Wood County, Wis.
From the History
of Wood County, Wisconsin (1923) compiled by George
O. Jones, pages 246-258
Transcribed by Marla Zwakman
Nekoosa is an incorporated village on the Wisconsin River in Port
Edwards Township. It is on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, the
Chicago & Northwestern, and the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste.
Marie railways, and has a population of about 1,700, many of whom
are in the employ of the large pulp and paper mills for which the
place is noted. This location was known in pioneer days as Pointe
The village is eight and a half miles southwest of Wisconsin Rapids,
with which it is connected by interurban electric railway. It began
its real history with the establishment of the paper mills in 1893
and was incorporated as a village in 1907. It has Catholic,
Congregational and Lutheran churches, a bank, theatre, lumber yard,
seven general stores, two hardware stores, a drug store, two farm
machinery salesrooms, a large Ford service and parts station, two
garages, a shoe store, a bakery, three hotels, two restaurants, two
confectionery stores, three barber shops, an electrical supply shop,
two shoe repair shops, two meat markets, a clothing store, three
billiard and pool rooms, a bowling alley, a Heinz pickling station,
a Standard oil station, a coal and wood yard and a flour and feed
store, besides a flour mill, iron works and motor and machine
company, and the great mills of the Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Co. There
are also two physicians and two attorneys practicing in the village.
The U. S. census of 1920 assigned Nekoosa a population of 1,639, but
this was taken during labor troubles which took a great many out of
the village. The population today is probably nearer 2,000.
The first village plat bearing the name of Nekoosa was laid out by
S. J. Carpenter, the location being at Swallow Rock, across the
river from the present village of the name. There were nine streets
running north and south and eight running east and west, and a
public square was laid out somewhat west of the center of the plat.
This location, however, was never settled, and though a map is
preserved in the register of deeds' office, there is no surveyor's
certificate or acknowledgment on the record.
The original plat of the present village of Nekoosa was recorded May
23, 1893. It was surveyed and platted by B. C. Gowen, civil
engineer, and described as "a piece of land located on Section 10,
Town 21 north, Range 5 east of the fourth principal meridian," and
as owned by the Nekoosa Paper Co., and made by order of T. E. Nash,
president, and L. M. Alexander, secretary, of the said company, on
behalf of the directors of the said company. In 1899 an extensive
addition was made to the north and west of the original plat
(recorded Aug. 8) by E. I. Philleo, the certificate being signed by
the surveyor and by T. E. Nash and L. M. Alexander for the company.
Probably no one knows the history of Nekoosa better than George N.
Wood, who for many years has made careful and extensive researches
into the general history of the county, and has preserved the
history thus obtained in note book, manuscript or printed form. Some
six years ago he was requested by J. E. Brazeau of Nekoosa to
furnish the data for a history of Nekoosa that the students of the
Nekoosa High School were about to prepare, and in response thereto
he supplied the following information, which, to enhance the
interest of the account, is given substantially in his own words,
omitting only a few preliminary remarks relating to the county
generally as they are elsewhere given in this volume. The letter is
dated at Grand Rapids, March 13, 1916.
"In 1829 Mr. and Mrs. Amable Grignon of Green Bay, Wis., came up the
Fox River to Portage City, and then up the Wisconsin River by boat,
and located at Grignon Bend just below the bayou, now in Adams
County, on the left bank of the river. Several years later high
water in the river washed the Grignon home away and the family
located farther up the river, on the right bank near the mouth of
the McLean slough. They had two sons: Enoch, born in 1830, who died
in Necedah in 1914, and John, born in 1837, who died in Grand Rapids
"I have been unable to learn just when Daniel Whitney of Green Bay
built the first sawmill that was built on the Wisconsin River. It
was about 1831. In a history of Brown County, Wisconsin, I find that
Daniel Whitney was born in Gilham, N. H., in 1795 and settled in
Green Bay, Wis., in 1819. From 1825 to 1830 Whitney was up and down
the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, where he built sawmills at various
"Ira Purdy, the millwright of this city, who will be 97 years of age
May 6, 1916, came to Grand Rapids on April 1, 1846, informs me that
when he first came here he stopped at the Wakeley Tavern at Pointe
Basse. Mr. Wakeley informed him that the Whitney mill had been
abandoned for many years and that the mill looked to him (Purdy) as
if it was at least 15 years old, and it was his impression that it
had been built about 1830 or 1831. This mill was on Government Lot
1, Section 10, Town 21, Range 5, at the foot of the nine-acre island
on the left bank of the river, just about where the upper ferry
landed on the east side. Whitney built a dam diagonally across the
river from the north end of the nine-acre island to the right or
west side. This nine-acre island is now mostly covered with back
water from the 20-foot dam of the Nekoosa Paper Co. I have a map
William L. DeWitt, civil engineer employed by the state of Wisconsin
in 1851 to make a survey of the upper Wisconsin River which has
marked 'Whitney's Old Mill' at the foot of the nine-acre island, and
there are two wing dams 400 to 800 feet above the head of the
nine-acre island marked 'old 'dam.'
