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CHITTAMO

"Twilight  Era for Wisconsin Town"

The Evening Telegram, Superior, Wis., Friday, 26 Jul 1974
Written by Vince Plesko

Donated by Faith Yeager


Across the asphalt pavement from an old school, about 50 Indians and settlers lay buried in unmarked graves.  They are the only “residents” remaining in this once hustling little community in the Township of Frog Creek in Washburn County.

Chittamo didn’t die from lack of natural provisions.  On the contrary,  the soil is loamy and well aerated and white and norway pine still reach majestically to the sky.

The town,  which served the needs of about 120 people, began to fall into ruin during and after World War II when it’s young people were siphoned into the armed forces or deserting the soil and flocking to the city where humming industries provided better lifestyles.  Returning GI’s also found that big city factories were offering more than they could ever realize on the home farm --- and,  they too, sought life in the bigger cities.
 
At it’s peak,  Chittamo boasted the only store in the township.  The locality also had a school with 60 pupils,  a town hall where dances were held every Saturday night,  a church with a community cemetery,  and a railroad landing where lumberjacks loaded logs and where passengers disembarked or boarded the train.

The first settler, Jack Goodwin, arrived in 1888.  After erecting a log cabin,  he began the difficult task of clearing the land.  Trees had to be felled,  trimmed and removed and their stumps blasted by powder or pulled out by oxen or horses.  Goodwin had neither.  Grubbing the stumps out by hand,  he first cleared enough land for a small garden.  Winter found him supplies with its harvest.  The surrounding forest afforded a plentiful supply of wild game and the nearby Wolfe River provided a variety of fish.

Other settlers and their families arrived to expand the settlement.  Several years later, a general store opened,  followed by the building of a one-room school house.  The railroad came through in 1890.  It plunked down it’s rails right through an Indian village whose chief was named Chittimo.

Chief Chittimo balked strongly at this invasion of what he considered his land.  In fact,  he put up such a violent display of hostility that he and his tribesman were subsequently  rounded up and hustled off to a reservation near Hayward.

The settlers,  however, needed the railroad and to soothe the chief’s anger  -- they named the budding new village “Chittimo” in his honor.  It is rumored that several years later the elderly chieftain left the reservation and walked to Chittimo to “see his village.”  The rumor has it that the chief died there during this visit and was buried in the church graveyard.  Others say that the chief died on the reservation and never did see the town that was named for him.

Bolstered by the railroad,  the town grew to serve the needs of the surrounding dairy farmers until World War II began it’s drain on the younger generation.
 
Adding to it’s war-time woes, Chittamo’s general store burned to the ground in 1951.  Then,  in 1952, following consolidation of the village school,  the school building was closed and the pupils were bused to Minong.

In succeeding years,  Chittamo’s decline was swift.  The church was hauled away,  leaving only the toppled tombstones of the graveyard.  Several years later the last of the five families that lived near the town proper moved away.

Today,  the winds of change blow through the abandoned buildings decaying beside County Trunk Highway G several miles north of State Highway 77,  a main thoroughfare between Minong and Hayward.  Although the weathering process has set in and the lonely winds rattle the windows and creak the timbers of the resided log cabins,  farmers in the area still prosper in timber and beef and the train still stops at the Chittamo landing to load timber just like it did back in those rousing days when Chittamo was young.

CEMETERY  MARKER

PIONEER SETTLER AND INDIAN BURIAL GROUND IN UNMARKED GRAVES NEARBY
    LIE NEARLY 50 SETTLERS AND INDIANS WHO DWELT IN THE CHITTAMO AREA JUST BEFORE 1900
    ONLY THE FOLLOWING ARE KNOW TO HAVE BEEN BURIED IN THE YEAR SHOWN.

JOHN DETWEILER*  1894
 JAMES HEENAN   1894
 JOHN HEENAN, JR.   1895
 LAXIUS La  PRAIRIE, SR.*  1895
 MRS. JOHN HEENAN, SR.  1897
 JOHN HEENAN, SR.   1898
 MRS. LAXIUS La PRAIRIE, SR. 1900
 DAUGHTER, MARY La PRAIRIE 1900
 SON, LAXIUS La PRAIRIE, JR. 1901

*denotes Civil War Veterans




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