Among the Pines and About the Mills

Submitted by Joan Benner

From the Jackson County Banner,

Published at Black River Falls, Wisconsin

July 13, 1867, Page 3

Tuesday last we took upon the pleasant task of visiting a number of the sawmills in the town of Albion.

Harrison BURCHARD's Mill

We commenced by calling on Harrison BURCHARD, who owns a mill on Perry's Creek, about two and a half miles form town. His mill was built in 1865, taking the place of one destroyed by fire the year before, and it is 26 by 60 feet, having a good foundation and being substantially constructed. It contains one Double Rotary, one Edger and one machine for making grubs used in rafting the lumber he manufactures. During the months of spring, summer and autumn, he employs five men, and in the winter, 16 or 20. The lumber has to be hauled about two miles to Black River, where it is rafted and run to the Mississippi. At the time of the heavy storm in June of last year, Mr. BURCHARD's mill was damaged to the amount of $1500, but not being of the kind to get discouraged--though his experience in milling has been anything but encouraging, having been burned out two years before--he hastily repaired his establishment, and we are glad to state, is meeting with success in the lumbering business, and is making a most excellent quality. His mill is capable of sawing about 1,000,000 feet each year--or in the time it is in operation each year, which is usually about eight months. Mr. BURCHARD is among the early settlers of the Black River Valley, having located here in 1847, when the country was rather new.

J. B. SMITH's Mill

About half a mile below, on the same stream, we came upon another snug piece of property, which belongs to J. B. SMITH. Mr. SMITH was absent from home, but we were given the capacity and dimensions of the establishment by his gentlemanly employees. The mill was built by Mr. SMITH and his townsman, Capt. E. O. JONES, in 1864. It is 20 by 50 feet, and contains one Double Rotary, an Edger, and requires the same number of men to operate it that BURCHARD's does, and he has to haul his lumber about the same distance to raft. Like Mr. BURCHARD's, it is substantially built, and is a piece of property of no small account--it has a capacity for sawing about 1,200,000.


Still further down the creek, we find our good-natured Democratic friend, John EDMUNDS, who came to this part of the State in 1849. He has a good Saw Mill, built in 1859, which is 24 by 48 feet, and contains one large circular saw. He will put up an addition of 10 feet to the length of the mill this season, and put in a double rotary and edger, and make such other improvements as are necessary. Mr. EDMUNDS has been in the lumbering business long enough to know just how to manage it and keep not only "above water" but "high and dry". He has but half a mile to haul his lumber to raft. The mill as it is now, is capable of cutting about 1,000,000 feet per year, and when he completes the improvements of this summer, he will be able to add largely to those figures.

Andrew GILBERT's Mill

We had not the time to spare to visit Andrew GILBERT's mill, at the mouth of the Creek, and are under obligations to Mr. EDMUNDS for the following facts in relation to it:

The mill is 22 by 50 feet, has one Sash Saw, one single Rotary Saw and an Edger, and is capable of cutting 2,000,000 feet of lumber per annum. This season he is to make two additions--one on the end--16 feet, and the other on the side, which will be 10 feet. His mill, like all of those on that Creek, was considerably damaged last season. It is considered a valuable piece of property. The three establishments which we visited are more substantially constructed than is usually the case with such establishments on small streams.

Perry's or O'Neill's Creek

In as much as we have taken pains to speak of the saw mills on Perry's Creek, perhaps there are some who would like to know the nature of the stream, its size, & c. We will try to gratify their curiosity. Perry's Creek, sometimes called O'Neill's Creek, rises near the east branch of the Black River, in this County, and empties into the main Black River about three miles below here. It gets its main supply from swamps along its route. It has a small channel, so small that a child can leap over it four miles from the mouth. From where the first mill is located to the "spilling out" place, the banks are high, and with high dams, this little shaver of a creek affords an abundance of power to run four times the machinery that is now operated. Such is Perry's Creek. It's a "big thing," isn't it? Yes, and a very valuable one.


