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"History of Ludington and Wilson, 1875 to 1962"
by Verda Ketchum Macomber
Wilson, a township of forty-eight square miles, lies in the northeast corner of Eau Claire County. It is located as Township 27 North and Ranges 5 and 6 West. It is serviced by County Trunks D, G & H and is within easy shopping distance of Augusta, Fall Creek, Cadott, Boyd, Stanley, Fairchild and Eau Claire.
Churches of several denominations are within reach of all citizens. School buses from Augusta, Boyd, Cadott and Stanley are supplied to give everyone an education. The township is now consolidated into various city systems.
There are at least two stores, two churches, two schools, and two taverns in operation at present within Wilson. The population is (unknown), but is of a mixed descent, religion and occupation.
There are several small farms and a few large ones, earning by dairying, a comfortable living. Many former farms are now vacated. Many Wilson people, however, derive their income from nearby cities, where they are employed at a variety of jobs. Several people work for the town, the county, and on road construction.
Hay Creek, Muskrat Creek, Wolf River and the north fork of the Eau Claire River furnish Wilson with fishing, swimming, skating and fresh water for animals and livestock. The woods, now considerably reduced to cut-over timber, oak brush, jack pine and popple, abound with deer. There are a few squirrel and rabbits. Raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are very plentiful.
The people are sociable, hard-working and economical. Home talent contests, church and school doings, elections and social drives usually call large crowds.
To give a good history of Wilson, however, one must go back to the late 1800's before there was a Wilson and the territory was all Ludington.
Julius Stubbe Sr. came to Ludington from Bear's Grass, south of Fall Creek in 1875. Prior to that he had come from Germany. He had three wives and nineteen children. One of his sons, Jule Stubbe, Jr., who will be ninety in July 1962, still lives in Ludington where his father bought a sawmill on Hay Creek. The mill is still in running order and some sawing of lumber is done by Carl, the grandson. Mr. Stubbe was one of Ludington's first settlers. (According to a conference with Jule Stubbe on 27 June 1962)
Mr. Stubbe recalls that their greatest difficulties in those days were the lack of roads and bridges. The lumber had to be drifted down the Eau Claire River to a portage where the Eau Claire County Youth Camp now stands.
Logging and lumbering were the first industries in this area. Several large lumber companies owned land in Ludington and logged off the abundant supply of great white pine.
Grub pins, at firs made from the roots of young trees, were turned out on lathes at saw mills. The making of grub pins was one of the sources of income of the early settler. They were used in the rafting of lumber down the river. This is how they were used.
In making a raft of lumber, several planks were placed crosswise on the bottom. The lumber was then piled on the planks. On top, several other planks were placed crosswise to match those on the bottom. Holes were bored in the planks, and grub pins placed in the holes. Wedges were then put in the grub pins to hold the lumber in place. The rafts were put into the river and floated to their destination (according to the Eau Claire Co. History from Judy at Co. Supt. of Schools office).
Arthur Macomber, born in Ludington in (unknown) and lived in Wilson until his death in (unknown), was one of the men who worked on the log drives when the logs were floated down the creeks to the river. He was one of Ludington / Wilson's earliest pioneers and knew the logging and lumbering industry well.
The land was covered with a good stand of white virgin pine. If you walk through the woods today, you can still see some of the remains. There are huge stumps, partly decayed. There are big logs left, because, they were not number one timber.
Where the Wilson Store now stands, the Northwestern Lumber Company built one of its lumber camps. About a mile and a half down the creek was another one. A dam was built on Muskrat just back of the Wilson Store. About two miles down the creek is the dam, now called Burnt Dam. Down the creek another two miles is the Randall Dam.
The white pine were cut during the winter months and piled on the creek banks. When the ice went out in the spring, the dams were opened and the logs were floated down to the Eau Claire River to the sawmills (according to the Eau Claire Co. History).
Stove bolts, railroad ties, bee boxes and lumber for building were all products of the logging and lumbering industry.
Scott Baker, 58, a surveyor for the past 35 years, remembers an old man, Cad Pickett, telling him that the roads to Cadott and Boyd were so narrow, and the timber so think the tree tops came together over the road making an arch.
In the winter they logged, in the summer they made hay on the marshes. There was not much money in dairying. The women made butter and cottage cheese for home use. There was a cream weighing station in Ludington, also a cheese factory in Wilson in the early 1900s. They picked berries, dried corn, made hominy and tended gardens all summer and fall (according to Scott Baker of Ludington).
