Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

June 24, 1993, Page 28

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Good Old Days" Articles 



Good Old Days  


By Dee Zimmerman


Town of Hewett… Hewettville… Snyder Dam…. All having a common bond, all having been in the same area


Hewett was created with its present boundaries November 20, 1874.  The act was to take effect the first Monday of April, 1875 and first meeting was held at the hotel of James Hewett at Hewettville.


The town wasn’t settled as early as several other portions of the county.  The first settlement was made in the central part of the town on Wedge’s Creek, and was known as Hewettville.  A sawmill was erected there by Mr. Hewett for the purpose of sawing area pine timber into lumber.


The Town of Hewett, as well as Washburn, Levis, Dewhurst and Mentor were greatly covered with medium sized pine with some hardwood ridges scattered throughout.  Originally, the Town of Hewett was thickly covered with pine tree growth.


Hewettville, a small hamlet, was located along Wedges Creek, near the former site of Snyder Dam.  The main building, housing the chief enterprise of the little community was the saw mill.  That was a business of the Hewett family, thus the hamlet being named Hewettville.  It was located on the east shore of Wedges Creek, and close to what is now Highway 10.


The rest of Hewettville was in the immediate vicinity of the mill.  There were five or six buildings of various sizes, mostly constructed roughly for temporary use.  The main building was the hotel or boarding house, which was a little northeast of the saw mill on the north side of the present U.S. 10 and near the intersection of the Snyder Park entrance, of the highway.  The old hotel was located at the northeast corner of that intersection, near the highway and park road.  The other three or four buildings, all connected with the Hewett enterprise, and none were of a permanent nature.  All rested on temporary foundations, such as wooden blocks.


In addition to the saw mill, and buildings Hewettville had a dam on Wedges Creek and a canal which led from the dam to the saw mill.  The dam was in the location of the Snyder dam which was built later, but was higher and impounded more water to power the saw mill.


The end of Hewettville came on August 8, 1886, making it to be in short existence.


On that fateful day some youngsters, Fred Lenz, Rosie Frank, Ed Payne, John Lenz and one of the Dux children, went blueberry picking near the Spaulding shanty, a logging camp, west of Hewettville.  As they were picking berries they saw smoke rising in a column straight up.  When the fire started, there was little wind.  Soon the wind started and got very strong, fanning the fire into a roaring wall of flames which raced through the woods.  The children ran and came upon a horse drawn rig of the Carl Schultz family.  A small tree had fallen in the path of the rig so everyone helped to clear the trail.  Everyone climbed into the rig for a fast escape in panic, racing ahead of the roaring, racing flames.


The fire quickly consumed the saw mill and other buildings.  Being of dry timber and flimsy construction, the fire destroyed them quickly.  Flames proceeded east, stopping at Globe road which we know as “G.”  There were tilled fields, the front line of farm country at that time.


Fire was a great dread of the lumber industry, sawmills and saw mill towns during that era.  Buildings flimsily constructed of inflammable pine and consuming the airy fuel left by their saws, were periodically swept by flames. Rarely did a sawmill not have to be result at least once or twice due to fire, as well as the towns built around them.  Careless logging methods of the time invited such disasters.  Only the choice pine was cut with loggers leaving great heaps of branches and tops, known in the trade as slashings.


Once the slashings became dry as tinder, only a spark or stroke of lightening was needed to turn it into a burning inferno.  With no means of fighting the blaze, the fires were left to exhaust themselves, eventually.


The highway going from Neillsville to Humbird passed through Hewettville.  In 1890, the population of Hewett Township was 150.


The dam built by Mr. Hewett for the purpose of powering his sawmill, served his business and remained for a number of years after the mill was destroyed.


A new dam replaced the old ones in 1929.  That dam was named after Ernie Snyder who donated land for the park and dam/lake area.  It became a very picturesque setting, capturing the eyes of whoever drove over Highway 10.  Eventually more and more homes were built on the south side of the small lake, reaching beyond on the west side.  Later, homes were built on the north area where the airport had been at one time.


Many families through the area have enjoyed the park and its facilities on the northwest side of Snyder Lake.  When our kids were grade school age, we would often pack a picnic supper on a hot summer evening and go to Snyder’s Park.  The kids would put on their swimming wear at home, so as soon as they got out of the car, they made a dash for the beach.  We would start the charcoal grill and have our picnic meal when the kids were through swimming.  Other families enjoyed such evenings there also.  Years later, as the kids became teenagers they went out to the park with their friends.  One popular sport was to swing out on that rope which was tied to the branch of a lone tree and let go just at the right time, landing in the water with a big splash.


It was easy to understand why the residents wanted to live there, such a pretty view and surroundings with a special serenity.


Then, when the dam was recently removed, there was no more lake, no more waterfalls it is a vast contrast to what it had been before.


We can understand why those who live there are working so diligently to raise funds for building a new dam.  Also, why they have the support of many neighbors within the county who also would like to see the little lake and dam restored as it was before.  Even the young people who may no live in the area but grew up here enjoying the lake and park, have commented on hoping it will be restored for the future generations to enjoy.


There is no sign or other recognition of Hewettville having ever existed.  However a dam built in 1874 that created a lake has had a lasting impression of something that should always be.


An aerial view of Snyder Dam and Lake as it appeared when the Neillsville airport was on the north side.  The road seen in the photo is Hwy 10.


Snyder Lake and the north shore which was also part of the Neillsville golf course site in early 1930’s.  (Photos courtesy of Clark County Historical Society, Jail Museum and part of the Ernie Snyder collection  Information contributed by Gertie Snyder and Ruth Ebert.)



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