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Community Histories

"History of Birchwood"

Transcribed from the Washburn County Register,
dated Thursday, 14 September 1939

The Creamery was located on the present site of the Cheese Factory.  It was operated by a man named Bolden, son-in-law of the Culbertson family, who lived in the present Foster Soper home (1939), which was built by Henry Knapmiller.  In 1903, Anthony Wise and family came from Linden, Wis., and lived in the present Jos. Robotka, Sr., home.  Just to the east of this building, Mable Wise had a Millinery store, which was greatly appreciated by the natives.  The Saw mill was located about where the Geo. Edenharter place is.  This was built by M. Wise in 1905.  Ten years later a new creamery was built, to be known as the Birchwood Cooperative Creamery Company. Tom Oson took this over and then sold to Yarish.  Fire destroyed this building and Marish sold to Fred Ludy, the present owner.

The Senty's came in 1906 and lived in the block where the Matson Shoe Store is located.  The hotel was being built at this time.  In this same block, John Manteith had a restaurant, pool hall and shoe repair shop which is now the "Hub Soper Tavern".  The Mikula saloon was located in the building which is now occupied by the Forward Hardware store.  Mike Skar had a saloon where Nap Cyr has his tavern.  Mr. Newby bought from Don Morse, who was here only four months.  Mr. Newby sold to W. Hisenfeldt and he sold to Herman Beil.  The Huss Land Office was located in the present Village Hall.

One of the sad events in the early history of Birchwood was the drowning of the two Ritchie children in a pond near the highway joining the Ned Gould farm.  Another tragic event was the amputation of Orville Soper's limb on January 28, 1907.  Dr. G. F. Andrews performed the operation.  Orville was out with his father cutting logs when the tree was felled catching him beneath it.

In the early days the Indians gathered wild rice annually at the rice beds near the Creamery, and at the end of the harvest they celebrated by having Indian dances and in the clear evening air you could hear their ki-yi-yi for many blocks.  Among these Indians, Billy Grant and wife were annual visitors, also Peter Wotlfe (Big Indian Chief) and Joe Dandy, Mitchell Quagen, John Crow, Billy Boy, etc.  Most of these men worked on the pond at the saw mill.  When I came to Birchwood in 1914, some of these Indians were living in Sleepy Hollow.  Me Oh My!  What trouble was brewing and many a rumpus before dawn.  Knives were in evidence in these weekly brawls.  Charles Williams was the constable of the day.  When Charlie said, "Halt", they made their exit.  These Indians held many pow wows here.

Since 1914 the changes in the ownership of the stores are as follows:

The Wigwam was sold to L. L. Thayer and in 1914 and he sold to J. W. DeKeyser who operated the store for 11 years and then sold the stock to Chas. Loschke of Mt. Hope.  After three years DeKeyser's sold the building to Mr. Boehmer of Rice Lake.  Mr. Boehmer sold to Elmer Petersen who operates the store at the present time.  The People's Cash Store was operated by John Hitner, Leo Cyr and Frank Cyr.  Later Harry LaPointe formed a partnership and the store is now called by the same name.  The John Telitz store was operated by J. F. Wermet as a meat market, who sold to Mr. Horn and after a year bought back from Mr. Horn.  This store is now known as "Jack's Place".  The small building that was next to the Citizen's State Bank was occupied by L. G. Bemis as a grocery store.  Later by Jas. Morey for the post office.

The gas stations were run by Edd Blaha, Leslie Thayer, Einar Skar, Victor Walhoyd and Louie Frosli.  The Standard Oil Bulk Station was run by N. F. Catman for 15 years.  Parker Samson is the present Standard Oil Agent.

On the site, where the present Skar Garage stands was an old building placarded with posters and circus bills.  This place was an "eye sore" to the citizens who wanted a city beautiful, so down went the building and up popped the garage.  Another project which was a great benefit to our village was the grading of the hillside near the Omaha track.

(Story continued in the Thursday, 26 October 1939 issue of the Washburn Co. Register)

