Chapter 10, from "History of Wabasha County" (MN-1884 book).

Chapter 10
Pages 647-670

From the book about Wabasha Co. Minnesota
Compiled by Dr. L. H. Bunnell
Published Chicago by H. H. Hill, Publishers, 1884
Republished Currently by Higginson Books

This is the name given to a fractional township lying along the shores of Lake Pepin and the Mississippi river. It contains a little less than one-half the number of sections of land comprised in a full-sized township as determined and set off by United States government survey. There are in Pepin township sixteen full sections, one fractional half-section, and five other fractions of sections that are mere strips along the shores of the river and the lake; the whole five forming less than one full section, or one mile square. Pepin township lies six miles in length along the shores of the lake from whence it derives its name, and the Mississippi river, and has an average width of three full sections, except in the southeast of the city of Wabasha. Lake Pepin is simply a broadening of the Mississippi river into a beautiful sheet of bluff-environed water, low lying in the basin of the hills which rise on all sides from four hundred to five hundred feet above its clear waters. The length of the lake is about thirty miles; its width from two and one-half miles to four miles. The origin of the name "Pepin" is matter of merest conjecture. Neill, in his history of Minnesota, queries whether or no it may not have been so named in honor of Pepin, the Seur de la Fond, who married the aunt of La Parriere, the builder of an old fort on the north side of the lake, in the fall of 1727. The name itself is one immortal in French history for over one thousand years. It was first brought into prominence by the old Carlovingian (of or relating to a Frankish dynasty dating from about A.D. 613 and including among its members the rulers of France from 751 to 987, of Germany from 752 to 911, and of Italy from 774 to 961), Pepin le Vieux, whose grandson Pepin le Gros effectually checked the encroachments of the kingly line of the Merovingians in the seventh century. This Pepin le Gros was the father of the illustrious Charles Martel, the mayor of the palace to the last of the Merovingian (of or relating to the first Frankish dynasty reigning from about A.D. 500 to 751) dynasty, whose power he also reduced, and who is celebrated as the deliverer of Western Europe from the ravages of the Saracens, whom he routed at Poictiers in 732, and again in 738 at Lyons. This name of Pepin, so illustrious in those early days, has always had an honored place in French history; and this fact taken with that other, namely, that the early Mississippi explorers were adventurous Frenchmen, may be all that is necessary to account for the name of the lake, Pepin, the origin of which has puzzled so many writers of early northwestern explorations. Pepin township is virtually a ridge or narrow tableland, lying between the Mississippi river and the Zumbro, at an elevation of from three hundred feet to five hundred feet above the level of the Mississippi river. This tableland breaks off abruptly on the north or lake side, but descends more gradually on the south toward the valley of the Zumbro; but this southern declension does not begin within the limits of Pepin township, so that the high character of the ground is preserved to its extreme southern limit. The surface of this tableland is quite rolling, at times even broken, but all lies elevated, and is, with the exceptions of some ravines jutting up from the lake, of tillable character. There are no streams crossing the face of the township, though a small one, in which water is found running at nearly all seasons of the spring, summer and fall, empties into the lake near the northeastern corner of the township, through the ravine technically known as King's cooley. This term "cooley" is doubtless a corruption of the French "couler," to run or flow, and was applied to those ravines through which the water flowed from the tablelands downward to the lakes or larger streams. There are two of these "cooleys" within the limits of Pepin township ~ King's cooley in the northeast, and Smith's cooley in the southwest. Through both of these the water rushes, an impetuous torrent, after copious rains, or when the deep snows, lingering late on the uplands are suddenly melted by the ascending sun of late spring, but at other times they are dry, and in Smith's cooley for most of the time no water is found running. The soil of Pepin township is a friable clay, yellowish in color, and with a very slight admixture of sand, hardly sufficient to be discovered, yet it no doubt exists in sufficient quantities to temper the quality of the clay, and render it more easily worked. This soil is admirably adapted to the growth of wheat, oats, barley and other cereals. It is a common saying, that when wheat cannot be grown in Pepin township, it cannot be grown anywhere.

Comparatively little stock is raised by the farmers here, as the operation of the herd law, doing away with fences, compels every farmer to fence in especially for his stock, and this entails an expense more severely felt than it would be were the farms all fenced. To commence raising stock would require a very large outlay in the matter of fences alone by nine out of every ten farmers in the township. The surface of the soil was originally covered with ouck, scrub-oak openings, and, once grubbed, no finer wheat lands or more productive are to be found in southern Minnesota, but it is doubtful if the soil is as well adapted to raising corn as the warmer and more alluvial soils of the valleys. There are no wells supplied from the cisterns, with which every farm is abundantly provided. There are, however, in some locations, to be found most excellent springs of pure water, and these not confined to any one section of the township.

The rule of all early settlement in this section of the west, and probably in all others, has been that the valleys and lower levels are taken up first, leaving the uplands to those who should follow after. Wabasha county was no exception to this general custom of the northwestern pioneers, and the valleys of the Zumbro and its tributaries were dotted with flourishing farms before it could be fairly said that any settlement for farming purposes deserving the name had been made in Pepin township. Cook's valley, in Greenfield township, Mazeppa, Bear's valley, in Chester, and Plainview, had all been settled before agricultural operations had made any headway in Pepin township. The Lager and Schmauss families are the oldest residents in the township, both coming here in 1859. Claims had been taken as early as 1857, but were not improved, and it cannot be said with strict fidelity to fact that the farming lands on the ridge were put under cultivation prior to 1859. Henry Schmauss' farm, taken by him in 1859, the N. W. 1/4 of section 30, was claimed originally by one Allen (first name not known), who laid a soldier's land warrant upon it, and of this man, Allen, Schmauss purchased, occupying the land in the season of 1859. Ben Lager, the present chairman of the board of supervisors for the township, who bought claim of F. Learey in 1859, and at that date settled on the northwest of section 28, says that in 1859 there was not, all told, more than fifty acres of ground broken on the ridge between Schmauss' and Read's Landing, which is virtually to say there was not more than that amount under cultivation in the entire township. The fact that the elevation above the lake was high, no streams affording water for stock, and the situation naturally exposed to the wind, seemed to overbalance the considerations of productiveness of soil and nearness to market, to such an extent that the lower-lying and well watered valleys of the interior of the county were settled from four to five years before Pepin was really taken for farming purposes. While this is true, however, of the uplands of the township, it is also true that the very earliest white settlement for permanent occupancy made in southern Minnesota was made within the geographical limits of Pepin township. This was the settlement made by Charles R. Read, who as early as 1847 stuck his stakes in the northeast corner of the township, opened a trading and supply depot for traffic with the natives, half-breeds and lumbermen of the Chippewa Valley, and announced his intention of staying despite all attempts to oust him from the land, which by treaty of 1830 belonged to the half-breeds and was known as the half-breed tract. The particulars of the bestowal of this tract upon their relatives of mixed blood by the M'dewakantonwan Dahkotahs, its extent and the consequent litigation when white settlers attempted to locate upon, as also the deleterious effect upon the early settlement of the county, are among the most interesting matters connected with this "history" and will be found fully treated of in another chapter.

