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THE STRATFORD JOURNAL, THURSDAY, JUNE 14, 1945
EARLY DAYS HERE AS RECALLED BY FRANK HUGHES
With the death of one of Marathon Countys oldest settlers, Mr. Frank
Hughes, we believe that it is fitting to reprint a story about him, which
appeared in the Wausau Record-Herald for April 4, 1935, ten years and a few
months ago. The story follows:
The Big Eau Pleine river basin was at one time a great deer area. Indians
came down the Wisconsin in canoes from as far north as Lac du Flambeau and
then entered the Big Eau Pleine river to reach this territory. Mr. Hughes
came to what is now the town of Cleveland 83 years ago with his parents,
the late Mr. and Mrs. Garret Hughes. They were the first settler in what
is now the town of Cleveland. They lived in Port Washington when Mr.
Hughes was born in 1849. His father had served five years as a soldier in
the British army in New Brunswick, and after locating in the state of
Maine, he served five years in the American army. From there he came to
Port Washington. When Frank was seven his parents moved to a farm near
Port Washington, and when he was 12, the family traded their smaller farm
near Port Washington for a 160-acre farm in what is now the town of
Cleveland. The trip from Port Washington was made by ox team. A wagon
trail led west of Mosinee to Halder, where there was an Irish settlement.
There was no road between this Irish settlement and Marathon, and the trip
had to be made via Mosinee. The Hughes arrival here was during the first
year of the Civil war, and years before the Central Wisconsin railroad was
built into western Marathon county.
Their nearest neighbor, was Timothy Kennedy, who lived ten miles east.
Later that year, the parents of Edward Hayes located in the town of
Cleveland. The timber in that section was mostly hardwood, for which there
was no market in that early day. Consequently the early settlers found it
necessary to burn the logs, a laborious task. Garrett Hughes brushed out a
trail to his 160-acre tract from near the Kennedy homestead. He cleared
the land as rapidly as possible and started to grow some wheat to feed his
household, which included eleven children. There was no logging in that
section during the first years of their residence there, but soon
afterwards the John Weeks Lumber company of Stevens Point started logging
operations there and had camps along the Big Eau Pleine. This gave the
Hughes family and the other settlers who followed them into that section an
opportunity to sell hay, straw and beef for which there was a big demand.
Hay consisted of a mixture of timothy and red top and never brought a very
high price, but without this demand from the early logging companies, life
would have been very difficult for those early settlers as the trail to
Mosinee was a long one to travel, and years of cooperative effort were
necessary to improve it for marketing traffic.
Mr. Hughes stayed on the farm until he was sixteen years old, when he
started to work on the river. Once, he made a trip on a raft to Alton,
Ill., and the rest of the time, until he was past the age of fifty-three
years, he drove logs on the Big Eau Pleine and the Wisconsin rivers. The
trip to Alton was made when he was twenty-five. He became frightened at
Biron dam, near what is now Wisconsin Rapids, when he suddenly lost sight
of his bow man. He was unaware of the presence of the dam, and the bow end
of the raft had dropped ten to twelve feet along the timbers at the foot of
the dam which served as fingers to carry the rafts over the sudden drop.
When he saw the bow progress beyond the drop of the dam, he regained
confidence and passed over the same timbers on his part of the raft without
At Kilbourn, he experienced another scare. The pilot had allowed the raft
to strike a stone pier or wing dam which led into the water from the shore
to throw the current away from an eddy. The raft was thrown far out of
alignment, because of this, and efforts to straighten it with a windlass
failed. Steering the balance of the trip was consequently rendered very
Log driving also had its perils. Life was endangered every five minutes,
but Mr. Hughes recalls that only once did a river companion drown. This
was on the Big Eau Pleine while they were employed by the John Weeks Lumber
company. Peeled hemlock was easy to drive, whereas green logs with the
bark intact were the hardest because they would jam easier and the logways
were more difficult to release. On the Big Eau Pleine, Mr. Hughes also
drove logs for Riley and Bosworth, and on the Wisconsin river above Wausau,
he drove logs once for Julian Biron, once for Coon and Curran and once for
Captain John Leahy.
Some of the old river men he recalled working with are Patrick Gorman, John
Kennedy, who had a farm near Trappe, Jack Carr who had a farm near Marathon
and Frank Ryan. Mr. Hughes had purchased an 80-acre tract of land near his
fathers home and had farmed part of the time during his log-driving
career. When log driving passed out of the picture, he returned to farming
and he also engaged in jobbing for some of the logging companies. He
however, found it difficult to make much money at either occupation.
Frank Hughes, 96, of the town of Cleveland, a retired farmer, died Monday
afternoon at a Wausau hospital. Funeral services have been set for Friday
morning at 9 oclock at St. Patricks Catholic church in Halder.
Internment will be in the church cemetery.
The deceased was born September 5, 1849 in New York state and came to
Marathon county many years ago. His wife preceded him in death. For the
past fifteen years he has made his home with a niece, Miss Margaret Hughes,
until last winter when he spent some time with a daughter at Fond du Lac.
Surviving are three sons, Thomas of the town of Cleveland, Allen of Wausau
and Benjamin of Fond du Lac; four daughters, Mrs. Joseph Karlen of
Marathon, Mrs. Joseph Kurtzweil of the town of Emmet, and Mrs. John Cotter
of Fond du Lac; 30 grandchildren and 37 great grandchildren.