Handbook of Stevens Point 1857
Ellis, Tracy & Swayze Publishers
Part 2: Area Around Stevens Point

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In further proof of the fine soil of this Upper Country, we give here a communication from a highly intelligent gentleman of Wausau, descriptive of:


Marathon county is bounded on the North by the State Line; East by Oconto; South by Portage, and West by Clark, Chippewa and La Pointe. It was organized February 9th, 1850. The County Seat is at Wausau: Area 6048 square miles. Its surface is gently undulating -- sufficient to carry off the water, leaving no swamps but, what are susceptible of the highest state of cultivation; and no inclinations so abrupt whose surface may not be turned with the farmer's plow and traversed with his cart.

The Wisconsin River, one of the noblest of nature's streams, rises in the Northern part of the County, receiving its waters from a multitude of silvery lakes, and meanders in nearly a South course, through the center of the County into Portage, and empties its waters into the Mississippi, near Prairie du Chien. Its principal tributaries in the County, coming in on the East are Prairie, Pine, Trapp and Eau Claire: on the West, Big Eau Plaine and Rib. These are large enough to float lumber and logs, and mills are located on each except Prairie. Besides these, there are other tributaries of equal importance further north, one the Eagle River, on which is found the best pine in the State.

Along the immediate vicinity of the Rivers, the timber is various. There is found pine, hemlock, sugar-maple, spruce, oak, elm, birch, etc. embracing almost every variety that grows in the Western Country. Either way from the Rivers, the hemlock generally disappears, and in many instances the pine, also, and a beautiful growth of hard wood covers the soil, such as sugar-maple, butternut, walnut, oak, elm, etc.

The soil throughout the County, is of the finest quality for Agricultural purposes. Within two years, attention has been turned to this branch of business, and the yield and quality have exceeded the expectations of the farmer. In Towns 28, 29 and 30, Ranges 5, 6 and 7, the land is mostly entered by Germans, who are doing a good business by way of farming. Openings are being made throughout the County, and some farms with a hundred acres of improvements have sprung into existence.

The Lumbering business is carried on quite extensively. Within the County is annually manufactured about 62,000,000 feet: of which Wausau turns out about 20,000,000, Rib River 5,000,000; above Wausau 10,000,000; Eau Claire, 15,000,000; Mosinee (Little Bull) 6,000,000; Eau Plaine 8,000,000, and Warren’s Mill, 3,000,0000.

The County at the present time is divided into three Towns: Wausau, Mosinee and Eau Claire. The village of Wausau is the County Seat. It has a beautiful location on the Wisconsin River, and now contains between 700 and 800 inhabitants. It is fast building up, and unlike many western villages, the buildings are all good and substantial. As above stated, at this place is manufactured about twenty million feet of lumber: of this amount the mills of W. D. MCINDOE cut about one half. In addition to that, he has now ready a mill for manufacturing siding, shingles, pickets, lath, etc. Probably the best and safest water power in the State is found at Wausau. The whole River may be used, and still be perfectly safe from high water.

At LITTLE BULL FALLS is a newly laid out village, and some fine buildings are now being built. This is the terminus of Steam Boat Navigation from Stevens Point. The Company have a Boat building, to run above the Falls to Wausau in connection with the one from Stevens Point, which will be put on the River in the spring. A Road from Wausau to Portage County line will he completed about the 1st of July next, which will equal any of the best McAdamized Roads in the State.

In the County, is considerable Government Land yet to be had at seventy-five cents per acre, and one dollar and twenty-five per acre: though the entries for the past eight months have been extensive, and nearly all by actual settlers, and for farming purposes.

A peculiar characteristic of the County is its general healthfulness. The water is pure and soft, the atmosphere clear, and the climate salubrious. No sudden changes from heat to cold, nor vice versa. Winter weather is steady: spring comes and takes complete possession, and winter yields without a struggle. No County holds out greater inducements to actual settlers than this and none have greater prospects of becoming a greet Agricultural County than Marathon.
April 2d, 1857.

