In Ella’s longest entry of the entire run, she gets into the origin of the county fair and the relocation of the County Seat to Ellsworth. Speaking of Ellsworth, if anyone has any stories or photographs to put into the Ellsworth History book for next year’s 150th, you need to get them to the Pierce County Historical Association before December. To submit something contact our office at P.O. Box 148 Ellsworth 54011 or (715) – 273 – 6611 or contact me directly. We are getting to the end of the writing of the chapters and will soon be editing. The 150th committee will also have a wonderful calender out soon to chronicle next years anniversary. They have found interesting or unique events for each day of the year on the history of Ellsworth and put them into the calender. They also have selected 14 images that portray Ellsworth’s history in a variety of ways. Here is Ella’s next entry:
The opening of a new county attracts a mixed population of merchants, professional men and farmers. They all look forward to improving their situation and a spirit of competition is set up. They meet upon a common level, and each tries to develop success in his life.
In the improvements of agriculture, the County Fair was a direct stimulant in the states from which they came. So our Pierce county came in for its share of go-getter’s and decided a fair should be held to encourage farming.
The first fair in the St. Croix Vally of which we have any record of was held September 24 and 25, 1856 in River Falls, under the control of the farmers and the mechanics of the St. Croix Valley.
It was so much of a success a second fair was held at the same place on September 23 and 24, 1857. The premium list consisted mainly of books and diplomas, instead of cash. However, considering the number of patrons, the premium list was considered as quite liberal. The name of the association at this time was the Northwestern Union Agricultural Society, Secretary George May Powell was in charge.
The third fair was held under the same society on September 22 and 23, 1858. At this time a Mr. Salmon of Hudson was secretary and a change was made in the program, indicating that the spirit of horse racing began to infect the young people. Premiums were offered for speed as well as for ladies riding. The list, too was much larger and more liberal. This was evidence that the county was becoming more prosperous, and that the fair was more popular.
At this time, the River Falls Journal said, “The Agricultural Fair of Last Wednesday and Thursday was a successful affair. The first day, the weather was beautiful and a large number of people were present. The grounds were in fine order and the procreation’s well made. Fat and burly men, lean men, thin men and lots of wide-awake men were there. (Wide-awake hats were used as a badge of a political party). Among the fast nags which drew attention were Lily Dale and Black Bob; etc..”
In one part of the grounds someone had placed a tub of fish, and it was stated that they were live trout.
For some reason or another, Prescott did not contribute to this fair, but organized a fair of its own under the name Pierce County Agricultural Society. The society made an appeal to the County Board for an appropriation as follows:
“This society does not deem it necessary to present any arguments in favor of an appropriation believing that the board fully appreciates its efforts and cordially sympathizes with the growing interest of the agricultural interest of the county. The society states that the rapid growth of the county in the short space of five years since its organization, has placed it on a footing with many counties of twice its size. Four years ago, there were but few settlements and those confined to the river side of the county, and only one town. Now we have 13 towns. During the continuance of harvest last year at the different landings in the county, daily might be seen the steamboats loaded with productions for eastern and southern markets. The superior qualities have already placed our products first on the market and our improvements are not confined to western Pierce county, but to eastern and central portions as well, though these were settled last.”
An appropriation of $100.00 was promptly voted. The new Society fenced in its grounds at Prescott. A small building was erected and fairs held there until 1885.
In 1858 the State Agricultural Society offered to present a banner of silk, costing $130 to the county making the best display at the State Fair. Two exhibitors decided to compete, and a liberal selection of grain and vegetables was selected and sent. It is said that the school children were given the work of selecting the largest kernels of several bushels of wheat to exhibit at the State Fair, as a sample of wheat to be grown in Pierce County. This county won the banner which was exhibited at our county fair for several years. Our chief competitor was Winnebago county. The banner was later stored in a damp place and rotted so badly that it fell to pieces.
