Monday, June 29, 2020

CCC Camp Cable Revisted

I've been revisiting some older posts and the locations associated with them.  Sometimes it is just a desire to do a better job with a write up.  Sometimes it is that and the placement of a history oriented geocache on the site.  As in today's tale.

I first discussed CCC Camp Cable way back in 2015.  At the time the remains of the camp were quite visible, although in part this is a matter of visiting on a nice spring/fall day when the underbrush is not too thick.   Going back in 2020, and looking for the perfect "hide" for a geocache, it seems as if there is less definition to the remains.  Every year frost and thaw nudges those stones just a little further away from where they were placed in the 1930's.....

But mostly I want to take a closer look at the men of the CCC.  In the five years that have passed I suspect the last of the guys in these photos have left us.  So....who were they?  As I mentioned in the initial post Camp Cable was built by a special company, V-1676.  The V designation indicates that they were all First War Veterans.  Older, smarter, tougher than the young recruits who would follow them. 

When you see those guys, the one with tattoos in particular, you realize that they looked at what we now think of as The Greatest Generation and thought: "What a bunch a punks!"

Company 3653 is the best documented of the CCC groups that lived and worked at Camp Cable.  Here's a few pictures of them at work and play.  These probably are from an earlier camp near Ashland,  but are quite representative of activities at all such places.

The 3653 baseball team was good enough to win a sub-district pennant in 1935, the year before they moved to Camp Cable.

Most CCC companies posed for group shots.  These two were probably taken at Camp Cable.

The men, but sadly not the cute dog mascot wearing sunglasses, are identified by name.  Curious as to whether the stereotype of these guys all going on to Greatest Generation greatness were correct, I spent a little time searching for traces of them.  Obviously those with generic names were usually lost.  Even the oddball names often come up blank.  But consider:

The commander of Company 3653 was the oddly named Lauris Martin Eek.  He was a Great War pilot and flight instructor with the 470th Attack Squadron.  This photo is from later in life when he went into politics.  He had two sons who served in the Second World War.  I suspect that both Lauris Jr. and Nathanial Eek spent part of their youth happily roaming the woods around Camp Cable.  Lauris Jr. passed away earlier this year, and with him perhaps passed the last direct memories of life at Camp Cable...

The camp's second in command, 1st Lt. Hermann Bieritz rose to the rank of Major, serving in the Pacific with the Signal Corps.

And the rank and file?  In no particular order:

Clarence Vanderschaegen moved to Hurley after service in the Navy in WWII.  

Peter Karabas seems to have moved to the Madison area and run a restaurant.  Because versions of this name appear with and without an s on the end I can't say if it is an odd coincidence or a hidden mystery, but a Peter Karaba was slain by a robber in June of Moquah Wisconsin, not far from Cable.  Was the young man in the CCC photo a local lad left orphaned?

Jude Wray has a tragic story.  Originally of Ocanto Wisconsin he was a private on leave in March of 1941 when he was involved in an automobile accident.  He was said to be "critically injured" when he was caught under the wheels of a "slow moving train".  I wonder if he was left disabled.  The next mention I find of him is from 1950.  He was living with his mother and went fishing on the Wisconsin river.  When his tackle was found abandoned on the bank the worst was feared.  After 30 hours lost in the woods he made it out just as the search was about to be called off.

It would be possible to trace more but I think in general we can assume that most of the "CCC Boys" took the skills and discipline they learned in camp and put them to good use in military and civilian life.  They were the kind of people who just went out and got necessary things taken care of.  And did not make any fuss about it.   Perhaps that was the true Greatness of their Generation.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Return of the Frogs

Last year I enjoyed The Summer of the Frogs, a season in which my then three year old grandson was infatuated and delighted by all things amphibian.  We spent a lot of time along a mosquito infested section of lakefront that we call "Frog City".   Ah, fun times.  But one has to accept that children change, they move on.  Things that were once central in their lives move off to the side and eventually are forgotten.  So also will be most memories of grandparents from this age, a melancholy notion that must be accepted but cannot be enjoyed.

So it was with considerable delight on my part, well and on his also, that recently we discovered that The Frogs had Returned to Frog City!  We'd been by a few times seeing nothing but weeds, soggy leaves and debris that had washed in from other parts of the lake.  True, there were a few odd ripples just under the surface, but no frogs.