Some of the most enterprising men in the State, located early near Big Bull Falls, who by their energy and Capital, gave an impetus to business there, and tended to develop the resources of the country, even sooner than was done farther down. Some of the heaviest lumbering establishments are in that region and good farms were opened above Wausau many years since. These improvements have tended to draw attention that way; and at this time the neighborhood of Wausau is known as an important locale in Central Wisconsin, standing by itself, and having important commercial facilities and improvement policies of its own. As a business Central of a vast interior country of the State, it has projected thoroughfares, Rail Roads, &c., of its own, forming no dependencies on the lower part of this river. Within a few months a most important scheme of the latter kind has been projected -- a Rail Road from Lake Michigan at Sheboygan, via Appleton and New London, direct to Wausau, and thence Northwesterly to an intersection of the Milwaukee and Horicon Rail Road to Superior City. Here also, it is supposed, will be an intersection of the Rail Road from Stevens Point to Ontonagon.

As the country settles, the vast territory of Marathon must be divided up into other Counties; probably eight or ten in number, with a population in a few years equal, or greater than that of as many now in any part of the State.

Portage County, by a late Act of the Legislature setting off WOOD COUNTY, on the South West, is reduced to the Constitutional limit, containing now twenty-two townships. It is thirty miles in length, North and South, and some twenty broad, East and West. The Southern and Eastern portions are mostly openings, and well settled; the Northern and North-western portions are mostly timbered containing considerable quantities of choice Government lands still in market in all the Counties on the Wisconsin, and near the river, there are good lands at the graduation price of SEVENTY-FIVE CENTS per acre yet remaining unsold.

There is scarcely a foot of waste land in all Portage County: the few marshes or swamps in it, are all susceptible of drainage, whereby they may be made the best of plow-lands. -- PLOVER is the County Seat: STEVENS POINT the most populous village: but we shall speak of these more at length hereafter. This County is the most Central of the State; and in position, soil, climate, and commercial advantage holds the first rank on the Upper Wisconsin.

WOOD COUNTY has the same general remarks applicable, with the addition that its Northwestern portion lies on the head waters of several streams, as Mill Creek, Yellow River, and Black River, all of which rise from the most beautiful spring brooks, and water several townships of the most charming hard timbered lands in all this region. They are rapidly being settled up with BONA FIDE FARMERS. GRAND RAPIDS is the County Seat; and with its transcendent water power, and pushing population, is fast becoming a stirring, prosperous town. 

It seems hardly necessary to speak of the HEALTH of this part of the State; that fact having passed into a proverb. But some observations will be required on temperature and our winters. We shall not deny that we have a cold country, nor attempt to compare it with Southern Illinois or Missouri yet as a general proposition, we are prepared to maintain that our climate, even in the depth of winter, is as agreeable in most respects, as that of the Southern Countries named.

Our winters are fully inaugurated about the 10th to the 15th of November, and with slight interludes continue from 10th to 20th of March. During these sixteen weeks, the ground is generally covered with snow; with good sleighing, and steady cold weather; all of which are found much more conducive to health, pleasure, business and the success of Agricultural pursuits, than the alternate thaws and freezes, mud and snow, rains and sleets, which prevail one and two hundred miles further South. Our autumns are bland, beautiful and mild through nearly all of October: Spring generally breaks upon us at once -- the transit from winter to summer being short. The consequence is that the vegetable kingdom, whether wild or under the hand of the cultivator, changes the face of nature from the dearth of winter to the luxuriant growth of spring, much quicker than in more temperate latitudes. Most of the fruits, and all the grains of the Northern and Middle States, thrive well here. A fair specimen of Dent Corn was raised in this village last year.

Our two last winters have been unusually severe, but not more so for the latitude (44 degrees 40 min. N.) than it has throughout the Continent. The Wisconsin usually breaks up, so that the rafting season begins in the month of March; and before the river men get below Pointe Bas, the forests are usually clothed with verdure.

Before proceeding to close our work with some brief account of the several Villages on the Upper Wisconsin, we had intended to attempt a view of the River in connection, from its source to Fort Winnebago. Having already far exceeded the limits originally prescribed, this sketch must be very short.

The Wisconsin has its principal source in LAC VIEUX DESERT; a sheet of water some fifty miles in diameter, lying on the State Line in Town 42 N. Range 11 E. This its most easterly branch: it has many others further south and west, all rising in small lakes, with which this part of the State, and the upper part of Marathon County, abounds; and we suspect from all the information we can gather, that this “Thousand Lake District,” of Northern Wisconsin, will in a few years attract more attention than any other portion -- more than almost any part of any North western State. Abounding in extensive sugar groves, it is the old haunt -- has been so for ages of the Indians: emphatically their home, while the surrounding country, for hundreds of miles, was used only as a hunting ground.

