THE LAND & THE PEOPLE
Welcome to EIGHTY ACRES
History of Eighty Acres
The rich prairie farmland and rolling hills surrounding Eighty Acres in Northwestern Wisconsin near the city of Menomonie, are the result of the Earth Mother’s timeless and purposeful creation. Just as an artist’s hands carefully molds soft clay, the Earth Mother has carefully carved each valley, river, prairie and hill through countless centuries.
Geologists believe the land that encompasses Eighty Acres goes back to the Potsdam sandstone period and that the Laurentian hills in the state of Wisconsin once belonged to the old Appalachian range. Over 10,000 years ago, after the glaciers receded and the waters disappeared, Eighty Acres appeared. Archeological evidence indicates the earliest human inhabitation of this region dates back to 9500-6500 B.C. The Paleo Indians were nomadic hunters who likely battled mastodons, mammoths, musk ox and caribou. Next were the Archaic Indians (6500-550 B.C.), the Woodland Tribes (550B.C.–1600 A.D.), the Mississippian Tradition (900-1600 A.D.) and finally the Historic Period (1600-present).
French Explorers arrived during the Mississippian and Historic periods. The land was dominated by the Santee Dakota. Because of hunting pressures, the Ojibwa moved into the region resulting in warfare between the two Nations. Hostilities ceased in 1825 when the Treaty of Prairie du Chien established a demarcation line that gave the land north of the line to the Ojibwa, and the land to the south to the Dakota. This demarcation line, currently known as Lambs Creek, running along the Red Cedar River, is a short distance from Eighty Acres. The Europeans found this region covered with towering White Pine trees. In 1846, capitalizing on this valuable natural resource, Knapp-Stout and Company became the world’s largest lumbering operation. Knapp-Stout owned more than one-half million acres throughout Northern Wisconsin. The forest of towering trees was clear cut which ultimately opened the land creating fields and pastures for Wisconsin’s dairy industry.
The original Native Americans believed a person could never own the land. They felt it was their responsibility to serve as caretakers. The European settlers, however, believed that land needed to be purchased and legal documents filed to protect their ownership.
Such was the case for Eighty Acres. A review of Abstract to Title indicates the land has had numerous owners over the past 150 years. The first entry in the Abstract goes back to October 1, 1860 when President James Buchanan deeded the property to John B. Rittanhaus. Over the years, the owners’ names changed like the seasons: Sherburne, Schleusner, Smith, Schryver, Wahl and Wilson. Throughout this time, the land and its people have experienced deaths, births, bitter cold and dangerous winters, warm spring and summer days, droughts, and bumper harvests.
In 1990, my wife Terry and I purchased Eighty Acres and moved into our new home in 1991. Shortly after settling in, I felt a need to capture the essence of the land through my camera lens. I first needed to gain the Earth Mother’s trust and train my eyes to see her gifts and hear her voice. Over the past twenty-five years and thousands of photographs, I feel fortunate to have captured some of her spirit. But She is shy and mysterious and may only reveal her stories after you prove your patience, perseverance and respect.
So each day I pack my camera bag with hope. Hope that She will share one of her gifts with me. Hope that I will hear her song, feel her moods, and understand why there is a need to protect her for future generations. Hope that my efforts will capture a mere sliver of the history of Eighty Acres.
I invite you to join me and explore Eighty Acres. Come walk with me. Become a part of a moment, sense the awe and wonder. Maybe we’ll catch the spirit of the Native American hunters, or the auctioneer’s voice at a sheriff’s sale. Watch an evening sunset, smell an autumn campfire, feel the breeze on your cheek or hear the endless chatter of the Blue Jays.
No need to travel afar. It’s all here on Eighty Acres.
Dunn County Abstract and Title, Inc. 815 7th St. Menomonie, Wisconsin 54751
Lynch, Larry and John M. Russell eds. Where the Wild Rice Grows: A Sesquicentennial Portrait of Menomonie. 1996.
Town of Red Cedar: Dunn County, Wisconsin 2015 website