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12th Book Excerpt: Stopping Places of the Chippewa Basin - Part Two

The following is the 12th 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:

The family of John and Ida Kavanagh standing in front of the West Fork House in this 1922 era photo. Built in 1887, this majestic log building was built by Thad Thayer and hosted many a lumberjack and teamster during the heyday of the logging era.

The West Fork House

     It has been known by many names: The West Fork House; Phelan’s stopping place; Kavanagh’s stopping place; later, Kavanagh’s Pine Point Resort; and today, Sisko’s Pine Point Resort.  Currently located within the heart of the Chippewa Flowage, this historic place of lodging has been taking in travelers – almost continuously – for 137 years.  By 1884, the newly graded Chippewa Road was completed from Hayward to this location, where the road forked: with one branch called the West Fork Road veering off in a northeasterly direction to access the upper reaches of the West Fork of the Chippewa River, and the other branch continuing as the Chippewa Road and heading southeast to Thayer’s trading post and beyond.  This road junction was the perfect spot in which to establish a stopping place.

     It was a long haul to take wagon loads of supplies from either Hayward or Phipps to the remote lumber camps further up to the Moose Lake area, so accommodations along the route for tote-teamsters and their horse teams were essential.  Established by 1887, the West Fork House was said to have been built by Thad Thayer.

     The West Fork House was built from massive, full-rounded pine logs, some nearly two feet in diameter.  Situated just off the north edge of the Chippewa Road, this house was quite spacious and had a high enough pitched roof that there may have been adequate room in the building to have had some sort of loft area or even sleeping rooms up above.  Whether this building was used as a place of guest lodging, the residence of the operators, a meeting place of sorts, or a combination of all three, remains a bit of a mystery.

     Right across the road from the West Fork House was a long L-shaped barn and another smaller barn that paralleled the larger barn to its south.  These barns were also built with huge pine logs, but they were hand-hewn (squared off) logs that were dove tailed at the building’s corners.  The larger barn had an upper loft with access doors on each end of the building and was said to have been used as a stable.

     A two-story bunkhouse was located to the east of the West Fork House and closer to the junction of the Chippewa Road and the West Fork Road.  The bunkhouse, also built from large hand-hewn logs, is likely where the visiting teamsters would stay, with their horse teams stabled on the first level and the men bunking in a loft located above their animals.  There was an icehouse strategically attached to the north side (or rear) of the bunkhouse to protect it from the direct sunlight.  The body heat of both the men and their animals – combined with the fact that the bunkhouse had no windows – helped to retain heat during the cold winter nights.

     There was a saloon building at the stopping place, located just a short “crawl” from the West Fork House and the bunkhouse, and there was another outbuilding or two near the road junction.  These buildings were also built out of logs.  At first, all of these buildings at the stopping place were situated on public land that had yet to be purchased or homesteaded by anyone.

     In 1889, a Mr. Olson was the proprietor of the West Fork House, and by the following year, John Vincent McGilvray, a carpenter from Superior, reportedly owned the place.  Following William E. Cornick’s arrival in Hayward in 1892, he took over operating the West Fork House for the next couple of years. 

     In 1894, John Phelan bought the West Fork House.  John William Phelan was born in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, on December 8, 1852, to Irish parents, John and Anna (Cavanagh) Phelan.  John Phelan immigrated to the United States around 1878 and moved to Hayward around 1887, purchasing the place on July 12, 1894.  Phelan not only bought the stopping place buildings but also the 40-acre parcel upon which they were built. 

     John Phelan and his wife Elizabeth lived at and operated the West Fork House from July of 1894 to June of 1898.  At some point, a separate house had been built on the property for the operators of the stopping place to reside in.  Being that Phelan was probably the first operator of the West Fork House to live on site with his family, he may have been responsible for building this house.  It was a sturdy, fair sized structure that was built of logs and had a nice porch at its entry way that was sheltered by an overhanging roof. 

     On Monday, June 27, 1898, Phelan sold the West Fork House stopping place to John Kavanagh and purchased the Lavelle House in Hayward.  Kavanagh was born in the Notre Dame Parish of Ottawa, Canada, on June 22, 1855, to Irish immigrant parents, Arthur Kavanagh and Mary Agnes Pepper.  Records indicate that John Kavanagh immigrated to the United States during the early 1880s and first settled in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where he worked as a hotel clerk, bartender, and woodsman.

