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11th Book Excerpt: Stopping Places of the Chippewa Basin - Part One

The following is the 11th of a series of book excerpts the LCO News will feature from local author, John Dettloff. The excerpts will be from his  new book.

Detloff has lived on the Chippewa Flowage, near New Post, for over 50 years.  His family has had a small resort just east of New Post for 56 seasons and for 40 years he has been writing historical articles about the flowage, tribal history (especially Old Post), old guides, old resorts, and fishing.

His new book called Whispers of the Past, A History of the Chippewa Flowage, released on November 1st, gives a comprehensive history of the flowage going back to the fur trade era. 

According to Detloff, the book profiles in great detail the people of the "Chippewa Basin" (the area that became flooded by the flowage) and talks about the 300 plus people who were affected by and displaced by the flowage.  There were probably 250 plus tribal members and nearly 100 non-tribal members that were affected. 

From the Book:

Paul Lessard holding a nice musky at his stopping place. (circa 1906)

     During the 1870s, the vast forests of virgin timber began to be harvested on the upper Chippewa River system and its tributaries.  At that time, every available stand of timber that was off reservation within the Chippewa Basin had become a target of lumbermen.  Numerous logging dams were constructed on many of the streams in the area to better facilitate the driving of logs downstream to the mills in Chippewa Falls and beyond.   

     Naturally, all of this logging activity brought in hundreds of lumberjacks to drive the logs.  These hard working, rough and tumble men all needed food, rest, supplies, and… libations when the work was done.  Pahquahwong – a once remote village – was now center stage in the logging world with proprietors like Thad Thayer, Kelly & Hall, Little Tommie, Jack Phelan, John Kavanagh, and the Lessard brothers eagerly willing to accommodate them at their newly established stopping places.

This early 1890’s map shows the locations of the stopping places of the Chippewa Basin, the Chippewa Road, the West Fork Road, and the Indian trail that went from Chief Lake to Pokegama Lake.

Kelly’s West Bend Stopping Place

     One of the first available places of lodging to be built within the basin of what would eventually become the Chippewa Flowage was known as Kelly’s stopping place.  It was also known as “West Bend” because of the way the river came in sharply from the west about a mile upstream.   Established in May of 1874 after Thomas Kelly and John Hall purchased the land for $100 from the wealthy land speculator from Eau Claire named Henry C. Putnam, West Bend was located a mile upstream from the confluence of the East and West Forks of the Chippewa River.  Here many a weary traveler was given shelter, rest, and food as they made their way up the Chippewa River from points south. 

The West Bend Stopping Place, established in 1874 just up stream from the confluence of the West and East Forks of the Chippewa River, eventually grew to having eleven buildings, including an eleven room farmhouse/hotel building.

     The stoppers came by canoe, dugout, and bateau or they coxed their tote teams and wagons over the frozen swamps & creeks and made their way over whatever rudimentary segments of trail were available during those early days.   The few trails and tote roads that existed were best serviceable during the winter after the ground, swamps, and creeks were froze, so the Chippewa River was often the chosen route of travel.  Stopping places were spaced roughly a day’s journey apart alongside the river for the travelers who ventured up from Winona, Eau Claire, and Chippewa Falls.

     In December of 1874, Kelly sold out to Hall for $200 and the following summer Hall sold to a George Barber for $777.  In September of 1875, Barber sold a half interest in the place to Thomas Manwaring for $380 and, finally, on October 20, 1876, Manwaring purchased the other half for $800. 

Little Tommie’s

     Thomas Manwaring was born in England in 1849 and immigrating to the United States around 1872.  After purchasing the West Bend stopping place in 1875, Thomas married Margaritha Hattamer in July of 1877 in Chippewa Falls and they subsequently made their home and raised their four children (Emma, John, Frank, and Lillian) at their Chippewa River stopping place…. which came to be known as “Little Tommie’s.”   From the beginning he had been a very hard laborer, logging during the fall and winter and in the summer clearing his farm out of the heavy timber.  At his stopping place, Little Tommie hosted both short term guests and also took in longer term boarders like William McCabe, who stayed with him in 1880.  That year, Tommy Runnels worked for Manwaring as a live-in servant.

