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By an act of legislature, Clark County was created out of Jackson County July 6, 1853, five years after the State had been admitted to the Union.
St. Germain was probably the first white man to set foot on what is now Clark county soil. In 1836, when a lad of sixteen, he hired out in Canada to the American Fur Company and made his way to the then Territory of Wisconsin, by the Lake Superior route, and was sent south with a party of trappers, passing the ensuing winter on the east fork of Black River.
Few persons dreamed that within two generations it would become an agricultural paradise.
However, in those early days it was not unknown to fame, for the great forests of white pine along Black River and its tributaries had attracted the covetous eyes of the pioneer nation builders from the days of the first explorers. The primitive red men who inhabited the hills and valleys of Clark county were of the Chippewa tribe, the dividing line between them and the more quarrelsome Winebagoes being at the confluence of the east fork of Black River near the county line between Clark and Jackson Counties.
In 1844 a number of Mormons, attracted by the immense pine forests, came up Black River and cut a supply of logs which they floated down the river to Black River Falls, and thence as number down the Mississippi River to Nauvoo, Illinois, for use in a large Mormon tabernacle being erected at the place. For a year after their departure-- no white men inhabited Clark county.
The Mormons still retained their interest in the pine and came up the river to about three-quarters of a mile north of what is now known as "Farning's bridge", where the chopping -may still be seen, altho it is now covered with a growth of small timber, the "Mormon Riffles" being just below the clearing.
One of the Mormons fell into a creek and was drowned, and to this day it is known as "Cunningham Creek". In 1846 Andrew Grover, Hamilton McCullom., and a man named Beebe built a mill on
"Cunningham Creek," two miles below Neillsville. In 1845 James and Alexander O'Neill loaded a canoe with provisions and a few meager household goods and proceeded up the Mississippi River to Black River Falls where they erected a mill and for six years did a profitable business; then they decided to push farther on in the wilderness and came to the present site of Neillsville. The kindly Chippewas made the newcomers welcome. A rough cabin 18x24 feet was erected on the bank of O'Neill Creek, near where a mill was soon, after erected. This rnill had one upright saw with a capacity of 4000 ft. per day. The lumber was rafted to the foot of the creek, where it was combined and arranged and sent on down the river to Black River Falls. There, large rafts of 40 to 50 thousand feet of lumber were run down the river and sold at an average of $10.00 per thousand.
Straight up the river came the march of civilization. In 1847 there were a few newcomers, among them being Samuel Cawley, for whom a small creek crossing (what is now known as Highway 73, just north of the Imig farm) was named; Mr. Dible, who built a mill on "Cunningham creek"; and Jonathon Nichols, who built a mill on "Cawley creek." In 1848 the immigration brought Mr. VanDusen, Mr. Waterman, Elijah Eaton and Moses Clark, for whom Clark county was named. Van Dusen and Waterman began milling about eighteen miles north of Neillsville, on the west bank of Black River, later called "Eaton Town", and now known as the "Rips". Later Elijah or "Lige" Eaton as he was generally known, and for whom the town of Eaton was named, bought the mill from Van Dusen and Waterman and operated it for years.
Samuel Weston and David Robinson came from Maine and located above Neillsville. Thus, "Weston Rapids" received its name. Lurnber camps sprang up like mushrooms, and lumbering began in earnest in a region represented as "one immense forest."
These camps in general were about 30x40 feet, built of logs; some were six or seven logs high, and some were only two or three. These had high "scoop roofs" and gable ends covered with shakes.
This type of shanty, as they were all called, is known as a "State of Maine" camp. They used hollow basswood logs for chimneys, built up with rocks at the fireplace. Puncheon floors were used. Two shanties were generally built close together, end to end and under one roof, the space between being a runway which provided a place to store some of the extra tools. One was the cook shanty, the other the men's shanty.
In one corner of the cook shanty was the cook and taffle's bunk, then there was the cook stove and a long table where the men ate, using long benches for seats.
The earliest camps did not have a cook stove, there being a big fireplace in the center of the shanty where the cooking was done.