"The contract for the first survey of lands in this territory was
let by the United States Government to Joshua Hathaway in February,
1839, and the maps and field notes of the survey were returned to
the Government Land office in May, 1840, the same month in which the
survey was made. This survey only included a strip of land six miles
wide, three miles on either side of the river, extending from Pointe
Basse up to Wausau. The first survey was only township lines, and
the sub-divisions were made in 1851. The Government Lots 2 3, 4, 5
and 6 of Section 10, Town 21, Range 5 of 233 85-100 acres were
entered by Levi Sterling and Chas. F. Legade on Nov. 30, 1852, and
Government Lot 7, Section 10 was entered by Hugh McFarland and Caleb
Croswell, Nov. 24, 1852. Government Lot 1, Section 10, where the old
Whitney mill was, was entered by Caleb Croswell on Nov. 28, 1852.
The Nekoosa Paper Mill is on Government Lot 5, Section 10,
and' Market Street is on Government Lot 6 and in the southeast of
the northwest quarter of Section 10.
“Mr. and Mrs. Robert Wakeley came to Pointe Basse in June, 1837,
from the state of New York. They came down the Susquehanna River on
a raft of lumber. Wakeley sold his lumber at Cincinnati, Ohio, from
which place they went by steam to Prairie du Chien and then to
Portage, Wis., by boat. They poled up the Wisconsin from Portage to
Pointe Basse in a keel boat owned by Daniel Whitney. Mr. Wakeley
told me that the Whitney mill at Pointe Basse was built four or five
years before he arrived. In the winter of 1839 he went to Wausau
with George Kline and a Mr. Draper and he moved back to Pointe Basse
in 1840 or '41 and had lived there ever since. Robert Wakeley was
born April 15, 1808 and died Feb. 18, 1893. His wife Mary was born
April 4, 1812, and died Dec. 24, 1887.
"The Government plat by Hathaway, the surveyor, shows the Wakeley
Tavern near the center of Section 15, just above where the lower
ferry lands on the left bank or east side. The plat also shows the
town marked Pointe Basse. The only means of crossing the river at
Pointe Basse by team was on the ice or by fording the river at low
"I presume that many residents of Nekoosa are not aware that Pointe
Basse was at a very early date the rendezvous of many Indians. In
those early days deer were very plentiful. There were many fur
bearing animals such as mink, martin, beaver, skunk, raccoon and
wolves. Fish were very plentiful, especially on the rapids. Bass,
pike, pickerel, sturgeon and 'muskies' were in abundance. Along the
banks grew large quantities of blueberries, wintergreen and
"In 1870 during my stay at Whitney Rapids picking cranberries in
what is now the village of Nekoosa, I first inspected the Indian
line of earth breastworks, extending from the Wood road as far as
the Mans farm. At that time the works were from two to three feet
high of earth and were about a mile in length and back from the
river from 70 to 80 rods.
"Moses M. Strong, now deceased, was a well known lawyer of Mineral
Point, Wis., and in an early day was interested in numerous water
powers along the Wisconsin River. Mr. Strong became interested in
the Whitney Rapids water power in Section 10, just above Pointe
Basse, about 1853. In December, 1854, he purchased a one-half
interest in the Whitney Rapids power from Daniel Whitney, and in
August, 1857, he bought the other half from Whitney. On Jan. 25,
1858, Strong sold the power for $40,000 to the Nekoosa Lumbering
Company, a corporation created by an act of the legislature of
Wisconsin and approved March 28, 1858. This lumber company was
capitalized at $500,000. The company built a dam across the river a
short distance above where the present dam is located. Shortly after
the dam was built and before the mill was erected high water took
out a part of the dam. This was about 1860 or '61 and soon
thereafter the company became bankrupt and nothing more was done
with this valuable water power until March, 1893. After the company
failed Strong secured control of the property and at that time
refused to sell the power for $10,000 and held it for 30 years, and
only received a few barrels of cranberries as dividends from the
marshes that were in what is now the village of Nekoosa.
"On June 28, 1887, Strong gave me a six months' option on the power
and the 1,000 acres of land for $5,500. On Dec. 31, 1887, I bought
the whole property for $4,500 in the name of my brother Frank and
myself. On Nov. 17, 1888, we sold the property to the Hon. Thomas E.
Nash for $8,000, and on March 3, 1893, Nash transferred the property
to the $350,000 Nekoosa Paper Co. for $50,000 worth of capital stock
of said company.
"An exceptionally good map or plat of a town site marked Nekoosa is
on file in the office of the register of deeds of Wood County. The
plat covers the land on the east side from Swallow Rock south and
east in Government Lot 2, Sections 10, 11, 14 and 15. (See ‘Old Plat
of Nekoosa the First,') Saratoga Township, Standard Atlas of Wood
County, Wis., by Geo. A. Ogle & Co., Chicago, 1909." Note.-This
first plat was not settled.
