Jackson County farm has rich history

posted March 5, 2018 8:42 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Gordon Waller, Augusta (Eau Claire County)

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    More than 100 years ago, Sophia (Bibby) Webb sent this picture postcard to her sister Jennie (Bibby) Tucker in Tolt, Wash., showing her son with his prize horses. The sisters were two of 15 children from a family of pioneers who purchased land in 1854 in a community they called Glasgow in Trempealeau County. Sophia's family owned the “Webb Farm” near Melrose in Jackson County; their farm was sold to Tom and Ann Pfaff in the 1960s. The postcard read: Dear Sister: I have not heard from you for a long time ... will send you picture of our prize winners ... these two took 1st prize for best mare with colt and best sucking colt at Galesville and also at B.R. Falls fair ... they are both black ... it is a good picture of Stanley took (sic) and he is very proud of his colt ... we are all well at present ... love to all from sister S. Webb.

A one-cent picture postcard was mailed from Melrose, in Jackson County, to Tolt, Wash., in October 1909. It had been perfectly preserved for more than a century before I received it in 2015. It was delivered to me with a shoebox full of family pictures from West Coast relatives. Sophia “Sophie” Webb had sent this picture of her son Stanley with his prize horses (a mare with a colt) to her sister Jane “Jennie” Tucker. Sophie and Jennie were two of 15 children born to a pioneer couple, Richard and Mary (Faulds) Bibby, who came from Scotland and were among the first settlers in the community of Glasgow in southeastern Trempealeau County.

We assume that the picture on the postcard was taken on the Webb farm southwest of Melrose about a mile north of the Black River. This land is part of the early history of agriculture and white settlement in Jackson County. Seventy years prior to this picture, Robert Douglas, also from Scotland, had traveled up the Mississippi River on a steamboat from Prairie du Chien as far as Prairie La Crosse where he disembarked. He then walked east about 30 miles along the right bank of the Black River to a place where the river ran mostly east and west. On April 30, 1839, using a crude raft, he crossed over to the opposite bank (north side) of the Black River. After looking over the flat, open prairie land and examining the soil, Douglas reportedly exclaimed, “Here is where I cast my lot!”

After Robert Douglas had been joined by several brothers, a sister and their father, the Douglas family occupied several hundred acres of prime farmland having only a “squatter’s right.” They introduced domestic livestock to the area and planted the first crops raised by white settlers in Jackson County. To construct buildings, they purchased lumber from the Spaulding sawmill at Black River Falls that they floated down the Black River to Douglas Settlement. They also traded with local Winnebago Indians. Many Scottish immigrants came and settled in the area between Galesville and Melrose during the latter half of the 19th century. Decorah Prairie, east of Galesville, was originally called “Scotch Prairie.” The Scottish people organized congregations of the Presbyterian church, and they introduced curling, a winter sport common in Wisconsin to the present. A nearby village that developed as additional white settlers arrived was at first called Bristol and then later became the village of Melrose.

About 1900, Sophie and her husband, Alfred Webb, moved from a 200-acre farm in Hardscrabble to what then became known as the “Webb Farm” — both farms were in Jackson County. Jennie and her husband, George Tucker, had moved to their farm in Tolt, Wash., in about 1889 from a failed homestead in the northeastern corner of Dakota Territory — now Walsh County, N.D. Because of the difficult time the Tucker family had had there in Dakota Territory, George vowed that he was going to walk west and not stop until he found a better place. He later returned to Glasgow, Wis., to take his wife, Jennie, west on the Canadian Pacific Railroad — a five-day trip. Their farm was at Tolt, Wash., a town later renamed Carnation because a large dairy operation became prominent there. Relatives of Jennie’s mother, William and Rhoda Faulds, moved to Tolt in 1889 where they operated a general store; other Faulds relatives moved to Washington in 1891.

Sophie and Alfred Webb raised four children on their farm at Melrose — Grace, Frank, Stanley and Fannie. Later, Fannie and her husband, Howard Hemmy, operated the Webb farm at Melrose until it was sold in 1962. Jennie and George Tucker raised five children on their dairy farm in Tolt — Mary, Jessie, Marian, Robert and Elizabeth. Roberta “Bobbie” Ulrich, daughter of Robert and a freelance writer, made contact with her Wisconsin relatives after her retirement. When she was a small girl, Roberta remembers a Richard Bibby had come from Wisconsin for her grandmother’s funeral in 1938. We think he was Richard Bibby III, who would have been unmarried and about age 40 at that time. Prior to Bobbie visiting us in about 2000, Sophie’s funeral may have been the last time any of these West Coast Tuckers had had contact with their Wisconsin Tucker/​Bibby relatives.

In 1962, the Webb farm was purchased by Lawrence and Grace Pfaff. Their son, Tom, and his wife, Ann, began their farming career here at that time. The Pfaff family replaced most of the farm buildings except for the house that had burned down and was rebuilt during the 1950s. In 1970 the Pfaffs built a state-of-the-art dairy barn to house 51 cows. Today, Tom Pfaff Jr., his wife, Sara, and their family have built a newer state-of-the-art dairy farm across the road from the Webb farm. More than 500 cows are milked with robotic milkers on this farm. They raise all their own replacements and crop more than 1,500 acres to produce their own feed. In 2015 the Pfaff farm produced corn yields in excess of 300 bushels per acre. Their milk is hauled directly to the Twin Cities fluid-milk market in semitrailer milk trucks owned and operated by the Pfaffs. On June 7, 2014, Pfaff’s Prairie Dairy hosted the Jackson County On The Farm Breakfast serving about 1,800 guests.

Thomas Pfaff Sr., after serving in the U. S. Army, used the G.I. Bill to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture from Wisconsin State College at River Falls (now UW-River Falls). Upon graduation, Tom obtained employment as a livestock buyer working for Wilson & Company at Albert Lea, Minn. After three years as a livestock buyer for Wilson, Tom resigned from this secure position and ventured into private business as a farmer on the Webb farm. It would seem that both Alfred Webb and Tom Pfaff, like Robert Douglas who had chosen this Jackson County farm in 1839, had fully committed themselves, saying. “Here is where I cast my lot!”

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