But to the River: it flows over a. sandy bottom, with a gentle current, in a volume lust sufficient for a small boat for some ninety miles, with the interruption of a few inconsiderable rapids, to Grand Father Bull Falls, where it meets with its first great interruption in a dam across its stream of trap rock. In its descent from LAC VIEUX DESERT to these falls, several important tributaries are received: on the East side, the first of note are Little Eagle and Meadow Rivers, and Mercy Creek; Eagle River falls in about thirty miles below the lake, and some fifty above Grand Father Bull. On account of the extensive Pine forests skirting its banks, it is a stream of much importance, already occupied and explored: although short, its depth is good, offering, facilities for floating out the immense Pines. This will be a main point between Wausau and Lac Vieux Desert, and have a settlement the ensuing summer: some thirty miles farther down, on the same side, comes in Pelican River, of about the same size as the. Eagle. There is also Pine on this stream, but not equal in either quality or quantity to that on the Eagle. Of the several streams coming in on the West side, we have not sufficient data to speak.

The first fall of any note is GRAND FATHER BULL. The River has here cut down through the greenstone trap rock, a depth of a hundred feet: the fall is some 25 feet in all, affording an almost unrivaled water power. It is not yet improved. The land in the vicinity is much of it very fair for farming; a good share of Pine lands for lumbering. This fall is in Town 33 N. R. 7 E: -- it will become a point  for business --a town site soon.

PRAIRIE River, a considerable tributary from the east, comes in about 16 miles below these falls, and near what are known as JENNY BULL FALLS. A description of this point will be found on another page by A. WARREN, Jr., who commenced the first improvement there in 1847.

A few miles below Jenny Bull comes in PINE RIVER, a considerable stream from the east, on which a heavy lumbering business is done, and draining an excellent farming country, towards its head.

TRAP RIVER also falls in from the East, a few miles above Big Bull. The next descent brings us to WAUSAU, Big Bull Falls, in T. 29 N. R. 7 East. These falls are made by a range of granite about 30 feet high and crossing the river North-easterly and South-westerly. This is one of the most important points on the River -- a fall of some fifteen feet in one fourth of a mile, creates an unsurpassed waterpower, already much improved. The place being pretty fully described by other hands under the head of Marathon County and Wausau, renders it unnecessary to say anything further here.

RIB RIVER, a beautiful stream from the West, enters the Wisconsin about two miles below Big Bull. With its tributary, Little Rib, it drains one of the finest sugar. maple regions of first rate farming land in all this Land District. It is already being occupied with, a hardy settlement of Germans from Pittsburgh. But they have apparently only just entered onto the edge of the fine land lying further to the Northwest. Just below the mouth of the Rib, and on the East side, enters the BIG EAU CLAIRE, a fine stream with heavy lumbering establishments on it, stretching its thousand arms far to the East interlacing its branches with those of the EMBARRASS which falls into the Wolf River; and watering an immense district of beautiful sugar and other hard timbered lauds. Large quantities of these lie unentered as yet, affording rare inducements to settlers. BULL JUNIOR enters a mile and a half above LITTLE BULL Falls; which place we arrive at about 13 miles below Wausau. This is the ugliest Rapid on the River for the Pilots the fall is about 16 feet, all made through a narrow gorge in the rock, in a distance of a quarter of a mile with a bottomless eddy at the foot, which every raft essays infallibly to sound. This diving of the rafts renders the running always dangerous, & never attempted at very high water. Several men have been lost on this rapid. It makes one of the best water powers on the River, improved with a fine mill, put up by Messrs. CATE & DESERT. Nothing will prevent this from becoming an important point. [See the descriptions of Little Bull and Mosinee further on.] This being the head of steamboat navigation, we shall here take the Northerner to Stevens Point -- distance 36 miles.

