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Rietbrock centennial
(1880-1980)

Logging and sawmills,   pp. 64-68


Page 64

Older Machinery
Frank Sommer, father of George, purchased his first
thresher made by J.I. Case Co. about 1947. Custom
threshing was done by him and a few other com-
pany threshing crews. The first steam engine pur-
chased by Frank was a J.I. Case 25 - 75 H.P. Later
Frank with his son George purchased another Case
Engine, a 65 H.P. Then George purchased a 36 x 58
M Case Thresher from Bill Becker.
When the combines came into existence a lot of
custom threshing by companies was discontinued.
George recalls having participated in and displaying
his steam engine for at least four years of "Threshing
Days" at Prochnow's Ballroom. He now owns an
80 H.P. Case Steam Engine, three threshers, and two
clover hullers that he does work with.
The only two steam rigs left in the Township are
Frank Teresinski's and George's, and these are often
displayed at various display and exhibits for engines.
Logging and Sawmills
The settlers arriving here during the years of 1850
and 1880 found giant pines and hardwood forests
untouched by the axes of men. The only trails that
were made were those made by the deer and other wild
animals leading to water's edge of the creek. The only
sounds heard were the voices of the birds and the
gurgling of water.
Fred Rietbrock, a lawyer from Milwaukee, came to
Wausau in 1876 to settle an estate and had become
interested in the possibilities of these large lands. To
give the people work in winter to tide them over
until they got enough land cleared to live on, he
planned to build a sawmill around the falls of a
small stream, naming it the Black Creek Falls. (Now
Athens). He used the falls for waterpower.
Soon several acres were cleared on the creek bank,
a dam was made which created a pond to store logs,
and soon the sawmill became a humming, screaming
reality. The peace and quiet of the forest was destroyed
by the ring of the lumberjack's axes and their cry of
"Timber" as one forest giant after another crashed
to the earth.
It was not easy to cut the great pines and hardwoods,
as the settlers soon found out. They had no power-
saws. Some trees were more then six feet in diameter at
the base, so platforms were built several feet off the
ground to where the trees were small toward the
top. A man would stand on each side of the tree on this
platform, drawing a cross-cut saw back and forth
until the big top began to sway. With a warn-cry of
"Timber" the men would leap to the ground, out of
harms way. Sometimes the tree would catch on
another and roll sideways, and too bad for the poor
"jack" who couldn't get out of the way fast enough.
Oxen were used to do the skidding and hauling. In
about 1890 the horses replaced the oxen.
As more people were arriving from Milwaukee,
Rietbrock built camps to shelter them and give them
jobs in the woods. With thirty thousand acres he had
to keep logging or be crowded out of the business
market. As the timber was getting to be further away
from the mill Rietbrock hired "jobbers", and gave
them contracts to haul the distant timber to the saw-


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