News: Hatfield - Dedication of Two Bridges (28 Feb 1974)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Teeples, Sivesind, Blomquist

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 2/28/1974

Hatfield Dedication of Two Bridges (28 February 1974)

Dedication of two new bridges and the presentation of a marker by the Wisconsin State Historical Society, designating the longest canal still in daily use in Wisconsin: is being planned for this Spring in Hatfield.

Slated for May 26, the afternoon ceremonies will center n the bridges that span the Black River and the canal, one of them which received national acclaim for design. Both bridges are now open to traffic with final completion expected by the Memorial holiday weekend.

Miss Violet Teeples, president of the Hatfield Chamber of Commerce, announced that the state director of historic sites and markers, Ray Sivesind, is preparing a marker relating that the Hatfield canal is now the longest canal still in use in the state.

The canal stretches from the Hatfield Dam on Lake Arbutus to an electric power plant, now operated by the Northern States Power Company.

The bridge dedications will also bring honor to the small resort community located between Neillsville and Black River Falls. The federal highway administration’s annual competition for environmentally compatible bridge designs was won the year by the Hatfield span.

Two years of construction from 1907 to 1908 were needed to engineer the canal, dam, and power house for the La Crosse Water Power Company.

The La Crosse utility, no longer in operation, contracted the J. G. White Company, then the largest contractor in the United States for the project. Cost of construction was put at 1.5 million dollars.

Electricity generated from the facility was used to power electric street cars in both La Crosse and Winona, Minnesota and was also furnished to surrounding communities in Jackson and Clark Counties. At the time of its construction, the power station and flowages were considered “one of the greatest enterprises ever undertaken in Wisconsin.” Some historians still hold that the Hatfield complex ranks as one of the, if not the greatest, engineering and construction projects in the upper mid-west.

Three steam shovels and over 700 men were employed to build the Canal with the shovels running on tracks that workers had place ahead of the giant steam contraptions.

The building of the dam created lake Arbutus which was full by March of 1908 after the Spring thaw. Water from the lake was used to flood the canal and operate the hydro-generators. The facility has been in continuous operation ever since, from ownership by the la Crosse utility through the Mississippi Valley Public Service Company, to the present owners, Northern States.

Present use of the plant in generating electricity is minimal and the facility is utilized only when extreme energy demands are present. The dam, canal, and power house are now used primarily for control of the lake depth. There has been limited contact between the present owners and various government offices for sale or gift of the lake and attached land to the people of the state. Long range and official plans have not been announced as yet on the future ownership of the tourist and summer home area.

Lake arbutus was officially dedicated in July of 1908 with over 1,000 people in attendance. Several names were suggested for the lake including lake Tom Tom Thunder, titled after and Indian Chief who live near the impounded waters; and Lake Winnebagoosa. The name of Lake Arbutus was finally selected due to the Trailing Arbutus seen around the lake and area.

The lake and its power generating facilities were also hosts for many distinguished visitors in its past 65 years, including, Lt. Ragner B. Blomquist, a civil engineer representing the King of Sweden and the municipality of Stockholm, who visited the area in September of 1908, to study the water power and the method used in constructing the dams and canals.

The area now is utilized for tourism in both winter and summer with boating, and fishing being the big drawing attractions. Although the canal cannot be traversed by powered boats, small craft and canoes are allowed to troll for the many varieties of fish in the canal and backwaters.

Hatfield also gained national attention several years back when community elders planted a sign welcoming visitors to area. The sign read: “Hatfield: Population - 3,000 summer - 30 winter”. Snowmobiling has changed that.

The May dedication is being planned by the following organizations: The Hatfield Chamber of Commerce, Hatfield Sportsmen’s Association, Indianhead Association, Black River Country Association, Black River Chamber of Commerce and the Jackson County Historical Society, The Neillsville Area Chamber of Commerce has also expressed interest in the dedication as has the Clark County Historical Society.

(That sign now reads Hatfield: Population - 5,000 summer - 50 winter,” Several years later. Dmk)



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