Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

August 23, 1995, Page 24

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 



Good Old Days


History of Dells Dam

Information taken from August 1879 Presses


By Dee Zimmerman


The building of another flooding-dam on Black River has been fully decided upon and operations already commenced.  It is being built at the head of the Dells, about three quarters of a mile above the new bridge.  Miller’s saw mill is being removed from Greenwood for the purpose of sawing out the necessary lumber of which six or seven thousand feet will be required.  The dam will be finished this fall and when done, will make the flooding arrangements along the whole river very complete.  The stock in the new dam will be held by the leading lumbermen.  It will be build under the supervision of H. A. Bright.  (Reference to the “new bridge” would have been located about 2/10’s of a mile south of the present bridge on Highway 95 that spans the Black River.)


October 1879 Update on dam progress:  We paid a visit last week to the huge flooding dam being built at the dells, nine miles below this place, and found it to be a work of much greater magnitude than we had supposed it to be.  We found Mr. Bright in general command of a little army of eighty-five men; one steam saw mill and innumerable teams.  Thos. F. Brown, of Black River Falls, is the builder in charge of the work, with Dave Mason, of this place, as his foreman.  In the office we found Jim Boudon as serene as usual with the exception that he was practicing on language to address to O. F. Clapp for sending him $5 worth of certain papers of one date instead of sending the papers to that amount from day to day.  Jim wasn’t keeping a newsstand, and wouldn’t stand it.


The dam, which is now more than half done, will be about 350 feet long.  It is built on a rock foundation and instead of being a dam proper is a succession of massive piers between which is a series of flood and sluice gates and rollways.  The piers are ten in number, built of sawed square timber and filled with rock.  Five of the numbers are 93 feet in length, 12 feet wide and 18 feet high, the other five 52 feet in length, 12 feet wide and 18 feet high.  There are to be six flood gates 18 feet high.  There are to be six flood gates 18 feet wide, one sluice gate 24 feet wide and two rollways 48 feet wide.


The rollways are piers in themselves but a little lower than the piers proper and descending gradual from the upstream end in order that the logs may be passed over them without being slivered or otherwise damaged.  There has been over half a million feet of square timber used, and when completed will contain nearly a million feet.


It is hardly possible to make an estimate of the amount of water the dam will hold.  Immediately above the works the channel widens to double its ordinary width and runs backwards through high banks for several miles on nearly a dead level.  It is quite certain that it will hold all the water that will ever be found necessary to flood the lower river sufficiently to get out the logs, and when completed, as it will be this fall, it will pretty effectually settle the flooding question and make a fair drive possible, rain or no rain.  (The dam did serve the needs it was designed for lasting several years.  Another purpose for its location was controlling the water above the Hatfield Dam, alleviating pressure on it when the river’s water became high.  Work was done on Dells Dam again in 1907, reinforcing and updating the dam structure.  This article’s photos were taken during that period.  The dam went out during the 1911 flood.) 


Dells Dam being reconstructed in 1907


The steam shovel and working crew at the Dells Dam gravel pit.


Men and women lined up on the steam shovel’s frame for a posing shot near the Dell’s Dam site.



The steam shovel in operation as it moved a load of soil at the dam’s base area.


(Photos courtesy of Joan Buddinger)


Other News of August 1879:  The farmers of the county have been experimenting quite largely and with satisfaction, in raising clover with winter wheat.  It is claimed to be a protection against chintz bugs.


The best job of road work that has been done in the county is the arched stone culvert between Neillsville and Staffordville.  There is no reason why it should not stand for all time. (Staffordville was located north of the present Steel farm, along Hwy 73.)


The Unity School is the special price of he people of that lively town on the Central R.R. and we are informed that Mr. Geo. F. Wells, a teacher who has done very much to build up the school has been re-elected principal for another year.  Miss Eva Hugaboom, of Dorchester, is employed for the primary department of Unity.  She has an excellent reputation.


The contract for building the new fence around the Court House will be let by the building committee on the 19th inst.  The plan decided upon is a post and rail fence.  The posts will be 8x8, capped, set into solid oak cross sills and braced.  The rails will be 4x4 set into posts diagonally.  The fence is to be finished in the best shape and covered with a good coat of white paint.  It will add greatly to the appearance of the Courth House grounds, and to the whole village.  The fence improvement ought to be followed at once by a little more grading and the planting of shade trees.  The latter work the citizens of Neillsville ought to feel interest enough in to see done and we move that a subscription for the purpose be started.


Wm. Darton, the ever jovial ex-chairman of Beaver, was among the callers at this office last Friday.


Neillsville is increasing rapidly in all branches of business.  There is soon to be another cigar factory.


A fine new school house is being built in the Welsch district, near Loyal, by Mr. Montgomery, of this place, who has just completed a very handsome structure of the same kind in the village of Loyal.


P. G. Gwin is now the landlord, at Loyal, of what is pronounced one of the best hotels in the county.  There is life and natural hospitality enough about Peter to enable him to completely fill the place.


There is a class of mischievous boys in town who think it very cunning to prowl about town at night and steal apples.  Their parents are probably in ignorance of their being out after bedtime, but some night when their faultless offspring come home with their hides full of shot they will begin to suspect that they do not go to bed just when they ought to.  A good shot gun is better than a Sunday school at this season.


Mr. R. Burt thinks he can beat Harry Ferguson on corn. He shows a stalk raised in his field measuring fourteen feet and seven inches.


A large turbine water wheel and other machinery for Withee’s new flouring mill at Mclock passed through this place a few days ago.  Having nearly completed his flouring mill at Hemlock Dam, Mr. N. H. Withee has commenced the erection of a saw mill at the same point, which the rapidly increasing population of that vicinity will find a great convenience.  The first thing Mr. W. knows he will have a young city on his hands.  (Hemlock was located on Black River, five or six miles above Greenwood.) 




It is easier to know man in general than to know a particular man. – La Roehefoucauld




A man who cannot tolerate small ills can never accomplish great things. – Chinese proverb



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