They used tin bakers where pies, biscuits, etc., were baked with the heat from the reflection on the tin; beans were baked in a bean hole. Other than the wild game which was shot in the woods, their meat supply consisted largely of salt pork. While they had good food and plenty of it, there was no great variety, many dried apples, prunes, etc. being used, also blackstrap Molasses in barrels, and no cook of today can make ginger bread which can quite equal that of the early days.
The cook and taffle rose about two o'clock to get breakfast for the teamsters, who hauled two loads of logs in the dark and one in the daylight. The dishes were of tin with pint basins for cups and the cook had iron pots and pans. The men's shanty generally contained a stove, two rows of bunks built along each side of the shanty. One corner was left for the wash bench, water pail, grindstone (which was usually kept busy as there were many axes to grind), the wanigan (a lumberjack’s trunk), and any extra tools not kept in the runway and the honored deacon seat (a bench running most of the length of the bunkhouse). The State of Maine camps had no bunks, the men sleeping in straw on the floor like a mess of pigs.
There was generally a fiddle and an accordion to be found in each camp. The men danced, played checkers on home-made boards, played games and tricks of all kinds, causing much merriment among themselves. No cards or liquor were allowed in the earliest camps. In the evening when everyone had made himself comfortable, the nightly session of story-telling from the honored deacon seat began.
It was the old time loggers who made Paul Bunyan a hero of camp night entertainment (See books at your Library). And so each night brought its own amusements, thereby helping to make the long winter seem, shorter and more pleasant in spite of the isolation. Magazines and papers were sent into camps by different societies.
The barns were usually built to accommodate eight or twelve teams, with an extra barn for the ox teams; for in the early stages of logging many ox teams were used, especially for skidding. The barn and granary were of logs and roofed with wild hay; the hay for feeding being stacked outside.
Jacob Spaulding known as a lumber baron had many camps on Rock Creek as well as on the river. In 1862 he had a camp on Rock Creek on what is now known as the Dan Cook farm, with a foreman named Price Mallory. In 1875 Cap Miles had a camp on Rock Creek just north of the present Otto Friske home. Colette Durham also had a camp on Rock Creek. Case Honeywell had a mill on Gile Creek, 3 -mines north of Greenwood. The Coleman Lumber Company, Gibson, Schofield, Withee, Miller Bros., The Island Lumber Company, Washburn, and many others had camps along the river; not to mention the "Owl Lumber Company", which worked nights and -operated on any "long forty." It is estimated that 2,500 men were employed on Black River during the height of the season.
Wages ranged from $28.00 to $30.00 for teamsters, choppers received from $30.00 to $35.00, swampers $16.00 to $18.00, blacksmiths, $40.00, cooks $50.00, taffle $14.00.
The timber cut during this time was all pine and would float, so it was hauled from the woods to the river, or creek, and piled mostly on the ice, where it was ready in the spring for the "drives" as so-on as the river broke up. The "driving" was done by men who were supple, level headed and quick on their feet. Not all of the men cared to do this work because of the danger of being drowned. When the ice was out enough in the spring for the logs to float, the drive started, some men going ahead in a boat. The drivers wore heavy shoes laced to the knee, with calks in the soles and heels to keep them from slipping. Then they would go out on these floating logs and start down the river, using a peavie to keep the logs going straight, jumping from one to another of the logs; the full width of the river being a mass of floating logs. Sometimes one of the head logs in the bottom would run into something which would stop it, then it would stop others, and unless the men could get it loosened a jam was soon formed; then they have to get down ahead of the jam and the "key log", as it was called, before they loosen the jam, and if any of the men were caught in this rush of logs when loosened, well, his drive was ended. Some of the rnen would stay on logs when going over a rapids and "shoot the rapids" while others would go on the bank until were past thenl, While "shooting the rapids" at the "Rips" in a boat, Charles Hogue (who was at time considered the best boatman on the river) was upset into it. He was under so long the men said: "Well, I guess Charley is gone this time", but he finally came up quite a ways down the river under the boat but managed to get out and reach shore safely.
When the main drive was past the sackers came, men wading in the ice cold water, shoving logs out of the sloughs, eddies, or wherever caught, using pike poles. These men slept in tents, always with wet clothing on; a "wannigan" boat was used to take food, clothing, tobacco, etc. down the river. Later in the season men went up and down the river "working in the bottoms" picking up stray logs and rolling them into the river. Water soaked logs were called dead heads and would not float; during the summer these were rolled onto the banks to dry. Many of them were stolen.
