Hudson, the Early Days
(taken from "History of the St. Croix Valley", published in 1909)
The first settlement in the county was made at the mouth of the Willow River by Louis Massy and Peter F. Bouchea, a Frenchman, followed soon after by W. Streets and Joseph Sauperson, known as Joe Lagreu. The four men and their families were the first settlers on the land now occupied as Hudson City. In 1846 Captain J. B. Page, with his family, from the Mormon settlement of Nauvoo, landed on these shores and made a claim. Next came Mr. Purinton, who, with Mr. Page, built a sawmill in 1847at this point. Thus began the settlement of this wild and romantic country, which was destined to be one of the finest in the St. Croix valley. About that time J. W. Stone and the Nobles brothers came. In the spring of 1848 Philip Aldrich, Ammah Andrews, Moses Perrin, James Sanders and Joseph Mears joined the settlement. The nearest store and post office was at Red Rock, on the Mississippi River. The enterprise of the new settlers was not long in overcoming these inconveniences. In 1848 James Stone erected a store building and kept a general stock of goods; also opened a law office in connection. A mail was received once in two weeks from Prairie du Chien, Philip Aldrich acting as postmaster. About the same time Moses Perrin built a hotel. Mrs. Page, in connection with her other duties, practiced medicine, Thompsonian. Substantial dwellings sprang up all over the site of the then wild spot, which had but a short time before been occupied by the wigwam of the Chippewas. The records tell us that Louis Massey entered his claim August 32, 1848, the east half of the southwest quarter of section 24, township 29, range 20. This claim of Louis Massy was first occupied by him in the spring of 1838, and when finally entered for record, in 1848, was the first recorded in the county.
At the same time Peter Bouchea made a claim of the west half of the northwest quarter of section 25, township 29, range 20. Septermber 15, 1848, a portion of Mr. Masseys claim was laid out and platted as Buena Vista. June 3, 1850, Messrs. Gibson, Henning, Bouchea, Stone and Crowns laid out and platted twenty acres adjoining Buena Vista and called it Willow River.
At this time the settlers began to make this an objective point. The same year Dr. Otis Hoyt appeared on the scene with his surgical instruments and medicines, and the settlement was provided with a physician.
The early settlers, not forgetting the advantages, which they enjoyed in their far-off homes in the East, began to think of their children and to make arrangements for the improvement of minds. The subject of schools was discussed, and a district called No. 1 was formed September 22, 1849. A meeting was called at the house of M. V. Nobles, and the district organized by the election of the first board of officers, as follows: Moses S. Gibson, director; F. P. Catlin, treasurer; Pascal D. Aldrich, clerk. The first school was taught by E. P. Pratt in what was known as the stone house. S. C. Simonds taught the school in the winter of 1853-54. It was no small matter to maintain a school in those days. Money was scarce and teachers not very plenty who wished to teach at the small wages settlers could pay. At the next annual meeting, September 30, 1850, Ammah Andrews was elected director and J. J. Putman, treasurer; P. D. Aldrich, clerk. The meeting voted $40 tax to pay for a six months school.
Charlotte Mann took charge of the school for about eight years, and by industry, culture and high character obtained a reputation among the settlers as valuable in her most limited sphere, as that of Horace Mann, the great champion of public education.
In the winter of 1851-52 two separate plats, or villages, of Buena Vista and Willow River, were united and changed in name to Willow River. The next spring the first church was established, which was the First Baptist, under the ministry of Rev. Mr. Catlin.
As the village increased and the town back from the river became more thickly settled, the people became dissatisfied with the name of the village and township. A vote was taken, which resulted in a petition being presented to the board of county commissioners to have the name of the town and village therein contained changed to Hudson, which name was suggested by Alfred Day.