Well, they are back.  The ripples were caused by chubby tadpoles who will soon be adding to the population of Pioneer Frogs that have already emerged.  A zoomed in photo of one parked a ways off the muddy shore:

They seem pretty gullible, my grandson was able to toss out small pine cones and twigs, causing them to hop over and take a chomp out of them.  They appeared to make faces (its easy to imagine this with their bulging eyes), smack their pale lips in distaste a few times and stare at us.  I assured my frog hunting companion that they were actually saying: "You tricked us, you naughty Dryskins!"  This caused considerable mirth to all non amphibians involved.  I think it bodes well for Summer of the Frogs 2.0.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Chetek Wisconsin - Podiums with Logs

I would like to have a better name for these monuments.  Nothing that quite matches shows up in the few contemporary catalogs I've been able to consult.  There's an open book sitting on a podium.  A few small logs provide a distant link to the classic "Tree Shaped Tombstones" that make up this series.  

Here's a nice one, I suspect it has been cleaned and perhaps re-carved a bit as it is in much better shape than the rest of the examples we'll see.

Nice, and you were clearly able to customize them.  Sometimes the book would have a phrase.  This one says Rests in Peace in German.

On some other examples the book was left blank.  You could also have a design on the front.  This monument indicates that it's owner was a Woodman, specifically a member of Modern Woodmen of America.

But some of these have the front pattern so reduced in legibility that it is almost gone.

To zoom in closer and play with the lighting a bit:

It looks like the Pearly Gates of Heaven with an anchor above them.  The lettering is so weathered that I can't make it out.  I can think of no reason for them to be obliterated on purpose, bashing out things on monuments as a "Damnatio Memoriae" went out with the Roman era.  I suspect it was just some design flaw where the combination of water running down the front along with whatever stone this was, just made things dissolve.  

I suppose someone out there other than me will look at this and be reminded of the Doors of Durin from the Lord of the Rings.  I admit I did not strike the stone with a staff and speak the password.  Perhaps if I had...

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A Flume with a View

The system that brought logs from the Chippewa River to Half Moon Lake was a Rube Goldberg kind of project.  It had lots of parts.   Today we'll take a look at what, if anything, remains.  

Bear in mind that there were several sections.  From the Dells Dam a covered log flume ran along the riverbank.  It split into a Y with one section going to a down stream mill and the other becoming an open log canal that ran across Eau Claire's West Side.  The final 1000 feet of it became a covered tunnel that brought the logs into Half Moon Lake.  There they were cut into finished product by mills on the lake proper, or were released via two "Races" at the foot of the lake.  Basically these were canals that ran from the lake to yet more mills on the river downstream from the city center.  We'll take a look at each segment today.

1. The Covered Flume.

Lots of great pictures of this part.  It helps that there were bridges and dams near it.  The flume is shown in the background in many shots.

Water coming off the dam, to the right in this photo, had plenty of power behind it.  Note the run off spouts as well as the covered top.

Here you look across the river at it.  And what's there today?

Certainly in the right spot.  That narrow ledge along the river.  There are a number of sections of broken cement conduit laying about.  Probably this is from the post lumbering era when a desire to keep fresh water going into the lake prompted efforts to lay pipe along the course of the former system.  A dismal failure as we discussed last time.  Oh, I don't suggest you go and visit this section.  It is a steep hillside and the only trails were ones that I would rate "dubious".  Eventually I found this ladder left by helpful fishermen.  It held.

2. The Log Canal

Probably the most dangerous section and one that no doubt was filled in early.  Here's a Sanborn map view of one section.....and the spot today.

The log canal runs along the right side of Mappa Street.  Here's a suspicious looking low area as you look north from the intersection of Price and Mappa.  The canal seems to have been down an embankment from Mappa rather than in the street proper.  I should think that would make it even more dangerous.

If you cross over Price (now actually called Madison) and look south, the canal more or less runs in the area with the parking spaces....and dove underground near the rear tire of the red car.

The course of the tunnel took a turn and passed right under the corner of that new looking building.  I recall peeking into the excavation when it was built.  No obvious tunnel but lots of debris and trash.

