Scheckel - the man and the
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.
Subtopics covered in this paper:
- An overview article from the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram
- The maiden voyage of the Phil Scheckel
- List of the officers of the Phil Scheckel
- Physical description of the Scheckel
- Advertising for business
- Steamboating in the news
- An 1857 story about the town of Waubeek
- A scan showing where Phil Scheckel lived
- Early navigation on the Chippewa in 1857
- Obstructions to navigation
- The tools of the river
- The flood of 1880
- The Times, They are Changing...
- Obituary for Phil Scheckel from The Entering Wedge
- Obituary for Phil Scheckel from the Pepin County Courier
- Obituary for Eli Minder, Pilot of the Scheckel
- Scan of the article from the April 25, 1918 edition of Pepin County Courier.
- A photo of Phil Scheckel when he was known as the Mark Twain of the Chippewa
- A photo of the Phil Scheckel pushing a raft of logs.
Back to history page...