From the Stevens Point Journal of May 19, 1992
With the exception of Junction City, communities west of the Wisconsin River in Portage County have become extinct.
The communities of Mohawk, Runkel Mills, Webster Station and Meehan are no longer spots on the map, although Meehan bestowed its name on a settlement on the opposite side of the river from where it was founded.
Mohawk was apparently the first community developed in the area, about two miles south of Junction City on Highway G at Mill Creek in the town of Carson. An 1858 issue of “The Pinery,” a frontier forerunner of the Stevens Point Journal, reported the community had about 150 residents and was the site of a post office and a mill. The post office was closed in 1860, apparently after the mill burned and the residents moved away, searching for a new livelihood.
Runkel Mills was another of the “sawmill” towns in the western part of the county. The community was located in the town of Eau Pleine along the railroad tracks in Section 24 in the area of County Trunk H and Sandy Lane, about two miles north of Junction City. The settlement included a store, a boarding house, a blacksmith shop and two or three private residences. The post office opened in 1876 but was discontinued in 1886, probably after fire destroyed all the buildings. The Runkel Cemetery in the area bears witness to the old community.
Webster Station was a community along the Wisconsin River in the area of north of Highway M where the Webster sawmill was situated and a railroad siding was constructed. The settlement apparently had a sizeable population until the sawmill burned in 1863, after which many of the residents moved away.
Meehan actually started out in the town of Linwood on the north shore of the Wisconsin River where the Meehan mill crossed the river at a site that is now flooded.
A post office was created for the community in 1876 and was discontinued in 1907.
The main community included a store and a boarding house and was located around the sawmill on the north side of the river, with a ferry providing service across the river to the railroad siding, where the new development outlasted the original community after dams flooded lower sections along the river.
From the Stevens Point Journal May 19, 1992
Just before the turn of the century, Eau Pleine was a gem of a town - or a mineral to be precise.
Legend has it that a Mrs. John Kniec, living on an Eau Pleine farm, had found a mineral in her cellar that she used to blacken or polish her stove, according to “Our County Our Story,” by Malcolm Rosholt. When word got out, this mineral was found to be graphite.
Graphite was useful then for foundry facing, pipe joint paste and structural iron paints. Today it also is used for lead in pencils, crucibles, lubricants and electrodes.
In 1896, a man by the name of Frank E. Taggart took the bull by the horns and organized a company called Portage County Graphite and Mineral Paint Manufacturing Company. The company was reformed two years later as Wisconsin Graphite.
In less than two years, the company was turning out several tons of paint and paste a day, according to Rosholt. When a Pittsburgh company took over the stock, it installed a new plant on the site of the McDill mill dam, he wrote.
Taggart and two other partners formed Pioneer Graphite Company in 1902. Natural disasters eventually did the company in, though. The mill first was hit by a tornado, and later by fire, which proved too much for the owners. They discontinued operations in 1921, “Our County Our Story” states.
Eau Pleine wasn’t known only for its graphite, though. In the early days, it wasn’t a corner town as it is now, rather it spanned the Wisconsin River with 54 sections.
Eau Pleine, meaning “full water,” was the perfect place to create a dam. Naturally, along with a dam were several early sawmills. Later, the dam area was made into a lake and power site named after John DuBay, who once operated a nearby trading post.
A substantial community started up after the arrival of the Wisconsin Valley Railroad north of one mill. The community contained a planing mill, two stores, a dance hail, boarding house, horse barns and more than 20 permanent residences.
One settler, Sylvester Crocker, was a blacksmith and miller by profession. He was a veterinarian in his spare time, according to “Our County Our Story.” The area where he lived came to be called Crockers Landing. A sign welcoming travelers stated: “Crockers Landing - Make it Yours,” Rosholt wrote in “Our County Our Story.”
Another Eau Pleine resident, Don Carlos Hall, became a famous showman around the turn of the century. He traveled in a private railroad car with his company. Hall and his wife are buried in Union Cemetery. The headstone bears a cameo-sized photograph of the couple - the only one like it in the county, according to Rosholt.
Eau Pleine was formed in l851, and finally attained its present size in 1899
A bridge that had stood on the Little Eau Pleine for 91 years was replaced in 1989 with federal funds. And the DuBay dam was added in 1942 to stop the flooding that occurred in Eau Pleine each spring.
(Return to top)
See our Permissions page for use and copyright information.