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Flash From The Past - 1966
Oconto County Times Herald
Thursday, July 21, 1966
Attic Treasures - Richard La Brosse

Gillett--The little red depots, like the little red schoolhouses before them, are passing one by one from the American scene.  The old landmark at the north end of Lake Street in Gillett, that has been there longer than anyone here can remember, is being dismantled to make room for bulk storage tanks.  One old timer estimates the building to be nearly 100 years old.  He remembers it as a small building, built up off the ground, with a flight of stairs leading to the single waiting room and office.  

He came here on the train from Oconto in 1886.  The railroad at that time extended from Oconto to Underhill.  As soon as a bridge was built across the river in Underhill, the line was extended to Clintonville.  When a railroad line was built north from Green Bay, Gillett became an important junction.  The depot was lowered to the ground and an addition was built.  The original portion of the building now being razed predates Gillett as an organized community.  The village was platted om 1884 and incorporated in 1900.  A letter found in the old building is dated June 12, 1882, and is evidently a copy of a letter written by the first depot agent assigned to the Gillett station, sent to a superior, asking for a quotation on rates for the shipment of hemlock bark to Milwaukee.  The letter is signed A.B. Carson. 

Other correspondence dated 1884 and 1886 identifies Mr. Carson as the Station Agent at Gillett.  The next agent was Bob Miniely, son-in-law of Rodney Gillett, pioneer for whom the community was named, and he was followed by Ernest Barkman, son-in-law of the pioneer Heimke family.  In 1904-05 the railroad line from the timber country north of here to Pulaski and Green Bay was built. 

At one time there were five log runs through here every week day in addition to several freight and passenger trains.  In the spring the lumberjacks came down from the camps to the north, dirty, unshaven, sometimes in the same clothing they had worn every day all winter, their "turkeys" stung over their shoulders and their pockets filled with their winter's pay.  Gillett was the first stopping place. 

They had a powerful thirst and an appetite for pleasure, and wasted no time in seeking their fun.  They played as hard as they had worked all winter.  Many of them stayed right here until they had spent the last of their savings, then tied their "turkeys" on once more, and trudged north on the trails for another long winter in the woods.  During the years when Gillet was an important railroad center, many railroad families lived in the area.  All of them left a mark on the community, although most of them have moved away. 

A house that was built, a business that was started, girls that were married to railroad men, or young people who chose professions different from those of their fathers and stayed in Gillett to become important and integral parts of it, are all heritages of the railroad years.  Names that come to mind are Gust Cook, Tom Skelly, Otto Frankow, Bob Schmidt, Jack Saubert, Eddie Saubert, Leo Sobush, Charlie Thompson, Jim Foral, and Pete Schroeder.  

The railroad line between Oconto and Clintonville was discontinued several years ago, and the tracks have been removed.  Log runs still pass through Gillett from the north carrying pulp wood to the paper mills south of here, but now they come only now and then.  The railroad company recently rented rooms in the Community Building to use as an office, and the old depot was sold to Ansorge Distributing Company.  Ben Eschner was hired to dismantle the old structure, and is being assisted by Levi Wussow, Ed Larsen, Ed Winkler and Tom Thomson.  Razing started on Friday, July 15.  The square nails that were used in construction are an oddity.  One workman found a dime dated 1876, and the Gillett Station Agend, Dale Holzem of Green Bay, has six old Indian Head pennies and a Postage stamp dated 1900 found in the building.