3. The Tunnel

Sorry, nothing left.  It exited pretty much right behind the current beach house.  Perhaps the big concrete "thing" in the middle of the beach is related to it somehow.  Don't go exploring.  It actually looks rather like a septic tank.

4. Half Moon Lake

There were two outlets to the lake.  Here's the site of one of them, off the western arm of the lake, today.

If you follow its course by taking a street called Race Street you'll find the end of the line.  It's now called Sherman Creek and empties back into the Chippewa River just past this point.  It is a very pleasant spot and likely a great deal more restful than in the days of log jams and screeching saws.

The other, eastern "race" is still faintly visible.  But exploring it would involve stepping out into a bug filled morass that even I thought was a bad idea.  And remember, I climbed down that rope ladder!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Tragedy in the Tunnel

One slightly aggravating aspect of local research is when you find something really interesting....and then can't find it again.  Usually this happens when you stumble across something in a newspaper article and don't remember to scribble down the date.  Details of course I retain.

The incident in question happened in Eau Claire.  It involved a "wild boy" living inside a tunnel that was (or had been?) used to convey logs to Half Moon Lake.  It is said that he gave the authorities a real challenge but eventually they captured him and, lacking a better idea, housed him in the Eau Claire jail until they could figure something out.  I suspect this happened in the 1900 to 1910 time frame.

Perhaps the history of the Half Moon Lake tunnel will provide a few clues.  It is an interesting story in its own right.

The economy of 19th century Eau Claire was based on lumber mills.  Logs came down the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers.  Generally this was in the spring and they came in gigantic batches.  Mills of course need to run year round.  So how to spread out the supply?  Some kind of storage system was needed.

In 1877 the Dells Dam was built just upstream.  This provided an opportunity.  It provided a degree of elevation that made it possible to convey logs to Half Moon Lake, a long closed off oxbow of the river on the West Side of town.  The lake could hold plenty of timber which could then be cut by mills either on the lake proper or back on the river.

Work began in late 1879, the company behind it being the Dells Improvement Company.  The newspapers carried frequent updates on the project, which carried on through the coldest part of winter.  A January 31st, 1880 article mentions that a crew of 23 men was doing the excavating, half starting at each end.  On the "Lake End" they averaged 15 feet per day.  The East End  team only did about half that.  It was necessary to dig down 22 feet, the first four of which were frozen ground.

The tunnel proper was made of wood, and was lined with boards.  At 5 and a half feet high and 4 and a half feet wide it was not a large space.  

Only the final stretch of the project- about 1000 feet - was underground, for most of its length it was a wooden covered chute, then an open "log canal".  It started at the dam, ran along the river bank for a stretch, then turned inland and dove underground near the intersection of Mappa and Randall.

The system worked as planned, and soon Half Moon Lake was full of logs.  Several mills were on its shores, others were on the riverbank just beyond it, with two "log races" existing to bring logs out of the south end of the lake.

There were quite numerous deaths recorded in association with this project.  Eau Claire had a lot of saloons in those days and not surprisingly patrons of same tended to fall into the open canal portion of the system.  Equally unsurprising was the attraction of it to the young.  In 1884 a five year old "German Boy" fell into the canal and was miraculously saved when a quick thinking bystander took a log hook and snagged him by his "inexpressibles" (really hoping that means his underpants!).  In 1902 a 17 year old crashed his bike into the canal and was swept to his death. The log covered lake also looked like great fun to play on, and a number of boys fell in and drowned.  I've found newspaper accounts of at least 9 such deaths and many near misses.

The case of Marshal Jaeger was especially poignant.  On July 2nd 1903 the local paper recounts:

"Marshal Jaeger, Boy of Ten Years Meets Death while catching driftwood."

He was a local lad who apparently was snagging bits of wood for resale or fuel for his family.  He fell into the open canal and was swept into the tunnel.  Finding his body was difficult but eventually he was recovered from the lake.  His parents were "..overcome with grief".  Marshal was said to have been " exceedingly bright fellow" who "Had frequently fished for wood at the same place and being always very cautious he was freely trusted".  An interesting but tragic comparison of how we regard acceptable risk for our children in the past and in the modern era.