"The Pointe Basse Cemetery was located on the bluff just east of the
upper ferry landing. The lumbermen of the Wisconsin River organized
a company known as the Wisconsin River Improvement Company for the
purpose of building wing dams in the river to facilitate the running
of lumber through the rapids with more safety for the lumber and the
lives of the raftsmen. The Improvement Company collected toll; the
fee was on a graduated scale and was by the 1,000 feet according to
the distance. There were a number of these wing dams on the Whitney
Rapids, one near the mouth of Moccasin Creek, one near the east end
of Market Street, one opposite Swallow Rock, one near where the mill
now is and one near the foot of the island below the dam. The most
of these wing dams
were constructed about 1870. There is about a 23-foot fall in the
Whitney Rapids. John Rablin, now deceased, who came to Grand Rapids
in 1856, built a steam shingle mill on the east side, near the first
island below the ferry landing in Section 15, and also a line of
piers in the river extending up the river from the mill to the west
bank near Mrs. Lytle's home. This mill was only operated two or
"About 1871 my father (Joseph Wood) and an attorney, Levi P. Powers
of this city, now deceased, commenced to cultivate the wild
cranberry marshes running from the Wood road and west of the
Lutheran church northwest to Lynn Creek. They built a house and dug
a ditch from the river where the paper mill now is up to Lynn Creek
and built a dam across the creek to turn the water down the ditch.
Powers and Wood leased a part of the marsh of Mr. Strong. This
cranberry venture was not a success, as fire destroyed the marsh and
buildings and the venture was finally given up.
"I do not know the year that the two steamboats operated on the
Wisconsin between Pointe Basse and Prairie du Chien. Beavers made
their homes in the vicinity. In 1871 when we began operations to
build the cranberry marsh we found a very substantial beaver dam 60
to 70 rods long near the west end of where the railroad loop in the
village now is. Nearly all the land in the extensive wood yard of
the Paper company and west of the Lutheran church was where we
picked our cranberries. Most of the freight for Grand Rapids and
vicinity from 1857 to 1872 was hauled from New Lisbon 44 miles
through the sand by four-horse teams on two-inch tire wagons, one of
the Lisbon roads passing through what is now Nekoosa. The Green Bay
and Lake Pepin, now Green Bay and Western, was completed to Grand
Rapids in November, 1872, and the Wisconsin Valley Railroad, now the
Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, was built in June, 1873. William C.
Trahern, now deceased, hauled lumber from his sawmill at Elm Lake on
across country to the Wisconsin River and piled it on the right bank
just below the tail race of the paper mill. This was about 1870.
After the failure of the Nekoosa Lumber Company the town was dead
and the leading store building at Pointe Basse was torn down and
made into a raft and run down the river to Lone Rock, Wis., and made
into a hotel.
"The plat of the first survey shows that Amable Grignon had a
sawmill on Ten Mile Creek near Lyman Hammond's on SW-SE, Section 26,
21, 5. Ten Mile Creek is marked on the plat as 'Iron Creek.' The
first lumber sawed at Port Edwards was in 1837. The Barnum sawmill
on the Wisconsin in Adams County sawed its last lumber in 1876 and
was burned in November the same year.
"When the Nekoosa Paper Company began to build its paper mill, the
dam and a town, in March, 1893, there was not an acre of ground
improved, or a building on the west side of the river between
Moccasin Creek and the Manz farm at the lower ferry, a distance of
two and a half miles. Mr. Strong told me the Indians called the
Whitney Rapids Nekoosa, meaning 'Swift Running Water.' To show you
the price of lands in that territory before the mill was built the
following are some of the prices: On Nov. 21 I bought part of Lot 7,
and the SW-NW and the NW-SW all in Section 15-21-5 for $500. On Nov.
1, 1890 I bought the NW-SE and the S half of the SE Section 9 for
$200, and on Jan. 3, 1893 I bought the whole of the SW half of
Section 9 for $250. and on April 10, 1897 the whole of the NE half
of Section ? for $600. On Oct. 7, 1897, my brother Frank and I
bought 50 forties of land at $1.25 an acre. Thirty-three of these
forties were near Nekoosa (Nekoosa is in Sections 3, 4, 9, 10, 15
and 16). Two of these forties were in Section 3, three of them in
Section 4, four of them in Section 8, three of them in Section 9, 13
of them in Section 16 and eight of them in Section 17, all in 21-5.
On May 20, 1886, I took a tax deed on NE-SE 9-21-5 for $25. On May
12, 1897, the SE-NW 9-21-5 sold for $100.
