University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Rivard, John T. / Triple centennial jubilee souvenir book : Somerset

Chapter V: period of growth, 1870-1900,   pp. 17-23

Page 17

While the farmers were growing wheat as the main source
of their revenue, the logging industry grew to great heights along
the Apple River. Harriman's Mill at Somerset was turning out
8oo,ooo feet of sawed lumber each year. Harriman also owned
the Apple River Boom Company. This outfit bought, sold and
drove logs down the river from its upper reaches to the mills on
the St. Croix. In 1874 the Stillwater Gazette reports that the
Stillwater boom handled 189,ooo,ooo feet of logs. Of this
amount 4,000,000 feet came from the Apple River. The
highest price paid for logs that year was $i3.75 per iooo
feet. Many men from Somerset worked in the woods and on
the boom. At one time there were 3000 men working on the
boom and drive at Stillwater.
Apple River Falls
Now the Water Has Been Cut to a Trickle
Despite these differences from groups in sections of the
Town, the township progressed surely but slowly in expanding
the facilities for all of its citizens. The network of roads reached
out to all corners of the town. School districts were formed and
school houses sprung up close to the homes of the citizens. All
of the political affairs were conducted by the Town Board until
.I 5, in which year the village of Somerset was incorporated and
Ifted a burden from the towns people.
The road on the West side of the river going up to the
church proved to be very long. A large hill had to be cut
through so that the road from the village bridge would go straight
p ast the church, the old road wound far to the west around the
hIl.  Narcisse Rivard contracted to cut through the first hill
for $95.00 in 1884. He lost money on it and his relatives
and neighbors had to help him finish it. The second hill was
cut several years later.
The Boom
Up to 1860 the cut of logs coming through the St. Croix boom,
averaged between 50,000,000 and 60,000,000 feet each year. A
few years later this wqs increased to 100,000,000 feet, then 180,-
000,000 and in 1880 to 200,000,000, steadily increasing up to
300,000,000 feet,twhich was the annual average in 1888.
In the early days there were frequent log jams on various streams,
occurring during the spring floods. The first notable jam, however,
was in the dalles at Taylors Falls in the spring of 1864 and con-
tained 30,000,000 feet of logs. Another, in 1886, at the same
place, contained an equal amount. In the spring of 1886, how-
ever, occurred the most stupendous jam ever known in the valley.
It was at the same old stand and was estimated to contain 150,000,-
000 feet of logs. This picture was taken at the St. Croix boom in
We read in a fascinating booklet "Captain Jolly on the
Picturesque St. Croix" published in 188o a description of the
life along the St. Croix River. William H. Dunne writes under
the name of Captain Jolly, a river boat captain. In his river
boat he arrives near Marine Mills: "Where you see those piles
driven in the river leaving a passage for us, the government has
been at work protecting the channel so that the logs will not be
in our way; yet they get through sometimes. You have noticed
the long line of logs that, fastened together and held in line by
piles from outside the boom, a harbor, into which the logs are
driven past the trip, where their marks are examined and where
they are separated into lots according to ownership (there being
many logging camps on the upper reaches of the St. Croix).
Then they are wedged and rigged with small lines into 'brills', or
they are 'rafted' -  as may be desired.  Many a "halfhitch"
is made with the lines in the boom on a busy day. The 'drivers'
and 'markers' are kept moving from log to log when they come
in. If the mark is concealed by the water, and it is on the un,
derside of the log, it is turned over with a 'pevey' and the owners
'catch-mark' is put on the side that floats uppermost.  Every
lumberman has his 'original mark' put on in the woods and his
'catchmark' is put on afterwards, if necessary.  His marks are
registered in the office of the Surveyor General."

Go up to Top of Page