Soon after statehood in 1848 every stream and river north of Stevens Point became a highway to the “pinery”. White pine logs were floated to mills on the Wisconsin River. In 1870, railroads ushered in a forty year logging boom on the Little Eau Pleine.
What’s in a Name?
The Ojibwe called this river Ma-no-min-a-kung-a-kuay-se-be, meaning “Rice Stalks River”. Wild rice was a staple food that was abundant at Rice Lake and in the river.
The French called it “Aux Pleines” meaning “Full Water”.
Lumber Companies Operating in the Valley:
Towns in the Valley:
Marathon County Railroad tressel over the Big Eau Pleine.
Building the Marathon County Railroad in the late 1890’s.
Connor Company rail spurs were laid from Stratford and the Marathon County Railroad to logging camps and to a river landing near Rice Lake.
Trainloads of hemlock bark went to the nation’s tanneries. Bark peeling started after early June thunderstorms.
The Altenburg Mill in Dancy operated on the Little Eau Pleine from 1877 to 1911.
The McMillan Mill operated on the Little Eau Pleine from 1874 to 1911.
Logging crew from McMillan Camp 3 in what is now the McMillan Marsh unit of the Mead Wildlife Area.
Seven logging camps operated in what is now the Mead Wildlife Area. These camps were gone in a couple years when all of the timber was cut.
This broken log stamp was found on the river just north of here. It was used to stamp the ends of logs with the company brand before driving the logs to the “boom yards” down river. There the logs were sorted and sent to the owner. This stamp has JD embossed on it, probably from the Joseph Dessert Lumber Company in Mosinee.
Pine logs were driven to mills on both the Big and Little Eau Pleine Rivers.
This eye hook was driven into a log end and connected to other logs to form a river boom. These booms were used to collect logs before they were driven to the mill.
This wedge was driven into saw cuts when felling trees and prevented the saw from pinching.
As lands were cleared, farmers, mostly German, homesteaded all but the low swamps in the valley.
The Fred Laessig family pose in front of their log cabin on their Stratford farm. This German and Dutch clan immigrated to Marathon County in the 1870’s.
Prosperous dairy farms occupy the uplands of the Little Eau Pleine, many of which have been in the same family for over a century.
In 1903 the ill-fated Dancy Drainage District formed and soon giant steam dredges drained Rice Lake, channeled the river and sent fingers of ditches into the swamps. But the lowlands were too cold and sour for farming and the project failed.
The crew’s quarters and cook shanty followed the steam dredge as it cut into the swamp. This photo was probably taken in the Mead Conifer Bogs southeast of here.
County Highway S, meanders of old stream bed, 1909 drainage ditch, names of flowages in photo. The ditches forever changed the “Rice Stalks River”. Flowages were created in the drained lowlands soon after the establishment of the Mead Wildlife Area in 1959.