Joel Foster

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Photograph of Judge Joel Foster, Owned by the family and on display at the Wisconsin Pierce County Historical Society.

Joel Foster was born the youngest of eleven at Meriden, Connecticut, December 15, 1814. He was liberally educated. He came to Edwardsville, Illinois, in 1830, and to Hudson, Wisconsin, then known as Buena Vista, in 1848. After a careful exploration of the surrounding area he built a home in the fall of 1848, at the junction of the two branches of the Kinnickinnic River, just upstream from its falls. His first winter was spent in a cave overlooking the river with his indentured servant, Dick.

Foster was the pioneer settler of River Falls, Wisconsin, a city which grew at the location of the falls of the Kinnickinnic. He built the first dwelling house, raised the first crops, and helped many other pioneers getting started in that area. He filled many position of responsibility, including judge of St. Croix county. During the Mexican-American War he served as a quartermaster in Colonel William H. Bissell's Second Illinois Regiment.

He was known for his Copper Head Democrat political views and was often the subject of scorn by the local newspaper's Republican editor.

Judge Foster was married at Chicago in 1856 to Charlotte Porch.

On August 9, 1885 he died at his home in town after being gored by a dairy bull on his farm, Foster was buried in the Greenwood Cemetery in River Falls, Wisconsin.

Election of 1849[edit]

A meeting of the county board of supervisors for St. Croix County was held at the house of Philip Aldrich, June 4, 1849. It was voted at the meeting that the treasurer proceed against the persons elected to office in the several towns, also county, who failed to qualify at a meeting of the justices and clerk of county board of supervisors, September 17, 1849, to canvass the vote for county judge at the election held September 3. Ninety-one votes were canvassed, of which Hamlet H. Perkins received 49, Joel Foster 41, and Bailey F. Baldwin 1.

Hamlet H. Perkins, though elected to the office of county judge, died before fulfilling the office. Accordingly Governor Nelson Dewey, first governor of the state of Wisconsin, made out a commission with an appointment, and sent it at once to Mr. Foster, who had received the next largest number of votes at the previous election. His first court was held at Hudson then known as Buena Vista. Joel Foster by this means obtained the office and continued to discharge its duties until the separation of Polk and Pierce counties.


  • Fifty Years in the Northwest Folsom published in 1888
  • History of Northern Wisconsin published in 1881
  • Pierce County Heritage Series Vol II. (Joel Foster reminiscences of River Falls)