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The Fish Company Club House
Published in The Antigo Daily Journal, August 31, 1923
It is a far cry from a logging road running through thick woods, a railroad siding and country store to a new main street lined with the most artistic buildings to be found anywhere in Wisconsin.
It is a far cry from that first pile of logs to the present large output.
In 1882, B.F. Dorr bought from the U.S. government the NE of NE of Section 13, Township 34, Range 10 east, all hardwood forest. A year later he platted what is now the village of Elcho. The next year he interested the Frost Veneering & Seating company to build a large veneer mill here where the present mill is located on part of Lot 5, Section 12. This company operated here for some years, but were induced to go to Antigo, thinking that the veneer timber was all gone. About three years later the Jones Lumber Company of Clintonville, now of Appleton, purchased the interest of the Frost Veneer company and operated here for several years.
During this time came I.J. Miller, Jack Nelson, Clarence Grave, and "Nig" Weaver, followed by Mr. and Mrs. Cave. Mr. Sinberg came in 1886 and bought land beyond Enterprise lake, to which place a road was cut. Will Cole was working for the Oshkosh Lumber company and in winter worked in camps. Anton Follstad came in 1886 and took two forties, the site of his present beautiful home.
Solbeg had a store in Lee's log house, but later built where the Olde Muskie now stands.
Mrs. Jack Nelson was postmistress at one time and she says: "It was no lazy man's job. The bags were pretty heavy and cranes were not used until later. I had to throw the mail into the car and I could throw them pretty straight too: could land them in the car every time in spite of the general belief about women's missing the mark. The worst was in the winter, waiting for late trains."
The Lac du Flambeau Indians were here and it is told that an old Indian named this sunny little village set in the clearing of pine and hardwood. "Elcho," meaning "happy" a name he also applied to a good-natured cat that greeted him every time he entered the village store. Be that as it may, "Elcho," with the interpretation of "happy," is very applicable. Another pioneer tells us that in Connecticut a close friend of B.F. Dorr had a manufacturing plant which was called "The Elcho Manufacturing company," and from that B.F. Dorr named the newly built village "Elcho."
"There was very little sickness in those days," Mrs. Ernest Youngbauer said. "No doctor lived within forty miles. When we got sick the neighbors turned in and helped and we got well - or died."
Mrs. Nelson's first home was the present log barn on Frank Olmstead's property, but it stood just over the fence in Dorr's field. A fawn fed one while season close to the house, unafraid.
Supplies came from Summit Lake. The Oshkosh Lumber company floated all its logs down the Wolf river to Oshkosh. Hardwood and pine forests were everywhere.
C.W. Fish bought the store and mill in 1904. In 1908 it became the C.W. Fish Lumber company. In 1912, the planing mill was built and the Muskie Inn was finished. During the interval the town was rapidly growing under the supervision of C.W. Fish, who is every interested in the town which was the scene of his success as a lumberman. The fine factory and mill were working almost continuously and when the mill was struck by lighting and burned in 1920, it was quickly rebuilt that the work could be carried on.
On the night of February 17, 1923, fire started in the drug store, and despite all efforts to save the buildings, the entire business section - drug store, bank, hotel, store, and depot - were burned to the ground so that when morning came no sign of the little town except the dwellings and mill were in evidence. So systematically was the work carried on that the store was in working order, Monday, in the building previously occupied by the hardware stock. Then work was begun at clearing away the debris and as soon as the weather would permit, the new buildings were erected. The buildings, which are of old English architecture, are very attractively built and more conveniently arranged than the former buildings.
On the corner, on the site of the former building, a department store, 60 x 130 feet, has been built. The aim was to furnish for Elcho and vicinity a modern store with a full line of all stock usually handled in such a store. A.W. Brandner acts as manager of this store.
Realizing the need of a bank near a store of this kind, the quaintly built, but very up-to-date bank was placed next in the line, with George Bauer as cashier.
To insure harmony in architecture the office of the Chas. W. Fish Lumber company and the former hardware store have been newly sided and novelty roofing has been put on, which adds much to the appearance.
The depot is 18 x 70 feet and lies on the site of the old one. It is of stucco and wood and is a very attractive depot, which includes comfortable and pleasant working quarters as well as beauty. It contains an office in the center with men's and women's waiting rooms on either side and a 300 foot cement platform. This will eliminate the former inconvenience experienced in boarding a train.
The old boarding house was moved to a position on a back street to make way for the new Fish Co. club house, which is one of the three most attractive of its kind in the state. This building has a width of 100 feet, with depth to the alley of 130 feet. From the wide verandah on the east front one may enter by one of a cluster of doors direct to the lounge, or one may enter the reception hall and cloak room from the same porch.
The lounge is 100 feet long, with large fireplaces at either end, and is lighted with twelve clusters of candles. There are five carpeted centers in all, each with the center table and great chairs, including the end centers facing the two fireplaces. The south end of the lounge contains a piano. Off the lounge are two sets of doors, one leading to the north front hall and the other to the south hall, or ladies parlor. Here are convenient davenports, piano, chairs, dressing table, and wash room. Entering the north room from the parlor we find pool and billard tables and soft drink parlor with its accompanying tables. To the west and running north and south are the long smoking room and three regulation bowling alleys. The basement contains the power plant, water plant, and shower baths for men and women. The building is the completion of a desire of Mr. Fish for a better community feeling and he has made definite his idea that the building is not an exclusive club, but one in which all members are welcome to enjoy the comforts provided and the pleasures available.
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