As I've had occasion to discuss on other occasions, an economy based on one industry is always precarious.  When the prime pine woods of Northern Wisconsin were logged over the flow of logs to Eau Claire was reduced.  The local mills switched to hardwood and to making  lower grade items such as shingles.  But one by one the mills closed and the flume/tunnel system was no longer needed.  By that point railroads were well on their way to supplanting water transport of logs.

Interestingly, there were efforts to keep it intact anyway to help provide clean water to the otherwise stagnant Half Moon Lake.  By various accounts somewhere between 1905 and 1908 the wooden tunnel had concrete pipe placed into it.  Presumably the flume and open canal segments were also converted at that time.

It was a dismal failure.  The initial project was done quickly, in dubious weather conditions and was made of wood instead of stone.  The concrete pipes cracked and buckled with changes in temperature and water flow.  Soon began a series of sinkholes, damaged sewer lines and partial basement collapses that was really only concluded about twenty years ago. 

Below is part of the "flume" near its origins along the river bank.  It had a wooden top and sides, with what appears to be overflow valves.  No pictures of the open canal or tunnel section seem to have survived.

Here's a bit more on the lumbering industry and Half Moon Lake.

Oh, and the "Wild Boy"?  It is hard to see him taking even a temporary refuge in the tunnel when it was in full use.  When the supply of logs was dwindling and in some instance being delivered by rail, there likely were times when the flume/tunnel was not supplied with water.  As to an end date it is difficult to say.  The account you'll see on the historic marker suggests a post Prohibition use of the tunnel to store beer.  I am quite sure this is an incorrect if understandable statement.  Once the concrete pipes began to be installed circa 1905 the available space in the tunnel was quite cramped.  And accounts I've read suggest that the whole thing began to deteriorate quickly after its abandonment.

Next time we'll visit the site of the flume and tunnel today.  Think there's anything left?

Friday, June 19, 2020

Tree Shaped Tombstone - Cross of the Maccabees

Welcome to Lake Side Cemetery in Chetek Wisconsin.  I ended up finding enough material here for two posts so lets start with the more classic "Tree Shaped Tombstones".  In this case there were several of the "Rugged Cross" variety.  This one was pretty impressive.

There is a panel on the lower stack of logs, but it is blank.  On the other side was something I had not seen before.  Weathering and a bit of shadow make this a bit difficult to see.

This tomb belongs to a fellow named J. Moe who departed this world in 1911.  Speaking of worlds, note the stylized globe with the initials K.O.T.M.  What does that stand for?

It seems that Mr. Moe was a member of the Knights of the Maccabees, a fraternal order somewhat along the lines of the Woodmen but less well run.  Oddly it seems to dodge the religious issues that for instance separated the Masons from the Knights of Columbus.  The Book of Maccabbes recounts the activities of Jewish rebels fighting against the Seleucid Empire.  It is considered canon by Catholic and Orthodox faiths but is apocryphal to Protestants.  Presumably the Maccabees altered their initial ban on membership by non-whites.  Since their primary function was as a life insurance agency their reluctance to accept people who worked on electrical lines, in coal mines, with blasting powder or serving on submarines makes fiscal sense.  They only figured this out after some shaky finances early on.

Several other less impressive Rugged Crosses were also nearby.  More than you generally encounter in a non Catholic cemetery.

It seems to have been a preferred local style.  But not as much as the interesting monuments we'll be studying next time.....

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Signs of the (Discontented) Times

As the world slowly started to step out of pandemic lock down I decided to take a brief road trip to see "what was out there".  I routed through some small towns that were just enough off my usual routes that I was seeing them for the first time.  It was refreshing to visit a Drive In and order up a Chili Cheese Dog with a Root Beer Float, and accompanied by a batch of fries that would give my Belgian friends pause....

As one set of troubles is seeming to wind down of course a whole new batch was starting.  I'm not going to go into politics much in this space but I'd be remiss if I did not mention that two of my favorite commercial establishments on earth, and places that I doubt had anything to do with social injustice, were struck hard.

Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Book store was burned to the ground.  Axman Surplus had extensive looting and is currently closed.   These developments make me profoundly sad. Axman will be back.  But Uncle Hugo's may be gone forever.  Such a rare place.  When you kill the last unicorn there will never be another....

But on to the discoveries of a sunlit day in rural Wisconsin.

This is actually a rather well done sign.  Eye catching, simple idea conveyed.  For some reason I think it might be locally created.  

I was not sure what to make of this next one.  We live in Post Ironic Times so might this be someone dialing down their harsher negative opinions?  Or might it be a Republican with a sense of humor?  I did a bit of sleuthing and discovered that this was the first possibility.  It is an official street name and was the work of a WWII Vet and Democrat.  I guess that makes sense.  We are no longer allowed to have humor in our political life after all.  The story evidently goes back a ways...

According to the Eau Claire Star-Telegram, Darn Republican Street dates back to 1955, when the already-named street was on private property and deeded to the city of Chetek only on the condition the name be retained. And retained it has been; we’re surprised political candidates don’t show up along quirky street names like this more often!

Humor still exists however, if you look in obscure enough spots.  Almena Wisconsin qualifies.  Here's what I believe to be the main drinking establishment of this tiny hamlet:

The sign says TESTICLE FESTIVAL and in small print mentions Food Provided by Almena Meat Company.  The 16th celebration or other, will be in September 2020.  What I can puzzle out suggests bands in the street, alcohol consumption and a menu that should be parsed carefully and with sober eyes before ordering.

Monday, June 15, 2020

The Frenchtown Ferry

Once a year.  On Father's Day to be specific, Frenchtown is reborn.  There are colorful people.  There's drinking.  There are masses (of tubes not logs) covering the river.  Oh, and did I mention the drinking?  It's time for FATFAR, the Frenchtown Annual Tube Float and Regatta.  It is said to be the largest day long tubing event anywhere.  It happens not far from my house.

Some of the custom entries are pretty elaborate.  My boys and I considered building something for the event but were not sure we could top this:

Or this:

Captain Albert Taylor would not know what to make of it all.

Who?  Why, Captain Taylor.  Owner and operator of the Frenchtown Ferry.  I'm thinking he's the guy in a sort of dark uniform leaning on the railing in this undated photo.

No doubt there was some sort of ferry service at the Falls from the beginning.  But as an organized venture I can only say that I see ads going back to 1866.  The rates were said to be 50 cents per team of horses, 25 cents for adults.  Children were free.  Captain Taylor provided cradles for babies.  It ran from 5am to 10pm every day.  

Taylor ran between two points.  On the Chippewa side there was a little ramp down to the river just past Schmidmeyer's Brewery.  A small house there likely belonged to Taylor.  The other end was near Rousseau's on the Frenchtown side.

Of course a ferry service would face serious competition once a reliable bridge was in place.  Bridge building proved difficult on the tempestuous Chippewa River, but evidently the first one was managed in 1868.  When it burned down two years later there were said to be suspicions of Taylor's involvement.  But I think whoever put this into a local history may have fallen for a 19th century seems that Captain Taylor was also the Fire Chief!

Which is not to say that there wasn't a bit of friction.  An 1871 article in an Eau Claire paper quotes Taylor as saying that his ferry was doing about nine tenths of the crossing traffic because the road leading to the bridge was in very bad condition.  You often find the juicier tidbits of local info in the newspapers from a rival community.

To run a ferry, or perhaps to have an exclusive right to do so, required a charter from the state.  Taylor was quite politically active and seems to have managed this for a while.  But eventually his charter was revoked, possibly in changing political winds.  In 1874 another, presumably better bridge was nearing completion.  Captain Taylor turned the ferry service at Frenchtown over to a man named Hanson and went downstream to start a ferry at Blue Mills.  I found a single later reference to the Frenchtown ferry from 1880.  It mentioned that a sandbar had formed in mid river interrupting service.  As it seems unlikely that the ferry would be able to compete against the bridges I am assuming that this was in the period after the 1880 flood that swept them all away.  

Delightfully for the symmetry of our tale, every year FATFAR starts at Chippewa Falls/Frenchtown (entrants put in the river on both sides) and ends at a pair of drinking establishments the site of the former Blue Mill!

