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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Buffalo City [brief history]

Definition: Buffalo City is located 48 miles north of La Crosse on the Mississippi River in Buffalo County. The oldest incorporated city in Buffalo County, Buffalo City was also reputedly the smallest city in the United States when it was chartered in 1859.

Frederick Pfeffer and J.P. Moessinger led the Colonization Society of Cincinnati to Buffalo City in 1856. Two year later, in 1858, they built the first sawmill, general store, and brewery.

The construction of a ferry across the Mississippi connecting Buffalo City to Mt. Vernon, Minnesota, made it easier for immigrants to settle in the area. The Sioux, Ho-Chunk, and Ojibwe Indians who had lived in the area for centuries, were soon displaced by German, Swiss, and Norwegian immigrants.

With its location on the Mississippi River, Buffalo City's first major industry was lumber. Lumber was sent down the river until railroads came to the area in the 1880s. Grain was another major product until insects and soil erosion ruined the crops. As a result, milk and cheese came to replace grain in the 1880s. Agriculture remains the primary industry in the area.

[Source: WHS Library-Archives staff, 2009]

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