Early History of Augusta Wisconsin

written in 1906

An essay read at the High School Rhetorieals, [sic - Rhetoricals] May 2nd [1906] by Miss Abbie Hawes, of the Junior Class

from the Augusta Eagle Newspaper, June 23, 1906, author unknown,  transcribed from Wisconsin Historical Society archives

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In looking over the history of the past we find in many volumes no written account of the early life, the burdens, the pleasures, the occupations and the progress of this our native vicinity until it became a city.  Of the time when this place was a woodland and of it’s opening and growth to a village, we know comparatively nothing.  Only as we talk and listen to those whose work it was to settle this place for use, can we learn of this early life.  In truth there has been a history of Augusta written it goes no further back than it’s incorporation as a city.  The history of the Chippewa Valley gives us just a frame but the planks which cover the frame come from the early settlers of whom there are only a few remaining.

 Early in the year of 1856 Chas. Buckman and his wife came to what was then Bridge Creek, so called because in early times, some men tried to ford the creek a little above where the grist mill now stands, and, being unable to do so they built a bride and called it Bridge Creek.
 Mr. and Mrs. Buckman came here, the first permanent settlers and for six weeks Mrs. Buckman was the only white woman in these parts.  She and her husband lived in a tent before they could get a log house in readiness.  They brought no furniture with them, only the mere necessities, as it was too far to go by wagon with many loads.  Mr. Buckman’s house stood where Mr. Ober’s store now stands.

For a long time they slept on canvas laid on the earth and then they cut tamarack poles and made rude beds and constructed chairs by hewing out logs and putting legs on them.  When these people came there were no fences, no houses, only forests, snakes, mosquitoes, and other things natural to a wild country.

John F. Stone and family are credited with being the second white settlers and Mr. Stone built his log cabin near the present home of Otto Wirth.

 Soon Sanford Bills built a log cabin across from Aldrich’s and Wm. Young lived on the farm across from the fair grounds.  J. E. Perkins also came about this time.

 In the winter of 1856-1857 John Perkins and J. F. Stone built a saw mill where the grist mill now stands and the dam for this mill was built the preceding fall.  In the winter of 56-7 was the “deep snow”, a comparatively steady fall of snow for a week.  Men could not get to their hay for their horses and the people lived on bread, potatoes and salt till they could get provisions again.  They had to go to Eau Claire, Sparta, Lacrosse or Black River Falls for mail and provisions.  This same fall John Hackett built a frame house was built by James Asplin and was not plastered.
 On January 1, 1857, Charlotte Stone and John Hackett, the first couple from Augusta, were married in Eau Claire.  Their home stood on the present location of Mr. Teare’s store.
 During the winter the chief means of recreation was a Lyceum or debating society which met at the different homes and in which the men were the most active

In the spring of ’57 a grist mill was built by Stone and Buckman where one still stands, and the saw mill was moved up the creek where the ice house is located. 

This same spring a colporter [colporteur] came to this section and organized a Sunday School which met wherever a place was offered for a time.  This summer a board shanty was put near Trip’s place and here Lorena Parland taught the first school.  The Sunday School was moved too and a small library was purchased.

Emma Buckman, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Chas Buckman was the first child born in the district which now constitutes Augusta; and for a year or more she was the only baby in these parts.
 In May and June of 1857 Stone, Buckman, Bills and Perkins surveyed and platted this section ready for a village.  The original plat extended east from Ball’s down the street past Kyle’s, Lakin’s straight through between Mrs. Randall’s, Horton’s’ and Wm. Rick’s then south down Stone Street to Taggart’s shop, turning west along past Culbertson’s and Mohr’s right through between Bundt’s and Gallow’s to opposite the Brewery Hill and then through to Ball’s again.  So it has been enlarged and changed much since then.

On the Fourth of July in ’57 the first celebration was given.  A flag was made – the blue of which was a blue calico apron belonging to Mrs. Buckman and the read and white came from similar sources.  A flag pole was erected near the present planning mill and the people congregated, all dressed as nearly alike as possible for the sake of equality (as it was said).  The flag was raised, an original oration was given by Mr. McCormick, the Declaration of Independence was delivered by Wm. Young, and after lowering the flag to take it with them the crowd marched to the home of Sime Randall, across from the fair grounds.  The marching music was furnished by Mr. Bolton with a fiddled.  they danced and a regular Christmas dinner was served.  The celebration lasted three days as it was the first one.

Rev. John Hold, an itinerant M. E. preacher and an ex-pugilist came here in ’57 and preached the first sermon ever listened to in Bridge Creek.

About this time or a little before, the first store had been opened by Mr. Conkey near the present home of Mr. Ball.  Soon Wm. Mass opened a store where Mr. Scholes lives and James Asplin set up a blacksmith shop near Tripp’s.

The first post office was kept by J. F. Stone in 1857 in a log house on the north side of the creek.  Harrison Searles also had a store on the corner of Spring and Lincoln Streets and he lived in the oldest part of Harden home.