Additions were made to the original plat from time to time until a large city, on paper, stretched from the banks of the lake back up the sides of the bluff and along the more level valley of the Willow River. In the winter of 1856-57 a charter was procured and the first municipal election was called for the first Monday in April of the same year. The following officers were elected: Mayor, A. D. Gray; aldermen for the First ward, James Bray, J. M. Fulton, M. V. Nobles; aldermen for the Second ward, Alfred Day, R. A. Gridley, C. E. Dexter; aldermen for the Third ward, Charles Thayer, H. P. Lester and N. Perry.
The first meeting of the city council was called at Hendees hall, May 4 1877, his honor the mayor presiding; J. B. Gray, clerk pro tem. The election of the minor officers was made by ballot, with the following result: City clerk, O. Bell; city attorney, Cyrus T. Hall; city surveyor, Michael Lynch.
On motion the council fixed the bonds of the city treasurer at $5,000, with three good sureties; the same to be approved by the council. It was voted to appoint a committee to draft bylaws and ordinances. J. B. Gray, Charles Thayer, O. Bell and J. M. Fuller were appointed as said committee. It was voted to appoint Day, Nobles and Lester committee on printing. On motion Dexter, Gray and Day were appointed to draft laws for the regulation of the council. On motion, it was voted to fix the salary of the city clerk at $250 per year; voted to fix the salary of the city surveyor at $5 per diem for the time actually engaged; voted to fix the salary of the city attorney at $200 per annum; also voted that the city engineer receive $1.50 per day. On motion, it was voted that the following shall be the standing committee of the council: Claims, ways and means, streets, fire department, printing, health, taxes and licenses. The mayor made the following appointments: On claims, Day, Fulton and Perry; ways and means, Gridley, Gray and Lester; health, Thayer; fire department, Nobles; taxes, Gray Dexter and Lester; on printing, Day, Nobles and Lester; on licenses, Fulton, Gridley and Perry. On motion, a committee was appointed to procure rooms for the meeting of the council, and Nobles, Gridley and Thayer were appointed said committee. The subject of establishing grades was discussed and referred to committee on streets. On motion, it was voted to hold the council meetings at city hall the first Tuesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. At a meetin of the council held May 13, 1857, it was voted to change the following rates for licenses: For hotelkeeper to sell intoxicating liquors, $50; bowling alleys with saloon, $25 in addition to the other license charged; wholesale dealers $200; billiard saloons, $25 for each table aside from any other license charged. The first license issued by the city was to John Cyphers, said Cyphers to receive license on presentation of a receipt signed by the treasurer for $40 for wholesale, $100 for saloon and $24 for two billiard tables. At its organization the city was divided into three wards, as follows: All that portion of the city lying south of a line drawn through the center of Walnut street from the west to the east boundary of said city shall constitute the First ward; all that portion of said city being north of said line and south of a line drawn through the center of Division street from the eastern to the western boundary of said city shall constitute the Second ward, and all that portion of said city lying north of the Second ward shall constitute the Third ward.
From the files of the "Star and Times" of May 24, 1866, we clip the following description of the great fire that occurred May 19, 1866:
"Terrible conflagrationThe city in ruinsSixty-four business houses in ruins and twenty-five families homelessOnly one store left standingTotal loss, $32,500; insurance, $7,500. The fire broke out at 1:30 p.m. in the rear of H. A. Taylor & Co.s building, used for furniture rooms and printing offices. No fire had ever been used in the shed. It was supposed to have originated by sparks from the saloon or the pipe of a drunken man found lying where the fire originated and barely saved from burning with the building. The rapidity with which the flames spread was almost impossible to believe. Not even the books and personal effects from the Star and Times office were saved. Merchants in the adjoining stores had barely time to secure their valuable papers. The wind blew a gale. The flames seemed to break in every direction. The City hotel was enveloped in flames before the alarm was hardly given. The family and guests escaped with only what they had on. In an hour the scene was terrific. The billows of flames and the blinding smoke with the explosion of gunpowder; the approaching darkness, which caused uncertainty, terror and despair; the blackened ruins of what a few moments before were marts of merchandise and elegant homes; the crowds of toiling, anxious men and terror stricken womenall formed a scene alike terrible and grand."
"In about two hours the fire fiend had done its work. What at noon was the mart of a thriving city at sundown was a blackened ruin, with only one standing store. The proceeds of years of toil, the abundance which brought affluence and elegance, the little that had been saved from the proceeds of toil, all perished and gone. It is due to the business men to say, no men ever bore losses with more fortitude or set to work with more cheerfulness and energy to retrieve their losses. Most were able to go on without any very serious embarrassment. The fire had not ceased before the work of rebuilding was planned, and the city rose from the ashes with finer proportions than before."
The hook and ladder company was first organized in 1860, with Joseph H. Harrington, foreman; John Bartlett, assistant foreman, and A. Freer, secretary. There were thirty members at organization. In 1865 the company established a free library for the use of its members. The company was well equipped as now, and did efficient work at the great fire.
The city hardly recovered from the first great conflagration when it was once again visited by the fire fiend, destroying a large part of the business portion. This time the fire broke out in the Chapin Hall hotel, standing on the present site of the Chapin Hall house, at 12 oclock noon. Every effort was made by the fire company and citizens to keep the fire from spreading, but to no avail. It seemed as though the city must be entirely destroyed again. It was found impossible without assistance from abroad to check its mad career. It was also impossible to get assistance in time to do much good. When the fire was at last subdued it was found that about thirty different firms had lost more or less. The Aggregate loss was estimated at $100,000, with only $15,000 insurance. Misfortune never comes single-handed. So with our devoted city. The smoke of this great conflagration had hardly subsided when the alarm was once more sounded. This time the seat of the fire was in the elevator and warehouse of Coon and Pratt, with their contents. The elevator contained about 30,000 bushels of wheat. The warehouse of C. D. Powers was also destroyed. The total amount of the loss, distributed among several parties, was $60,000, with $16,366 insurance.
The city authorities began at this time to see the necessity of supplying some means of protection against the devouring elements. In September of the same year the city purchased a better engine, which was placed in the hands of the old hook and ladder company. In March the old company was disbanded and a new company organization effected under the title of the Hudson City Fire Company, with the following officers: M. Whitten, chief engineer; G. Anderson, first assistant; J. B. Martin, second assistant; M. D. Aldrich, secretary; D. W. Coon, treasurer; George W. Willis, in charge of engine.
The first railroad was built from St. Paul via Stillwater in 1871, and was called the West Wisconsin railroad, and today the city is connected with all parts of the wide world. The Omaha, or rather the Northwestern, passes through the northern part of the city.
(taken from "History of the St. Croix Valley", published in 1909)
Hudson is one of the thriving cities of the St. Croix valley, next in importance to Stillwater. In the last decade it has increased its population fifty percent and the citizens look to a still greater increase in the next ten years. The business men are progressive and up to date and are determined that everything possible shall be done for the betterment of their beautiful city. The city is built on a sightly plateau and table lands, surrounded by bluffs, giving it a splendid location both for business purposes and scenic beauty. It is only nineteen miles from St. Paul and 152 from Superior, controls the outlet of the Willow River and occupies an advantageous situation on the St. Croix Lake. In railroads it is on the main line of the Chicago & Northwestern, the River Falls and Ellsworth, the Stillwater and Hudson, also the Minneapolis-Superior-St. Paul division of the Omaha line. This gives the city adequate transportation facilities for freight and passengers and causes the station to become a busy place from which passengers depart in all directions. The city is particularly healthful, as there are no swampy or marsh land near the city and malaria and typhoid are almost unknown.
