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Town of Frankfort centennial
(1890-1990)

Settling the township: early life in the Town of Frankfort,   pp. 27-39


Page 27

Settling The Township
EARLY LIFE IN THE TOWN OF FRANKFORT
What did the early settlers live on when they walked into the
woods and the wilderness? It was mostly wild animal meat,
nuts, fruit and plants. Frankfort was settled several years later
than the surrounding townships.
The first settlers moved in the spring of the year and brought
along some garden seeds, potatoes, corn and squash. No doubt
these were planted in some open places and in between the
stumps the first years.
If they were fortunate, they probably brought along a cow,
and later on an ox or a horse which they purchased from a
relative or an earlier settler.
The first years were devoted to clearing some land to feed
themselves and their few animals. The men had to find work
during the fall and winter months in neighboring towns where
the sawmills were, or go off to some lumbering camp. Many of
the men left their wife and family home alone while working in
camp. The wild animals would roam the woods and come near
the homes. Some would crawl on the sides of the house and
frighten the women and children.
In the early years there were still Indians camping along the
river and many of them hunted in this area. Most of them were
friendly as related by older residents. Louise Gartman who was
a teacher in Frankfort in District I recalls Indians living in
tepees on the farm now owned by Peter De Young Section 17.
Nathaniel Wendtland told of a tribe of Indians traveling
through here to meet another tribe in the Mosinee area. On the
way back he recalls only about half of the tribe were left. This
story related by Carl Bielke Jr.
It seems ironic that human nature never changes. Centuries
ago they had wars, the Indians had theirs, and modern men still
have theirs. With modem sophisticated education and technol-
ogy we should have been able to live together by the 21 st century
instead of survival of the fittest.
The Marathon County Homemaker's Historical Landmark
book lists an Indian burial ground, location unknown.
Robert Ballerstein tells that he has found many Indian
stones on the farm his son purchased from William Stendel
Section 26 along Hamann Creek.
Wages earned in the early days did not amount to a great
deal. Some of the fellows in camp made as low as $8.00 per
month, and the work day was from daylight to dark regardless
of the weather. Some men talk about working all winter just to
earn one cow or one horse.
Some of the early settlers in Frankfort had to walk as far as
Stevens Point and Wausau to purchase their flour, clothes, and
bare necessities of life. No doubt this was a several day trip and
to get to Stevens Point they had to cross the Wisconsin Riverjust
south of Knowlton.
As more money was earned it was used to buy tools, and a fe
more animals. The first cows ran loose in the woods and eacl
had its own bell, so the owner could locate his cows.
The first job for each settler was to cut down the trees and
clear someland. Theyburned the trees and brush since the hare
wood logs were not saleable in the early years. It is hard for oui
younger generation to imagine how our forefathers would settle
in a solid forest, start cutting down the trees, clearing the land
blasting and pulling out the stumps. Then picking the stones
starting with one acre, then five, ten, forty, and more. Next the
put up the buildings, starting with a log house, which in somr
cases was also used as the stable until the barn was built.
For a young couple and their family this took courage
frugality and hard work to accomplish. Those who did not hav
the stamina to withstand the hardships moved out. Many of th
early settlers had large families with the idea that when the
grew up they would have extra help to develop their farm.
The Franklin School District had a number of large familie
in the teen years. Some of these were the Otto Mesalk fami]
with 19 children. August Grabowksi 14, Vincent Schillinger 10
Anton Schmirler 8, and John Hrobsky 8, and many others wit
less. With the lack of doctors available, many children died ii
infancy, which was true with the above families.
It was not unusual to have 60 or more children attending
one room rural school with one teacher.
The early settler had to be a good manager and needed th
help of the whole family in order to make any progress. Some (
the settlers came with more money than others which enable
them to get ahead faster.
After the year of 1910, progress in building and developint
the farms gained momentum. The total value of all persona
property and real estate in 1910 was $5,079.00. This was th
first time that the description of personal property and ree
estate was recorded in the township. By 1920 the value ha
risen to $829,898.00 and by 1930 it was $1,230,320.00. Todaq
the assessed value is $14,264,785.00.
Ever since the first cow was brought into the township th,
number has increased every year until in 1968 we had th
highest number of cows of any township in Marathon County
Some farmers were more progressive than others, depending oi
their financial status, family help, personal ambition and corn
petition on who would be the first and best. Itis hard to pin poin
who owned the first cow, horse, machine, or new building, sinec,
most of the older people are gone now. In the early years mos
farmers were diversified and raised horses, cows, sheep, swine
and poultry. The eggs produced were mostly traded for grocer,
ies. This practice was discontinued when farmers specialized ii
dairying.


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