P.O. Box 37 Black River Falls, WI 54615 715-284-5314
Founded in 1934, the museum is open by appointment only. It is an all volunteer, nonprofit organization and is affiliated with the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. The museum, located at 13 South First Street in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, was the gallery belonging to one of the earlier photographers, Charles Van Schaick. You can see a sample of the photographs here.
The photographs from the widely known book, Wisconsin Death Trip, by Michael Lesy, published in 1973, are from the Van Schaick collection. In 1994, the opera theater of St. Louis, Missouri, put on a performance, "Black River", which was inspired by this book.
In addition to the photo collection, there are displays of many artifacts and manuscripts depicting the early history. The museum also has a variety of books that have been compiled about various areas and events in the county.
A 304 page, hardcover book, Jackson County, A History, includes the history, many photos and 89 pages of family histories is available for purchase. Published in 1984 by the Jackson County Historical Society, it may be purchased from the society for $45.00, includes tax and S&H. Membership dues for the society are: Individual $6.00; family $8.00; and Life $50.00.
Jackson County was formed from Crawford County in 1853. Black River Falls is the county seat. By 1874, there were 10 townships and at present time, there are 21. The Winnebago Tribe were the earliest inhabitants of this area. A group of Mormons, followers of Joseph Smith, were also here in the early days and the temple they constructed at Nauvoo, Illinois, was built with lumber from the "Falls". Many of the later followers of James Strang, known as "Strangite Mormons", came here to settle.
The great wealth of white pine brought the first white settlers here to begin with, but when the lumber camps were gone, it was the farmland that kept them here. The first farmer was a Scotsman, Robert Douglas, who farmed in the Melrose and North Bend area in 1839. Cranberries, sphagnum moss, strawberries, iron ore, etc., were other industries throughout the county.
As the population grew, many nationalities were represented and the variety of the traditions they brought with them to this new county helped create an interesting history.
Black River Falls-The largest city in Jackson County, Black River Falls has enjoyed a long and varied history. Located on the Black River in Adams and Albion townships, Black River Falls was orginally settled by Jacob Spaulding in 1839. Destroyed by fire in 1860, the town was rebuilt in 1861 and has since survived several floods and other calamaties with a strong will and a desire to move forward.
Jackson County Military-Whenever the nation has called, Jackson County has responded to fight for their country and their homeland. Jackson County has had soliders in every war since the Civil War, and all across the county cemetaries bear reminders of those who fell in the line of duty. Black River Falls is proud to have an annual Memorial day parade and ceremony, and the Ho-Chunk pow-wow was also begun to remember the fallen soliders.
Ho Chunk (Winnebago)-When discussing the history of the area it would be a major oversight to not mention the orginal settlers of the land, the Native Americans. After the settlers moved into the area, the Ho-Chunk were shipped off to reservations in Nebraska but soon returned and re-populated the area. The Indian Mission is located in the township of Komensky only a few miles from Black River Falls.
Brockway-The township of Brockway was carved out of Albion in the early 1890's. Located on the east side of the Black River, Brockway provides a striking contrast to the townships on the other side of the river. Home to the Black River State Forest and Castle Mound State Park, Brockway has some of the finest scenery in all of Jackson County.
City Point- Located in the Northeast corner of Jackson County, the township of City Point was created from the town of Sullivan in 1889. Although Sullivan is no longer around, City Point has survived thanks in part to the timber industry, and the many cranberry bogs in the area.
Knapp- While land in the Western part of the county is mostly rich fertile soil, the eastern part of the county is home to more rivers and bogs, which was naturally used to grow cranberries, and for sawmills. The township of Knapp is home to many of the larger lakes in the county. Created from the township of Millston in 1889, Knapp has enjoyed a history of cranberry production, as well as timber production.
Komensky- Komensky, along with Adams, is one of the recently created townships. Created in 1913 from Brockway, Komensky covers much of the north central part of the county. With rivers and railroads crisscrossing the township, it was important for transportation and agriculture. But perhaps the most notable feature of the township is the location of the Indian Mission in the western half of the township. Home to much of the Ho-Chunk population, it has also been the site of annual powwow's since World War II.
Millston-The township of Millston, in south central Jackson County, Millston is home to most of the State Forest. Part of Manchester until 1874, Millston was an important logging center with what historian Lawerence Jones called "some of the highest quality timber found anywhere in the state."
Alma -Located in northern Jackson County, the township of Alma is home to two of the larger villages in the county, Alma Center and Merrillan. Created in 1856 when Albion was cut into smaller pieces, the township of Alma had the only intersection of two of the largest railroads in the country, the Northwest and Green Bay lines.
Cleveland- The township of Cleveland was created from the township of Garden Valley in 1886. Located in Northwestern Jackson county, Cleveland has enjoyed a strong history of agriculture as well as logging.
Garden Valley- Nestled in Northwestern Jackson County, Garden Valley was created from Alma in 1868. Later it was split into Cleveland and Garden Valley. Rich fertile farmland has allowed many generations of farmers to work the soil for many years.
Garfield-The most northwesterly township in Jackson County, Garfield was formed from the township of Northfield in 1881. Home to the town of Levis, as well as the Buffalo River, it is easy to see why many of the early settlers moved into this area.
Adams-The township of Adams is one of the newer townships in Jackson County, carved out of the township of Albion during the 1930's. Located in central Jackson County, Adams is home to Black River Falls, as well as Hatfield, home of one of the more popular recreation spots in the county, Lake Arbutus.
Albion-The Albion Township was the earliest township in Jackson County, once covering the entire county. Located today just west and south of Black River Falls, Albion is home to rich farmland and part of the Black River State Forest.
Curran-Curran is another township that was created from an existing village. In this case, Curran was originally part of Hixton in the period before 1888. Farmland is abundant in this township, and the Trempealeau River provided early settlers with water and transportation.
Hixton-The township of Hixton was created when it was carved off in 1856 from Albion. Home to the villages of Hixton and Sechlerville, Hixton was one of the most important cities in early Jackson County. With the Trempealeau River, and Lowe, Tank, and Stony Creeks irrigation and rich farmland could be found almost anywhere across the township. Hixton also has the G.B.&W railroad running diagonally through the township, making Hixton one of the most important areas in Jackson County.
Springfield-The township of Springfield was created in 1856 from the township of Albion. The largest village in the township is Taylor, located in the northern part of the township. Like much of the area Springfield is moderately hilly with rich fertile farm land, which has been farmed for generations.
Franklin-Created from Irving in 1878, Franklin is located in Southwestern Jackson County. Like much of the area it was settled by Scandinavian immigrants who farmed the land on large plots of fertile soil.
Irving- Located southwest from Black River Falls, the township of Irving was created from Albion in 1856. It's location, almost halfway between Melrose and Black River Falls made it a popular rest stop for travelers in the area.
Manchester- The township of Manchester was created in 1856 from the Albion township. Located in south central Jackson County, Manchester has some of the hilliest land in the county with many rolling hills, especially in the southern part of the township.
Melrose- Orginally known as Bristol, the township of Melrose was created in 1856 from the township of Albion. Located in the southwestern corner of the county, Melrose was one of the most important cities in the area. With the Black River making up the eastern border of the township, large amounts of lumber and supplies were floated down river eventually reaching the Mississippi River and being distributed across the country.
North Bend- Located in the southwest corner of Jackson County, the township of North Bend was created from Albion in 1856. Home to the village of North Bend, the area has enjoyed strong agricultural production, as well as a strong tourist base.
Jackson County Historical Society P.O. Box 37 Black River Falls, WI 54615 715-284-5314