FATFAR is always a raucous affair but thankfully there are seldom mishaps of a serious nature.  Perhaps the guiding spirit of Captain Taylor still watches over the river.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Frenchtown - A community Lost

I guess we all have a mental image of Pioneers here in the Midwest.  Serious, sober folk who turned up and started building tidy frame houses and square, humorless churches.  

Reality was often a bit different.

My home town, Chippewa Falls, actually got its start as a collection of taverns and shacks on the other side of the river.  The inhabitants were a mixture of French Canadians and Native Americans.  It was by available accounts, a bit of a dive.

And considering its importance in the founding of our community, a very poorly documented one.  

The first sawmill at the Falls was built in 1836.  But Native Americans had been meeting here long before that, and a fur trading post was established by a Michael Cadotte in 1797.  As this was described as being "south of the Falls" it could be considered the birth of Frenchtown.  

Certainly by the 1840's there was some sort of community on the south side of the river just downstream from the falls.  A mixture of Native and French Canadian people lived there.  During the transition from the fur trading economy to lumber they no doubt were involved in both.  Early accounts mention liquor and mayhem rather often.

The picture above is a painting of Chippewa Falls in 1850.  The respectable side of town is on the right bank.  The south side - Frenchtown - is that straggling line of structures along the shoreline of the left bank.

One of the earliest accounts - from 1851 - is that of an intoxicated lumberjack wounding a co-worker with a shotgun.  "About the same time" a band of Sioux warriors who were "skulking around the back of Frenchtown" murdered an Indian named "Old Jack" who lived with the Demarie family.

Another "unfortunate homicide" occurred in 1857 when a Mexican War vet named William Wiley got jealous when another local spoke to his wife in an overly familiar fashion. He fatally bashed the guy on the head with a block of wood.  The local authorities declined to prosecute and Wiley decamped for "parts unknown".

Frenchtown settled down a little bit in the post Civil War era.  A successful lumber mill was established by a partnership of Coleman and Mitchell.  It had a capacity of 80,000 feet per day and was doubtless the main employer in town.

The other establishments of note in the place were two taverns.  The Rousseau House, run by Charles Rousseau, seems to have been the earlier of the two.  A competing saloon across the street was run by a certain Valentine Blum.  It was said to have a bowling alley, restaurant and lager beer fountain.  Oddly the building seems to have been owned by E. Robert Hantzsch, a very interesting character we've met before...

The above image is said to be of Frenchtown outside the Rousseau House.  Clearly the focus of the photographer was the stage and the nice team of horses.  But you can see a Harness Shop on the left and with a bit of magnification the sign on the right hand building seems to say among other things, Apples.  As I note a street light in this photo I think there is a high chance of this being a mistaken identification.  Frenchtown would not have had connections for gas illumination.  But I suppose there is a chance that an enterprising saloon keeper might have an individual oil powered lamp out front.  His patrons would appreciate that at Last Call.

Life in Frenchtown always was a bit rough.  For entertainment they had horse races - one featuring a local favorite called "French Kitty".  And more disturbingly I found an 1877 advertisement for cockfighting.  Price of admission was 25 cents with the matches to be run according to "..the Southern or Old English Lion rules."

By the 1870's Frenchtown was definitely overshadowed by the growth of Chippewa Falls proper on the far side of the river.  An 1874 Birdseye view shows the community barely on the margin of the indeed I suspect the citizens of the place were somewhat on the fringes of polite society...

Note the Schmidmeyer brewery on the Chippewa side near the bridge.  The Frenchtown mill is on the left of the view.  Probably the two substantial buildings across the street from each other were the rival saloons.

This was actually not an ideal place to build a community.  A newspaper article from June 1880 highlights the biggest problem, flooding:

"All the bridges across the Chippewa were gone.  French Town, a half a mile below the city and which has stood for the last thirty years, looked for a while as if it would be a thing of the past.  The water ran above the town eight feet, and a few small houses were completely covered"

An 1884 illustration from Harper's Weekly seems to be depicting another such incident.  Frenchtown looks much the worse for wear.

The cumulative effects took a toll, and another Birdseye view from 1907 shows only a few scattered buildings on the site.

