A historical marker designates the place where Nathan Myrick built the first building in La Crosse. Tribune file photo

Nathan Myrick spent only seven years in La Crosse but will always be remembered for being the first. The New York native was only 19 years old when came to Prairie La Crosse on Nov. 9, 1841, with his partner Eben Weld to establish an American Indian trading post.

At that time the future site of La Crosse was an uninhabited, sandy prairie. Myrick and Weld built a temporary log shelter in what is now Pettibone Park and started trading with Winnebago Indians.

The men decided to build a more permanent cabin and hauled logs across the frozen river to build a cabin in February 1842 at what is now the northeast corner of Front and State Streets. A historical plaque marks the spot today. It was at the top of a hill leading up from the river. A spring and the La Crosse River were nearby. The first night the men slept in the cabin a blizzard ripped the roof off.

Myrick bought out Weld’s interest in the trading post in March 1842. Myrick was called “Tall Trader” by the Winnebagoes because his 6-foot-5 frame.

Myrick brought his bride, Rebecca, from New York in 1843. A son Andrew was born in 1844 but died in September 1845. Andrew’s remains are in Oak Grove Cemetery, the oldest tombstone in the cemetery.

Myrick became La Crosse first postmaster and farmer in 1843, planting corn, barley and wheat at the foot of the bluffs. But he had to wait three years before the first mill came to Prairie du Chien so Myrick could grind the gain. “I remember hauling it there and returning with flour, 90 miles on the ice,” he once said.

Others joined Myrick, who also became involved in the lumber business, and the prairie city began to grow.

The city’s first white settler left La Crosse in 1848, citing lumber business losses and poor health — not before buying much of the land and later selling it. He moved to St. Paul, where he continued trading. He died on June 3, 1903, at the age of 80.