St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Butterflies Not Welcome

Margo uses her new garden tiller to destroy the butterfly garden and turn it into lawn!
Feeling embarrassed that her perennial garden had gotten out of control, Margo tore into it with her brand new garden tiller taking hundreds of lupines, Joe Pyes, cone flowers and other long established flowers and ground them into dirt!

Actually, most of the flowers had been replaced by milkweeds (for the butterflies) and thistles (for the gold finches), and they had run amuck inviting nettles from the woods,  blackberry vines, raspberry and wild roses, joined by pocket gophers from the field and bears, raccoons, rabbits, and possums from the woods to move in and thrive.  

That is down there in Pine Island, whereas up here at the cabin, I got the new battery installed, sprayed the apples, and did some work on the computer --some research and some posters and certificates and miscellaneous stuff that were needed for tomorrow when I have the Luck Area Historical Society board meeting at 11 am and the Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical Society meeting at 7 pm at the Cushing Community Center round the back. 

An historian from Taylors Falls MN sent this query and I am attempting to help with the answers. 

In the booklet, Timothy L. Ericson, _Recollections of 1876 Polk County's First Written History_ (The Polk County Historical Society, November 1980), on pages 12-13, the following is written:

In the winter of 1857 a mining excitement broke out among a few adventurous characters, and it raged with great violence until spring. Among them were Dave Cannaday, John Robinson, Billy Foster, C. C. Somers, Ed. Dwyer, Gordon Smith, Oscar Roos, A. M. Dodd, Donald McCloud and Jack Shaw....Twenty years ago, they supposed, and with some show of truth, that they had found copper and silver in the huge cliffs of trap rock that abound in the neighborhood....Every crack and crevice, every point and pinnacle, was carefully explored for the hidden metal. Every rock of less than seven hundred pounds weight was broken up and carefully assayed in a rude way. Every little hole was prospected....

Cannaday, Oscar Roos and another partner or two, built a large log house for the benefit of the traveling public which was to flock to and through the embryo city on a supposed stage line, on a supposed road, that was to be built through the country from St. Croix Falls to Lake Superior. They called their house the "Kiesca's House" and ornamented one of its ends with a huge chimney built of clay and rock. The house soon became known as "Kiesca's chimney." A stable was erected capable of stabling forty horses; but the concern had more room than customers. The stage road was not built; the line of stages never started; the expected rush of travel was postponed; and as winter passed away, so did their hopes and prospects.

I have several questions regarding the above.

1. Who wrote the article on Clam Falls Township and what is the source of the information about the 1857 event?

2. Where are the huge cliffs of trap rock in Clam Falls Township? The article mentions a 7' high trap rock ledge which forms the falls. This is hidden today under the dam.

3. Where was the location of Kiesca's House? Is there any evidence of it today?

Thank you for any help you can provide.

Taylors Falls

My Rambling reply: 
The  Polk Co Historical Society passed this request on to me in the
hopes I might know something!   Sadly, I know very little.  I did put
a little in a Luck Area Historical Society newsletter

  Some other rambling notes:
    Kiesca-seba   Ojibway name for the Clam River which sometimes has
been translated "there are clams."

The original survey map is at this link.  You can zoom it in and see
the "trap ranges" marked on the map--where the ledges described were
likely seen.

The actual descriptions as the surveyors made the section boundaries
can be read at

for example a trap rock ledge between sections 12 and 13

    Map of Clam Falls in 1887 shows a hotel --might be the same as the
1857 house if it were still standing--hard to know from this. Possibly
the early Sterling Township tax records located at the University of
WI - River Falls on microfilm might list something in the 1857 and
newer records.  Most of the land entries in that area was still not
owned and were part of Sterling until the 1860s or 70s when they had
enough population to start a Town govt.  The Sterling records kept at
the Cushing Community Center by Sterling appear to be missing the
1850s books.   My own guess is that since the logging dam is already
shown in the 1855 survey map, the house is likely very nearby to
accomodate the traffic and activity around the dam itself.
A forest fire burned Clam Falls in 1891, so that may have destroyed
the house. You might check the old newspapers on microfilm at UW
-River Falls archives for 1891 fire information.

   In 1876 in writing the history of Polk County for the 100th
birthday of the USA, many of the Town (township) articles were written
by whomever was a "writer" in the area associated with Town govt.  My
first guess is Daniel Smith.  He "named the township of Luck" had a
sawmill there very early, cut out the St Croix Falls to Luck to Clam
Falls trail (by his account in an letter to the newspaper) and in
general was into most things in Clam Falls after it broke off from
Luck Township in 1876 (?)

  He was the pioneer there and likely was living there in 1876. He was
66 years old then and actively involved in the town.  He lived to be
almost 90 years old as I recall.
Dan F. Smith 1877-84

Daniel Smith And Page N. Butts

Dan Smith was so closely allied with the early settlement of Clam
Falls that a brief mention of his life’s history would not be out of
place here.He was born March 6, 1919 in New York. When he was 21 years
old he came West and stopped at Racine in company with his father and
his brother he moved to Milton, Rock County and built a  log house
into which he took his bride, 10 miles from any other white woman. In
1840 he and his brother built the first sawmill in Rock county.

In 1854 he came to St Croix Falls. He took the first saw mill to
Butternut Lake in 1868 and in 1872 started a saw mill at Clam Falls.
When asked why he gave the name Luck to Butternut lake he said”I
propose to be in “luck” the rest of my life”

Trouble arose between him and Jeb Cushing which resulted in a law suit
and a judgment in the Supreme
Court against Cushing for $10.000.00. The case was said to be
celebrated in the legal history of the state.

Mr. Smith died Dec. 30th 1900at the age of 87 in Chippewa Falls. His
body was taken to Rock county for burial.

How Luck Got Its Name

Daniel Smith was the one who gave the name to the town of Luck. He was
born in Chautauqua County, New York in 1813.  In 1834 he traveled to
Michigan and married Eliza Green.  They then moved to Racine County,
Wisconsin, and then to Stevens Point where he helped start two
businesses. One of his partners was accidentally killed and the
businesses closed. He then moved to Memphis, Tennessee where he
started a grocery business.   The business failed and he lost all of
his money.

Smith then tried many businesses including mining in California, and
manufacturing shingles.  In 1862 he returned to St Croix Falls and
started a logging business. In 1868 he built a sawmill on Big
Butternut Lake.  Daniel and William Foster both helped start Luck
Township in 1868.  Daniel is sometimes given credit for choosing the
name Luck, as his luck had changed from bad to good when he moved to
Big Butternut Lake.  “I want to be in Luck the rest of my life,” he
said as he proposed the name Luck for his new home.

Smith founded the city of Clam Falls in 1872.  Smith built a sawmill
in Clam Falls with the help of a partner, and the town became a
booming settlement.  Dan Smith was a Polk County Commissioner for many

I am attaching a letter from Dan Smith's daughter to W.H.C Folsum
(from the archives in the MN Hist Society) that gives a little Clam
Falls info too.  Copied it several years ago when I was interested in
that area.

If you have difficulty with the links, the attachments or whatever, I
can stop at the St Croix Fall's Library and help you (or if you like,
I volunteer Monday afternoons at the Luck Museum 1-4 pm for the Polk
Co Genealogical Society).

Hope this helps a little.  I think your best bet is to read old
newspaper accounts.

By the way, the copper craze was not limited to Taylor's Falls and
Clam Falls, but the traprock ridges near Trade Lake were also

Copper paint mine at Grantsburg