The Farming Era in the Northwoods

  • Article

    In many parts of the country, clearing the land of forest was a necessary prerequisite for farming. Many people considered the logging of the northern Midwest to be the first step in the same pattern: Farming would follow the loggers and the country would continue to prosper.

    The Extension Service of the University of Wisconsin was an enthusiastic booster of the farming possibilities of the region. Land developers were equally eager to encourage new settlers to come to the area as farmers.

    The very thin layer of topsoil left after the cutover, as well as the poor sandy soil, coupled with a growing season which was too short for successful farming combined to make farming unprofitable.

    The farming era didn't last long. Farmers, mostly immigrants, headed into the area following the loggers, which for the Star Lake region meant that began arriving fairly early in the new century. It took very few years for their farms to fail. Not much evidence of farming in the Star Lake area remains: a few fields, and road names such as the Mykelby Farm Road.

    The idea didn't die easily, however. The "Backward Glances" column in the Vilas County News Review of September 17, 2008, contains "80 Years Ago [1928]... A survey conducted by a bank indicated that farming in the North Woods was becoming increasingly more profitable." (Tobacco companies were also telling us that smoking was sophisticated and healthy.)

    Charles P. Forbes
    September 24, 2008
  • Bibliography

    Comprehensive References

    Apps, Jerry, Old Farm, Madison, 2008. View Full Entry
    Bogue, Allan, Review: Gough, Farming the Cutover, Wisconsin Magazine of History Vol.82, #1, Autumn, 1998., Madison, 1998. View Full Entry
    Delwiche, E. J., First Aid to the Settler, Bulletin 200, October 1915, Madison, 1915. View Full Entry
    Dunn and Lewis, Eds., We Were Children Then, Volume II: Stories from the Yarns of Yesteryear Project, Madison, 1982. View Full Entry
    Gard, et al., We Were Children Then: Stories from the Yarns of Yesteryear Project, Madison, 1976. View Full Entry
    Goc, Michael, Wisconsin Dust Bowl, Wisconsin Magazine of History, Vol. 73, Spring, 1990., 1990. View Full Entry
    Gough, Robert, Farming the Cutover, Lawrence, 1997. View Full Entry
    Henry, W. A., Agricultural Advantages and Possibilities of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, 1903. View Full Entry
    Kane, Lucile, Settling the Wisconsin Cutovers, Wisconsin Magazine of History, Vol. 400, #2, Winter, 1956-57, pp. 91-98, Madison, 1956. View Full Entry
    Kanetzke, Howard, Ed., Dairying in Wisconsin, Badger History, XXIV, #3, Jan. 1971, Madison, 1971. View Full Entry
    Kanetzke, Howard, Ed., Wisconsin Agriculture, Badger History, 1966, Madison, 1966. View Full Entry
    Keeler and Bubanovich, Memories of Croation Settlers of Eagle River, Lac du Flambeau, 1984. View Full Entry
    McKerrow, Geo., Ed., Wisconsin Farmers' Institutes: A Handbook of Agriculture, Bulletin No. 20, 1906, Madison, 1906. View Full Entry
    McKerrow, George, Wisconsin Farmers' Institute: A Hand-Book of Agriculture, Bulletin No. 11, 1897, Madison, 1897. View Full Entry
    Pohlman, et al. (ed.), Wisconsin Land Legacy Report, Madison, 2006. View Full Entry

    Major References

    Four of the Northern Wisconsin [...], Minocqua Times, Sept. 11, 1895, reprinted from the Superior Inland Ocean (n.d.), Minocqua, 1895. View Full Entry
    Carstensen, Vernon, Farms or Forests, Madison, 1958. View Full Entry
    Clark, James, Cutover Problems, Chronicles of Wisconsin, Madison, 1956. View Full Entry
    Clark, James, Farming the Cutover, The Settlement of Northern Wisconsin, Chronicles of Wisconsin, Madison, 1956. View Full Entry
    Ellis, A. G., Upper Wisconsin Country, Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. 3, pp. 435-452., Madison, 1857. View Full Entry
    Gard, Robert and Maryo, My Land, My Home, My Wisconsin, Milwaukee, 1978. View Full Entry
    Helgeson, Arlan, Farms in the Cutover, Agricultural Settlement in Northern Wisconsin, Madison, 1962. View Full Entry
    Janik, Erika, Made to Order Farms, Wisconsin Magazine of History, Vol. 90, #4, Summer, 2007, pp. 40-49., Madison, 2007. View Full Entry
    Kates, James, Planning a Wilderness, Published in cooperation with the Center for American Places, Santa Fe, NM, and Harrisonburg, VA, Minneapolis, 2001. View Full Entry
    Koch, John, Touching Every Forty, John Bordner and the Wisconsin Land Economic Inventory, Wisconsin Magazine of History, Vol. 89, #4, Summer, 2006, pp. 14 ff., Madison, 2006. View Full Entry
    Marquart, LaVerne, Wisconsin's Agricultural Heritage: The Grange - 1871-1971, Lake Mills, Wisconsin, 1972. View Full Entry
    Miazga, Vicki, Potato & Dairy Farms Were Most Profitable, The First 100 Years, 1888-1988, Centennial Edition, p.135, Minocqua, 1988. View Full Entry
    Pope, et al., Beef, Sheep and Forage Production in Northern Wisconsin, Final Report of the Hayward Agricultural Research Station Project, 1985-1990 [3569], Madison, 1992. View Full Entry
    Schafer, Joseph, History of Agriculture in Wisconsin, Wisconsin Domesday Book, General Studies Vol. 1, Madison, 1922. View Full Entry
    Wausau Regional Writers, Wausau Regional Writers Anthology, Volume 1, Stevens Point, 1974. View Full Entry
    Wilson, Fred G., Zoning for Forestry and Recreation: Wisconsin's Pioneer Role, Wisconsin Magazine of History, 41:2, 1957-1958, Madison, 1957. View Full Entry

    Minor References

    [Future of Northern Wisconsin], Milwaukee Sentinel, December 30, 1900. Reprinted in Stevens: Yesterday's Future, Madison, 1999., M, 1999. View Full Entry
    Vilas County Fair, Manual and Rules for Exhibits & Entries, 4-H & Open Class Exhibits, August 12-15, 2010, Eagle River, 2010. View Full Entry
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  • Miscellany

    +++1930 Census

    Backward Glances in the //Vilas County News Review// on January 20, 2010, for 80 Years Ago (1930) says "Census numbers showed vilas County gained 34 farms the previous year [decade?], with Oneida County gaining 46 and Iron County gaining 26."