Owen History

Transcribed by Stan Schwarze.




Source: Owen Enterprise (Owen, Clark Co., Wis.) 10/25/1934


An interesting historical program was given at the home of Clara B. Weirich, when the Study Club met on Wednesday of last week.


The club voted to sponsor the seventh “Creative Contest” for the Helen Farnsworth Mears Memorial Prize.


The topic for the afternoon was “History of Clark County and Owen”  Mrs. W. D. Hull as leader, assisted by Mrs. Weirich.


Mrs. Hull gave a very descriptive paper on Clark County, giving details as to its location and its three river systems. Black River running north and south for nearly its entire length through the county is a succession of rapids, having an average fall of 15 feet per mile.  The natural resources of this river with its water power, makes it a valuable asset to this county.  The land being rolling and the soil admirably adapted to agriculture.


Her paper contained the history of the first inhabitants of Clark County and the life, hardships and the work of early settlers.  How in the year 1847 the entire county was wooded and in 1859 the first courthouse was built.  Information was given as to when and where the railroads were built, the history of the schools and churches of the county.


History of Owen


You have heard the history of our state, so ably given by Mrs. Chabot, the history of Clark County and now we’ve come to the history of Owen.  So named for the Owen family, who founded it.


As everyone knows this town grew with a sawmill, as did most of the towns in the early years of the county.  Our mill was first started on Black River, west of Withee, and was operated by D. J. Spaulding.  In 1893 it was purchased by John S. Owen and moved to its present site, and in 1894, the John S. Owen Lumber Co. was organized.  W. G. Royer, who was Mrs. J.C. Andrew’s father, came here about 1893 as assistant to A. R. Owen, in the capacity of general and woods superintendent.


The old boarding house was the first building erected here.  Most of you know where it stood, just south of the present J. S. Owen offices.


The early logging was carried on with teams and sleighs, but as the timber nearby was cut and sawed and the distance became longer to haul logs, railroads and camps were built to carry on the milling operations.  To give you some idea of the wealth of timber here, I will quote a story from the history of Clark County.  It ran as follows: “When Mr. Royer began logging here he found so little cleared space that a log sled would hardly turn around, so he decided to pull out a  lot of stumps to make more room. So accordingly he put ten or twelve men to work at that, and was thus engaged when Mr. Owen came along and asked him what he was doing.  On being informed Mr. Owen said, “Don’t put any more time on that, for we will not be here more than five or six years, and I don’t want to leave any croquet grounds when we go away.” They were here better than 37 years.”


The houses where the workmen lived were most of them located on the west side of the pond.  Most of them are still standing and very little change has taken place except in the removal of the boarding house and company barn and the taking away of the lumber yard.  On this side of the pond there was the school, the houses facing the pond, Mrs. Carter’s house, the James Haire home, the Radke place, the little house next to the church and G. F. Colman’s house which stood where the Shereda home is now.


The land where the city now is was unimproved, covered with trees, stumps and brush, and was used as a pasture.  About 1905 the city was platted out and the land cleared and Main Street laid out.  The first building was the post office building which recently burned., built by Arvidson & Tollard of Fairchild and used for a saloon.


A census was taken in 1904 by G. C. Anderson, which showed a population of 315.  An application was immediately made and accepted that they incorporate as a village.  The first election was held Dec. 6, 1904 at the K.O.T.M. hall.  From the scrapbook of Mrs. Owen, who has a village ticket of the first election we have:

 - For Supervisor: W. G. Royer


- For President : C. M. Hall


- For Trustees, one years: F. C. Griffin, William Borden, A.G. Johnson


- For Trustees, two years: Allen Knight, Sever Bjornstad, William Fox


- For Clerk: G. E. Anderson


- For Treasurer: E. A. Owen


 - For Assessor: G. F. Bolman


- Justice, one years: J. F. Jones


 - Justice, two years: G. L. Richards


- Constable: Fred Bachlette


The first school was built in 1894.  Another room was added later.  Mrs. T. H. Barber was the first teacher.  She was assisted by Miss Phoebe Villemonte, now Mrs. Harry Stoker.  A few years later another room was built.  That building is now the city hall.  In 1907 our grade school building was put up and were we proud of our fine new building with its eight rooms, it (to us) wonderful gymnasium, its steam heat and hot and cold showers.  This building was large enough to take care of the eight grades and a full high school course.