The hand of time lies variously on the works of man.  I've walked across fields in England where Roman walls 1800 years old still peek out of the turf.  But at Frenchtown time has put the hammer down hard.  The site has been extensively altered by both floods and flood control measures and the original higher ground has been converted to a city facility that processes yard waste and sand.  When the river is low you can see a few wooden pilings sticking up - part of the elaborate log cachement system seen in the 1874 view - but otherwise there is nothing left of Frenchtown.

And yet like Brigadoon, Frenchtown springs back to vigorous life for one day each year!  But that's a story for next time.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Water (tower) Park

In most any city when you start looking around you'll find curious little "pocket sized" parks.  Just a city lot or two did they come to be?  In Chippewa Falls there is a little park with a bit of a story.

It is up on top of the "East Hill", one of two elevations that defined the early city.  Also known as "Catholic Hill" it is where the big church was in the early days.

Ah, those early days.  It was a city of lumber jacks and sawmills.  A city built on and almost entirely of, wood.  A city lit by kerosene lamps.....

Obviously things burned down with alarming frequency.

So circa 1880 it was decided that a water tower was needed.  I'm assuming that this was mainly for fire fighting although those thirsty, rowdy lumberjacks maybe drank water.  Once in a great while.

Construction took five years, and a "Birdseye" view of the city from the mid 1880's shows it standing tall and proud.

Our old friends the Sanborn Fire Insurance company were obviously quite interested in things like this, and helpfully include a sketch in their early maps of the city.  100 feet tall and holding 368,000 gallons of water.

So far I have only found one photo of the structure.  It's actually rather nicely laid out. I wonder who lived in the attached house?  I bet their water pressure was outstanding!

And here's a Google Earth wide angle view of the same place today.  Playground equipment and a circular sandbox area that alas does not appear to preserve the foundations of the first water tower in Chippewa Falls.

Monday, June 8, 2020

The Long Portage Part III - A turtle watches history go by....

Placing and finding geocaches should be more than a simple game of hide and seek.  I think the cache should be placed somewhere significant and that the finder should learn something from the visit.  Style points are also worth something.

Last time we stopped by "Turtle Portage", an excellent place for a geocache.  A lot of history has gone past this spot.  But first, a cache worthy of it.

I had the help of my grandson, whose interest in all things creeping, hopping and slithering is beyond compare.   We started with a standard geocache box.  These are made to be durable and waterproof.  The little notice on the top is also nice.

After a quick coat of green and black spray paint, sparing the message of course, we are ready to begin.  

This one was really a lot less work than the GeoBrick, just a pleasant 20 minutes with a four year old applying and snipping black Gorilla Tape.  The goal is not realism but symbolism and I think this turned out rather nicely.

It will be parked near the sign at the head of the portage, waiting patiently for explorers to come by.  As they have been doing for a very long time.  If you look back to the sign shown last time there are some famous names.  And a few less famous ones.  A brief recap:

Pierre Esprit-Radisson Born in Provence circa 1640 this guy had one crazy biography.  Worth a read albeit with some horrific parts.  He essentially started the Hudson Bay Company.  He explored widely, switching sides between the French, English and their various Native allies, seemingly without qualms.  Along with his brother in law built the first European structure in Wisconsin, a crude fort near Ashland.  At various times he was captured by Dutch privateers and joined the navy to help conquer the Caribean island of Tobago.  Things named after him:  communities in Wisconsin, Quebec and Saskatchewan.  Also a street in Minneapolis.  A hotel there took the name and kept it as the Radisson Group became a world wide brand.

Medard de Groseilliers Pierre's brother in law.  Twenty years older he seems to have been less of a free booter but did accompany Radisson on many journeys.  They crossed Turtle Portage in 1659-60.  Things named after him:  Just a Canadian Coast Guard cutter.

Henry Schoolcraft Another bio worth a read.  Explorer, geologist, Indian Agent.  He wrote extensively about his travels and Native culture.  In 1832 he was part of an expedition that found the headwaters of the Mississippi.  He gave it the name "Itasca". It was supposed to sound vaguely Native American but was really a chopped up bit of Latin "Veritas Caput"  Meaning the "true head".  Schoolcraft was here in 1831.

