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