Caught In Time Northwoods Wisconsin Memories and Gifts
Fond Memories ...
An excerpt from
Community at the End Of The Line
It was the end of the line - just a small depot and section house in the wilderness that was northern Wisconsin, but Dennis Paquette was a man of vision.
He could see a future for an area where the railroad junctioned. He knew there was money to be made in this area. He had proven this with the success of his resort - Rabbit Foot on Boulder Lake. Already other resorts were beginning to dot the area; the lumber industry was booming and the years ahead looked good.
He took the gamble; arranged to lease a section of land from the State (this was a lease that had to be renewed yearly). and set about building a hotel, store, barber shop and post office.
The year was 1894. Dennis and his bride Philomena, had left their native Canada some years earlier and had lived at Turtle Lake, Tomahawk and Harrison before settling in the Boulder Junction area to run their Rabbit Foot Resort.
Fifteen children were born of the union. Seven survived and two of them helped to continue the dynasty that began that year and ran for some 67 years.
It ended when Ann Reible, a sister of Bill Paquette's wife Clara, sold the hotel in 1961; but the memories of the early years of Boulder Junction are not forgotten. Clara Paquette, now 84, and her sister Ann Reible, keep their memories as they do their pictures so that a legacy cannot be forgotten.
Ann, the youngest of the Swenson girls who were born in Westby, Wis., and raised in Woodruff, spent her summers in Boulder Junction visiting with her married sisters -- Clara, married to Bill Paquette; and Selma, married to Clarence "Curly" Drewson.
Those were wonderfully fun summers for a young girl; Clara and her husband were running the Rabbit Foot Resort for Bill's father, and Curly was a section foreman on the railroad. They were carefree summers; so it made sense that when Ann graduated from high school she returned to Boulder Junction to work.
At this time Jack Paquette was running the hotel and store and Ann worked at everything -- cleaning, cooking and waiting on tables. She even helped out in the store when needed. There she sold the staples, the salt pork and once in a while the fresh meat that came packed in the barrels of ice.
The hotel fast became the gathering place for the lumberjacks when they wanted to relax and "live-it-up" a little away from their camps. They were a rough and ready group, although Ann recalls they held the women of the community in great respect, never using profanity in their presence and going out of their way to do little kindnesses for them and their children.
She had heard the story of the evening when one of the lumberjacks was refused service at the hotel saloon. The bartender told him he had enough, wouldn't serve him and the incident was forgotten. It was a short time later when one of the other patrons stepped out of the hotel to use the facility in the rear and failed to return. Unfortunately, he bore a marked resemblance to the bartender and was wearing a blue shirt, as was the bartender.
As they pieced the story together later, the angry lumberjack had waited his chance, followed the man into the outhouse and stabbed him to death. He then left town immediately. But this type of incident was the exception. They drank, got drunk and rowdy...and would sleep it off in one of eight hotel rooms on the second story. Mostly they were just hard working, two-fisted drinkers.
The only other big tragedy that Ann recalls was in 1923 when one of the lumberjacks was walking in his sleep. He walked right through the screen and onto the little porch. But when his feet hit the frost on the porch, he slid over the front edge of the building and fell to the ground below. He was found in the early morning dead of a broken neck.
The tragedy jarred the community, for Boulder Junction had become a village of resident who were close friends, a village where they shared both the good and the bad times and gathered together to make their own fun.
When Ann married, her home was the apartment over the store, right in the middle of town. She vividly remembers when her daughter was born. The call went out for Dr. Huber. He came up with a group of friends and, during the wait, they sang and played the piano until Ann's husband came running in with the word that Dr. Huber was needed right away.
During these years, Ann's sister Clara and her husband Bill were running the hotel. Bill and Clara had married in 1912, ran the Rabbit Foot Resort for a year and, in 1913, took over the operation of the hotel and also ran a summer resort on High Lake. In 1918 he sold that resort and the following spring established the Boulder Lake Resort. He also went into the real estate business, specializing in lake frontage property. Bill Paquette served as a constable and justice at Boulder Junction, and as a deputy sheriff of Vilas County for six years.
When Ann's marriage didn't work out, she went back to work at the hotel. At this time, Bill had a bartender, Tippy Reible, working for him. He and Ann married in 1939, and in 1944 bought the hotel from Bill and Clara.
The area started to grow in the late 40's and early 50's. Prior to that it was the summer tourists who really kept things going. For, after the demise of the lumbering operation, there were rugged years. It was during those years that they moved the store into the hotel and made an apartment on the first floor of the store.
It was here that Floyd Williams, the depot agent, and his wife lived. Those were the years of the wonderful town parties at the hotel. They would hold potluck dinners in the dining room and then play cards. They always had a big Valentine's Day party and many ski parties.
The ladies made their own clothing. It was only coats and shoes that were purchased through the catalogues.
The biggest events were when the section foreman would take all the young people to the dances in Minocqua and Woodruff, or out to the Trout Lake Pavilion or to the Pavilion at Forest Park. There they would dance the night away to the music of fiddlers and accordion players; even a four piece orchestra for special events. Their transportation was on the pede motor, a contraption that ran on the tracks on flanged wheels. The Brooks and Ross Lumber Company had also fixed up one of their Fords with flanged wheels and that would come down the tracks daily to pick up the mail.
With the growth of Boulder Junction, the cohesiveness of the community began to splinter and there aren't too many of the old gang left now-a-days to share memories.
Clara and Ann still talk of jumping off roofs into snowbanks in the winter. Or they speak of the time Mrs. Wiese was taken with appendicitis and Ann rode with her in the baggage car to Rhinelander where she was hospitalized.
They still recall how lucky Dennis Paquette was the winter he took the team of horses to go to Minocqua and were all struck by lightning...and all survived without a scratch.
They speak with some regret about the passing of those "good old days" but no matter how it changes, Boulder was, is and will always be home.
Ann has traveled to Florida but finds it too artificial. She is content to visit her granddaughter in Waukesha. Clara and her brother live just a short distance from Ann and she too says..."this is home."
Both are active in their church work at Trinity Lutheran Church. Neither seem to mind the winters as they are snug and warm in immaculately kept homes that contain the mementos they cherish most, and their eyes glow as they recall the era past, but they accept the present...and are hopeful for the future.
These pioneers at "the end of the line."