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7th Book Excerpt: Logging Makes its Way to Yankee Joe Creek

The following is the seventh of several 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:

Yankee Joe, proudly wearing the felt hat that was given to him by Frederick Weyerhaeuser, had a reputation as one of the finest log drivers on the Chippewa.

     The modern world finally began encroaching on the people of Pahquahwong and Chief Lake when, on May 2, 1870, twenty-six-year-old William A. Rust of Michigan purchased thousands of acres of timber land on the upper Chippewa River and its tributaries, on lands extending from its confluence with the Couderay River upriver to where the East and West Forks of the Chippewa River came together.  Although none of this land was located on the reservation, there was one section of property (Section 4) abutting the south edge of the reservation that was of particular interest.  It was located on a small creek which meandered its way to the north – through land that was occupied by an Ojibwe Indian man named Oga-be-gi-jig – before it emptied into the West Fork of the Chippewa River. 

     This Indian man was known by another name, Yankee Joe.  Perhaps he fought for the north during the Civil War alongside fellow Pahquahwong residents like John Scott, Vincent Crow, and Augustus Corbine which could explain why he earned the nickname of Yankee Joe… but that is just speculation.  What we do know is that the creek which cuts through his land was named for him long ago, as Yankee Joe Creek.  The logs cut upstream from Oga-be-gi-jig’s wigwam had to be floated down Yankee Joe Creek by Rust’s company to reach the West Fork of the Chippewa River where they would be driven downriver to the mills of Chippewa Falls.  Yankee Joe came to be noted for his skills of driving logs and breaking up log jams, so maybe… just maybe, this was the moment when Yankee Joe chose to become a lumberjack.

     Oga-be-gi-jig (Yankee Joe), a full-blooded Ojibwe man and lifelong resident of Pahquahwong, was born to Chingwanakodam and Sagimake around 1841.  He had two sisters, Gijigokwe and Niganigijigokwe – the latter of whom later married Chief Bluesky (Ojawashkogijig).  Tribal annuity rolls list Oga-be-ge-jig as a member of the Lac Courte Oreilles band under Chief Bluesky as early as 1857.   Yankee Joe was married twice.  With his first wife, Debishkogijigokwe, he had three children who all died at infancy.  His second wife, who was related to his first wife, fathered Yankee Joe five more children: Bijikins, who died at age fourteen; Niganigijigokwe, who died at age sixteen; Bidasinokwe, who died on March 14, 1882; a son named George All Day, who died at age ten; and William Yankee Joe, who was born around 1884 and was their only child to reach adulthood.  Yankee Joe’s second wife, Newakwegijigokwe, was born around 1856 and went by the Christian name of Mary.

     Yankee Joe and his family lived in a wigwam on a plateau of land that was located just to the west of the creek that now bears his name and just a short distance south of where that creek emptied into the West Fork of the Chippewa River.  (The former site of his home today quietly rests four feet beneath the surface of the waters of the Chippewa Flowage on a large sand flat known as Cranberry Bar.)

This 1873 map shows the entire “Chippewa Basin,” which includes all of the natural lakes, rivers, and tributaries that later came to make up the Chippewa Flowage. The location of Yankee Joe Creek is indicated by the arrow. This is where Rust’s 1870 logging operation took place.

     It must have been during the winter of 1870-71 when William Rust’s logging operation began cutting the timber that was located less than a mile south of Yankee Joe’s place.  At the time, Yankee Joe and his wife Newakwegijigokwe were raising their son and three daughters, doing what they could to best care for their family.  Not quite thirty years old, Yankee Joe was in his prime.  Whether he began his career as a logger and river man as a result of this specific project or had already been logging for others further to the south, one thing is for sure…. the stories of Yankee Joe’s abilities and exploits as a lumberjack are legendary.  Affectionately known as “Ojibwa Joe” to his fellow loggers, they considered him the chief of the aboriginal “peavy clickers.”