"In March, 1893, I built the first dwelling house in Nekoosa, on the
Wood road about 100 rods west of the paper mill, and it was occupied
by my nephew, Joseph Balderstone, and in the spring of 1894 I let a
contract to Mike and Pat McDonald to clear and break a strip of land
nearly one mile long of 60 acres at $8 per acre on what is known as
the Wood farm, which they did in a short time, using a 22-inch plow
with eight horses, four of them abreast, and the same summer Louis
Wakeley and Frank Ross built a fence for me around the whole tract,
which was the south half of Section 9, 320 acres. The same summer I
sowed the whole 60 acres to rutabagas, and I had some "beggies' too.
I shipped most of them to Minneapolis and they netted me 25 cents
per bushel on board cars at Nekoosa.
"The only wagon roads into Nekoosa at that time from the west were
by the Lynn road or around Moccasin Creek. The winter of 1894-5 I
opened up the road through the swamp and the hill now known as Wood
Hill at my own expense and the town of Port Edwards was very liberal
(?) with me in giving me $250 for a mile and a quarter of right of
way through my farm and all the work I had done in filling the swamp
and grading the hill. On May 6, 1893, I sold to the Nekoosa Paper
Company the SE of the NW of 10-21-5 for $1,500. The Loop District
and the depots are on this 40."
Mr. Wood's letter contained a few lines more, referring, however,
chiefly to errors he had discovered in some previously published
The first editor of the newspaper here was P. O. Winther, who about
1904 became proprietor of the Yellow River Pilot and Wood County
Times, which had been previously published in Pittsville. Mr.
Winther merged the two papers into one and after publishing it in
Nekoosa under the double title until 1906, or thereabouts, sold out
to L. A. Good & Son, from Rosedale, Ind. They in turn about two
years later sold to L. G. Schaar, at which time the name of the
paper was changed to the Nekoosa Tribune. On July 1, 1922, Mr.
Schaar sold out to William F. Huffman of Wisconsin Rapids, publisher
of the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune.
The Nekoosa State Bank was organized Dec. 13, 1913, by F. J. Wood,
Guy O. Babcock and Henry E. Fitch, with a capital of $20,000.00 and
a surplus of $5,000.00. Guy O. Babcock was president, L. M.
Alexander vice president, and H. H. Helke cashier. The two first
mentioned are still serving in their respective offices, Mr. Babcock
having also been chairman of the board of directors since the
organization. Mr. Helke held the office of cashier until Jan. 18,
1919, when W. A. Radke was appointed and is still serving as such.
The bank owns its own building, a red brick structure, hot water
heated, and provided with safe deposit boxes, which was erected at
or before the time of organization, having been started in May,
1913. The capitalization of the institution has remained at
$20,000.00, but the surplus has been increased to $10,000.00. A
general banking business is done and the deposits amount to about
$250.000.00. The present board of directors (August, 1922) consists
of Guy O. Babcock, L. M. Alexander, F. J. McGarigle, J. P. Nash, F.
J. Wood and J. E. Brazeau. H. E. Fitch, now deceased, was formerly a
member of the board.
The Nekoosa post office was started about 1893, with William H.
Hooper as postmaster, and was in the building still owned by his
widow, the lower floor being rented to Abel & Mullen, clothiers. Mr.
Hooper's successor as postmaster was A. E. Lapham, who conducted the
office in what is now the drug store of S. A. Denis. Miss Caroline
Fitch succeeded Mr. Lapham, and during her management of the office
it was raised from fourth to third class. After Miss Fitch left, S.
A. Denis was acting postmaster, and was followed by Miss Mildred
Nash, who also was an "acting," not an appointed official. Then Leon
G. Schaar was appointed, who conducted it in the building that was
the home of the Nekoosa Tribune. He resigned Feb. 18, 1921, when
Mrs. Mary G. Helke took charge as acting post-mistress until she was
regularly appointed, Nov. 24, 1921, and she still continues to
serve. On May 1, 1922, the office was moved to its present location
on Market Street, in a building devoted exclusively to its uses.
A library was opened in Nekoosa as a branch of the T. B. Scott
Public Library of Wisconsin Rapids, and when it had been well
established, it was taken over by the club women of the village. It
is now operated under the State Library Commission and the village
makes an annual appropriation for its maintenance.
The Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Nekoosa was organized
in 1893 by the Rev. Julius Bittner of Wisconsin Rapids, with about
15 members; Rev. Bittner served the congregation in addition to his
regular Wisconsin Rapids church until 1901, when the first resident
pastor, Rev. F. Selle, was called. He was succeeded in 1904 by Rev.
Carl Krotke; in 1907 Rev. George Fierke came, and was followed in
1915 by Rev. Max Schliebe, who remained until his death in 1919. For
about one year after this the congregation was served by the pastor
from the Wisconsin Rapids church, and in 1920 the present pastor,
Rev. Walter C. Meyer, was called.
The present church edifice was erected about 25 years ago, services
before that time having been conducted in the residences of the
members of the congregation. The building housing the parochial
school, which is taught by the pastor and has about 20 pupils, was
erected in 1902, and the parsonage in 1908.
