Wisconsin Genealogy Trails
Buffalo County, Wisconsin

Buffalo – Wisconsin’s Smallest City (1921)
Source: Capital Times (17 Sept. 1921) from the Wisconsin Historical Society Website; transcribed by Sandra Wright

Received Charter in 1859 but Has Population of Only 286

Wisconsin’s smallest full-fledged city, possessing a special legislative charter, city wards, and voting precincts, but without a postoffice, had been located at Buffalo, in Buffalo county. There are 286 individuals claiming this city as their home, according to the last census, each of whom received his mail at the village of Cochran.

Buffalo obtained its charter from the legislature of 1859, and has been running along ever since without a marked increase in population. It is now going to receive an engraced charter from the secretary of state, recording it as a city of the fourth class and with the privileges granted by a general state charter. The office of the secretary of state discovered the city when its officers answered a request for its definite boundaries and for a statement of population in order to permit of classification.

Buffalo City
Source: Milwaukee Journal - from Wisconsin Historical Society Website (11 Sept. 1932); transcribed by Sandra Wright

Smallest City in State Hasn’t Even a Store
Buffalo City, Wis.—This community, the smallest incorporated city in Wisconsin and perhaps the smallest in the United States, hasn’t a post-office nor even a store. But it has 1,965 lots, 30 miles of “streets” without sidewalks, gutters or sewers, and just 261 residents.
The founders of Buffalo City planned to metropolis. Perhaps it would have been a sizeable city, too, but for a quirk of “Old Man River.” After the city had been established and was going along nicely, the Mississippi gradually shifted its course to the west away from the bluffs on which the city is built and meandered around the far side of an island, leaving only a slough in front of Buffalo Coty which is under water only when the river is high.

Colony From Cincinnati
When the river left Buffalo City, a good many of the settlers left, too, and even the most enthusiastic of the local boosters gave up hopes that it would ever be the great metropolis as they had dreamed. They stayed on a time, but no new settlers came to take the place of those who had left. Finally the postoffice was discontinued. Some of the stores closed up, the population dwindled, and then those who were left resigned themselves to the realization that Buffalo City would never be anything more than a hamlet, a cluster of farmhouses as it is today.

Buffalo City dates back to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1854. A group of young German and Swiss immigrants there, many of them university students who had left central Europe with the migrations of liberals led by Carl Schurz, formed a Colonization Society of Cincinnati. The group tried to found a colony in Kansas, but abandoned it because of troubles in that territory.

Bought Stock in Business
Then someone suggested Wisconsin. In the beautiful wooded bluffs overlooking the Mississippi they found just the land they were looking for. Two commissioners of the society, Frederick Pfeffer and J.P. Moessinger, came here in 1858 and laid out the city.
The leaders of the colonization society had a peculiar kind of communism in mind for Buffalo City. The lots were divided among the 228 members, most of whom remained in Cincinnati, and the members of the colony bought stock in the various businesses that were established here, from which they were to be paid part of the profits.

Taxes were paid regularly and some of the lots are still owned by persons in Cincinnati who are descendants of the original members of the colonization society. Some of these Cincinnati owners still pay the taxes on the land. As taxes now are only 22 cents a lot, they doubtless feel that they can afford to pay the levy indefinitely on the gamble that some day the town might develop and their lots would be more valuable than farm land.

But settlers did come to Buffalo City in the years following the founding. Several hundred of them came. The first year was one of great activity. The colony spent considerable money to build a road across the Belvidere bluff to Waumandee. Logs were being floated down the Mississippi in great numbers in those days and one of the first things the colonists did was to build a saw mill with a grist mill attached. The arrangement of this mill, however, was faulty and it was soon abandoned. In 1859, however, another was built. But most of the logs went right by and the lumber business of Buffalo City was never important.

A postoffice was set up shortly after the first settlers came and then stores were built. Before the first year had passed a German Evangelical Lutheran congregation had been organized with the Rev. E. Strube as pastor. A church was built in 1860 and then in 1868 a Catholic church was built. When the boom was at its height there were several stores, nine saloons, a hotel, a newspaper and a brewery here.

The German and Swill settlers of the colony brought with them the social ideas of their native lands. One of the first things they did was to organize a German turning society, the Turngemeinde of Buffalo City. Like all other turning societies, the purpose of this was to foster gymnastics, music and conviviality. Later the Swiss organize a shooting league and shooting matches and tournaments became a regular entertainment.

Sought County Seat
Indians were frequent but peaceable visitors. Lawrence Kessinger, the first schoolmaster of the community, wrote a history of the colony in which he told of the hysteria of some of the colonists at the time of the New Ulm (Minn.) massacre. The leaders of the settlement knew, however, that there were several hundred miles between them and the hostile Indians and refused to do anything to prepare for an attack. The sharp-shooters developed at the marksmen’s match confined their prowess to exhibitions and hunting for there was never any Indian fighting in the colony.

In 1861, Buffalo City made an unsuccessful attempt here from Alma. Had the residents succeeded, the move might have kept the community from deteriorating to its present state.

Very Different Place
Today the city lots of Buffalo City are farm fields or just waste land. The residents still live on the city streets but rods apart. There hasn’t been a prisoner for the old brick jail for 20 years, so it is used for a city hall. Charles Robak has been mayor for 21 years. Most of the old buildings have been torn down. Others are in a state of ruin. The one new building of any consequence is the school. It is modern throughout.

Life in Buffalo City now is simple and quiet, with all the simplicity of the farm. It’s still a city even if most of the land within the city limits is under cultivation, but it’s a very different city from the busy place the founders planned.