All that has been said under the title Read's Landing from 1858 to 1868, when the village became duly incorporated as the village of Read's, properly belongs to the history of Pepin township, of which Read's Landing was virtually the capital until it took corporate honors upon itself and ceased to be an integral part of Pepin township for all political purposes. Prior to 1858, during the eleven years that Read's Landing had been stamping its identity into the trading consciousness of the upper Mississippi and the Chippewa, the Landing had been variously governed, ungoverned and misgoverned. The first attempt to introduce home government in the limits of Pepin township was made in 1850, when Charles R. Read was appointed justice of the peace by the then territorial governor, Alexander Ramsay.

Scenes of violence and bloodshed were not uncommon in those early days, and to the ordinary rough and ready ways of frontier life were not only added all the increase of lawlessness and disregard of life common to the rough raftsmen, who thronged the landing by the scores and even hundreds, but the savagery of Indian character as well. The river at Read's was the meeting-place of those hereditary foes the Chippewas and the Sioux, and to their mutual hate was often added a common enmity against their white neighbors, whose presence on both sides of the river was frequently resented. As illustrative of this latter fact take the following incident: Late in November, 1856, two white men, Sam Sutton and Jerry Landerigan, were paddling down the river in a canoe past Nelson's Landing, where a party of whites, half-breeds and natives were sitting near the shore. Among the bucks was the son of old Ironcloud, second chief of Wacoutah's band. Young Ironcloud had for some time aspired to the honors of chieftainship, and on being taunted by the young men of his tribe with having done nothing to deserve such distinction, had declared he would shoot the first white man or Chippewa he met. The present seemed a fitting occasion to display his prowess, and remarking that he wondered if his gun would carry that far, drew bead on the men in the boat and shot them both. Sam Sutton was mortally wounded, surviving, however, about twenty-four hours. Jerry Landerigan was severely wounded in the breast, but recovered after being laid up several months. Wahshechah-Soppah (the white black man), now living and known by the English name of John Walker, was in the company with young Thudercloud, and immediately crossing the river to Read's Landing, gave information of the affair. As both the wounded men resided at Read's the excitement was intense. Sutton had made his home at Charlie Read's for more than a year, his principal occupation being the manufacture of ox-bows for the lumbermen in the pineries. Landerigan had recently come to the landing. It was not considered prudent to allow the matter to pass, as young Thundercloud was known to be a dangerous character. A party was soon started across the river who captured the murderer and brought him to Read's for trial. He was arraigned before Squire Richards, but the justice was powerless in the case, the crime having been committed in another territory. To obviate this difficulty resort was had to Indian law. The culprit, of whose identity there was not the smallest doubt, was quietly escorted to the place from whence he came by a band of determined whites, led by Charlie Read, and there expiated his offense in a way not uncommon at this day on frontier settlements and in mining camps, Judge Lynch pronouncing sentence of death, which was speedily carried into execution. The squaws tracked the party by their imprint in the snow, and the next day cutting down young Ironcloud's body, brought it across the river and buried it. The snow lay deep upon the ground at the time. The margin of the river was frozen on either side, the current in the main channel only open. Wrapping the body in blankets, the squaws tied a rope around the feet and dragged it to the margin of the stream, placed it in a canoe and brought it over to the Minnesota shore, where it was buried by them near the site of old Fort Perrot. A ball was in progress at Read's Landing the evening of the lynching, and the excitement was most intense among the young people there assembled, many of whom had only that summer come to the county, and were totally unused to such scenes of blood, or to such a summary mode of dealing with a murderer.

Charles R. Read, at that time one of the commissioners of the county, took a very active part in the affair above narrated, and as he was by some censured for his action, the reasons that induced him thereto are not out of place. In 1844, just after Read came to Nelson's Landing, Sheriff Leister, of Prairie du Chien, who had been up the river to summon witnesses in an important case coming on at Prairie du Chien, returning down the river, was shot by an Indian in cold blood in much the same way that Sutton was. The sheriff's boat was opposite Fountain City at the time and no provocation was given for the murderous deed. The Indian who killed Mr. Leister was arrested, taken to Prairie du Chien, put upon his trial, and after two years discharged for want of evidence to convict. This Indian, upon his release, came up the river, was frequently at Nelson's Landing, where Read often heard him boasting of his deed, and Mr. Read determined if another case of the same kind happened it would not be his fault if the murderer escaped. The history of the early operations of the fur-traders and lumbermen in the vicinity of Read's, at an early day, is replete with incidents of a really thrilling character, illustrating the nature of both savage and (so called) civilized society, when removed from the usual restraints of law, and the safeguards that surround society in more densely populated, and judicially organized districts. As it was, the necessities of the case, as each arose, demanded such prompt and vigorous action, as would at least render public opinion, the opinion of the better class of that public, a terror to evil-doers. Thus the forms of law grew to be a possibility, the fact of law even under the most adverse circumstances, as in the affair above narrated, having been duly demonstrated. As these forms of law became better understood, and their necessity recognized, a general acquiescence in their regulations and demand followed, until with the establishment of the state government in 1858, and the consequent organization of the several counties into townships, for electoral and locally judicial purposes, the era of lawlessness may be really said to have passed away and the reign of law, order and accepted government truly begun.

