Monday, October 19, 2009

La Farge's Origins

The Village of La Farge, located alongside the Kickapoo River in west-central Wisconsin, was incorporated in 1899. However, the story of the town's origins stretches back another 40 years. Thomas DeJean claimed land at the site in the mid-1850's. After moving his family to the Kickapoo, DeJean and his son, Anson, built a sawmill at the place where Bear Creek enters the Kickapoo. Later, they built a grist mill near where the sawmill had been. Thomas DeJean built a store building in 1875 north of his mill, at an intersection where two trails crossed that became known as "The Corners". Earlier, Dredsel Bean had built a house and blacksmith shop just north of The Corners. Bean's business drew people to the crossroads and prompted De Jean to open the general store. When Thomas De Jean passed on in 1877, the place was called DeJean's Corners in his honor.
Two miles north of The Corners another community was thriving. Chauncey Lawton has platted a village along the Kickapoo River named Star in the mid-1850's. When Dempster Seely built a sawmill at Star, the village soon grew around the mill location and became known as Seelyburg. Seely employed crews to run the mill, lumber crews to provide lumber for the mill, bridge-building crews, construction crews, and rafting crews to take the lumber to markets. By the mid-1870's several hundred people had settled in the Seelyburg area. A business district grew up along the river to serve the people's needs and a post office was established at Star with Lawton as its first postmaster.
A couple miles below The Corners another settlement was started in the 1850's known as the Lawton District, named after the Lawton family (of which Chauncey was part of) who first settled there. As this little farming community grew, they sought a post office. Sam Green had the post office at his house and the name of La Farge was chosen from a provided list for the postal address.
Eventually DeJean's Corners grew to be a busy commercial center. John Bailey purchased land south of the crossroads and operated an inn and cheese factory from his farm. Henry Millard moved his general store business south from Seelyburg to DeJean's Corners in the 1880's and was followed by other Seelyburg business owners Levi Millison and Charles S. Brown, the photographer. Dred Bean organized a number of area farmers to build a farmer's co-op store at DeJean's Corners in the early 1890's. In 1893 Sam Green allowed his post office to be relocated to the bustling crossroads town and DeJean's Corners officially became La Farge. Green built a store building there and Algon Parker, the harness maker from the Lawton District, followed Green to open a place of business at the new La Farge.
The Kickapoo Valley Railroad reached La Farge in the fall of 1897, making the bustling community its northern terminal and further increasing its commercial desirability. The little village on the Kickapoo was off and running!

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