Bio: Putnam, Henry Cleaveland (1914)



Surnames: Putnam, Puttenham, Charlemagne, Boulogne, Rothscild, Wood, Cleaveland, Sargent, Hunniwell, Balcom, Hinkley


----Source: History of Eau Claire County, Wisconsin (1914) pages 830-834


Henry Cleaveland Putnam. No history of Eau Claire would be complete without the record of Henry C. Putnam, for he was one of the pioneers of the city before it became a city, and the activities of his successful life were closely identified with the growth and prosperity of this community. More than that, the history of his family is coeval with the history of this country from early colonial days, and members of both branches of his family were notable in American history.


Like many American families, the Putnams have English ancestors. They are also more remotely descended from Charlemagne through the counts of Boulogne. The original name of the family was Puttenham, contracted in America to Putnam. Puttenham, Vale of Anlesbury, England, was their ancestral home. It is mentioned in the survey under William the Conqueror, 1085 A. D., and recorded in the Domesday Book. From or soon after the latter part of the 12th century the Puttenhams were undisputed lords of the manor of Puttenham, which remained among their possessions until the middle of the 16th century and now belongs to Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild. Sir George de Puttenham was one of the courtiers at the court of Queen Elizabeth of England and wrote a book on "Poesie" for the lords and ladies of the court.


The American line is clearly traced back to John Putnam, who was born in 1582 in England, settled at Salem, Mass., in 1634, and died in 1662. The second generation is represented by John, Jr., the third and fourth by Eleazer, and the fifth by Henry, who, with his seven sons, took part in the battle of Bunker Hill, where he and three of the sons were killed. Of his surviving sons, Eleazer was the father of Dr. Elijah Putnam, who removed in 1792 from the vicinity of Boston to Madison, N. Y., where he practiced his profession and was a widely respected citizen. His wife was Phoebe Wood. Of their sons, Hamilton, born in Madison in 1807, married Jeanette Cleaveland, a descendant of Moses Cleaveland, who removed in 1635 from Ipswich, England, to Woburn, Mass., and from whom all the Cleavelands in this country are descended, as are all the Putnams from John Putnam. Hamilton Putnam was a merchant at Madison in early life, but removed in 1842 to Cortland, N. Y., where he engaged in farming.


Henry C. Putnam was the son of Hamilton and Jeanette (Cleaveland) Putnam, and was born in Madison, N. Y., March 6, 1832. His parents moved to Cortland, N. Y., in 1842 and there he received his early education in the public schools and the old Cortland Academy. At the age of sixteen he began the study of engineering at a private school in Cornwall, Conn., and made such progress that in 1850 he was given a position as civil engineer on the Syracuse & Binghamton Railroad. He remained in the service of that corporation for two and one-half years, after which he went into the South and was employed for two years on railroads in South Carolina and Georgia.


In August, 1855, Mr. Putnam came to the state of Wisconsin, and, with headquarters at Hudson, he engaged in surveying and locating government lands. In 1856 he became an engineer for what is now the Prairie du Chien division of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad.


On May 23, 1857, he settled in Eau Claire and made it his permanent home. In that year he also entered permanently into the business of surveying and locating pine lands, at first for eastern capitalists and soon for himself, and within a few years became largely interested in timber properties.


In addition to his ability as an engineer and his knowledge of forestry he was gifted with rare business acumen, and his interests steadily increased until he became one of the most prominent business men in the state.