 In smooth water, under steam and a strong current, we are descending the noble stream swiftly we continue to note the various points:

At six miles distance, the BIG Aux Plaines (probably Big Eau Plaines), a fine stream, pours in from the West: there are fine mills upon it with a fair quantity of good pine; and its head waters have, as usual the excellent hard timbered lands which are found on all the heads of these tributaries of the Wisconsin. Just opposite, on the East, is WARRENSBURGH, with the splendid steam mill of A. Warren, Jr. Three miles further down, on the East side, is the large steam mills of Messrs. LONG & WHITNEY, near the KNOWLTON HOUSE: A small stream puts in here affording good boomage for logs. Three miles farther brings us to a remarkable ridge of high ground crossing the river, affording almost the only commodious place for crossing in high water, to be found between Little Bull and Pointe Bas – to wit: DuBays Trading Post, now known as the new village of EAU PLAINE. Here the Little Eau Claire on the East and the Little Eaux Plaines on the West, bring their treasures tributary to the new village. A remarkable ridge of high, dry land lies above the last mentioned stream, on the west side, affording an almost natural road far into the interior, and broaching the great sugar tree district of farming lands; on the Little Eau Claire are fine mills and excellent timber; both pine and hard-wood. Twelve miles further, brings us to Stevens Point, passing A. Brawley’s new steam mill and boom on the east side, a mile above the town. This is the lower terminus of Steamboat Navigation, just at the head of the Shaurette Rapids, being the uppermost of that great chain which reaches nearly to Pointe Bas, a distance of about sixty miles. In the eddy just above the village all the rafts from above are accustomed to tie up and make a thorough fit out previous to entering on the great chain. This circumstance has contributed in a considerable degree to make the town of Stevens Point in the first place -- tho’ other causes combine more recently to its maturity and growth. SHAURETTE RAPIDS break over a ledge of sand stone and granite, with a natural fall of 3 1/2 feet. A permanent dam is thrown across the River, forming an excellent waterpower, occupied at present by MORRISON’S Lumbering Establishment. The lumber passes over on a SLIDE, midway of the Dam.

CONANT’S RAPIDS is two miles below Stevens Point; it offers a first class waterpower, occupied by the extensive Lumbering Establishment of Messrs. Dale, Carson & Robinson. -- Just below these Rapids, comes in the beautiful Plover River on the East. It is a never failing stream, fed from spring brooks of the purest water. The stream rises in Town 30, N.R.11 E., and is 50 miles in length. On its head waters is found the very best of hard-timbered well watered farming lands; while further down, it excels in the most choice Pine. It has three large lumbering establishments on it, producing great quantities annually. Just below the month of the Plover, and opposite the village of Springville, the Wisconsin takes an abrupt turn to the West, and shoots quite across Ranges 8, 7, & 6, into Range 5; taking in the month of Mill Creek in its course on the north side. This is a considerable stream ri side (??), of several hundred feet in length. At the second, and most remarkable of the two, some 6 miles below the former, the river makes a frightful descent in foaming rapids through a crooked, rocky chasm of 60 feet only in width for 6 miles, the water raging and foaming at an unknown depth, and dashing from rock to rock in indescribable fury and wildness. This chasm appears literally to have been cut down by the waters through an immense adamantine wall, three hundred feet in height! The mind is forced to contemplate this as a huge BROKEN DAM, which, before the chasm was made in it, must have completely arrested the noble River, and set it back in an immense Lake, 60 or 70 miles long, quite up to the foot of Grand Rapids. This idea is strengthened by the comparatively level and rather marshy character of the country between the two points, comprising a great part of Adams County. Through this terrific Thermopylae all the lumber has to pass; and although dangerous in the extreme, it is done by the hardy pilot with the utmost SANG FROID. Between Point Bas and the Dells, two very heavy tributaries come in from the west: to-wit: Yellow River and the Lemonwier. The former heads in Town 26, Ranges 1 & 2 W. in the great sugar districts: but a little further down, it has immense pine forests, and it, annually sends out many millions to the markets below. The Lemonweir reaching its arms more than half way across to the Mississippi, and has a valley of most delicious farming lands, all fully occupied and settled The same should be remarked of the lower part of Yellow River. In general it may be said of ADAMS COUNTY, that consisting mostly of warm openings and prairies, it early attracted immigration, and now ranks almost with the old Counties of the State, in population and character. In 1856 Juneau County, consisting of that part on the west side of the river, was set off from Adams. New Lisbon is the County Seat.

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