FAY-L ArchivesArchiver > FAY > 2001-07 > 0994598940
Subject: [FAY] Re: Harrison K. Fay
Date: 8 Jul 2001 07:29:00 -0600
Perhaps the answer is in the following compilation of information that I published recently on these folks in GenWisconsin.
Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2001 19:51:40 -0500
From: "Robert W Fay" <>
Subject: Re: Biron Mill Deed, Portage County was Mineral Point, Brown county Wisconsin Territory
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Hi Bev and all,
This is a very interesting and unknown line of early
Wisconsin history, and your post was the final little
motivation do the research to try to get an answer on
Harrison K Fay and this group.
I have found it very frustrating to find an accurate history
and it seems there are bits and pieces here and there of
sometimes contradictory writings.
I noticed in one of the books at the Historical Society library
in Madison that the surveyor that originally laid out the six
mile wide strip along the Wisconsin river was a member of
Ethan Allens Green Mountain men. He thus would have
known of the potential for building a mill in this area. That is
possibly how our bunch of folks knew of this location.
A fairly close relative of Harrison K Fay is Stephan Fay, the
owner of the Catamount Tavern in Bennington Vermont.
This tavern was the site of Ethan Allen's Council of Safety,
and, after the Revolution, the sons of Stephan Fay,
particularly Jonas were active, along with the Allens, in the
formation of Vermont and up state New York. There are
many references and the one I remember is called Damned
Yankees. There is a great deal of material at the Bennington
Museum on them.
A reference for the Fay's is John Fay of Marlborough and
his descendants, OP Fay [OPF}, 1898. There is a copy in
the Historical Society in Madison. Relevant here is the info
on Harrison and his brothers Elijah and Rice. They are from
Massachusetts. Rice was an early settler in Kane County
Illinois and any of the county history books give an account
of his very straightforward life as a pioneer settler.
There is just a little bit on Harrison in OPF: "b. Sept 10,
1808, m. Isabella Kingston, res. about 40 miles from Racine
Wis at a place called "Big Bull Flats" near Wis. river, known
as the Pineries, the lumber section, 8 children." Paul Kington
of the deed then is likely a relative of Isabella (Kingston) Fay.
OPF was a good genealogist, but a poor geographer when
writing about areas outside of Massachusetts.
The next references I then find are in "The Methodist Church
and Early Racine", EW Leach, 1912 and "The History of
Racine and Kenosha County Wisconsin" Western Historical
Company 1879 in the discussions on the early settlement of
On page 9 of Weeks work it says "In the recollections of
John T Kingston, also in the Wisconsin Historical
Collections Vol 7, he states that "In the November following,
 William See, Harrison K Fay, and Richard Carpenter
of Chicago, and Edmund Weed of Plainfield, made an
excursion as far as the mouth of the Chepekatawsbe-Root
River, the present site of the city of Racine. See and Fay in
company made a claim at the Rapids, two and a half miles
above the mouth of the river." John T Kingston is also a
likely relative of Paul Kingston and Isabella (Kingston) Fay.
In another page of this book Harrison is noted to be a
member of the Methodist Church.
Then there is a confusing discussion of overlapping land
claims including page 291 of the Western work. Ultimately, a
Mr Walker put in a turning mill and Mr See built a saw mill
at the Rapids. There is a picture of See's mill in Leach's
book. Ultimately William Horlick must have acquired both
these mills for his factory and dam. There is a good deal of
additional material on this period of time and these people in
The Racine Historical Museum was kind enough to provide
me with a copy of a [believed to be] 1858 map of Racine
earlier this week and it is readily apparent why Fay and
Carpenter did not stay in Racine. Neither claim abutted the
river, but the claims would have been suitable for farming
when cleared. It seems reasonable to conclude that they were
in the area looking for a mill site and were possibly backed
by money from out east. Note: the surveyors name is J
Hathaway, Jr, US Dept Surveyor.
I cannot find any evidence that Draper was in Racine at this
time. There quite literally were only a handful of people, and
it seems to me more probable that Draper came with Elijah
Fay, brother of Harrison in 1837 possibly.
Carpenter certainly isn't really from Chicago and I did note
that there were 13 Carpenter entries in the OPF book and
suspect there may be some kind of family relationship there.
I could not find a mention of Truesdell either. There is a
Truesdell in Kenosha County somewhat later and from NY.
Next OPF on pages 289-291 gives us a puzzling biography
of Harrison's brother Elijah who was trained as a tanner but
due to the hard times "following the election of General
Jackson" was working in the lumber business.
"....After losing what property he had accumulated, he
sought other means by which to he could sustain himself and
support his young and growing family. Moving to
McDonough, New York he engaged in the lumber business,
he remained one year, had one more child, then went to
Addison New York continued in the business of
manufacturing lumber and rafting it down the Canisto and
Susquehannah rivers, and finding a market for it in
Harrisburg and Baltimore. While living in Addison he had
three more children making nine in all. In the spring of 1836
he had a large quantity of lumber which he constructed into
rafts to float it down the river, and in passing one of the
numerous rapids on the Susquehannah, his rafts were stove
to pieces and in a few moments the labor of the last winter
and the wealth he had accumulated in the business that had
for the last five or six years proved successful, was floating
beyond his control while he and his men narrowly escaped
with their lives......