He was a man of varied capacities and of marked ability in each. Admittedly one of the most thorough and practical authorities on forestry in the United States, he was also devoted to the study of geology from his youth, and read in nature's book the secrets of her long life. He developed the artistic side of his mind by study and made an interesting collection of old prints and engravings. He was a man of fine business acumen, a successful banker and an able public official. He was agent in Wisconsin for the Cornell University and located for the university the large body of fine timber lands on the Chippewa river and its tributaries, from the sale of which the university afterwards derived such a large sum of money, and which placed that institution among the wealthiest in this country. He was a member and for some time vice-president of the American Forestry Association, and between the years 1880 and 1883 he examined the forests of the western states and territories, and also of British Columbia, under the direction of Professor Sargent, of Boston, and his report on the condition and resources of those forests was embodied in the tenth census of the United States. In 1883 he was engaged by the Northern Pacific Railway Company to make a special examination of the forests tributary to their lines and to make a report thereon. Both this report and that prepared for Professor Sargent are still regarded as models.


In 1885 he visited France, Germany and Switzerland to examine the forests of those countries and to study the methods of replanting there employed. Subsequently he made a report of his observations to the British Association of Science, of which he was a member, and his report was pronounced the most practical and satisfactory ever made to the association. He also made a map of Pennsylvania, which was adopted by the government in preference to those of the "scientific" timber experts.


Mr. Putnam was a stockholder and director in many enterprises, among them being the Grand Ronde Lumber Company of Oregon, the Bow River Lumber Company of Calgary, B. C, the Brennan Lumber Company of St. Paul, the Rust, Putnam & Owen Company of northern Wisconsin, the Pioneer Furniture Company of Eau Claire, and several minor concerns. In 1876 he organized the Chippewa Valley Bank in Eau Claire, which was one of the solid financial institutions of its day, and proved a strong auxiliary to his extensive operations, as well as a boon to the then young city.


When the timber supply, and consequently the manufacture of lumber, began to decline Mr. Putnam was one of the first to make an endeavor to furnish other kinds of employment for the working people of Eau Claire. To that end he organized the Eau Claire Linen Company, of which he became president and took stock in the National Electric Manufacturing Company and other new enterprises. These were not profitable for the capitalists, but they served to benefit the working people during a period of transition.


Out of the events of Mr. Putnam's career might be woven an epic of the woods, or the story of a master of industry, or the pleasing history of an altruist. With all his exploitation of the forests and the building up of massive business projects he still found time for the cultivation of his own mind and for beneficient thought of his city and his fellowmen. In the early days of Eau Claire he served it officially as surveyor and register of deeds, and during the fifty-six years of his residence in the city he was

one of its most patriotic citizens.


Putnam Park, which is conceded to be one of the handsomest natural tracts in the United States, was donated to the city of Eau Claire by Mr. Putnam. This splendid park comprises 230 acres upon which much of the original timber still stands, adding greatly to its beauty and attractiveness. Also in his will he left the generous sum of ten thousand dollars to be expended on improvements upon the park, and his heirs are faithfully carrying out his wishes.


In religious belief he was a Presbyterian and a member of the First Presbyterian church in Eau Claire, of which he was a trustee for many years. He laid the cornerstone of the first building erected by that church in 1857. It was a wooden structure, and when the society desired to replace it with a finer and more commodious edifice, in 1891, he subscribed one-fourth the entire cost. Also he was the prime mover in giving Eau Claire its present splendid Y. M. C. A. building. He made the first donation to the building fund, the handsome sum of twenty thousand dollars, stipulating that the city raise thirty thousand more so as to make a fifty thousand dollar fund, and so earnestly did he advocate the cause that contributions aggregating eighty thousand dollars came in. To him is due the credit, not only for its inception, but for the success of the movement that gave the city this edifice of which its citizens are proud. He was a prominent Mason and was one of seven men who established the first, Masonic lodge in the Chippewa valley. All good projects and movements found his ready and hearty support. The overtone of his business life was progress and of his moral life uplift.


On August 8, 1858, Henry Cleaveland Putnam married Jane Eliza, daughter of Henry and Mary (Hunniwell) Balcom, of Oxford, N. Y. Their children are Ernest B. Putnam, a business man and banker of Eau Claire and Sea Breeze, Fla., and Sarah Lynn, now Mrs. James O. Hinkley, of Chicago.





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