The formal organization of Pepin township was effected in common with that of the other townships in the county, May 11, 1858. This meeting of the electors of the township for the purpose of formal organization was held in the hamlet of Read's Landing, in the extreme northeast section of the township, No. 24, at the office of S. A. Kemp. The number of votes polled was thirty-two, and the names of the officers-elect will be generally found in the tabulated list of Pepin township officers. In addition to those mentioned in that table, William Bain was elected overseer of the poor, William Perkins and J. Murray were elected constables, and Frank Berins overseer of the poor. The first recorded act of the new township was to settle the question of allowing or not allowing hogs to run at large. The vote on this occasion was so much larger than the vote upon the election of town officers that one is led to conclude that the expression of opinion on the hog question was not confined to the qualified electors of the township. The vote resulted in a decided majority against hogs being allowed to run as free commoners, being seventeen nay to fifty-one year, a total vote of sixty-eight, as against thirty-two cast for town officers the same week. In 1860 the vote of the township, as evidenced at the regular state election, held November 6 of that year, was ninety-eight. The vote for presidential electors standing sixty-five republican and thirty-two democratic, a vote of eighty-three to fifteen being cast for and against one of the candidates for state representative. In 1862 only seventy-one votes were polled; two years later the vote rose to one hundred and twenty-six, declining again in 1866 to a maximum ballot of one hundred and eight, the vote cast for S. S. Kepler for state representative, he being a candidate on the democratic ticket, against whom there was not a ballot cast in the township. This was the last state election held in the township of Pepin prior to the incorporation of "Reads" as a village. The vote of 1868 shows a decline from one hundred and twenty-six in 1864 to fifty-two in that year, from which it would appear that the voting strength of the village was a little in excess of the rest of the township. The vote of the township in 1870 was sixty; in 1876 a total of seventy-three ballots was cast, and this was the highest ballot ever cast by the township since Reads was set off, the ballot for 1880 being recorded at sixty-four, and that for 1882 only reaching an aggregate of fifty-six.

The levy of the town board for town purposes, including roads, falls a little short of $250 annually, it being, in round numbers, for 1880, $256; for 1881, $252; and for 1882, $180. The voting returns of the township, as above given, will indicate with sufficient accuracy the statistics of population, if the years are taken into account in which the votes were cast; that is, comparing the years of presidential elections with each other, and those in which only state elections were held with each other. The village of Reads being included in the enumeration district of Pepin township, by the commissioner for this census district, the population of the township and village can only be given in the aggregate. The returns for 1860 show a total population in both (Reads and Pepin townships) of four hundred and thirty. The population of both today will be about four hundred, as near as can be ascertained. It does not appear from the returns regularly made to the auditor's office for the county of Wabasha, that the valuation of property in Pepin has greatly changed since Reads was incorporated. The destruction of the records by fire prevents any accurate statement of values prior to 1867, the year before "Reads" village was set off. The real and personal property returned for that year was as follows: Real estate (not including the value of town lots in Reads), $39,109; town lots (in Reads), $42,665; personal property, including village and town, $44,666. The value of real and personal property in Pepin, at various dates since the incorporation of Reads, has been as follows:


There are no churches in the town of Pepin of any denomination. The number and condition of the common schools in the township will be included in the general report of educational matters for the county. The general character of the population of Pepin is such as is to be looked for in a plain agricultural community ~ thrifty, industrious, economical and virtuous. The people are mostly foreign born, or descendants from the German, Hanoverian and Luxembourgian families that first settled the township; and, in religious faith, a majority of them members of the Roman Catholic church.

Methodist Episcopal Church ~ The planting of the church in this place was a proceeding of no small difficulty, and it was more than a decade after the first attempts were made before the seed had germinated sufficiently to predicate a fact of life in the case at all. As Read's Landing and Wabasha have always been connected for church purposes, save during those years from 1856 to 1866, in which it does not appear that Read's Landing was even thought of in connection with the religious work of the Wabasha circuit, with which from 1854 to 1856 it was connected as a missionary station. In 1857, by vote of a quarterly conference held at Wabasha for the Lake City and Wabasha circuits of the Red Wing district, it was decided that the Wabasha circuit should include Wabasha, Read's Landing and Cook's valley, but there is no record of any services at Reads, nor, as before said, is there authentic account of further work there until 1866. The importance attached to Reads at this time may be inferred from the fact that in the fall of this year, when the annual estimates for minister's salary were made up, it was hoped that a deficiency of seventeen dollars, remaining after other apportionments had center of rafting operations, called together the wrong class of people for any very marked interest in church work. been allotted, might be supplied by Reads. Whether this modest hope was realized or not, does not appear from the record, and in fact for ensuing two years no promise of life appeared for church organizations at Reads. Its life as a lumber depot, and center of rafting operations, called together the wrong class of people for any very marked interest in church work. Exceptions of necessity there were, but so little hold had all attempts hitherto made taken upon the life of the place, that at this time the church had neither class nor organization of any kind, nor did it have for the ensuing two years. In 1868 Rev. S. G. Gale was transferred from the New York East conference to the Minnesota conference, and appointed to the Wabasha and Read's Landing circuit. His salary was fixed at eight hundred dollars, six hundred and fifty dollars of which to be paid by the churches, the remaining one hundred and fifty dollars from the missionary fund. In the following winter, 1868-9, Rev. Gale entered vigorously upon his work of building up a church at Reads, as the village incorporated the previous spring was called. A series of meetings was held with gratifying success, and steps taken to build a church. A lot was secured in a central location, one street back from the main business street of the village, and on this property, the gift of some generous-hearted Christian whose name is not recorded, a comfortable frame church, 30 x 60, with spire and bell, was erected. The contract price for the building was two thousand six hundred dollars. Furnaces were afterward put in, and these, with bell, raised the entire cost to a little over three thousand dollars, almost all of which was raised by contribution from the generous-hearted citizens of Reads. The original board of trustees, incorporated according to state law and church usage, were: W. W. Slocum, B. F. Welch, W. W. Cassady, W. B. James, S. Bullard, Geo. J. J. Crichton, W. F. Kennicott, Daniel Danision and Franklin Berins. Rev. W. C. Rice was pastor of the church from the fall of 1869 to 1870. Rev. B. Y. Coffin was his successor, and in the fall of 1871, Rev. S. G. Gale was reappointed. During this, his second pastorate, a substantial frame parsonage was erected, at a cost of sixteen hundred dollars. It stands on the lot adjoining the church on the east, commands a pleasant view of the river and the Wisconsin bluffs, and is really a comfortable and commodious residence for the incumbent of the church. Rev. Gale remained two years, leaving behind him as monuments of his three years' ministry , a commodious church, a comfortable parsonage and a flourishing "class." His successors have been: Revs. W. C. Shaw, M. O. M'Niff, W. H. Soule, James Door, W. A. Miles and D. F. Higgins, the present pastor.