His family beginning to be of an age whereby they could be
of some help to him in farming, he resolved in the early part
of 1837 to move west, where lands were cheap and
productive, conscious that he could better his condition and
support his family with greater ease. In the month of May he
started with his goods and chattells and children and wife,
going by canal and crossing the "Lakes" in a schooner,
arriving late in June at Racine, Wisconsin, and while his
crops were maturing for days and weeks all the bread his
family had to eat was made of buckwheat flour that they
ground in a coffee mill, there being no mills within two or
three days travel and as he had no horse team, this was the
I speculate that Elijah Fay, Truesdell and Draper come at this
time. Elijah possibly took over the farm of Harrison K Fay or
Carpenter (how else do you explain the crop timing?),
leaving Draper, Carpenter, Kingston and Fay free to acquire
a mill site in the Wisconsin River Valley
I note that I found Elijah and his very large family in the 1840
census in Burnett township, Dodge county(subject to
verification), and the lack of a nearby mill seems more
consistent with Dodge county. Elijah also subsequently
purchased land in Racine, was one of the founders of the
Baptist church in Racine and ultimately moved to Fayville
and Elgin, Kane County, Illinois before 1846 which is near
his brother Rice and his life there seems uneventful..
The next entry that I find is in History of Northern
Wisconsin, Western Historical Company, Chicago, 1881,
First it makes mention of a mill erected by Daniel Whitney in
1831-2 at Whiteney's Rapids below Point Bas.
It continues "In 1836 Amable Grignon and Samuel Merrill
obtained a like permit and built a mill at Grignons Rapids.
The establishment of these mills, foreboading the more
extensive encroachments of civilization, excited the
apprehension of the Indians and they began to make serious
complaints to the Government agents, and a treaty was made
with Menomonee in 1836, at Cedar Point, on the Fox River,
by Governor Dodge by which the Indian title to a strip of
land up the Wisconsin, six miles wide, from Point Bas, forty
miles up the stream, to what is now Wausau.
The great demand and high price for lumber down the stream
had stimulated the business to a considerable extent.
Exploring parties immediately went up the river, and during
the the years 1837-8 and '39 every eligible place on the river
as far as Big Bull Falls, was occupied.
Bloomer & Strong and George Cline secured Grand Rapids;
Fay, Kingston & Draper occupied Biron's Rapids; A.
Brawley was at the Mill Creek; Perry & Veeder were on the
same stream; Conant & Campbell were located at Conant's
Rapids; on the Plover, at McGreer's Rapids were Harper &
Such was the activity on the river that these parties had all
commenced in 1837.
I goes on to discuss other activities and then notes a record
by S A Sherman October 5, 1848 which mentions "Another
party consisting of Miner, Weston, and Kingston went to the
Yellow River and located at Necedah."
Now there is an online source also for the development of
the mills in this area at:
Here's a bit of it and we meet the very same surveyor again:
Joshua Hathaway completed survey of the lands in the
Menominee treaty of 1836 and sent maps and field notes to
the War Department at Washington DC.
One authority states that the first lumber raft sawed at Biron
mill by Fay & Draper went down the rapids. This is not
correct for they did not own it then and the mill probably
was not built before 1841 unless mill was built before land
Oct. 5th Gideon Truesdell, Joshua Draper, Paul Kingston,
and Harrison K. Fay entered Lots 5 and 7 Sec. 34-23-6 the
land and island where "Biron" Mill was located. .
Oct. 3, Adams, Hill & Bloomer enter Govt. Lots 1,2,3 being
the land between Van Buren Street on south and Hooker
street on north, west side, and east of the section line of
Section 8, Centralia.
>From this same source we get this history of the Biron Mill:
"GRAND RAPIDS PULP & PAPER COMPANY"
"CONSOLIDATED WATER POWER & PAPER
"October 5th, 1840, Gideon Truesdell, Joshua Draper, Paul
Kingston and Harrison K. Fay entered Govt. Lots 5 and 7
Sec. 34-23-6, being the land and island whereon the "Biron
Mill" was originally built as a saw mill. Tradition has it to say
that "Fay & Draper" went down the river with the first
lumber sawed at Biron. If this is true then the mill was built
before the owners made an entry of the land, which is very
The title of this property switched around so that when
Francis X. Biron bought it, the deed came to him from
Weston, Heldon and Kingston in 1846. Widow Fay was not
the one to sell the saw mill property at "Biron" to Francis X.
Biron but the successors of the men who entered the land
originally so Biron's title came from Weston, Kinston and
Francis Biron rebuilt the mill that is shown at the top of page
8, in the year 1853. He successfully operated this plant for
years. He died Sept. 28, 1877.
