A Northwoods Moment in History

Wisconsin Historical Society

In the nineteenth century, people believed Wisconsin’s forests to be inexhaustible.  Lumber production proceeded at an unsustainable pace, but few cared as it was assumed that farming would naturally follow.  Successful farming never came on a large scale, and the damaged land needed repairing.  This is where the Trout Lake Nursery comes in.  

Wisconsin Historical Society

The Indian Termination Act of the 1950s was a misguided attempt to alleviate economic hardship on Reservations by terminating tribal sovereignty and relocating Native peoples to urban areas where they could find work and be assimilated.  The act had a significant impact on Wisconsin’s Menominee Tribe.  It also led to the founding of the American Indian Movement.  

Story of the Snowmobile

Feb 10, 2021
Wisconsin Historical Society

The town of Sayner promotes itself as the “birthplace of the snowmobile” and the community has a legitimate claim to that title.  However, as with so many historical topics, the story is a bit more complicated than that.  

Carl Eliason’s hand-built 1924 motor toboggan is on display in Sayner’s Snowmobile Museum, and Eliason’s design was the prototype for the modern snowmobile.  While Eliason’s model became the most successful, it was not the first, and Northwoods residents experimented with all sorts of snow machines before settling on Eliason’s toboggan.

Wisconsin Historical Society

The early history of Phillips in Price County is primarily one of the railroads and logging industries.   Like other Northwoods communities, Phillips had a healthy economy based in logging, and that industry helped contribute to a catastrophic event in its early history.  

The town of Phillips is in the center of Price County and serves as the county seat of government.  It was a logging town but originally came into existence because of the railroad.

Wisconsin Historical Society

The Northwoods economy was focused on the logging industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  However, mining was just as important to the economic growth of the region, and in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula mining for copper and iron brought economic prosperity to many communities.  It also brought hardship and tragedy.  

Wisconsin Historical Society

Cornelius Harrington, a native of Hurley, grew up in the Northwoods and maintained a lifelong dedication to the land he loved.  Before his career could take off, his forestry skills made him invaluable to the U.S. Army in World War I.  Before getting there, however, Harrington survived a harrowing shipwreck.  

Gary Entz

Today no one really thinks about air mail as anything particularly unique.  In the past, however, the railroads transported most interstate mail in the U.S.  To receive a letter with a special air mail envelope and stamp meant that it was either important enough for the sender to pay extra for the postage, or that it came from overseas.  

Wisconsin Historical Society

In the nineteenth century, government rarely got involved in issues of health care. In the absence of government aid, the Catholic Church often stepped in to fill the gap.  There were many people involved in bringing quality hospital care to the Northwoods, but for Rhinelander the life of one individual member of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother serves to tell the story.  

Wisconsin Historical Society

In the past, many Northwoods communities held annual winter carnivals featuring competitions in ski jumping, cross-country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, curling, snowshoe racing, and sled dog racing.  Rhinelander was no exception and embraced what is today called “silent sports.”  But in 1950, one young girl stole the show.  

Wisconsin Historical Society

Christmas is a time when children and grandchildren return home to visit with elderly parents and celebrate the season.  Traveling by airline or automobile over the holidays can be stressful, but modern highways and airline schedules make it relatively easy to accomplish.  Stress has always been a part of holiday travel, but imagine a time when the pace was slower, and the journey was part of the celebration.  

Wisconsin Historical Society

Few corporate brands are as recognizable as Coca-Cola.  The soda has been around for over 130 years, and for much of that time it was bottled right here in the Northwoods. 

Wisconsin Historical Society

Wisconsin’s wolf population has been in the news for the past few months. With efforts to remove wolves from the endangered species list and calls to reinstitute an organized wolf hunt, it seems timely to revisit what originally happened to Wisconsin’s native wolf population. 


Wisconsin Historical Society

Teenagers playing pranks on the community is an issue that is as old as civilization itself. Every generation has had to deal with it in one way or another. But a prank is little more than a practical joke or a mischievous act. At what point does an innocent prank cross the line to become juvenile delinquency? An incident from Oneida County’s early history shows how easily the line can be crossed. Historian Gary Entz has the story.


wisconsin historical society

Thanksgiving traditionally is a time when people celebrate the harvest and other blessings of the year gone by. It is a time when extended families gather with one another to give thanks for good health and, in some cases, to watch football. The Thanksgiving season of 1933, however, had an element of good cheer that had a lot of people in the Northwoods in a celebratory mood. Historian Gary Entz has the story.


wisconsin historical society

Many people in small towns take parking for granted. Except for the height of tourist season, finding a parking spot in most Northwoods towns is not a problem. But it was not so long ago that parking in small town business districts was regulated by parking meters. Historian Gary Entz has the story.

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