Florence County, Wisconsin

Florence County, Wisconsin


Town and Township

Tipler in the News

The Tipler Fire of 1931



The community of Tipler got its start when a small crew of sawmill hands came to Siding—83, thanks to the efforts of Arthur J. Tipler of Soperton, Wisconsin.

Tipler was a former mill superintendent with the Jones Lumber Company. William Grossman, an accountant and lumber salesman from Green Bay, became his partner in the summer of 1916 when they formed the Tipler-Grossman Lumber Company. A sawmill was erected on a site about 275 yards west of the railroad tracks, on an area now used for pulpwood stock piling. Portions of the concrete vault located in the mill office, along with concrete pillars from drying sheds, are still in evidence today.

The first lumber produced at the mill was used for the construction of a bunk house-boarding house complex for the single mill hands. Additional buildings were soon needed, and a horse barn, blacksmith shop, tool sheds and an office were constructed. The area south of the mill was cleared and "company" houses for the married men and their families were built. A half box car was used for the railway depot, and Adam Strom served as the depot agent. Following the construction of the depot, the town's name was changed to Tipler.

The Tipler-Grossman Lumber Company negotiated deals which enabled them to acquire vast tracts of virgin pine and hardwoods. In 1917, the company owned 39 sections of timber, and held purchase options on an additional 24 sections. These timber holdings ran for many miles in all directions. They reached into western Florence Township and eastern Long Lake Township, then west beyond Stevens Lake and south to the Pine River.

The first grocery and clothing store in Tipler was built by M. J. Dickenson in 1916. The building housed the store and post office, and stood just south of the company boarding house. In a small log cabin near the rear of the store lived Dr. Pintch, the town doctor. He provided limited medical service to the mill hands and their families for a one-dollar a month service charge.

In the housing area south of the store stood the first school house. It was a one-room, one-teacher frame structure. A fire caused by an overheated stove destroyed this building in the spring of 1922, forcing the school to move to a small movie theater at the north end of town. A modern, four-room brick school building was constructed in 1923.

The large building which today sits on the hill east of the tracks was built by Jess Gilmore in 1920. Gilmore operated a store and a very profitable moonshine whiskey business. He eventually sold his saloon and moved to Lakewood where he set up a fish-guiding business. In 1922, another grocery store was built by Lee Labelle of Laona, at the north end of town, south of where Mr. Earl's restaurant is today. A short distance north of LaBelle's store, a meat market was opened by Ed Kugel. Both businesses closed in 1929. Next to Kugel's store, there was a saloon run by Chris Boerger. From 1927 until 1938, Boerger did a profitable business in moonshine whiskey and home brew. After the prohibition was lifted in 1934, Boerger's saloon became a popular local meeting place.

Another grocery store was built at the north end of town by Lester Dickson. Smith's grocery now stands on the site. After two years, Dickson sold the store to Anna Tipler. She sweated out the Depression years, fighting bad credit risks and the County Welfare Department. Her son, Harvey, later took over the business which he operated for several years before selling it to an insurance company following a fire. In the jungle of business enterprises at the town's north end, Jim O'Connor operated another saloon and gambling establishment. After amassing a fortune, he sold out and moved to Florence.

The Tipler-Grossman mill closed for repairs and installation of more machinery in the summer of 1919. Upon the mill's reopening, the daily output of lumber exceeded 100,000 board feet per 10-hour shift.

As the sawmill operation expanded, the need for additional laborers was met by an influx of part-time farmers, lumberjacks and unemployed city dwellers. During 1919, a log house settlement of Kentuckians, from the foothills of Oklahoma and Kentucky, sprang up about four miles north of town.

In late 1928, the town's brightness began to dim, with the exhaustion of the timber supply. The mill owners tried desperately to negotiate for more timber holdings, but to no avail. The mill whistle sounded its last mournful blast in the fall of 1928. For many, it was the end of what had been a very profitable and comfortable life.

Many individuals left their mark on the Wisconsin northwoods. Here are a few Tipler citizens whose way of life left some lasting impressions:

A. J. Tipler — founder of the town and principal employer

William Grossman — Tipler's business partner

Bob Mazlein — mill superintendent

Carl Benninghaus — lumber yard foreman

Chris Peterson — railroad engineer

George "Peggy" Suring — part-time engineer on Tipler's railway and fireman

Merle Quimby — succeeded Mazlein as mill superintendent and was later appointed postmaster. Quimby also operated Dickson's store until the fire.

Adam Strom — first and only Tipler depot agent

Albert Schroder — barn boss

Charley O'Connor — company blacksmith and machinist

Lucille Kimball — school teacher

Otto Daumitz — town chairman in the early 1930's

Henry Henning — influential farmer

Herman LaBine — pioneer, farmer and woodsman

Lewis Smith — farmer and logger

Archie Shannon — local citizen

As evidenced by much of northern Wisconsin's frontier town history, lumber companies were often more than just places where people made a living. Rather, these companies gave life to the town, and as often, were the cause of its death.

--History of Nicolet National Forest, 1928-1976, Kennell M. Elliot, Forest Service U.S.D.A., and the Forest Histoy Association of Wisconsin, Inc. July 1977




Founded by a small crew of sawmill hands as a settlement hames Siding-83, the Town of Tipler derived its proper name from Arthur J. Tipler of Soperton, Wis., a lumberman of the industry and a partner in Tipler-Grossman Lumber Company.

Formed in 1916, Tipler-Grossman inititally supplied lumber for bunk houses, a barn, tool sheds, a blacksmith shop and an office building. Flush with timber and sawmilll jobs, the town grew over then next 12 years, attracting unemployed people from the ciies, lumberjacks, drifters, small farmers and hardscrabble people from the foothills of Kentucky and Oklahoma. Stores, shops, diners, saloons, movie theaters--bustling little Tipler had them all.

But by 1928, even the vast timber holdings of Tipler-Grossman were tapped out, and the company sounded its last mill whistle in the fall of that year. A great eodus ensued as mill employees streamed from town to find work elsewhere.

A more devastating blow was delivered to Tipler on April 18, 1931, during an useasonably warm spring and a prolongued dry spell. Forest fires rampant in all directions, Tipler took the brunt of a hellish fireball blown in a wind estimated at 80 mph. Inhabitants ran in terror, leaving all possessions behind. Save for seven buildings, Tipler was destroyed in three hours.

Some say Tipler never recovered. Still, 142 people reside in today's Tipler. Many love the forested wilderness that comprises most of this township in the northwest corner of Florence County. On majoy ATV and snowmobile trails, several businesses offer supplies and refreshements for off-road and snowmobile enthusiasts.

When in Tipler, be sure to take a look at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, a tiny log house of worship--one of only a few in the nation. The church, a converted log cabin, was dedicated in 1941 and still holds Sunday services.

--Florence County Chamber of Commerce, 2013 Visitor Guide







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