The city boasts of a perfectly equipped fire department, and the sanitary conditions being perfect, the place certainly presents unusual attractions to those seeking a location. Three newspapersthe "Star-Times," the "St. Croix Observer" and the "True Republican"supply the wants of the inhabitants of this city in this line. The "Star-Times," is the oldest paper in the city, the "Star" having been established in May 1854, and the "Chronicle," which became the "Times," was founded in 1860. In 1864 the two papers were consolidated under the name of "Star and Times," which, in 1894, was changed to "Star-Times." The churches are: St. Patricks, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran (Ebenezer), Lutheran (Bethel), Episcopal, Baptist, German Lutheran, Unitarian and Swedish Lutheran. Hudsons largest industry is the great manufacturing plant known as the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha railroad. It covers a large area, employs more men, consumes more material, has a larger output and carries a larger payroll than any other industry in the city. There are two dry goods stores, seven groceries, two drug stores, two book stores, three hardware establishments, two shoe stores, three millinery shops, two furniture stores, four hotels, two restaurants, two bakeries, one upholstering establishment, three meat markets, three lumber companies, two tailor shops, four printing offices, four barber shops, two feed stores, two harness shops, one confectionery, two livery barns, three clothing stores, two blacksmith shops, one photograph establishment, a military band, two orchestras, and a public library. In addition the city has a waterworks company, an electric light plant, telegraph and telephone plants, and is otherwise thoroughly equipped with all the modern conveniences, improvements and advantages which so materially assist in the growth and development of a city. The future of Hudson is assured.
The Board of Trade is a progressive organization that has for its purpose the expansion of every interest that will make this city a larger and better Hudson. The various committees are divided under the following heads: Progressive league, lights and lighting, bridges and highways, beautifying the city, manufacturing interests, public halls and fire protection. The men who have been assigned to these committees are all by training and occupation equipped for the work assigned and the work already accomplished has been of great benefit to the city. Its influence has been considerable in the matter of extending the cement walks, macadamizing the public streets and securing new manufacturing plants. The officers of the Board of Trade are: F. J. Carr, president; W. J. Barter, vice president; B. C. Bunker, second vice president; Spencer Haven, secretary, and C. J. Birkhose, treasurer, with the following board of directors: Joseph Yoerg, F. O. Crary, Robert Friend, W. H. Phipps and H. L. North.
This citys public school system will compare with any in cities of similar size in the state as to the courses of study taught, the equipment and buildings. The high school, a fine, showy building, was erected in 1886, built of red pressed brick with stone trimmings, electric lighted and heated by hot air, built in the center of a square and cost $40,000. The high school enrollment is 193, who receive a full four years course, with special studies in music and art. All graduates of the high school are admitted to normals and universities without examination, placing the Hudson school system on a very high footing. In addition to the high school there are four ward school buildings, costing $20,000. The total enrollment for this school year is 730. An eight years course is taught in the grades, presided over by thirteen teachers, all normal graduates, while the seven high school teachers are graduates of universities and colleges.
The greatest gift that can be vouchsafed to mankind is the purity and abundance of its water supply. In this respect Hudson is abundantly blessed, having the purest of artesian spring water, which from chemical test has been found absolutely free from organic matter, which may account for the perfect freedom of its citizens from typhoid fever, kidney, bladder and diseases of the digestive organs. The city water supply is derived from two wells 350 and 600 feet in depth below the pumping station. The water is pumped into a reservoir holding 85,000 gallons, situated on a bluff having an elevation of 300 feet, from whence it is distributed through water mains covering the whole residence and business district, with fifty-six hydrants for fire protection. This water is pumped into a standpipe by two triplex pumps having forty-two revolutions per minute, or a pumping capacity of 546 gallons a minute. In case of fire the water can be pumped direct into the mains from the pumping station, which gives ample safeguards in emergency cases. There are few cities that are so well taken care of as to the purity and supply of their water, and what is more, that has so little expense attached to operating the plant. The operating of the water system is sublet at a cost of $2,400 a year, while the city sells to the Omaha shops and locomotives their water supply for $1,600 a year, leaving a balance of only $800 a year for operating expenses. For this $800 the city has water free for fire and other purposes and the income for all water consumed for domestic and manufacturing purposes.