Among the people who have lived here and have passed on during my time are the following: Mr. and Mrs. Ezra Dakin, Mrs. Max Groth and daughter Erma, Mr. F. McCord, Tom Skar, Dr. Senty, Chas. Senty, Chas Wilkie, Mr. Dupree and son, Charles, Mr. and Mrs. Chris Olson, H. P. Nelson, Foster Soper and son, Myron Jake, Mr. Loomis, Irwin Roen, N. F. Catman, Mrs. Ed. Evans and daughter, Rosella, Joe Garbutt and son, Lyman, J. W. DeKeyser and daughter, Dorothy, mother Antonette Dekeyser, Chas. Gougner, Elizabeth Evans, Wm. Hysen, Mrs. S. Keating, Mrs. Alverson and George Gimble, Irwin Bemis, Wm. Cary, Mrs. Clyde Hinman, Mrs. Jacob Lawler (nee Emily Westphal), Frank Cyr and son Joe, Mr. and Mrs. Hi Santos, Ginnie Newby, Tena Matson, Emil Matson, Bella Dona, Mr. Goffin, Mr. Eastman, Jos. Leary, Mr. and Mrs. Dewey, Mrs. E. Kirch and daughter Catherine, and sons, Bert and Charles, Theodore Beauncamp, Mr. and Mrs. Oram Galvin, Mrs. Louis Bayles, Mrs. John Drnek, Wm. Kincannon, E. E. Forward, Mrs. James Morey, Mrs. Jennie Frank and son, Lloyd, Nellie Soper, Lillian Soper Sexton, Clyde Soper, Mr. Bacon, Mr. and Mrs. Hans Pinrude, Mrs. James Jackson, Mrs. Leland Soper, Mrs. Elwood Soper, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Reinecke, Mrs. Chas. Lindberger, C. J. Monroe, Anthony Wise and son, Clarence and wife, Mr. and Mrs. S. Brown, Dr. Hobart, Mrs. H. Lockwood, Ben White, and several others whose names do not come to mind at this time.

We have the following fraternal organizations:  Royal Neighbors, Masons, Woodmen of the World and the church has its own societies.

In the early copies of the Birchwood paper, we find the following names listed in the advertisements: B. E. Taylor, druggist; E. M. Buel, stone mason; Ahnopee Veneer Seating Co., Thayer and Hedges, doctors; Mrs. Gus Frietag, dress making and cleaning; L. D. Soper, draying; Jas. Kinconnon, confectionery; W. D. Maxwell, jewelry; Jos. Garbutt, Evinrude Engines; Chas Goghenour, resort.

Mrs. Wilbur Loomis was the first white woman to live in Birchwood.  The first girl and boy born in Birchwood was May Oniel and Myron Soper. Oniel's lived in the Frances Thomas home.  Geo. M. Huss Land Company donated land to May Oniel.  They also donated the park, cemetery and the M. E. church grounds.  Mr. Huss said, "When the land company tried to move their office building from the garage corner to its new location, stumps had to be blown in Main street."

In 1903 the Lutheran church was built.  Some of the donors were: Mr. Funk, Mr. Harms, August Wagner, Gus. Freitag, Sam Winuds, Otto Gobbler and brother, Mr. Huss, Geo. Slocum, Arpin Lumber Co.  Mrs. Wolfe was the first minister.  Other ministers were: Mr. Graves, Belmont, Worth, Parissus and Helke.  Today they have a large membership.  Ladies Aid and a good choir.

The first child to be buried was Bob Smith's daughter, whose death occurred in 1904.  Mr. Smith was the Soo section boss at that time.  The body was buried near the section house.  Mrs. Windus was the first person to be buried in the present cemetery.  This cemetery has since been platted and improved and placed on a paying basis through the efforts of Jos. W. DeKeyser.

We have one of the finest hotels in the state, Birch Lake Inn, situated on the bank and overlooking beautiful Birch Lake.  Dr. J. Senty, dentist and hotel keeper passed away in December, 1937.  Mrs. Senty continues the hotel business and the renting of the cottages.

In 1906 a bank was established known as the Birchwood State Bank.  Mr. Moe was the cashier and Mr. Zimmerman was president.  The building was erected in 1907.  Mr. Lockwood was president, Clarence Wise, cashier, Frank Newby, vice-president and Scipio Wise, assistant cashier.  Above this building was the community hall, which was used for all school activities and public doings.  In 1918, the Citizens State Bank received a charter.  Jos. W. DeKeyser, president; Walter Tweeten, cashier; Patrick White, vice-president.  On June 4, 1938, the Birchwood State Bank sold to the Citizens State Bank.  Mr. DeKeyser was president up to the time of his death, September 1, 1937.  At the present time, Mr. Wells is president; Ira W. Holdridge, vice-president; Melvin Newberg, cashier and June Kommerstad, assistant cashier.

In 1914 the pickle station was in operation.  It was located east of the Omaha Stock Yards.

The event of the early days was an anniversary of the Loomis wedding.  They had a program, dance and banquet for the community and music was furnished by the Red Wing, Minnesota orchestra.  All those who took part in the program received a rose.  This event was held over the present hardware store and the banquet was held in the Hitner building, which the Monteiths occupy at this time.

Another event was in 1902 when the business men of Birchwood sponsored a Community Christmas tree.  Every child received a gift and candy and the adults received gifts.

