Menomonie, Wisconsin History/taylerbanitt

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The Mabel Tainter Theater
The Mabel Tainter Theater

Andrew Tainter (July 6, 1823 - October 18, 1899) became a name well known throughout his time in Menomonie; he was a leader and became a powerful, wealthy man. He and his family provided Menomonie, Wisconsin with much of history it has today.  The death of his daughter, Mabel Tainter, also left a mark on the city.  Without the Tainter family, Menomonie would not be the place it is today.  

Who are the Tainter's?[edit]

Originally, Andrew Tainter was born and lived in New York until his family decided to move at the age of nine towards Wisconsin where his father was living in Prairie du Chien in 1832.  The first part of their journey, from Buffalo to Mackinaw, was traveled by schooner.  The rest of the trip was either made by canoes, boats, or ferries until they reached the home of their father.  In Prairie du Chien, Andrew met a man named Ben Brunson who owned a mill in Chippewa Falls and began to work their for twenty dollars a month in 1845.[1]  After partnering with different people for a few years, in 1850, Andrew bought a one-third interest in the John H. Knapp & Wilson firm where he was responsible for supplying the mill with logs and sending them down the river, back when they would use keel boats.  At this time, it was extremely hard work.  He would spend nights sleeping on the ground, completed dangerous tasks, and fought through cold weather.  Eight years later, the firm bought their first steamboat in which Andrew was the commander of for a couple of years.

Tainter also worked for Knapp, Stout & Co: it was considered to be the largest lumber company in the world, owning more than one million acres of land.  He had owned businesses in every major community along the Red Cedar River.  Not only did he just own lumber companies, he also owned businesses such as mills, newspapers, and banks.  Andrew Tainter partly retired from work early because of all the hard work he had accomplished in his early years. Seven years before his death, in 1892, Tainter owned or had shares in twenty businesses and around forty buildings in just Menomonie alone.  In many ways, Tainter beautified the town of Menomonie where he lived by supplying a library and the Mabel Tainter theater. Andrew Tainter was remembered by his "devotion to friends, his straightforwardness, honesty, integrity and appreciation of real worth in man”.[1]  

Structure of the Family[edit]

Around 1850, Andrew Tainter married his first wife, and Ojibwa woman, by the name of Mary Poskin[2].  Together the couple had five children- Julia, William, Charlotte, Thomas, and Eliza.  They were married for nine years until the marriage failed because of differences on where they thought they should live, as well as cultural and personal differences.  Eventually, Tainter received custody of the kids and moved them to Menomonie. Poskin moved back onto a reservation with her brother.

In 1859, Tainter had hired a woman by the name of Bertha Lesure to watch over his indian children.  She was an educated widow.   In 1861, he married Bertha and built a new home in Menomonie. The same year he married, two of his indian children had passed.  Tainter had five more children with Bertha- Louis, Ruth, Mabel, Irene, and Fanney.  Unfortunately, three of the five children died at young ages.  Irene died as an infant, Ruth at the age of eight, and Mabel at nineteen.  After the loss of his two indian children and three child he had with Bertha, he eventually lost one more indian child.  Tainter had lived through the deaths of six of his children.  As they grew older, Louis followed his father into business and took over his old positions while Fanney lived an adventurous life.  Many of Tainters relatives also began to move to Menomonie in order to get part of Tainter’s great success.  A number of his family members were employed at Knapp, Stout & Co.  

Mabel Tainter Theater[edit]

Mabel Tainter died at the age of nineteen.  In memorial of Mabel, her parents, Andrew and Bertha, built a theater in 1889.  It was named "The Mabel Tainter Theater" and still stands today. It is unclear exactly how Mabel died, other than the reports of her death by “cancer of the side”.  Some believe this means a ruptured appendix, while others believe differently: they believe that there is a whole lot more to the story. There is a rumor about the death Mabel Tainter that is popular in the local area.  It is believed Mabel fell in love with a logger from her father’s company and the two were not allowed to wed due to their different social statuses.  Mabel then became pregnant and eventually her parents accepted the idea of marriage, but the logger disappeared.  To avoid humiliation,  Andrew and Bertha urged that Mabel get an abortion.  Sadly, Mabel died in the duration of the procedure.  A few years later, the Mabel Tainter Theater was built in remembrance of her[3].

Mabel was said to have loved the arts and music.  The Mabel Tainter theater was built during the Victorian era and no expense was spared[4].  Harry Ellis was the architect and constructed the outside of the building of Dunnville sandstone.  His design of the theater is stunning and includes curved surfaces, different styles of arches, and hand carved detail that frames the main entrance.  Just like the exterior of the theater, the inside is just as remarkable, if not more.  It contains a marble staircase and floor, stenciled walls and ceilings, stained glass windows, extraordinary woodwork, four fireplaces, and many other beautiful features such as an original Steere & Turner Tracker pipe organ[5].

In 2007, the theater underwent renovations and an addition.  The person hired to renovate this historical community landmark while still ensuring the needs of a modern theater was Miller Dunwiddie.  Some of the renovations done were careful reconstructions of the decorations inside.  The seating was widen and refurbished.  The addition to the theater added safety improvements, updated accessibility, and other modernization.     

Not only is there mystery about the death of Mabel Tainter, there is also mystery about the theater itself.  It is said that multiple workers and actors of the theater have reported eerie happenings, too.  Some of the reports consist of lights turning on by themselves, hearing footsteps when no one is in the theater, and seeing a lady in white.  Local police still get calls to this day from people reporting seeing people inside the theater well after the theater has been closed and workers have gone home.[3]               

Inside of the Mabel Tainter Theater.
Inside of the Mabel Tainter Theater.

External Links[edit]

Mabel Tainter Theater

Mabel Tainter Memorial

Dunn County History

Andrew Tainter

The Mabel Tainter Theater Haunting and Folklores

Menomonie History


  1. 1.0 1.1 Forrester, G. (1891). Historical and biographical album of the Chippewa Valley, Wisconsin. Chicago, Illinois: A. Warner.
  2. Hirsch,T. (n.d.). Tainter - a legendary figure. Retrieved October 30, 2015, from
  3. 3.0 3.1 Dunn County Haunts and Folklore: The Mabel Tainter Theater. (2012, October 30). Retrieved November 12, 2015, from
  4. Kempfert, T. (n.d.). 'Love's nobel tribute' Menomonie restores a landmark's Vicorian glamour and renovates its legacy. Retrieved October 30, 2015, from 
  5. Mabel Tainter Center. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2015, from