Wesley and Ann Baker, life-long Ludington residents, built a store in 1927. It has been a store, tavern and garage ever since. It is now Streit's Store & Tavern.
Scott recalls that there were not as many deer in Wilson / Ludington fifty years ago as there are now, but it was legal to kill and ship them at any time. Rabbits, squirrels, prairie chickens and trout were plentiful and useful for food.
Corduroy roads were used and are in evidence today when frost heaves up the logs.
Some of the early settlers around Baker's Store in Ludington were: Fred Kaiser, L. A. Bechtel, Bob Linds, Jule Stubbe, Mark Livermore, Lon Lowman, Frank Pickett, Arthur Macomber, George Macomber, Van Horn and George Ross. George Ross was an old man who was blind. He made and sold white oak shingles for a living.
Mrs. Pearl Stubbe, wife of Jule Stubbe, came with her folks, William and Margaret Wallace, from Indiana 59 years ago. They moved on what is now called the "Old Wallace Place" in Wilson in about 1902. There is a partly hidden scythe buried in a 30 inch tree trunk which Pearl's father hung it there when he quit farming many years ago. The tree was a sappling when the scythe was hung there.
Pearl's memory goes back to Jules courting days when he drove the flashiest horse and cutter in the country, and the girls were all after him. She recalls that when he wanted to go somewhere in a hurry, he 'cut across country afoot' to save time. Many a time he carried a sack of groceries slung over his shoulder from Augusta -- 10 miles.
They used to make soup by running water through ashes to get lye water which was added to fat or tallow and processed into yellow soap and cut into chunks. It was usually quite strong.
Picking blueberries by the pailful or bushel basket was a source of seasonal income. They took them to the "Quality Store" in Augusta where they were bought by an agent at 3¢ to 10¢ a quart and shipped out.
The mail was left at Stubbe's Mill by whoever went to Augusta first. The neighbors picked it up from there (according to a conversation with Pearl Stubbe on 27 June 1962).
Verda (Ketchum) Macomber remembers "staying" or "boarding" at Stubbe's Mill in 1924 - 1925 and teaching their school, her first term, when she was only 17, and fresh out of Rural Normal at Eau Claire.
There were about 18 pupils in all 8 grades. Two eighth graders, Charlotte Johnson and Alfrieda Scott were almost as old as the teacher which kept her from being lonely her first year away from home. The pupils had head lice and the county nurse and Miss Ketchum had to grease and soap their heads and cut their hair to get rid of these parasites. They heated water in a big kettle on the wood heater in the center of the school room and held the first real pioneer beauty shop in Wilson. The teacher's first experience at hair cutting with school scissors served her well as she has cut hair now for 38 years. She never bumped into the "lice situation" again, however, in all the years of teaching, almost continuously since 1924.
Mrs. Evangeline Sugars taught in the Stubbe's Mill school thereafter for 12 years. The building was finally taken to the Oak Knoll School premises and used as a primary building. It was recently sold to Dutch Hamman for a dwelling. Mr. and Mrs. Sugars still live near the sight of that school and have boats to rent near there. Evangeline teaches at Fall Creek and remembers much of the early history of Wilson.
Florence Livermore came to Ludington from Waterville, in Pepin County in 1889, when she was seven years old. She, with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Kelley, moved by wagon the 65 miles in two days per load. They settled in Ludington on a farm known by some today as "The Old Kelley Place" but better known to youngsters as the "Ludington School Forest." The lilac trees, enjoyed by many visitors today, were planted by her mother in 1895 (according to Florence Livermore of Ludington in a conversation on 28 June 1962).
She (Florence) married Mark Livermore, a cousin of Ashley Ketchum of Augusta. Ashley was Verda Ketchum Macomber's father. The Ketchums were pioneers south of Augusta and originally came from Pennsylvania (Quaker stock)
Mark Livermore was born in Augusta in 1871 and worked on the Hudson farm in Ludington at the time of their marriage. They bought and have lived in their farm since about 1899.
They farmed, cleared land, cut wood, picked berries, and logged for a living. Blueberries were very plentiful and Indians from Black River used to come up to their neighborhood every spring and camped there all summer. They made and sold maple syrup first thing in the spring. They lived on rabbits, deer, squirrel, berries and syrup. They preserved berries by dropping them in warm, melted tallow in a wooden bowl. Afterwards they cooked meat and corn meal with the berries and tallow in a big kettle for their main dish.