Many thanks to Dale Ebersold for transcribing the Read's Landing section of the chapter. His ancestors include both Augustine Rocque and Chief Wapasha.
The Wapasha Dynasty

Here is a site for present-day Read's Landing
Use your browser "back" button to return


This is the name of a small village on the Minnesota side of the river just where Lake Pepin narrows into the usual channel of the Mississippi. It receives its name about thirty-six years since from Charles R. Read, a man with a history, and who is still living just outside the corporate limits of the village, which was given the honors of a corporate existence twenty-one years after he set up his stakes and built his shanty just opposite the mouth of the Chippewa river. The location is a delightful one and most admirably adapted for the purposes of early Indian trade. Above it the river broadens out into the beautiful waters of Lake Pepin, around whose shores the natives were wont to gather, and associated with whose waters and rocks are some of the most plaintive legends of the northwestern tribes. Just across from it is the mouth of the Chippewa river, down whose current the fur-laden canoes came in early days, only to be followed in later years by the rafts of the Wisconsin lumbermen, each raft the tribute of a forest. The village occupies a narrow strip along the river, at the base of the cliffs or bluffs which here rise, quite precipitous, almost from the rocky shore, leaving footing, however, for the business houses and dwellings of what was once the most thriving town on the upper river. Somewhat on the margin of the river, if tradition speaks correctly, just east of the old Richards warehouse, on ground now occupied by the tracks of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company, Augustin Rocque, a Scotch-French-Canadian, built the first trading shanty ever erected in this region. Mention is made of earlier trading posts along the shores of the lake, but nothing positive is known concerning them; and, well authenticated as are the facts of Rocque's occupancy of the present site of Read's Landing as a trading-post for some fifteen or twenty years, nothing accurate can be learned as to the date of his coming or the time of his departure. This much we can ascertain: it was some time in the early part of the present century, during the first decade, that Augustine Rocque, leaving Prairie du Chien, located at the foot of Lake Pepin, and made that point the center of his trading for furs with the Indian tribes on both sides of the river. The Sioux, as they were then beginning to be known to the whites, brought their furs to the post established by Rocque, receiving goods in return. The Chippewa's received their supplies from him and brought their furs to the temporary post established by him at Chippewa Falls, and which he visited at regular intervals. Beyond this little is known of Augustine Rocque's operations under the direction of the traders at Prairie du Chien. He continued at the foot of Pepin, so says his grandson, Baptiste Rocque, of Wabasha, for some fifteen or twenty years, til the infirmities of old age necessitated his relinquishing the arduous labors of a fur-trader on the frontier, and he returned to Prairie du Chien, where he shortly afterward died, at which time he was supposed to be about ninety years of age. Augustine Rocque married a half-breed woman, and by her had four children, two sons and two daughters. Of these sons, one, Augustine, followed his father's occupation on the banks of the Mississippi and its tributaries, becoming in time quite an influential trader, whose voice was respected in the councils of the Sioux and also of the Sac and Fox, to which latter tribe his wife belonged. The other son of the elder Augustine, name not definitely known but given as M'Kendie, was in the service of the Hudson Bay Company, and subsequently lost in the wilderness there, no trace of his fate having been learned by his people.

Augustine, Jr., when a young man, opened a trading post at the mouth of La Riviere au Boeuf, or Beef river -- the present mouth of the Beef slough, and continued in trade there for some time, when he removed his headquarters to the west side of the Mississippi below Minneiska, at a place known as Mount Vernon in the early history of this section. Augustine Rock extended his trading operations up the Chippewa as far as the falls, and through southern Minnesota into Iowa, establishing posts along the Turkey and Cedar rivers. His trade had become quite extensive, when it was broken up by the Black Hawk war, and his interior posts abandoned. During this war Mrs. La Chapelle, a French-Sioux woman whose descendants are now living on the lot adjoining Baptiste Rocque, at Wabasha, was called upon to act as interpreter between the United States authorities under Gen. Dodge, and the Sioux chiefs. Baptiste, son of Augustine, was at that time a boy of ten or twelve years of age, and describes in a very graphic manner the conference between Gen. Dodge and Wahpashaw, in which the latter was completely won to the side of the whites, and took up arms against the Sac and Fox under Black Hawk. Not long after the conclusion of the Black Hawk war, probably about 1834 or 1835, Augustine Rocque removed to Mt. Vernon and established a trading post on the margin of the river, just within the present limits of the city of Wabasha on the west, very nearly on the site of old Fort Perrot. Here he brought his family, consisting of four sons and four daughters, and this place became his home until the day of his death, about twenty-five years since. His body was buried at his own request on the bluff overlooking the river and town, that his spirit might have a free outlook over the scenes of his earlier career. As before said, he was a man of note among the tribes to which he was allied by blood and marriage. When Gen. Dodge, at the conclusion of the Fort Snelling treaty with the Chippewa's, July 29, 1837, requested the Indian agent to select a delegation of Sioux and proceed to Washington, Augustus Rocque accompanied the chiefs and, in consort with Alexis Baily, Joseph Laframboise, Francis Labathe, and others, represented the fur-traders' interest. During this visit the portraits of these representatives of the far west were taken, and that of Augustine Rocque now adorns the walls of the Indian gallery at the national capitol. The Rocque family, in the person of Augustine the elder, were the first to establish trade at what is now Read's Landing, and Augustine the younger was the first permanent settler at what is now Wabasha. All these settlements were for the purposes of trade and not as actual occupants of the land.

