Quinnesec Pulp Company

The Northern Pulp Company was founded by John Stoveken Sr. in 1888.  Quinnesec Pulp Company was the name of the company when later organized by the founders of the Badger Paper Mill in Kaukauna.  John Stoveken Sr. started the Pulp mill and originally called it the Northern Pulp Company.  He developed the property now known as Niagara by building the Pulp Mill, a Saw Mill, a hotel known as the "Grand Hotel" and a general store  He then sold parts of this operation to the Quinnesec Pulp Company.  This mill operation was expanded several times and was sold to Kimberly Clark in 1898.   

The mill In Niagara was the last of many flour and paper mills that John Stoveken Sr. was involved in while in Wisconsin.  His first operation was a flour mill in Milwaukee in 1865.  It was washed away in a spring flood 2 years later.  He then moved to Kaukauna, Wisconsin where he built a wood frame flour mill in 1868 and operated it until it burned in 1871.  It was rebuilt on the same spot with stone and operated as a flour and paper mill (using straw) until 1878 when a small fire caused an interruption.  It was rebuilt again with a larger operation in addition to the saw mill that he owned and operated.  John and his brother Henry Frambach started experimenting with using wood pulp to make paper.  The machinery and process to use wood was patented by John's brother Henry Frambach.  It was designed, developed and tested in John Stoveken's mill (Called the Eagle Mill). The mill burned again in 1881.  This was a major fire that required a complete rebuild.  However the front facade and foundation was saved and rebuilt upon. This mill was operated until 1885 when Henry Frambach, Joseph Vilas and John Stoveken built the largest paper mill in the country at that time called the "Badger Paper Mill" The original mill site was then sold and became the Kaukauna Paper Company.  John Stoveken was the plant manager of the new Badger Mill.  Parts of the business ledger and list of original investors survives today in my collection.  The ledger contains paper made with a very distinct watermark dated 1885.  After this mill was in operation reality began to set in.  The plentiful supply of pulp grade trees in the Kaukauna area had rapidly been depleted by use of wood for steamers on the Fox River, farming and wood pulp paper production.  This required  John to search for large stands of forest to be harvested for wood pulp production.  This search brought John to the Menominee river area.  In 1888 John purchased a large tract of land surrounding Quinnesec Falls including the land and water power rights at the falls and some distance downstream on the Menominee river.  His son John Stoveken Jr. was married shortly after this and became the manager of a small pulp mill that was built by John Stoveken Sr.  John Stoveken Jr. lived in a log cabin built on the Michigan side of the falls on the bluff.  The Pulp mill only made wood pulp at this time using the same machinery invented in Kaukauna in 1879. The wood pulp sheets were shipped to the Badger Mill in Kaukauna where it was processed into finished paper.  The Grand Hotel was built at this time as a place for Mill workers and construction people to live.  Keeping in mind there was nothing in Niagara at this time except for water and trees.  In support of this newly minted town a general store, post office, saw mill and other facilities were built by John.  This was enough to "Bootstrap" the town as other people started moving in and building out other necessary businesses.  This mill operation was sold to the Badger Paper company where John was also an employee for a nice profit. John's Brother Henry Frambach and Joseph Vilas were the primary owners of the Badger Mill at that time. The mill in Niagara was then enlarged and built to produce not only wood pulp but also finished paper.  This mill operation was then sold to the Kimberly Clark Corporation in 1898 and as they say, "The rest is history". 

John Jr. continued to operate several business in the Niagara area, then moved to Pembine, Wisconsin where he started a general store, operated a farm and operated the Algonquin hotel for a short period of time. He became Marinette county chairman  and died relatively young in 1915 of stomach cancer.  A letter has been preserved in the family from Dr. Mayo of the Mayo Clinic who had personally performed surgery on John.  The prognosis at the time of the surgery was that there was little hope. Several private letters and telegrams of well wishing from management of Kimberly Clark in Niagara at this time are also in our archives.

    In 1898 John Stoveken Sr. moved to Colorado where he became involved in the Gold mining industry around Pikes Peak in a district called "Cripple Creek".  Here he found a way to recover gold from the piles of waste ore that was unprofitable to refine into gold.  He was able to design and patent (five patents) a methodology and equipment to refine this ore to gold and reduce the cost of the refining by a factor of 10 times.  A variation of the process that he invented is still being used today to recover gold from the ore in the Cripple Creek, Colorado area and around the world.  He later moved to Grand Junction, Colorado where he was one of the first people to build a dam on the Colorado river to be used for irrigating an orchard that he owned that was over 200 acres.  Most orchards in that area averaged eight acres at that time.  John then moved to Los Angeles, California in 1921 where he died.

