Jean Brunet is one of the most noteworthy pioneers of the Chippewa Valley. Born in France in 1791, Brunet immigrated to this country in 1818 and moved to Chippewa Falls in 1828. He built the first dams on the Chippewa River at Chippewa Falls and Brunet Falls, which is now the City of Cornell. He was our first Judge and member of the legislature for Chippewa County when it met at what is called Burlington, Iowa.
Brunet piloted the first raft of lumber from the Falls to Prairie du Chien and piloted the first steamboat up the river. He operated the first stopping place and portage at Cornell, where he ran his business as a dealer in boats, oxen, and logging supplies. Along the banks of the Chippewa River, he traded with the Indians and taught them to work iron and wood and worship God.
As the great peacemaker between the Indians and Whites, he was loved and respected by the Indians as no other man before or since. Brunet’s trading post was located on the west bank of the river just below the existing dam, where he was often visited by Ezra Cornell, credited as the founder of Cornell.
Some of the remnants of the foundation may still be found. Brunet Falls, although not visible, is located just north of the bridge. Brunet died in 1877 and is buried in Chippewa Falls. His wife was buried in 1857 at the Cornell Pioneer Cemetery, located south of the DNR Station on Hwy 178. There is a historic marker there for the Brunet home and trading post, but no gravestones are visible.