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Stout, Henry Lane
(October 23, 1814–July 17, 1900)

–prominent 19th-century Mississippi River valley lumberman—was an Iowan born in New Jersey whose professional activities had a significant impact on the landscape of Wisconsin.

    Stout relocated from New Jersey to Philadelphia in 1834. Apparently not finding there the opportunities for which he had hoped, he departed for Iowa in 1836. He settled in Dubuque, near the historic lead-mining region of southwestern Wisconsin, northwestern Illinois, and northeastern Iowa. Stout made early investments in mining as well as merchandising. By 1851 he was looking for new opportunities. He soon secured a position as a lumber salesman for the Knapp-Tainter Lumber Company, a Dubuque business that intended to capitalize on the fledgling Great Lakes and Mississippi River valley lumber industry.

    Fort Madison residents John Knapp and William Wilson had established Knapp-Tainter in 1846. Andrew Tainter joined the business in 1850 and acquired one-quarter interest in it. Salesman Stout purchased another one-quarter interest in 1853. Thereafter the name of the firm was changed to Knapp-Stout & Company.

    The lumber enterprise grew significantly under Stout's management. Several new mills were opened between 1866 and 1869, including operations in Downsville and Menominee, both on the Red Cedar River in Wisconsin. The company also acquired its first steamboat in 1869. Twelve years later Knapp-Stout claimed eight steamboats used for moving raw timber and finished lumber along the Red Cedar, Chippewa, and Missis sippi rivers. The company also purchased pine lands along the Red Cedar River in order to help supply the mills.

    Knapp-Stout had operated as a partnership from its founding in 1846 until 1878, when it was incorporated as the Knapp-Stout Lumber Company. Growth continued. The firm's headquarters moved to Menominee in 1886. Employment at that location, which had started at 700 workers in 1866, reached 2,000 by 1898. Further evidence of the company's growth can be seen in its overall value. Knapp-Stout was capitalized with $2 million when it incorporated in 1878. It was valued at $4 million four years later and at $11 million in 1896–the company's 50th anniversary. At that time, Knapp-Stout claimed major lumberyards in Dubuque, Cedar Falls, Fort Madison, and St. Louis, all supplied by the mills on the Red Cedar River. Families associated with the firm 50 years after its founding continued to be the Stouts, Knapps, Tainters, and Wilsons.

    The timber supply available to Knapp-Stout was being rapidly depleted in the late 1890s. The Downsville and Cedar Falls mills closed in 1900, and the Menominee mill closed in 1901, signaling the impending end of the Knapp-Stout Lumber Company.

    Henry Stout was a devoted, prominent, and successful lumberman. Leland Sage, in his History of Iowa, noted that Stout was said to be "the richest man of his generation in Iowa."Stout had a variety of other interests throughout his life. He served for five years as mayor of Dubuque. He also served on the board of directors for the Dubuque & Sioux City Railroad (1867-1869), the Dakota & Dubuque Railroad (1881), and the Iowa Pacific Railroad (1876), and served as an officer and on the board of directors of the Dunleith & Dubuque Bridge Company and the Dunleith & Dubuque Ferry Company (1868-1893).

    Stout married Evaline Duming in Dubuque in 1845. They had four children: sons Frank and James, and daughters Jennie and Fannie. Horse breeding and harness racing long fascinated Stout, who, with son Frank, developed the Highland Stock Farm in the 1880s. James Stout followed his father into the lumber business, moving in 1889 to the Knapp-Stout headquarters in Menominee. Perhaps James's most prominent legacy at that location was a school that he started and endowed, and which has today become the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Additional recipients of Henry Stout's largesse included Dubuque's Finley Hospital and Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). Stout gave the latter the house in which he and his family had lived from 1857 to 1893.

    Henry Lane Stout did much to develop the Mississippi valley lumber industry, as well as to improve his home community of Dubuque. He died at age 85.
Sources A valuable source on Stout is Renae Kerker, "The Saga of Sawdust: The Life of Henry L. Stout" (senior thesis, 1979), on file in the Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin–Stout. Stout is also featured in the Henry E. Knapp Papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison. Additional references are in, among other sources, the Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography (1960) and the Dunn County News, especially its issue of 8/14/1896 titled "After Fifty Years," which was about the 50th anniversary of the Knapp-Stout Lumber Company. The article is available online at
Contributor: John N. Vogel