"History of Lincoln, Oneida, and Vilas Counties Wisconsin"

Compiled by George O.Jones, Norman S. McVean and Others. Printed in 1924 by H.C.Cooper. Jr. & Co., Minneapoli-Winona MN. ill. 787 pages. The first two hundred pages are history of the three counties, the remainder of the book is biographies.


   Tomahawk, a thriving city in the northern portion of Lincoln County, is reached by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul and the Marinette, Tomahawk & Western railways, and by State Highways Nos. 10 and 63. It is a manufacturing center of considerable importance and a prominent lumbering point. It is situated in Townships 34 and 35 north, Range 6 east, and its population in 1920 was 2801.

   The story of the development of most cities begins with a tiny cluster of rude pioneer huts; the passing years brings a slow, sometimes scarcely perceptible growth to this embryonic metropolis; finally a railroad extension, or a waterpower development, or the discovery of mineral resources, lends impetus to the process of growth. The site is officially laid out; a village or city charter is obtained; other railroad and manufacturing interests turn their attention to this scene of new activity, and so the city comes into being.

   The history of Tomahawk, however, deviates from this picture. The stage of her existence as a lethargic, slowly developing hamlet was so curtailed as scarcely to have existed at all, and a full-fledged, bustling city sprang into being almost over night. The locality was a practically uninhabited wilderness previous to 1886, in which year the Tomahawk Land and Boom Co. began operations here. In the spring of 1887 this company laid out the site of the city of Tomahawk; the survey of the plat, made under the direction of Thomas M. Doyle, was recorded June 1, 1887, and the first lots were offered for sale at auction in Milwaukee on June 25th of the same year. Sept. 15, 1887, the tracks of the Wisconsin Valley Division of the Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad, then in the process of extension from Merrill to Minocqua, reached Tomahawk, and the first train came in over these rails on Oct. 8th. Sawmills and other industries sprang up at once, and the census of 1890, just four years after the city was laid out and settlement began, found Tomahawk with a population of 1,816. The sole mark of civilization previous to 1886 was a tavern or station kept by Germaine Bouchard, which was located on the north side of the Wisconsin River and the west side of the Tomahawk, where the Tomahawk and Somo flowed into the Wisconsin. Bouchard had kept this station since 1858, also operating a ferry here, and the locality was variously known as the Forks and Bouchard's. He con-tinued to conduct the tavern until 1888, when his land was inundated by back water from the dam which was being constructed two miles below; the site of the tavern is now a small island just north of the west end of Rodgers Island, where the Rodgers mill was located, the island being a part of the city's park system.

   The completion of the final treaty with the Chippewa Indians, by which they agreed to live on their reservation at Odanah and Lac du Flambeau, gave impetus to logging operations in this region, and in October of 1886 the Tomahawk Land and Boom Company began the construction of camps two miles south of the present city as a preliminary to building their dam there. Fifty-one per cent of the stock in this company was owned by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Co. and the balance by the Land, Log and Lumber Co., which consisted of O. P. Pillsbury, D. M. Benjamin, the Bradley brothers, (William, Edward, and James), Kelley brothers of Chicago, Lovejoy of Janesville, and T. D. Stimson of Chicago. William H. Bradley was the first president of the Tomahawk Land and Boom Co.; it is thought that construction of the dam was first suggested by O. P. Pillsbury. Actual work on the dam began in the winter of 1886, and it was completed in the winter of 1888-89; it was built for the purpose of forming a lake wherein logs could be stored before being manufactured into lumber, and where they could be sorted, logs for the different mills farther down the river being separated from those that were to remain here. George Gans was superintendent of the construction work on the dam, and Angus Buie had charge of the sorting works which were established in 1889 and which employed a crew of 100 or more men during the summer season. The first building to be erected on the site of the present city was put up by Angus Buie in October of 1887; it was constructed of logs. The first frame building was a residence at 115 West Rice Avenue, built by C. C. Lincoln in July of 1887 and which is still standing. The store building erected by John Oelhafen, Sr., in 1887 was the first building of this nature to make its appearance in the newly- begun settlement; it is still standing at 117 West Wisconsin Avenue and now houses the general store conducted by William Oelhafen, a son of its builder. It is recalled by those present at the time that when the roof of this building was being shingled four deer ran down the street on which it fronts. The first hotel was the Somo House; the next, the Windsor, was built by Pat and Mike Day in September of 1887.

