Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI
June 24, 2009, Page 18
Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.
History of the Mormons shared
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Clark County and the surrounding areas gathered for a weekend of learning, fun and some work. Their first stop was the “Mormon Settlements” marker in front of the Greenwood Library. The marker is Wisconsin Landmark #23, Wisconsin Council of Local History, which tells about the Mormons in early Clark County. (Contributed photo)
During the weekend some of the history of the Mormons in Clark County was shared. Information presented was gathered from various histories of Clark County located on the Internet and from local longtime residents who are members of the church. Historians writing about Clark County state the first white people living in Clark County (at the time, still part of Jackson County) were the Mormons (also known today as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
The historical accounts of Clark County begin with the statement the first white men in Clark County were the Mormons. They came for the white pine. The descriptions of the amount of lumber that was logged out by all who came here is astounding. One account mentioned the logs may have measured two hundred feet. Various accounts of the Mormon logging operations mention the waterways in and around Neillsville and Greenwood and the amount of lumber they were able to float down the Black River to Black River Falls and then as lumber down the Mississippi River to the Nauvoo community, which was created from a mosquito-infested swamp at a bend of the Mississippi River in Illinois. Many of the homes and stores that were originally built in the early 1800s are not restored or rebuilt.
A piece titled “Early Clark and Jackson Counties History,” An Unwritten Page, transcribed by Ken Wood and authored by Fred W. Draper, states, “…on the banks of Black River extending north from about the southern boundary of Clark County to about six or seven miles north of Neillsville by the river were several old clearings made in a very early day, and known by the early settlers as the ‘Mormon Clearings’.” Also the river drivers used to tell of driving logs through the ‘Mormon Riffles’ [a shallow extending across a streambed and causing broken water] on the Black River.
“During the summer of 1843, there were 150 men in the pineries [grove of trees], besides women and children; clearings were made north along the river, scattered from the falls to seven or eight miles north of the mouth of O’Neill Creek.”
“During this season timber was cut upon the main river, the East Fork, Wedges Creek, and Cunningham, and probably some upon O’Neill Creek. The Cunningham was named for one of their number by that name who fell in the creek near its mouth and was drowned.”
Wood also stated; I have definitely established that the lumber used in the construction of the Nauvoo Temple and the Nauvoo House was actually cut within the present boundaries of Clark County upon the Black River and its tributaries and floated down the Mississippi to the city of Nauvoo, which is situated just north of Keokuk, IA.”
Another source states, “In 1844 [though other sources say as early as 1841], a number of Mormons attracted by the immense pine forests, came up the Black River and cut a supply of logs which they floated down the river to Black River Falls, and thence down the Mississippi River to Nauvoo, Illinois, for use in a large Mormon tabernacle being erected at the place.”
Through music, drama and dance the annual Nauvoo Pageant (performances run July 7 – Aug. 1) shows how the Mormons came together in the early 1800s, even in the most challenging circumstances, to build a community.
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