Bridges were built of logs and 3" and 4" hardwood planks. The road past their house now was made in 1926, but the former sandy trail was an important road when they came.
Ottilie Jaenke (Mrs. Charles Jaenke) was born near Warsaw, Wis. in 1870. She came to Wis. (?) in 1895 with her husband and bought a farm one fourth mile north of where Welke's Store now stands. They lived there until her husband died 27 years ago. Since that time she has lived with her five daughters. She is now 93 years old and bright as a new penny. She lives in Augusta with her daughter, Della Ginther.
It was a little shack, she remembers. They were all little shacks at that time when they came. It had taken them three days by team with the wagon on the sleigh when they left Warsaw, and the sleigh on the wagon when they reached Ludington in March 1895.
Shacks and lots of woods, narrow sandy roads, and no bridges are among her first memories. There were lots of back-breaking days in clearing the 60 acre farm and then they bought 40 acres across the road and cleared that. They lived off the farm and had cows, pigs, sheep and chickens. Slim Henke now owns the farm, and the house Mr. and Mrs. Jaenke built in the 1920s still stands. The cleared land is rich and rolling and cultivated. Grandma Jaenke recalls it was not all work in those days. House parties and barn dances used to last all night and they danced to the tune of a fiddle often rendered by Jesse Eaton or Joe Berlin, who are among the older residents of Wilson and Ludington today (according to a conversation on 13 July 1962 with Mrs. Ottilie Jaenke of Augusta).
Mr. and Mrs. Bert Taylor and two sons, Lloyd and Clarence, left Mott, N. D. after having proven their claim and settled in Ludington, now Wilson, in April 1913. They are still living on the same farm where now their youngest son, Robert, does the farming and is the fire warden.
The Taylors recall that at the time they settled in Ludington the only residents nearby were Frank Scott, Otto Hemp, William Hibbard, Fred La Brect, William Romaine, Ervin Romaine, Dan Rogers, Gene Sprinkle, Gene Eaton, James Hemp, John Raycher, and John Mehones (according to Bert Taylor in a conversation on 20 June 1962).
On 24 March 1916, Wilson Township was organized. Otto Hemp was chairman of the first caucus. The first town meeting was held April 4, 1916. Mr. Hemp called the meeting to order. The township was given the name Wilson in honor of Woodrow Wilson then President of the United States.
The township was divided into five school districts: Evergreen, Fitzhugh, Grandview, Progress and Pleasant Valley. The schools were the centers of the little communities for many years. Transportation and communication were slow and many socials, dances, programs and school elections were held in the separate districts. Many gay times, close elections and interesting school programs were held and large crowds gathered. Sometimes they couldn't all get in the school. (From the History of Eau Claire County, contributed by Myrtle Henning)
Charles Wiese, father of Carl, a prominent Ludington farmer, came from Germany at 16 and worked in Ludington until he had enough money saved to send for his family. In 1887, he bought the farm where Carl now lives.
Charles Wiese, Charlie Jaenke and Lon Lowman were the last treasurer, chairman and clerk, respectively, of the combined Ludington / Wilson townships before they separated in 1916.
Mr. Wiese had to go many miles east into Wilson to collect taxes. He went by horse and buggy and often couldn't return for several days. Often then, he brought live products to sell for tax money.
The three last officers used to meet at their homes to do business. Usually they met at Lon Lowman's.
The old White School, which burned in 1922, was used for many purposes. In it were held elections, funerals, church dances, confirmation and socials. The present White School was built in 1923 and has always been a center of community activities. The school district is divided among Augusta, Fall Creek and Cadott High Schools.
The Drehmel Store burned about the same time. It had been a store, post office, dance hall and cream weighing station (according to Carl Wiese in an interview on 16 July 1962).
Much of the activities of the whole township centered around White School and the Ludington Store in the early 1900s.
Mr. Taylor was born at Taylor's Lake in the center of what is now Eau Claire Lake, February 22, 1884 in Bridge Creek Township. Mrs. Taylor, Estelle, was born in Trempealeau County in 1888. Mr. and Mrs. Taylor recall that the Wilson Town Hall, Wilson Store and Wilson Cheese Factory were all built in about 1918-1919. The store and cheese factory were cooperative and did very well.
