Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Putnam, Henry Cleveland 1832 - 1912

Putnam, Henry Cleveland 1832 - 1912 | Wisconsin Historical Society

land agent, lumberman, b. Madison, N.Y. He was first employed as a civil engineer by various railroads in New York and the South. In 1855 he moved to Wisconsin, settling in Hudson, where he did surveying and was connected with the North Wisconsin and the Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien railroads. Moving to Eau Claire in 1857, he eventually became a clerk in the federal land office there. Through his control of this office, Putnam became a powerful force in the Chippewa Valley pinery. One of the most successful land agents and promoters in the area, his knowledge of the Chippewa pine lands brought him the business of lumbermen like Frederick Weyerhaeuser (q.v.) and pinelands dealers like Henry W. Sage and Cornell Univ. His estimates of Lake States pine stumpage for the census of 1880, although subsequently proven to be far too low, were a factor in raising stumpage prices in the 1880's. Although his dream of a pool to monopolize the timber lands of the Chippewa went unrealized, Putnam acquired a considerable fortune through his promotions. He was a director of several lumber companies in Wisconsin, the Pacific Northwest, and Canada, was one of the founders of the Chippewa Valley Bank in Eau Claire, and was influential in several other businesses in the area. In later years he became a vigorous exponent of conservation. Noted for his philanthropies, he donated Putnam Park to the city of Eau Claire, and gave a large sum of money to aid in the construction of the Eau Claire YMCA. H. C. Putnam Letters, on file in Cornell Univ. Archives; Eau Claire Daily Telegram, Jan. 25, 1912; T. E. Randall, Hist. of the Chippewa Valley (Eau Claire, 1875); P. W. Gates, Wis. Pine Lands of Cornell Univ. (Ithaca, 1943).

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[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]