Relocation of the County Seat
In 1858, the question of changing the county seat to nearer the center of the county came up. Up to that time, Prescott had served them well. The earliest settlers had come up the river and found prairie land from the St. Croix river to the Trimbelle, with Trenton and Diamond Bluff included. The flour mill, built in Clifton by Charles Cox, served a vast territory. Even the early settlers around Red wing and Hastings, and surrounding territory hauled wheat up the river on the ice to be ground into flour at the mill
This prairie was the result of a devastating fire at some previous time, as great roots made breaking the sod difficult. It was easier; however, then clearing off and burning the heavy timber of the eastern half of the county.
Beginning in 1850 when the Seeleys came driving up a large herd of cattle up the old Indian trail from Illinois to fatten on the rushes of the Rush River bottoms, closely followed by the Fullers, O’Briens, Carpenters and Walsinghams, the tide of migration to the eastern half of Pierce County began. Ox teams were used almost entirely in the early settlement of this heavily timbered eastern half of the county. An ox team travels approximately two miles an hour and a trip to the county seat of from 30 to 40 miles, over the trails which were one long track of mud holes and stumps, was a very hard day’s work for a yoke of oxen, with the return trip to be made the next day.
River Falls wanted the county seat, as did Trimbelle, but the eastern half of the county thought it should be near to the exact center of the county as possible. So, it wa put to vote.
Prescott had been the county seat since Pierce county had been set up in 1853. It was the principal town of the county – with two active newspapers, with the best facilities for shipping, both out and in, and much of the more thickly settled parts of the county could be reached on good roads. In fact, they felt secure, but the matter was put ot vote and the wil of the people expressed. After an enabling act had been passed by the legislature in 1859, it was put to vote in 1860, giving the town of Perry, the county seat.
At that time there were only six families in Perry – three of them were Kinne families, plus Anthony Huddleston, John Hoffman and the Bruce brothers (this would be in the Village of Ellsworth proper, not the township – Dan).
The county board convened in the town of Perry on April 16, 1861, with the following supervisors present: Elijah Miner, Oak Grove; Hollis S. Proctor, River Falls; William Hodges, Martell; Jacob Youngman, Perry; Tom Hurley, El Paso; Otis C. Whitney, Hartland; Marcus B. Williams, Trimbelle; James Akers, Trenton; John Fertig, Isabelle; William J. Copp; Clifton; Enoch Quimby, Diamond Bluff’ L.R. Smith and D. S. Cheney, Prescott; Elijah Holt of Pleasant Valley. Osborne Strahl was clerk of the county board at that time and Smith R. Gunn of the Circuit Court.
At the first session of the board, Tom Hurley offered a resolution that the sum of $16,000 be appropriated for the erection of office buildings and a jail. This was promptly voted down by a vote of 6 ayes and 8 nays. Nothing could show more clearly the deep opposition to the change than the action of this county board. Resolution after resolution was offered to raise different sums of money, only to be voted down by the opposition. The fixed idea to delay making any appropriation for the purpose until the opposition could gain sufficient strength to reverse a determination of the voters at that previous election, was apparent.
Finally Supervisor Hurley offered a resolution to appropriate the sum of $2,000 for erecting suitable buildings for holding court, for offices for county officers, and for a jail, said building to be a courthouse, located in eiter on Section 17, 18, 19, or 20. Township 26, Range 7. One of the oppositions coming over this resolution was adopted.
A building committee comprised of Akers, Copp and Williams was appointed with directions to superintend the expenditure of the founds and have the building completed by August 1, 1861. Each member of the committee was to be allowed $2.00 per day for his services.
Even this appropriation was cut into by order of the board, that out of the expenses of providing a place for holding the May term of court should be paid. It is said that a log building with two-inch planks for seating and a saw dust floor was erected by Anthony Huddleston Sr. in which the May term of court was held, but was not acceptable to the judge. So, a frame building was erected on the present site of the Ellsworth Town Hall, where court was held until the erection of the brick building. The ground on which this courthouse was build was donated by Mr. William Crippen.