Clark County Press, Neillsville, Wisconsin

March 28, 2012, Page 11

Contributed by "The Clark Co. Press"

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 


Compiled by Dee Zimmerman


Clark County News

March 1937


History of Logging in Clark County

By Fred Draper

Continuation of Chapter VII


When the dam was filled with water the gates again opened and the logs in the pond were driven out through the gates, care was taken to keep them straight as they approached the gates so that they didn’t get crossways and form a jam above the dam.  Men were stationed above the flume with peavies to straighten the logs so they would go through end-ways.  It was surely a great sight to watch the logs go through when the dam was first opened.  I have seen logs that would scale five or six hundred feet strike the bed of the river endways and go end over end and then go rushing madly down the stream.


The crest of the flood picked up most of the logs, which were left on the sand bars and banks from the previous floods, but there were always pockets of still water and eddies where the logs got out of the current and when the flood started, drivers usually working in pairs, rode down the stream on logs looking for those pocketed still logs, poling them back into the current with their peavies. Sometimes in spite of all their care, a log would get crosswise of a rock or other obstruction and with the stream running full with logs; it was sometime a matter of seconds before a good sized log jam was started. This type of jam usually occurred where the banks were high and the water was swift and with the pressure of the water and logs from behind, the logs began to pile up sometimes to the height of from 20 to 30 feet.


Chapter VIII


As soon as a log-jam was formed and there was no prospect of moving it, everything on the drive above it was hung up. The flood dams above were closed and if the jam was on the main river, driving on the tributaries above was stopped below the last flood dam; then efforts of the entire driving crew were centered on breaking the jam.


The logs at the head of the jam had to be pried loose and rolled out until the key log was found and pulled out, then if the jam failed to start the only practical method was to pick away the flank logs leaving a long tongue pointing down stream from the center to overcome the friction at the sides, then if the jam failed to start, the gates from the dam or dams above were all opened letting a full flood of water down upon the tail of the jam and the pressure from the rear usually started the logs, but sometimes this failed and the operations had to be repeated.


The work was dangerous, the crew had to work from below with the logs hanging over them; sometimes jets of water shooting out from between the logs, deluging the men at work.


When the jam broke and started moving, the men had to jump for their lives as the pressure from above was tremendous and the logs would tumble end over end as the whole jam moved down the river, disintegrating into its component parts.


Sometimes in the 1870s dynamite came into use and many of the rocks and other obstructions, with its aid were removed and there was less likelihood of a jam forming and if one did form, dynamite was sometimes a great help in starting the jam, but always the key log had to be found and removed before the jam would start.


The whole drive was hard and dangerous, death lurked at every turn, the men were soaked with water from below and from water above, no matter how hard it rained and the drive had to go on.  The day started long before daylight and ended only when it got so dark they could no longer see. For this work the men received from three to five dollars per day, which for those days was considered very good wages.


In 1864 the lumbermen on the Black River found the need of improving the river for driving purposes by organizing a company known as the Black River Improvement Company. The company was incorporated under a special act of the legislature and some of the objects stated in its articles of incorporation were building dams, deepening and straightening the channel, closing up the chutes and side-cuts from Black River to the Mississippi, erecting booms and piers, and lastly but not the least to charge and collect toll on the running of logs down the river.


This company had complete control of the main river, from the time that it obtained its charter until the logs were all cut and driven out. Later, at least two other improvement companies were organized for the purpose of competing with the Black River Improvement Company.  They were the La Crosse Booming and Transportation Company and the Black River Flooding Dam Association, litigation ensued and these companies were beaten in the Supreme Court and the Improvement Company held control of the river to the end.


In Clark County, the company built two dams, one at Hemlock near the mouth of the Popple River in the Town of Warner and the other at the Dells in the Town of Levis, about one-half mile below the mouth of Wedges Creek and two and one-half miles above the mouth of the East Fork.


Extensive improvements were also made on the river in clearing the bed of the river of obstructions and closing up the mouths of the sloughs and straightening the stream.  This was especially true south of Neillsville.


Before reaching La Crosse, the logs were driven into an immense sorting pond and there many of the drivers found employment for the entire summer months sorting the logs and poling each owner’s logs to its separate crib or boom where they were made into rafts and towed to the mill of the owner.


Here was where both the side and end mark on the logs of which I have spoken in a previous chapter became of use, it was a fifty-fifty proposition that the side mark was above the water and caught by the eye much quicker than the end mark. Also, when the logs were so close together; it was sometimes difficult to see the end of the log to find the mark. Then the driver set his spiked boots a little to the side of the log and whirled it over in the water until the side mark came into sight.


Drivers became experts in this work and as the water grew warmer there was much horseplay among them, each dying to see if they could roll the other fellow into the water. And right here since writing the above, an old driver told me a story on a friend of his, worth repeating and as the victim, I know enjoys a good story on himself, he will enjoy this one as much as his friends will.


Jack Young and John Gardiner, both old river drivers, were driving on the Popple River just above the Spaulding dam when Jack came across a good sized pine log that was split in half in the middle; the half was floating in the water with the split side up. Jack said, “I’m going to turn that log over with the bark side up and some greenhorn will jump on it and get thrown into the drink.”  No sooner said than done and the two men rode down to the dam, after doing their work at the dam they each got on a log to pole back to the flowage with Jack picking out what he thought to be a good log to ride back on, jumped on it and over it went like a streak of lightning.  Jack went to the bottom of the river, leaving his hat floating on the top of the water and his peavey at the bottom of the pond.  Of course he had jumped on the log that he had earlier in the day turned over to catch the other fellow, so the joke was on Jack.

