Nathaniel Caldwell Foster, 1834 - 1923

Railroad Magnet and Clark County, Wisconsin Investor


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#1. Lumberman, railroad builder, businessman, b. Owego, N.X. He moved to Wisconsin in 1854 and settled at Fort Howard, where he operated a sawmill until 1876; the mill was then moved to Fairchild. He acquired large tracts of timberland in Eau Claire and Clark counties, and in 1891 organized the N. C. Foster Lumber Co. at Fairchild. In 1882 he built a railroad from Fairchild to Mondovi, one of the earliest logging railroads in the state. He also constructed the Fairchild and Northwestern R.R. (1913), and maintained many other business enterprises in Wisconsin and California. Amer. Lumbermen (3 ser., Chicago, 1905, 1906); Eau Claire Leader, Mar. 17, 1923; Eau Claire Daily Telegram, Mar. 17, 1923.


Historic Home of Nathaniel C. Foster, Fairchild, Wisconsin


#2. N. C. Foster, lumberman, Fairchild, Eau Claire county, was born in Owego, Tioga county, N. Y., January 6, 1834. He is the sixth in a family of seven children of Willard and Lovicea (Pickering) Foster, natives of Vermont and New York, respectively. His father followed farming and lumbering in New York, where he resided until his death in 1881. His mother died some years earlier. His brothers and sisters were: Abijah; Huldah P., widow of Daniel Gaskill; Louisa, deceased wife of Jason Whittamore; Charles M.; Grace, deceased wife of Gilbert Arnold; Olive F., wife of Wm. Sherwood. N. C. Foster was reared to manhood in his native state, where he followed the occupation of lumbering. In 1858 he married Esther Stearn, and to them seven children were born, namely: Gilbert A.; Edward J.; Sarah, wife of C. M. Wilson; Clara, wife of D. Duncan; Cora, Wife of George Winslow; Edward J. Willard, a student of the military school, and Grace May, now eight years of age. Mr. Foster is the largest lumber manufacturer and dealer in this section of the state, owning some 15,000 acres of good timber, consisting of pine and hard wood, which extends into Eau Claire and Clark counties. This timber furnishes the supply for the large mills he owns at Fairchild, which were established in 1877, at a cost of $100,000, and by recent improvements and additions in machinery, are now valued at $150,000. This plant has a capacity of 100,000 feet of building lumber daily, besides 14,000,000 shingles and 6,000,000 lath. He employs a force of 200 men, and his lumber trade is almost exclusively retail. He has several yards established throughout this section, namely, at Osseo, Eleva, and Mondovi, in Wisconsin, and at Avoca, Slayton and Heron Lake, in Minnesota, besides the retail business at this point. He supplies the country within a radius of thirty miles.


Eau Claire Log Reservoir


The Railroad's North Dewey Street Tunnel in Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Mr. Foster was also senior member in the firm of N. C. & E. J. Foster, millers. Their plant was established in 1883 as an elevator, and in 1890 there was added a buckwheat plant, which grinds by a patent process, and their flour has a national reputation, their trade extending through the northwestern and southern states. Mr. Foster was the principal in the firm of N. C. Foster and Son, general merchants, whose store was established in 1876. Both of these concerns have been consolidated with the lumber business, which was incorporated at the N. C. Foster Lumber Company July 1, 1891, with a capital stock of $500,000, all paid up, and with N. C. Foster, pres., E. J. Foster, vice-pres., and G. A. Foster, sec. and treas. Mr. Foster endeared himself to the people of this vicinity in the opening up of the territory between Fairchild and Mondovi, by the building of the Sault Ste. Marie & Southwestern railroad. It was commenced and completed in 1886, and built without any bonded indebtedness. He has also a tramway, known as the Chicago, Fairchild and Eau Claire river road, upon which he transports the logs from his pineries to his mills. These two roads have a combined length of fifty miles. Being practically the owner of all the stock in the railroad, Mr. Foster sold it in March, 1891, to the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha railway company for $400,000. The present growth of Fairchild is due, in a large measure, to his encouragement and assistance, and he is looked upon as one of the principal movers of the many enterprises of this village. He is a man of energy and enterprise, while his position in the financial world is of the highest. He is free from that reserve and haughtiness that are looked upon by the masses with ill favor; kind, hospitable and liberal, he is held in high esteem by his friends and neighbors. With the view of benefiting his surroundings and his county, he gives valuable assistance to enterprises of a public nature. Mr. Foster has lately become interested in the Southern Land & Lumber Company, of Chicago, Ill., and in southern pine and hardwood lands.




#1. Dictionary of Wisconsin biography, #2. Historical and Biographical Album of the Chippewa Valley Wisconsin, 1891-2," pages 432-433 and the Foster Family Records.




Janet Schwarze.


Related Links


1910 View of the Greenwood, WI, "Farmers' Store".

Foster Township, Clark Co., Wisconsin.



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