   Dr. J. D. Cutter, who is still actively engaged in the practice of his profession here, came on Dec. 19, 1886, and was doctor and timekeeper at the dam. One of the first lawyers was A. H. Woodworth. Among other prominent pioneers may be mentioned Alexander Rodgers, John Woodlock, M. C. Hyman, Frank Larsen, Robert C. Thielman, A. B. Crane, and William H. Bradley. The last named, of whom an account is given in the biographical portion of this volume, is often referred to as "the father of Tomahawk" ; as previously described, 'he was a leading figure in the founding of the city, and much of the subsequent properity and progress was brought about through his activities and benefactions.

   Tomahawk Buie, who was born at the dam April 30, 1887, son of Mr. and Mrs. Angus Buie, was the first white child to be born here and was presented with a lot at the comer of Sixth Street and Washington Avenue because of that fact. He is now married and lives at Detroit, Mich.; Angus Buie, his father, died March 2, 1907. Matie Lewerenz, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Lewerenz, was the first child to be born in what is now the city proper. Her father, who is now engaged in farming near the city, at that time held a contract for building the side tracks and a mile of the main line for the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, and she was born in a tent on the west side of the railroad tracks, just south of West Spirit Avenue, in August of 1887. She is now living in Washington, D. C.

   The city's early life was founded on the lumber industry, and the coming of the railroad almost simultaneously with the beginning of the settlement brought about the rapid growth previously referred to. New sawmills appeared in rapid succession to swell the tide of the city's prosperity.

   The first mill was that built by King and Weymouth of Winneconne, Wis., in the spring of 1888. This mill was subsequently sold to the Bradley interests and become known as Mill No. 1. It was next owned by the Rice River Lumber Co., and from this concern it passed to the Somo Lumber Co., who operated it for a time and then sold it to the John Oelhafen Lumber Co. It was acquired from the last named company by its present owners, the Raymond Lumber Co., in 1923. It is located west of the Marinette, Tomahawk & Western tracks and north of Bradley Park, across the bay.

   The next sawmill to be erected was put up by the Tomahawk Lumber Co. in the winter of 1888-89, making its first cut in the spring of 1889. This was known as the Bradley Mill, No.2, W. H. Bradley being the moving spirit of the Tomahawk Lumber Co. It was situated on the Wisconsin River west of the Chicago, Milwau-kee & St. Paul tracks. It burned down in 1897 or 1898, and the new mill with which it was replaced was also destroyed by fire. The mill now standing on this site was moved from Woodboro by the Bradley interests, who operated it for several years and then sold it to its present owners, the Mohr Lum-ber Co.

   The Crane mill was moved here from Gagen, Wis., in the winter of 1889-90 and started making lumber in the spring of 1890. It was owned under the name of Crane Bros., by Timothy and Abner B. Crane, who had come to Wisconsin originally from the state of Maine. This mill was located across the river, north of the present city pumping station, and was sold and moved away in 1904, having finished sawing the timber from Crane Bros.' holdings here. What was known as No.3 Mill was built by the Farmers' Lumber Co. in 1890 and was owned and operated by Robert Hall and George R. Gray of Muskegon until its ownership was combined with that of the Bradley and Rodgers mills. It was located across the Wisconsin River north of Tomahawk Avenue, and was destroyed by fire in 1893.

   The Rodgers Mill, or No.4, was moved here from Muskegon in 1889 and was located west of the railroad tracks on the west end of what is now known as Rodgers or Foss's Island. It burned in 1903 or 1904.

   There were several other mills of more or less brief duration. Alexander Rodgers erected a shingle mill across the river just north of No.2 Mill in 1890. This mill was dismantled after one or two seasons of operation. The Bradley Company built a large box factory in 1890, located just west of the intersection of the Marinette Tomahawk & Western tracks with the street that runs to Rodgers Island and No.1 Mill. This factory burned down in 1893 or 1894. At a later date W. H. Foss had a box factory on the east end of Rodgers Island; the plant was built in 1908 and was destroyed by fire in 1913. The Bay Mill, which burned in 1903, was built by W. H. Bradley at the location still known as Bay Mills, west of the city of Tomahawk. A settlement grew up about the mill, and previous to the fire which destroyed the plant a postoffice was located there.

