Histories: Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:
"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":
-As transcribed from pages 94 - 96
Albion, lying in the Beef River Valley, was settled in 1856, in which year William Moon, Burden Cross, David Chase and A. U. Gibson arrived with their families. Moon, Cross and Chase settled in the eastern part of the township, south of the Beef River, in the vicinity of what afterward was known as Hamlin. Gibson settled some three miles back from the river in the western part of the township adjoining what afterward became the village of Norden. Preparations were at once made for the coming winter. On July 3 Moon broke the virgin soil, put in potatoes the following day, and in the fall gathered a fair quantity, the first crop in the township.
The experience of the Gibsons is a typical one. The family arrived October 7, 1856, from Argyle, Lafayette County, where Mr. Gibson had settled in 1839, and where he had gained a thorough knowledge of coping with the difficulties of pioneer life. Upon coming to Albion with their yoke of oxen, their goods and their stock, the family set to work erecting a home. It was made of tamarack logs, chinked on the inside with moss from near-by swamps and sodded over from the ground up. There was no floor and no windows, and only one room. A little wild grass was cut for hay, but after being dried proved inadequate for feeding purposes. While planning their life here the Gibsons had shipped a great quantity of flour, pork, beans and other provisions from Galena to Fountain City. But before these provisions could be moved to the cabin home the winter came on, a winter more severe than has since been experienced. Snow started to fall on November 7, 1856, and continued for three days and three nights. When the calm came at last the snow lay seven feet deep on the level and was heaped in great drifts against the hillsides and in the valleys.
The Gibsons, thus shut off from the rest of the world, were miles from their neighbors. To the north, five miles in Eau Claire County, was the Gunn family. To the west, in Buffalo County, Mondovi was seven miles away, and the family of George Rosman was the only one to be found on the trail. Sam Cook, of Dover, ten miles away, was the nearest neighbor to the south. Five miles to the east were the three families at Hamlin.
The Gibson family nearly starved, and all of their stock except the oxen died. The family was kept alive by purchasing a few bushels of seed wheat from the Moon family at Hamlin, carting it five miles over the crust on a hand-sled, and grinding it in a coffee-mill to make coarse flour for bread. A little hay was secured from the same source and transported in the same way. In March, 1857, a child was born to the Moon family. In order to be in attendance, Mrs. Gibson had her two sons take her over the snow five miles on the hand sled, which on the return trip was utilized for carrying a load of hay for the oxen.
An interesting story is told of De Lorma Gibson, a fourteen-year-old boy, and William Morton, a member of the Gibson household. In March, 1857, the man and the boy were hunting, when they came across some bear tracks. Following the dog along the trail, they encountered an unusually large black bear. The man lost his courage, but the plucky boy took the gun, and with one shot broke the bear's neck and cut his throat. With the assistance of Mr. and Mrs. John Gibson, who were summoned, the bear was taken home, where he furnished food for many days to come.
When spring came, Moon, discouraged at the privations of the winter, determined to leave the county. He accordingly traded his 400-acre claim at Hamlin for an 80-acre tract in Dane County, on which a mortgage of $500 had been placed. Russell Bowers, with whom he traded, arrived in Albion toward the end of June, 1857. His sons are still in the township. At the Bowers home the Hamlin postoffice was established.
Cross, after remaining a few years, became discouraged, and returned to Dane County, from whence he came. Chase enlisted in the Civil War and was killed. Gibson spent the remainder of his life in this vicinity. He lives in history as the one who gave the township its name, Albion, the ancient title of Britain, a word for which he had a great fondness.
M. B. Gibson, a son of A. D., is now the sole authority on early Albion history. He arrived June 9, 1857, bringing the remainder of the family belongings, together with some cattle and a pig. The trip of 200 miles was made with a team of horses, the first horses owned in the township. A stray pig, also the first of his kind in the township, followed the team all the way, arrived in good condition, and furnished the family with pork the following winter. A flag which Mr. Gibson brought with him was hoisted near Norden July 4, 1857, probably the first time that the stars and stripes had been flung to the breeze in Beef River Valley.
Soon after the arrival of M. B. Gibson a trip was made to Fountain City for the provisions which had reached there the previous autumn. This food did not last to harvest, so later another trip to Fountain City was made. There corn was obtained. But no milling facilities, so a long trip had to be made to Eau Claire, to have the corn ground into meal. On this meal, with such wild game as deer, elk, bear and rabbit, the family subsisted. Tea, coffee and sugar were almost unknown luxuries. A beverage which was used as a substitute for coffee was made from parched corn and toasted bread crusts. After a few years sugar and syrup were obtained by tapping the trees on the Chippewa River, a considerable distance away.
In 1857 the crops were good, though only a small acreage was planted, and the agricultural equipment was meager. Owing to the lateness of the arrival of the Bowers, the Gibson family rented the 20 acres which Moore had broken, and in the fall the first corn grown in the township was harvested from this tract. The first wheat was raised this year by Barden Cross. The method of threshing was most primitive. A wide circle of ground was cleared, several shocks of wheat laid thereon, and the oxen driven back and forth over it until the grain was all threshed out. The first threshing machine in the neighborhood was a two-horse tread-power owned by George Cole, near Augusta.
An interesting feature of pioneer life was the presence of the Indians in 1857. A band of Sioux and Winnebago camped a short distance below Norden. One day they killed three elk on Beef River. Bear, wolf, deer and elk were then plentiful, and an elk was killed by Russell Bowers as late at 1865. In the fall of 1857 the Indians, about 100 in number, moved to a site just below the present village of Eleva. From there they had trails all over the country, through the most accessible, and over the most convenient crossings of the rivers and creeks. These trails remained for many years thereafter.
The Indians were peaceable and friendly and often called at the Gibson home, where they were never turned away unfed.
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