TILLEDA -- From Shawano County Centurawno
Like other parts of Wisconsin, the early history of the Town of Seneca,
which includes Tilleda, is connected with a river, the North Branch of
the Embarrass. The oldest cities, such as Green Bay, Prairie du Chien,
Appleton, Kaukauna, DePere, Chippewa Falls, Marinette, Shawano and New
London, were all early settlements on the main water routes.
At first Indians alone traveled these rivers, then came missionaries
and explorers over 300 years ago in 1630, then the fur traders. About 150
years ago, around 1800, the land speculators started coming in to buy up
the timber, build dams, sawmills, and float logs down those same rivers.
As the timber line was pushed back on each side of the big streams, the
timber dealers started up the branches of the rivers because it was easier
to take timber nearest the water.
Almost 100 years ago, in 1850, a logging camp was started near Embarrass
by the Matteson Brothers. (In those days the big land dealers bought property
in sections). From this time on, logging started up the Embarrass river
with a dam and mill at Pella which was built by Wm. Smith. Pella was first
called Smithvllle. Later the Grosskopf family took over. Friedrich Maas
(old Fritz) stopped at Smithville when he came to this country from Germany
about 1868 and stayed overnight with the Westphal family. Old Fritz was
the father of F. C. Maas, August G. Maas, Richard and Henry Maas, and Mrs.
Going up the river there were other famous placs in the early history,
like Ramensville, Nigger Falls, Leopolis Falls, where Captain N. H. Edwards
started a mill; Dead Bend, Rolling Dam, Pufahl's Falls, Cedar Shoot, Seneca
Falls, and finally the Tilleda Dam.
Actually the history of Tilleda starts with the history of the Town
of Seneca, because the first settlers came there before the river was used
for log driving as far up as Tilleda.
Some of the abstracts show land transfers as early as 1860, but these
are thought to have been land speclulators who never saw the land they
bought and sold. They usually dealt with sections or blocks of forties.
As far as it is known, old Fritz Maas was the first permanent settler.
August G. Maas states that he was four years old when his father came to
this country which would be about 1866 or 1868. Old Fritz walked up from
Pella and slept in a hollow basswood log the first night because he got
too far from Pella to get back the same night. The next day he started
building a brush lean-to, after he decided on his location.
The old Homestead Laws required a settler to register his claim at some
land office and live on the land for five years before he could get a title
or land grant from the U. S. Government. That is why in the minutes of
the first Town Board meeting, held April, 1871, the people called themselves
"free holders," for none of them had a title at that time.
Other settlers came soon after. Men like Wilhelm Nordwig, Carl Voelz
and August Maas who were the first elected supervisors; and Ferdinand Kroening
who was the first Path Master (road boss). Carl Steinberg was the first
Town Treasurer and August Zimdars the first assessor. Other settlers were
Henry Walters, Wilhelm Schenk, Julius Armstrong, Fred Nienke, William Gutt,
August Balke and Joseph Guttman.
The first town meeting was held in April 1871 at the home of Julius
Armstrong. Twelve votes were cast. It is amusing to note that twelve votes
were cast for each office and everybody got twelve votes, so they had no
trouble at all deciding who should be elected. At that meeting they decided
to raise $500 by taxes to build roads and bridges in the township. By June
they had laid out and approved a highway and by August had paid out $550
for road expenses. In September they organized a School District No. 1
and in November approved another $700 for additional road work.
The first school was probably built during the summer of 1871.
The election in 1872 showed some new names such as: August Kunsack,
William Kohlbuck, Frederick Schenk, Carl Schenk and Carl Balke. In 1873
the names of August Puphal, Gottfried Giessel, Hiram Locke, Anton Brunner,
Gottlieb Salzman, Fred Giessel, Ellis Deliglise, Michael Flager, Friedrick
Bratz, Charles Steinberg, A. Klixby and Herman Kleman, appeared on the
Jesse Armstrong owned all of the land around Tilleda, but the first
settler in what is now Tilleda was probably Bingham in 1870, who built
a cabin near the W. F. Voelz farm. The first real farmer was John Long,
who homesteaded the Voelz place. The Town Board minutes refer to a road
built to the John Long place running from Henry Watters west across a creek.
It was called the John Long road.
It was not until 1884 that Tilleda began to take shape. In that year
John Sieber, assisted by William Dumke, Sr., built the first sawmill. Log
driving was the main business at that time. Later, F. H. Dumke from the
Town of Grant, went into partnership with John Sieber. Then George Sieber
came up from Leopolis to be Tilleda's first blacksmith. Then, Anton Kronser
started a tavern with an outdoor dance platform. William F. Dumke started
a store because the logging was in "full bloom" and there was a great need
for such an enterprise. Later Mr. Dumke built a hardware store across the
road, and in 1894 he was appointed postmaster at Tilleda.
The first big log drive look place about 1888, and the first log buyer
was Charles Worden, then Lee St. Clair, then the Hatton Lumber Company,
and then Grosskopfs. The last big drive took place about 1914, two years
after the big flood that washed out the mill, dams and bridges, not only
in Tilleda, but all the way down the North Branch in Leopolis, Pella, and
The drives were usually handled by about 35 men and these men were called
river hogs. Dexter was one of the early foremen and later Joe Boehm. Logs
were often driven all the way down to New London. Joe Boehm recalls the
incident when one of the river hogs was drowned at Seneca Falls and he
was buried right next to the river.
Information furnished by:
Willard Trinko, Chairman,
Town of Seneca.