Medard Dupuis built this large home at the north end of town in 1857 on land that was first claimed by George Davidson. He had his saw mill along the river and in 1852 had sales of $52,000.
Savanna’s first mayor was born on Nov. 3, 1810, near La Prairie, Canada, the eldest of Fabien and Marie Dupuis. Shortly after his birth his parents moved to Montreal where he received his education. He had partially prepared himself for the practice of law, when finding his health impaired by confinement, he left his home for the United States at the early age of nineteen.
In 1831 he came to Fort Mackinaw, Mich., where John Kenzie, son of the Chicago pioneer, then U.S. Indian agent to the Winnebago tribe, engaged him to transport the annuity of $15,000 in silver from Fort Mackinaw to Green Bay, and thence to Fort Winnebago now Portage, Wis., where he remained with Mr. Kenzie for some months after the payment.
The breaking out of the Black Hawk War in 1831 found Mr. Dupuis engaged in trading with the Indians for the American Fur Co., in the Four Lakes region, now Madison, Wis. The Indians with whom he traded manifested special liking for him and exercised a kindly protection over him. It was then soon learned that the Indians had come to acquaint Mr. Dupuis with his danger, as Black Hawk with his band of Sacs and Fox Indians were on the war path and intended passing there the next day. In the morning Mr. Dupuis with his interpreter departed for the Fort, which they succeeded in reaching in safety. Black Hawk and his band passed the deserted trading post and burned the buildings to the ground, on the afternoon of the same day.
Mr. Dupuis then enlisted in Captain Berry's Company of Michigan Volunteers, was made corporal, and served until the close of the war.
After the war he went to Galena and was employed by Mr. Henry Grath in the mining industry for short time. From Galena he went in 1833 to St. Louis for the purpose of improving his knowledge of the English language. He remained there several years in connection with the American Fur Company.
He returned to Galena in the later 1830's where several years passed in trade in Galena, in partnership with Mr. St. Cyr. and in mining in the adjacent country.
In 1845 he was called to a position of trust and responsibility in settling the affairs of the firm of Emmert and Halderman of Mount Carroll. Mr. Dupuis succeeded in completing the settlement to the satisfaction of all parties in 1847, a period of two years, during which time he resided at Mt. Carroll,
In the same year 1847 he established himself in the lumber business at Savanna, which became the distributing point for lumber through a region extending as far eastward as Freeport and Rockford, and almost as far westward into Iowa. The first raft of logs run down the river by the Hon. Donald. A. McDonald of LaCrosse, who once controlled the largest line of steamers on the Mississippi, was for Mr. Dupuis.
Wood brought downriver by means of log-rafts also supplied the sawmills at Savanna, including Bowen’s Mill on Plum River Falls, Joseph McCollip’s Mill at the mouth of Rush Creek, and the Dupuis Mill at 710 Main Street. As time passed the log-rafts grew longer and had to be pushed by steam-powered towboats. The cash value of the lumber in these log-rafts was very high as a contemporary newspaper article shows.
“There is a small fortune tied up in each one of these rafts, and it takes a goodly value, about $3,000 in the ropes and lines to bind the logs together, and these will scarcely lat a season. Regulation raft, as it is sent passing Savanna, is composed of two sections each 75 feet in width by 700 feet in length. The old way was to float the rafts in the current, but now a large number of boats are kept busy pushing the rafts, which only consumes a third of the time it used to take. The value of a common raft of logs is about $20,000, depending somewhat on size and quality of logs.”
The Dupuis steam mills used a much as 25 million board feet of lumber to produce shingles, laths, and planed lumber, and sold as much as $35,000 worth annually. In 1852, the sales amounted to $50,000 ($2.9 million in today’s value) but that was before the advent of railroads when people came all the way from Rockford, Oregon, Dixon, Prophetstown, and Freeport for lumber. Dupuis even expanded and established a successful lumber yard at Freeport during the years of 1853-54. He continued in the same business until 1877 and was one of the oldest lumbermen on the Mississippi.
In 1857, Medard began the erection of his colonial style home designed and built by a Mr. Ashton. In 1857 nearly everything had to be made by hand; windows, porch and cornice ornaments, brackets, shutters and even shingles. He resided at 1121 Main Street, and had another saw mill and his lumber yard to the north.
Hattie McClure, 94, recalled going down to the river back of the Dupuis home which was only a short distance from that of her parents, Charles and Elizabeth McClure. She tells of a large bald eagle kept in a cage in the Dupuis yard "which mother told me not to go near as it would peck and bite me," and described Medard as "a homely, coarse-featured, dark complexioned man with a jutting lower jaw.”
He endeared himself to his townspeople during the Civil War, by his active civilian services, by which Savanna's volunteer quota was maintained in excess, and the town exempted from the draft. He was active in having this town of Savanna incorporated as a city, and was elected its first mayor, and re-elected for a second term. He served three terms as supervisor, one term as town clerk and three terms as school director.
In 1851 he married Sara Ann Woodruff and they had six children: Medard W., Sarah Denise (1855-1919), Ebner Dupuis (1857-1922), Jeanette Dupuis Welch (1861-1938), Marie Silence and Newton Dupuis (1866-1931). Newton was the clerk on the packer Assumption in 1878.
The Savanna Journal reported his death in 1890 “On Monday morning October 27th, died at his residence in this city, Medard Dupuis, aged 79 years, 11 months and 24 days. In the death of Mr. Dupuis, Savanna loses one of her oldest and most highly respected citizens, and this section of the west one of its most widely known pioneers. A man of the most genial disposition and the strictest integrity he possessed in a marked degree those traits of character that won for him the respect and esteem of all classes with whom in his long and busy life he came in contact.”
Log rafts were a common site along the banks of Savanna from the late 1840s until the 1870s before the railroads took over the transportation business.