The village of Reads Landing is on the site of a former trading post (known as Waumadee to the Dakota) that was operated by successive generations of Rocques beginning around 1810. They sold the land to Edward Hudson, so naturally this spot became known as Hudson’s Landing. After he died, Englishman Charles Read purchased Hudson’s claim.
Read emigrated to the US at age 10 with his brother’s family. He served in the American army that invaded Canada in 1837; the 17-year-old Read was captured by the British and sentenced to hang. Luckily for Mr. Read, Queen Victoria pardoned him and let him return to the US. In 1844 he settled in Nelson’s Landing (Wisconsin), before moving across the river a few years later to establish a trading post, which angered Alexis Bailly, who already had a trading post in the area near Hastings. Read platted the village in 1856 and incorporated it in 1868 with a great deal of optimism.
Reads Landing was a thriving community with a bustling steamboat port that served the logging trade. Logs coming down the nearby Chippewa River were assembled into large rafts, then floated downriver for processing. Several hundred raftsmen would stay in town awaiting their turn to assemble and go. Reads Landing was one of the lumbermen’s favorite places for R&R—with nearly two dozen hotels and saloons to pick from!—which led to the inevitable “scenes of violence and lawlessness staged on its streets”, as described in a county history book. As the lumber trade declined, Reads Landing descended rapidly into irrelevance, and the village disincorporated in 1896.
From 1882 until the 1950s, trains crossed the river via a 2,900-foot pontoon bridge. A 400-foot pontoon section would swing open to let boats pass through; the pontoon sank 14 inches when a train crossed. The bridge was a maintenance headache because of frequent damage from ice and flooding. In 1951, ice and high water caused severe damage to the bridge, and the railroad chose to abandon it rather than fix it again; the bridge was disassembled the next year.