Bio: Carson, William (1825 - 1898)


Surnames: Carson, Eaton, Wales, Rand

----Source: History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin (1914) pages 669-670

William Carson. The death at Eau Claire in 1898, of William Carson, closed the career of one of the earliest settlers in the state of Wisconsin, a man well known throughout this region from the territorial times, and whose life and services were such as should be an inspiration to the living. The creator of important industrial enterprise, a man of wealth, his life emphasized the truth that enterprise and wealth are not inconsistent with the highest standards of character and conduct. He was the type of pioneer whose name and biography should properly have a place in this history of Wisconsin.

William Carson was born at Inverness, lower Canada in 1825, and of Scotch ancestry. At the age of eleven years, in 1836, alone in the world, he set out for the United States and arriving in Cambridge, Massachusetts, made his first serious venture at earning his own way, and although only a child in years he succeeded. His determination was ripened by a brief experience in the east to learn the broader field of opportunity in the west. In 1837, William Carson became a resident of Illinois, in the southern part of the state. After a short time he went to St. Louis, and in 1838 to Wisconsin territory. His age then was thirteen, and his first employment was in the lumber camps near Prairie du Chien. His alertness and his foresight, and appreciation of opportunities about that time came into evidence, when he filed a claim upon ground where the present city of North Eau Claire is built, and in 1839 sold his claim at a handsome profit. That was one of the first ventures which started him toward a large success. His work continued in various lines, but principally in lumbering, and all the time he was carefully saving his money with a view to a future investment. In 1840 William Carson located in Eau Galle, Wisconsin, where in partnership with Henry Eaton and George C. Wales he was one of the factors in the operation of a large sawmill. The firm of Wales, Carson & Eaton became well known in lumber circles, and the mill which cut about ten thousand feet of lumber each day was one of the biggest in capacity of that period. Carson and Eaton later bought out Mr. Wales' interests, and continued to operate on a large and successful scale. Finally Mr. Carson bought out Mr. Eaton's interests, and with E. D. Rand as partner the firm of Carson and Rand came into existence. They operated the mill up to 1874, when it was deemed advisable to discontinue the business because timber had become so scarce that the mill could only be run at a loss. However, they continued the operation of their flouring mill and store in Eau Galle. In 1874 Mr. Carson moved to Eau Claire, to take over the management of the Valley Lumber Company, in which he and Mr. Rand had bought a large interest, and of which he had been elected treasurer and president. That was perhaps his leading position in the business world for a number of years, though at the same time his official connection and investment in other enterprises were of an important nature. He was interested in the Rand Lumber Company, and the Burlington Lumber Company, both at Burlington, Iowa, and in the Carson-Rand Company, of Keokuk, Iowa. Mr. Carson was connected with several large lumber companies in Wisconsin, and was looked upon as one of the representative lumbermen of the state. He was stockholder and vice president in the Eau Claire National Bank, and deeply interested in any enterprise that affected the welfare of the city where he made his home for so many years. During the decade between 1874 and 1884 he lived in St. Paul, Minnesota, but returned to Eau Claire, where his death occurred in 1898. In politics the late Mr. Carson was a staunch Democrat, was very active in all campaigns, but refused to support, his party in its contest for free silver in 1896, and never under any circumstances would accept the nomination for office.

As a pioneer, William Carson had made a reputation for his progressive ideas, and for the innovation which he introduced. He it was who brought the first horse into the Chippewa Valley, and sowed the first wheat there. He also built the first house that boasted of plastered walls in the Chippewa Valley. He was one of the most interesting of the early settlers of Wisconsin, and one of the men whom the younger generation loved to remember, for he was among those who helped to make this state.



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