History Article regarding Pioneer, Frank Hughes of Marathon County

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With the death of one of Marathon County’s oldest settlers, Mr. Frank

Hughes, we believe that it is fitting to reprint a story about him, which

appeared in the Wausau Record-Herald for April 4, 1935, ten years and a few

months ago. The story follows:

The Big Eau Pleine river basin was at one time a great deer area. Indians

came down the Wisconsin in canoes from as far north as Lac du Flambeau and

then entered the Big Eau Pleine river to reach this territory. Mr. Hughes

came to what is now the town of Cleveland 83 years ago with his parents,

the late Mr. and Mrs. Garret Hughes. They were the first settler in what

is now the town of Cleveland. They lived in Port Washington when Mr.

Hughes was born in 1849. His father had served five years as a soldier in

the British army in New Brunswick, and after locating in the state of

Maine, he served five years in the American army. From there he came to

Port Washington. When Frank was seven his parents moved to a farm near

Port Washington, and when he was 12, the family traded their smaller farm

near Port Washington for a 160-acre farm in what is now the town of

Cleveland. The trip from Port Washington was made by ox team. A wagon

trail led west of Mosinee to Halder, where there was an Irish settlement.

There was no road between this Irish settlement and Marathon, and the trip

had to be made via Mosinee. The Hughes arrival here was during the first

year of the Civil war, and years before the Central Wisconsin railroad was

built into western Marathon county.


Their nearest neighbor, was Timothy Kennedy, who lived ten miles east.

Later that year, the parents of Edward Hayes located in the town of

Cleveland. The timber in that section was mostly hardwood, for which there

was no market in that early day. Consequently the early settlers found it

necessary to burn the logs, a laborious task. Garrett Hughes brushed out a

trail to his 160-acre tract from near the Kennedy homestead. He cleared

the land as rapidly as possible and started to grow some wheat to feed his

household, which included eleven children. There was no logging in that

section during the first years of their residence there, but soon

afterwards the John Weeks Lumber company of Stevens Point started logging

operations there and had camps along the Big Eau Pleine. This gave the

Hughes family and the other settlers who followed them into that section an

opportunity to sell hay, straw and beef for which there was a big demand.

Hay consisted of a mixture of timothy and red top and never brought a very

high price, but without this demand from the early logging companies, life

would have been very difficult for those early settlers as the trail to

Mosinee was a long one to travel, and years of cooperative effort were

necessary to improve it for marketing traffic.

Mr. Hughes stayed on the farm until he was sixteen years old, when he

started to work on the river. Once, he made a trip on a raft to Alton,

Ill., and the rest of the time, until he was past the age of fifty-three

years, he drove logs on the Big Eau Pleine and the Wisconsin rivers. The

trip to Alton was made when he was twenty-five. He became frightened at

Biron dam, near what is now Wisconsin Rapids, when he suddenly lost sight

of his bow man. He was unaware of the presence of the dam, and the bow end

of the raft had dropped ten to twelve feet along the timbers at the foot of

the dam which served as fingers to carry the rafts over the sudden drop.

When he saw the bow progress beyond the drop of the dam, he regained

confidence and passed over the same timbers on his part of the raft without

further fright.

At Kilbourn, he experienced another scare. The pilot had allowed the raft

to strike a stone pier or wing dam which led into the water from the shore

to throw the current away from an eddy. The raft was thrown far out of

alignment, because of this, and efforts to straighten it with a windlass

failed. Steering the balance of the trip was consequently rendered very



Log driving also had its perils. Life was endangered every five minutes,

but Mr. Hughes recalls that only once did a river companion drown. This

was on the Big Eau Pleine while they were employed by the John Weeks Lumber

company. Peeled hemlock was easy to drive, whereas green logs with the

bark intact were the hardest because they would jam easier and the logways

were more difficult to release. On the Big Eau Pleine, Mr. Hughes also

drove logs for Riley and Bosworth, and on the Wisconsin river above Wausau,

he drove logs once for Julian Biron, once for Coon and Curran and once for

Captain John Leahy.

Some of the old river men he recalled working with are Patrick Gorman, John

Kennedy, who had a farm near Trappe, Jack Carr who had a farm near Marathon

and Frank Ryan. Mr. Hughes had purchased an 80-acre tract of land near his

father’s home and had farmed part of the time during his log-driving

career. When log driving passed out of the picture, he returned to farming

and he also engaged in jobbing for some of the logging companies. He

however, found it difficult to make much money at either occupation.



Frank Hughes, 96, of the town of Cleveland, a retired farmer, died Monday

afternoon at a Wausau hospital. Funeral services have been set for Friday

morning at 9 o’clock at St. Patrick’s Catholic church in Halder.

Internment will be in the church cemetery.

The deceased was born September 5, 1849 in New York state and came to

Marathon county many years ago. His wife preceded him in death. For the

past fifteen years he has made his home with a niece, Miss Margaret Hughes,

until last winter when he spent some time with a daughter at Fond du Lac.

Surviving are three sons, Thomas of the town of Cleveland, Allen of Wausau

and Benjamin of Fond du Lac; four daughters, Mrs. Joseph Karlen of

Marathon, Mrs. Joseph Kurtzweil of the town of Emmet, and Mrs. John Cotter

of Fond du Lac; 30 grandchildren and 37 great grandchildren.

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