TOWN OF TILLEDA -- From Shawano County Centurawno  1853-1953:

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. Schumacher.

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 records.

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 Embarrass.

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.