St Croix River Road Ramblings

Welcome to River Road Ramblings.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dan Beal -- A Full Life

Dan Beal, on the left, holds an award given him by the Polk Men's group--a group he founded when he retired to Polk County.  His friend, Dick Ugland made the award.  The group continues to meet after nearly 20 years.  

A friend of mine passed away this morning.  Daniel Beal, of Ward Lake, Luck Wisconsin.  

I first met Dan when I began attending the Indianhead Gem and Mineral Society shortly after I retired and came back to Wisconsin for the summers.   Dan and the club welcomed me with my interest in Lake Superior agates.  Dan was president and had been for many years.  

As Margo and I got to know Dan and Evie, we became friends.  Dan was active in many of the same things we volunteered for--the Luck Historical Society and Museum and had founded the local Polk Men's group that he invited me to join.  

Dan was outspoken, humorous, very active and into all sorts of volunteer efforts to improve the local area and the lives of people living in it.   He and Evie had Kinship kids; he was active in local government planning; he often spoke in local schools giving demonstrations involving his hobby as a rock hound and carver.  

Dan was many things in his life including a Marine, an perpetual student, a teacher, a school principal and administrator, a father and husband--doing all of his roles with excellence. 

Margo and I will miss Dan very much.  He was ready to move on, but his friends were not ready to let go of him--so it will be hard for us.  

Dan Beal at the rock club

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rambling into Autumn

This week has been busy as we harvest the garden.  A trailer load of squash; two trailer loads of large pumpkins, lots of apples; heavily loaded tame and wild grapes; carrots, and more.  

We sell pumpkins, squash, maple syrup and apples at the River Road Ramble on the Hanson Farm on Evergreen Av on Saturday the 28th.  In a good year we sell most of the produce.  What is left over we sell some and give some to the local food shelves. 

Today is apple picking day.  The apples are not loaded, so the size is pretty fair.  I sprayed them with Sevin 4 times this summer and that seems to have kept the worms all out.  The wet spring means that some varieties have apple scab, a cosmetic flaw that makes them hard to sell but does not damage the apple underneath.  I would have had to spray them early in the season with a fungicide--but I don't really like doing this as they are really quite potent neuro damaging sprays. 

Took a break and a stroll along Wolf Creek at brother Marv's. 

Wolf Creek meanders through brother Marv's woods--part of Grandpa's old farm. 

The next neighbor to the north -- the creek goes through some boggy wetlands and an open cow pasture in the distance and then in the far distance brother Ev's 60 acres.  Along the creek channel is a little wild rice -- hinting of a time when the Native Americans lived upstream on Roger lake, growing pumpkins, squash, making maple syrup and harvesting the rice.

Marv's house boasts a brand new roof --One that will "do him out!"

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

St Croix Logging History in Print

Helen McCann White interviewed several local folks back in 1955 the history of the St Croix River logging for the US Forest Service. They were tape recorded.

Two tapes have been transcribed and make interesting reading!

Eureka logger Wirt and

Hope Garlick

Rosemarie Vezina Braatz wrote the history of Nevers Dam
Nevers Dam

Spent a few hours at the Museum in Cushing planning on doing some cleaning to get ready for the open house this Saturday at the River Road Ramble.  However, a visitor doing research on the Spangler family (of Spangler's landing on the St Croix River) got me to visiting.  Luckily Margo was along and ran the vacuum cleaner!   She is on the noon-3pm shift Saturday to host the museum with her friend, Marlys.  Open 9-5. 

Another historical stop is the Eureka Townhall a few miles south of Cushing.  The Wolf Creek School (now the Methodist Church) is also open with food and a jumble sale.   

In St Croix Falls, the St Croix Scenic River hdqrts is a nice place to stop to learn about the St Croix River history.  They have a nice online book 
Saint Croix -- Historic River

Monday, September 23, 2013

2013 River Road Ramble

Saturday, September 2013--8th Annual River Road Hwy 87 Ramble.   St Croix Falls, WI and north!