The congregation now numbers 285 souls, with 190 communicant
members. The Sunday school is flourishing, having about 50 members,
with three teachers. There is also a Ladies' Aid Society, with 25
The first Congregational services were held in Nekoosa by the Rev.
William Kilburne of Wisconsin Rapids, and a church was erected which
was dedicated Dec. 17, 1893.- there were 19 charter members. The
succession of pastors has been as follows: William Kilburne, May 21,
1893 to June 3, 1894; Abraham L. McClelland, June 9, 1894 to Sept.
4, 1898; Benjamin E. Ray, Sept. 4, 1898 to April 12, 1903; C. W.
Pinckney, June 7, 1903 to March, 1906; William Short, June, 1906 to
Sept., 1907; Arthur Cook, Dec. 1, 1907 to 1909; S. S. Forest, June
25, 1909 to Sept., 1910; G. A. Hood, May 24, 1911 to May 19, 1912;
Edward S. Guilbert, July 7, 1912 to Sept. 2, 1914; Charles A.
O'Neill, April 5, 1915 to the present time (Sept., 1922). In 1901,
under the pastorate of Rev. Benjamin E.
Ray, the parsonage was erected. In 1918 a basement was put under the
church, and in 1922 one was put under the parsonage. The present
membership of the church is 116. There is a Ladies' Aid Society of
two circles numbering 75 members and the church school enrollment is
The school in Nekoosa, known as the Alexander High School, with a
thoroughly modern two story, 18 room, brick school building and
employing 17 teachers, provides the village with exceptional school
facilities. The eight common-school grades, kindergarten, and the
four years of high school are taught. The building was erected in
1913 at a cost of $52,000, the previous frame building, which was
operated as a state graded school, being totally inadequate. An
athletic field was added in 1920, the school board buying the three
houses on the site and the Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company donating an
amount of land equal to that purchased by the board. Playground
apparatus has been installed, and, with the excellent gymnasium in
the school building, the athletic facilities leave little to be
desired. There are about 260 pupils in the grades and 120 in the
high school. Manual training and commercial courses are offered in
addition to the regular academic work.
The Nekoosa Chamber of Commerce was formed in May, 1921, the first
regular meeting being held in June of that year. There are now 70
members, and the Chamber is active in everything pertaining to the
welfare of the village. The present officers are: F. X. Grode,
president; Frank McGarigle, vice president; Elbert C. Kellogg,
secretary; and C. E. Treleven, treasurer. In the center of the
village is a beautiful park, which adds considerably to its
attractiveness. In the park is a swimming pool, municipally owned,
and which was constructed in 1921 through the efforts of the Chamber
of Commerce. An automobile park, started in 1921 and opened to
tourists in 1922, is adjacent to this park, and is said to be one of
the finest in the state.
Nekoosa Camp No. 2376 of the Modern Woodmen of America was organized
under a charter dated May 13, 1902. There were eleven charter
members as follows: James A. Brooks, Thomas Brooker, John Buchanan,
William H. Cook, Jacob Kuter, George McGregor, John Niscol, Louis
Peno, George Preston, Albert E. Ray, and Walter Vannatter. The camp
now has 84 members.
Nekoosa Lodge No. 295 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was
started with six charter members, under charter dated June 5, 1895.
The charter members were: H. E. Davis, Ross Lovelace, George Pratt,
W. H. Cook, E. Casper, and Irvin Dunaven. The lodge now has 72
Swallow Rock Lodge No. 39 of the Rebekah Lodge of the Odd Fellows
was organized under charter dated June 7, 1900, with six charter
members, as follows: William H. Cook, John Buchanan, S. L. Stevens,
M. H. Lynn, Ada Buchanan, and Mary E. Cook.
The Beaver Reserve Fund Fraternity, Nekoosa Colony No. 444, was
organized May 16, 1905, with 11 charter members, as follows: W. H.
Mogg, F. A. Fischer, O. F. Law, O. L. Berger, W. E. Beadle, Percy
George, E. C. Marshall, S. L. Stevens, M. Mollen, F. A. Richmond,
and W. C. Hicks. They now have about 260 members. There is also a
Junior Beavers branch with 96 members.
Nekoosa Homestead No. 3690 of the Brotherhood of American Yeomen was
established with 23 charter members, May 12, 1912. There are now 60
Court No. 1458 of the Catholic Order of Foresters, at Nekoosa, was
organized Dec. 19, 1903, with 24 charter members; they now have 70
There are two camps of the Royal Neighbors of America at Nekoosa;
the older, Riverside Camp No. 1977, was instituted Nov. 23, 1905,
and was granted a charter Dec. 7 of the same year. They had 22
charter members. Loyalty Camp No. 8868 was instituted Feb. 27, 1921,
with charter dated March 16, 1921; their charter membership numbered
Moccasin Park Lodge No. 296 of the Mystic Workers of the World was
organized with charter dated June 11, 1900. The first master of the
lodge was John M. Georges, vice master Fred G. Gahl, and secretary
H. E. Reed.
There are also lodges of the Woodmen of the World and of the
Equitable Fraternal Union, but meetings of these have been suspended
for the time.
