Menomonie, Wisconsin History/Alloftimeandspace

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The Tainter Family is a group of family members of Andrew Tainter (1823-1899). The family played a key role in the development of Menomonie, Wisconsin. Andrew Tainter married his second wife, Bertha Lesure, in 1861 and they had 5 children, Louis, Ruth, Mabel, Irene, and Fanney. Andrew would outlive three of the five children, Mabel, Irene and Ruth. Irene died as an infant, Ruth at the age of 8, and Mabel at the age of 19. Andrew Tainter was best known as a lumber baron primarily for the Knapp-Stout & Co., but he also helped manage a bank with his son, Louis. Louis was also involved in the lumber business by the Knapp-Stout & Co. He would be in the company up until the close of it. The lumber business played a large role in the growth and development of Menomonie. Andrew's daughter, Mabel, was known for her love of the arts. She died at the age of nineteen and a memorial was erected in her memory, the Mabel Tainter Theater. This helped develop the city not only in education but culture.

Andrew Tainter[edit]

At the age of nine in 1830, Andrew Tainter and his family moved to Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin. In the summer of 1845 and spring of 1846, Andrew got his first job in the Chippewa Valley. After this, he became interested in lumber work and he became a partner on the Irvine Creek sawmill. He helped the lumber business become what would be one the most influential businesses in the area. He helped develop mills along the Red Cedar River and with these mills came cities. In 1850, Andrew became interested in the Stout-Knapp & Co.[1]

A painting of lumbermen on an electrical box in Menomonie, Wisconsin.
A painting of lumbermen on an electrical box in Menomonie, Wisconsin.

Knapp-Stout & Co.[edit]

Andrew Tainter helped build what Menomonie is today by hin legacy in the lumber business. One of the most important things that Andrew was part of was the Knapp-Stout & Co. This company had a big impact on the economic status of Menomonie. It all started with one little push into the lumbering industry and along with it came people, then businesses, and then a community filled with ideas. The lumber business became the way the town made its money; it became wealthy off of the business. In the area there were many forests and wooded areas before the lumber businesses came. All of this wood made it the perfect place to start mills and because of it Menomonie and the Knapp-Stout & Co. flourished.

Andrew was a big part of the growth in Menomonie because of the company he was involved in and he was young with new ideas. Andrew was part owner and help create what the lumber business became. His characteristics of ambition, experience and strength helped him influence the growth of the town.[2] Having these characteristics helped Andrew build the business to what would become one of the most influential companies in the area. The Knapp-Stout & Co. was on the river and because of the boats they sent down the river, they controlled most of business up and down the river.[3] The lumbering business built Menomonie and many more towns along the river. The work that was available because of these mills helped bring people and ideas to the new towns. Andrew had his own people and mill to run and because of his characteristics and his work ethic, he was well known and had a great influence on what the company could do, even though Andrew's name was not in the company's name. By adding Andrew to the company, he helped make the company bigger and better because he brought fresh, new ideas.[1]. He made the wooded lands into busy cities, complete with jobs and other opportunities.

Mabel Tainter[edit]

Mabel Tainter is the daughter of Andrew and Bertha. She is one of three children that would die before her parents. Mabel is well known by all the suspicion behind her death and what was built in her memory. She died at the age of nineteen and no one really knows how she died.[1]

Historical Mabel Tainter Theater
The outside of the Mabel Tainter Theater in Menomonie, Wisconsin.

Mabel Tainter Theater[edit]

After Mabel's death her parents erected the Mabel Tainter Theater in her memory. This theater was a great part of the community; it was well needed. In 1874, the saloons closed and the women had no place to gather. The Grand Opera House was built and this provided a small library.This house did not fit the growing community and by 1889, the town of Menomonie was a busy town with many people and businesses. Thus, the Mabel Tainter Theater was erected in 1889 and open in 1890.[4]

The inside of Mabel Tainter Theater in Menomonie, Wisconsin.
The inside of the Mabel Tainter Theater.

The theater helped to strengthen the community and inform its people. It gave the community new opportunities and a chance to learn new things. The services that the theater provided were that of ones to help people's intellect, character, and relations.[5] Mabel loved the arts and that is what Andrew and Bertha wanted to share with the community. They wanted to give the people a chance to help shape the community through education and curiosity. A part of human nature is to be curious and the want to answer to that curiosity, which the theater helped accomplished.

The theater was a great addition to the community and was exactly what they needed. The theater had a library, reading rooms, and other rooms for entertainment and lectures.[5] The theater was one of a kind with all of these new ideas incorporated into the design. Not only all the different rooms and places but with its architecture. Fan-shaped seating, four boxes and a new balcony that took the place of the horseshoe gallery, made it ahead of its time.[4] The theater was progressive and took many old ideas and mixed it with new ones. These new and old ideas attracted many people. The theater was not just used for reading or entertainment but where people would hang out and take photos.[4]

Louis Tainter[edit]

Louis Tainter followed very closely to his father. He became interested in the lumber business at a young age. He has impacted Menomonie by the things he has left behind; his legacy in the Knapp-Stout & Co., the bank, his house and many more.

Knapp-Stout & Co.[edit]

Louis Tainter continued in his father's shoes by getting into the logging business. He became part of the Knapp-Stout & Co. and took over his father's operations on the Red Cedar.[1] After this he worked his way up the ladder of the company. He became the secretary of the Knapp-Stout & Co. and after Andrew stepped down Louis became the vice president. Three years before his father passed, two of the main mills, Cedar Falls and Downsville, stopped production and one year later three mills in Menomonie closed. The final boat was sent down the river in August in 1903.[2] These mills all closed because of the lack of resources; the forest were starting to run dry of lumber. Louis Tainter would stay the vice president up until the close of the company. Since the lumber business was one of the ways that Menomonie stayed in its economic status, after the forest became bare, it would close one of the wealthiest times in Menomonie.[1]


In 1881, a fire destroyed the general store and banking area. Samuel B. French rebuilt the store, but after some troubles with financing Andrew and Louis Tainter bought the general store with a banking department from Samuel B. French. They turned the store into a private bank with Louis as president and Andrew as a part owner. Two years later, in 1883, the bank was turned into the First National Bank. Louis continued to manage the bank up until his father's death, in 1903.[1] After that the bank was sold and merged with another bank.[2]

Applications to Today[edit]

Andrew, Mabel, and Louis Tainter may be gone but they are not forgotten. Seeing the Tainter name on many places in Menomonie is very common; a street sign, the theater, a residence hall or a house. They have places named after them because of the lasting impact they had on this town and what they have done. They helped make the town what it is today and it is able to be seen through these places and the history of the town. Everything would be different if the Tainter made different choices, but they chose these ones. They have impacted everyone's' lives that have lived here and will ever live here because of their decisions that they made. Those decisions lead the people to where they are today.

External Links[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Curtiss-Wedge, F., & Jones, G. (1925). History of Dunn County, Wisconsin. Minneapolis, MN: H.C. Cooper, Jr. &.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Lynch, L. (1996). Where the Wild Rice Grows. Menomonie, WI: Menomonie Sesquicentennial Commission.
  3. Hirsch, T. (1975). Andrew Tainter, 1823-1899: A Biography of a Menomonie, Wisconsin Lumber Baron. Minneapolis, MN.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Mabel Tainter Memorial Building, Menomonie, Wisconsin. (1975). Menomonie, WI: Mabel Tainter Memorial Preservation Association.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Historic Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2015, from