Check out the details and stops on the 8th Annual River Road Hwy 87 Ramble.  Lots of stops, many new and lots of sales and historic sites. 

The link to the Sterling Eureka and Laketown Historical Site -- where you click on 2013 Ramble for map, detailed list. 

2013 River Road Ramble

Click the links to see the Ramble stops brochure

Stops on the Ramble  

Self Guided Historical River Road Ramble Tour booklet

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Sunday in September

Margo is in Pine Island finishing up a few post-cancer treatment checks last week, headed back up here Monday with Scott coming up Wednesday so we can get our pumpkins, squash, apples and syrup ready for the 8th Annual River Road Ramble.  

Last year we didn't really get into it with health problems keeping our gardening limited, apples unsprayed and maples untapped. This year is back to normal almost.

The Ramble looks to be a good mix of sales and stops -- more to the north end of the area than usual.  As soon as I get the map and itinerary, I will post it.  

Mom, certain I would be starving without Margo here, invited me down for Sunday brunch with brother Everett.  Brother Marvin, who turned 69 yesterday, had his wife home and so didn't need feeding by Mom. 

The new roof is done there and it didn't leak with the couple of rains last week.  However, the TV antenna on the roof was down and a temporary shorter one in use.  Mom missed some of her programs, and asked if we could put it back on the roof again.  

Living alone is not quite so lonesome if you invite Whoopi, Jenny, Ellen and Dr. Phil in during the day; catch up with the news with Scott Pelly and Frank and Amelia, and get a good range of TV preachers on Sunday.  

Ev and I decided to try the big antenna on the ground rather than on the roof--not wanting to poke holes in the new shingles and not wanting to tumble off during the process.  We drove a pipe into the rain softened ground near the house and set the antenna on a tall mast into the pipe and aimed it toward the Twin Cities and adjusted it.  Living on top of a big hill is helpful for TV reception.  We got all the channels you expect and a few more and they all came in fine! 

 We re-batteried the remote and re-educated Mom on its use (she had given up on it and was getting up to adjust everything at the TV).  "Just use these two buttons--On/Off and Channel Change--don't even touch the others.  We set the TV at max volume as she likes to watch without her hearing aids.  After a couple of tries she seemed to be OK with it and we carefully put away the other 5 remotes lying around the TV -- one from two TV sets before this one.  There sure should be a simpler version of these!

Decided to go for a woods walk after lunch at the cabin and took along some plastic bags to pick wild grapes. None last year, but a good crop this year.  I like wild grape jelly.  Got plenty to make two batches of jelly--now just have to pick them off the stems and save the good ones (a good evening TV watching job).  

Lots of large pumpkins this year

Once the deer start eating them you have to quickly get them picked or they will clean them up.  Already ate a whole one and started on this one last night.  Maybe pumpkin fed deer would have a good flavor!
The pumpkin/squash garden did pretty good even with some weeds
Wild grapes are pretty good this year.  Some actually are a little on the sweet side.  Normally wait until after frost, but they are already starting to raisinize. 

Mowed along the road fence--looking down the big hill to the west

A branch on a diamond bark willow tree--the kind that make good walking sticks. You peel the bark and clean out the indented diamonds for character.

Some wild small crab apples. Lots of wild apples in the woods from tiny thorn apples to larger ones from tame apple seeds.  Each apple from seed is different and I keep an eye out for a good wild apple that might be one I want to graft for an orchard tree.  

This frog was sure he was camouflaged and that I couldn't see him--but jumping around on top of a ridge seemed out of place for a frog. I suppose the recent rains got them on the move.  Not very many around anymore.  

Partridge berries are thick this fall--will be eaten up by winter. 

A wild apple:  small, green scabby, mottled, and susceptible to worms, but a surprisingly good tarty flavor.  Also stays on the tree so a couple of good points. 

Monday, September 16, 2013


On the low flat below the cabin there was a touch of frost this morning.  On the open porch above, it was 36 degrees.   Likely the frost hit most of the area west of us--the Sterling Sand Barrens, where the sand gives up it's overnight heat quickly and the area is 100 feet below Hwy 87--a natural frost bowl!

Saturday was a nice day until late afternoon for the 26th (?) annual Hanson family 22 rifle competition.  Vince and Bill were the winners of the 5-shot at a target get-together.  

Brother Byron started it to get the younger generation to learn about gun safety and target shooting, to pass on something that was an important part of our lives in previous generations, but rapidly disappearing in the future ones. 

Cousin Susan and husband Dan came to join us from Isabella, MN.  Susan's father, Selden Hanson, a retired colonel in the military, was an avid target shooter and enjoyed the competitions with us for many years.  He and Dad were the last of the "boys" from that generation. Both made 89 years old, and passed on a few years ago, leaving my brothers and cousins the old timers left to pass on the traditions and hunting stories of when grandpa was a kid and seeing a deer or a bear was so rare that everyone in the Barron neighborhood got excited when that happened (and picked up a gun and en mass trailed it season or not).  

Dad and Seldon and his generation came through the era where conservation of natural resources became popular.  Hawks, eagles, owls, foxes, etc., were to be shot on site as a danger to the free run chickens, ducks and turkeys in every farm yard.  Hunting deer was a trip to the north woods as none were left in the farming areas. 

Gradually, with education and possibly memories of more abundant wildlife when they were children, brought my Dad's generation into appreciation of wild life, and into tolerance of some crop and animal depredation to allow the return of birds and animals long gone.  

The farm crop programs from the government encouraged leaving some fence row cover;  returning some wetlands to ponds, and into more careful farming to prevent runoff and silting or fertilizing of streams and ponds. 

In 1970, Dad hired his nephew Harvey to bulldoze out a silted in swamp on the home 40.  It filled in with water and soon attracted several pairs of nesting ducks each summer as well as geese and muskrats.  He was quite proud of "Dub" lake (his nickname from his brother's and sisters was "Dub.")   It continues to be a very nice pond for all sorts of wildlife, even though it is mostly surrounded by corn fields.   On the fields near the cabin, two low areas were converted back into small ponds and also support a few ducks each year.  Most years when they were cropped, the rains and standing water drowned or stunted the crops anyway. 

While most of the Hanson's are still deer hunters, a few hunting game birds too, and many are fishermen,  the conservation ethic is quite strong.  My grandparents (Eugene and P. H) started to understand what over hunting and fishing did to lessen the enjoyment of living in the country; my Dad's generation were sold on it by the time they were my age; and I think the rest of us from then on are very much attune to the balance of nature and man.  It is fascinating to see the changes over our own family.  

Nowadays, almost all of the neighbors and relatives are interested in birds and many feed them in the winter to enjoy their company.  When I was a kid, only Uncle Maurice and Aunt Myrtle did this--in the time when bird watchers and feeders were ridiculed by the average person (remember Jane Hathaway -- the "funny" bird watcher on the Beverly Hillbillies?).  Things have changed for the better, I think.
I rushed to the window to catch a shot of a flock of turkeys walking right by the cabin last night--by the time I got there one was left.  It was a couple of mother's and 5 young ones--almost full grown.  Turkeys were non-existent in this area 50 years ago when I grew up. Now they add interest to our surroundings as well as serve as an excellent game bird for those who want to test their chewing skills on probably the toughest meat available.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sterling Fire Tower on the St Croix River

The Fire Tower  Russ Hanson
The goldenrod is yellow;   
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards; 
With fruit are bending down.
The gentian's bluest fringes; 
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed; 
It's hidden silk has spun. 
--From “September” by Helen Hunt Jackson.

    Every autumn in my memory Dad  recited the old poem he learned in grade school 80 years ago.  This same poem made Grandma Nettie sad.  “The golden rod turning yellow reminded me I soon would be back teaching school” she told us grandchildren recalling her school teaching days of the early 1900s.

