Recollections of Columbia, Wisconsin

by Mabel Schlender Jonkel

Contributed by Sarah Poertner

transcribed by Crystal Wendt & Michelle Harder.


The Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Omaha Railroad Company put a railroad through from Merrillan to Columbia to the Coal Kilns in Sidney in 1881. Several years later it was extended to Neillsville.

The Columbia depot had a daily railroad agent. I recall Mr. Cannon and James Philips as agents. Logging company supplies were unloaded there. After the sawmill was removed the agent was taken away. The depot was used for club, as detailed in another item. Later years Dad Schlender bought the depot and it was used as a warehouse.

Dad Schlender with Trippy at the Columbia Depot.

After the railroad was extended to Marshfield, we had four trains daily from that point to Merrillan and back. Two were mail trains. There were also two daily way freights which went through.


It was a happy family experience when the trains came in, everyone knew each other. The engineer would toot the whistle at us. The railroad men had a song about Columbia:

"Columbia, the gem of the ocean,

The home of the huckleberry tree,

Oh! Say do you know dear Columbia,

Chicago is jealous of thee?"

About 1897 they discovered a gravel pit running south to the mouth of the Wedges Creek. The railroad spur was about five miles long. This was operated for many years. The railroad company had a telegraph office about two blocks east of the depot with a spur in to the main tracks. It was opened each summer with a different telegraph agent each year.

"Old Scoot," the passenger train at the Columbia Depot in 1908.

Twice there was tragedy. One of the agents tried to jump gravel train over the weekend to get to his home in Fairchild but fell under the train and was killed. A few rods from the office was a railroad crossing. Here in 1911 one of the Columbia school buses was crossing when the freight bore down on it, killing the driver, August Langusch, and his two children, Edward and Margaret. Ruth Cook, daughter of Mr. And Mrs. Sam Cook, was also killed.




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