Indians and Logging Camps

on Site of Rice Lake in 1877

(as related to The Chonotype by H. W. Drake)

Transcribed from the Rice Lake Chronotype, 18 Jan 1928

Donated by Timm Severud

 

 
Rice Lake and it's logging camps of the old days are preserved in the memories of Mr. and Mrs. Horace Drake, 315 South Main Street, who first came to Rice Lake in 1877 and have resided here continuously since 1885.

Mrs. Drake came in 1877 to visit at the home of her sister. Mr. Drake came in the fall of the same year to spend the winter logging on Engler Creek and at Bear Lake, under John Quaderer, log jobber for the Knapp, Stout Company.  In company with a chum, he walked here from a point south of Menomonie. Walking was the most popular method of travel in Northern Wisconsin at that time, and Mr. Drake, a young man of 22 years, thought nothing of the jaunt northward. Carrying guns, the young men shot game as it crossed their path and at night stayed wherever they could find lodging.

As the young men neared Cumberland, they were tremendously impressed by the giant virgin white pines that grew thickly, cut here and there by bands of hardwoods.  While standing under the great pines near Cumberland, they took out their watches to learn the time of day, but the trees grew so thickly and cut off the light so completely that it was only with great difficulty that they were able to read their watches and see that it was 3 o'clock in the afternoon. For a distance of about a mile and a half the pines were equally thick.  No underbrush or shrubbery was able to grow in such darkness. The great tree trunks, three or more feet in diameter, were as close together as they could grow, and between them the ground was covered with a thick and spring matting of dead needles and cones.

The early part of the winter was spent logging on Engler Creek, but on the first day of February 1878, Mr. Quaderer's foreman, George Engler, ordered camp broken and moved to the banks of Bear Lake on the northwest side. There were no buildings there, and they slept on the ground in the open, on hay covered with blankets, working daytimes on the construction of log buildings. Fortunately, it was the warmest winter ever known in this section, so there was no suffering. Mr. Drake's parents in Dunn County were able to do plowing in February 1878.

Mr. Quaderer was a squaw man, and as soon as the camp was moved an Indian village of sixty wigwams sprang up in a valley nearby. The braves lived by working in the camps or by fishing and hunting. Among them there were a few good workers, and others not so good.

The lake barely froze over that year, but the timber grew in ideal fashion on the banks of the lake, so that for a long time all that was necessary was to cut the trees, saw them, and roll the logs down upon the ice. Teams hauling travois or logging sleds would pile the logs on the ice out in the lake until it would crack. Sometimes the sagging ice gave way and men and oxen went through the ice into the lake. Orders were given that the dinner bell should be rung at such an emergency, and at that sound everyone left his job and ran to the landing to help in the rescue work. The camp was located at what was known as the High Landing, about two miles from the head of the lake. Evidence of this camp could be seen up to recent years, and relics have been uncovered frequently on the site.

The evenings were spent either sleeping or singing and dancing. Mr. Quaderer was a jolly fellow and often in the evening would ask, "Drake, you sing a little tonight?" The request was usually complied with. When the time came to settle up with the men, they were called to the cook shanty two at a time, the timekeeper figured their time and they were paid off. Mr. Drake and another man were called in, and the other man was paid first. Mr. Drake looked in surprise at his check. "There is a mistake in this, isn't there?" he queried. Mr. Quaderer had made out the check for $28 a month, instead of the $26 usually paid, but he never let on that the extra $2 was a bonus for hard work.

"Well, you sang pretty good, last winter," he explained.

While in the camp Mr. Drake had a good opportunity to observe the ways of the Indians who were camped nearby. Their favorite sport and means of a livelihood was fishing. Armed with a one-tined spear, an Indian would chop a hole in the ice, wrap himself in a blanket and curl his body around the hole. Then he would pull a piece of the blanket over the hole to shut out the light. With a dangling minnow as a decoy he would lie there until a fish made a sally at the bait, when, as quick as a flash, the Indian impaled him upon the spear. With a blanket employed in that fashion it was possible to see many feet down into the water, and the Indians were very successful at getting big fish. These they would eat or take to town to be traded for meat or other supplies.

The Indian wigwams were built on a frame of poles, joined and tied together at the top. Bark stripped from birch trees was the usual covering, although skins were often employed particularly in when warmth was an important consideration.

Mr. and Mrs. Drake heard stories of the threatened Indian outbreak at the time the Knapp, Stout Company built the first dam and backed the waters of Rice Lake up into the Red Cedar River, creating the lake now called Rice Lake and flooding the wild rice beds the Indians relied for food.  In the years before Drakes came here the Indians had a permanent camp on the west shore of the lake and wild rice occupied an important part in the Indian domestic economy. When the first dam was built about 1870, the Indians were furious and threatened to kill the settlers here and tear out the dam.  The Indians from a large territory gathered in the neighborhood and the settlers in the vicinity were terrified, many of them fleeing Rice Lake for protection.  To avoid difficulties, the Knapp, Stout Company entered a treaty with the Indians, according to the terms of which the company was forced to haul a large amount of supplies to Rice Lake to replace the rice upon which the Indians had depended. Among the items remembered by Mr. Drake were 90 barrels of pork and a large quantity of flour.