       It was the end of September 1970.  I was working for the DNR Fire Control out of Grantsburg, towering at Sterling from March to October.  It had been a quiet summer in the fire tower; a dry year but no smokes except the local dumps.

     Fire tower jobs use your eyesight more than anything else.  I sat 100 feet above Fox Ridge just a few miles from the St Croix in West Sterling and scanned from the river to the hardwoods to the east for smoke.   Since no one in their right mind can sit all day and just look around at the same scenery no matter how beautiful, I asked Uncle Maurice what he did when he was in the tower in the 40s and 50s.

     “Whittling” he said showing me some intricately carved picture frames and a chain with a ball in a box at the end.  “I patched clothes, fixed things and even tried to write a poem or two” he added. “You just have to be very sure that you keep looking around carefully” 

      Whittling and poetry writing didn’t work for me.  So I brought a book to read—against the rules.  After each page I looked around carefully.  That kept me alert and as I read fast, kept me looking around most of the time.  I often stopped at the Sterling town hall and picked up 1800s record books to study.   I also watched the hawks or eagles swirl around the tower; studied the badger who lived below; used binoculars to follow deer crossing Maidment meadows to the north and watched the forest from the top down.

      The first week I climbed the ladder on the side nervously hanging on tightly to each step and gingerly transferring to the platform and final steps into the tower.  It soon became routine.  The rare visitors to my perch were too nervous to do more than say hi and go back down.

     When a storm rolled in, always from the west, we were required to stay in the tower until it rained hard enough to drown any lightning set fires in Sterling or Grantsburg.  Watching the storm approach with the lightning strikes coming nearer and the wind rocking the tower was exciting.  I wondered if lightning struck the tower while I was climbing down I would let go and drop to the ground.

     My reports of smokes would be “black smoke at 270 degrees estimated 7 miles away—probably the Wolf Creek Dump.”  Each tower had a circular stand in the center with the top having the 360 degrees of a circle marked on it – 0 degrees being north.  On a pin in the center was a rotating alidade – like an open gun site.  When you saw a smoke you aimed at it and read the degrees from north.  The tower in Grantsburg would then sight the smoke and with the two sightings the fire location could be pinpointed on a map at the Ranger station crossing strings.

     The tower was the third one to stand in SterlingForest fire prevention got organized in the late 1920s in our area. In 1932 a tower was built just north and west of the Sterling Townhall—look for the hill when you are on Evergreen Av before dropping down to cross the River Road.  This was replaced by one 85 feet tall at the current location in the late 1930s and in 1954 the 100 foot tower was built.

     The room at the top must have been about 5x5 feet with a 7 foot ceiling—a nice tiny room 100 feet up.  The top half of the 4 walls were windows that opened down to give you full air flow. It had a tiny wood stove and chimney for early spring or late fall.  It never seemed hot that high up with the windows open.  There was a stool and a telephone to talk to the ranger station at Grantsburg, but no electricity.   We had a tin can urinal to use and modestly dump out the window or could use the outhouse at the tower base.  Many times I was tempted beyond resistance to do fluid physics experiments with variable pressure water streams 100 feet in the air.

     Sometimes I drove my Honda 55 with the scrambler sprocket on it out to the tower from home.   It went about 20 miles per hour and had a tendency to overheat and melt a hole in the piston or otherwise break down, but was small, narrow and good for driving though the woods on explorations.  At that time there were only a handful of people living west of the River Road.  I asked Dad or Uncle Maurice or Lloyd about old places on the Barrens and then tried to find something left of the farm or home.   They had wintered on the St Croix trapping and hunting during the 1930s and knew it well.  The towering usually started at 10 am or noon when the dew had burned off, so mornings when we were caught up with haying at home were a chance to explore the old homesteads.

      One September morning cycling down an old road near the tower I saw a beautiful morning glory blue colored flower.  There was only one bloom close to the ground.  It was small with a fringe around the bloom.  I picked the only flower and put it in my pocket and on my way back home stopped at Uncle Maurice and Aunt Myrtle’s to ask them what kind of flower it was.

