TRENTON TOWNSHIP – It is a “no-man’s land,” between states that share jurisdiction. It has no official title and is
known only as the Island.
There are a half-dozen bars and eating establishments along less than one mile of roadway between the Mississippi
River’s main channel and its backwaters. Yet trouble inevitably comes to rest along that muddy stretch of Trenton
In the past year:
• A fisherman near the backwaters was shot by a man who had been wandering along the highway. A suspect is
awaiting trial in the Pierce County Jail on charges of attempted murder and armed robbery.
• A car with four passengers pulled up to the Harbor Bar with a shotgun and blasted out a window in the tavern.
Luckily, no one was sitting in the line of fire. The gunman went on to blast a hole in the side of a car and shoot a
mailbox while heading back toward Red Wing.
• Several fatal traffic accidents have occurred on the Island, one just a few months ago when an intoxicated Illinois
man plowed his car into Mud Lake and drowned. There also have been head-on collisions while tavern customers
were returning home.
THE EDGEWATER BAR on the Island was the place where three men picked up 25-year-old David Anderson the
evening of Oct. 29, 1976. The men then killed Anderson, his father and his uncle in the Bay City triple-slaying.
Policing the Island is a nightmare for Pierce County authorities, who often are assisted by Red Wing and Goodhue
Stan Christiansen, Pierce County sheriff, has seen the Island in far worse condition than it is in now. But he quickly
adds that he doesn’t think the Island is “cleaned up.”
“The criminal element” takes advantage of the river by selling illegal materials quickly and darting across to the other
side, Christiansen said. Because extradition from Minnesota to Wisconsin can take several months, many criminals
who are caught get off on reduced charges.
THE ISLAND is “a hotbed for drugs and other things,” the sheriff says. In fact, much of Pierce County’s drug problem
can be traced to quick sales on the Island.
Christiansen said the area has earned its unofficial title as “Last-seek Island” for the number of people, including
police investigators, who have mysteriously disappeared there.
Despite its reputation, the sheriff says the Island is calmer today than it was just a few years ago.
“But it might just be a sign of the times. Either many (of the ‘criminal element’) have gone underground, or they’re just
Island history – whether it is true, has been embellished over the years or is outright fiction – lives on in the minds of
|Red Wing Republican Eagle, July 16, 1979, pg. 1 & 6
* * *
“PUMPLIN’S SALOON stood where the Harbor Bar is now,” recalled Mary Gwen Owen Swanson from Hager City. “A man by the name of Cook owned it and
imported ‘fancy girls’ from the Cities.”
Mrs. Swanson was 9 years old when a group of “vigilantes” from Red Wing crossed the Mississippi and tore down Pumplin’s Saloon. She recalls the girls
working the “house of ill repute” were thrown in Red Wing’s jail.
A quick look into Madeline Angell Johnson’s Red Wing history book, “Saga of a River Town,” proved Mrs. Swanson’s memory correct.
“Citizens of Red Wing were very unhappy about a business consisting of a disorderly saloon and a ‘house with wild women.’ This establishment was located on
the Island across from the city,” the book reads.
“MANY WILD PARTIES took place there, some of which involved shooting. On March 20, 1909, the Red Wing Board of Public Works … took the law into their
own hands. With a city crew of workmen, horses and block and tackle, they went over to the Island and tore this house down to its foundation.”
The city officials were later sued for damages.
Another of the takes, one that Mrs. Swanson doubts herself, is that Jesse James and his gang stayed on the Island the night before they robbed the Northfield
bank. Residents of Vasa, Hay Creek and other nearby communities have been making the same claim for years.
Mrs. Swanson admits that the Island “still has a reputation” and that friends ask her why she drives across the area. But she says she doesn’t fear the Island
and has fond remembrances of teaching Island children at the Hager School.