In ’58 a school house was built on the corner of Culbertson’s  lot, and a school of two grades was taught by Mrs. Carter.  Later this building was moved to the north of Lincoln Street and in 1905 was torn down to make room for St. John’s Lutheran Church.

Near the close of ’58 when it was cold and the men were in the midst of their lumbering one night the home of Chas. Buckman caught fire and before help could be given Helen Dodge was fatally burned and Mrs. Buckman, her sister, badly hurt.  They were carried to John Hackett’s and the following morning Helen died.  J. F. Stone gave the original lot for the cemetery which was about one-fourth as large as the present grounds.  Helen Dodge, a girl of thirteen was the first to be buried.

The pleasures of these early times consisted of dancing, spelling school, singing school and picnics.

The first M. E. ministers appointed to the Augusta circuit in 1860 was Rev. Thomas Masson.  He was succeeded by A. J. Johnson in ’61, in ’62 M. Woodley and in ’63 J. B. Reynolds.  Then Carpenter, Crouch, Conway and Dighton and in ’69 Rev. Clingman in whose pastorate the present church was built.

The Baptist Church was organized by A. B. Green in ’61 with nine members.  The first deacons were Andrew Thompson and John Roberts and the clerk, M. B. Richard.  It was in the for of ’68 that the church was erected and it was dedicated Feb. 14, 1869.  Theodore Stone was the first person baptized in this church.

In May ’65 a Union Sunday School was organized with Charles Rickard as superintendent.  In ’67 there was a big revival when about eighty persons made a profession.  In ’69 Rev. C. W. Palmer came to the Baptist Church and C. W. Miller in 1870.
 A congregational Church began to flourish in 1867 with Woodley as pastor.  It seemed very prosperous for time but being unable to obtain a resident pastor it was abandoned after ten years of Missionary labor.

 The Augusta House, the first hotel was built by Chas. Buckman on Cox’s corner.  It was a wooden, two story structure with a bar in the basement and its proprietor was Harrison Searle.
 A local paper, the Eagle, was established in 1871 by G. O. Jones.  The Times was first edited in Eau Claire by G. W. Williams but it was moved to Augusta in 1889 by James. W. Williams.
 In 1864 the village was organized and named Augusta for Augusta, Maine.  At this time Harrison Searle was postmaster ’61-’69.  The W. H. Waterbury, Joseph Button, Frank L. Clarke, C. A. Kirkham, G. O. Jones, Chas. Culbertson and James Shaver.

There was also a large school of four departments with Mr. Hutton as Principal.  In ’68 a high school was started in Spencer’s Hall or as it is now known as upstairs in Dr. Adams’ house.  This school of four grades was burned in 1872 and a new building was erected in 1873 was removed in 1903 to make room for the one which now stands and of which Augusta should be proud.
 In ’68 Jack Ball built the present planning mill and ran it until 1874 when L. Bennett and George Hilts purchased it.  The latter still owns it.

In the summer of 1868 two hundred buildings went up so Augusta was progressing rapidly.
 About this time Augusta was said to be a place where nobody died as there was very little sickness and few deaths.  An adjoining community had been laid out and called Germantown but in 1870 this was united to Augusta.  Owing to the agricultural industry what was then the West Wis. Rail Road, now the Chicago, St. Paul, Minn. & Omaha R. R. was completed in 1870.
In 1874 a brewery was built, on a hill which now bears the name, by Sime Randall.  The brewery was on the south side of the road and was run by August Caspernair.  The house belonging to the brewery still stands on the south side of the road and if you wish to walk down the creek you Augusta Wisconsin Bank of the 19th Centurymay run across the old beer cellar where the liquor was stored.  This brewery house was used for a place of meeting for the Catholics till they could build them a church home in 1875.

In 1872 the Lutherans worshipped in what is not the German school house but in 1888 they built the church which still remains near Jack Ball’s.

In 1875, in a room over O. A. Williams’s Store, I. B. Bradford and Russell Hackett started a bank and in 1878 it was moved to its present locations.  In 1879 the Augusta House, on Cox’s Corner was destroyed by fire and the next hotel was the Sheridan House and its proprietor was R. K. Blair.

The first street lamps were furnished in 1880. On October 25, 1880, nine business places on the south side of Lincoln Street were swept out of existence by fire.

It is of interest, just at this time, to note that the village had no license and in 1883 the fire engine company was formed.

Augusta was made a city in 1885 by a special charter granted by the state.  The first Mayor was I. B. Bradford and the city had four wards as at present.

That same year Henry Russell built the opera house which was used for a skating rink.

In 1887 David Richards built the Park House and a creamery company was organized which used the factory built in ’83 by P. H. O’Brian and D. Hedges.  This factory had a capacity  of 1000 pounds of butter a day.  It is now owned by O. A. Williams.

In 1886, February 16, almost all the buildings on both sides of Lincoln Street was consumed by fire.  This has been built in again as it is today.  The city has been broadened and improved upon – the outlook is encouraging and our city is progressing.  It is not at all impossible that it may become of some little importance yet.  But whether it does or not the early settlers have surely

done their best to help the cause along.

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