     Maurice and Myrtle were experts on local nature—to the degree that some of the rest of the family thought they were a little overboard in their enthusiasm for birds and flowers and prairie grasses.  They knew plants, flowers, trees, birds and wildlife better than anyone I knew.  They had lived on the edge of the Barrens for decades and both had worked for the DNR during the 40s and after and in many different roles including towering.  Some summers in the 40s they lived right at Sterling Tower at the small house provided by the DNR. 

     Uncle Maurice said it was a Fringed Gentian.  He told me it was rare on the Barrens and made me proud when he said it was quite a find and most people had never seen one all of their lives!  He then gently said “When Myrtle and I find a rare flower like this one we like to leave it so someone else might see it and so it will go to seed and create more flowers next year.”  At that moment I understood them a lot better and took their advice to heart.   I have used my camera to pick rare flowers ever since.  
Uncle Maurice and Aunt Myrtle both worked in fire towers in the 1940s--Myrtle at Grantsburg and Maurice in Sterling.  Maurice worked for the DNR many years.  

A recent tower person recorded a video at the tower.  It is heavy on his toys and the equipment, but you would like to kick him in the rear and say point your camera out the window and look around!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September changes

Hints of color show up across the lake on this slightly foggy morning shot.  The ash are turning yellow, and soft maples are beginning to show color.  
Nice time of the year--the mosquitoes, deer flies and ticks are mostly gone and the weather is still nice to have breakfast on the porch.  This morning a pair of swans floated by and the smallest hint of yellow has touched the ash trees.

Biscuits and gravy for breakfast (out of the cans) with coffee while we wait a little for the grass to dry off before dropping a few dead elms and cutting them up for firewood. Then have to get the 22 rifle out and practice up for the Hanson family 22 rifle competition Saturday.  My $14 single shot Western Field needs a new rubber band to hold the barrel tightly to the stock.  

Just as I am posting this the otters swam by the edge of the lake and by the time I had my camera ready all I got was the wake.   They are not very cooperative posing.

The sounds this morning are a cow bellowing far to the south trying to get her teenager calf to come back from a night out and a pack of hounds making a racket as they get their morning food--eager to be out on the trail of a bear, I suppose.  In the background are crickets, cicadas and probably tree frogs.  Very few birds singing this time of year.

The lake is quiet; the trumpeter swans seem to be resting their voices.  The otters have taken to cruising around the lake each morning and evening -- parents and two youngsters.  No swans stayed for the summer so no cygnets this year.  

The other day, Margo watched a parent bald eagle take her youngster around the lake and try out the favorite perches -- often on the top of dead trees.  The eaglet landed in big maple right next to the cabin, something the parent would never do.  The parent stopped in the big tree next to the lake and spent the next 10 minutes calling the youth away from the cabin--beware of those people it seemed to  be saying.   Of course, we don't deserve being warned against, but a skeptical view of the motives of humans is healthy. 

Started cutting up some dead elms last week on a cool day, and am headed to the woods for the next few weeks to get in the winter cabin firewood.  The elms get to be about 6-12 inches in diameter and then die from Dutch elm disease, drying out and then falling down.  They are doubly useful--fostering morel mushrooms around the base after they die, and providing pre-dried firewood in just the right size to save having to split it. God's gift to the improvident woodsman. 

Mom's new roof is being completed today by the Craig Carlson crew from Milltown.  Craig is the son of two of my local school friends and does a good job on roofs, even on a 100 year old house like the Hanson place.  Mom made sure the lightening rods were put up again, and we got the TV antenna working.  

After a week of no TV, Mom was in the dark as to whether we were in a war with Syria, what Dr Oz was saying and having a week of not hearing the local news, had left her door unlocked.  The local news reaches far and wide to scare everyone into thinking the world is a much more dangerous place than it is. She ordered one of those Life-Alert necklaces that you push for an emergency--TV ads are quite effective.   As she had no TV, she is working her way through the 100 Christmas cards she sends each year, each with a personal note inside.  TV and daily mail are her generation's facebook, internet and email.  

