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 May 28

  Albany had now become a business place of fair importance.  There was a steam ferry plying to the Iowa shore and landing as nearly opposite the town as the islands and channel would permit.  A large portion of the ferry trade was from immigrants, in factor that was really the heaviest part of the traffic for there were thousands crossing here going to different parts of the west reaching in later years even to California and the ferry owner grew rich out of the franchise.  Warehouses went up along the whole river front had plenty of business in the storing and shipping of grain and produce.  Wheat lead in the aggregate amount but there were thousands of bushels of corn, oats and potatoes raised and shipped to St. Louis and southern markets.  Some of these warehouses were of large capacity, the largest being that of Hopper and Mclvine, but his was erected somewhat later than this period.

  Settlers were becoming so numerous that the capacity for storage in all the buildings and prices fell to discouraging figures at times.  I have known wheat to be sold for forty cents a bushel and hundreds of tons of beef and pork hauled to Galena, and sold for four cents a pound and even less for beef.  Thousands of hogs were brought to Albany for shipment and frequently there would be two steamers at the levee loading at one time and many a boat has pulled out on her trip fully loaded.  Other interests were equally active and a number of small manufacturing plants were started, a wagon factory among them.  People were pouring in from all directions by boat and stages not all stopping at Albany of course, but his was one of the main points of direction and divergence.  The little stage had become coaches drawn by four horses.  This may give the reader a faint idea of the business activities here before the advent of the railroads.  Then it began to ebb and so far as Albany is concerned, recieved its death blow when the tornado of June 3, 1860, got in its deadly work.  But that is another story.

  River traffic had increased enormously and steamers grew in numbers and capacity, some elegant in appearance, some speedy and some built for carrying and business only.  The North Star, Capt. Moorehouse, was a very pretty little boat.  Then the Knickerbocker was a powerful single engine craft.  I do not see much improvement in the boats of today over the boats of that time.  Then they were as fast, as pretty and fully as good carriers.

  During the season of 1841, I was as busy as ever.  Alfred Slocumb was continually enlarging his operations and adding to my cares and responsibilities.  Among other things that season we had a one hundred acre field of corn and C. H. Slocumb and myself did all the work on it in addition to my numerous other duties.

  In the month of September there came to Albany a Captain Holcomb representing the firm of Hungerford Livingston & Co. a lumber concern of St. Louis.  He had made a trip down the river with a small raft, part of which had been left at Albany, and was on his way back and was buying stock to take to the logging camps for winter use.  He had not succeeded very well previous to his arrival in Albany, but here he found everything he wanted except one yoke of oxen.  He now had some eighty head of cows , calves, horses and mules and only one man with him.  I had long wanted to get out and do for myself and was much pleased when I found that Capt Holcomb, would give me two hundred dollars for a year’s service.  I was to help him drive the stock through to destination and then work for the company the remainder of the year.  Right here I will say that inside of six months the company voluntarily raised this salary to twenty dollars a month for the remainder of the year.

  In due time we started north and at Galena we picked up the yoke of an oxen we wanted and were joined by an Indian agent named Russell who went with us to Prairie du Chien where we got a man named Rice, brother of the man who came to Albany some years before with the breaking team.  We had some delays in our trip thus far.  At Platteville we lost three or four days hunting strayed cattle.  Another time hunting for a strayed ox that we found hidden in a gully some two or three miles away.


  At Prairie du Chien we hired a half  breed guide and Mr. Russell, the Indian agent, assisted us in getting together the necessary outfit as we were now to leave civilization and live largely to ourselves until we reached our destination.  This trip was to be different than those across the prairies of Illinois, where the more or less reliable prairie schooner could be used.  Here it was woods, in the main, with only trails at best and mules carried our baggage.

  Capt. Holcomb left us at Prairie du Chien and took a boat for Stillwater.  On our way we passed through La Crosse, then a trading post of some importance and the last settlement, except at the crossing of Black river, until Mennonie was reached.

  When we reached the mouth of the Eau Claire river, where the city of that name is now located, we had to get our traps over on a raft of slabs we picked up on shore and swim the stock over. In driving the stock into the water one calf escaped and would not take the water but became as a deer when we attempted to surround it and finally ran into a tamarack swamp near by and we lost it.

  By this time we were about out of provisions and we sent the guide to a point some twelve or fifteen miles for some supplies.  He failed to return until about the third day during which time we had been living on high bush cranberries.  When he got back, late in the day, he had nothing, having drank and gambled away all the money given him. Rice, who was the oldest, the rest of us being only boys, at once mounted a horse, put the guide on another one and the two started out to find the settlement.  They returned about nine o’clock at night with food which was gladly welcomed, as we were nearly starved.

  Mean time at evening the day after we lost the calf, the mother went down to the river’s edge and bean bawling for her calf.  The calf heard and soon came to the water on the other side but would not go into the water.  Now, mark the wonderful sagaeity of an animal we often consider stupid. The mother swam across to the calf but would not go high enough out of the water for the calf to suck.  After the calf had been coaxed into the water the cow swam back to the herd, the calf, following.  After they had landed the calf got his fill and afterward instead of being wild, that calf was under foot all the time.

  Our next objective point was then known as Menomonie Mill.  A short time before arriving, as we were going over a small prairie, on the top of a little hill, just off our route, there appeared a herd of elk which scrutinized our outfit very closely and seemed very curious about our cattle.  As their horns stood out against the blue sky it seemed to me they were at least ten feet high.

  Menomonie Mills at that time was controlled by Oliver Gilbert who was hauling logs to his mill on trucks, the timber being around the mill and near by.  We remained here a couple of days resting up and laying necessary supplies for the next stage of our trip, which would take us to lake St. Croix.


Collected and Transcribed by

Georgeann McClure


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