Florence County, Wisconsin
Lewis Croin (Old Man) Mudge --photograph contibuted by Dale Bomberg
Mina at age 22, taken by JJ Eskil --photograph contibuted by Dale Bomberg
FLORENCE BECAME A CENTER OF VICE
During the early mining days Florence became one of the worst centers of vice ever found in this state, perhaps in the entire country! Gambling was carried on right in the streets during the warm weather and in buildings which were unscreened during the cold weather. It took only a few years before Florence had thirty-one saloons to its discredit, all of them doing a good business.
Of all these dens, "Old Man Mudge's" was the worst! He with his daughter, Mina, kept the den two miles northeast of town. Mina was the keeper of the place which was a prison for girls fooled by "Old Man Mudge", a white slaver. He is described by Mr. Chase Osborn in his book, "THE IRON HUNTER", as "a white-livered gloomy individual who wore a cotton tie, a Prince Albert coat, and a plug hat." It is believed that he worked as a preacher throughout Indiana and Ohio. This is how he coerced all the women who stayed in his den.
The Den was a big three-storied log camp. The bar and dance hall were on the first floor, the small rooms in which the girls were kept were on the second floor, and the third floor contained a dungeon and two trap doors. The cellar was made up of dark cells and secret passage ways leading out into an almost impassible swamp. Truly a camp of death! Surrounding the camp was a sharp pointed palisade ten feet high. There was only one entrance through this palisade and on each side, is said to have been tied two wild timber wolves. These howling wolves were heard all over town, their cries frightening everybody during the night.
Should any girl try to escape from the camp she would be tracked down and would never be seen again--thanks to the "Old Man", the "she-hyena" Mina, or the ravenous wolves!
Chase Osborne and the Florence "Regulators"
H.D. Fisher sent for Mr. Chase Osborn to run the weekly newspaper because he knew Osborn, who came from Milwaukee, was fearless and would not be scared out of town as the previous men had been who tried to edit the news. Mudge would stand for no criticism from anyone and would allow nothing about his camp in the newspapers.
The following is an account from the Iron Mountain News in the late 1950's about how the Town of Florence was cleaned up: "Florence was at the height of its brief, but lurid hey-day.
"William E. Dickinson, captain of the Commonwealth mine, was a fearless man with high ideals, served notice on the Mudge gang that he was going to clean up Florence. Shortly after, his five-year old son, Willie, a brother of Mrs. O.C. Davidson, disappeared. The Mudge gang was accused of kidnapping. It set the law-abiding citizens of Florence on fire.
"Osborn, than a 23 year old fearless newspaperman, started a crusade. Editorials naming persons and crimes were set in typed with Winchesters ready and within reach. Osborn went to Madison for backing from the governor. South of Iron Mountain, which Osborn claimed also was controlled by the Mudge gang, he was "arrested" and held overnight.
"Osborn returned from Madison with support of the governor and the cleanup started. Osborn, the Rev. Harlan Cory, William and Charley Noyes and Rolbstell, a hardware merchant, organized the Regulators.
"Armed with rifles, revolvers and blacksnake whips, the Regulators started to drives the toughs off the street. They stormed the Mudge stockade and set it ablaze. Mudge, his women and mobsters, according to the story, fled into the swamps, the Regulators after them."
"Old Man Mudge was never seen again, it was reported that only a dozen Regulators knew what happened to him. And they never talked."
--A Heritage of Iron & Timber, 1880-1980, Published for Florence County, Wisconsin, under the direction of The Florence County Centennial Committee, 1980.
For further reading concerning Lewis, "Old Man" Mudge, Mina Mudge and the "Mudge Gang" click on links below:
CLEAN UP OF FLORENCE IN RIP-ROARING DAYS RECALLED BY PIONEERS-- an article from The Escanaba Daily Press, Sunday, September 2, 1934
The Iron Hunter, Chapters 1-14 --by Chase S. Osborn, 1919, The MacMillian Company, NY,
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