Menomonie, Wisconsin History/FredTheMagician

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The history of Menomonie has been deeply affected by industry in the area. The first form was fur trading. Small forts would be set up near native tribes where they would trade furs for European goods, mainly tools and weapons. After fur trading became more challenging due to over hunting, logging quickly sprung up and took over the area. It made Menomonie to be the richest town in Wisconsin. James H. Stout was the son of a lumber baron Henry L. Stout, he used his wealth and influence to establish a manual training school which eventually became the University of Wisconsin Stout. The school became famous throughout Wisconsin and the nation.

Fur Trading[edit]

Near the turn of the eighteenth century Native Americans were starting to become dependent upon European goods and services.[1] This was incentive enough for people to leave their current settlements and risk their lives in Native American territory and war zones to trade their goods for furs. Trading posts would be set up near tribes for easy trade. These trading posts became forts which attracted other settlers for protection creating small settlements. Native Americans trades furs for knives, axes, and guns. The settlers used the furs to make hats, clothes and bed sheets.[2] Fur trading Brought people to area who then eventually settled here permanently.

Fur trading was a very dangerous business. In late 1788 a French fur trader set up a post and fort near the Red Cedar River.[3] His name was Jean Baptiste Perrault, he was trading with the Ojibwa and Dakota tribes. The problem with that at the time was those two tribes were at war, and he set up his fort right in the middle of the warzone. He wouldn’t have chosen that spot on his own but he had orders from higher ups to set up camp there. One day after a hunt with six Ojibwa men a large Dakota party was on their way to the post to trade with Perrault. It ended without any fights or skirmishes and the next day the Dakota left after the concluded their trading. After the Ojibwa left later on they learned that six Dakota had hid to ambush them. One Ojibwa received a bullet to the head while another had two pass through his body and then the Dakota fled. Afterwards the Ojibwa returned to Perrault and were pretty aggressive, the demanded repayment and after negotiations Perrault managed to get off with his life.[3] Even though fur trading was an extremely dangerous industry people still chose to come to the area to conduct business which led to eventual settlement.

The Lumber Industry[edit]

Painting of a lumberman in Menomonie.
Monument to lumbermen and the logging industry in Menomonie.

Logging in the 1800s brought permanent settlement to the area and paved the way for a good economy.[4] The first sawmill in Menomonie was set up along the Red Cedar River in 1822 by the Wisconsin Milling Company. It was then washed down the river because of sudden overflows. In 1830 the received permission from the government to rebuild their operation which then became the first permanent settlement of Menomonie. The company was sold multiple times but in 1846 William Wilson and John Holly Knapp purchased the company. Wilson and his family then lived in the area and founded the city and Wilson became the first mayor. Henry L. Stout and Captain Tainter acquired shares in Wilson and Knapp’s business in 1853 and founded Knapp, Stout & Co., which would become the world’s largest lumber corporation by 1873. The mill closed operation in this area in 1901. Stout’s son, Senator James Huff Stout founded a manual training school and several education enterprises in Menomonie, which became the University of Wisconsin Stout.[5] One of the Major lumber barons, Wilson, founded the town.[4] Logging was such an important part of the town’s early history that even the post office was moved to the location of Knapp, Stout & Co. and Wilson became a post master.

Education Enterprises[edit]

A monument on the UW-Stout campus for the work James Stout did for education.

Stout became interested in manual training schools through the Louis Solden Technical High School in St. Louis. In the high school's entrance the motto “Hail to the skillful cunning hand! Hail to the cultured mind! Contending for the world's command, here let them be combined!"[6] Was written, which is what in inspired The University of Wisconsin Stout’s mission. The founding of the school made the city of Menomonie respected across the state of Wisconsin and the nation, as it was a very respectable school by the 1900's.[7]

While James Stout was a senator of Wisconsin founding a school was Stouts major claim to fame, and it is still the only University of Wisconsin School to be named after a person. His other big claim to fame is being the son of Henry L. Stout, that’s also how he acquired the majority of his wealth which enabled him to build the school. He didn’t just build the school, he paid for all of the materials and supplies and the salaries of all of the faculty for 3 school terms.[8] This school was an experiment in education by James Stout, which grew to be extremely successful. When the original building burned down in 1897 the community asked he build another. The school had an art program which was very rare for schools at the time. Stout also believed in physical education and he had a gymnasium and the first indoor pool in Wisconsin built. The manual training school also had a kindergarten teacher training program, one of the first in the country.[8]

As a senator James Stout used his wealth to improve the lives of everyone on the state. He was part of the good road movement.[5] The good road movement happened in the United States between the 1870's and the 1920's. It hoped to improve the condition of roads outside of cities which so people in rural areas could receive the same benefits from travel as people living in the cities where the roads were paved.[9] He also was very interested in establishing libraries.[5] Stout funded the Wisconsin Library School, which was part of the Wisconsin Free Library Commission which he also help create the legislation for.[10] The commission built new libraries and helped maintain existing ones. Throughout Stout’s life he tried to better education for a better city and state, “James Huff Stout was inducted into the Wisconsin Library Hall of Fame in 2008.[10]

A black and white picture of James H. Stout
James Huff Stout

External Links[edit]

Conflicts on the frontier

Jean Baptiste Perrault

James Stout

Knapp Stout & Co.


  1. Severud, Timm. (2003, March 22).
  2. Indian Trade. (2015, October 11)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Encounter at the Trading Post. (2014, July 09)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Menomonie Wisconsin. (2015, October 22)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 A Short Biography. (n.d.)
  6. The Man and His Family. (.n.d.). 
  7. Thorie, K. (n.d.). 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Laying the Foundation. (n.d.). 
  9. Good Roads Movement. (2015, October 05). 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Nix, L. (2009, February 05).