An Early Description of Chetek Township

And the village of Chetek.

-- From the "Historical and Biographical Album of the Chippewa Valley Wisconsin, 1891-2" pages 323 - 324.


Chetek Township (sometimes spelled Shetek and Chetack) is nine miles in length from east to west and six miles in width from north to south.  It contains fifty-four square miles and is bounded on the north by the towns of Stanley and Sumner, on the south by the town of Dover, on the east by Chippewa county and on the west by the town of Maple Grove.  There are several lakes, the two largest being Prairie lake and Lake Chetek.  The Menomonie (Red Cedar) river runs through the southwestern section.  The Chetek river takes a southwesterly course from the lake of that name.  Moose Ear creek passes from the northeast corner into Lake Chetek, and Pekegama creek flows from the northwest corner into the same lake.  The village of Chetek is pleasantly located on the tableland about fifteen feet above and on the west shore of the lake of the same name, and has a station on the Chippewa Falls and Northern Division of the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Omaha railway.  The lake is a little less than a mile and a half in length from north to south, and its greatest width from east to west is a mile and a quarter.  It connects with Pekegema lake, due north of it, and is united with Prairie lake to the northwest of it, by a stream about a mile and a half in length.  The last named lake is nearly five miles long, and its greatest width is half a mile.  The Chetek river, of which the lake of that name is the source, takes a southwesterly course from the village for six miles and there joins the Menomonie (Red Cedar).

The annual exhibit of the Barron County Agricultural Society is held here, the organization owning grounds comprising about forty acres, with all necessary buildings and an excellent half-mile track.  They are distant about half a mile east of the village.

The place was first settled in 1870 by a few farmers.  Among them were W. W. Flynn and Daniel Beagle.  Soon afterward the Knapp, Stout & Co. Company started a logging camp here, and they, in association with E. M. Sexton, had the village surveyed and platted in October, 1875.  "North Chetek" was surveyed and platted by direction of the owner, Robert Stewart, in October 1881.  In 1876 the company erected a steam saw and planing-mill.  They operated it until 1888, when it was shut down in consequence of their having exhausted the pine timber in the locality.

The first school was kept in a log house, in 1874.  Four years later a frame district school-house was built.  Miss Strong was the teacher.  It was sold to the Catholic church organization in 1884, and they transformed it into a house of worship.  A new graded school building, with four departments, was at once erected at an outlay of $10,000, and, in September of that year, made a free high school.  R. H. Mueller is the principal.  It is an institution of which the citizens feel proud.  The daily attendance of pupils averages 125.

The post-office was established in 1888, and Daniel Beagle was the first postmaster.  A water-power grist-mill was constructed by the Knapp, Stout & Co. Company in 1880, with a capacity of fifty barrels a day.  It has been in operation ever since that time.

A Methodist Episcopalian mission, in connection with the Rice Lake circuit, has been established here ever since the Indians took their departure in 1881.  There has been a service every Sunday evening, held by Rev. E. T. Sanderson, of Rice Lake, who has charge of the organization.  The erection of a church building was begun in 1890 and completed in 1891.  It 1883, a Presbyterian church edifice was erected, and services are held every Sunday evening by Rev. T. M. Waller, of Rice Lake.  The Catholic Mission church, which was also established in 1883, is in charge of Rev. P. Becker, of St. Joseph's Catholic church, Rice Lake.  The Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran church edifice was built in 1884.  The Rev. Mr. Orke is the resident pastor -- the only one in the village.  The First Day Advent church organization holds its services in Stewart's hall.  They are conducted by Rev. C. A. Slocum.  All the church buildings are frame.

The Chetek "Alert," a weekly republican paper, was started in 1882, by Walter Speed.  He has owned and edited it since that time.  A steam saw-mill and a planing-mill were erected by Willis Glaze in 1888.  He operated them both for a year and then moved the former to a location on the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie railway.  The planing-mill has been idle from that date.

Another institution of which the citizens of Chetek speak with considerable enthusiasm is the self-supporting circulating library of 2,000 volumes, which was established in 1888.  This will be the more readily understood when it is brought into connection with the fact that the total population of the village is not more than 550.

It is in truth no more than nine years old, having developed from a logging camp since the opening of the railway in 1882.  During that time it has become a favorite summer resort, the principal attraction being the three lakes and the surrounding scenery, which is charming during the summer and early fall months.  The lakes and streams teem with fish, including pickerel, pike, bass and trout. Game, too, is plentiful.  The village is in the center of a fine agricultural district, in which special attention is being paid to dairying, owing to the rich pasture that prevails in almost every direction.  The total population of the township for 1890 was 1,728.  These figures include the population of Dover township, which until recently, formed the southern half of this township.


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