Early Logging In the Chippewa Valley


        The timber industry in early Wisconsin was a very profitable business for the lumber companies and the towns in which the sawmills were run. Many people kept a job at these sawmills and helped develop some of the small towns that still exist in this area today. The early logging in our area started on the Menominee river and spread through the valley on the Chippewa River and all its tributaries.

        The first mill was built in 1822 on the Menominee River, a branch of the Chippewa. This early mill encountered many problems with Indians and local Military organizations. In 1831, due to hard times, 100,000 board feet of timber got away down the river, some of which was rafted to Prairie du Chien and the rest of which was washed away down the Chippewa River and eventually the Mississippi.


    A steamboat dropping off supplies at Durand.

        The Chippewa River was also home to many steamboat operations. These steamboats were used to deliver supplies to Durand and also other towns along the river. The steamboats where also used in the logging industry to push logs through areas with little or no current.

    Pictured is the Phil Scheckel, moving a raft of logs on the Chippewa River.  Logs were bound together below Round Hill and then were pushed off to saw mills by boats like the Schekel.   

     

    Click on the picture for a closer view...

     

        The first sawmill in Pepin county was built on Arkansaw Creek in 1853. This was built by W.F. Holbrook. Shortly after, another mill was built on Bear Creak in 1855 by C. N. Averill. Another mill was built in Durand in 1857 by W.F. Prindle, George Ellsworth, and W. E. Hayes. Several years later the mill at Durand was bought out by the Eau Claire Lumber Co., which added a furniture and wagon shop in Durand. 

        (Not mentioned in this article is the mill at Waubeek (approximately 2 miles up the Chippewa River from Durand) which was owned by Cadwallader C. Washburn.  At one time the Waubeek mill was the largest saw mill in the state of Wisconsin ).

    A picture of an area of main street Durand around the time the sawmill was built.

        Beef Slough is the most interesting logging story of the Northwest. The Beef Slough was the finest area to sort and boom logs. In 1888 operations at Beef Slough were at their high point. The logs would be sent down the Chippewa River to Round Hill where they were divided and forced to enter Beef Slough. (pictured at the right is a hand written note from Frederick Weyerhaeuser, to Abe Gilmore, boom boss of the Round Hill/Beef Slough area in the 1870 to 1880 time frame.  The note asks input from Abe Gilmore regarding the water level in Beef Slough at the time. The original note was donated by Eva Gilmore to the Round Hill/Mary Hill Association, and Russell Haigh provided the opportunity for us to scan it.)

        The logs are stopped at Jam Boom or let pass as they are needed at the booming operations. They pass through swampy land into more open water along the bluffs where the booming operations took place.

    A birds eye view of the layout of Beef Slough.

        The operation at Beef Slough was a very large one. To keep the mill running, it took 600 men during the peak season and 100 men year round. These men stayed in houses and camps between Nelson and Alma where all their food was provided for them by the company they worked for.

        The Lumber industry brought big advantages to the counties that housed them. These counties had better roads and bridges. They also usually had a better standard of living because there were so many jobs to be had at the lumber company.

    Logs floating down the Chippewa near the entrance of Beef Slough.

        In 1889 the government installed a wing dam at the entrance to Beef Slough making it impossible to keep a mill running there any longer. The new mill was built on the Minnesota side of the River at West Newton. After the closing of Beef Slough, the output of the Chippewa gradually slowed until 1896 when the output stopped.

    A typical load of logs being pulled by a team of horses

        The logging industry was a very lucrative business in the Northwest part of Wisconsin. This early industry helped to develop small towns around here such as Durand. Who knows, without the early logging on the Chippewa, Durand might not be here today.


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    Computerization of this page by Jeff Poeschel with a reference from the book "Lumberman on the Chippewa", by Malcolm Rosholt.