William F. Kirk
a history lesson on one of the area’s most prolific and famous writers
by Joe Niese
The sights and sounds of the Chippewa Valley have been a muse to artists of all mediums, but no one may have channeled that inspiration into the written word more successfully than Chippewa Falls native William Kirk. A literary renaissance man, he dabbled in poetry, sports writing, dialect humor, and Broadway musicals. While still at the height of fame, he returned to the city of his youth to live out his days.
William Frederick Kirk was born April 29, 1877 in Mankato, Minnesota to David and Caroline Kirk. The family moved to Chippewa Falls in 1880, when David got a job as the City & County Surveyor. “Billy” lived a charmed childhood, engaging in the joys of the local swimming holes and baseball sandlots. A diligent student, Kirk graduated from Chippewa Falls High School in 1894.
The summer after graduation, he took a job as a typesetter in the print shop for the local morning newspaper, the Daily Independent. A brief stint at the Chippewa Herald was followed by a two-year stint at the Eau Claire Morning Telegram. He then spent half a decade as stenographer in Chippewa Falls and then St. Paul, where he began to find his voice as a writer. Unhappy with the exposure his verse was getting, he jumped at the chance to return to Chippewa Falls where he took over as the editor and feature writer for the Chippewa Herald.
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