Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Founder of Pine Creek?

     These perplexing sentences introduce the section on Pine Creek in the 1917 Curtiss-Wedge History of Trempealeau County:
It was probably around 1862 when the Polish people began to settle in Pine Creek. They were induced to locate here by John Schmangle, a man who spoke English, German, and Polish.
"Probably around 1862:" the origins of Pine Creek were mysterious even a century ago. The questions of who first settled there and when they settled will likely never be worked out satisfactorily. But I do think I have solved the mystery of who "John Schmangle" was. Or at least some of it.

    The US Land Office records show that John Schmangler of Trempealeau purchased the SESE quarter of section 34 in Arcadia Township, totaling 40 acres, on New Year's Day 1861.
He apparently homesteaded this property: military records show that John Schmengler of Arcadia enlisted in Company C of the 30th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry on August 20, 1862. He was mustered out on September 20, 1865, without having participated in any of the Civil War's major battles. On June 1, 1868 he purchased two more parcels of land: 40 more acres of section 34 in Arcadia Township and 58.27 acres of section 2 of Dodge Township. An 1877 plat map of Trempealeau County lists "J. Shmengler" owning property in Dodge. He then passes from the history of Trempealeau County.

     The 1900 US Census shows John Schmengler, born in Germany in December 1832, veteran of the 30th Wisconsin Infantry, as living in Hazel Green, Wisconsin. A1903 transaction shows that one Florence A. Cannon, of Duluth. took possession of 120 acres in Itasca, Minnesota homesteaded by John Schmengler. The 1905 Wisconsin state census is the last to mention him; he is buried in Hazel Green beneath a headstone indicating his military service but no date of death.

Why did someone who evidently played such a major role in the founding of Pine Creek vanish so completely? It would be fascinating to know more.

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