History and Legend


Mosinee has a long and rich history dating from the days of the first French fur trappers, stretching through the logging days, and continuing forward into the future.

The First White Men

Mosinee and the surrounding areas trace their settlement all the way back to 1790, when a French trapper named John Lewis DuBay wintered in what is now Knowlton, to the south of Mosinee. In 1834, his son, John Baptiste DuBay, established a fur trading post on the Wisconsin with his wife, Madelane, long thought to be a princess and daughter of Chief Oshkosh of the Menominee. Whether it was she or a later wife has now been called into question, but in 1836, a treaty with the Menominee granted the first whites an area six miles wide and forty miles long along the Wisconsin River, which encompasses Mosinee. DuBay's grave marker can still be found in Knowlton, and while his trading post was covered by water with the creation of Lake DuBay in 1942, it is marked with a historical marker.

Little Bull Falls and The Legend of Chief Mosinee

As loggers moved in and the area was settled, Mosinee was founded as "Little Bull Falls," named after a local falls known for its loud roar. In 1839, John Moore built the first sawmill to take advantage of the rapids and famous falls to cut the tons of logs that floated to it into lumber. Twenty years later in 1859, Joseph Dessert became the sole owner of the mill and both the mill and town flourished. In 1889, Mosinee was incorporated and Dessert was elected its first official leader. Not content to simply be a leader and businessman, he turned philantropist in 1898 by constructing a library, turning it over to the community in 1906 with $9000 to sustain it, a large sum of money back in those days.

Local legend holds the settlement was renamed to Mosinee after a Menominee chief in the area known for being a man of his word. According to Joseph Dessert in 1905, Chief Mosinee "never took advantage of beard or beast" and was well-known with the settlers in the area, traveling through Wausau every spring before his death.

Into the Present and Beyond

As the logging industry began to wane, the sawmill closed and the river was dammed, quieting the falls that had given Mosinee its first name and initial prosperity. The sawmill became a paper mill and power company, which still are in business to this day. What used to be raging rapids has given way to lakes and a wide main channel.

While the river and falls have been tamed, Mosinee still retains a close tie with nature. The shores of the river are lined with trees and Mosinee Hill is easily visible in its forested glory. Mosinee prides itself as a small community with big prosperity and a lot to offer both its residents and visitors, and we'll continue to do so for years to come.