The logs from the drives were all taken to LaCrosse, where they were sorted according to the markings which were all registered in La Crosse. This marking was done by cutting the letters in the bark on the sides of the log with an axe, and by stamping the letters on the end of the log by means of an iron hammer with raised letters; each camp having their own mark, which was usually the initials of the owner. IXL, was "Island Lumber Company", C. L. C. "Coleman Lumber Company", --(nicknamed in camps as Coleman's Lousy Crew), N. H. W. "Niran Withee", etc. The last big drive, on Black River was in 1900. The clean-up or smaller drive was made in 1906 by Hi. Goddard.
The season of 1871 was a tremendous logging year, it being estimated that 350 million feet of lumber went down Black River in the spring following the winter's operation in the woods, and that 800 billion feet of timber was sent down Black River from 1844 to 1873, enough timber to make 121,000 miles of 16 foot lumber, five times around the earth. Many old timers recall the winter of 1872-73 as the Epizoodic winter when a disease called "Epizoodic" became an epidemic among horses, affecting their throat and lungs, killing a great many of the horses; times were very hard, and the settlers became very discouraged. In 1877-78 was the much talked of 'Al Brown' winter, so called for Al Brown, a jobber who was logging for a company from La Crosse on the north fork of Popple River.
The first of the winter was cold, the ground was frozen hard, and there was ice ten inches thick in the river. There was enough snow for sleighing for a short time. Then it turned warm again, and the frost all came out, of the ground. Al Brown said he would log "in spite of God Almighty," so he put a crew to cutting ice out of the river and hauling it onto the logging roads, hoping it would freeze and make an ice road, but it did not. The ice thawed as fast as they put it on, making that much more water and the mud that much deeper, for the weather became as warm as the Fourth of July. Gooseberry bushes leafed out as green as in summer, leeks grew eight inches high and frogs sang merrily in the water holes. John Paul of La Crosse was going to haul the logs anyway, so he had some trucks made with low cast-iron wheels about six or eight inches wide and a heavy iron axle.
These were shipped to Black River Falls, then hauled to the Al Brown farm, which is now the Al Barton home--there the men added the bunks, beams and tongue, and when finished they weighed a ton and a half each! Then they were taken to the woods and an attempt made to haul logs on them, but to no avail, for the ground was so soft and the trucks so heavy, they sank almost out of sight. One truck with its load of logs was left standing in the road. That ended the winter's logging, all camps broke up and Al Brown was beaten. It was called a $75,000.00 failure, and that was the last year the big logging companies operated.
The Coleman Lumber Company's camp, where Wm. Vollrath was working northwest of Withee left that camp and came down to the yellow banks of Black River, back of the present Kettner home, where they " crotched" in logs for a mile or more, then in the spring went back to the former camp and peeled the logs to keep the worms from working in them.
I realize these tales may seem very far-fetched and impossible, but one's imagination must span the years of time and realize how many changes have occurred, for this was a far different looking country fifty years ago. These tales of logging days have been told to us by various pioneer lumbermen and do not all apply to one camp, for there were many camps, each with its own characteristics.
As we of today view our rivers and creeks it does not seem possible these drives were ever made on them, but as the town and surrounding country has changed, so have the river and creeks, and what is now a mere trickle of water between the rocks, on which one could hardly float a straw, in those days was much larger than we ever see Black river now, and the river, well, one hardly knows how to describe the difference in size. In the early ‘80’s there were at "our Rips" three channels in the river, forming two large and distinct islands, not the mere patches of ground they are now.
In 1874, A. W. Bailey erected a sash and door factory on the west island which was run for a few years, when it was made into a grist mill owned and operated by Robert Schofield, and which had hammered-out teeth in stone to grind flour. Perry Palmer's father, who was the miller, was called the most honest man in Clark county. Later, when Mr. Schofield settled on his farm, he started to move these stones for use in building his barn, but changed his mind, and the stones may still be seen on William Hogue's land near the "Rips". A dam had been built to run these mills by means of a water wheel, but it was blown out in 1882.
