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City of Eau Claire turns 149

Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 4:56 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 19, 2021 at 7:14 AM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Friday is an important day in the history of Eau Claire, the city was born on this day in 1872.

The city of Eau Claire became what we know today exactly 149 years ago but there were people living here long before that.

By the 1850s, there were nearly 7,000 people living in the area in three separate villages, known as West Eau Claire, East Eau Claire, and North Eau Claire. The city of Eau Claire was born when all three villages decided to come together to form one larger civic government and establish police, fire, and other services.

After negotiating, the charter was approved on March 19, 1872 and the city of Eau Claire was born, bringing together three villages previously separated by the rivers.

“The only way to get across the river, the Chippewa was by ferry until 1869 so a good decade until they even built the bridge so that would be a big deterrent from anybody wanting to go to one to the other,” said Carrie Ronnander, the executive director at the Chippewa Valley Museum. “Today we talk about the city of bridges and really the bridges is what unites the city in many ways, physically it allows people to move back and forth.”

The rivers play a large part in what made Eau Claire a desirable place to live nearly 150 years ago, sawmills were popping up across town and large farms provided plenty of jobs in the area.

From that charter back in 1872, there are some reasons the city of Eau Claire is set up the way that it is today. The city hall was located on the east side of the river. The county courthouse was also on the east side, in the area where Wilson Park is located today. But the west village wanted some political power on their side of the river, so the courthouse was moved to the west side, where it is today, and the city hall stayed on the east side.

To celebrate the 149th birthday of the city of Eau Claire, the Chippewa Valley Museum has an exhibit looking back the development over the last 150 years in the greater Chippewa Valley.

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