WISCONSIN: Historic City Series – The View From Meridean’s Mainstreet

January 14, 2016 Travis Dewitz

Wisconsin Historic City Series Meridean

Meridean, Wis.

The quaint village of Meridean, Wisconsin once boasted a bustle of activity during the lumbering days; yet, change throughout time is inevitable. Those of us who engage and preserve history are keenly aware of this. Reflecting on change in landscapes leaves us searching and learning as we trace the quiet countryside’s and broad wanders of the Chippewa River bottoms. Local communities experience such changes all the time. If local industries go out of business, a small town can be devastated. In the mid 1880’s Meridean was a thriving place with a post office, school, sawmill, and a ferry; it depended vastly on the travel of the Chippewa River. This township has seen many changes over a century and half and now is a storied community of history and layers of ghost lore. When travel changed from boats on the river to travel by rails, the town died out. What is today a boat landing was at one time a ferry crossing where people traversed the Chippewa River to the island better known as Happy Island.

Meridean Road

Meridean Road through Meridean, Wis.

The Eau Claire Lumber Company bought the Old Meridean saw mill in 1869 and they constructed the ferry to cross the Chippewa River. The original Meridean was located on Happy Island and was founded as a sawmill town. There were also numerous farms located on the island as well. The ferry ran across the river on a steel cable and was a vast floating wooden platform. This cable was tied to large steel beams that were pounded in the landscape on both sides of the river; a separate cable was then used to passage the ferry across the Chippewa. The ferry charged five cents a person, ten cents a head of cattle, and twenty-five cents for a team of horses as it transported from the north side to the south side of the Chippewa and back. The lumber company on Happy Island closed from Old Meridean in 1892 when the logging industry started its decline. The Meridean Mill was in operation from 1863-1892. It produced lumber, lath and shingles and was the economic center of Old Meridean; which died with the mill and relocated where it’s presently today. The village of Meridean moved to the town of Peru by 1900 since the Chippewa’s unpredictable floods had forced the people and businesses out of Old Meridean. By the year 1925, the village established itself with Meridean State Bank, a creamery and two garages.

Historians have discovered a number of stories behind how Meridean got its name. All of them make mention to a girl named “Mary Dean.” The story that captivates us most is about Mrs. Dean and her daughter Mary traveling on the Chippewa River by steamboat. Mary, the fascinating young soul, won the hearts of many of the passengers during the journey. She abruptly became sick and was taken ashore where she died and was buried under a tree; which locals say was washed away by the floods. The area was then named “Meridean” to commemorate her. Locals today share tales of haunting adventures of Mary Dean near the boat landing. Regardless of how Meridean received its’ name, it is obvious that the River holds stories of adventure, history, change, and preservation. – written by Erika Johnson


New Meridean School – 1926


I believe this is the old Brack’s Store and Jackson Bros. Garage


I think this is the old Meridean Bank




Meridean Lutheran Church



Where the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad crossed through town.


I believe this use to be Dahl’s Store.


The Jevne Farm



Chippewa River Boat Landing



Possibly once the home of Dr. Bedley



Rock Creek and Meridean Cemetery




Into the Chippewa Bottoms


WISCONSIN: Historic City Series

travis dewitz pines portrait suit thumb web PhotographTravis Dewitz is a remarkable photographer in the Chippewa Valley. He is well known for photographing local sceneries, landmarks, venues, buildings and people in various and ingenious ways. Though you may not know him personally, his work provides a unique foundation of our local community and his photographs are unmistakable. Dewitz’s pictures are an impressive feat and preserve a moment; long after our travels are over, and our memories faded, photos are what remind us of the adventures we had and the connections to the people we met. Learn More About Him Here | Buy His Book Here

Like and Share With Your Friends and Family.

Travis Dewitz

My name is Travis Dewitz and I am from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. My specialty is commercial photography with a love for expressive portraits. My work is Conceptual, Emotive, Editorial, Surreal and Eclectic. I am passionate about fashioning new worlds through photographs as I extend my visions beyond the realm of the camera. I have incredible vision, which you can see in all of my photos.

Comments (17)

  1. Micheal Dooley

    I lived in the meridian bank in my childhood. That is not the bank. The bank is on the north side of the street right where the railroad crosses. Northeast side of tracks. Coolest house ever. As kids we’d play in the safe.

  2. Elisse Jo Goldstein-Clark

    Really enjoyed this! Very well-researched, and great photography, as you did in West Virginia. Shared it! 🙂

  3. Carrie ness

    I grew up in Rock falls/Caryville. And my dad would always take us through here and tell us stories about meridean. So cool. Definitely a trip down memory lane!!

    • Darlene Talford Cliff

      Carrie, I just saw your comment on here. We are related and I’ve never had the opportunity to meet you that I know of.
      The Talford Family is planning a reunion this summer and I would love to talk with you about that. Would you please respond to my email? Thank you.

  4. Rick Sobottka

    Thanks for the story and pictures. I grew up in Meridean in the 60s & 70s, just across from the Lutheran Church. Mom & Dad have lived their since 1960.

  5. The Chippewa Bottoms Journey

    Really have enjoyed these wonderful pictures of these historic towns!

  6. Tracy

    Beautiful photos! The gray house with the pumpkins is the Brack house and the Brack store was next door to it. I think there is no trace of the store left. But happy to see the house is so well loved!

  7. James Alf

    Those are excellent photos. The one titled “from Caryville’s main street” is actually across the river. It is the Spring Brook Lutheran Church and the Spring Brook School. It is not politically or geographically Caryville, being in a different Township.


    I don’t know how I found your site, but it sure brings back a better time. To see the church I was baptized in, my father and his siblings went to the one-room school house from first grade until they started high school. Does anyone know if those two huge trees are still in front of the Robertson dairy? Your pictures are excellent, after living in Houston twenty years, it’s hard to believe I grew up in such a beautiful,honest, and safe place.

  9. Dean Tabor

    I grew up in the brick bank building on the northwest side of the tracks. Someone said in an earlier post that the bank was on the north east side of the tracks. This building was the administrative offices for the lumberyard and probably did have it safe in it. However, the brick building has a large safe with a huge metal door that had been taken off but placed inside that had the bank name on it. I too have great memories of growing up in Meriden. Thanks for all the time and effort put in to this website. Dean Tabor

  10. Paul K

    We just took a drive yesterday through a bunch of little towns and Meridean was on the list. It was a really cool town but I just gotta ask, what’s up with the house with the dolls?

  11. Lois Dohms

    The reason I asked about some history of Meridean us that I’ve been in some of those houses and now I inherited one there. So I enjoyed looking at the town. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *