Moment in Time: The Biron mill
By Rapids City Times staff
This story begins a series on the Biron mill, assembled from several historical collections and books, as well as interviews with Biron mill employees. The series will continue through upcoming editions.
The dam and saw mill that served as originators for what is now the Nine Dragons Paper mill was built in 1837, long before Francis X. Biron came to the area. The first lumber raft of white pine headed down the Wisconsin River two years later. The Biron mill property changed hands at least twice before it came under the ownership of Frances Biron; but first, Biron got a start in the mercantile business.
Biron, a Quebec native, spent time in Galena, IL, before moving to Grand Rapids in 1943. Here, he set up shop on the intersection of First and Baker streets.
The 1923 “History of Wisconsin Rapids, Wood County, Wisconsin” chronicles a portion of Biron’s early venture after coming to Grand Rapids:
“A new way of getting supplies from Galena was tried when, on the 27th day of August, 1846, Francis Biron went from Grand Rapids to Dubuque, Iowa, and there chartered a wood barge owned and commanded by Capt. F. Sanville, and Mr. Biron engaged ten men to manage the craft, and floated down the Mississippi to the mouth of the Fever River, and ascended this river to Galena, eight miles, and at this place Mr. Biron loaded the barge with groceries and provisions and lumbermen’s supplies, and started down Fever River to the Mississippi River, and up this river by means of poles, oars, and cardells. A cardell is a half inch line, from 100 to 200 feet long, of which one end is made fast to the barge and the other held by men on shore hauling up the craft. This was done when and wherever the banks of the stream would permit it; and by so doing, on the eighth day after leaving Galena, they arrived at Prairie du Chien, and at the mouth of the Wisconsin, a distance of 75 miles from Galena; and now they proceeded up the Wisconsin in the same manner as above described, passing Sauk Prairie, Portage, and through the Dells, and finally landed at Pointe Basse September 27, it being the twenty-second day of that eventful enterprise. The cargo was equal to 30 wagon loads. From Pointe Basse, Mr. Biron hauled his merchandise to this place in wagons. Thus ended the venture and enterprise of one of Grand Rapids’ early pioneers.”
In 1846, Biron purchased the saw mill that would lead to his lasting legacy in the area.
Next week: The White House