Ron Johnstad’s book, Pigeon Falls … As I Remember It (see the Nov. 19 post), got me thinking again about this place of Borreson roots and sent me back to notes I’d taken a while back. What was early Pigeon Falls like? From H. A. Anderson’s “Historical Sketch of the Town of Pigeon” in an old book, History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin (1917), I’ve constructed this timeline for early Pigeon Falls, “this beautiful and prosperous village and its vicinity” (p. 877).
- 1865 – a New Yorker named Cyrus Hubbard Hine explored Pigeon Creek in the summer and found “a place where the waters leaped and sang over a rocky bottom.” In the fall he built a home, feed mill and carding mill (every settler had a few sheep with wool to be carded).
- 1870 – Andrew Olson and his brother-in-law opened a store across from Hine’s mill.
- 1873 – On April 8 Hans Johnson was appointed postmaster and the name Pigeon Falls was used. Note: Elias Borreson arrived and bought land in the Town of Pigeon this year.
- 1875 – Peder Ekern bought Olson and Johnson’s store and its stock of merchandise. Note: In May or June, newly arrived immigrant Bertinus Estensen was given a ride to Pigeon Falls from Black River Falls where Peder Ekern was picking up supplies for his store.
- 1876 – A literary and debating society, the Pigeon Falls Sentinels, began and continued for many years.
- 1880 – Peder Ekern bought Hine’s farm and mill; he was on his way to becoming a central figure in the community. Note: our grandmother Gina Estenson was born July 25 in Fitch Coulee.
- 1881 – The first school served the community.
- 1882 – A creamery began operating for three years by F. W. Hinckley.
- 1884 – One Lutheran church in the community divided into two, with two young peoples’ societies as well.
- 1885 – Peder Ekern’s creamery plant began operations December 8.
- 1892 – Ekern sold the creamery to a farmers’ association in May, it burned in October, and by December 1 Ekern had built another creamery.
- 1898 – Ekern incorporated his businesses under the name “P. Ekern Company” and died a year later, passing his businesses to the management of his son-in-law B. M. Sletteland.
- 1900s – early in these years Steig and Jacobson began a general mercantile business.
- 1903 – The school now required the services of two teachers.
Other notes about those early years (prior to 1917): For 40 years there had been a good blacksmith, and most of the time, a shoemaker. There was a meat shop for several years. Currently a band of forty pieces was entertaining the community. A lodge by the name of the Scandinavian American Fraternal Society existed for many years and had built its own hall.
On a sad note, the greatest afflictions seem to have been repeated diphtheria epidemics causing deaths of numerous children. The Lauitz Sinrud family alone had lost five members in one week of January 1888. The most destructive storm was June 24, 1914, taking down sheds and expensive barns. And finally, the community was disappointed by Green Bay and Western company which failed to build a railway through the Pigeon Valley when “promoters got bigger bonuses by choosing Trempealeau Valley.”