In 1840 one Hudson, an Englishman who had been living for some time at St. Peters (now Mendota), and had there married a woman of mixed blood, a daughter of Duncan Campbell, a licensed trader on the St. Croix, came to Reads and located there. As the husband of a half-breed woman, representing her rights, he laid claim to her share of the half-breed tract conveyed, in the treaty of 1830, by the M'Dewakantonwan Dahkotahs to their relatives of mixed blood. Hudson found himself without the means to build any considerable-sized house, and as the lumbering operations on the Chippewa were growing into importance, and it was desirable to establish some base of supplies on the Mississippi at the mouth of the Chippewa, a proposition was made to Hudson, by the lumber firm H.S. Allen, and accepted. In accordance with this arrangement Hudson proceeded to the lumber regions, after a short stay at Reads, and the following season returned with lumber for his warehouse, no doubt a moderate one, in which he conduct business until his death in 1845. Hudson's widow married Lewis Rocque, son of Augustine the younger, and thus the trading-post at the foot of Lake Pepin came again into the possession of the Rocque family after an interval of over a quarter a century. Matters were in this condition at Hudson's Landing, as it was then known, when Charles R. Read, who had occupied a post a Nelson's Landing, just across the Mississippi on the Wisconsin shore, came over into Minnesota, and occupied the vacant post, which he rented from Louis Rocque. Nelson's Landing, at the mouth of the Chippewa, on the Wisconsin shore, had been named from one Nelson, a trader, who some years previously had established a post there in connection with one Churchill, for purposes of trade with the Chippewa's. This trading-post had been under the charge of Read for two or three years, when in 1847, he abandoned the trade there and came over into Minnesota. This Read, the Charles R. Read from whom Read's Landing afterward derived its name, was an adventurous young Englishman, who at the early age of ten years crossed the seas with his brother's family and settled near the forks of the Chippewa river on the old Niagara peninsula. After some years spent in Canada, young Read left his brother's household and came over the lines into the United States. He was at Cleveland, Ohio, when the Canadian rebellion broke out in 1837, and the following year, though only seventeen years of age, enlisted in the American army of invasion for the liberation and annexation of Canada. This army crossed the frontier near Windsor, opposite Detroit, and after routing the Canadian militia and capturing the barracks at Amherstburg, were in turn routed by the British regulars under Gen. Erie, and Read, with many others, made prisoner. His devil-may-care appearance and youth won upon his captors, he was decently treated, and though tried sentenced to be hung, was pardoned by the queen's clemency and returned to the United States in June 1839. After five years' service in the American army in the Indian Territory and Texas, where he formed an acquaintance with the Indian character and habits that after stood him in good stead, young Read found himself at St. Louis in the summer of 1844. From St. Louis he came up the river to the mouth of the Chippewa, taking service with Messrs. Churchill & Nelson, for the first year as cook, afterward in charge of their business at Nelson's Landing, buying furs and trading with the Indians. In 1847, as before said, Mr. Read having secured permission from the United States authorities, crossed the river into Minnesota, rented the old Hudson warehouse from Lewis Rocque, and opened trade. From that date the place has been known as Read's Landing. Thus after an interval of a quarter of a century the old trading-post of the elder Rocque began to be transmuted into a modern trading-post for whites and half-breeds, as well as natives. This change soon became more manifest and became distinctively a trade with the whites, but not without some opposition and at times the danger of sanguinary strife. The coming of Mr. Read to Minnesota soil, and his establishment of a trading-post for Indian traffic, was strongly opposed by Alexis Baily, of Wabasha, who had been Indian trader at that point for some years, and was, by virtue of his early marriage relations with the Sioux chiefs, in condition to make his opposition felt.

