5 Famous Names From Chippewa Falls

Tom Giffey

The Cook-Rutledge Mansion
The Cook-Rutledge Mansion


Before he lent his name to the city’s most popular park, William Irvine was a 15-year-old who moved from Illinois and got a job in a Chippewa Falls sawmill. He rose through the ranks and in the 1880s became manager of the Chippewa Lumber & Boom Co., the largest sawmill in the world under one roof. Irvine, L.C. Stanley, and the lumber company donated 163 acres to the city, which became Irvine Park. Irvine also donated funds for roads and buildings in the park, and provided an endowment for it in his will. And, contrary to what you may typically hear, he pronounced his name ER-vin, not ER-vine.


Rutledge also worked for Frederick Weyerhaeuser’s Chippewa Lumber & Boom Co., where he was chief officer. He and Weyerhaeuser were involved in some of the largest most successful pine deals in the country. After his wife died in 1910, Edward created the Hannah M. Rutledge Home For the Aged, which was to be used as a home for the worthy aged and poor. When Edward died the following year he left $1 million in a charitable trust.


A native of Vermont, Allen had a big impact in Chippewa Falls’ early days. In 1848 he rebuilt the mill at the falls after it had been destroyed by a flood. He built the town’s first hotel, a flour mill, and a water-powered sawmill on Duncan Creek. He was the first postmaster, the first jail was in his root house, and the village was first surveyed and platted under his direction. When he died in 1886, the major proclaimed that all businesses should close during his funeral.


Born in 1925 in Chippewa Falls, Cray is widely known as the father of the supercomputer. At the age of 10 he had a laboratory in the basement, and by the 1950s, he was helping design some of the earliest computers, and later created several computer companies that made machines that cracked codes, modeled nuclear explosions, and simulated weather. Most notably, he founded Cray Research, which designed and produced the Cray-1 and other supercomputers in Chippewa Falls. Cray died in 1996, but his contributions to high-end computing are still lauded.


If you’ve heard of Charles Emile “Gus” Dorais, it’s likely because the football field in Chippewa Falls is named after him. This Chippewa Falls native was quarterback at Notre Dame from 1910-13, where he and Knute Rockne helped revolutionize football with the forward pass. In a legendary game against Army, Dorais threw for 243 yards, at the time an astonishing total. He later went on to a career as a football, baseball, and basketball coach at numerous colleges before coaching the NFL’s Detroit Lions from 1943-47. A biography of Dorais by Chippewa Falls writer Joe Niese will be published later this year.

Thanks to the Chippewa County Historical Society and Joe Niese.