The property went into hands of executors, and about 1890
came into the management of George Severe Biron, the
youngest son. He and his sister, Laura Biron held the
property together. Severe operated the saw mill and in Dec.
14, 1892 the Grand Rapids Pulp & Paper Company was
incorporated by J. D. Witter, G. S. Biron, J. W. Cameron,
Daly S Sampson and E. T. Harmon.
They tore down the old saw till and in 1895 erected the brick
pulp and paper mill shown at the bottom of page 8.
Severe Biron continued with the new company to capacity of
assistant manager with Nels Johnson as manager.
Severe Biron died, Sept. 26. 1899. Severe Biron is one of the
group shown page 90.
The Grand Rapids Pulp & Paper Company had several
different managers, and was finally absorbed by the
Consolidated Water Power & Paper Co. in the year 1911."
A photo of the mill is at:
There is at least one error in this account:"Widow Fay was
not the one to sell the saw mill property at "Biron" to Francis
X. Biron but the successors of the men who entered the land
originally so Biron's title came from Weston, Kinston and
She is hardly a widow as the census taker in 1850 notes her
husband Harrison K Fay to be 41. This, as well as the
change in owners, would need further research.
"Our County Our Story" by Malcolm Rosholt also makes
mention of some of these activities on page 445: "The first
mention of the name "Plover Portage", upper case in both
instances appears in a transcript from the Mineral Point
records when Enoch G Bean, justice of the peace (acting),
recorded a deed of Harrison K Fay at "Plover Portage this
sixteenth day of February AD 1843"
Later in this same work, on pages 446-447 it notes:
"The Isabella Fay Addition in 1856 added Fremont Street,
after John C Freemont, then a popular explorer-hero of the
American West, and Dayton Street, origin uncertain, one
block east, later part of Illinois Avenue. ...
The Isabella Fay & J G Spaulding Addition of 1859 added
Fay Street (shortly changed to Ellis); Kingston Street,
probably after an early village in Green Lake County, and
since 1915 incorporated as East Lincol Avenue; Jeffferson
Street after the president; Martin Street, after J A Martin, a
pioneer surveyor (later incorporated into Michigan Avenue);
Cross Street, probably after William Cross; Chase Street,
after Homer Chase, a senior river pilot; Point Street, after the
abbreviation for the city (later incorporated as part of
Minnesota Avenue); and Reserve Street, after a reserve
It would seem far more likely that she gave Kingston Street
her maiden name than the name of a village.
There are a whole very lengthy series of deeds to this group
of people in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan,
California and Oregon. You can find them online at the
Bureau of Land Management
I had previously said that Isabella Fay was buying land for
the mill. Given her new found activities as a real estate
subdivider, perhaps that was the usage for her needs. But
one needs to wonder what became of the timber on it.
If anyone can add to this or if anyone knows what happened
to these people after the Biron Mill, I'd sure like to hear
about it or their descendants.
On 20 Jun 2001, at 21:56, Bev elmshauser wrote:
> Thank you for sharing this. I would like to know sources for the
> additional reference material if possible, I am very interested in anything
> to do with this Mill, this area, and this time frame. Joshua Draper is my
> direct line and was involved in Lumber interests as he migrated from New York
> to Pennsylvania, through Ohio and Indiana, Wisconsin and finally Minnesota,
> so it is no surprise that this is a mill.
> Joshua had seven children, Alexander, Isaac, Bethuel, Mary, John, Rufus
> E., and Jesse. Bethuel and Alexander remained in Wisconsin when the extended
> family moved to Minnesota around 1849. Joshua and his daughter Mary Gordon
> (Wheeler) were two of the founders of the Baptisit Church in St. Anthony
> (Minneapolis). Rufus E. died in the Soldiers National Home near Milwaukee.
> Jesse was prominent in the founding of Sauk Centre and Parkers Prairie, MN. I
> don't know much about the others yet.
> Robert W Fay wrote:
> > Hi Bev,
> > Well, I researched this post this afternoon as I have been
> > wondering what these guys were doing in Portage. I have
> > mountains of additional reference material on this if anyone is
> > interested.
> > The deed is for land in what is now Portage County, and is
> > the deed for the Biron Mill. In succeeding years, they bought
> > hundreds of additional acres in Portage and surrounding
> > counties for timber for the mill, usually through Isabella Fay,
> > wife of Harrison K Fay. This is one of the large lumber
> > operation in the area at the time.
> > I'd like to hear more about this subject.
> > Bob Fay
> > On 18 Jun 2001, at 21:01, Bev elmshauser wrote:
> > > I have a land patent certificate issued to Gideon Truesdell, Joshua
> > > Draper, Paul Kingston and Harrison Kellogg Fay, Oct 5th 1840, for lots
> > > 5& 7 section 34 township 23 range 6 east, issued at Mineral Point, for
> > > Brown County, Wisconsin Territory.
> > > Does anyone have any idea what county this would be today?
> > > Does anyone have any ties to any of these men?
> > >
> > > Bev