When Mr. Read went to Fort Snelling to secure his license from the Indian agent at that point, he took steamer up the river. Wahpashaw had secured a numerously signed remonstrance against Read's securing government license, and this remonstrance was forwarded by United States mail on the same steamer with Read. This boat only went to Stillwater, and Read carried the mail (a small one, which he put in his pocket) on foot to Fort Snelling, a distance of twenty-six miles. Read handed his mail to the Indian agent, Col. Bruce, and at the same time his request for license as an Indian trader. The colonel opened the letter of remonstrance in Read's presence, told him the nature of its contents, and how difficult it would be for him, as agent of Indian affairs there, to overlook the remonstrance. Fortunately for Read, he had a friend at court in the person of post sutler Frank Steele, and through his representations and influence the license was granted, and Read returned to the landing. He was allowed to pursue his business one year only in peace, when the opposition to his trading took definite form, and the Indians, instigated thereto, began to give him trouble. One day in June 1848, Read was sitting on a log which he had been sawing for shingles, when a strapping Indian came up and, seating himself on the log, told Read he (Read) would have to leave there at once, that the tract he was on belonged to the half-breeds, and that he had no business there, and if he did not go they would make him. For reply Read raised his hand and, giving the Indian a hard back-handed blow, knocked him off the log; at which the Indian took himself off, and Read says he was not seen in that vicinity for a year thereafter. One evening in the following October, after supper, Read was sitting in his shanty, when he was surrounded by Little Crow, a chief of the Kaposia band of Sioux, with twelve of his braves. These Indians had been on a visit to Wahpashaw, and it is supposed were instigated by him to get Read out of the way. These, with one exception, were all on horseback, and members of Little Crow's band; the Indian on foot was a member of Wahpashaw's band, and entering the cabin informed Read they had come to kill him, and clean him out. Read had learned that promptness in dealing with an Indian is the only strategy, and seizing a chair he felled the Indian to the floor, and set one of the legs through his upper lip, tearing it out, and four teeth with it. The savage sprang to his feet with a yell, and darted through the door, the blood spurting from his mouth. Read's blood was up, and he dared another one of them to enter his cabin at peril of his life. In the meantime, William Campbell, an educated half-breed Sioux, and warm friend of Read's, came up, and being informed of the trouble, armed himself with an axe, and taking sides with Read stood in the doorway, and told Little Crow he could only get at Read over his dead body. The prospect was not inviting, and Little Crow drew off his band, leaving Read in peace, and no farther attempt to drive him away by force was resorted to. Upon the organization of the territory, the following year, 1849, Gov. Ramsay was requested to remove Read, on the ground of his being the cause of all the Indian disturbances in that region, and also because, as was alleged, he was selling liquor to the Indians. The investigation was ordered, and after a careful examination the charges were dismissed. All that could be substantiated was that Read had sold an empty barrel, formerly containing whisky, to an Indiana, who claimed that there was some whisky in the barrel at the time he purchased it. This was the last attempt to interfere with Read's trade at the landing; the following year other persons came, and the life of a solitary trader ended for him.

In 1849 Mr. Read built his new warehouse, a more commodious structure than the one previously occupied by him. This latter building stood where the post office now is, in the old Richard warehouse, built in 1855. In 1850 Mr. S.F. Richards, a native of Genesee county, New York, who had been at Prairie du Chien for some years, came to Read's Landing and opened trade with the Indians, also supplying the lumber camps up the Chippewa valley. Mr. Richards built his first store very near the corner of Water and Richards streets, as they now are, on the riverside of Water and east of Richards. His capital was by no means small, and his trade was quite extensive. Some five years later he built his storeroom and warehouse on the northwest corner of Water and Richards streets. This was a three-story building as seen from the levee, two stories from the street in front, 25x60 feet, and in this Mr. Richards did a very large business for years. The following season Knapp, Stout & Co., one of the heavy lumber firms of the Chippewa valley, built their store and warerooms on the west of Richard's, adjoining, and so business multiplied. Prior to this, in 1854, a hotel was built, and later the Bullard House was erected, which from 1859 to 1865 was known as the best hotel on the river. In 1863 the storage and commission house of Charles Nunn was established. Helmick & Warszawski followed, with others, until at the close of the war there was not a point on the Upper Mississippi river where so thriving a trade was carried on as at Read's Landing. The causes of its prosperity and decay are matters of some little interest, illustrating as they do the rise and fall of towns as business is diverted from or directed into certain channels.

The early lumbering operations on the Chippewa and its tributaries were carried on at a very manifest disadvantage. All supplies must necessarily reach them from below through the Mississippi river and the navigable waters of the Chippewa and its tributaries. This channel of communication was only open during certain seasons of the year, and when navigation closed the lumbermen in the pineries and at the mills were cut off from the outside world, to a very great extent. Mails had to be transported on voyageurs' shoulders or by pony express for hundreds of miles, and heavy freighting during that season became too expensive as well as hazardous to be resorted to only in extremity. The lumber crews returning from their voyages down the Mississippi to the up-river steamers would land at the mouth of the Chippewa and wait for rafts to be made up for new trips. All necessities of the trade required that at some point at the mouth of the Chippewa there should be a depot or supplies for the mill-owners and storekeepers in the woods and at the mills, commission houses and agencies to transact business between the lumber firms and the crews that floated logs down the river to their various places of consignment, and hotels and accommodations for the waiting crews. For many years this want was supplied by Read's Landing, and as the volume of the lumber trade along the Chippewa and its tributaries increased from year to year, the volume of trade at Reads increased until its yearly aggregate was out of all proportion to the size of the place. It was the center of exchange for all matters connected with the lumber trade of western Wisconsin; its one hand reaching up the Chippewa, clutching the innumerable string of logs and lumber that issued from its streams and woods; its other hand stretching down the Mississippi, directing the course of these rafts to their various points of destination and returning the proceeds, less commissions and wages, to the directing head. So long as Reads could maintain this position as the center of exchange, her prosperity was assured. For years her levee was one busy scene of activity so long as the unchilled current of the Mississippi went flowing toward the golf; and in winter there was sufficient trade on sleds up the valley to at least keep the channels of trade opened and incite to new activity when the imprisoned waters should again go free. At this time it was no unusual thing to see from three hundred to four hundred raftmen at the landing waiting for the Chippewa floats to be made into rafts for them to navigate down the river, and the volume of freight discharged at the levee was simply enormous. It was in fact the Mississippi landing for all the supplies necessary to provision, clothe and equip the lumber camps and mills, and employees connected therewith.

The first setback Reads received was on the completion of the Western Wisconsin railway to Eau Claire in 1870. By this opening of railway communication to the lumber camps and mills the necessity of Read's Landing as a center for supplies and distributing depot was abolished. Supplies came direct by rail to the very heart of the lumber districts; consignments of goods, mails, etc., were more readily made by rail than by water, with this added advantage: the communication was not closed by the incoming of winter, but remained open the year around. Less capital was accordingly locked up in transit, returns being made more readily and the accumulation of winter supplies being no longer indispensable. The commission and trading houses were the ones to feel this curtailment, but general business at Reads still continued good. The constant outgoing and incoming of her hundreds of raftsmen day by day created trade, and money was always in free circulation. Reads was necessarily the headquarters of the rafting crews and their point of departure from the lumber camps in the logging season after navigation had closed for the year. Only the one arm of Reads' prosperity was thus cut off, the other, however, was soon to be crippled. The trade sustained by outfitting rafts, furnishing supplies of all kinds, notably provisions and clothing for the men, was in itself sufficient to keep a good-sized town alive. But the slow process of floating rafts down the Mississippi became too tedious for the hasty, hurrying movements of western enterprise, and the idea of towing rafts down the river by steamer was soon mooted, discussed, scouted at, tried, and proving a success, was finally adopted, because the rule, the number of raftsmen was decreased to one-third of the former army required to man the floating rafts, and the second chapter in the history of Read's Landing's decadence was ended.

