|A History of STRUM
and the TOWN OF UNITY by Roy Matson
|these paths as land in two valleys could be viewed simultaneously. Also, heavy loaded
wagons of the settlers could avoid marshland or larger streams. The bluff road (tower
road) was one of these trails, developed into a road that served southbound Unity
residents until 1917.
With statehood in 1848 cam pressures from settled points such as La Crosse, Sparta,
Black River Falls and Eau Claire for established travel right-of-ways. The legislature
responded by providing for appointment of three commissioners from the affected areas
with authorization to survey and lay out state roads. No money except survey expense was
Of interest to this area, three commissioners were appointed to lay a road from Fountain
City to Beef River Station. The date was March 1, 1856, the first time George Silkworth’s
stopping place is mentioned. Harvey Farrington arrived in Pancake Valley (Mondovi) in
1855. The next spring he was one of three men appointed to lay out a road from Hudson
to Sparta via Eau Galle mills, Bear Creek (Durand), Harvey Farrington’s and Black River
Falls. Undoubtedly this road connected with an Eau Claire-Black River Falls road laid out
The canvas topped wagons heading westward down this valley had a right-of-way for
travel, but one can be certain the drivers followed the easiest path. After crossing the
Chippewa River at Bear Creek, most wagons headed north a day or two then turned
westward for a fairly easy trip into Minnesota.
Locally, the Town of Sumner had a surveyor who kept accurate records of highway
actions those early days. An 1877 entry shows an appropriation of $75.00 to build a
bridge across the Beef River near the P. B. Williams residence.
Early Beef River Valley Settlers
The very first pioneers to acquire land and settle in this valley arrived in 1855. Harvey
Farrington and his party were in Pancake Valley (Mondovi area) that year and George
Silkworth acquired title at the Eau Claire land office to part of section 2, T24N, R7 in
March of the same year. Silkworth, who seems to have been active here at an earlier date,
immediately erected a building intended as a stop on the Sparta-Eau Claire stage line and
called it “Beef River Station”. A few families found work at Silkworth’s and lived around
his place of business, located about a mile northeast of future Osseo.
This story concerns the central part of northern Trempealeau County and the earliest
settlement in that area. Three families arrived in 1856 and acquired land near present
Hamlin. The winter of 1856-1857 was very harsh with much snow, causing the W. Moon
family to travel back to Dane County. The Cross and James Chase families stayed. Moon
traded his land to Russell Bower who came here in June, 1857 and became an established
part of the Hamlin community. A short time later he erected a small building to serve as a
store and supplied new settlers with staples of the day. Among those who moved in were
the Rice and Henry Teeple families who replaced Cross and Chase. Isaac Webster paid
$200.00 in gold for about 16 acres of section 24 and became a neighbor to the east.
Along about 1859, Dennis Lawler, an Irish tailor, became the first settler of present Unity
township by moving unto a quarter in Section 24, T24, R8. He was followed a year or two
later by Phineas B. Williams who took land in Section 10, same area. It has been told that
a marsh of wild hay attracted the latter because he was a horse trader and feed seemed
plentiful. Jack Carter was said to have located in Section 18, T24, R8 in 1863, but no
assessment of his place can be found until after the Civil War.
It seems these few New Englanders were the only people in this locality before the Civil
War years. However, there were many speculators and squatters who lived here a very
short time, only to move on.
The end of the Civil War brought many veterans looking for settlement into the Beef River
Valley. Russell Bower, who had served during the last years of the conflict, returned