The City that Almost Was

By Jonathan Gneiser – Marshfield News Herald

Contributed by "Bud" Hardrath, Transcribed by Crystal Wendt.

With internet picture preparations by Pat Phillips.
In the 1989 movie “Field of Dreams,” a voice tells Kevin Costner. “If you build it, he will come.”

Although the famous baseball field nestled in a Dyersville, Iowa, cornfield bears some resemblance to the Atwood Athletic Park, the small community of Atwood never enticed many people to come.

“Atwood is the city that almost was,” said Calvin Schulz, who has lived in Atwood for nearly 50 years. “Why it never grew, I have no idea. Too close to the other towns, I guess.”

Old Wisconsin Central railroad documents show Atwood was plotted out to develop along the tracks southeast of the railroad crossing on County Highway N.
“They had streets named – but it never developed,” Schulz said as he pointed to streets labeled Main, Cedar and Oak, along with First and Second Avenues.
Present-day Atwood, which is eight miles west of Colby, consists of Schulz’s house, a tractor and farm machinery repair shop and a baseball field.
The federal government sold Atwood-area land in 1863 to D. J. Spaulding for logging. After removing the trees he wanted from the area, Spaulding sold the land to another logger, who cut down only pine trees.
Schulz said his research hasn’t turned up where Atwood’s name originates, although it may have been the name of a logging camp there. A 45-year-old woman who died in Neillsville in 1895 had the name Atwood, but Schulz isn’t sure if her family had ties to the lumber industry or the Atwood area.

(Click to enlarge)

Bartender Arthur Schuette serves farmers Fred Price and John Miller in the Atwood Tavern. Atwood resident Calvin Schultz believes the photo was taken in the early 1930s.

In 1884, Atwood land started to be sold for farming.

Central Wisconsin Ltd. Railroad gained the right to build tracks through the area in 1910, and it put them in 1911 to 1912. The main set of tracks had two Atwood sidings—one supplied a feed warehouse and the other was used for passing.
Atwood’s history includes two major train wrecks.
On a foggy night in 1962, a train broke down in Atwood, and a second train rear-ended it. Nobody was killed in the crash. Sections of the trains derailed and were sucked down into the mud along the tracks. It took 16 hours to get one of the heavy train engines back onto the tracks.
In 1964, a young man was killed when he drove into a train as he headed home from a dance at Colby Park. Because of heavy fog, the man didn’t see the train and drove his vehicle under a train car. One of the cars that contained chemicals was tipped upside down, but nothing spilled. The crashed derailed 26 train cars, which tore up the Atwood siding so badly that Wisconsin Central, abandoned it.
After the collision, train signal lights were installed on the crossing. Railroad crossing guard arms were installed on the site last year.
In 1914, Joseph Kraut built the Atwood Tavern. Later, he built a two-story building that housed a general store on the lower level and dance hall on the second floor. Ownership of the tavern changed many times until John Weis bought it in 1988 for his present-day repair shop.

Calvin and Arlene Schulz ran the Atwood General Store from 1954 to 1971. About 10 inches of snow fell in Atwood when this photo was taken on May 10, 1960. Arlene Schulz said a mile truck got stuck in from of the store that day.



In 1964 train wreck in Atwood killed one young man. Because of heavy fog, the man didn’t see the train and drove his vehicle into the moving trail of cars on his way home from a dance at Colby park.

In 1925, H. A. Jorneby wanted to buy the general store, but Kraut wouldn’t sell it. The day after he was turned down, Jorneby had the lumber he needed to build the Atwood General Store on a piece of land he bought across the street.
A Chevrolet dealership, garage and repair shop also was built in 1925. The garage was later remodeled into a tavern. Then the Green Grove Township used it for the town hall and garage. After the township built a new town hall in 1998, Weis bought the property and expanded his repair shop.
A livestock shipping yard was next to the railroad tracks in the 1930s and 1940s. Equity Livestock Shipping picked up cattle from Atwood location to truck the animals to Colby.
The store and dance hall built by Kraut eventually burned down. In 1940, the old feed warehouse building was moved to the site of the old dance hall to create the new Atwood Dance Hall.
The community probably reaches its peak in the 1930s and 1940s, said Schulz, although “money was pretty scarce.”
“By the size of the mortgages you know there was just no money in circulation,” Schulz said.
Schulz worked as a cheesemaker in New Fane before he bought the Atwood General Store in 1954. He was originally from Colby, and hi wife, Arlene, was from Unity, so they decided to move back to the area to sell clothing, hardware, feed and groceries. They closed the store in 1971, tore it down and added a room onto their present home.
The Atwood Athletic Park was built in 1975. Local ballplayers form leagues and use the field two nights a week while youth play one night each week. Two tournaments are held there in August each year.
Source: Marshfield News Herald - Legacies 2002 (Wednesday, 21 Aug. 2002; Page 7)


Historical Notes


September 3, 1931 -- Victor Maki broke his leg Wednesday when he was taking a bull to Atwood for shipping, when the bull took after him.  Source: Owen Enterprise.




Kris Leonhardt



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