History: Thorp, Clark Co., WI (1887)
History of Thorp
----Source: THORP COURIER (Thorp, Clark County, Wis.) 02/25/1887
Fifteen years ago the towns of Thorp and Withee, Clark County, Wis. were wooded wilderness inhabited by roving bands of Chippewa Indians and infested by wildcats, wolves, deer, bears and other wild animals upon which the Red Men preyed. The rich forests of oak and pine within their borders were then unknown to speculators and the resounding stroke of the woodsman's ax had not yet broken the primitive silence of the vast forests of stately pine except as one or two sturdy pioneers pursing their way farther into the woody wilds, began the erection of their log cabins, and commenced clearing a spot on which to raise a few of the necessaries of life.
Such was the condition of affairs when in the year 1870 James Seneca Boardman moved from Minnesota and located his family in a little log cabin in the present town of Withee, then known as the town of Hixon, on a forty acre tract afterwards known as "Bugger" Goodwin's. Mr. Boardman here began the first clearing within the borders of the present towns of Thorp and Withee, the nearest neighbor was ten miles distant living where Longwood is now located.
In the winter time, Mr. Boardman made shaved shingles, with which he loaded his sled or "jumper", as they are called, and took them to Black River Falls, a distance of over fifty miles, where he disposed of the shingles, loaded up his sled with goods bought with the proceeds of his sale and started on his return home. It took nine days to make this trip with a yoke of cattle.
The nearest post office was at Greenwood, which in those days consisted of but one or two buildings. During the year 1871 D. R. Goodwin and Geo. W. Richards moved into the present town of Withee, and Michael McCaffrey began the erection of the first farm house within the limits of the present town of Thorp.
Many were the hardships endured by the first inhabitants of these town, struggling to earn a living while endeavoring to hew out homes for their families in the midst of these mighty hardwood forests. Without roads or so much as an Indian trail for a guide, they blazed a road as near to the section lines as possible, over which on "jumpers" they moved their families and household goods; without lumber or nails they built log houses with "puncheon" floors and "scoop" roofs. Making shingles or working in some logging camp winters, and clearing their farms in summer, they toiled on, packing in on their backs their supplies, and getting their mail at Greenwood and Chippewa Falls.
In the winter time the howling wolves made strange music around their cabins, and roving bands of Indians kept their wives and children in continual fear.
In summer and fall of 1872 J. S. Boardman built a log shanty on the southwest quarter of section 30, Township 29, range 3 west, and in October of that year Ephraim A. Boardman moved into the same. J. S. Boardman lived with E. A. for three weeks while he and his brother Ephraim built a log house on the site of our present school-grounds, into which he then moved with his family. Here on their homesteads, these two brothers began to clear new farms. Both had tried farming on the Minnesota prairies and both had left the blizzard beaten plains, to find a more congenial clime, a fairer home, amidst Wisconsin's Northern woods. Whether they profited by the change we leave the sequel of our story to supply.
Previous to the events last narrated in May 1872, C. C. Clark homesteaded and moved his family onto the W 1/2 and SE 1/4, SE 1/4 and SE 1/4, SW 1/4 of Section 31, TP. 29, 3 west, being the fourth settler in the town of Withee (then Hixon), having been preceded as shown above by J. S. Boardman, D. R. Goodwin and Geo. W. Richards. In the summer of 1873 there were several new settlers came, including George and Nelson Courter, Wm. Buyatt, S. S. Warner, Zeph Worden and Wm. Jerard.
In the fall of 1873 Frank M. Fults was blown into the woods by a blizzard, from Rochester, Minn. and immediately homesteaded the northwest quarter of Section 30, Tp. 29, 3 west, and commenced a clearing preparatory to erecting a log house. We should have said that Mr. Fults began three clearings. It happened in this wise, as Frank informed us confidentially. He boarded with E. A. Boardman at the time and walked one-half mile to his work. After chopping one forenoon he shouldered his ax and went to dinner. Returning after dinner he searched in vain for his "chopping" but it failed to materialize, although he sought it carefully. Frank admits that he was just fresh from the prairies and not very well versed in woodcraft; but scout the idea that his half-day's attempt at clearing had not made a sufficiently large opening, but it might have been found. After this had been repeated a second time, Frank concluded, on the forenoon of the second day, that when he went to his dinner he would blaze a trail from his chopping to Mr. Boardman's house. Mr. Fults had really no objection to clearing up two or even three farms as a mere matter of exercise, but the idea of getting lost in going a half mile was becoming monotonous to him.
He says he afterwards found where two or three trees had been cut down, yet thought it couldn't possibly be one of his "lost clearings", as the trees looked more like cut down by a porcupine or beaver than with an ax, but he swears by an oath stronger than the kick of an army musket that his bachelor neighbor, Nels Courter, stole his first clearing to use for a pattern to start his own clearing by.
In the spring of 1873 Mabel Boardman, the first white child born within the borders of the present town of Thorp, was born to Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Boardman. In 1874 a log schoolhouse was built on the present site of John Maston's house and in it that year school was taught by Miss Almeda Edmunds, of Black River Falls, a sister of Mrs. C. C. Clark. The school ma'am boarded at J. S. Boardman's and during the winter of 1874 and '75, after every heavy fall of snow, the portly form of E. A. Boardman might have been seen, as with goad-stick in hand he drove his yoke of cattle to and fro between his brother's place and the schoolhouse, breaking a path for the school teacher. We give our readers this "pointer", to show that in his younger days Father Ephraim was not wanting in gallantry toward the fair sex and could punch oxen as well as he can now punch up the fire in his forge, or shoe a horse. (Supposedly this sketch was continued in the next week's paper)
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