History of Winter

From the book, “White Pines & White Tails”
by Leighton D. Morris, Co. Superintendent of Schools, 1957

Winter, like most northern communities, gained attention of capitalists because of its natural resource, the white pine forest. Before the woodsman’s axe began to fell the giant trees, a stopping-off place was established for lumberjacks and occasional travelers near the present site of Winter. It was called LeBoef. After the Omaha Railroad was built from Rice Lake to Park Falls, people began to settle in the community which was called Winter, in honor of Mr. John Winter, an Omaha Railroad official, who came to the community from St. Paul because of his logging interests.

Winter developed rapidly and a need was felt for political organization. In 1905 the Wisconsin Legislature under Chapter 24, created Township of Winter from a detached portion of the Town of Hayward. (Sawyer County was created in March 1883 and consisted of a single Township, the Town of Hayward.)

The Hines Lumber Company was the most important operator in this area. The logs were hauled to the landing in Winter where they were loaded in railroad cars and transported to the sawmill at Park Falls.

In the southeast part of the township the Chippewa Lumber and Boom Company held extensive timber tracts. Instead of shipping logs to its mill by rail, the Company floated the logs down the Brunet River and the Thornapple River, then into the Chippewa River to Chippewa Falls. This method of transporting logs was called ‘driving’.

One of the most exciting and most publicized incidents in logging history took place in the town of Winter on the banks of the Thornapple River. The trouble resulted because of a clause in a deed which reserved flowage rights tot he Chippewa Lumber and Boom Company.

An employee of this Company, John Dietz, purchased a tract of land from the Company through which flowed the Thornapple River, a stream used for log drives. Prior to settling on his newly acquired property, Mr. Dietz was employed as a watchman at Price Dam on the Brunet River. Shortly after moving to the Thornapple site he tried to collect wages that he claimed had not been paid to him while he was employed as a watchman.

Mr. Dietz refused to allow the Company to drive the logs through his property unless it paid a fee of ten cents per thousand foot for the logs that had passed over his waterway since he purchased the property. The Company refused to pay. Mr. Dietz armed himself with a rifle and appeared at the dam to enforce his claim.

Arguments between Dietz and the Company persisted for several years. The Company paid the claim of $1800 for wages but still Dietz would not compromise. The Company was forced to haul its logs to the Flambeau River which resulted in additional expense.

The Company entered a legal complaint and the sheriff and deputies were sent out from time to time to serve a summons on Mr. Dietz. No one succeeded in apprehending him.

On another occasion Dietz had an altercation with the school clerk which resulted in the wounding of the town marshal by a pistol shot fired by Dietz. The county officials became enraged over this unfortunate act. The sheriff organized a posse of the best riflemen in the town of Winter and set out to apprehend Dietz. A son and daughter were wounded in ambush and taken to Winter for medical treatment.

The District Attorney pleaded with Dietz to give up peacefully and settle his troubles in court, but Dietz refused.

A pitched battle occurred on October 7, 1910 in which Mr. Dietz was wounded. He surrendered to the sheriff, was tried by jury, found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He served ten years in the state prison and then was pardoned. He retired to Milwaukee to live with his family and died in 1924. A newspaper was established in 1908 and was printed and edited by Thomas Noyes and his father. The newspaper, “The Sawyer County Gazette,” has been continuously published and is a very important paper in the county.

The first school was a frame structure which was destroyed by fire in 1919. In 1920 a new brick school was built, and today forms a part of the present school. The enrollment has steadily increased, necessitating the building of additions. Winter is proud of its present educational facilities and program since it is an integrated system offering special services, such as: Home Economics, Industrial Arts, commercial courses, music, health services and adopts other services and courses as the need arises.

Winter is now incorporated as a village. It offers many accommodations and services to its residents, farmers, and visitors in the way of stores, bank, theater, fire protection, garages and service stations, electric power plant, water system, elementary and high school, and four churches.

The Flambeau River State Forest comprises a portion of the town of Winter. One outstanding feature of this forest is the unusually large white pine tree that is growing near the Hawkins Road about five miles south of Connors Lake Fire Tower. No one knows the exact age of the tree, but it is believed to be more than one hundred thirty-five years old. It measures one hundred thirty feet in height, fourteen feet eight inches in circumference at about four and one half feet from the ground. The bark is rough, thick and dark, and its branches start about three fourths of the way up where the tops of the other trees end. This tree was left by the lumberjacks in the 1880s when the other trees were cut. It has withstood many severe windstorms while other tall trees were uprooted or blown down.

Winter lies in an area attractive to vacationers, hunters, and other sportsmen. Numerous resorts on lakes and rivers cater to visitors from all over the midwest. Fishing and deer hunting are the most attractive sports of the area. A most interesting sight is to see the deer hunters move in during November. They make Winter their headquarters during their visit.