For many years the Indians had temporary camps in the vicinity of Rice Lake. On the point at the north end of the lake was a favorite camp ground, almost always occupied, and here the Indians assembled at various times to hold powwows, some of them lasting a week or longer.

When Mr. and Mrs. Drake first came here, in 1877, the hamlet of Rice Lake was almost entirely on the south side of the river, clustered near the little mill which the Knapp, Stout Company had built on the site of the present power house.

The big company store, at that time also the post office, was located on the point of land west of the Stein fur warehouse The three houses now located on Main Street directly north of the present Drake residence and housed company men and their families, Mr. Holbrook, company surveyor, and farther of Mrs. Horsman, occupied one house, James Bracklin, for many years foreman of the company activities here, had another house and the third was occupied by Frank Conn, foreman at the mill. Two large red barns were located on the west side of the street and were used to stable the company horses and oxen.

The Lake House, the company hotel, stood at the corner where the Anderson Yard Company office now is. Across the street on the west side and stretching from the bridge a long distance south stood the company boarding house, a long building in which were fed the hundreds of men from the pineries and log drives who stayed in Rice Lake. This building was so large that it was later cut into sections and made into five residences, which still stand on the South side. Just back of the boarding house was a company sleeping shanty. It was a three-story building and is still standing, though moved west of its original location.

On the site of the present Hamilton residence on Wilson Avenue a Mr. Plato had a small manufacturing establishment which turned out grub pins, pieces of wood about four feet long used to make up logs into rafts.  When the tote teams went to Menomonie to bring back supplies they took with them loads of the grub pins, which were used there in making up rafts to float down the river.

Scant evidence of growth on the north side of the river were mainly in the area north of the Knapp, Stout Hall, known as the Odd Fellows Hall, no the corner of Main & Messenger Streets and centering about the site of the former Tourist Hotel, on North Main Street.

The corner across from the Odd Fellows Hall on Main Street was occupied by a small store, built by one Ed Johnson, who, when discharged by the Knapp, Stout Company, set up a general merchandise business on the north side of the river in order to spite the company. But there were few but Indians to depend upon for trade, for the Knapp, Stout Company paid in due bills and most of the merchandise sold here was from their own store.  The Johnson building was made larger and later came into the possession of Jim Derry, who ran a hotel, the Derry House.

In 1878, George C. Soper opened a meat market on North Main Street, near the present location of the People's Drug Store, but it also failed to pay and was discontinued.

In that year 1878, Mr. Drake went back to Dunn County and on October 20, was married in Menomonie to Miss Ellen Dale Ginder. After living in Dunn County they moved to Shell Lake. They visited Rice Lake occasionally, Mrs. Drake having two sisters living here, but the easiest way to make the trip was to take the train to Cumberland and drive from there to Rice Lake by team. In 1882 the railway came through Rice Lake and Mrs. Drake was able to make the trip alone, taking the train from Shell Lake to Chicago Junction, a stopping point only, and sitting for several hours at the junction for the train to Rice Lake.

While on one of these visits she had an experience with the Indians, which while she was not in peril, was terrifying. The post office had been moved from the Knapp, Stout Store to Main Street, south of the present Land O'Lakes Hotel. Mrs. Drake left her sister's home on the west edge of the city near the railway to get the mail, coming on a narrow path through the brush. On her way she met a group of Indians on the path, men, women, and children, and papooses hanging stoically from their strong-backed mothers. The Indians grinned in a friendly fashion and even stepped from the path to let her pass when they saw her confusion. She never made the trip again.

Mr. and Mrs. Drake moved to Rice Lake in 1885. Mr. Drake helped build a stave factory and hub factory, and also the big mill. The town had grown considerably since their first visit here, eight years before. Dan Dorgan had started the cities first saloon. The post office had been moved from the company store to the log cabin owned by Mr. Boddington and locate south of where the Land O'Lakes Hotel stands. The Johnson building had been enlarged and was run as the Derry House by Jim Derry. Charles Nunn had built a residence where the First National Bank is located. It was later moved and is still in use as a residence, on Eau Claire Street.

For amusement, in the early years here, much of the population attended dances while other attended gay evening gatherings at some of the homes in town or within reach by team. The ones owning teams picked up friends and carried them to the scene of the party. Lunch was taken along and the evening spent in social chatter and innocent games.

In 1887, Mr. Drake took a position as a lumber grader with the Rice Lake Lumber Company, which had been incorporated here in 1883, and he remained in its employ until eight years ago when he retired from the company after serving it thirty-three years.

When Rice Lake was incorporated as a city in 1887, Mr. Drake was elected one of the first aldermen from the old Fourth Ward. The other alderman from that ward was Henry Wilz, and Mr. Wilz and Mr. Drake the only surviving members that served that year. Mr. Drake served two terms. He also rendered good service for five years as a member of the city Board of Education.

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