Hudsons free public library is one of the very handsome public library buildings in the state, built of cream pressed brick with granite trimmings, size 75 by 100 feet, steam heated and electric lighted, while the interior finish is all in quarter-sawed oak. The building occupies a site of a quarter of a block, and was built at a cost of $25,000. The library contains 4,000 volumes and is one of the best selected, as it covers all the best works. One of the attractive features of the Hudson free public library is its central location, making it accessible to the business as well as the residence districts. In addition to the library proper there is an auditorium in the basement, where literary and lecture courses are given, adding much to the utility of the building.
No city at the present time can hope to have a place in the progressive class unless it has a park system. In this respect Hudson had made ample provision, which, combined with natures playgrounds that are strewn along the shore line of the beautiful St. Croix and the entrancing Willow rivers, with its lofty imperial bluffs, make this city indeed the gem of the St. Croix in scenic beauty. It has ever been the ambition of its leading citizens to supplement what nature has done by acquiring a park system, which is now well under way. Hudsons foremost city playground is Prospect park, that contains some twenty-seven acres, situated on the east bluff, overlooking the dells, shady nooks with their draperies of ferns and vines along the St. Croix and Willow rivers. This park has never been defiled by man and has retained all of its natural grandeur, and all that is being done to improve it is to make driveways and walks and the placing of rustic seats amid its spreading shade trees of birch, oak and elm. Then there is River Front park, another beauty spot on the west side of Lake St. Croix that has some two and a half acres, with a splendid lake shore line, while Athletic park is in the northern part of the city, where all athletic games are played, and that has an amphitheater with a seating capacity of 400.
Hudson makes a most attractive county seat, as reflected in her new $50,000 court house, built of Portage red stone and pressed brick, making a very showy and yet substantial piece of architecture. The county jail and sheriffs residence is a two story brick with stone trimmings, built at a cost of $10,000. Both buildings are steam heated and electric lighted, and are fitted up in the best of taste for the conduct of the county business.
Hudsons future prosperity is largely based upon her natural water power, derived from damming the Willow river, transmitting 425 electric horsepower, only partly used for city and private lighting, and electric waterpower for operating the factories located here. The rate charged per kilowatt is so cheap that it has put out of commission gasoline and steam motor power. There are two developed water powers, assuring a constant and steady, never-ceasing flow of water for generating electrical energy. This means that Hudson has much to offer industries that seek a new location where the cheapness of electrical power is an inducement. Factories that desire to locate just outside of the great industrial centers, where building sites are low, the wage scale not so high, with rents and living expenses a third less. In this respect Hudson has much to offer.
In company with the citizens of the other cities of St. Croix valley and the upper Mississippi the people of Hudson are placing great hopes in the new waterway which it is proposed to cut, uniting the Great Lakes with the headwaters of the St. Croix River. Hudson possesses a deep harbor and in future days will doubtless furnish anchorage for the great ships that will sail the Great Lakes and down to the Gulf.