     The old Chippewa Tote Road was soon improved and, by 1881, was graded beyond Little Tommie’s and reached all the way to Thayer’s trading post at the village of Pahquahwong.  It was at that time when the stage line of Stiles and Co began running daily trips between the Post and Chippewa Falls.  In addition to the opening of that new Stage service, by having his stopping place situated where the newly improved Chippewa Road intersected the East Fork Road after it forded the river, Little Tommie no doubt experienced good traffic at his business and gave comfort to many a lumberman and traveler. 

     Although it is not known how many buildings Kelly and Hall had first erected, the stopping place would eventually grow to form a complex of eleven buildings… many of them made from hand-hewn logs and likely built during Manwaring’s ownership.  The six buildings situated between the southwest bank of the river and Chippewa Road were likely the first ones built.  Just across the road from those buildings, up on the gentle slope that extended to the southwest of the river, were five additional buildings… the most impressive of which was an eleven room, two story farmhouse which offered a most commanding view of the river from a large, covered porch that wrapped itself halfway around the house.  Whether it was built by Manwaring or Paul Lessard, the succeeding owner of the stopping place, remains a mystery.

     After Manwaring died in December of 1885, his widow Margaritha leased out the place for the next seven years to a series of renters and logging companies who used it as a camp.  On December 27, 1892, the widow Manwaring entered into a land contract with Paul and Georgian Lessard, who purchased the place and were to operate it for the next twenty years.

The Lessard Stopping Place 

      Napoleon Paul Lessard was born near the St. Lawrence River on July 12, 1863, in Sainte-Ursule-Maskinonge, Quebec, Canada, to Jean Baptiste and Emelie (Beland) Lessard.  Paul’s brothers Pierre “French Pete” and Adolph had immigrated to the Chippewa River country first – around 1872 – settling near Bishop’s Bridge about three miles west of Winter, Wisconsin.  Paul Lessard first came to the United States in 1890 and lived near his older brother Peter, who was running a saloon and boarding house in Chippewa Falls by that time.  Paul returned to Canada and married Georgina Allard in June of 1892.  The young couple then returned to the United States and purchased the stopping place from Mrs. Manwaring. 

     Once the new couple got their stopping place up and running and had it paid off in 1895, Paul was able to refurbish his riverside hotel by adding new hardwood flooring, plaster on the inner walls, and clapboard siding onto the sixteen-inch-thick hewn logs of the exterior walls.  The “hotel” rooms were upstairs over the saloon, located in the front part of the main building.  The land from the house and other buildings sloped down to the Chippewa River.

     Paul and Georgian Lessard raised their seven children (Ida, Hazel, Ulda, Wilfred, Harry, Edna, & Lester) there.  This author was fortunate to get to know their son Harry (who was born in 1903) nearly forty years ago when he was eighty-two years old.  Harry told me many stories of those days: 

     “By the time I was a little shaver, the loggers had pretty much cleaned out the great pinery of the Chippewa headwaters, the logging trade had dropped off, and dad (Paul) turned more to farming, cutting timber, and the taking in of guests as his source of income.  Many visitors stayed at our place over the years.  Times were changing and the cliental changed over from loggers in the early days to fisherman, hunters, and transients.  The West and East Forks of the Chippewa River always contained muskellunge, but they weren’t easy to catch. 

     “We had a big eleven room house – which came to be known as a hotel – so we had plenty of spare room for guests.  The house had rooms on the sides with a big hall (saloon) where the guys used to play poker, drink, and sit around and talk.  We also had cabins for additional guests, one of which had four rooms.  Some people would come and stay all summer, not leaving until the first snows of Fall arrived.  Rich guys like William Wrigley from the chewing gum factory in Chicago would stay with us and rent one of our cabins all summer and fish with Indian guides on the river.  Old man Wrigley sure was pretty handy with passing out his chewing gum to us kids.” 

     Harry Lessard was very familiar with the village of Post and its residents because he had to go through there every time he traveled to Hayward with his father.  The road to town went right through The Post.  Just after leaving his home to head to Hayward by wagon, the first landmark along the way was when they would cross the Yankee Joe Bridge.  Harry remembered the old Indian named Yankee Joe who lived in a cabin just past that bridge and off to the right.  Harry’s father had taken him to visit his friend Thad Thayer at his hotel at The Post many times.  He also remembered Billy DeBrot who had a small log cabin resort across the river from Thayer’s hotel. 

      (To order a copy of John Dettloff's new book, send a check or money order for $29.95, plus $6 shipping and 5 1/2% sales tax, made out to Trails End Publishing and send it to: Trails End Publishing, 7431 N Flowage Rd., Couderay, Wi 54828.)



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