Certainteed shingles of the 1990s were a wonderful boom to the construction business, failing in about half of their expected lifetime. You can get $500 back on a $7000 roof replacement.  The lawyers get about 3 to 1 compared to the customers. 

Apples are ripening at Mom's.  Many were knocked to the ground after a storm 2 weeks ago.  An apple crisp and apple cake with Wolf River apples, an old huge cooking variety. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Wolf Creek Early History

This hand-colored photo of Eldie Lagoo on the Wolf Creek dam in the 1930s shows it still in good condition.  It was removed in the early 1940s, the mill having been gone since 1929.  It backed up water to a lovely mill pond and the local privately owned park known as "Fairy Glen."  

History of Wolf Creek and Nearby Areas 1855 to 1900

    One of the earliest settlements in the St Croix Valley was at the head of the rapids 8 miles upriver from St Croix Falls where Wolf Creek joins the St Croix River. The rapids hindered river transportation and made a natural boundary on the river.  The first settlement at the mouth of Wolf Creek as in the fall of 1831 when Joseph Renshaw Brown set up a trading post consisting of 6 small log buildings on the west side of the river.

It was a good place for trading, along the boundary of the Dakota and Ojibway lands.  However, for that reason, it was also a problem bringing the often warring tribes into contact.  In the spring of 1832, the local Indian Agent, Henry Schoolcraft, met Brown and his canoes headed south on the St Croix loaded with the winter trading, searched the canoes for contraband (liquor) and then proceeded north to Wolf Creek where he burned Brown’s cabins and revoked his trading permit (which had been issued by an underling while Schoolcraft was away from the office). 

As best we can tell, there was a trading post at Wolf Creek on and off for the next 15 years with what seems to be a permanent one starting in the later 1840s.  With the advent of logging after the 1837 Indian treaty opening up the area, loggers brought supplies up the St Croix to the falls, then hauled them up the roads on either side of the river to the logging camps further north, the 6 miles of rapids above the falls being an obstacle for boats.

 1855 marks the beginning of permanent settlement of the Wolf Creek and surrounding area by settlers from the East.   The Indians had given up the land in 1837 and although they didn’t all move out, no longer could prevent white settlers from moving in, cutting timber and living in the area.  Before this, the US government recognized the area as belonging to the Indians and prevented any settlement other than the temporary license to have trading posts in the area.

    Loggers had been cutting logs first illegally then legally in the area since 1837. There were many French loggers, traders, voyagers who moved through the area and had married Indian wives.  Their families were officially classified half breeds and were recognized to have special rights and payments when the Indian treaties were signed.  Although there were many French, British, Canadian and American men living or working in the area on logging crews or involved with the trading posts, there were not white women.  There was no stigma marrying with the Indian women and lots of advantages, as they were hard working, good humored, gracious and often very pretty.  The Indian families welcomed the alliances of their daughter with a trader.   Many of these women had been well educated in the missions to the Indians that had been active since the 1830s. 

The earliest settlers including people like Charles Nevers, William Holmes, Joseph R. Brown, Maurice Samuels married Chippewa and raised families who were respected.  After white women came from the east some of the later ones too often brought with them a dislike, fear and openly practiced discrimination against Indians that made being married to an Indian less desirable.  Most of the first of the white women settlers had great respect for and got along well with the Indians and valued each other as neighbors.

   Many of the Indian families and mixed bloods worked as farmers, loggers and in the mills and other businesses.  Most of the earliest white settlers can trace some of their family tree into the Chippewa villages of the area.  Many of the early settlers, loggers and traders were of Canadian, especially French Canadian background.  The French had already lived in Quebec and further west for several generations and were often mixed blood with the Indians too.  They valued people for who they were and what they could do rather than excluding them based on their ethnic background as many of the Yankee settlers from New England did.