The credit of towing the first lumber raft down the Mississippi belongs to Capt. Si. Bradley, of Stillwater, who successfully accomplished the generally considered impossible feat in the Minnie Will, in 1866. A patent was applied for, denied, and little by little the towing by steamer became general, until floating down the Mississippi was practically abandoned. Still there was an immense business centering at Read's Landing. All the rafts that went down the Father of Waters, whether of timber or of logs, and the number was legion, came down the Chippewa in strings, to be made into rafts at the mouth of that stream, and when so coupled, to be towed to southern lumber mills and yards. This business of coupling "strings" into rafts was very extensive, and hundreds of men found employment at this work, whose trade and the supply of whose daily wants kept business still healthily alive at Read's Landing. But even this source of revenue was denied her after a time, and all logs were destined to forsake the main channel of the Chippewa and find an outlet into the Mississippi through the southern mouth, usually known as Beef Slough.

The Chippewa river forks some twenty miles above its entrance into the Mississippi at Read's Landing, and one branch of this delta follows the east range of bluffs til it enters into the Mississippi about twelve miles below Reads Landing; the other and more direct channel of the Chippewa follows the foot of the west line of bluffs and empties into the big river opposite Reads. The first-named channel, from its forking from the main Chippewa stream to its entrance into the Mississippi, is a succession of lagoons, or sloughs, opening one into the other with innumerable islands and sluggish channels, covering the whole flat surface between the foot of the bluffs and the open channel of the Mississippi. Through these sloughs the logs are now brought; miles of booms stretch their parallel lengths through these sluggish waters; crews of men are stationed at intervals to receive the logs, assort them, trail each owner's logs into strings and deliver them at the mouth of the slough, to be coupled into rafts and taken down the river. This immense business, aggregating from 400,000,000 feet to 500,000,000 feet annually, within a few years has been entirely transferred from the upper to the lower mouth of the Chippewa, and the trade it created and fed was deserted from Read's Landing to Alma in Wisconsin and Wabasha in this county. Thus was the third chapter in the financial decrease of Reads written, and its monuments are the unoccupied piles of brick and mortar, where business no longer flourishes, but all is silent, deserted, and going to dry rot. This finishing stroke was given to the trade of the landing by the completion of the Chippewa Valley railroad to Wabasha in 1882. By this construction all the real profits of Chippewa valley trade, so far as it benefits Minnesota merchants, is reaped at Wabasha, the rail carrying all crews and their kits direct from the mouth of the Chippewa to Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls, leaving scarcely any gleanings of trade for the merchants of Read's Landing, who find each year less prospect of returning prosperity.


It was during the season of Reads' greatest prosperity, before the opening of the railway to Eau Claire, that the incorporation of the village was deemed advisable by the inhabitants of the little big trading and freighting post, and steps accordingly taken to accomplish that object. This incorporation was effected under an act of the state legislature approved March 5, 1868, and the election to the state legislature approved March 5, 1868, and the election to fill the various offices created by said act was held on the second day of the following month, April 2, 1868. The officers to be elected were five trustees, one clerk, one treasurer, one marshal, one justice of the peace and one assessor. The judges of election were: Messrs. J. Sauer, C. R. Read and Wm. B. Haines; the clerks were: P. B. Cline and Claude R. Haines. The highest number of votes cast was for the office of trustee, ninety-seven being polled. The successful candidates were ~ trustees: F. S. Richards, C. W. Wilson, Joe Dieterich, Jacob Sauer, Christ. Neihardt; clerk, Joseph Warszawski; treasurer, B. Brass; marshall, Wm. F. Clock; justice of the peace, Wm. B. Haines; assessor, Chas. Hornbogen. The officers-elect met on the 20th of the month (April) and organized, with S. F. Richards as president of the board of trustees, for the ensuing year. The bonds of the various officers were fixed as follows: treasurer, $2,000; justice of the peace, $500; marshal, $100. The first act of the newly inducted village fathers was to pass an ordinance prohibiting all illegal and unlicenced traffic in spirituous, vinous or fermented liquors, under penalty of one hundred dollars, or fine for every such offense, upon conviction thereof. License was fixed at fifty dollars and the seller was required to execute an approved bond for five hundred dollars to keep a decent and orderly house, gaming of all kinds for money being expressly prohibited. Licenses were made nontransferable, and the place at which liquors were sold under any given license could only be changed by permission of the board of trustees.

