Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

January 1, 1997, Page 24

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


Good Old Days


By Dee Zimmerman


History of Logging in Clark County


The first written account of logging operations within the present boundaries of Clark County to be found came from a journal of George Miller, a Mormon elder who wrote a detailed account of the logging operations of the Mormons on Black River in what is now Clark County from 1841 to 1844.  He mentions the trading of their saw mill that they owned south of Black River Falls to Jacob Spaulding for one he owned at the Falls.


Jacob Spaulding came to Black River Falls in 1833 and it is believed that he began logging prior to 1842.


At that time, 1838, all of the territory now comprising Clark County was held by Indian tribes.  The Winnebago’s, Chippewa’s, Sioux, and Menomonie’s; all four tribes claiming territory along Black River within the present boundaries of Clark County.


The Winnebago’s claimed territory east of Black River and north as far as the present line between townships 25 and 26.


The Chippewa’s claimed west of Black River, the southern boundary of their claim extending westward from Black River along a line roughly corresponding to the southern boundary of township 26.


The Menomonie’s claimed the territory extending west of the Wisconsin River to Black River, this overlapping and extending north of Winnebago territory.


The Sioux claimed all that territory; from the mouth of Black River on its western border to a point half a day’s march south of the Falls of the Chippewa’s.


That left a part of western Clark County neutral territory not specifically claimed by any tribe, but hunted and trapped by all of them. 


The Indian tribes were very hostile to any settlement or logging operations upon their territory and kept that rein on outsiders until 1837.


 In 1837 treaties were made with the Sioux, the Chippewa and the Winnebago’s by which they ceded all their territory in Wisconsin to the United States.


Those treaties however left the Menomonie claim unsettled but as their agency was on the Wisconsin River they only visited the Black River valley for the purpose of hunting and trapping until the winter of 1843-1844 when Chief Oshkosh and some other members of the tribe came to Black River Falls and forbade further logging up on the Black River.


The Mormons having a large stock of logs and lumber cut sent two of their number, Messrs. Miller and Daniels, in Jan. 1844 through the wilderness, with snow 19 inches deep to the Indian Agency in the Wisconsin River to get permission to move their logs and lumber already cut and to buy additional timber from the Indians.  The Indians were willing to sell timber but the agent refused to allow them to cut any timber unless the agreement was ratified by the federal government at Washington.  But finally agreed to let them move their logs and lumber already cut and issued an order that all trespassing by cutting pine upon Black River must cease.


In 1847 the Menomonie released their claim to this territory and the government survey commenced.  At that time the present towns of Loyal, York, Eaton, Weston, and Warner were surveyed.  The survey was continued until 1855 when the townships of Sherman, Unity, Colby, and Mayville were surveyed.


The first government entry in Clark County was made by Isaac S. Mason in Section 35, in the Town of Weston, on Sept. 1, 1848.


From that time on for nearly fifty years the records of deeds in the Register of Deeds office were filled with the names as grantee of loggers in Clark County.


Prominent among these names we find those of W. T. Price, Samuel F. Weston, Cyrus Woodman, C. C. Washburn, William W. Crosby, Moses Clark, Lincoln Clark, Wm. T. Foster, Andrew Shepperd, Robert Ross, N. B. Holway, Abner Gile, Amos Elliott, James Hathway, Levi Withee, Geo. L. Lloyd, Abner Coburn, Jacob Spaulding, James Hewett, Root & Thompson and many others.


In the 1850’s the largest owners of land in Clark County were Cyrus Woodman and Samuel F. Weston.


Woodman was by far the largest land owner of any one who ever owned land in the county, having taken land in nearly every one of Clark County’s 34 townships.  As many as 12 sections in the Town of Seif, 5 sections in Hendren, 4 sections in Loyal, 7 sections in Weston, 15 in the Town of Eaton and 10 in the Town of Washburn.  These figures were taken at random from the records and lesser holdings in every town in the county but two.  (A section is one mile square or 640 acres).


Weston was also the owner of numerous tracts scattered all over Clark County.  Weston Rapids, a couple miles north of Neillsville and along the Black River was a community-village started by him, thus bearing his name.


The lumbering industry in the county covers two district periods, the pine roughly speaking from 1850 to 1900 and hard-wood industry from 1880 and 1915.


What now comprises the towns of Sherwood, Washburn, Levis, Dewhurst, Hewett, Mentor, Foster and Butler was in a great part covered with a heavy growth of medium sized pine interspersed with some hardwood ridges.  In the other 26 towns the pine extended from the streams on each side back from one-fourth to one-half mile, this was true of the smaller streams as well as the larger streams, besides this nearly every hardwood forty in the county had more or less pine on it, most pine very large and of better quality than most of the pine upon the lowlands.


The pine was mostly cut before the hardwood for several reasons; chief among these reasons was the lack of transportation for the hardwood.  A pine log or raft of pine lumber would float upon the water while a hardwood log would go to the bottom of the river in a short time.  Another reason was the settlement of the prairie states from 1850 to about 1890 which required a large amount of pine lumber, and the building of the large cities in the entire North Central States together with the rebuilding of Chicago after the disastrous fire of 1871.


The men who were at the head of the logging of the pine had little or nothing to do with the cutting of the hardwood; almost an entire group of men were the leaders in the hardwood industry.


At that time and for many years thereafter the Federal Government was very liberal with its recently acquired land. 


By an act of congress any citizen of the United States or any one who had declared his intention to become a citizen could go to the Government land office and buy any amount of Government land he wished to buy at $1.25 per acre or $50 per 40-acre, providing the land was mor4e than 10 miles from any railroad.  It was within 10 miles of a railroad the price per acre was double or $2.50 per acre.


As there were no railroads (in) this part of the state until 1869, when the West Wisconsin Ry. Co., afterwards the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railway was built for about three miles across the southwest corner of the Town of Mentor, there was practically a period of 21 years in which all timber land in the county was purchased from the government at a minimum of $1.25 per acre.


During this time practically all the best pine land was taken and much of it logged.


The men who first located timber in Clark County were nearly all men from either New York or from Maine.  They were mostly men who were accustomed to logging from actual experience in “working in the woods,” as it was called in their native states.


They were a group of sturdy, industrious, far-seeing men, used to privation and hardship, the rough and tumble life connected with the logging industry.  Most of these men became leaders of men and many of them later became the leaders of local, state and national affairs.  They were self-taught through the experiences in their rigorous life style.


Prominent among these men who had to do logging in Clark County in a large way was Gen. C.C. Washburn of La Crosse, who swerved with distinction in the Civil War, and in Congress for several terms as representative from Wisconsin.  Also, he served as governor of the state from Jan. 1, 1872, to Jan. 5, 1874 (to be continued).


A Town of Grant & Washburn area logger was John Pietenpol who with some of his crew of 1890-91 was photographed with this very impressive load of logs.  The virgin timber produced some huge logs that had to be hauled out, such as this load near Cunningham Creek.  Also, no (note), this little team of horses, most likely, didn’t pull the big load, (but) they were hooked up to the sled to make the scene complete.  [Photo courtesy of Dick and Joan (Pietenpol) Tibbett] 



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