"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.


St. Clair, George J. proprietor of Black Oak Lake Resort in Vilas County, and who is a nationally known potato expert, was born in Faribault, Minn., March 17, 1873, son of James and Louisa (MILLER) ST. CLAIR. The family removed to St. Paul, Minn., in 1880 and George J. ST. CLAIR received his education in the schools of the latter city. After completing school he took up the trade of chef, learning cooking in all its branches and following this occupation until 1906; during this period he worked for a number of large restaurants and hotels and was for a time with the Northern Pacific railroad. In 1906 he came to Vilas County and bought 92 acres of wild land with a quarter of a mile of frontage on the east shore of Black Oak Lake, which property he at once proceeded to develop into a farm and resort. As no development whatever had been made on the land, a huge task confronted him, but he set to work vigorously, and in his present success he is well rewarded for all his efforts. Early in his career here he turned his attention to potato raising; he soon became convinced that the species of potato known as the Triumph was the one most ideally suited to the conditions here, and he confined his attention exclusively to this stock, raising it year after year in his fields, which were far removed from any other source of the same stock. The isolation of his fields was a thing of which he did not appreciate the full value until about five years ago, when he learned of it through the seed potato inspection department of the Wisconsin Experiment Station. The state for a long time has been bending its efforts toward finding sources of Triumph seed stock showing a very low percentage of mosaic disease, and from the study that has been made of this disease it is known that the best strains are usually found growing far removed from any other fields, since good seed planted near mosaic infected fields soon becomes contaminated with the disease. It was soon found that the strain Mr. ST. CLAIR had developed through years of raising from the same stock under ideal conditions was remarkably free from the disease, and the fame of the St. Clair strain has rapidly spread over the entire United States. Quoting from the report of County Agent O. E. GIBSON for the season of 1922, "They attracted so much attention among potato experts that samples were secured for tests in the south where hot, moist weather assists the spread of disease, often to the point that would at once cause Vilas County farmers to abandon potato growing as a money crop. At Tromp, Texas, the St. Clair seed was first in yield and freedom from disease. At Baton Rouge, La., it was third in yield and second in freedom from disease, in competition with high grade stock from all over the country. Mosaic is a disease that attacks the leaf of the potato plant with ruinous effects when weather and climate conditions are favorable for its development, and may exist in a latent form even in northern grown seed, although it does not materially affect the yield here. The fact that the St. Clair seed was practically free from mosaic wherever tried in the southern states shows that for the southern grower it cannot be equalled. Mr. ST. CLAIR sees that his strain of Triumphs have a valuable future before them and is getting ready to increase his acreage larely, and has purchased all the necessary equipment to grow potatoes in the modern and proven economical way." Prizes as follows have been won by the St. Clair strain: first prize in state of texas, 1921; first prize at Wisconsin State Fair, 1922; first, second, fourth, and fifth prizes and award of merit at Central Wisconsin Potato Show, 1922; first, second, third, and fourth prizes Mid-West horticultural Exposition (in competition with the products of 13 states), 1922. News dispatches at the time of the last-mentioned exposition carried the statement that in type, uniformity, and color the St. Clair strain was the sensation of the show. The Potato Growers' Association of Wisconsin has presented Mr. ST. CLAIR with a free membership in the National Potato Growers Association of America, in recognition of what he has done for the state of Wisconsin and Vilas County. Besides his excellent work in this field Mr. ST. CLAIR has developed one of the most popular and attractive resorts in northern Wisconsin. Located in the heart of the beautiful country on the east shore of Black Oak Lake, amid lovely lawns, fine drives and walks, and the magnificent trees of the forest, he is conducting a hostelry with all the services and conveniences of a city hotel. His main lodge is 46x50 feet in dimensions, with an eight-foot screened porch, and contains two dining-rooms, a reception room, kitchen and office on the first floor, with sleeping rooms above; this building is constructed of logs, and is artistic in all its details and appointments. There are ten cottages, all with French windows and screened porches; a particularly attractive feature of these building is the partitioning, which is done with heavy duck so arranged that it may be withdrawn and the interior of the cottage be made into one large room. A large rustic arch with a mammoth electric sign leads the way into the resort grounds. Mr. ST. CLAIR'S 110-volt electric plant furnishes illumination for the grounds and buildings, and the resort is also provided with a water plant and a refrigerating plant. There is a large athletic field, and an outdoor moving picture stadium. All outdoor sports may be enjoyed to their fullest here; the bathing beach is one of the finest in this region, and has a fine diving pavilion 200 feel out from the shore; all the fish common to this locality are to be had in abundance, and the fishing has a special attractiveness at Black Oak Lake Resort, because of the lake trout, or salmon trout, which are to be had in Black Oak Lake and in only two other lakes in all this region; this sporty and delicious fish ranges in weight as high as 15 pounds. A fine table is set at the resort, and one of the most enjoyable features of the life here is the Sunday evening meal, which is served in cafeteria style, each guest selecting his food and repairing to the rustic benches outside, where a huge bonfire is blazing and a general good time is had by all; as many as 200 guests often take part in this festival; wooden plates are used, and these are a source of fuel to keep the bonfire blazing after the meal is finished. Mr. ST. CLAIR was married Oct. 12, 1898, to Nellie May SAMSON, of Pine Island, Minn., and Mr. and Mrs. ST. CLAIR have two children: Ethel May, born May 5, 1903, and Robert T., born Nov. 15, 1906. Both the children are now studying at Maplewood Academy, Maple Plain, Minn. Mr. ST. CLAIR is a man of a type whose presence means much to the community, and he has advanced the general interests here in many ways. He has been clerk of the town of State Line for 14 years; in addition to being a member of the Potato Growers' Association, he belongs to the Motorists' Association of Wisconsin. Not young enough to be accepted for active army or nave service in the World War, Mr. ST. CLAIR made an admirable record for home work. As associate member of the legal advisory board of his district, he helped to advise registrants of the true meaning and intent of the selective service laws and regulations, assisting them to make full and truthful answers to the questionaire and aiding generally in the just administration of said laws and regulations. He also served as chairman for the town of State Line in the Third Liberty Loan campaign and took an active part in promoting the sale of the Fourth and Fifth issues of Liberty Loan bonds, being town chairman on the Fifth or Victory Loan committee. He has in his possession government certificates testifying to the value of his work in these capacities, showing that for his work in connection with the Third Loan he was awarded a flag by the U.S. Treasury Department and his name was inscribed on the roll of honor of the Ninth Federal Reserve District, and is was likewise inscribed on the roll of honor in connection with the Fourth bond issue.

Transcribed by Susan Swanson, from pages 477-479 (with picture), History of Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas Counties Wisconsin; Compiled by George O. Jones, Norman S. McVean and Others 1924, H. C. Cooper, Jr. & Co

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