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Days Gone By

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River Falls,Wisconsin 54022
River Falls Journal
715-425-5666 customer support
Days Gone By
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Here are some interesting items compiled for the Journal by Mark Wyman in 1958.

JAN. 5, 1858

"New Year's Address ... to the Readers of the Journal:


'Twas but a few short years ago,

In these fair valleys wide;

The Indian brave the war-path traced,

And wooed his dusky bride.

But now a fair, white village sits

Beside the flowing stream;

And evening lamps make glad the night,

With friendly, cheering gleam.

The village school house ope's its door

To children flocking in;

The village merchants smile to meet

The men who have the 'tin.'

The village landlord minds the text

To 'take the stranger in.'

But in the village inn he keeps

No brandy, rum or gin.

The water falls, at River Falls,

Are seen on village plots;

The falling water raises up

The price of village lots.

The village is a healthy place

Its water good and cellars dry;

No ague bleaches out the face,

E'en women seldom dye.

We most are men of Eastern birth,

From Eastern hill and glen;

Boys from the proud old "Empire State"

And brave New England men."

Thus ran part of the Journal's New Year's greeting a century ago. And prospects for the little village looked very promising for 1858 -- the mills were producing, buildings were going up, people were moving into the valley, and everywhere was a spirit of rapid growth and newness.

The thermometrical record for December was reported by E. E. Pratt, and was taken at Glenmont:

"Maximum Temperature -- 43

Minimum Temperature -- 4

Mean for the month -- 26

...the ice on the lake is now about a foot thick and is sufficiently strong to bear a team ... the crossing is good at the bar and a mile below, but between those points the channel has been open most of the time during the month."

However, the big news in the Journal was a hunting trip, which was headlined, "A Bear Story. Putnam Out-Putnamed!" A group of hunters from River Falls, Thomas Stephens, D. W. Hammond, E. Burnett, C. G. Knowles, Charles D'armond and John Dicky, had gone bear hunting in the bluffs at Cady's Creek, about 30 miles east of the village.

"This bluff is full of caverns leading in and branching off in all directions. Most of these caverns are large enough for a man to crawl in and their mouths are reached by following a winding path down from the top of the bluff about 40 feet. These caverns have always been a noted resort for bears and several have been driven in during the present winter ...

"Armed and equipped they entered the cave ... When the party had entered the cave about 150 feet, E. Burnett ... started a bear ... The bear followed on in the cave and the party after him ... Stephens ... had gone in but a short distance when he discovered the bear. Not frightened but probably a little excited and unguarded in his language, he remarked, 'I see him, boys, he's a regular peel-nosed cuss!'

"After killing him, 'A rope was then attached to him and it was with the greatest difficulty that he was drawn from the cave. He was a monster, dressing over 400 pounds.'"

JAN. 3, 1878

Old-timers today who tell about the cold weather and heavy snow of the "good old days" would do well to examine the winter of 80 years ago. The Journal could at last report that, "The mud embargo has finally been raised. On Saturday evening last, the wind which had been in the East for a month or more, veered to the West, and gave evidence that the long looked-for winter season has at last been ushered in. The sudden freezing of the mud has made the roads exceedingly rough, and a good fall of snow is the thing in great demand, just now."

Even the various correspondents over the region talked about the mild winter.

From Spring Valley: "There has been considerable plowing down in this neighborhood the past week."

Martell: "Last Saturday Jacob Midboe gathered a nice mess of lettuce from his garden. How's that for high? ... Our people have been making the most of a barefooted Christmas."

And from Ellsworth: "Mud has been the order of the day for the last few weeks. During the last few weeks, the farmers who had not completed their fall's plowing have diligently improved the time in turning over the stubble."

Though, the Journal did have some happy news to report:

"One of the most enjoyable parties it has ever been our fortune to attend, was that given at Dodge's Hall last Friday evening, by Mr. and Mrs. Dodge, Ensign and Earthman. By seven o'clock the invited guests, to the number of more than one hundred, had arrived and grouped themselves in jolly sets around the many tables provided ... The sound of the violins brought the dancing portion of the party to their feet, and, to the calling of "Dick Bevans ... old men and young men, matrons and maidens, indulged in the mazes of Quadrille, Waltz, Monie Musk, and the like, until the hour of midnight caused the merry party to break up, seek their respective homes and dream over the pleasures of the evening."

A warning was posted in this news note, however: "Mr. Milton Webster would say to the person who has been helping himself to poultry on his premises of late under cover of night, that to prevent accident he had better bring a lantern in the future. A spring gun, or something, might deprive a family of its main prop."

JAN. 2, 1908

"Apparently winter had come in time for New Year's, a half-century ago, and A. W. Lund advertised "Fur Robes and Coats; Harness and Blankets; and Cutters and Sleighs" among, of course, many other things. All the city's citizens were not out sleigh riding, though, for the Journal told of a Married People's Dance held "at the Opera Hall New Year's night ... The music was fine -- rendered by the Pepin Orchestra of St. Paul -- and the supper at the Gladstone was all that was desired."

News of two neighboring cities was reported also. In new Richmond, Frank VanMeter had combined the two newspapers there, and "will publish a weekly with a combination name -- New Richmond News and Republican Voice." And from the county seat came word that "the village of Ellsworth has collected fines for drunk and disorderly during the past six months...

It has been a long time since the city of River Falls collected fines for such misconduct as is indicated in the statement above."

And the death of Mrs. Laura Morse Fuller, a pioneer resident of the region, was sadly noted, "Mrs. Fuller was a link between the early part of the nineteenth century and that of the twentieth. Both of her grandfathers fought in the Revolutionary War ..." She was born in Poultney, Vermont, in 1827, and in 1855 came to Kinnickinnic with her husband, George W. Fuller, from Madison, Ohio. "She leaves five children ... Chas. W., Frank N., George W. and Alta, all of Kinnickinnic, and Mrs. Emma Kirtland of Lake Arthur, La."

JAN. 5, 1933

An extra! Announcement on the front page of the Journal reported the news that former-president Calvin Coolidge had died. And River Falls residents may also remember another happening reported then: "the two banks at Spring Valley, and two banks at Elmwood ..." closed voluntarily."

Basketball was also on the minds of local people, though, and Coach Bud Manion was drilling his high school team for its big game with Coach Bongey's Menomonie High team. John O'Brien was chosen captain of the team, which was soon to begin tournament play.

And a large fire, undoubtedly with great consequences for many area people, was reported: "A $7,000 fire occurred at Beldenville last Saturday evening when the Junkman Elevator and the Omaha Depot there burned to the ground. The Ellsworth fire department answered a call with its chemical truck, but could do nothing toward saving buildings. A heavy wind blew burning shingles as far as the Frank Ottman place where a straw pile was set afire, and some difficulty was experienced in keeping the flames from the house and barn."

Submitted photos are always welcome for this column. Black and white or color photographs will be scanned and returned in original condition with photo credit given. Call Pat Hunter, 425-1561, for more information or e-mail your photos to

Pat Hunter
(715) 425-1561