   At the heyday of the lumber industry here the annual cut at Tomahawk ran from 60,000,000 to 75,000,000 feet of lumber with about 25,000,000 shingles. Another industry which has played a prominent part in the city's history, both early and recent, is the manufacture of .pulp and paper. An account of which may be found elsewhere in this chapter.

   Incorporation as a city was carried out in 1891. Angus Buie was the first mayor, and the first aldermen were as follows: J. C. Gilman and T. Twoomey, .first ward; M. C. Hyman and Richard Dawson, second ward; Felix Marcouillier and John Knauff, third ward; Joseph Chevrier and Frank Liberty, fourth ward. A. J. Olson was the first city clerk, being followed a short time later by John Shirk, then editor of the "Tomahawk". A.. H. Woodworth was the first city attorney; James O'Connell was the first chief of police, with William Dumont as night watchman; L. L. Edmonds was the first city treasurer, and John Tobin the first assessor; the last-named resigned a short time after taking office and was followed by A. Allen. The first city hall is now a residence owned by H. L. Hildebrand; after it was discontinued as a headquarters of city government it was moved to a different site and served for some time as a school building, after which it was moved to its present site. The present city hall was built in 1900 on the site originally occu-pied by the first city hall.

   Advertisements from the newspapers of 1896 show the following concerns then in existence: James O'Leary, attorney; A. J. Olson, real estate and insurance; C. E. Macomber, druggist; W. L. Marshall, real estate and insurance; Tomahawk Livery Stable, Robert Daigle, proprietor; W. H. and J. W. Bradley, bankers; The Bank of Tomahawk; J. H. Soli, groceries; J. W. Bird, M. D.; N. Emerson, timber and farming lands; L. Kabat, cigar manufacturer; C. Ostrander, carpenter and contractor; John P. Hughes, attorney; R. J. Stinzi, harness and saddlery; Thiehnan Bros., meats; Howard Burrington, fruits and confectionery; Albert Hauer, dealer in lumber; Nick Bros., furniture and undertaking; William Bohn, merchant tailor; Evenson Bros., hardware; Pioneer Store, John Oelhafen, proprie-tor; E. W. Whitson & Co., groceries, feed, etc.; Howen & Fleming, dry goods; Piper Bros., meats; Tomahawk Pulp and Paper Co.; Charles A. Ayer, bakery; A. J. Olson, hardware and agency for American Express Co. ; C. A. Seidle, taxider-mist; Earl Lincoln, barber; L. D. Goodnough, barber; and Abram Genett, barber.

   To supplement the general account of the early history of the city given in the preceding paragraphs, mention will now be made of various individual develop-ments existing at the present time, including public utilities, banks, schools, churches, manufacturing and other interests.

   The plant of the waterworks was installed in 1891, the city council having re-solved at a meeting held June 11th of that year to bond the city for $16,000 for this purpose. There are now between five and six miles of water mains, and 54 fire hydrants. The standpipe system is used, the reservoir having a capacity of 60,000 gallons. A straight pressure system is substituted for this, however, when the water in the three wells forming the source of supply is low. There are two pumps, one with a capacity of 1500 gallons per minute and the other of 1,000 gallons per minute; two boilers of 60 60 horsepower furnish steam for the operation of these pumps. The plant is run on a 24-hour schedule, with J. August Bauer as chief engineer and Gustav D. Engleman as superintendent.

   Electric power and telephone service is furnished by the Wisconsin Valley Electric Co. The original concern in this field here was the Electric Light and Water Co., which carried on operations from March 28, 1890, to Feb. 7, 1896. A new charter was secured by the Bradley interests on the latter date, under the name of the Electric, Water, and Telephone Co., with a capital stock of $15,000. The power plant of this concern was located in the yards of the Tomahawk Lumber Co. Feb. 28, 1912, the Tomahawk Light, Telephone, and Improvement Co. was formed with a capital of $50,000, and this company took over the interests of its predecessor; the original officers of the new concern were R. B. Tweedy, president and treasurer; Spencer Ilsley, vice president; F. P. Werner, secretary and assistant treasurer; and E. G. McNaughton, assistant secretary. Later in the same year Andrew Oelhafen and Victor Extrom purchased the stock of this company and it was operated under their ownership until 1918, when Mr. Oelhafen purchased the entire capital stock. Under the organization then effected the officers became: Andrew Oelhafen, president and treasurer; John Walter Oelhafen, manager; and Arthur R. Oelhafen, secretary. Control passed from this concern to the present owners on July 21, 1922. M. R. Frederickson is the present local manager. Power is obtained from a dam which was built at Tomahawk Rapids, about one mile north of the Tomahawk River, in 1893.

