Menomonie, Wisconsin History/Andrew Tainter/SarahBeth19
Andrew Tainter (July 6, 1823 - October 18, 1899) was a lumber baron in the 1800's. He owned his own riverboat and was the captain after supervising all of the river driving operations for years. Andrew Tainter owned most of the town of Menomonie and the surrounding towns by the time he passed away in 1899. He was a ruthless man who went after what he wanted; success, fame, and fortune were the three things he yearned for the most.
Andrew Tainter Early Life
Andrew Tainter was born in New York in 1823; he was one of fourteen children to Ruth Burnham and Ezekial Tainter. He came to the Wisconsin area in 1845. Before Andrew started being a lumber baron for the Knapp, Stout Company, he worked for a man named Ben Brunsen, cutting hay on the Chippewa River. He did that from 1845 to 1848.
Andrew was married two times in his life and had ten children total by the time he passed away. His first wife was Mary Poskin and his second wife was Bertha Lucas Lesure. He had five children with each marriage.
When Tainter moved to Menomonie, Wisconsin he met an Ojibwa lady named Mary Poskin. When Mary thought that “he looked quite ugly—he appeared to have a body like a stump, and his skin, where she could see it was quite startling.” A man by the name of Louis Cloutier asked Tainter if he liked her and said that he should take her as his wife. Tainter wanted it to be arranged and at this point he was a “rich and powerful man”  that treated the Ojibwa people well. They thought that if Tainter married Mary that it would make him continue to be a good neighbor. Once the Knapp-Stout Company started gaining ground, they pushed the Ojibwa people into deep poverty. After nine years of marriage Andrew Tainter ended things with Mary, took his children, and moved into town. He didn’t want to live outside of Menomonie anymore and Mary wanted to be close to her family. Mary moved to a reservation called Lac Courte Oreilles to be with her brother. Andrew was an officer of the Knapp, Stout and Company and eventually became captain of the riverboat “Chippewa Falls”. The company bought the riverboat after he had been supervising all of the river driving operations. The position of being a captain gave him much more “social prominence” than he used to have. Once Mary finally agreed to marry Andrew they had five children together whose names were Julia, William, Charlotte, Thomas, and Eliza. There isn't much information on Andrew's children with Mary. He didn't prioritize them when he had five more children with his second wife, Bertha.
Once Andrew moved to Menomonie, he hired a babysitter named Bertha Lucas Lesure, for his Ojibwa children. Two years later he married Bertha and had five more children; Louis, Ruth, Mabel, Irene, and Fanney. Two of their children (Irene and Ruth), died at an early age and one (Mabel), died at the age of 19.The same year that Mr. Tainter married Bertha, two of the Indian children had died. He also lived to see another one die before he passed away. We know more about the children from Tainter’s second marriage than his first. There was quite a bit of death in his family but it did seem like he loved the children from Bertha a lot. He created two memorial buildings; one in honor of Mabel and one for Louis.
One of the most well-known, or, remembered children Andrew Tainter had was Mabel Tainter. She died unexpectedly at the age of 19. One day Mabel complained of her stomach hurting and she got progressively worse over the course of a few days. After a week of being ill she passed away on June 10th, 1886 at about 8:30 in the morning. The death certificate was not prepared until four months after her death. The cause of death was very vague and said it was “Cancer in the side.” There is speculation that Mabel had a forced abortion or that it was a ruptured appendix. “Most of the other death registrations for that period in Dunn County records were entered more promptly and more accurately.” Her funeral was held on June 12, 1886 at 10:30 in the morning.
After her passing, Mabel’s father, Andrew Tainter, wanted to create a memorial for her remembrance (as mentioned earlier). Mabel Tainter was a “young woman who loved music and the arts.” As it was being built, Mr. Tainter knew that the memorial would be just as much for him as it was for his daughter and that did not sit with him very well. He would tell people and explain that the memorial was “The Mabel Tainter Memorial.” Andrew wanted the memorial to be extravagant and money didn’t matter to him. Andrew Tainter said “Nothing but the best will do for my Mabel.” The memorial was built during the Victorian period so the exterior has a Victorian style. The exterior is made of Dunnville sandstone. There are hand carved details that frame the main entrance. They used marble floors in the building along with “a large memorial window of four separate sections of beautiful design that adorns the front to the west of the arch, on which the name, date of birth, and of death of the lamented young woman are inscribed.” Also on the inside are “stenciled walls and ceilings, marble staircase and floors, leaded stained glass windows, walnut and oak woodwork, brass fixtures, and four fireplaces.” Inside the theater there is the original organ, which has 1,597 pipes and 28 stops on it. The organ was originally water powered, but now it is electric.
In recent years the theater went through some major changes and renovations. They made the old theater into a modern theater that fit the times of today. They have also made sure it is up to the current fire and life safety codes, since the building was made in 1890. They redid the exterior, which is now sandstone that was taken from the original quarry. Throughout time the sandstone will blend with the original Romanesque building. The theater seating was widened and refurbished. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a charter member of the League of Historic American Theaters, and is a designated Wisconsin Historical Marker Site. The Theater is a “tax-exempt non-profit organization that strives to strengthen and connect their community by engaging people in the arts.” Mabel Tainter’s name is still floating around today because of Andrew Tainter’s idea to build a memorial for her.
Andrew Tainter owned, or had controlling shares in, 20 businesses and 40 buildings in Menomonie alone. This was a big contrast from when he was young and his family was poor. Throughout Andrew Tainter’s more successful years, Ezekial and Ruth Burnham (Andrew’s mother and father), started to move to Menomonie to share in the riches. They moved in the year 1863.
In the time that Tainter lived, the town and the people around him thought that he was doing wonderful things by cutting down the trees and becoming successful. After his death and many years after, people began realizing that what he did was not a good thing. He cut down the entire pine forest and the money from it was sent up the river to develop “satellite towns.” Many ecologists called Mr. Tainter “a demon of the lowest order” for cutting down the pine trees.
When Andrew retired he spent time with his horses and bought an orange grove in Florida. Andrew Tainter was a wealthy man by the time he died in the year of 1899.
Andrew Tainter Biography
"Love's Noble Tribute."
"Mabel Tainter Center Theater Tours."
- Hirsch, Tim John. Andrew Tainter, 1823-1899: A Biography of a Menomonie, Wisconsin Lumber Baron. Place of Publication Not Identified: Publisher Not Identified, 1975. Print.
- "Mabel Tainter Center Theater Tours." Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
- "Love's Noble Tribute." Wisconsin Historical Society. N.p., 19 June 1890. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
- Serl, Kerry. "RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project: The MacGregor-Ives-Noble Family Tree." RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project: The MacGregor-Ives-Noble Family Tree. N.p., 24 Apr. 2009. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
- Kempfert, Tammy. "PortalWisconsin.org | Menomonie Restores a Landmark's Victorian Glamour." PortalWisconsin.org | Menomonie Restores a Landmark's Victorian Glamour. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.
- "Our Story, Vol II - Tainter - a Legendary Figure." Our Story, Vol II - Tainter - a Legendary Figure. Susan Fanning, 27 Apr. 2000. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.