In 1888-89 Michaeljohn and Hatton built and operated a stave mill on the west bank of the river, about where the county gravel pit is now, and where the anchor rods for the smoke stack may still be seen in the ground (1934). They used a tram road, which is built much as a railroad is, using logs instead of steel rails. The tram cars had cast-iron wheels made with a flange on each side to make it follow the log rail--not having a tongue it could be drawn from either end.
They were generally drawn by four horse teams, hauling about four cords to a load; these were then put into a steam vat for twenty-four hours, then a wheelbarrow full at a time was put into a swing trough, which worked by means of a cog-wheel and kept moving the bolts forward, where they were cut with a half inch knife into staves. Later this mill was sold to Jones Bros. And Johnson, and operated under the name of the Greenwood Mercantile and Manufacturing Company. Later it was sold to Henry Palms, then to Ed Buker, who ran it for twelve years, and sold it to Kippenhan.
In 1885 E. E. Crocker had a saw-mill just east of the City wells, and in 1895 Bert Bailey had a saw-mill a little southeast of the present "Soo" Depot. During the '80's Begley and Dingley owned and operated a saw-mill on the east bank of Black River, on the land now owned by John Pau.Iley. Later it was operated by Schofield, then by Jordan, and in about 1907 it was moved to the north bank of Rock Creek, where the cheese factory now is and was run by Bill Palms.
In 1892 or 93 the Hutchinson Cooperage Company of Peoria, Illinois, had a heading and stave mill on the north bank of Rock Creek, where they sawed staves and made heading from basswood, paying from $1.75 to $2.25 per cord for 34 inch bolts; and employed about seventy-five men. The company applied for a $1,000.00 bonus from the city and got it. In 1900 Kippenhan & Palms started a heading mill just north of the Cooperage mill, but it was destroyed by fire in 1904 at a loss of from $10,000 to $15,000.
In 1900 N. C. Foster erected and operated the "Greenwood Roller Mills" with Frank Shrimpton as miller. Later it became a Stock Company Mill, and a few years ago the building was sold.
The Penny Potato Company erected and operated a small potato house for a few years, then sold it to 0. A. Prellwitz, who made it into a grist mill. It was later sold to A. R. Warnke, and is now the location of the "New Richmond Roller Mills." The first creamery was built by the farmers on the land now owned by John A. Stafford, on the town line, almost north of the city wells. Ben Randall was the first butter-maker, then Tom Burns. In 1891 Mr. Delemater bought the creamery and hired Ed Parker as buttermaker.
In 1900 Frank Zetsche bought the building for $200.00. Frank Oxford moved it for him on skids across the fields to the Zetsche farm, now owned by Albert Dahl, the building setting about where the Christmas house now is. There he operated it as a creamery for several years with Ren Randalls as buttermaker. The old factory book shows the farmers checks ranging from $3.00 to $5.00 for two week's cream. Later he discontinued the business and moved the building to become an addition to his house.
In 1900 N. C. Foster erected the building for a creamery which is now Blodgett's Cheese House and operated it under the management of Mr. Grasshorn with John Wuethrich as buttennaker.
In 1919 a stock company built a canning factory which was under the management of John Huntzicker until his death in 1924, since which time it has been managed by Joe Brauneis Jr.
In 1920 Blum. Bros. of Marshfield took over the Blodgett Cheese House, on the north bank of Rock Creek and made it into a box factory which is still running under the management of Joe Merkel.
Many of the lumberjacks who came in the early logging days bought land from, the logging companies, others bought front the Government. In 1867 John Cox bought forty acres from the government for $1.25 per acre, which was the standard price at that time. This farm, up to the present time (1934), has changed hands only once and is now owned by Peter Kutz.
Morris Markham preempted 120 acres. He picked a hardwood ridge, but to obtain what he wanted he had to take-some with pine which he later sold for fifty cents per thousand on the sturnp. This brought him more than the farm, known as the William Laabs home, is worth.