  The land office had opened in Hudson, WI in the 1840s making it easier to purchase land in the area.  The first purchases were loggers buying white pine areas and water power sites to build sawmills. Running a logging camp required support.  Food for the crew was needed.  Hay was needed to feed the oxen.  Food for the crew was flour, salt pork or wild game, beans, flour, salt and grease.  Many logging crews had hunters to get the wild game. 
Logging photo from Noyes family likely from the Sterling Barrens.  In 1904-1910, the St John logging company did a second cutting logging of the Trade River Valley and rebuilt the logging dam at Worth to run logs down the St Croix.  George Holmes, an old man then, recalled the big white pines of the 1850s and contrasted them with the small "black jacks" and other regrowth pines.  The photo below is from Evelyn Taylor, one of the Mariette family who settled very early along the St Croix in west Sterling, loggers and farmers.  

Some food was shipped up the St Croix.  Steamboats came as far as St Croix Falls.  The six miles of rapids above the falls required hauling the equipment and food by oxen to the ferry at the head of the rapids near Wolf Creek.  Henry Bush had a stopping place at there and John Dobney ran a ferry across the river.  A good days trip was from Taylors Falls to the ferry  or possibly to make the crossing in the evening and stop at Wolf Creek.  With oxen the trip was slow.  No road came up the Wisconsin side of the St Croix initially, however Indian trails paralleled the river on both sides, and the area around Never’s Dam was a regular camping site, with a burial site on a high ridge overlooking the river a mile south.
Above the rapids the goods could be transferred to bateaus and poled and rowed up river to the logging camp when the water was high enough to get over the other rapids above.  It appears that most of the cargo came by oxen and continued that way with horses gradually replacing the oxen.  Wolf Creek was a stopping place for the loggers headed north to the white pines on Trade River, Wood River, the Yellow, Snake, Namekagon and others to the north.
In 1854 a logger named William Lowell from Washington County MN purchased land near Roger Lake in section 14.  He appears to have moved there and built a house.  In 1855 the township of Moscow (later to be called Stirling then Sterling) was organized at this house on the west side of the Lake.  To organize a township one would assume that there were at least several families living in the area. This was on the Indian trail and road that followed the creek up from Wolf Creek. 

The area around Roger lake continues to be large marshes suitable for oxen hay.  The valley may have had white pine that could be floated down the creek.  Vivian R. Hanson whose father Pearl bought this land in the 1940s said that at that time there were large white pines growing on the west bank of the lake and creek, an indicator that the valley may have been in white pine earlier.  This was confirmed by Emil Nelson who was familiar with the area in the early 1900s.  The Roger’s Hotel (stopping place) was built with huge wide white pine planks that were recycled by the Hanson’s into their own buildings.

In 1855 at least two settlers moved into the Wolf Creek area, the Thomas Cragin family and the James Densmore family.  Land could not be homesteaded until in the early 1860s, so people either bought land at the Hudson land office, rented from others, or squatted on land with the intention of buying it when they could afford it or make a trip to the land office.
Why would people move to this area to settle down?   There was water power with Wolf Creek running steadily all year round and possibly the remains of a logging dam in the area.  The land to the east of Wolf Creek where they settled was the edge of the Barrens.  The sandy flat plan along Wolf Creek was likely open from fires and easy to break and start raising wheat and potatoes.  There was a good market for the crops in the logging camps. A lot of traffic came through the area as it was on the River Road to the logging camps.  This was true both when the road came up the MN side and crossed at the head of the rapids, and also later when a Wisconsin road was built to connect to St Croix. 

A short distance to the east, just across the creek was the beginning of the hardwoods forest.  Plenty of good firewood was there, high quality lumber could be sawn from the maples, oaks, basswoods, elms, ash and other trees.  The great marshes just to the north along the creek provided pasture, and hay to sell.   Living on the edge of the barrens and forests likely provided wonderful hunting and of course fishing would have been good in the St Croix River. 