The editor of this work recalls the time when the business progress of Hudson was at a low ebb and when the people of Stillwater spoke rather lightly of Hudson and its claims to consideration, but that is all over now. For in these later years another set of men and now forces have wrought a marked and surprising change in the conditions which make for progress, and today Hudson ranks among the most enterprising and progressive cities of the west. There are stir and movement and hustle among the business men of the place that were absent in the years gone, and the people claim their city is a place of beauty and a joy forever. That may sound somewhat florid and overdrawn, but a visit to the place will disclose to the visitor the fact that the residential portions of the city, particularly Third and Fourth streets, are most delightful. These broad thoroughfares are at an elevation from the business section, running parallel with the lake and lined with fine residences and sheltered from the sun by rows of sturdy trees. During the last two or three years there has been much improvement in the appearance of most of the streets, due chiefly to the introduction of stone sidewalks, which are becoming important features in the growth of a city. And besides this, there are many beauty spots in the outlying sectionsWillow River Falls, six or seven miles distant, being first in the list and well worth the journey thither. The writer of these lines had the pleasure of visiting this charming spot a few years ago, and on his return to his home in Stillwater this is what he wrote: "The falls, from the route taken by us, are not approachable with teams. So we anchored the horses in a grove where the grass, burned away in numerous patches and newspapers idly flapping in the summer breeze, gave indications of recent picnics, and started down the narrow defile, a winding way, worn along the brow of the steep banks by the tread of many feet. The trail did not probably resemble the locality described by the Irish orator, but nevertheless reminded me of his words when he spoke of wandering down the untrodden paths of time, where we see the footsteps of an invisible hand. Clambering down the rugged way, skirting projecting rocks, grasping overhead boughs to stay our progress down a sharp descent, scrambling and sliding, we emerged at length in full view of the great falls, where a vast volume of water comes rushing and roaring and tumbling over the rocks. It is a grand sight, and to be appreciated should be seen, as no pictured representation can do justice to the view. A party of picnickers were lounging about on the mossy rocks, breaking the long summer day with banquet in the quiet woods. Liberty Hill is another spot of which the people often speak, not boastfully, s if nobody else had any Liberty Hill, but as one of the lofty and lasting features which grace their immediate vicinity. So, availing myself of the opportunity offered by a friend, I journeyed thither. The route is romantic and circuitous, but as you reach the height a wonderful view lies outspread before the vision. I inquired of our companion why it was called Liberty Hill, but he shook his head, and being left to my imaginings, I decided that it was so called because some youthful statesman, in a remote period of the worlds history, had, like Freedom from her mountain height, unfurled his standard to the air, and filled with thoughts that breathe and words that burn had hurled at his awe-stricken audience the thrilling words of Patrick Henry" Some prefer the genial spring, while others would have it summer through all the rolling year, and many there be who claim the pleasures of winter are to be chosen rather than great riches, but as for me, give Liberty (Hill) or give me death.
"They told me there was an immense reservoir up there containing a vast quantity of water, and I expected to see a structure of some kind, but save and except the trampled grass and a group of laughing girls oscillating slowly to and fro in a ponderous swing, and a pole which acts as a sort of indicator and gives the alarm when the water reaches a certain point, nothing was visible. The reservoir itself is like the sweet hope mentioned by the bard which lies deeply buried from human eyes. The people are supplied with excellent water from this vast reservoir, which is the property of the city."
The most remarkable assemblage of Hudson citizens ever gathered in that city was at the home of John E. Bartlett in Hudson, Wis., on Wednesday, February 26, 1908, when twenty four other pioneers arrived to celebrate his seventy-seventh birthday anniversary. Of the twenty-five men present everyone has lived there for fifty years or more, and their combined age is 1,857 years, with an average of seventy-four years. These men have seen Hudson grow from nothing to its present high plane, and have been a great factor in its development. Following is a list of those present and their ages: A. G. Thompson, 87; M. L. Palmer, 85; E.J. Mattson, 84; A. J. Mattson, 81; Robert McDairmid, 81; A. D. Richardson, 78; A. Balsom, 78; John E. Bartlett, 77; O. Holmes, 77; J. Hyslop, 76; Joe Bensch, 76; Joe Kelly, 74; Jake Daily, 74; John Hodgins, 74; J. H. White, 75; Samuel Coit, 73; Ed Daily, 72; L. Nash, 71; P. Kircher, 70; George Martin, 69; Robert Dinsmore, 69; Fred Scott, 68; Charles Donohue, 64; Alex Ross, 63; L. G. Green, 62.
There is no better index to the wealth and prosperity of a community than the condition of its banks. The banks of Hudson have a combined capital, surplus and profits of $170,000, with total deposits of $800,000, which when figured out, gives a per capita of $181 for every man, woman and child of Hudsons population. This is an unusually good showing and one that any banking center with the same population might well be proud of.