St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My First Newspaper Article 2003

Dear Editor of the Inter-County Leader,
Would you be willing to publish our happenings for our local history society? If so, these are for immediate publishing.

Thanks Russ Hanson

Sterling, Laketown and Eureka Historical Society

The Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical society (SELHS) has been meeting officially for nearly one year now after 2 years of meeting informally. We affiliated as a branch of the Polk County Historical Society last year. Meetings are held on the third Thursday evening of each month at 7:00 pm at the former Cushing School in Cushing. The meetings are normally working and sharing meetings with occasional guest speakers. Everyone is welcome to attend and to bring along information or historical objects for our show and tell period.

Last month we moved into one of the former Cushing elementary school classrooms as our new home. The school now serves as a town hall for Sterling and Laketown as well as a local community center. The townboard graciously allowed us use of a classroom as long as we behave. The room is in excellent condition as if it were waiting for a new class. The current class has many members that remember rural schools with Red Wing water bubblers, outdoor toilets, outdoor gyms,and outdoor lunchrooms. It was inevitable that the discussion turned to the then upcoming referendum on a new elementary school at St Croix Falls. I wonder if some of us who went to the old rural schools are right in thinking we were better off then our children and grandchildren are now?

During the past year two of our founding members, Alice Lagoo Swanson and Allen Swenson passed away. Their interest and help in getting our group going was inspirational and their knowledge of the local area from 80+ years of living here is irreplaceable. Both had granparents who homesteaded here in the 1800s. Allen was an avid photographer from the 1940s on and his collection of local pictures is excellent. We will miss both of them very much!

We have several project underway. Mark Johnson is collecting and organizing information on the drainage of the marshland area to the south of Cushing. People have brought pictures and donated records of the process. A huge steam dredge was brought in from Iowa to dig the ditches nearly 90 years ago. Until that time South Cushing was much like Venice, although the Scandinavians preferred row boats to Gondolas. If you have information or remembrances of this era please talk to Mark.

Another project is copying old records and pictures by scanning the originals into digital format on a computer. This makes very high quality copies quickly and inexpensively that can be shared by computer, cd-rom, on the internet or by printing. If you have local information please bring it along to a meeting. We have already copied much of the excellent collection of Cushing history collected by Pat Goetz, the Cushing postmaster.

We decided to participate in the 150th anniversary of the founding of Polk County by having a booth at the fairgrounds in August. The special item from SELHS will be a set of 300 numbered "beater Jars" from the Red Wing Pottery with a Polk County Map, 150th year text and the three townships distinctly outlined. The price will be $30.00 each with ordering of the jars when 150 are pre-sold. The count last week was in the 140+. We are expecting the rest to sell quickly at the celebration. If they don't we may re-organize so that we are under chapter 11 rules rather than Wisconsin State Historical Society rules.

The next big project will be preparing for the 150th anniversary of the founding of Sterling township in 1855 with a book on Sterling history and a series of 150th anniverary celebrations. If you have Sterling history information, pictures etc. please come to a meeting and share them. We would like stories, pictures, family histories, documents etc. This is your chance to become famous or maybe infamous if you are connected with Sterling.

Sterling started out encompassing everything in northern Polk County and all of Burnett county. Later as people settled in the Sterling suburbs, Burnett County and the many northern Polk County townships and cities formed from within our early boundaries. At one time the swamps that are now Luck, the pine woods and gravel piles that are now Frederic, the sand dunes that became Grantsburg were all listed in the Sterling tax roles.

The May 15th meeting will feature a slide presentation by Russ Hanson(1969 UWRF high degree of BS), a 6th generation pine logger, on how the logging era influenced our area from the 1830s to the present. Sterling, Eureka and Laketown had few white pines, but quickly became a support area for the logging camps further north. Wolf Creek will be used as an example. It evolved from a fur trading post, to stopping place for the loggers and supplies headed north, a boom town when Nevers Dam was built to almost disappearing after the logging era. It started as a small post trading and providing liquor to the natives and evolved into what it is today over 170 years. Not on the top, but climbing, as Polk County's slogan says.