(To be continued)


March 1952


A men’s Chorus has been organized by Frank Dubes, in the Town of York, who is one of the members and will be accompanied by Marvin Naedler, Reuben Garbisch and Nyle Benedict.


The Girl Scouts of Neillsville celebrated the 40th birthday of Scouting with a public birthday party last Friday night, Brownies, Intermediates and Senior Scouts from the nine troops in the city took part in the observance.


Three candles, representing the three-fold promise of the Scouts, were lighted by Betty Trogner, Diane Haack and Marla Carl, who represented Senior, Intermediate and Brownie Scout Troops.  The entire assemblage of Scouts repeated the Girl Scout promise while the candles were being lighted.


The scouting movement began in Neillsville in 1930 and Sophia Randall, wearing her mother’s uniform, took part in a re-enactment of that beginning.


The Brownie organization was begun in 1944 for girls between seven and 10 years of age and members of the three troops re-enacted one of their meetings.                                                         


Now busily making arrangements for her trip to Germany is Mrs. John Durst, who came to this country 15 years ago, is a native of Stuttgart, Germany and this will be her first trip home.


“I will not go for good,” she said, “as long as everything is so unsettled, no peace anywhere. I will come back to my house before winter.”


Mrs. Durst’s mother, who died in 1945, left a coal and wood business in Stuttgart to her three daughters, two of who live in Stuttgart.  It is also her business reasons that Mrs. Durst if (is) returning to Germany.


Steamship reservations are the present bottleneck for Mrs. Durst. It seems that most ships now have their full complement of passengers until August.


Although she investigated rates for flying overseas, Mrs. Durst was definitely opposed to it.


“To fly there?  That I would never do!”


The wedding of nephew in Stuttgart on May 29 is one reason she would like to go as soon as possible.

Mrs. Durst hopes to sail on the S. S. America on May 1st, if she can get a reservation on that ship.


Flitter’s Grocery Specials; We Deliver Daily – Ph 220


Picnic Hams 38’ per lb.; Ocean Perch fillets 38’ lb. pan ready; Farm Dressed Chickens, only 45’ per lb.; Lobster Tail & Shrimp are available                                                                             


Seven urban and eight rural real estate transfers, totaling $50,503 were listed with the Register of Deed’s office last week.


In the largest rural transfer, Sigfrid Borgesson bought from Calvin Mills, trustee in the C. A. Johnston testamentary estate, the Johnston farm in the Town of Hixon for $12,000. The property consists of a 20 and 80 in Section 23 and an 80 and a 40 in Section 26.


Mr. and Mrs. Alvin B. Lavene and Hattie Forman have bought the Joseph Kernz farm in the Town of York.  It consists of a 40 in Section 30, excluding a 20 rod square area.


Kurt Marg bought a 40 and the buildings on it from Carl Diercks for $3,500. The land lies in Section 9 of the Town of Pine Valley.


A Town of Hewett transfer was that of Mr. and Mrs. Frank L. Maus, who purchased the Edward G. Thews farm for $4,500. It consists of an 80, two 40s and land in the northwest quarter lying south of Highway 10 in Section 13. A mortgage of $5,000 was assumed by the purchasers.                                               


The prospect of a wood-working industry employing from 20 to 25 people loomed large for the Neillsville area this week.


It came with the purchase by the Premier Manufacturing Co., a Chicago concern, of a three-acre site at the junction of Highway 10 and County Trunk G, three miles west of the city. The purchase was completed by John Norman, president of the 18 years old concern.


According to Harry Wasserberger and Victor J. Anderson, realtors involved in the transaction, the location will be the site of a modern concrete block factory building, 40 by 60 feet.  Plans have already been drawn and are to be sent immediately to the state industrial commission for approval.


The plant will be operated as a subsidiary of the Premier Manufacturing Co. It will be used exclusively for the manufacture of hardwood salad bowls, which are one of five lines manufactured by the company.  Other products of Premier include chests and wooden frames for Pyrex casseroles.


According to the realtors, the plan of the Premier people is to manufacture the bowls here, doing all the woodworking except the finishing.  The bowls then would be trucked to Chicago for the finish lacquering and hand painted decorations. The hope expressed by them is that they will be ready to start production in about 60 days.


Only hard maple will be used in the local operation, according to the word Mr. Norman gave to Wasserberger and Anderson.   The wood supply was one of he decisive factors in determining upon the Clark County location.  Mr. Norman and the two other officials of the company made a survey of the availability of hard maple Monday with the help of A. C. Covell, former county forester.


How the company happened upon Neillsville is something of a question.  The officials had been looking at available manufacturing space in the former Ford plant at Iron Mountain, Mich., but had turned these down and were retuning to Chicago when they stopped here Sunday. 


They formerly operated a plant, similar to the one they expect to put into operation here, in southern Michigan; but the supply of hard maple became short and the plant was sold.


(The Premier Manufacturing Company did build a plant as planned, making salad bowls and related products from locally grown maple trees for a few years. After closing, the building was sold and remodeled into nightclub known as “The Hacienda”.)                                                                                         


Sixteen Neillsville drivers discovered to their dismay Sunday morning that the city ordinance forbidding parking on the streets during snow removal is being enforced.  The cars were ticketed early Sunday morning, March 23, as one of the worst March blizzards slowly blew out over the area, leaving six inches of snow piled up in drifts.


A turn of the century, late 1800s or early 1900s Clark County logging camp with lumberjacks and related crew standing in front of their temporary quarters in the woods, where they lived while working at cutting and moving timber out to the banks of the nearby Black River in readiness for the spring flood waters that would carry the logs down to market in the La Crosse Area.





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