John Stoveken Jr. had two brothers that lived in the Niagara/Pembine area.  Peter Stoveken in Niagara was a tavern keeper.  Charles Stoveken in Pembine who also was a tavern keeper. "Charlie" as he was known also was the local deputy sheriff.

 Peter Stoveken operated a tavern in Niagara about 1 mile from town on the main road.  His story is one of intrigue and mystery.  The tavern was likely a very hot spot in the 1890's and in the early 1900's.  Newspaper clippings of the 1920's prohibition years have numerous mentions of Peter Stoveken having brawls in the "Speakeasy". These articles always seemed to inject that the establishment was serving "soft drinks".  Many of these incidents resulted in gunfire, knives or at a minimum required medical care.  One incident had a Sheboygan lady lose her eye when beer bottles were flying.  Another incident caused Peter Stoveken to be arrested when he used a shotgun to shoot an unruly patron in the leg.  In his testimony he said he was aiming for the Patrons wooden leg.  However he aimed a little high.  There are many incidents of this sort creating an interesting picture of a wild west town. 

Peter also had married a girl aged 16.  Apparently the marriage was not working well and his bride left him for a while.  She was later found dead from suicide.  The inquiry court mentioned that there were some very curious circumstances surrounding this event.  Peter lived out his life in a small house along the Menominee river near Niagara.

Charles Stoveken in Pembine also seemed to have several "Incidents" in his tavern.  Being that he was the deputy for Pembine, the solution usually meant pulling out the revolver.  Between shootings and stabbings in the bar and other "professional" duties, Charles placed more than 3 people in the local cemetery.  The local doctor had a good job of "digging out" bullets.  Charlie appeared to have a philosophy of shoot first and ask questions later.

The paper mill built in 1872 by John Stoveken Sr. in Kaukauna can still be seen - It is a part of the Thilmany Paper Mill that is still producing paper. 

More information, pictures and history about this mill can be found at  www.kaukaunahistory.org

 

This daguerrotype picture (Printed on a copper plate) was taken about 1892. The people in this picture are from the left:

Margaret Stoveken (Nee St. Mitchell) Wife of John Stoveken Jr., John Stoveken Sr., John Stoveken Jr. Elizabeth Stoveken (Nee Kohanek) (Second wife of John Stoveken Sr.)

   
   
 

 

This 45 Star flag was flown over the Quinnesec Pulp and Paper Mill in Niagara from 1895 - 1898 during the "Stoveken Years".  The flag passed to John Stoveken Jr. who was the plant manager at this time and it was probably flown over the Grand Hotel for sometime.  John's widow Margaret Stoveken Johnson living in Pembine passed it to her daughter Elizabeth Vandenberg and from there it went to Elizabeth's son Jerry Vandenberg. It was decided by the members of the Stoveken family that the flag belonged in Niagara and donated it during the museum grand opening.  It was officially donated by Rosella Stoveken Noskey of Escanaba, Michigan who was the last surviving grand daughter of John Stoveken Sr.  Rosella has since passed at the age of 104.  The Flag has been on display during the years including during WWII in Kewaunee, WI - at this time family members stitched additional stars to the flag to represent the additional states added since 1898.  These stars were since removed to preserve the original condition of the flag.  Under close examination you can see the stitching holes where the stars were added.

Stoveken family descendants in the picture above are Rose Vandenberg Duescher, Teresa Vandenberg Derenne, Jane Stoveken Morris, Helen Vandenberg DeGrave

Pictures of the Grand opening of the Niagara Museum.
Rozella Stoveken Noskey  is in the picture on the left seated behind the walker.  Many other direct descendants are in this picture around her.

  Rozella recounted several instances of traveling between Pembine and Niagara in a horse and buggy with her father John Stoveken Jr while he was on business in Niagara between 1910 - 1915.


Rozella   1902 - 2005
Rozella's Story documented in 2003
Rozella Stoveken Noskey donated the flag to the Niagara Area Historical Society for preservation and display.  Rozella would have lived in the log cabin on the Michigan side of the Niagara bluff when she was born in 1902.  Her older siblings all lived on the bluff including the Authors Grandmother Elizabeth Stoveken Vandenberg.
 

The little boy is the author sitting on the lap of Margaret Stoveken (wife of John Stoveken Jr.)

Margaret was my Great Grandmother


Margaret St. Mitchell Stoveken Johnson
1866 - 1960
     

 

 

I will be expanding this section based on research that I have done.

 

Tom Duescher

Niagara Area Historical Society  (c) 2006