Phil Scheckel  -    the man and the 
river he loved    

Pictured above is the Phil Scheckel as it appeared in 1897, when it made its last trip down the Chippewa River.  After ending its career on the Chippewa, it was transported to Florida where it was used for a number of years.


Phil Scheckel immigrated to the Chippewa Valley from Germany in 1855 after a brief stay in Iowa.  Scheckel spent the next 40 years navigating the Chippewa River on various riverboats from his base in Waubeek, which was a logging community on the Chippewa River about 3 miles upsteam from Durand, on the west side of Nine Mile Island.  In the early years of his career, riverboats had to transport everything into river communities like Durand and Waubeek which would not be grown there.  Additionally, his riverboats  transported passengers and for a number of years moved large rafts of logs both up the Chippewa to the sawmills at Waubeek,  and Chippewa (which was on the Durand side of the Chippewa river where Bear Creek empties into the Chippewa) as well as downstream to Read's Landing, where the rafts were pushed to Mississippi River sawmills like those at LaCrosse. With the development of the railroad in the early 1880's the function of riverboats changed.  One problem with riverboats was that they were at the mercy of the river and as it varied in depth, problems with sandbars could be a daily occurrence.  Additionally, riverboats were very labor intensive as materials transported up and down stream had to be loaded, and unloaded a number of times before reaching its  final destination.

Not only did Phil Scheckel know the navigation of the Chippewa River probably better than any man, but he also invented ways of using brush to create wing dams, causing the Chippewa to "deepen" itself making travel easier.  Scheckel also invented the "jinny pole" which allowed riverboats to pull themselves off sandbars if they ran aground. 

The following stories about Phil Scheckel came from a number of sources, ranging from articles from  newspapers of the time (the Pepin County Courier, the Entering Wedge, and the North Pepin Independents),  to photos and stories which we were able to borrow from Georgeann and Pam Wolfe, who are descendents of Phil Scheckel.  We hope that you enjoy the stories and that they give you insight into not only an interesting time in our history, but also into another way of life...life on the river.

 

 

 


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