Reviewing the Past (1922)
Source: Mondovi Herald (6 Jan. 1922) from the Wisconsin Historical Society Website; transcribed by Sandra Wright

From the Herald of Jan. 7, 1898
B.S. Lockwood has served the city as mayor continuously since its organization except two terms. (Dr. C. Hebard was mayor one year and W. L. Houser one year.) He has been re-elected year after year without opposition which is in itself evident of the satisfactory manner in which he has looked after the affairs of the city. Mr. Lockwood is a New Yorker by birth but has lived in this place nearly a quarter of a century. He is a level headed business man and is connected with several enterprises that are successful largely because of his ability and integrity. Mr. Lockwood is a member of the Masonic Woodmen and Workmen orders and is a sort of a brother-in-law in the M.E. church.

Jacob Canar, of the second ward, is Alderman, supervisor and clerk of the school board. He spreads over considerable official territory but he fills the bill all right. Mr. Canar has served in the capacity of alderman continuously since the organization of the city. His good business ability and conservativism have been of great value to the city. He is a Luxumburger by birth but became an American citizen born thirty years ago. He has been a resident of this place twenty-three years. For many years he was engaged in blacksmithing with his brother George as a partner. He made money, engaged in merchandising and is now one of our solid men financially. He is moderate in his religious and political views and belongs to no societies.

John W. Whelan was born Nov. 1, 1845 and is a native of Wisconsin. He was educated in the common schools and Wisconsin University, graduation from the latter institution in the class of 1871; resided at Monches, Waukesha county from 1845 to 1872; Fort Worth, Texas, from 1872 to 1874; Eau Claire, Wis., from 1874 to 1876; Mondovi, Buffalo county, from 1876 to the present time; taught several terms of school prior to 1872, studied law with Judge Barclay at Fort Worth, Texas and at Eau Claire and was admitted to the bar in that city in 1876, and has practiced law ever since at Mondovi; lives on a farm of 500 acres adjoining Mondovi city; has been president of the Bank of Mondovi since its organization was a member of the Wisconsin Legislature in 1889 and in 1890, and served several terms as the chairman of the county board of supervisors of Buffalo county; was nominated for the assembly in 1890 on the Republican ticket, but was not elected. He was elected to the Senate in 1896, receiving 7,943 votes against 3,857 for Victor Wolff, democrat, and 225 voted for John D. Elldridge, prohibitionist. Mr. Whelan has been remarkably successful as a business man. He is rated one of the substantial men of the county. He is upright in his deals and holds the confidence of the people in a remarkable degree.

Alexander Broadfoot, physician and surgeon, was born in Huron county province of Ontario Canada, on the 9th of November, 1854. His early years were spent in the Clinton grammar school one year, the collegiate institute at St. Catherines two years, the science department of the Toronto University two years and in 1880 he entered the Toronto school of Medicine from which institution he graduated in 1884. The same year he began practicing medicine in Enterprise, Kansas, where he remained two years, going from there to Independence, Wisconsin in Jan. 1887. He remained in Independence six years, enjoying a good practice. Dr. Broadfoot moved to this city in Sept. 1893 and opened an office in the Peeso Block over Luetscher Bros. & Helwig’s store. He soon worked up a good business and in April, 1894, became associated with Dr. Chas. Hebard & Broadfoot, physicians and surgeons. This partnership was dissolved about three weeks ago and Dr. Broadfoot moved to Gilmanton this week at the earnest solicitation of a large number of people of that community whose flattering proposition to the doctor bespeaks the regard in which his professional qualities are held. In his early years he took four years of hospital practice under Dr. James Stewart, now professor is McGill college, Montreal. In 1873 and ’74 the Doctor was principal in a school where all of the students were French. The doctor has been camp physician for the Modern Woodmen of this place and Gilmanton for several years.

Merrick State Park
Source: Wisconsin State Journal (9 May 1932) from the Wisconsin Historical Society Website; transcribed by Sandra Wright

New State Park Named After Merrick, River Pilot
Conservation Commission Honors Memory of Madison Man in 1,000-Acre Mississippi Tract

A new state park, named after George Byron Merrick, early Mississippi river steamboat pilot, Civil war veteran, historian and author who died here a year ago, has been established on the Mississippi at Fountain City Bay, Buffalo county, Paul D. Kelleter, state conservation director, announced it today.

The 1,000 acres contained in the park were given to the state several years ago by John A. Latch, Winona, Minn., who also donated the land in Perrot State park, Trempealeau county.

Wisconsin now has 14 state parks, varying in size from two to 34oo acres. The state also maintains four state forests.
The book “Old Times on the Upper Mississippi” is one of several which brought Berrick a reputation as the best known authority on Upper Mississippi river history.

Merrick, who spent his early boyhood in Prescott where his father had a steamboat warehouse, worked his way up in the business until he knew personally such famous steamboatsmen as Samuel Clemens (Mark twain), V.G. Tibbals, Louis Robert, Walter A. Blair, Russell Blakely, Daniel S. Harris, Grant Marsh and Horace E. Bixby.

Merrick’s ancestors were sailing between Wales, England, and Cape Cod, Mass., as early as the 17th century. Merrick was auditor of the University of Wisconsin and spent the last years of his life here, where he died in 1931.

His widow, Mrs. Marietta Merrick, who was his nurse and constant companion during the invalidism of many years before his death, still lives at their home, 350 West Washington avenue. Mrs. Merrick broke her hip last October in a fall and has been confined to her bed since, but is now convalescing.

When the decision to name the park after Captain Merrick was made, the conservation commission directed that a letter informing her of the fact be sent to Mrs. Merrick before any information was made public, so that she might be the first to know her late husband had been so honored.


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