News: Neillsville Heritage (Mormon Loggers – Jul 2012)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Miller, Spaulding, Crane, Curts, Cunningham

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 6/20/2012

A Neillsville Heritage (Mormon Loggers – 2012)

A Neillsville Heritage

Telling the story of the Mormon Loggers, 1841 to 1845

Drawing of early Mormon logger. (Contributed photo)

Of the histories of Clark County that have been written, all mention the first white men in the county were the Mormon loggers.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) were persecuted and driven from their communities in Kirtland, OH, then Jackson County, MO. As they looked for a new place to settle and live in peace, they came to a settlement in a bend of the Mississippi River in Illinois called Commerce. In 1839 there were a few log cabins and a swamp – not a pleasant looking place to settle. But with hard work and determination, by the time the Saints (As they referred to themselves) left their “beautiful city,” Nauvoo, in 1846 it was a thriving community with many red brick homes, a large building “for weary travelers” and a magnificent three-story structure that stood on a hill and overlooked the town and the bend in the river. That structure was the “House of the Lord” – the Nauvoo Temple

All of these buildings required lumber which was very scarce in the Nauvoo area and expensive to procure. Because of associations the saints had, one of which was George Miller with Jacob Spaulding, there was a knowledge of the vast pine forest in Wisconsin along the Black River and its tributaries. Two committees were established to gather the workforce to go to the area known as the Wisconsin Pineries. The first order of business was to purchase saw mills, one from Crane and Curts (Kirtz, Kits) which was located in the current area of Melrose, and two more from Jacob Spaulding on the falls in what is now Black River Falls.

The loggers then came up the Black River to the area now known as Neillsville. They commenced logging on the streams now called Cunningham Creek (named after one of the Mormon loggers who drowned in it), Wedges Creek, O’Neill Creek and another waterway just south of Greenwood. The only other white man who had been in this a rea before was a trapper. Since no logging had yet been done, the majestic white pine were growing right along the streams, making it convenient to cut the trees, get them into the streams and float them down to the mills on the Black River where they were cut into lumber, “rafted,” floated to the Mississippi and on down to Nauvoo, a total of about 400 miles.

A committee has gathered together to present to Neillsville and Clark County “Remembering the Mormon Loggers of the Wisconsin Pineries” as part of Neillsville Heritage Days, since the loggers laid the groundwork for the future city of Neillsville (the Mormon Clearings”). This is being done by involving the community in some of t eh pioneer activities the loggers may have done, including Dutch oven cooking (tasting available during Heritage Days), demonstrations of spinning and weaving, children’s pioneer games (some of the loggers brought their families), entertainment by the Ho-Chunk (the Native Americans and the Mormon loggers were of mutual assistance to each other), a vignette combining some of the history of the Mormon Loggers of the Wisconsin Pineries plus displays and more information and activities.

Stop by the area situated along the road between the high school parking lot and the main location of Schuster park during Neillsville Heritage Days, July 13-14.




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