The bridge over the Wisconsin River at Nekoosa, carrying State
Highway No. 13, is a steel and concrete structure 900 feet in
length, and was built in 1915 and 1916. Previous to its construction
transportation across the river was by ferry only. There are now
three miles of concrete pavement in the village, all 15 feet wide
except on the main street, where the width is 56 feet. The water
supply is excellent; it is furnished by leased springs located at
some distance from the village and is pumped to a large reservoir
within the village limits by electric pumps with "remote control"
apparatus operated from the village. Electric current is furnished
by the Nekoosa-Edwards Light and Power Co., a branch of the
Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Co., with power house, electrically connected,
located at Nekoosa, Port Edwards, and at the dam just south of
Nekoosa has a volunteer fire department of 20 members, with a
remarkable record for efficiency in extinguishing fires. It was
organized Sept. 14, 1900, the first regular meeting being held Sept.
17 of the same year. The present officers are: Louis Koehn, chief;
Martin Brandt, assistant chief; E. C. Kellogg, secretary; and J. J.
The Beppler Roller Mill, a 50-barrel flour mill, was established by
Robert Beppler in 1919 as a stock corporation. Mr. Beppler is still
associated with the mill. F. J. McGarigle is now president.
The Nekoosa Iron Works was organized as a stock corporation in 1918
by Henry E. Fitch, now deceased, and M. J. Power, to manufacture
paper-mill machinery. Their product is gaining an international
reputation and is marketed in Europe as well as in all parts of the
United States. M. J. Power is now president and treasurer, Mrs. M.
J. Power vice president, and Miss Ursel Power secretary.
The Nekoosa Motor and Machine Co. was also organized by Power and
Fitch, but as a partnership, and not a stock organization. It does
machine work, largely in connection with the Nekoosa Iron Works.
The company of Grode and Nash, a paper-converting company, was
organized in 1918.
The Beppler Roller Mills. - This concern, with a capacity of 50
barrels of flour daily, originated in 1909 when Robert Beppler
started a small ten horse-power mill, operated by a gas engine, in
an old barn. A year later he moved his plant to the vicinity of the
St. Paul tracks and made some improvements in the grinding
machinery. In 1919 the concern was incorporated as the Beppler
Roller Mills, with a capital of $25,000, and the mills have since
continued in operation, grinding all kinds of flour and feed.
Electric power is now used and there are four sets of rollers. The
incorporators of the concern were Henry E. Fitch, Frank McGarigle
and Robert Beppler. Mr. Beppler is still connected with it, and
Frank McGarigle is now president.
The Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company, one of the largest producers of
pulp and paper in the Middle West, had its origin about 32 years
ago. The production of pulp and paper, now the most important one in
central Wisconsin, and especially in Wood County, is one of which
the pioneer lumberman never dreamed. In early days great quantities
of pulpwood were burned or destroyed because of no apparent use, and
the work of destruction went on for many years. At last a few men
familiar with the paper-making industry saw the neglected
opportunity, and in 1887, at a point now known as South Centralia,
was established the first mill on the Wisconsin River for grinding
pulp, the company being known as the Centralia Pulp & Water Power
Co. A part of the old mill is still standing, and standing beside it
is a magnificent and highly modern hydro-electric power plant - an
instructive contrast between the old and the new. To the left of
this splendid power-plant lie the ruins of the first paper mill
erected on the Wisconsin River. This paper mill was a very important
factor in the paper industry, but was burned in 1912. Modern methods
have supplanted the old pulp mill, which still stands, seemingly
conscious of its good coat of paint, content to rest because of its
record of having produced its thousands upon thousands of tons of
ground wood pulp.
In 1840, when there was nothing to speak of at Grand Rapids or
Centralia, John Edwards, Sr., with his associate, Henry Clinton, put
up a sawmill at Frenchtown and began to make a record as its
operators. This was the second sawmill for sawing white pine lumber
to be erected on the Wisconsin River, and the third in the state,
the first having been located at Whitney Rapids between Port Edwards
and Nekoosa. The second sawmill for sawing lumber that was erected
in the state of Wisconsin was located on the Black River, and was
built by Jefferson Davis, later president of the Southern
Confederacy. John Edwards, Sr., owing to the untimely death of his
associate, turned the management of the property over to his son,
John Edwards, Jr., in 1859, who continued in active control of
operations in Port Edwards until his death in March, 1891.
In 1849 John Edwards joined the rush of gold seekers to California,
where he spent nine years. In 1885, accompanied by his family, he
revisited some of the old scenes of his mining-camp days. On this
trip he met Lewis M. Alexander, a California banker, and through
this meeting the only daughter of Mr. Edwards became the wife of Mr.