     It was likely in 1892 when John Kavanagh moved to Hayward.  With lumbering in its heyday, Kavanagh labored in the woods of Sawyer County for several years before finally taking a position as head clerk at the Lavelle House in Hayward in 1896.  Later that year, on October 11, 1896, he married Ida Klink of LeSueur, Minnesota.  The new couple started their family right away with the birth of their son Arthur that December.  Next came their son Gerald, born on June 20, 1898.

     After Arthur and Gerald were born, seven more children were added to the Kavanagh brood between 1899 and 1915 (Mary, Ellen, Marian, an unnamed girl, John, Patrick, and Edward).  It was probably by this time when Kavanagh added on to his home at the stopping place, nearly doubling its size for his growing family.  Ellen and her infant sister died young, leaving seven of the Kavanagh children to reach adulthood.  Although they lived in a remote location, the kids had plenty of playmates that lived close by because their neighbor, Fred Worman, had a large family of his own.  Between the Wormans and the Kavanaghs there were fourteen children, so it was decided to build a schoolhouse on the Kavanagh’s property in 1904.

     On July 15, 1901, John Kavanagh added 80 more acres to his operation by filing a homestead claim (No. 10412) on it.  Instead of building on it to prove up on the land and gain title to it, Kavanagh opted to farm it for a period of at least five years… being awarded his land patent for the property on November 12, 1908.  In all, Kavanagh had cultivated at least 40 to 50 acres of his property by 1904, with the crops raised being sufficient to keep his family, lumbermen lodgers, and hired hands well fed with vegetables and his barns well stocked with hay and grain. 

     As time progressed, logging operations on the upper West Fork subsided and the logging camps – one by one – shut down.  This diminished the teamster traffic on the Chippewa Road past Kavanagh’s stopping place.  By 1910, overnight lodging in Kavanagh’s bunkhouse had dropped off and from then on, John’s occupation was listed as either a general farmer or dairy farmer.

     During the afternoon of June 13, 1917, the Kavanagh’s home near to the West Fork House was destroyed by fire of an unknown origin.  The fire got a good start before it was noticed, so there was no chance of arresting the blaze.  In its wake, the fire had consumed all their personal household affects.  Fortunately, the Kavanagh family wasn’t made homeless by the disaster; they all just moved into the spacious West Fork House, the original building of the stopping place.

     Once the Chippewa Flowage was created 6 years later, the Kavanaghs lost about 11 acres of their property beneath the floodwaters of the flowage.  Luckily for them, it didn’t cause a major disruption to their farm operation.  Beginning in 1931, the Kavanaghs turned their place into a resort, known as Kavanagh’s Pine Point Resort.  In 1934, the original West Fork House building burned down.    

The hotel and bunkhouse at Dan McLeod’s Crane Creek logging camp. (circa 1891)

The Crane Creek Stopping Place

    Another stopping place which sprang up along the Chippewa Road was the Crane Creek stopping place.  Located thirteen miles from Hayward and not far off the southeast shores of Crane Lake, this stopping place was established in 1883 by Squire Chase Kenyon, a lumber dealer from Iowa, just as the Chippewa Road was being completed.  The following year Kenyon was said to have “sold” the place to H. B. Shue, a fellow lumber dealer from Iowa.

     Prior to this, between 1873 to 1882, the land upon which the Crane Creek stopping place was situated was owned by Eau Claire lumberman William A. Rust and his agents (Peter O’Connor and George Thompson), who were the first to have the wooded timberland to the south and east of Crane Lake logged off.  In 1882, this land was sold to the Mississippi River Logging Company, of whom Rust was then affiliated with.  This company was established by lumber mogul Frederick Weyerhauser in 1872 and based out of Clinton, Iowa.  For the next twenty years, the company held title on this land, allowing various proprietors to operate, improve, and build up the stopping place to accommodate their teams of hard-working lumberjacks. 

