Rib Lake, Wisconsin

excerpts from :
Reminiscences and Anecdotes of early Taylor County
author: Arthur J. Latton
published: 1947

   On December 26, 1881, J.J. Kennedy purchased from the Ramsey Land Co., of Madison, considerable timber land in the vicinity of Rib Lake, and about a year later moved machinery and built a saw mill on the northwest bank of that lake. Dr. Clemment Kelhofer who grew to manhood on his father's farm a mile southwest of the village says that at that time his father, Jos. and Fred Niggeman and the Van Giesens had already taken land in the vicinity. These pioneers with their ox teams helped to move the mill machinery from Chelsea over a trail that ran on the south side of Black Lake. Since this time the Rib Lake mill has cut two or more million feet of timber yearly. At first only the finest white pine was cut, later other grades were sawed for the market, and of late years hemlock and other kinds of logs have been brought to the mill from Lincoln county to be sawed. In 1915, fire destroyed the mill which was soon rebuilt. Several smaller mills owned by Frank Hintz, John Mathie, Stevens Kunz, Marcus and Miller, O.A. Peterson and V. Gunderson have been run at different times. Gunderson also built and operated the fiber mill.

   Rib Lake was first a part of Westboro and the first road was cut through from the village following a ravine south of the Mike Olah's farm, then around the west end of Kennedy Lake , and around the hill north of the old Talbot place. For several years settlers had to use this road to go to Westboro to vote. Later a road was cut through to Chelsea by Little Rib and Black Lakes, coming out to near what is now the junction of Highways 102 and S.T.H. 13.

   In 1893, Shaws built a tannery on the north side. E.C. Getchel was manager and John Lee was tannery superintendent. Dan Kennedy managed woods work, and J.B. Landall had charge of the office. Andrew Aitkin was bark yard foreman. Several thousands cords of hemlock bark were peeled every summer, and hauled to the tannery every winter.

   April 2, 1884, Rev. Bernard Ungrodt, pastor of the Immanuel Luthran church in Medford went to Kennedy Mills, as it was then called, and organized the Lutherans at Rib Lake. The Methodist church was built in 1892, Rev. H.P. Waldron, was the first pastor. The Catholic congregation was organized in 1894, and the church was built in 1897-8. Rev. Fr. Scholch was the first priest. 

   The First National Bank was built on the west side of McComb Avenue in the early nineties. Among the organizers were E.J. Walker and K.J. Urquhart of Medford. Harry Dryden was the first cashier. In 1902, E.C. Getchel started the State Bank, and later purchased the stock of the First National Bank, and combined the two. Walter Freiberg became cashier upon the death of Mr. Getchel.

   About 1896, A.C. McComb, of Oshkosh, formed a partnership with B.J. Landall, a bookkeeper at the tannery. They bought the race track and ball grounds between the tannery side and the Kennedy, or south side of town, had this five acres platted, laid out streets, built sidewalks and an Opera House, and sold the lots for either homes or business places. Soon McComb Avenue became the business center of the town.

   Rib Lakes first depot was a very small one ___ a box car for many years. In 1897, an attempt was made to log by railroad, and the Hancy Hanks was leased for that purpose, but too many troubles developed, and the project was abandoned. Later a road was built toward Wood Lake and Spirit Falls. Three Spot, a freight engine was bought: experienced men maintained the road bed and this method proved to be the cheapest method of logging.

   In 1897, J.J. Voemastek started the Rib Lake Herald. The village was incorporated in 1902.

   The first town board was Duncan McLennan, chairman; Chas. Seidel and Mr. Clausen, supervisors; Wm. Young, clerk; and Wm. Layman, assessor.

   The first death was a baby of Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Clark. The first adult death was that of Tom Harding in the spring of 1886. As there was no pastor of any denomination here then, Mr.Van Giesen conducted funeral services. A. West's was the first accidental death.

   The first preacher was Rev. N.L. Sweet who used to walk over this area before the time of roads. It is said that one Sunday morning when Rev. Sweet was coming into town, he met Ole Soderbec who had been out the night before, and had had a little too much to drink. He said, "Hello, Mr. Preacher. Have a drink." "No, No!" Mr Sweet said, "Ole, I don't drink. Now see here Ole, I want to see you in church today." Soderbec replied, "Ya, das is all right, Mr. Preacher, but dis I mean, ders too many hippocrits dere." Rev. Sweet laid his hand on Ole's shoulder, and said,"Don't let that bother you Ole, there's plenty of room for one more."

   The first teacher was Miss Addie Christy.

   John Larson operated the first livery.
   John Elk was the first mail carrier to Chelsea.

   The first physician was Dr. Haddy.

   The first baseball team was organized in 1886, Chas. Pinkerton was captain.


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