Business: Sawmills


Surnames: Clair, Hintz, Gergel, Butcher, Thompson, Jordan, Ulesich, Schmidt, Schwellenbach, Debevec, Verschay, Coleman

----Source: Family Scrapbook

In the early days of Willard there were two stationary sawmills operating. The first was owned by Professor Aaron Clair, George Hintz and probably a few others. All of these men built nice homes of sawed lumber and many more followed the same pattern.

The Mill was in operation from 1907 until 1911 when Mr. Clair lost his life through an accident at the mill. Later a man by the name of Gergel came in with a mill. He located his mill on or about the same site.

In 1923 Lucian Butcher bought a saw mill and located on his lot south of the cheese factory. Harley Thompson was his engineer, Rudy Jordan was the carriage man, Joe Ulesich was tail sawyer. Harry Schmidt was all around helper. It was understood that whoever brought logs to saw had to furnish the water for the steam engine. This mill was in operation until 1928 or so.

There were other portable sawmills that came around to anyone that had a large amount of logs to saw. Then other people with smaller amounts of logs, pooled their logs so it was profitable to the operator to come in and set up.

Among them was John Martens from Neillsville whom it is believed had a steamer at first, and later an "oil pull" type tractor, which ran on distillate. Bill Schwellenbach from the Christie area also came into Willard country. In 1925 he sawed lumber for Anton Debevec Sr. Anton Jr. remembers hauling water for the steamer from a puddle at the north edge of Willard. He was about fifteen years then but still going to school, so he went with team, tank wagon and hand pump, filled the tank and hauled one load before school and one load after school. John Verschay remembers helping him pump.

During the early years there was always somebody in the area most the summer, sawing lumber. It was a fairly common sight to see someone going down the road with a wagon load of logs or a load of lumber. Schwellenbach's mill also sawed on the Louis Coleman farm, about two miles south of Willard on the east side of County Trunk "G".



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