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Got pictures? Colfax historian looking for photos for sesquicentennial book

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — Colfax will be celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2014.

And Colfax historian Troy Knutson, who has been collecting photographs and other Colfax memorabilia for many years, is working on a book due out next year.

“I am hoping people will look through boxes in their basements and their attics, and in their photo albums, for pictures I could borrow for the book,” Knutson said.

“If we could find more pictures of the country schools around here, that would be good too,” he added.

Although Knutson already has a collection of photographs from Colfax, some of which date back to the late 1800s, he is hoping people will find additional photographs that he does not yet have.

“I do not want people to think that they are sure that I have what they have because I know there are pictures out there that I don’t have,” he said.

“I would really like people to dig through their photos to help make this the best project that it can be,” Knutson said.

In addition to readers of the Colfax Messenger searching through their own photos, Knutson also is hoping that people will check with their parents, siblings and friends who live out of the area, especially those who do not subscribe to the Messenger.

Knutson says he is not only looking for pictures of Colfax, but that he is also seeking photographs of the surrounding area that pertain to the history of Colfax. One example would be pictures of where Tainter Lake is now before the dam at Cedar Falls was built in 1910.

Tainter Lake initially was called Lake Colfax, and the Messenger published articles and editorials about the economic benefit the lake would have for the village.

The first settlers came to the Colfax area in 1864.

The Village of Colfax was first surveyed in 1874 by lumberman Andrew Tainter.

The village was incorporated on July 12, 1904, when a meeting of the electors who lived in the “territory” voted that the territory be incorporated as the Village of Colfax.

The first meeting of the Colfax Village Board was held on August 15, 1904.

The book about Colfax may run perhaps 150 pages, and besides pictures, Knutson would like people to submit tidbits about Colfax history or their memories about Colfax.

One example would be something like the tidbit gleaned from Delores Jahr’s essay about the Colfax tornado on June 4, 1958. Although the hot, humid weather that spawned the tornado was unlike anything people had experienced before so early in the summer (or technically, late in the spring), a few nights later, the weather was so cold there was frost, Jahr had written.

Knutson says the book will be divided into sections, such as the sandstone quarry, sandstone buildings, the pickle factory, the Farmer’s Store, churches, creameries, grocery stores, the Colfax tornado.

Each photograph will have a short caption, and each section will start out with a page or two of history about the group or the business and will include the tidbits and memories people have submitted, Knutson said.

As of yet, even though the Colfax sesquicentennial is next year, no committees have been formed to plan a celebration of any kind, and the Colfax Village Board has not discussed whether the board would be interested in having a celebration in the village.

Both the Colfax Tornado Commemoration in 2008 and the Colfax High School All-School Reunion in 2010 ended up taking two years for planning.

In the absence of events and celebrations, Knutson’s book will be especially important for marking the 150th anniversary of what was once nicknamed by Colfax resident Sam Iverson as “The Friendliest Little Town in Wisconsin.”

If you have photographs or stories that you would be willing to let Knutson use, you can contact the Colfax Messenger at 715-962-3535, or contact Knutson directly at 715-962-3027.

The “stories” do not have to be anything more than a couple of lines, and if you would like to use e-mail:; or (Troy).