   The post office was moved to its present quarters in 1919. It is an office of the second class, and employs three clerks and an assistant postmaster, in addition to the postmaster and carriers. Two rural routes and three star routes are operated, the latter routes running to Spirit Falls, Harrison, and Bradley respectively. There are three city carriers and two rural carriers; H. L. Brooks has been post-master since October of 1922. The original postoffice, before the coming of the railroad, was located at the dam then being built below the present city; mail was brought from Merrill by stage. A postoffice was established in the city in October of 1887 and Frank Larsen was the first to hold the office of postmaster here, receiving his appointment Sept. 28, 1887; this office was first located on block 23, lot 8, and was moved in August of 1888 to lot 2, block 7, where it remained until the building on this site was destroyed by fire. The office was next quartered where H. H. Roehrborn's tire repair shop now is, the building being then owned by Kate Clark; after about two years there the office was moved back to lot 2, block 7, on Wisconsin avenue adjoining the new bank building, and from here it was moved to its present location in 1919.

   An excellent weekly newspaper, the Tomahawk Leader, is published by Osborne Bros.; the paper has a subscription list of about 1,000, and three job presses are operated in conjunction. It was established in 1896, the first issue appearing on Saturday, July 4th, of that year. Charles Deming, previously of Columbia County, was its first publisher, with W. M. Shirk as editor. The day of publication was changed from Thursday to Saturday with the fourth issue. The paper changed hands in the winter of 1897-98, H. D. Bliefernicht becoming publisher and editor. Ownership passed from him to Ware & Lee with the issue of May 6, 1904. Robert G. Lee purchased his partner's interests about 1910 and operated the paper alone from that time until 1915, when he sold out to Russell & Dozer. The following year Mr. Russell acquired sole ownership, and it was operated by him until January of 1917, when Robert G. Lee again became the owner, with L. W. Osborne as man-ager. The present owners, L. W. and L. M. Osborne, took over the paper on Dec. 1st of the same year. They built a 24-foot addition to the building housing their plant at 24 S. Second St. in 1923, giving the building a total depth of 78 feet with a frontage of 22 feet, and they have met with very good success in conducting the paper. Sept. 17, 1913, the Leader was consolidated with the Tomahawk. which was established in 1886 by W. H. Bradley and was conducted in June of 1887 by W. M. Shirk & Son and was published by them until the end of 1894, when P. H. Swift took it over. Mr. Swift published the Tomahawk during 1895, from 1896 to October of 1903 it was conducted by the Tomahawk Publishing Co., who then sold it to W. D. Lambert; the latter conducted it up to the time of its purchase by Robert G. Lee, then publisher of the Leader, who consolidated it with the latter paper. Besides these two papers one other, the Tomahawk Blade, has been published here; it was established about 1888 and was published by Jed W. Coon until 1895 or 1896.

   A good public library is maintained, receiving its financial support from the city. It was established during the summer of 1909, the movement to this end having been set on foot by the women's clubs of the city. It has occupied the same quarters since the beginning, on the second floor of the city hall building. Control is by a board of seven trustees appointed by the mayor; the present member-ship of the board is as follows: Mrs. H. S. Olson, president; V. E. Labbe, secretary; Frederick Ek, Mrs. H. L. Wakefield, L. M. Osborne, R. T. Reinholdt, and Mrs. E. P. Werner. Esther Venne is librarian and Esther Bloomquist assistant librarian. At the close of the year 1922 there were 6,847 volumes shelved, the registration was 2,095, and the circulation amounted to 21.452; the excellent growth which the institution has had is shown by comparison of these figures with those for 1911, which show that on July 1st of that-year there were 2,056 volumes, a registration of 935, and a circulation of 13,253. The only predecessors of this institution were the various travelling libraries which were established from time to time, probably the earliest of these was that founded by W. H. Bradley in 1897.