(Story continued in the Thursday, 21 December 1939 issue of the Washburn Co. Register)

The first band in Birchwood had Mr. Newby for its leader.  Among the players were Goody Brooks, Jim Mikula, John Craig and daughter Mary, Harry Lockwood, Earl Tuttle, Gladys Bemis, Fred Mikula, Frank Mikula, Erwin Bemis, Ed Escherich, Geo. Mikula and Clare Newby, Herman Kleiman and Mary Kringle.

The first steamboat which plied  between Birchwood and Edgewater was named the Mabel B.  This boat carried supplies when the Soo railroad was being built and to tow the logs down the lake to the dam.  Tom Halverson said this boat was hauled in on logging sleds to haul logs.  Tom was here when the log cabins were logging camps and Birchwood was at its height as a logging camp.

The early Soo agents were Ted Sellers, Wm. Noyees, Bill Martin.  Later came Hoad, Weeks, Bill Simson and Kukkola.  The Soo road discontinued service on Friday, November 13, 1936.

Sam Windus had a general store, located where Ed. Blaha's station is.  Windus sold this store to Carl and Harry Tousley.  This store burned on a cold blustery winter night.  The Harry Tousley family lived over the store and were lucky to escape the fire.  Peter Unger had a print shop where the band stand is now.  His paper was known as the Birchwood Press.  Pearson was the second editor and his paper was called the Birchwood Independent.  Allan Taylor published a paper known as the Birchwood Bulletin in 1914.  Weston's paper was printed in the building which is now Helga Frisli's woodshed.  Among other editors were Wm. Noyes and N. F. Weston, 1911-1912.

After the Huss Land Company left the Village Hall, the building was occupied by Maxwells and later by Smiths as jewelry store and still later by the Geo. Smith Pool Hall.

Another of the early merchants was Chas. Wilke who had a hardware store just south of the Catman home.  This building was moved and later remodeled and is now occupied by the Free Methodist pastor.  In 1933 the Free Methodist church was built on the location of the building formerly used for worship.  The building had been used in the early days as a meat market and living rooms.  This meat market was run by a man named Becker.  This Becker, I understand, was a "hair cutter" for the neighborhood kids.  Not saying he cut the hair in his market as no hair was found in the sausage.  Mrs. Radditz of Rice Lake is a sister of Mr. Becker.

Among the news items in the paper in 1912, we found the following of interest:

Myrtle Bacon left her school in Rice Lake.

Mrs. Ed. Wells had her fingers smashed.  A window came down full force on them on December 1, 1912.

Birchwood baseball team played Cameron on November 12, 1912 and lost 19 to 10.  (It would be different now.)

Jos. Cmeyla moved to Kewannee, August 15, 1912.  Wm. Kyle left about the same time. 

T. H. Lage was the principal of school.

Heavy damage was caused by a wind storm on August 29, 1912.  Two smoke stacks were blown down, several roofs torn off and thousands of feet of lumber hurled in all directions. There was heavy damage at the Ahnapee Veneer and Seating company and total loss estimated at $7500.

Nels Nelson presents the following account of Pioneer Days of Birchwood:

Birchwood was platted in 1900 and was sold by auction in the fall.  The Northwestern railroad was extended into Birchwood from Tuscobia.  The railroad was the only communication with the outside world.  There was no other roads one could travel over.

A couple of years later the Wisconsin Land Company built one narrow road to Long Lake so that they could go out and sell their land.  The site of Birchwood at the time of the sale of lots, was covered with poplar trees grown up after the pine which had been taken off five years earlier.

The first Sunday School was held in the Northwestern depot, conducted by Mrs. Anthony Wise.  The first 4th of July in Birchwood was celebrated by running an extra train and two coaches from Eau Claire.  This train brought many tourists who gave the town the once over.  The town was mostly pine stumps at the time.  As these were cleared off, I remember the stump pile being where Einar Skar's Garage now stands and it was nearly as large as the garage now.  The land company took the visitors up the lake in the Mable H. to where Edgewater is located.  The land company built a dance platform where the Birch Lake Inn now stands and everybody had a good time dancing.

The Northwestern extended the line to Radisson in 1901, and Winston and Hale were the contractors from Minneapolis.  Their camps were located where the Veneer company now has the boarding house.  Birchwood was a lively town in those days.  At the end of each month when the crew had their pay-day, about 200 or more came into town for a good time.  Birchwood had five saloons at that time.  The first hotel in Birchwood was the old logging camp down by the dam, built by Knapp Stout & Co.

The first dwelling house built in Birchwood was owned by Mrs. Dupree.  It was built by a Mr. Stearn, a Civil War Veteran.  The house was occupied by the first depot agent on the Northwestern. Herman Goffer, the civil engineer had his office where John Galvin now lives.



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