For months we contemplated visually this institution, about which we had heard a vast deal. Our fancy had pictured about such a place as the following description indicates: A mill with one engine for power, two or three small, cheaply built places for the men to eat and sleep in, and rough, uncouth sheds for teams, the whole number of buildings not exceeding four or five. That is what we had expected to find out in what we propose to name "Pine City." Imagine our surprise, as we neared the snug little city in the forest.

There are 12 comfortable dwellings, including one large boarding house, a store, several barns, a blacksmith shop, two granaries and school house, in which there is a school taught four months in the year. All of these have been erected in the short space of two years. We will now look through the mill, the "innocent cause" of the town.

As we enter the mill from the south, our attention is attracted by the large Double Rotary, which is eating up logs at a rate refreshing to behold. A few steps forward and we come to a regular nest of buzzing, whizzing, humming circular saws, each apparently , trying to see which can run the fastest and make the most racket. On the right we see the machinery for manufacturing lath, of which they turn out 12,000 every 12 hours. The lath are evenly cut, and show that the machinery is good and that competent men are employed to man it. To the left of this we see what is termed the cut off saw, for cutting off the rough ends of the logs, a work that is done in some mills, with an axe. At the left of this is another rotary for cutting boards after the large saw first spoken of has split them. This saw is cutting off boards at the rate of four or five per minute, and does it as handsomely as we ever saw. A few feet to the left of this is one of the engines--the one that furnishes power for the lath mill, cut off saw and smaller circular. It is a 40 horse-power, and runs beautifully, if that word may be allowed in describing such an article. A few steps east of this brings us to the engine room in which we find the power that operates the large saw. Both engines are of the best pattern in the market, and have never caused any delays to speak of. Arrangements are made by which all of the sawdust made is carried direct to the respective firemen by machinery. This is an ingenious and labor-saving invention, and is the first we have seen. We came near to forgetting to speak of the Double Edger, which, by the way, is too convenient an institution to omit in a description of this kind. All the internal fixtures are as substantial and convenient as those of any mill to be found in Jackson and Clark Counties.

One year ago last winter, Messrs. OLSON & TIBBETTS commenced the construction of a railroad from their mill to the river, a distance of three miles, which was completed the following spring. The road was built at a cost of $8,000, but its worth for transporting lumber by car to the river, throws that sum into insignificance. Branches of the road start from each side of the mill, thus making it just as convenient as possible for loading the lumber, timber and lath on the cars. There are six cars, each drawn by one horse, and carrying from 1,500 to 2,000 feet. Each horse makes three trips a day--travelling 18 miles. They have a boarding house at the river for their raftsmen, at which place there is kept a gang of hands all the time the mill is in operation.

The mill is capable of cutting 5,000,000 feet of lumber per annum, and 3,000,000 lath. The firm employs between 35 and 45 men to run the mill, drive team, raft the lumber and cut the logs, the majority of whom are residents of "Pine City." Their stock of logs on hand at present time will not fall short of 2,000,000 feet. Attached to the machinery is a corn cracker which they use for grinding feed for their large number of teams. When we came to look through that mill, we half thought we would like to be a lumberman if only in possession of their establishment. We had rather have the profits of it than the best banking houses in the west. One can almost see the greenbacks roll out. The entire cost of the property, as carefully estimated, is $34,000.

In December, 1864, Mr. OLSON cleared away the brush for a foundation. The following spring one engine and saw were set in motion. The following December they commenced putting in the second engine and the various saws of which we have spoken. In building up a business and place, they have displayed energy, enterprise and determination that is not often beheld. But they are well rewarded in the possession of such valuable property.

Mr. OLSON, the senior member of the firm, is a native of Norway, from whence he came to Dane county over 18 years ago, where he remained a few months and then came to Black River, where he has remained ever since. He is a thorough businessman and gentleman, and just as good a citizen as our County possesses.


Last Update Thursday, 09-Sep-2010 21:05:32 EDT

WIGenWeb State Coordinator:  Tina Vickery
WIGenWeb Assistante State Coordinator:  Marcia Ann Kuehl
Copyright 2010 by the WIGenWeb Team.  All rights reserved.  Copyright of submitted items belongs to those
responsible for their authorship or creation unless otherwise assigned.