Finding your roots: Trimbelle Township
TOWN OF TRIMBELLE -- Editor's note: This is the 15th article in the "Finding Your Roots" series by the Pierce County Historical Association offering readers a glimpse of Pierce County's pioneer history, by township.
Trimbelle Township was organized on March 2, 1855 in a meeting at Franklin Otis's home. The first election was held in April 1855 with Otis chosen as chairman, John McEwen as clerk and Aaron Cornelison as the first treasurer.
The Aaron Cornelison family were the first settlers in Trimbelle and their daughter, Martha, was the first white child born there on Jan. 17, 1853.
In June 1853, Otis arrived and chose a home site along the river about a half mile from the Cornelison family.
The first sawmill was built in 1853 by O.T. Maxon and later purchased by John Huot. This mill used a vertical saw which was slow but effective, providing lumber for early construction.
Soon many families arrived to crowd the "Big Woods": John McLaughlin, John Beardsley, John Smith, H. McAllister, John McEwen and Lewis Sperry arrived with their families.
The village of Trimbelle was laid out in 1855 or 1856 by Aaron Cornelison with a post office established in 1855; Cornelison was the first postmaster and mail carrier with mail arriving from Prescott once a week. Cornelison established the first store in Trimbelle as well.
In 1856, a church and school were built and a grist mill was operating by Maxon and his father. A grist mill was used to grind grains into flour and meal.
The river had many mills operating along its banks. At least four mills operated on the river above the village of Trimbelle, one in the village, and at least two more below the village are known. By 1876, F.W. Haverlandt was operating what had been the Huot mill just south of the village. Thomas Gordon was doing general blacksmithing in Trimbelle village. J.S. Rounce's furniture factory was operating by 1876 along the Trimbelle. Near the village of Trimbelle in Section 17, the village of Franklin was platted at one time but it never developed.
Below Trimbelle was the settlement of Utah. In 1855, Hannibal Felt constructed a sawmill at Utah which operated for many years under various owners. It is said the community received its name because Felt was Mormon.
Utah was the location of the Jonathan Park's furniture factory in 1867. He added John Reeves as a partner and by 1877 produced bedsteads, lounges, bureaus and chairs.
In 1880, Reeve, Powers and Ottman built the first steam saw mill at Utah and put in equipment to make syrup from amber cane as a side business. J.W. Morrison was doing general blacksmithing at Utah.
Another village found within the boundaries of the township is Beldenville, which was settled by David and O.H. Belden in 1855. They set up a steam sawmill which was operating by the fall of that year. A fanning mill was erected in 1856 by Miles and Grant.
The first store building was put up by A.H. Young in 1856 and C.P. Sargent. George Bennett and Samuel Jameson were the carpenters. This building eventually became S.R. Bolton's repair shop. A second store was built in the spring of 1859 by William Martin, but it caught fire and was destroyed in 1860.
Stave and heading mills for making barrel parts also were built. At its peak, Beldenville had more than 800 residents. Most worked in some form of the lumbering industry. The railroad was completed in November 1885 and provided a way to ship all the lumber products.
The Belden brothers' lumber industry moved to northern Wisconsin in July 1900 and the village of Beldenville decreased in size.
Many vegetable farmers were operating around Beldenville and shipped large amounts of cabbage and pickles by rail car through the 1920s. In 1917 stock yards were built near the depot. In 1924, 33 rail cars of stock were shipped out of Beldenville. The depot was destroyed by fire in the 1930s and never rebuilt due to more goods being shipped by truck.
The community of Ottman Corners also had a post office for many years. A school, church and general store were located there, run for many years by J.T. Beddal, who also had a store in Trimbelle village at one time. The first settler to Ottman Corners was Nelson Ottman arriving in 1859 and claiming land in Section 36. Other early Ottman settlers were the J. Powers, C. Bartlett, and N. Thurber families.
In Trimbelle's history is a surprising story. The following appeared in Easton's History of the Saint Croix Valley, 1909, p. 674, with information from Pierce County Herald:
"Died in Trimbelle, September 18, 1871, of heart disease, Chauncey S. Lamb, aged fifty-eight years, five months and twenty-eight days. May 24, 1872, of same disease, David Orin Lamb aged thirteen years. June 21, 1872, Sarah A. Lamb, of same disease, aged ten years.
"On August 3, 1872, Mrs. Irene H. Ottman, a near neighbor of Mrs. Lamb, died while under Mrs. Lamb's care. It was now hinted by some that poisoning was the cause of these numerous deaths. Many, however were loth (sic) to believe it, as Mrs. Lamb was such a fine Christian-like lady.
"On August 15, 1872, Royal Garland, a bachelor, who had hired Mrs. Lamb to cook for his harvest hands was taken suddenly ill after dinner and died in a short time. His stomach was removed by Dr. Cotton, of Prescott, Wis., and examined by Dr. Hoyt, of Hudson, Wis., for poison. Large quantities of strychnine were found.
"Mrs. Charlotte Lamb was arrested August 26, 1872, by Sheriff Mason, circumstances pointing to her as the author of this capital crime. Previous to her trial at the spring term of court, in 1873, the other bodies were disinterred and strychnine found in all three of them. She was found guilty and sentenced to state's prison for life, but was afterward removed, on the insanity plea, and moved to the insane asylum. Note- She was confined in the asylum for over twenty years before she was
discharged as cured. "
This makes Mrs. Lamb the first known serial killer in Pierce County, our own of version of "Arsenic and Old Lace."
Some early settlers to Trimbelle Township included: A. Cornelison, F. Otis, M.B. Williams, John Smith, H.F. McAllister, David & O.H. Belden, Edwin Green, M. Kezer, John Lynch, Lewis Sperry, Hannibal Felt, John McEwen, Garner Colerud, O.T. Maxon, George Anderson, Andrew Beardsley, John T. Beddall, James Cope, A. Bennett, T. Castello, John Cornelison, Michael F. Harris, F.W. Haverlandt, Lars Larson, Jonathan Locke, J. Huppert, Frank McLaughlin, Joseph W. Maier, Michael Nugent, Nelson Ottman, Ephraim Severance, Fred Severance, Jesse L. Tabor and Clark Williams.
If you have ancestors who were pioneers of Trimbelle Township, the Pierce County Historical Association needs your help. We are looking for information and photos for a summer 2017 exhibit on Pioneers in Pierce County. Photographs of any of the businesses, schools and churches would also be welcome. Photos can be copied and your original returned. PCHA, P.O.Box 148, Ellsworth, WI 54011, or phone 715-273-0118 and leave your contact info.