Florence County, Wisconsin

Florence, Wisconsin

Community of Spread Eagle

Spread Eagle in the News

Selections From "The Eagle Flies Again, A Collection of Spread Eagle Cottage Memories"


Spread Eagle Chain of Lakes

This important resort area of Florence County was surveyed by Artimus Curtis, who set the Township lines in May 1857, and by William Daugherty and McGill, who set the subdivision lines during August and September 1864.

The name "Spread Eagle" was a favorite name in Florence County in the early days. Hiram Fisher names his iron ore discovery at Florence the "Spread Eagle Mine." Jack Armstrong's "Spread Eagle House" on the bank of Fisher lake was noted as the best rest house on the range.

George Seibert in the "Journal of G.F. Seibert" described his journey in the spring of 1879 while traveling with the teams hauling supplies to the mines at Commonwealth and Florence. Seibert, Jim Arenaoult and Mr. Montagne walked north off the wagon trail after crossing the Menominee river on a raft, to get a look at the beautiful lakes, and found a stake set in 1879 by Beibert's friend Jack Armstrong. It is possible that Armstrong or Hiram D. Fisher, while exploring this area for iron ore during the 1870's gave the lakes the name Spread Eagle.

--Heritage of Iron & Timber, 1880-1980, Published for Florence County, Wisconsin, under the direction of The Florence County Centennial Committee, 1980.

Spread Eagle, Florence County, Wisconsin, was named from a nearby lake,which was so named because of its fancied resemblance to an eagle with its wings widely spread.

--A history of the origin of the place names connected with the Chicago & North Western and Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha railways .. Stennett. William H., Chicago, 1908



1878, or forty-nine years ago. I went hunting in a part of Florence county in the extreme northeast part of the state, and only a few miles distant from the boundary line between Wisconsin and Michigan. There, taht part of the state abounded in deer, black bear, wolves, wildcats, lynx and all varieties of small game. It was a wild country. It was uninhabited save by a few lumber camps, now and then a lone hunter and trapper, and occasionally, iron mine prospectors went through. The railroad ended at Quinnesec to where it had just been built in. There was a mine just opening there and one at Waucedah. Norway and Iron Mountain did not exist. At Florence a little prospecting had been done. The trip in from Powers to Quinnesec was made in boxcars. The rest of the distance with a team. It was a wild, rough country, with rather light soil and did not look as though it would ever amount to anything after the pine was cut and even that was rather scattering.

We camped on the shore of a little spring lake and not far from us was another body of water then known as Spread Eagle lake, due to the fancied resemblance to an eagle with outstretched wings. The land around that lake was rather swampy or barren looking, but game abounded there and the waters were filled with fish and adjacent streams that found their way into the Menominee or Pine rivers were full of native brook trout. We hunted there several seasons with good success and much pleasure. In those days there were no game laws to speak of, no game wardens at all and no bag limits.

The other day I picked up The Florence Mining News and read that a company has just taken over part of the Spread Eagle lake and that "The company is investing many thousands of dollars in the new proposition and following are some of the various things they will have: a tobaggan slide is now being (creat)ed costing $1,500 along. A ride on this device carries you right into the lake. There will also be a merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, chair-o-plane, tilt-a-whirl, concessions and sensational free acts. This (__) will be located on the mainland across from the island. The large dance pavillion on the island has been beautifully decorated. Meals and lunches will be served at all houses, with big chicken dinners Sundays."

Iron Mountain, that did not exit in the early days I speak of, now 25,000. Some of the great iron mines of the world are there. Florence has a population of from 20,000 now the county seat of a promising county. So does time work its changes to the earth.

--The Daily Northwestern, Oshkosh, WI., April 23, 1927



Spread Eagle

Where the eastern woods of Florence melt into the Menominee River, the lakes and streams of Spread Eagle have been providing tourists with pleasure since the 1880s.

That decade saw the birth of Spread Eagle as a getaway from both Iron Mountain and Florence, when two resorts, on Eagle Island and Bass Island, opened on the chain of lakes. In May, 1898, The Florence Mining News reported that T.C. Tully's hotel on Eagle Island would be leased to "Frank Gage and Walter Webber and they will operate the hotel and provide transportation with their new steamboat the 'Columbia,' for all customers arriving at the Railroad Lake depot."

So popular were the lakes that the Northwestern Railroad added a special coach during summer months to pick up passengers who could afford the fare: 16 cents for adults and 8 cents for children.

At that time, there were no roads around the lakes. However, the turn of the century and onset of auto transportation transformed the Spread Eagle lakes from a place of picnics and rowboats, to a platted locale of cottages and homes.

The State of Wisconsin and Florence County had the foresight to maintain forests, barrens, lakes, river frontage and streams off the market and on the maps, providing thousands of acres of recreational land to its residents and visitors. Though the mines have closed, the spoils of recreation remain.

The 20th century turned to the 21st, and the old railroad ties have been removed. The grade has become a supeb snowmobile route, keeping Michigan and Wisconsin outdoors enthusiasts linked.

Most rowboats have been replaced by ski boats. The vacation cottages are now homes. But the picnic areas, camping, forests, trails and solitude are still found in abundace. The May 7, 1886 report in The Florence Mining News that the hunting and fishing at the Spread Eagle lakes is "good" remains true 125 years thence.

--Florence County Chamber of Commerce, 2013 Visitor Guide


For further information click on link below: 

  Spread Eagle Chain of Lakes Association





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