Wisconsin Genealogy Trails
Burnett County, Wisconsin
Early Days of the Clam River Valley

[Source: Burnett County Enterprise (5 Feb. 1920) Transcribed by Sandra Wright]

Having promised several old neighbors I would say something about the early days of the Clam river valley, now Webster, when we first landed on our homesteads up in the wilds of northern Wisconsin.

I moved to my claim in November, 1892. Was on the place Thanksgiving day cutting logs and clearing off a place to put up my house of logs. There was no saw mill nearer than Trade Lake that we could get to with a team. Getting a few boards to make a floor and roof was sure a problem hard to decide. My wife soon came from Superior, where we had made our home for several years. She landed before we had the cracks closed up between the logs to keep the cold out, but we had plenty wood and got through the winter of 1892-’93 in fine shape.

At that time there was only one family on a homestead between the two rivers from 7 miles east to 6 miles west. And that was the John Kjelmo family. I didn’t know they were there until spring of 1893. Captain Fox was my nearest family to the west at Little Yellow lake and Robt. Davidson on Clam lake to the east.

Mrs. Rice was on the homestead over five months and never saw a woman nor a girl. But early in the summer in 1893, many of my old neighbors begin to take up claims: Philip Smith, M. H. Carroll, Hans Wester, Fred Johnson, the Harley Bros., and several others, so we had neighbors and often saw each other.

Down at Mr. Carroll’s place on Clam river, one mile south of your school house, he brought goods up when he first moved on to his land and opened up a small store, which was much needed here, and later we petitioned for a postoffice and our Congressman, John J. Jinkens, took the matter upon himself to see that we got our postoffice. He also had postoffices established at Oakland, Swiss and other points.

1890 opened up with the new town of Meenon, which consisted of all territory north of Range 17. Same 13 townships, and all those 13 towns were one school district.

As we had the township system of school, which was not so bad as some might think it was, we could not divide the town in Range 17 by vote, as the west part had too many voters for us. They would beat us out at the poles from 2 to 6 votes, so we put the matter into the hands of a Shell Lake Assemblyman at Madison, as it was we new settlers against the field. We got what we wanted, and the new town was a real thing.

Judge Vinge, of Superior, appointed an election board for us to hold an election to vote a new set of town officers. Our election was held at the Orange schoolhouse late in April. The officers elected were: yours truly, Chairman; Joe Peterson and Olof Anderson, Side Board; G. M. Harley, your Hon. Mayor, Clerk; D.L. Jackson, Assessor; and Wm. Connor, Treasurer.

We soon held a Board meeting and set a day to settle up with the old town of Marshland. We had no trouble to carry all we got as our share of the road tools and cash. Our treasurer did not have to put his pocketbook under his pillow at night. We started with nothing, and you have today many towns located in the territory I had to act as Chairman and satisfy all. We tried our best to do that very thing. Ask my old friend Andrew Melland, north of Webster and other old settlers. They will tell you we did all we could with the cash we had in those early days of Meenon.

The year 1894 we had over 40 children between the rivers of school age. The town set us off as a school district and appointed me as school clerk, and also gave us cash to hire a teacher. We had no school house, so we got a room on the upper floor of the Kjelmo home, a log house. There was one window in each gable end, and that was where our first school was located. A Miss Anderson from Grantsburg was the first teacher to teach a term of school between the rivers near Webster.

That same year I took the contract to build your first school house on the corner, where your present school house not stands. That was the first frame building in now the village of Webster. I had the building ready for our winter school, and a young man by the name of Castle was the teacher. I also built the Joe Peterson school house the next year. I also built the school house near the D.L. Jackson place east of Orange. I furnished all the material for these school houses, and also furnished ten thousand feet of lumber and built the Robt. Magnuson store at or near the corner of State Road and Main Street in Webster. His store was at that location for about 18 months when I moved the store to its present location, northeast of the creamery where he sold goods. It is now one of Webster’s modern residences.

Up around Orange it begin to settle up about the time we located on our claims here. There were eight or ten families located up at Orange when I landed. They had a small log school house and 15 to 25 children of school age. It soon was like our side of the river. They had to go after school houses, and today some of the big farms of the county are up near Orange.

West of Clam river there were very few families. Dick Ravens on the Albrecht place. Leonard McKee is one of the oldest farmers all in fine order, and they are like the other farmers here and north of Webster and are entitled to all the good things that pass their way, as they sure did their share to help make this country what it is today. A hard place to beat b’gosh, and worth as much and more then they are selling for.

It is surprising to me to see so many teams on the streets of Webster, and every new settler I have talked with seems satisfied, and digging in with the old settlers. And why should not Webster be what it is? As good a small town as is in this part of northern Wisconsin.

We stopped over at several towns on our way up from my home at Minneapolis, and can truthfully say there are more teams on your streets then any town we stopped over in. As all Minneapolis and St. Paul passengers can stop off at Webster, being the only town in the county that the flyers on the Soo Line stops to take on and let off passengers, speaks well for your town.

I am on the other end of the big electric wires that leave St. Croix Ealls’ big electric dam that furnishes much of the electric power of St. Paul and Minneapolis. I am in a factory that uses no other power but electric from those big wires there, and more than 100 machines and 200 people. I see that the machines are all running.

Now I know many families that want to get out of the city and I shall tell them about the country open for new settlers here. When your State Road is finished you will see many people pass through your town that now go by train.

Wishing the village of Webster and the people around the same, all the good luck they are so worthy of.

Mrs. Rice joins me in saying don’t forget our No.; 2001 Polk St. N.E. Minneapolis.

J.D. Rice, Jan. 26, 1920


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