By the provisions of section 1, act of incorporation of village of Reads, the board of village trustees formed the village school board; the village clerk was the clerk of the school board, and the village treasurer, treasurer of the school board. The present corporate limits of the village of Reads extend from Brewery creek on the east to a point on the river west of the table-land upon which residences have been built, and stretching up the foot of the bluff overlooking the village on the west. The entire length of the village is about one and one-half miles and its breadth at the widest point does not exceed half a mile. Brewery creek is a small stream fed from springs in the ravine back of the village, and emptying into the Mississippi river just west of Riverview cemetery. It forms the boundary line between Reads and the corporate limits of the city of Wabasha, and during some of the floods that have poured down the sides of the bluffs, during the excessive rainfalls of the season, has been swollen to a destructive torrent. The most disastrous rise was that of July 21, 1883, when in an hour's time it overflowed its banks, flooded Burkhardt Brothers' brewery to a depth of eight feet, swept out as though it were brushwood the solid stone abutments of the bridge on the main road from Reads to Wabasha, and carried the solid granite block, weighing tons, rods down the stream, leaving scarcely a stone to mark the old foundations. Not long after the incorporation of Reads it was found that the elections were held too late in the spring for the interests of the village. By the middle of April the raftsmen had all returned up river and the loggers from the pinery, at least such of them as designed rafting, and the election was at the mercy of these incomers who had probably as much home right at Reads as elsewhere, and yet had no interest in the place and no concern to see its government decently administrated. Accordingly, in 1869 a change was made in the date of holding the election, and March was designated as the month in which the village board should be chosen. This change continued until 1875, when a still earlier date was deemed advisable, and the month of February was made election month. The first election under this latter change was held February 8, 1876, at which date one hundred and fifty-six votes were cast. The growth and decadence of the village may be somewhat discerned from the number of votes polled at the elections held at different times. At the first election, 1868, the whole number of votes polled was ninety-seven. In 1871 the number had increased to one hundred and sixty-nine, and three years later, 1874, Reads cast her highest vote at any charter election held in her corporate limits, polling one hundred and ninety-three. This number had decreased to one hundred and fifty-six in 1876, to one hundred and thirty-two in 1878, to eighty in 1880. At the last election, held February 13, 1883, the whole number of votes polled was sixty-nine.

In the spring of the year, during the interval between the opening of the river and the lake (Pepin), a period of about two weeks, more or less, Reads was formerly, before the completion of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railway up the river, a place of great activity. The steamers arriving from below, a score in number, loaded with north-bound passengers, were impatiently awaiting the opening of the lake. The crews had no better business on hand than to make the most of their time on shore, and the passengers, those of them who did not take stage northward, only served to swell the tide of impatient discontent. Bets would accumulate, and money was freely wagered daily on the question of an opened or closed lake within a given period. Burbank's stage route, which connected La Crosse with St. Paul during the winter season, was fully utilized at this season by those desirous of making their way northward for opening navigation, without delay; and as the rattling vehicles clattered over the gravel and cobble-stones with which the streets of Reads are s plentifully sprinkled, the little town took on an appearance of business that of late years it has unfortunately been a stranger to.

Reads has had some knowledge of the ups and downs of business life. You find upon her streets today those who have made good use of their opportunities and reaped at least a moderate harvest while the fields of enterprise and trade activities were still golden. Out of her have gone many superior business men, who, carrying with them the experience they gained, are pushing their way in new fields of endeavor, certain to succeed if energy, perseverance and ability can bring the success they deserve if they do not achieve; others remain to conduct what business still survives, and these few houses are doing a moderate trade. The Knapp, Stout & Co. Company now maintain the largest trading establishment at Reads, and are probably selling from $25,000 to $40,000 worth of merchandise and supplies at this point per annum. One of the features of Reads just now is L. Troutman, Jr's. drug-store ~ a perfect gem in the way of a drug-house; nothing more artistic in the finish of the interior or its arrangement can be found in any house of the kind in Minneapolis or St. Paul. It is pronounced on competent authority the most complete and finished in its appointments of anything in the state, equaled by only one in Wisconsin; and certainly when the character of its surroundings is taken into the account, it is one of the most curious instances of luxury in the lap of decay it has been our lot ever to witness. So new, so clean, so artistic in the finish of its shelving, counters and prescription case, so brilliantly clear in its plate-glass and silver-plating, so unique in some of its appointments, yet all so harmonized in color and utility as to give only the most pleasing effects; it is certainly worth a visit from any one who with an eye to effects has roamed over the stranded town, taken in the scores of deserted store-rooms, and thus, prepared only for decay and dry rot, drops into this grotto of freshness and takes in the full measure of the contrast. Reads has one consolation in her decay: she has not lost ground by any penny-wise pound-foolish policy of her citizens, individually or collectively. She has been the victim of circumstances over which she had no control. No human prescience could have averted the destiny upon which she has fallen. She could no more prevent the tide of business from following the channels of necessity, and flowing where the lumber-rafts crowd the streams, than could old Wahpashaw prevent the passing away of his people form the homes so long enjoyed by them on the shores of the great Father of Waters.


Prior to the incorporation of the village of Reads in 1868 the support and direction of the public school for the children of this section of the county was provided for in the same general manner as was prescribed for all other sub-districts in the county. This work was under the direction and supervision of the regularly appointed and elected superintendent of education for the district or county, as the case might be, and all matters connected therewith during this period naturally belong to that department of the school work for the county that is reported of by them. Our notice of the school at Reads in this connection therefore only includes the history of said school from 1868, and of that but little need be said. The work of education for the newly incorporated village was committed, by virtue of its act of incorporation, in the trustees annually elected to manage the affairs of the corporation. The succession and list of village officers will also give full information concerning the succession and list of officers who managed educational affairs, both boards being one. The independent school district, embracing all within the corporate limits of the village of Reads, was organized as school district R. April 20, 1868. The school-building for the independent district was erected two years later, on an elevated lot fronting the river, two blocks back from the levee, and affording a delightful view of the whole valley of the Mississippi up and down the river for miles. This school-building is two stories and basement, brick, with solid stone foundations. It is fifty feet square on the ground and divided into four good sized, well ventilated rooms, two on each floor. The enrollment for 1882-3 is two hundred and seventeen pupils. The average attendance during the winter term was, in round numbers, one hundred and fifty, for the spring and summer terms about one hundred. The school is under the direction of Prof. C. A. Hamilton, of the Oshkosh, Wisconsin, high school, who has been engaged in teaching for the past ten years. This is Mr. Hamilton's third year as principal of the school at Reads, and his rork approves itself to the judgment of those who are sufficiently interested in the management of school affairs to see that genuine instruction is given and real results attained. There are three departments in the school. The other two are the intermediate, under the care of Miss Mae Rechards (sic), and the primary, taught by Miss Victoria Dell.

End of Chapter