Recollections of Columbia, Wisconsin

by Mabel Schlender Jonkel

Contributed by Sarah Poertner

transcribed by Crystal Wendt & Michelle Harder.


Columbia’s beginning although it was not named at this time, was started by five Civil War Veterans about 1880. The government had given land for homesteading. There were no roads, just a winding path through the brush and tress. No bridges over the streams, no cleared land, no stores, no schools or churches.

Joseph Kopp and family came in 1880. Five years later, in 1885 Horace Wright came, followed by H. D. Lockman and Elliott Bliss in 1887. Charles Baxter came in 1894.


In 1892 a sawmill was put at the confluence of Five Mile and Wedges Creeks for sawing at the mill. There had been two mills two miles upstream. One was owned by Bright Lumber Company, and the other by two brothers, Pete and Ole Frisley. Frank Farning operated the Columbia mill. In the woods there was evidences of several other mills. During this period many came in as transients. when the mill closed they moved on. Many homes and business places were left vacant.

The Columbia Sawmill on Five Mile Creek with Wedges Creek to the right (1896).



In August 1893 James Chase made a plotting for a town site for the Columbia Improvement Company. Charles Graves was the secretary of the company. George Chittanden was president. This company handled considerable sales promotion work through their office in Chicago, Illinois, during the Columbia Exposition. Columbia received its name from this exposition. The site was plotted in lots which was promoted at the fair. Many people from all over U.S.A. and foreign countries bought lots in Columbia.

Years later when Clark County was vacating the plotted town site of Columbia, James Fradette, then county treasurer, made the statement that Columbia was the finest laid out city in the county.




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