thence to Washington State.  Daniel died at Seattle Sept. 12, 1906.  Emily died early in 1917.

In the fall of 1865 George and Martha Meigs reached the valley, coming from Marquette County.  George was Reuben Meigs' brother and Martha was H. D. Warring's daughter.  George was a Civil War soldier, serving in a New York regiment.  His homestead was Mosier's abandoned claim in section 3, Burnside.  The first child born in the valley was his son Decatur, July 22, 1866.  Mrs. Meigs died April 10, 1873.  George moved to Minnesota in 1878, and thence to Montana, where he died early in 1917 in the soldiers' home at Columbia Falls.

In 1866 William Nicols, a native of Scotland, purchased from a non-resident owner a quarter section adjoining the Cramer claim on the east and built a cabin.  The next year he broke a few acres.  In 1874 he married Giles Cripps' daughter Emma.  Mr. Nicols died May 17, 1916, aged 80 years.  Of the earliest settlers he continued longest in possession of a single tract of land - 50 years.

The next settlers were Martin W. and Sarah Ann Borst, from Decorah, Iowa, who reached the valley May 12, 1867.  They had six children:  Virgil, Curtis, Henry, Harvey, Mina and Russell.  Mr. Borst visited Trempealeau County in 1866.  He first contemplated erection of a grist mill at the site of the present Elk Creek Mill in Pleasant Valley, and made homestead entry of the 160 acres near there that afterward became the Christ Gassow farm.  Negotiation for the millsite and flowage rights failing, Mr. Borst abandoned his homestead entry and bought land in Borst Valley.  These purchases comprised tracts in both Burnside and Chimney Rock.  His house was built on the northwest quarter of the northeast quarter of section 3, Burnside, and in the vicinity he operated for several years the largest farm in that region.  Mrs. Borst died Nov. 22, 1873.  Mr. Borst left the valley in 1878, going to South Dakota.  He returned to Wisconsin in 1889, and died at Mondovi, Dec. 21, 1899, in his 87th year.  Of the Borst children, Curtis was killed by road agents Nov. 27, 1877, at Frozen Man's Creek, 40 miles west of old Fort Pierre, South Dakota; Russell died at Independence Nov. 11, 1888; Virgil lives in St. Paul, Minn.; Henry, Harvey and Mina (Mrs. C. J. Ward) are residents of Mondovi.

Peter Peterson Norman made homestead entry in the upper part of the valley in the fall of 1867 and started erection of a log house.  The following spring he brought his family.  With him this time came his brother Sever.  These men were the first Norwegian settlers in Borst Valley.


Among those who came in the next four years were the following:

1867 - Peter and Emma Decker; Mrs. Decker, a widow, and sons Stephen and George; Joseph Mericle and wife and George Mericle.  All came from Winneshiek County, Iowa.  Peter and Emma were the last of the party to leave the valley, going to Ellendale, N. D., in 1884.  Silas Parker and family came from Galesville, remained a year and removed to Hale.

1868 - Lyman Back, native of Connecticut, came from La Crosse and took a homestead in the Chimney Rock section.  In the fall he moved on his location with his wife, Lucy, and daughter Lydia.  Mr. Back was killed by lightning Sept. 6, 1875, his being the first violent death in the valley.  His wife died exactly seven weeks later.  George L. Back, son, and George Bartlett and Robert Brookins, sons-in-law of Lyman, made homestead entries, but did not occupy them until the following March.  George L. Back is still a resident there.  The others left many years ago.  George L. Back and family and Augustus Huguenin and wife arrived from Iowa.  The latter soon returned to Iowa.  Mr. Fisk in 1872 emitgrated to California.  William Harris and William Barnhart, with their families, came from Dorchester, Iowa, and settled in the west branch, the first in the Burnside section, where he established the first blacksmith shop in the valley.  In 1872 he sold to Michael Lee.  Mr. Barnhart's locaiton was at the head of the branch.  He lived in Dover, half his farm lying in that town.  He sold to Charles Short.  Chester Beswick bought land in the lower part of the valley, moving in with his family the following February.  He now lives near Blair.  Al Osgood and wife, from Arcadia, and John Sprinkle and wife, from the head of Wickham valley, were residents in 1868, remaining but a year.

1869 - Palmer Back, another son of Lyman Back, arrived from La Crosse, bought the Kelly location in section 4, Burnside, and moved thereon.  In 1871 he sold to William Russell and left the valley.  David Barnhart, whose wife was a daughter of William Harris, came with a large family from Marengo, Ill., and settled in the west part of Chimney Rock.  He moved to Eau Claire County in 1883.  Thomas and Elizabeth Burt came from Glencoe, Buffalo County, and located in the Burnside section.

1870 - In March Mrs. Laura Campbell, widow with a large family, arrived from Grant County, Wis.  Soon afterward she married P. H. Varney, also from Grant County, and lived at Arcadia, where she died Feb. 18, 1879.  None of the Campbell family acquired land in the valley.  In May William Hunter, native of Scotland, his sons, William, Jr., and James N., and daughter, Janet, reached the valley, coming from Allegheny County, Pa.  They settled in the Burnside section.  Mr. Hunter, Sr., died in June, 1897, aged 74 years.  His sons are still living in the valley.  With the Hunter family came Charles and Mary Short, also natives of Scotland.  Mr. Short bought the William Barnhart place and lived in Dover.  There were eight children in the Short family, two of whom are David and Charles Short, of Independence.  The elder Short died in May, 1907, and his wife in December, 1914.

1871 - In the spring of this year William and Christina Russell, natives of Scotland, came from Allegheny County, Pa.  Mr. Russell bought the Kelly Homestead from Palmer Back.  The Russells at that time had four children:  Alexander, Mary, Isabella and Christina.  Mary is the wife of Anton Liver, living at Independence.  The three others are dead.  William Russell died April 26, 1887, aged 55 years.  Mrs. Russell resides on the old homestead.

- by Virgil Borst.

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