   There is a voluntary fire department of unusual efficiency, composed of 22 members. It was established at an early period in the city's history, with Robert McGregor as the first chief. Robert Thielman was the second to serve in the capacity of chief, and he was followed by M. A. Stutz; after Mr. Stutz, Louis Thielman filled the office, to be followed in 1907 by Leo Martz, the present chief. A Republic motor-driven fire truck was added to the equipment in 1919, making the apparatus fully commensurate with the city's needs. A yearly salary of $125 attaches to the office of chief, while the other members of the department receive $90 annually. The spirit of civic pride and love of beauty which prevail here are well illustrated in the beautiful park system that has been built up, making the city well qualified to serve in its position as the gateway to the wonderful scenery of Northern Wis-consin. Bradley Park, a tract of 105 acres of natural park land immediately adjoining the city on the west, was acquired from the Bradley company in 1910 at a cost of $10,000; the timber alone on this property today has a value far in excess of that sum. This picturesque park was thrown open to tourists in the summer of 1922, one camp site being located in the midst of the splendid timber and another on Mirror Lake; besides these a camp site was maintained on the Wisconsin River, near the Fourth Street bridge and just off of State Highway No. 10. Besides Bradley Park the city owns the frontage on both sides of the Wisconsin River for a distance of approximately two and a half miles northeasterly.

   The present Fourth Street bridge over the Wisconsin River was built during the summer of 1922 at a cost of approximately $60,000; it is a steel girder bridge with concrete foundation, having a driveway 26 feet in width and a side-walk 6 feet wide; the total length of the structure is 450 feet.

   The religious needs of the city are well cared for. Church services have been held since settlement first began here, and today there are organizations repre-senting eight different religious denominations.

   The First Congregational Church was the earliest to effect formal organization, this step being taken at a meeting held Nov. 22, 1887. Rev. Dr. Grassie, of Madison, representing the Congregational denomination, presided over the meeting and it was through his efforts that the organization was brought about. First services were held in a room over what was then Hyman's saloon, where the R. C. Thielman meat market and offices are now located. The congregation was in-corporated on April 10, 1888, and began the erection of a church edifice in the same year, located on the present site at Washington Ave. and Fifth St., this building was remodeled and enlarged during 1920, over $11,000 being expended in carrying out this project, and it is now one of the best arranged church plants of its size in the state. Besides supply pastors, the following have served in the pulpit: Rev. George M. Heckendorn, now deceased, who remained about one year; Rev. \V. D. Stevens, also deceased who served six months; Rev. W. M. Ellis, now prin-cipal of the Christian Endeavor Academy, Endeavor, Wis., whose services here extended over a period of three years; Rev. A. Thompson, now deceased, who also served for three years; Rev. J. C. Ablett, who was here about one year; Rev. J. Jones who was ordained here and served about one year; Rev. Samuel MacNeill, now living at Wauwautosa, who served about three years; Rev. Grant V. Clark, now at Ladysmith, Wis., who was married here and was also ordained in this church, his services here continuing for four years; Rev. F. W. Heberlein, now superintendent for the Western District of Congregational Churches at Ashland, Wis., who served here for six years; Rev. W. Bosard, now of Oklahoma, who was here for one year; Rev. T. W. Barber, who served here for two years and is now living at Anoka, Minn.; and the present pastor, Rev. R. G. Heddon, whose ministry here began Nov. 1, 1919. The first death among the members of the congregation was that of Mrs. Angus Buie, and the first baptism that of Tomahawk Buie. Among the charter members and early workers may be mentioned the following: Mr. and Mrs. H. A. Johnson, who are still residing in the city, as vitally interested in the work as ever; Mr. and :Mrs. C. W. Burrington, Mr. Burrington, now deceased, having been during his residence here in partnership in the lumber business with H. A. Atcheson; Mr. and Mrs. H. P. Hatch, both of whom are now deceased; 1\1r. and Mrs. T. T. Chave, of whom Mr. Chave is now deceased and Mrs. Chave is residing at Pasco, Wash.; ]\1r. and Mrs. F. G. Stark, of whom Mrs. Stark is now deceased and Mr. Stark is living at Rochester, N. Y.; Dr. J. W. Coon, of Stevens Point; Mr. and Mrs. Angus Buie; Mrs. Louise Nourse, now of California; and Mrs. John Durkee.

Chapter X: continued on the next page Part B

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