After a time, due to the growth of our city, this building became too small and part of our grades were taught in the Finnish Church, and in the house occupied by Mr. Doonan.  Then our high school was built.  When the present grade school was turned into a creamery.  Then it was moved down 29 to the lot across from the A. Strohm home, where you may see it today used as a dwelling.


For several years mail and supplies were hauled from Withee.  The Owen Post Office with A. R. Owen as postmaster was established in 1898.  Mr. Owen served as postmaster until 1905.  He was succeeded by T.H. Wylie, a brother-in-law of Mrs. E.W. Kidd, who held that office until the appointment of F. C. Watson in 1913.  Then followed L. W. Cattanach who is now serving us.


The post office was first located in the John S. Owen Lumber Co. office, moved from there to the room back of the Jensen Bros. drug store, from there to a small building where Evenson’s store is now, then to the Carr building, and then to the building now the T. C. Schlinkert home, which stood where Schlinkert’s garage is now.  Then it was taken to the building which recently burned.


Religious work was started in the homes of Mrs. William Barden, who lived where James Haire now lives, and Mrs. Louis Johnson, by a Rev. George Howard, who started a Sunday School with A.G. Johnson as superintendent, and regular preaching services were started the same year.  There being no other church here, all denominations attended these services.


On Dec. 4, 1903, a non-denomination society for the benefit of the Sunday School and the poor and needy.  Mrs. F. C. Griffin was president, Mrs. Charles Hall, vice president, Mrs. J.F. Hughes, secretary, who still holds that office.  Mrs. J. P. Weirich was treasurer and held that office 15 years.  I have asked Mrs. Weirich to tell you a story of the early life of that society.


During the earliest years of Owen, in fact before there was any town here, a terrible forest fire swept the surround country, destroying much fine timber, and threatening the town.  The people took refuge in the engine room and the building was saved.


Due to its location as the center of extensive logging operations in the counties north of Clark, made our progress secure.  It is also a railway junction point as the Soo Line branches in four directions from here, making it a convenient shipping center.  Its growth has been steady, the demand for house always exceeding the supply.


Soon after the new town was laid out the Owen Box and Crating Co. started operation.  It has given employment to many men and women.  The Oatman Condensed Milk Co. has a payroll of thousands of dollars among the farmers of this vicinity.


I wish to tell you here that the K.O.T.M. hall mentioned was to earlier Owen what the Community hall is today, being the place of business and pleasure.  Our school programs were given there, town meetings, election, lodge, dances, socials, Aid doings, church, and in later days basketball games.  In fact, everything for the public.  It holds many happy memories for the older residents of Owen.  It was condemned and torn down after the present grade school was erected.


In the summer of 1914, I may be wrong in this date, but anyway it was the first of June, the people on the east side of Owen were forced to leave their homes.  A cloudburst had occurred north of us, and the Popple River had backed up, flooding the greater part of Owen with many feet of water, doing much damage to homes and property.  Boats were used to get about the streets and help people to dry land.  They were even plied up and down Main Street.  Every home not in the flooded area was filled with people whose homes were under water.  The house where Shelly’s live was nearly covered with water – only the top of the roof being visible.


It is interesting to note that the public library of Owen was established in 1915 by the Women’s community club, who carried on for some time.  It is supported by the city now.  After occupying various locations it is now in the high school.  The work of librarian was ably carried on by Mrs. Burke R. Andrews, Mrs. J. F. Hughes, Mrs. Harry Stoker and at present Mrs. Julius Johnson is filling the position.


There are many more interesting things about our little city I could tell you but time and your patience will not permit.


Mrs. Weirich gave an interesting talk on some of the early social activities held in Owen.  One of particular interest was how the Ladies Aid in the year 1907, then the only organization of its kind in Owen, pledged to help the poor, the needy, and the Sunday School.


The officers were: Mrs. Fred Griffin, president: Mrs. Charles Hall, vice president: Mrs. John Hughes, secretary; Mrs. John Weirich, treasurer.


The problem of how to raise money confronted them.  Mrs. Griffin appointed two captains and they were to choose sides and then work for three months.  The two captains appointed were two of our present, prominent women.  Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Weirich, and each captain had twenty helpers.


It was quite thrilling to hear Mrs. Weirich tell how they gave a Mother Goose Rhyme play in which all participated.  As Mrs. Haigh called off the names each party appeared on the stage and acted their particular rhyme.  This ended with a grand march led by Mr. Weirich and Mrs. Charrett, after which the evening was spent in dancing and merry making.


But best of all at the end of three months the Aid had $300 to their credit.


Related Links


Memory Trails--Owen & Withee



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