     News of one of Yankee Joe’s exploits on the Brunet River had even “drifted its way downriver” to fall upon the ears of the biggest and most intriguing lumber magnate of them all, Frederick Weyerhaeuser, the founder of the Mississippi Logging Company.  Weyerhaeuser, a once penniless German immigrant turned self-made lumber tycoon, was often seen marching across his large timber tracts, checking his survey lines, dressed in plain lumberjack attire, while setting a pace that even the most seasoned logger had a hard time keeping up with.  Upon hearing of this specific tale about Yankee Joe, Weyerhaeuser traveled forty miles just to see the man in action.  The two men became friends and Weyerhaeuser presented Joe with his most prized possession, a black formal beaver top hat.

     On June 20, 1881, as provided for by Article Three of the Treaty of 1854, Yankee Joe’s land patent was approved for his selection of his 79-acre allotment for the land he had long been living on.  During the winter of 1883-84, he arranged to have it logged, banking 107,200 board feet of logs to be driven down river during the spring of 1884.  Yankee Joe sold the logs for $4 per thousand, for which he received $428.80.  (In today’s dollars, that would be equivalent to more than $13,000.)  It was likely sometime during the 1880s when Yankee Joe built his family a nice little cabin near the creek on his allotment in which they could live.  Perhaps he had set aside some of the timber that he had recently cut on his land with which to build his cabin.  He even “modernized” by installing a little wood stove inside his home, a luxury which made winter habitation more bearable. 

Working as a “river pig” was one of the most hazardous jobs of being a lumberjack. Yankee Joe’s skills of dancing on the logs and breaking up log jams made him a legend.

     Because of his failing eyesight, Yankee Joe gave up running the rivers around 1905; however, he continued working as a laborer closer to home.  Even though he lived a mile and a half east of the main part of the village – which was referred to as “The Post” by that time – he wasn’t starving for company.  In fact, Yankee Joe had neighbors who lived close by in every direction.  And with the Chippewa Road going right through his property on its way to The Post and onto Hayward, the whole world ended up passing right by his doorstep.  

     One of Yankee Joe's many neighbors was the Lessard family, who lived about a mile and a half downriver on the West Fork of the Chippewa where they operated a hotel, farm, and stopping place.  When Harry Lessard was a boy he would often accompany his father, Paul, to Hayward, traveling by wagon down the Chippewa Road through The Post.  Young Harry remembered Yankee Joe very well since his place was the first landmark along the way after they would cross the Yankee Joe Bridge.  Harry said that old Yankee Joe lived in a cabin just past that bridge and off to the right.  He said that Yankee Joe also maintained a wigwam there so that he could live in it during the warm summer months; however, he lived in his cabin during the winter.  Yankee Joe, Oga-be-gi-jig, died on August 6, 1913, at the approximate age of seventy-two. 

     Pahquahwong experienced a great many changes during Yankee Joe’s lifetime.  By the time he was a young boy, the inhabitants of his community were in the process of spreading out along the West Fork of the Chippewa River and family groups eventually claimed lands and set up their wigwams near Cranberry, Pokegama, Connor’s, Desire, and Meda (Scott) Lakes.  As previously mentioned, Pahquahwong’s inhabitants were more nomadic at first and many families would commonly journey south to their various winter hunting camps during the long, cold winter.  But as time went on, the lands near their former winter hunting camps to the south had become settled and their growing dependence on government support following the signing of the treaties, all contributed to altering the Ojibwe people’s lifestyle.  In 1865, another important change appeared on the horizon that would reshape the community of Pahquahwong, and that change presented itself, paddling a canoe down the Chief River and into the West Fork of the Chippewa River, in the shape of a tall, slender white man with a New England accent named Thaddeus Thayer.

     (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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Chippewa River and its tributaries, on lands extending from its confluence with the Couderay River upriver to where the East and West Forks of the Chippewa River came together.  geometry dash subzero

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