A Look At 125 Years of Hatfield’s History

By Toddy Porath, transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.



Some research has been done and the following information will be of very special interest to many folks.


The “125 YEARS AGO” item appeared in the Banner State Journal of February 7, 1879, and read “The name of the post office on the Green Bay and Milwaukee Railroads, twelve miles north of this village has been changed from Frankville to Hatfield and C. A. Ecker has been appointed postmaster.”


That discovery led to looking at the book, Historic Hatfield, which Bob Teeples, a native of Hatfield, compiled.  On page 91 is information about Hatfield’s celebrating its centennial as Hatfield in 1975.  That led to more research and here is a summary of the findings. 




The Arrow Shopper of May 23, 1978 had this: 


There are two versions on how Hatfield was named.  One story states that a man found a hat in a field near the present site and he named the locality Hatfield.  The other version is that the Green Bay Railroad Company named the station in honor of E. F. Hatfield, Jr., president of the company from 1878 to 1882 and the town also adopted the name.  Prior to 1879 the village was called Frankville.”


There is a huge file in the History Room at the Black River Falls Public Library entitled “Hatfield” and, with the cooperation of the historian Mary Woods, here is material from an article printed in the Melrose Chronicle of April 10, 1979:


“The name of Hatfield was first used here in July, 1876 when the Green Bay and Minnesota Railroad changed the depot name from the Black River Station to honor a railroad official, E. F. Hatfield, Jr., then living in New York.  Hatfield later became railroad president in 1878 and served until 1882.”


During the early 1840s, the area was known as Mormon Riffles.  Mormons were logging the white pine for their temple at Nauvoo, Illinois.  In 1858 a post office was established and the community was known as Franksville.


David M. Kelly an official of the railroad platted the town in 1879 and renamed the community Hatfield.  In January of 1879, the federal government changed the name of the post office.”


Also found in the “Hatfield file” was a copy of a feature story written by Chuck Rupnow and printed in the June 7, 1992 Eau Claire Leader.  It stated: 


“The community was first called Franksville in honor of Franklin Bruce, a popular logger in the 1840s.  It is believed the nearby Bruce Mound recreational area is also named after him.


The first post office in Franksville was established in 1858 with George Arnold serving as postmaster.  The name was changed to Hatfield in 1879.  The post office was discontinued in 1891 and mail was sent to Merrillan.  The post office was reopened for summer months in 1912 because of large amounts of mail to the local power company, but the post office was permanently closed February 28, 1914.


The area was called Black River Station by railroad personnel.  Railroad official David M Kelly platted Franksville in 1889 and renamed it Hatfield in honor of E. F. Hatfield, Jr. the railroad president.”


The Rupnow article also stated this:  “Joe Hanus, considered ‘the father of Hatfield’ in some historic records, built a store in 1910 and became famous for the Arbutus Pavilion in 1921, a roller-skating rink with the floor uniquely set on steel springs.”




But the community also once boasted a cigar factory, a pickle station, an ice house and well known combination tavern and restaurant called the “Stone Garage.”


It is noted some of the accounts use the word “Frankville” and others “Franksville.”


Jean Anderson, did a large feature article for the April 19, 1995 Banner Journal and the following is from that:


“Except for the logging, there is not a record of what the people of Hatfield subsisted on, or even how large the village became.  It is possible that it was platted but not developed at that time.  According to the Jackson County Plat of 1879, nearly all the land surrounding the platted village of Hatfield was owned by The Chicago, St. Paul and Minneapolis Railroad, with just a few sections of land owned by Leanader Merrill and David Kelly.


Perhaps Hatfield was only a point for the railroad to drop off freight for Neillsville area merchants and hauling logging supplies.


Eventually, the post office was moved to the railroad station and the post office name was changed from Frankville to Hatfield.  The depot agent became the postmaster in addition to his other duties.


Jean Anderson’s article also contained the following:


“Hatfield history falls into about four major categories—logging, Bohemians, construction of the hydro-electric dam and then a resort town.




Little is known about the pre-white men days, but the number of artifacts found here by the late Violet Teeples, owner of the Thunderbird Museum, tells us it was traversed by the Indians and pre-historic man.


George Arnold kept a hotel and post office at his mill at the mouth of Arnold’s Creek.  His post office was established January 21, 1858, and was named Franksville.  January 7, 1879, the name was changed to Hatfield. 


When the Green Bay and Western Railroad was built from Green Bay to Winona, a depot was constructed just west of the river and named Black River Station.  Although there is very little information on it, a village sprung up here and David M Kelly, a railroad official had a town platted and named Hatfield after a railroad official and later president of the railroad, E. F. Hatfield, Jr.  There was evidently enough business there to warrant a depot for many years.” 


When contacted about this article, Jean Anderson said she received her information from the railroad company and the United States Post Office.


The “Hatfield file” in the History Room also contains a letter dated April 4, 1975, and it was from the Hatfield Chamber of Commerce and signed by Douglas Dvorak, chairman of the Centennial Parade Committee.  The letter stated that the big parade was to be Sunday, July 27, 1975.


Source: Banner Journal (Black River Falls, Jackson Co WI) January 14, 2004



Clark County Press, Neillsville, Clark Co. WI

September 29, 2010, Page 5



Hatfield Dam did its Job



A closer look at the Spillway in Hatfield showing flood waters from record rainfalls Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010.

(Contributed photo)