     Henry Brenner Shue, born in Pennsylvania in 1845, was living in Monticello, Iowa, before he relocated to the Crane Creek stopping place around 1884, making it his home for the next several years.  Whether he owned the stopping place or just leased it from the company is not known.  It was likely in 1888 when Eau Claire lumberman Dan McLeod took over the Crane Creek stopping place.

     Dan McLeod, born in Tony Mills, Nova Scotia in 1848, entered the logging business soon after his arrival to the United States around 1868.  First settling in Chippewa Falls, McLeod met Ettie Wright, a dressmaker, and they married in 1881.  As their fortunes increased, they ended up purchasing a fine home in Eau Claire, where they raised their only child Ethel.  Dan McLeod spent fifteen years logging for the Weyerhauser interests, beginning his operations in Sawyer County during the fall of 1883.  By the late 1880s, McLeod was poised to take charge of logging operations around Crane Lake.

     As soon as the deal was finalized to purchase some 3,500 acres of property near Crane Lake and Crane Creek on October 1, 1888, Weyerhauser’s Mississippi River Logging Company entered into a contract with Dan McLeod to remove the timber from the area… an operation that would take him six years to complete.  The vast abundance of timber involved necessitated that a logging dam be constructed about a half mile downstream on Crane Creek.  The Crane Creek Dam allowed a good head of water to be built up on the normally quiet little creek, so as to better facilitate the flushing of the logs downstream.

     It’s not known exactly how many buildings there were at the Crane Creek stopping place.  No doubt the bunkhouse and barn were the first to be erected to accommodate the hardy loggers and their animals.  There are indications that the bunkhouse was located just off the north edge of the Chippewa Road, which traversed westward across the small bridge that spanned Crane Creek on its way to Hayward.  At the stopping place, the crew was well known for serving anywhere from twenty-five to seventy-five hungry men. 

     On April 7, 1893, it was reported that Adolph Lessard had purchased the Crane Creek stopping place, soon moving his large family there from his farm near Ojibwa.  There, Adolph and his wife Lizzie raised their nine children.  With his children in need of schooling, Adolph built a little frame schoolhouse just across the road from the hotel at his own expense. 

     Dan McLeod continued pushing operations in Crane Creek until his work was completed there, fulfilling his “contract” following the spring drives of 1894.  Between 1883 and 1893, McLeod was credited with cutting 104 million feet of logs, having only one man killed in his camps and having lost only two horses in ten years.  McLeod died in 1910 at the age of sixty, leaving nearly a $100,000 estate to his family.

     Tragedy struck the Northwoods region during the hot, dry summer of 1894.  Forest fires had been raging in the area for several days and on Monday, July 2nd they reached Lessard’s Crane Creek stopping place.  All efforts to extinguish the fires proved futile and, in the end, Adolph Lessard lost his house, barn, and a considerable amount of livestock… with his losses reaching $1500.  The fires of ’94 continued for three, rainless months – culminating with a very destructive wave of fires during the first week of September that reaped devastation all over the Sawyer County region.

     Such were the perils and challenges of life on the Wisconsin frontier.  Life goes on, however, and by September a new schoolhouse was built by Mr. Lessard, this time at the expense of the school district.  The Lessard family continued running the Crane Creek stopping place until the Spring of 1901, at which time they moved into Hayward and purchased the Anderson House – a popular hotel and saloon.

     It’s interesting to note that the Mississippi River Logging Company still owned the property where the Crane Creek stopping place was located… finally selling the land to Adolph Lessard for $200 on February 24, 1902.  On November 23, 1905, Lessard sold the property to some investors, and on June 29, 1908, the Crane Creek property was purchased by Miss Emelia Eppler, a widowed forty-nine-year-old German woman.  It would serve as Eppler’s home for nearly seven years, until she sold it on April 15, 1915, to Elizabeth Mock & Emma Fluke for $1000. 

     Seventeen months later, on September 15, 1916, Mock and Fluke sold the property to Clarence Wise, who sold it the very next day to the Chippewa Valley Construction Company.  By that time, John and Sophia Raish and their family had moved onto the property from their former home near Belille Falls, renting the place until about the time when the Flowage was created in 1923… at which time they moved into Hayward.

      (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.)

1 commento

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