David Owen Less boring than you'd expect a geologist to be.  Serious collector of natural history and such.  Explored this area in the 1840's.  Among geologists his name is powerful ju-ju.

John Owen Now we are getting to more recent times.  Not related to the geology God Owen, his dad was a grocer in Michigan.  As a young man he went off to be a timber scout in the north woods of Wisconsin.  He also married well in 1872, to a young lass named Cora Rust.  Her family kicked in the capital and the Rust-Owen Lumber Company had a good long run from 1875-1955.  They owned a lot of land up this way.  Drummond was a company town entirely owned by Rust-Owen.

Albert Stuntz  was a very early settler in Ashland.  He did a lot of survey work for the government in the 1850's.  Here's a little peek into the difficulties of surveying an untamed frontier:

By our contract with Albert Stuntz we were not only to pay him a bonus equal to what he received per mile from Government, but we were also to furnish men for the work and see him through. In accordance with this agreement some eighteen men and boys, to be used as axemen and chainmen, were brought up from Milwaukee who were as “green as gaugers” and as the sequel proved, about as honest. A nice looking lot they were, when landed upon the dock at La Pointe, out of which to make woodsmen. I think I see them now, shining boots,– plug hats, with plug ugly heads in them, (at least some of them had), the notorious Frank GaleMat. Ward and one or two other noted characters being of the number. Their pranks astonished the good people of La Pointe not a little, but they astonished Stuntz more. One half day in the woods satisfied them – they were afraid of getting lost. In less than two weeks they had nearly all deserted and the work had to be delayed until a new squad could be obtained from below.

I'm pretty sure Stuntz never had anything named after him.  But his diaries from the 1850's and 60's are available at the State Historical Society.

Friday, June 5, 2020

The Long Portage - At the Beginning

A while back I showed the historical marker that was towards the southern end of the portage connecting the Great Lakes with the Mississippi.  I had found reference to there being another marker but in my local journeys I had not sighted it.  Well, it's all a matter of looking with a different perspective.

I started by assuming that since it was not placed all that long ago, that the roads and such would not have changed.  Also that it would have been placed, not in a swamp somewhere, but in a spot people would actually visit.  So I just headed to where I figured the Lake Owen end of the portage would be it is:

The same marker from the "Cable Tuesday Club" .  1936.

Drawing one assumes on an earlier Native name this is called Turtle Portage.  As it happens I found this at the time of year when said critters were marching about looking for places to lay eggs.  This one was in my son's yard.

For a week or so each spring we find lots of turtles up on land.  My grandson is very fond of them.  Then they lumber off into the swamps and ponds, slowly plying their live of sunning and munching.   The portage through "Turtle Lake (swamp)" must have had a few interesting moments.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Pastor and Frau Pastor

Spotted in a rural cemetery just south of Menomonie Wisconsin.  It is a "Tree Shaped Tombstone" in what I call the Rugged Cross style.  

These tend to be a bit more common in Catholic cemeteries, which this was certainly not, and among those of German (and Czech) descent.   Hoerig is a very German name.  

Let's take closer look....over next to Pastor Hoerig we find....Frau Pastor!

An interesting pairing, and I wondered if this meant a husband and wife team where both were pastors.  That's fairly common these days.  But no, the story is a bit more conventional.

Henry Hoerig  was born in Bavaria and after seminary actually served in a German congregation in Lyon France for a couple of years before coming to the US in 1877.  After long service in Watertown Iowa he came to Menomonie in 1900, serving a German congregation for the next 17 years.  Newspaper articles about him are numerous, generally the sort of thing you'd expect...weddings, funerals, baptisms.

But no mention at all of his wife, Maria, memorialized as "Frau Pastor".  Yes, she died soon after his arrival, but lesser events are described in such detail.  I'm assuming that she carried out the functions of "Pastor's Wife" as expected in that era.  Maybe directing the choir, or playing organ.  Certainly heading up a few women's groups and doing a bit of cooking at church suppers.   Although now uncommon this sort of role was still the norm when I was a young Lutheran lad.

He moved away in his last years, living with a daughter in Arcadia Wisconsin.  But upon his death he came home and was buried next to his wife.  As the inscription says - in rather colloquial German - they are now "At Home with the Lord".