The negative was the sandy soil that was poorly suited for long term farming.  After several years of excellent wheat crops, the fertility was used up and crops grew only with ample animal manure.  Probably if they knew about the poor quality of the land, they knew that the better land to the east would be cleared and ready for farming by the time.

   In 1855 mail was delivered to the post office at Wolf Creek.  At the time it was called Eight Mile post office in reference to how far it was to deliver the mail from the falls.  It was then called Avondale, then Wolf Creek Crossing and finally setttled down to be Wolf Creek.  It may have been named after a real wolf or may have been connected with a family on the MN side named Wolf.  Possibly the Indians had called it that in their language and it was translated to English. 

It appears to be very rare in the area to have any of the places named for anything other than people.  The exceptions appear to be Trade river and some lakes named for animals or fish(Wolf, Bass, Deer, Trade River, Wood River, Sunrise).  The early name of Moscow is not clear either, however it is most likely based on the Ojibway name for the sand barrens – moscodenk – meaning prairie.  The first mail delivery in the Sterling area was actually from across the river at Sunrise, MN at the Moscotink post office.  Possibly Moscow comes from this name—probably the name for the whole prairie area.
The story is that James Cragin of Wolf Creek persuaded the change to Stirling after the place in Scottland where his family originated from.  His family came to North America in the 1600s, so remembering a place in Scotland would be unlikely!  A 1905 homesteader in Sterling was named Sterling Russell.  Stirling was changed to Sterling somewhere early in the town history.

   In 1856 after changing the name of the township from Moscow to Stirling, the town set up two school districts, #1(later called Wolf Creek), and #2(later called the Orr school).  District one covered the area near Wolf Creek and District # 2  the area near Roger lake and around.  Families tended to be large in those days so it may have only needed a few families to have a school.  Probably schools drew students for about a 3 mile radius—so one could walk to school in an hour or less.  Schools ran one or two terms, usually a fall and a spring term, with the coldest months off.  Children could be spared for school after the fall crop harvest and before the spring planting.  School may have run for Oct-Nov and March-April when walking to school would have been tolerable.
   District 1 started school in a fixed up log shanty just down the creek from the mill in 1856.  The people couldn’t afford a new school building and most of them were likely still building their own houses.  This information comes from Lucy Orr Johnson who in 1936 wrote a history of Sterling that was published in the Inter-County Leader.

  “Sterling was organized into two school districts, No. 1 at Wolf Creek and No. 2 (now known as the Orr school). District No 1, not being able to build a school house, fixed up an old log shanty for school purposes. this building was west of the mill on the creek, on a little flat. It was about 12x14 feet, rough logs inside as well as out, two small half windows with four panes of glasss in each. Along one side a long bench for the children and a table for the teachermade up the furnishings. Miss Fannie Trimmer was Wolf Creek's first school teacher.
The school was later built 1/2 mile north of the Cragin homestead; this time also on the banks of the little creek. If I would say it was located about 1/2 mile straight east of what is now the Ben Lewis [Louis] home, the present generation would have a fairly [unable to read next two lines]

A few years later, indeed quite a few, Dr. Deneen sold his mill property to a Mr. Swingler from Hudson. Swingler erected a long two story building in which he kept a store (across from the mill, on the same flat where the first little school had been). This building was used as a store by Swingler, later by Elias Hoover, and still later by families as a residence. Hoover at this time, with Dick Salley, had a store on the top of the hill where the present store at Wolf Creek is now operated by James Birmingham[this store was on the east side of the road and was where the Birmingham Store and Post Office was.]

  So if we understand Lucy Orr Johnson correctly:  To the west of the mill on the bank of the creek on a little flat area would mean down the hill slightly from the current school (church) nearer the creek.  Probably the long building foundation would still be there.  Possibly it was all the way down the hill to the bottom of the creek.   

The three Booth brothers came to the Wolf Creek area as homesteaders and farmers after serving in the Civil War