Alexander. Mr. Edwards was much impressed with the ability of the
young Mr. Alexander, which had been demonstrated in the organization
of a successful bank, and a few years later he urged the young
banker to join him in his operations in Wisconsin, which the latter
did in 1890.
On Oct. 15, 1890, a corporation was organized known as the John
Edwards Manufacturing Company, of which John Edwards was elected
president and Lewis M. Alexander secretary. That fall Mr. Edwards
was elected to the legislature of the state of Wisconsin and died in
Madison, March 11, 1891. Mr. Alexander took immediate charge of the
business. During that year he became associated with Franklin J.
Wood, Frank Garrison and Thomas E. Nash, and others, in the
organization of the Wood County National Bank at Grand Rapids. Mr.
Alexander was elected its first vice president and has continued in
that office to this day. The result of that organization was the
association of the men above mentioned in the erection of paper
mills in connection with the pulp mill at South Centralia; and in
1893 a complete paper mill was erected at Nekoosa. This was under
the very able management of Thomas E. Nash, who was its president
and general manager from that date until 1908.
In the meanwhile two very strong men from the Fox River Valley were
taken into the organization, A. W. Patten and John McNaughton, and
another, Col. William F. Vilas of Madison, former Postmaster General
and later U. S. senator. In 1896 practically this same group of men
built what is known as the John Edwards Paper Mill. All these plants
continued in successful operation until 1908, when a new corporation
was formed and all the properties of these three plants, together
with the Nash Lumber Company's timber holdings, located in Ashland
and Sawyer Counties, Wisconsin, were bought outright, and Thomas E.
Nash was its first president and L. M. Alexander the first vice
president. Owing to Mr. Nash's declining health, L. M. Alexander was
elected to the presidency And general management in 1911. It is hard
to tell which of these plants was the most successful.
The business ability and acumen of the Hon. Thomas E. Nash in
connection with that of his son, James B. Nash, now connected with
the Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company in its active management, has not
been excelled by anyone in connection with the paper industry and
stands out strongly in the splendid village of Nekoosa, which was
Mr. Nash's pet and pride, and to which he contributed practically
the sum of a human life to establish. What is true of Thomas E. Nash
is also true of Frank Garrison, of the Centralia Pulp and Water
Sound business principles and a high regard for discharging their
obligations promptly, with a record of over 50 years of discounting
their bills for merchandise or other material from the John Edwards
end to the present, has made the growth of the industry seem like a
fairy tale. From a payment of a few hundred dollars a year to a
payroll of two millions of dollars for the year 1920, and from a
force of 25 men to an industry working 1,200 people, has made the
industry now controlled by the Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company
Since the first operations were started in 1842 by John Edwards,
Sr., a period of 80 years, there has been a record of nearly
unbroken progress. Never has an honest debt been repudiated, and
today the word of the Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company is as good as
In 1900 more of the Nash ability, and strength from another family,
was introduced into the affairs of this industry. Probably Lawrence
E. Nash is without a peer as a distributor among jobbers of paper.
His reputation has reached every part of this country, and he has
charge of the sales department of the product. The character of his
dealings has been such that the integrity of the selling end is on a
par with the financial end. His word is as good as a contract, and
the Nekoosa-Edwards Company have never disregarded a pledge made by
the sales department. In this work he has been ably seconded by his
brother, William E. Nash, both of whom will soon round out their 25
years in the selling of the products.
For length of service and trustworthiness, the secretary of the
company, Clarence A. Jasperson, has grown into the accounting and
cost work, and is general manager of all the details of that part of
the work. His steadfastness and ability have caused the utmost
confidence to be reposed in him, not only by the management but also
by the employees. He has been many times elected to positions of
trust, such as president of the village, and is one of the most
valuable aids in the conduct of the Company's affairs in the
Judson C. Rosebush, of Appleton, Wis., widely known as a lecturer on
political economy, and a man of affairs throughout the state, was
the worthy successor of John McNaughton. He is vice president of the
Company and is held in high regard by the entire official family.
In 1920 a radical departure was made in connection with the official
operating force to better the economies and efficiencies of the
Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Co. There had been a chemical laboratory
indifferently operated for several years. During this year John E.
Alexander, son of L. M. Alexander, had just graduated from the
Armour Institute of Technology, having become proficient in
electrical, mechanical and especially chemical engineering. He
immediately organized a force for going thoroughly into the subject
of the values of various woods suitable for pulp, and especially
with reference to the use of hemlock which was more or less decayed.