Charlie Burmeister, Richard Martin, and Emil Koch were the first managers and operators. This small settlement was called Creek View and became an important business and social center. The cheese factory was the first in Eau Claire County. A Catholic church was soon built. A town shed was erected for equipment.
Mr. Taylor was clerk for 39 years, on the school board 16 years and fire warden 16 years (according to a conference with Bert and Estelle Taylor on 25 June 1962).
The following have held the office of Town Chairman and served on the Eau Claire County Board:
1917 -- C. H. Marks
1918 -- Henry Croasdale
1920 -- John Lindner
1927 -- Charles Wilhelm
1929 -- Fred Draeger
1935 -- Charles Wilhelm
1939 -- Charles Angel
1943 -- Bernard Gindt
1945 -- Arthur Smith
1947 -- Bernard Gindt
1949 -- Mac Macomber
1960 -- Joe Raycher
(as contributed by Marion Fletchock Starck, Office of Co. Clerk, 9 July 1962)
The separation of Wilson was done by special proceedings of the Eau Claire County Board of Supervisors consisting of a county committee including J. H. Fleming, G. Roesler, H. H. Kromroy, I. Stein, and E. Elbertson.
In 1913, the Little Red School House was built and painted red. The present Grand View school replaced it in 1929. The land was donated by Frank Talmadge.
From some of the cut-over timber lands, farms were cleared by Dan Fitzhugh; Frank D. Lamatter; Elmer Graves; George, Arthur and Ezra Macomber. The roads to these early farms were merely trails, with much corduroy. No mail was delivered to mailboxes along the road-side. Jack Horn was the first rural mail carrier for Wilson. He carried mail only as far as the store in Wilson. It didn't matter, good weather or bad, he carried the mail, sometimes walking and carrying the mail on his back. Roman Wilkom from Boyd carried the mail to Wilson for many years (according to the History of Eau Claire Co, from the Co. Sup't. of Schools Office).
Sophie Maik, who taught Grand View in 1924 - 1927, and Verda Macomber, who taught Progress the same years, were graduated together in 1924 and are both still teaching together in the Fall Creek system. The one room schools were a big part of the lives of teachers, pupils and parents in those days.
Other names included in the list of early settlers were: John Fitzhugh, logger who lived where the Fitzhugh School was later built, Charlie Ecklor, had a saw mill ½ mile west on County Road G. Nick Schmidt, John Lindner, Antonne Burghardt, Joe Stoddinger, Dan Pathos, Pete Mozakas, Huth and Lange, Wilbur Clark, Loibl and Knutson were among the early settlers of the Progress District. Pathos and Mozakas came from Chicago and formerly Greece. They began the Meadow View Chicken Hatchery in Wilson and later moved to Eau Claire where they still operate.
Verda (Ketchum) Macomber was bridesmaid for the wedding of Dan Pathos and Katherine Mozakas in 1926. Katherine passed away quite young and was buried in Greece with her ancestors. Their children attended Eau Claire schools and have been very active in civic affairs.
George and John Van Cleave, Chris Drehmel, Ike and William Boyea, Pete Lowers, Fred Kaiser, Arthur and Bob Bechtel, Robert Linds, Allie Green, Perdelwitz, Luedke, Eaton, Henke, Hudson, Miller and many others are names commonly related to the old-timers of Ludington / Wilson.
Tony Fisher now owns and operates the Wilson Store and Bobby Zindler and ? Nelson, the taverns. Joe Raycher is town chairman. (Also mentioned in the side margin were these names, but I don't know where they fit in: Peter Lunderville, Dave Hamman, Charlie and Homer Anderson, Herman Boone, George Weigel, Arthur and Emma Raeth, Anne Pavlik, Ray Macomber, Carl and Mina Zim, Berlin, Ginther and Hagedorn.)
Time changes many things. From trails through the woods, where arrows, spear heads and stone hammers, left by some tribe of Indians, perhaps not too ancient, have been found, Wilson has grown and become modern. She enjoys the protection of a fire tower, supervised by LeRoy Sheets. She enjoys the wonders and beauties of nature symbolic of that protection.
Yes, Wilson is as modern as the next place now. Many of the oldsters can remember the old trails and roads and industries of by-gone days. The soil is not the best and many people commute for a living, but if you want to get close to nature, see deer, go fishing, camping or berrying, Wilson is a good place to visit.
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