Around 1831, Francois du Chouquette, a blacksmith, set up shop at the future village site but didn’t stick around long. Next on the scene was Willard Bunnell, who arrived in 1849 and didn’t leave. Bunnell and family had initially settled on the Wisconsin side of the river at Trempealeau and Holmes’ Landing (now Fountain City). In 1849, the US government granted Bunnell a trading license, which allowed him to negotiate a deal with Chief Wapasha. Just north of Bunnell’s Landing, as the new settlement was known, the village of Minneowah attracted a few settlers and a couple of sawmills. Unfortunately, Minneowah’s original platters, the Minneowah Stock Company, forgot to file their claim, so the first settlers had no legal title to their land.
Minneowah was abandoned when Homer was platted in 1855 and settlers moved in like sharks to make new claims and divide up the former Minneowah. One of them, Daniel Dougherty, had exceptionally good luck and drew lots that included the hotel and many other parcels. Mr. Bunnell was exceptionally pissed off about this, so the two men duked it out. Dougherty nearly bit off Bunnell’s thumb before the fight ended. Life settled down in Homer (named for Bunnell’s birthplace in New York) and the village attracted a number of New Englanders among the early settlers. Never a boom town, Homer had 125 residents in 1910; much of the town’s older building stock was razed for the widening of the highway.
Built in the 1850s for Willard and Matilda Bunnell, the three-story “Steamboat” Gothic Bunnell House (36106 Old Homer Rd.; 507.454.2723) is the oldest home in Winona County. The house has many period furnishings plus a few items owned by the Bunnell’s like the piano in the parlor.
Random Fact: Willard’s brother, Lafayette Bunnell, named Yosemite Valley in California.
Camping. Pla-Mor Campground (22718 Little Smokies Lane; 877.454.2267/507.454.2851) has two groups of campsites flanking the highway; the sites are rather close together but most are shaded. The sites east of the highway are close to the river and have a view of Trempealeau Mountain.
Cabins. Pla-Mor Campground also has four simple cabins that are like camping but with walls, two with bathrooms and two without; bring your own bedding; no heat or AC.
Budget. If you want one more option, Pla-Mor Campground also has a one-bedroom suite above the campground office; it has a full kitchen, full bath, and air conditioning.
Heading upriver? Check out Winona.
Heading downriver? Check out La Moille.
© Dean Klinkenberg, 2011
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