The result of this has been to reduce loss and wastes to a minimum
to the corresponding benefit of the paper industry, and he is not
only a member of, but a valuable contributor to the economies
through the Technical Association of the pulp and paper
manufacturers of the country, through exchanges of valuable features
developed by him. He is an inventor of considerable ability and has
developed a revolutionary system of drying of paper by electricity
in place of steam, as well as economies for recovering the heat in
paper-machine rooms, and also the drying of paper by a vacuum
process. He is a director of the company and takes an active
interest in all its affairs.
The main offices of the Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company are located at
Port Edwards, and include L. M. Alexander's office, the Accounting
Department, Sales Department, Wood Department, Purchasing Department
and Traffic Department. In 1920 a new building was erected known as
the Mill Office, in which are established the Department of
Industrial Relations, the Time Keeper's Office and the First Aid
Room, occupying the first floor, and the second floor being occupied
by the Engineering Department and the Chemical Laboratory. Mr. E. P.
Gleason, at the head of the Engineering Department, is a graduate of
the University of Wisconsin and has acquired great ability in
electrical and mechanical construction, and while having complete
charge of the power department, has been of great assistance in
developing the hydraulic and hydroelectric power of the
At Nekoosa are located the Nekoosa Paper Mill and the Nekoosa
Sulphite and Sulphate mills, the main office being situated in a
beautiful park, which is available to the public during the summer.
Located between the paper mill and the sulphite mill are the wet
machine rooms, the sulphate wet machine on the sulphate side, and
the sulphite wet machine on the sulphite side. The office of the
superintendent of the paper mill adjoins the Hydro-Electric Power
Plant, and next to the latter is the wood room. The pulp mill,
through which the visitor is next shown, produced enough ground wood
to operate the Nekoosa Paper Mill. Next comes the beater room, into
which nearly 100 tons of stock go every day, a considerable share of
which requires handling by hand. Leaving the beater room, the
visitor enters the paper machine room, which is the great production
part of the mill, after which comes the finishing room. A large part
of the products of the Nekoosa Paper Mills is shipped out in cut
sheets, and the cutting, counting, folding and wrapping operations
keep the crew in this room exceedingly busy. No matter how well the
paper is made, good stock is used, and no matter how skillfully the
machine crews put the paper over the machines, if it does not
receive the proper attention in this department the Company suffers
when the paper reaches the consumer. Such complaints, however, are
rare, and when received, the wrong methods are corrected at once. On
leaving the finishing room the paper goes to the shipping room,
where it is labeled and prepared for shipment in accordance with the
At Nekoosa there are, as there are at Port Edwards, certain
departments that play an important part in the production of paper,
and yet do not handle the paper themselves, nor the product, nor the
raw material of finishing. Among them is the Chain Gang and the
Engineering Department. The task of the Chain Gang is to move any
material that is needed from one part of the paper mill to another.
The Engineering Department is responsible for the power used in the
various mills. It has supervision over the hydro-electric power
plants, the dams, and the steam power plants. In addition to this
there is a large construction crew which looks after the
installation of large machines, the construction of new buildings,
and large alteration operations. Like all other departments of the
mills, it is thoroughly systematized, being divided into smaller
crews, such as the mason crews, safety crew, pipe fitters' crew,
carpenter crew and electrical crew.
Among the adjuncts of the Port Edwards mills are the Blacksmith's
Shop and the Warehouse, the latter being called the Port Edwards
Warehouse to distinguish it from the store at Nekoosa. It often
handles over $50,000 worth of material in a month.
The incoming and outgoing freight of an institution the size of the
Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company is a very large item, and the
expeditious handling of these commodities, the raw materials coming
in and the finished product going out are handled mainly by the Yard
Departments, each of which requires a crew under a capable
At Port Edwards are operated two dining-rooms, at one of which alone
are served nearly 700 meals every day of the month. The outside
crew, under charge of foreman, Mr. Ernest Eichsteadt, has a wide
variety of duties; among other things the farm operations that are a
part of the community work, and which includes sowing and planting
in the spring, cultivating during the summer, and the harvesting
operations. As a phase of the farming operations is the work done in
the community gardens each year, all the land in Port Edwards,
Nekoosa and the South Side that is not otherwise used being set
aside for the gardens of the employees, much of the vegetable
products raised being taken by the hotels. The outside crew also has
to look after and keep in repair the houses, of which the Company
owns about 80 in Port Edwards and Wisconsin Rapids.
The Department of Industrial Relations, under Franz H. Rosebush and
G. M. Hafenbrack, is primarily an employment bureau, but it is also
more than that. It not only hires the men to fill vacancies, but
keeps full records of their subsequent progress, their physical
condition, transfers from one department to another, changes in
rates of pay, and even such matters as accidents. If a man does not
like the work he is doing, the head of the department takes the
matter up with the man's foreman and superintendent, and if, after
consultation, a transfer can be made to another department where he
will find the work more agreeable, or where he can do better, the
transfer is made.
The foregoing facts have been taken from the "Nepco Bulletin," a
paper published in the interests of the employees of the
Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Co., the account being condensed from the
Souvenir Edition, published December, 1920.