THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
Tales from the old-timer
Issue Date: January 16, 2013
Peshtigo Mill Shuts Down - 1920
Peshtigo was a booming sawmill town for many years, but lumbering was in slow decline in the years leading up to 1920, when the Peshtigo Lumber Company mill shut down for good. My Grandma and her family had lived at Peshtigo Harbor, where the company had another steam sawmill and a thriving little village had grown up. From grandmas stories, it was all dancing and parties when she was in her teens. By 1918 the harbor mill shut down and the little village was dismantled, house by house. The families moved to the city and life went on until 1920, when the Peshtigo mill shut down. Its main buildings on West Front Street now house the Badger Paper Mill. The workers and their families sought work anywhere they could find it. There was no unemployment in those days.
By the time of the 1920 national census, the population of the little city had declined to 1,440 from an earlier high near 2,500.
My dad, by then married, found a job at the Kissel Motor Car Company in Hartford, WI, though he had worked as a Milwaukee Road Depot Agent in Channing, Mi. earlier. Peshtigo had an industrial revival, with the startup of Badger Paper and Thompson Boats.
We lived next door to a step uncle and aunt, Duff and Josephine LaValley, and Uncle Duff told me one time how he survived the shutdown. I wrote a little poem about his move to Kenosha, where he found work at a foundry. Here it is: