Virgin forest stands are a rarity anywhere, indeed, in Pierce County, in this second decade of the 21st Century.
In the flurry of settlement, so much of the timber that once covered most of the eastern two-thirds of the county was the victim of slash and burn, done to clear the land for planting crops. Only later did the market for logs develop.
The large white pine existed in a few isolated spots until the big winds hit in the summers of 1980 and 1981. Down on Rush River, there was a 40-acre stand of huge white pine that had not had any kind of ax or saw touch their bark. But those high speed, straight line winds took care of that in one fell swoop.
Sawmills in the earliest times were either water powered, using dams on the more powerful streams, or else steam powered. Early steam engines could be set up and moved around. And they were numerous. For example, at one time, the Town of Martell had at least five saw mills--according to Gus Simonson's memoirs.
There was the first massive clearing of the virgin timber stand--as stated, located on the east side of Rush River. AKA--The Big Woods. Then came a second harvest post 1900 era. The big stands were gone. Secondary growth was then harvested. The preservation of the so called "virgin" timber stands is very limited today in Pierce County as far as acreage is concerned.
More careful harvesting has been practiced under the newer existing forest management program. The old programs were dropped by the State of Wisconsin or allowed to lapse.
Horses were used in the timber stands, or ox teams, but now big four wheel drive skidders plus vehicle operated saws. Technology has invaded the industry.
What is requisitioned of Pierce County residents is photographs. Both past and contemporary of sawmills.
Identify where they were and such.
In Douglas Blegen's book on Spring Valley, he dedicated a number of pages to the timber industry in that area.
More detailed information about the mills all over the county would be of a good deal of value to the Pierce County Historical Association (PCHA).
Please loan originals for scanning or donate the original scenes, or have copies made, of early saw mills. Send to the PCHA at P. O. Box 148, Ellsworth, WI 54011. Or bring to the office, lower level, Ellsworth Village Hall. Open Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 1 to 4 p.m. In case of bad roads and weather, please call before coming to the office, to see if a volunteer is present.