Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fun Facts – Willow River – Part 3

1. The forest fire of October 12, 1918, spared the village of Willow River but devastated some nearby farms, including those belonging to James and Mary Mecl, Alex and Veronica Hyska, and Bruno and Mary Burak. 

2. By 1919 Willow River was home to three general stores, a farm implement dealer, a hardware store, a garage, a lumber yard, two hotels, a clothing store, a newspaper, a meat market, a restaurant, a potato warehouse, a harness and shoe store, a creamery, and the State Bank of Willow River. 

3. The Willow River school board authorized the construction of a brand new school in 1920. By the fall of 1921, the new brick school was ready for classes. Built by the Mattson and Peterson Company of Minneapolis, it cost over $55,000. 

4. The State Bank of Willow River failed in June of 1925, costing several customers their life savings. 

5. A new village hall was built in Willow River in 1933. It was often rented out as a dance hall for $6 a night, and in 1937 a “moving picture booth” was placed in the hall and used to show such films as “Mutiny on the Bounty.” 

6. Twenty-two year old Henry Nyrud become the youngest-ever mayor of Willow River in 1938.

7. The Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA) worked on two major construction projects in Willow River during the late 1930s: the Willow River Dam and the General Andrews Tree Nursery. The Willow River Dam cost nearly $50,000 in national and state funds. 

8. Herbert and Mary Mielke owned and operated the Willow River Telephone Exchange from 1944 to 1959. This company's switchboard served the Willow River area for forty-five years until the Pineland Telephone Company bought out the Mielkes in 1959. 

9. Television came to Willow River in the late 1940s. Reception was notoriously poor, but this new form of entertainment proved very popular, even though only five places in town had a television set. 

10. The Willow River Commercial Club was founded in 1949. The first officers were Carl Aakhus, president; Frank Stepan, vice-president; Erv Prachar, secretary; and Jake Novak, treasurer. 

Sources: Willow River: Flowing Through the Century edited by Coral Popowitz; Pine County...and Its Memories by Jim Cordes

The Willow River school library, 1940s

Monday, January 21, 2013

Fun Facts – Willow River – Part 2

1. Willow River was a railroad town. In the 1890s, six passenger trains stopped in the village each day, and freight trains passed through every two hours. In 1894, the village council, disgusted by the horrible speed of these trains, issued a railroad speed limit of six miles per hour. 

2. The Willow River Fire Department began in 1892 with Henry Akin and John Schocks as the first members of the fire department committee. In 1894, the village purchased the “Little Giant” a hand-powered, two-man pumping machine for $390. Henry McCarthy earned $5 a month for cleaning and repairing this little pump. 

3. Joseph and Josephine Bocheck, along with Josephine's brother Edward Halva, arrived in Willow River in 1902. They purchased the Stekl Confectionery and decided to focus on general merchandise instead of candy. Their new business became the Willow River Mercantile, which is still operating today. 

4. Ernie Nevers, famous professional football and baseball player, was born in Willow River in 1903. 

5. Willow River had three hotels in 1905: the Willow River House, the Glen Hotel, and the Pine Hotel. 

6. Dr. William C. Ehmke came to Willow River in 1906 to practice medicine for the Atwood Lumber Company. His first office was located in the Glen Hotel. Dr. Ehmke charged only 50 cents for a house call or $2 if he had to come at night, but he always accepted food or cordwood in place of cash. He practiced medicine until he passed away on May 9, 1948. 

7. The Atwood Lumber Company, which bought out the Fox-Wisdom Lumber Company in 1895, left Willow River in 1908 to move to Park Falls, Wisconsin. Some oldtimers noted that half the village's population moved with the company. 

8. St. Mary's Catholic Church of Willow River was incorporated on September 3, 1907, with D.H. Driscoll and Joseph Zwicki as the first trustees. Local Catholics were pleased that they no longer had to travel to Sturgeon Lake to attend Mass. 

9. Willow River's newspaper, The Pine County Farmer, was first published on February 14, 1912. Editor Emory B. Linsley covered local news as well as national events, and George Cunningham, owner of the Cunningham Mercantile Company, contributed a large ad and an impassioned editorial every week. The newspaper ceased publication in 1926. 

10. In February of 1914, Willow River received telephone service. The first telephone operator was Ethel Sherrick. On Sunday evening, December 30, 1915, the Willow River Mercantile and Joswiak's general store were first illuminated by electric lights. 

Source: Willow River: Flowing Through the Century edited by Coral Popowitz

 The Willow River Depot
The Willow River Mercantile

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Fun Facts – Willow River

1. The land that would eventually become Willow River was homesteaded in the 1880s by Albert Kinney, Peter Jarvis, Edward Clough, Joseph Nebula, and Richard Abbott. In 1886, Mr. Abbott sold his land to John Wisdom and Warren D. Fox for $150. Two years later, Mr. Jarvis also sold his land to Wisdom and Fox, who then established the Fox-Wisdom Lumber Company. 

2. The Fox-Wisdom Lumber Company sawmill opened in the spring of 1890. Some of the mill's first employees were the Daigle brothers, John Schocks, Henry Akin, John Brickwell, Anton Kalm, Frank Ehr, D.H. Driscol, and John Wadley. The company quickly platted a village and sold lots to its employees. 

3. Willow River was incorporated on November 3, 1891. Thirty-two men signed the petition for incorporation, and a few days later, the village held its first election. J.C. Bowden became village president; Anton Kalm, treasurer; Henry Akin, recorder; John Schocks, A.C. Bram, and Ed Hoen, trustees; George Bram, constable; and Dennis Driscoll and F.A. Blowquist, justices of the peace. 

4. The Fox-Wisdom Lumber company employed about 125 men and could cut 125,000 feet of lumber each day during its busy season. The lumber was set out to dry in a lumberyard just to the east of the mill. Fire was always a danger, so barrels of salt water were strategically placed around the mill and lumberyard. W.A. Doe was one of the mill's first supervisors while Frank B. Millard worked as office manager and Peter Rookey as engineer. Gus Klatt was in charge of welding broken machinery...since he was the only one in town who could. 

5. Employees of the Fox-Wisdom company were paid in gold and silver once a month. Between paydays, they received coupon books with coupons from one cent to one dollar that could be redeemed at the company store. The used coupons were deducted from the next month's pay. Hans Sandwick was the store's manager and kept the store open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays. 

6. Company doctors, O.S. Watkins, Dr. Smoltz, and Dr. Graham, treated Fox-Wisdom employees and their families. Each employee's medical expenses were covered by monthly deductions from his paycheck, $.50 for a single man and $1.00 for a family. 

7. John Wisdom received approval from the Pine County board to establish the Willow River School District #21 on July 14, 1890. Teacher May Wood taught grades one through eight in a one-room frame building. 

8. Early Willow River businesses included the Akin store (with a post office), the Stekl store (that later became the Willow River Mercantile), the Daigle hotel, the Pine hotel, and the Willow River House (a men's boarding house). 

9. After a series of revival meetings, Willow River's Presbyterian church was organized in 1891 with thirteen charter members. The church's building was erected the following year. 

10. In 1893, the Willow River council purchased two boats for villagers to use to cross the river. A bridge was finally built in 1894, but it (and several of its successors) was carried away by spring floods. 

Sources: Pine County...and Its Memories by Jim Cordes; One Hundred Years in Pine County; Willow River: Flowing Through the Century edited by Coral Popowitz

The Fox-Wisdom Lumber Company, Willow River