WAUBEEK


    Pepin County, as we all know, is the smallest county in Wisconsin.  The area is rich in history, but the story of Waubeek is a little known part of Pepin County history.  Waubeek was the first town in Pepin County; the place where one man made a million.

    The name Waubeek today is just that, a name.  Although the town is long gone physically, it remains in the memory of people who lived in the area when Waubeek was standing.

    The hill or mound in the area today known as Waubeek township was named for an Indian princess.  The mound's name was eventually taken on as the name for the township as well.

    The village of Waubeek, according to Dick Schlosser, was in the bottoms of the Chippewa River.  It was located near the end of 9-Mile Island, about 1/2 mile up river from the Durand Rod and Gun Club.

 Here is the personal story of a the man behind it all...

Even though it was small, Waubeek was literally worth a million to Mr.

Cadwallader C. Washburn.  (Pictured left) Cadwallader was one of seven overachieving boys. Two became governors of the state of Wisconsin, four were elected to Congress, two served as ministers to foreign countries, one was the Secretary of State to Ulysses Grant, and three were authors.

    According to an article by Earl Chapin in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, entitled, "Waubeek is Only a Memory", Cadwallader's story began when he started west from Maine with only a few dollars in his pocket.  He took jobs as a store clerk and a school teacher before studying law and becoming a lawyer.  He was only 24 years old.

    In 1855, Cadwallader bought 12,000 acres of pine land on the Chippewa River.  He built himself a steam mill on the river.  It quickly became the largest pre-Civil War lumber mill in Wisconsin, located on the Dunn-Pepin County line. "This," the article states, "was Waubeek."

    During the War Between the States, Cadwallader started a cavalry regiment and fought.  He came back to the area to find that his property had accumulated a lot of debts.  To get rid of the debts, he realized he'd have to sell his mill to Knapp, Stout, and Company.  A shrewd businessman, Cadwallader didn't want cash as payment, but a promise that he could get a certain amount of lumber from the mill in the future (the beginning of futures market).  Upon signing the papers, lumber was worth $5 per thousand, but when Cadwallader finally collected, it was $20 per thousand.

    In that one quick, unsuspectingmove, Cadwallader earned his million in the tiny town of Waubeek.  He used the money to build flour mills.  Before he moved to Minneapolis, Cadwallader was elected governor of Wisconsin threetimes.

    The town of Waubeek prospered as Knapp, Stout, and Company built a store near the boarding house in town and built houses for their men.  There were 100 employees at the time.  The Waubeek mill of Knapp, Stout, and Company was the hub of Waubeek.  It provided work for the towns-people, and was the center of the community.  Ingram School (pictured below) was built in 1861. 

There was a hotel, a saloon, a Baptist church, a blacksmith shop, a dance floor in

a barn, and a general store.  The town was prosperous and busy.

Until..... the fire that destroyed the Waubeek mill in June , 1870 also seemed to destroy the town. The Waubeek Mound existsas a monument to the Indian princess, for whom it was intended. But now it also immortalizes a town that few know about and even fewer remember... Waubeek.


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This page was created by Lori Bysong and Kati Reiland in March of 1998.