The men began clearing the farms, first a small spot in which to build a small log house, later a log barn was built, then a small spot became a garden, generally between the stumps. For many years the men went to the woods in the winter, to the camps of the smaller logging companies, or individual men who were logging; gathering up the smaller and more scattered tracts of pine. In the summer they cleared another piece of land, saving the straightest and best trees, which they split into rails with which to build their fences; saving enough for their own firewood, using just the body of the tree, for no one thought of trimming up the top of a tree in those days, then they would have a logging bee, to which the neighbors all came and helped; the women coming too, to assist in cooking the meals, then they would pile the logs into huge piles and burn them, for there was no sale for firewood and no railroad on which to ship it out. As each man cleared a little field it was grubbed up with a grub-hoe, or shovel-plowed, anyway to break it up, then a patch of potatoes was planted or a little oats sowed.
If one man had an ox-team or a team of horses they all had one for they were neighbors in every sense of the word. A few cows were added to their meager possessions, for by now the children needed milk. While the men worked in the camp in the winter the women stayed at home with the children and did such outdoor chores as were to be done. From these days originates the present fad of, piecing and quilting quilts for every thrifty housewife made two or three quilts each year. Sheep were added to the live stock and spinning-wheels came into use and the housewife spun and wove, and spun and knit, for everyone needed heavy, warm woolen socks and stockings, as well as other articles of clothing. The women were very glad to have some thing to help pass the long cold and lonely winters.
And so the years rolled by and a railroad came to solve the problem of taking out the hardwood timber and help solve the financial problem, which help was needed so badly. From then on they began logging the hardwood ridges. These camps were conducted along the same lines as the early camps; each year bringing new methods of doing the work. They still continued the use of the go-devil but added the use of the skidding tongs; the indispensable "cant hook" of all ages was much improved over the swingdog type of the early days.
This timber was not put on the river as was the pine, but hauled to the railroad, where it was "landed", scaled," then "decked" and as cars could be obtained in the spring they were loaded onto the cars by means of a "crotch chain," "grinpole" or "jammer". Most of that going out on the "Soo" line went to the Upham. Manufacturing Company of Marshfield while that going out on the F. & N. E. went to the Foster Company at Fairchild.
Along with the other improvements came the use of dynamite with which to blow out the stumps which must be cleaned out of the fields in order to use the new and improved farm machinery being put on the market. The little cabin of the woodsman, with his few acres of clearing have gradually expanded until now we find some of the most fertile and productive farms, with their beautiful houses which have all the modern conveniences of a city home; the large, well ventilated barns with the modern drinking cups, which provide drinking water for the cattle, within reach of their heads at all times, as compared to the older art of driving the cattle to the creek or spring and in winter chopping a hole in the ice for the cattle, to drink from; also the large silos which provide the green fodder for winter.
The heavy growth of timber was a bonanza for the lumberman, and many people felt at the time the lumbering interests were a thing of the past, that the cut-over land would be a serious problem to overcome but such has not been the case, for many more valuable crops have been harvested each year from these cut over lands than the timber which had taken centuries to produce. Such was the fertility of the land upon which these mammoth forests were located that it has responded to intelligent culture to such an extent that wonderful fields of clover, corn and field grains are produced. Many of our young boys in their 4-H Clubs have been made happy by growing the most beautiful corn in the world, known as Golden Glow. The beautiful pedigreed barley and other pedigreed seed grains grow to perfection, and offer an opportunity that can not be surpassed in any other portion of the world.
The fertile field 's, clear running streams and springs makes this a dairy section not to be excelled. Creameries and cheese factories are found in all directions. The eyes of the world are still upon this section of the country. Many carloads of choice cattle are picked from the beautiful herds of all breeds to be found around Greenwood, "the hub of Clark county," and shipped to other states to build better herds of dairy cattle there. The papers inform us that Soviet Russia is now waiting only for satisfactory terms of payment before ordering from 18,000 to 37,000 head of Wisconsin pure-bred dairy cattle.
Butter, cheese and canned peas from Greenwood are bought from New York City to Los Angeles, California.
The rapid progress that has been made in the past, together with the great opportunities yet afforded, makes it attractive for those now living here and for the people who wish to come and find homes for the future; for Clark County is destined to become one of the wealthiest and most prosperous counties of the country--a garden spot of the world.
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