Exclusive as far as I can tell to the Fond du Lac Journal of August 14, 1851 is this glowing description of St. Croix County written in 1851. St. Croix County then was all of what is today Pierce County, St. Croix County, Polk County and beyond. The author is John O. Henning, born in Pennsylvania in 1819, and who had come to Buena Vista in 1849. He along with Moses Gibson opened the land office spoken about in this article right in the city of Hudson. He suggested to change the town’s name from Buena Vista to Willow River and was successful that year, but soon after in 1852 the town became known as Hudson. He also opened and early bank in Hudson in 1856. The way he describes the county, it is a surprise that everyone did not move here!
The St. Croix Country.
Willow RIVER, ST. CROIX t
Co . Wis., July 19, 1851.
1 will avail myself of use of your columns to answer numerous inquires in relation to the climate, soil, and productiveness of this section of the State, of which, as yet, very l i t t l e appetrs to be known away from its immidiate vicinity.
From General Report it is herefore believed that all portion of the state lying west and north of the Wisconsin River was a vast sandy desert with occasional forests of pines, at the head of numerous streams by which it traversed. This is partly true, as far as it regards the country between the Black and Chippewa Rivers, but on the north of the Chippewa and between that of the Mississippi and St. Croix, there is an entire change in the face of the country, and it presents to view the finest bodies of timber of every description, prairies and openings, that is to be found in any section of the great west. The prairies are mostly of black alluvial soil intermixed in sand sufficient to make it warm, and wherever cultivated produces the most luxuriant growth of crops of all kinds that I have ever seen in any country. There has never been a failure of corn or other crops on account of frost. The country is well watered with numerous springs and streams with soft water, with abound with speckled trout and other fish and afford any type of water that may be of use in the country. Besides the St. Croix and Mississippi there are five other rivers: the Apple River, Willow River, Kinnickinnick River, Rush and L’Eau Galla, all of which except the Kinnickinick are in length from eighty to one hundred fifty miles, and have at their sources vast quantities of pine, which is easy access and can be transported to St. Louis and other markets with little trouble
I can discern little difference between the climate of this and your section of the state, except the atmosphere is more clear and dry. Free from chilly and damp weather and that the snow varying from six to twelve inches remains on the ground all winter, which is a great consideration for growers of winter wheat. The springs may be a little backward, but it is a notorious fact that the full frosts do not appear as early as other places, by two to three weeks. A more healthy country can not be found in the universe. The land being high and rolling, the water being pure and limpid, and having no marsh or lowlands back from the Mississippi. It is free from the causes that make too many portions of the west unhealthy.
The strongest inducements are held out to farmers over and above unequaled quality of the soil in the fact that all kinds of all produce can be raised here in great if not greater quantities than in the southern part of the state. That the crops will have double the price they will have there and being the head of navigation of the St. Croix and being within miles of the head of navigation of the Mississippi, where the provisions and supplies to supply Indian contracts and to find the soldiers at the different camps. (Illegible portion of the article)
purchased in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. and freighted on steam boats to St. Paul for the reason that the amount raised here is not sufficient to supply the demands of new settlers.
Owing to the fact that these lands have not been in the market, the country has not been settled fast since the last year. But by the proclamation of the president they will be mostly offered for sale commencing on the 4th of August next, after which time they will be open for private entry to persons who wish to purchase.
The principal towns in St. Croix Co. are Prescott, Willow River, and St. Croix Falls. Prescott is situated at the confluence of the St. Croix and Mississippi and is the most beautiful site for a town on the Mississippi. Willow River is situated on Lake St. Croix about seventeen miles from its mouth and it is about seventeen miles from St. Paul and the only feasible route of connecting these places with Minnesota, for which purpose a charter was granted last session of our Legislature and a memorial to Congress adopted, asking a grant of land to complete the same. A similar memorial was adopted by the Minnesota Territorial Legislature, and the citizens of that country design pushing the matter before Congress the next session. The option being connected with the Central railroad through Illinois which is now being built by aid from the government. Willow River is the county seat of St. Croix County, as which place is also located the United States Land Office for the Northwestern Land District. The town was laid out one year ago and contains now two good public houses, four stores, mechanics, shops of various kinds and about sixty dwellings. It has an excellent water power and has in operation the best saw mill in the northwest. Thus with the advantage of being surrounded by excellent farming country, will tend to make it one of the most important points in the upper Country.
St. Croix Falls is about thirty miles above Willow River, and is noted for extensive water power, which at present is used only for lumbering purposes. The title of this land is in dispute between Mr. Hungerford on one part and Caleb Cushing and Robert Ranteal (sp?) of Boston on the other part. When this question is settled it is expected that great improvements will be made at that place.
Over one hundred thousand acres of school land has been located in this county, and it is choice land too. This is now mostly being appraised at $1.25 per acre, and is open for sale to persons who choose to locate on it at that price. The state gives a credit of thirty years on these lands, by the purchaser paying seven percent interest. About thirty thousand acres of these lands are located along the banks of the St. Croix and in the vicinity of Willow River and Prescott.
Before closing I wish to give a word of caution to persons who have any desire to locate in this section thereafter, and that is beware of being deceived by persons in other localities and who have and will resort to every species of misrepresentation in order to change your destination. We invite comparisons and desire persons looking for a location to visit and examine the other points and compare them to St. Croix County. By doing so they may hereafter save themselves much vexation and disappointment at being induced to locate elsewhere – for this country is bound to be thickly settled whenever its advantages are fully known and no other portion presents advantages equal to it.
I speak in strong terms because I do so from actual knowledge, having examined this country from this place to the Wisconsin River and being familiar with other sections of the state. Those who visit St. Croix County from representations made by me can depend on not being disappointed.
John O. Henning