By: Jenni Johnson & Casey Stewart
Phil Scheckel was born in Luxemburg, Germany, on November 15, 1843. As Scheckel grew older he talked more about going to America. His mother tried to discourage him away from this dream. One day she jokingly offered him money to go to America. To her surprise he took the money and set out for America.
|Phil Scheckel, with a definite "Mark Twain"
look, is pictured at the left and was involved in
riverboat operation on the Chippewa for years. Riverboats on the
Chippewa began to die as the railroad came to the area.
(Note: Photo provided by Russel Haigh)
Scheckel landed in Dubuque, Iowa, in the spring of 1855. In October of that year he came to the future site of Durand, which was just a swampy area at the time.
Phil Scheckel was once quoted for saying, "If anybody had told me that this land would someday amount to something, or that a city would be built on it, I would have not believed it."
Scheckel found work with the lumbering firms of Knapp, Stout and Co., whose headquarters were at Menomonie, which operated a mill at Eau Galle. In 1857 Scheckel hired out to C.C. Washburn who operated a sawmill at Waubeek, where Scheckel made his home.
Scheckel started his career as a boat captain while with Washburn. Scheckel started as a boat bulider in 1861. He is credited with being the first to build brush wing dams to aid navigation, and was the oldest and best known pilot who ever put his hand to the wheel of a Chippewa River steamboat.
The boat that bore the captain's name was one of the later ones on the Chippewa and, as the Pepin plaque states, it was on the river until the late 1890s.
The Phil Scheckel started its daily run from Dunnville, up the Red Cedar River, and went as far south as Reeds Landing at the mouth of the Chippewa River.
|This is another view of the ship which Phil Scheckel used for years on the Chippewa River. Everything which was needed to supply life here at the time had to either be produced locally, or be brought in riverboat. (Note: Photo provided by Russel Haigh)|
In early spring of 1898, 14 year old David Manor, a resident of Durand, signed on as a crew member for Phil Scheckel. It was a young boys dream to become a member of the Scheckel crew. David was very excited. David was hired as a "cookie," which was a galley helper. He worked under the cook, Charlie Norb of Downsville. It was David's job to peel the potatoes, wash dishes, and help prepare and serve food.
For more information you can visit the museum in Pepin, Wisconsin. The anchor of the Phil Scheckel steamboat was donated by Mrs. Fred Milliren to the town park of Pepin. There is also a plaque by the anchor to identify it and give information.
For more information about steamboats and the town of Durand, you may want to check out these links:
As you drive along the roads bordering the Chippewa River south of Eau Claire to the Mississippi, it is hard to believe that a little over a hundred years ago, steamboats ran their regular schedule on the river. We will never forget the Phil Scheckel.
|Pictured at left and below is the grave of Phil Scheckel. He is buried in St. Henry's cemetary, Eau Galle, Wisconsin. Photos provided by Russel Haigh.|