|A History of STRUM
and the TOWN OF UNITY by Roy Matson
|Trempealeau, Preston and Arcadia had been formed and settlers in the northeast end of the
county around Beef River Station had received urgings to establish a township. No action
is apparent as of that year, but in November, 1858 Sumner was represented on the board
and in November, 1859 Clerk W. H. Thomas turned a tax roll over to Treasurer A. B.
Ayers charging him with collection of $4,890.50. The area known as Sumner included all
lands above township line 24 North, Ranges 7,8 and 9 West, which would include all of
present Albion, Unity and Sumner townships. Tax collection was a problem. Only 29 tax
payers were listed and a good dozen of those were speculators and investors from afar.
Population of this new township seemed to be less than one person per square mile.
Settlement moved slowly those first years. The light soil of the Beef River valley did not
appeal to early pioneers who came from New England states, Ohio and Indiana and could
judge farm lands. These men shunned steep coulee hillsides and chose the best lower table
acres, if available.
The First White Man
It is accepted fact the Beef River Valley was a sort of boundary between the Winnebago
tribe on the south and Chippewas on the north. The latter were very busy warring with
powerful but scattered tribes to the west and thus paid little attention to their peaceful
neighbors of the Winnebago tribe in this region. The Winnebago were known to hunt in
this valley although few lived here, possibly less than 25 in this vicinity. The valley seemed
to be a peaceable place and logs of early trappers and traders mention it often as a fairly
safe route for transporting furs and supplies purchased on other waterways. Large
Winnebago encampments were further south and closer to the Mississippi.
Jacques Porlier is believed to be the first white man to have spent a winter in the Beef
River Valley. He was born at Montreal in 1765 and grew up among cultured people,
receiving the best education the city could offer at the time. He intended to become a
priest but changed his mind and worked for his father in the fur trade. Porlier came to
Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1791 and for a time tutored children, making him perhaps
Wisconsinís first teacher.
There was a difference in various stories of his venture in the fur trade. Some speak of his
operation on the Sauk, Buffalo and Pine Rivers. Another story makes special mention of
the Buffalo and St. Croix streams. At the latter place he met a woman living with her
Indian mother who was to become his wife. Upon returning to Green Bay, he received
several public service appointments while the Wisconsin territory was governed by Indiana
and Michigan. One of these appointments was a chief justice of Brown County, at the time
an area encompassing much of northeastern Wisconsin.
His stay on the Beef River occurred sometime between 1792 and 1795. It may have been
very short and the place may be revealed in voluminous French notes now in the State
Historical Society archives in Madison. Some future French student may find a description
of the spot. A suggestion that the local lake be called Lake Porlier received little
consideration at the time this river was dammed. Green Bay has a Porlier street and a
A second fur buyer named J. C. Jacobs wintered on the Beef River during 1819-1820. He
wrote John Lawe, a Green Bay representative, that no Indians wintered there; therefore
there was no business.
Early Trails and Roads
The Beef River Valley was an accepted passageway for early fur traders who usually
headquartered at Green Bay. Neither the Winnebago tribe to the south nor the Chippewas
north of here frequented this area, making it a relatively safe route for travel.
Indian trails usually followed ridges. The first land speculators and some settlers used