Childs, Ebenezer

Born: 1797-04-03 Barre, Massachusetts

Died: 1864-12-15 La Crosse, Wisconsin

Flourished: Wisconsin

Ebenezer Childs was a pioneer of the Michigan and Wisconsin territories. Orphaned at age ten, Childs lived in his native state of Massachusetts until 1816, when he fled to New York in order to avoid paying the minister's tax. After four years in New York, Childs emigrated first to Cleveland and later to Detroit and Mackinaw. In May 1820, Childs took charge of a cargo of goods headed for Green Bay, Michigan Territory, arriving in Green Bay on May 9. Childs opened a mercantile establishment three miles above Fort Howard, where he made a profit selling groceries and liquor to soldiers of the garrison. In 1821, Childs traveled to St. Louis via the Fox and Wisconsin rivers to purchase goods, returning via the Illinois and Chicago rivers. A carpenter as well as a merchant, Childs in 1825 built the first wooden house in the Wisconsin Territory. In 1827, he received permission from the War Department to build a saw mill on the land of the Menominee Nation, which provided wood for both white settlers and Native Americans. Childs also took the contract to supply Fort Howard with beef, traveling to Southern Illinois in 1827 to purchase cattle. Childs and his partner succeeded in driving over 200 cattle from Illinois to Green Bay. He also raised a militia company to quell unrest between white settlers and the Winnebago Nation. Childs received appointment as sheriff of Brown County in 1829, and he also became postmaster of Grand Kakalin. He remained sheriff until 1836, when he won election to the Wisconsin Territory House of Representatives. He served in the House of Representatives until August 1840, after which he was sergeant-at-arms for the Territory Council. In 1848, President James K. Polk appointed him exploring agent for the Menominee Nation charged with exploring the area west of the Mississippi River to which they had agreed to relocate after giving up their territory in Wisconsin. In 1852, he moved to La Crosse, Wisconsin, where he lived the remainder of his life. In 1860, he owned real property valued at $6,000 and a personal estate of $2,000.

Moses M. Strong, comp., History of the Territory of Wisconsin, From 1836 to 1848 (Madison: Democratic Printing, 1885), 83-84, 269; Ebenezer Childs, "Recollections of Wisconsin Since 1820," Report and Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, for the Years 1857 and 1858 (Madison: James Ross, 1859), 4:153-95; Albert G. Ellis, "Fifty-Four Years' Recollections of Men and Events in Wisconsin," Report and Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, for the Years 1873, 1874, 1875 and 1876 (Madison: E. B. Bolens, 1876), 7:257-58; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Ward 2, La Crosse, La Crosse County, WI, 35; Gravestone, Oak Grove Cemetery, La Crosse, WI.