The Early Days of Jackson Township
In the late 1890’s nearly the entire area was wooded. The trees were very large compared to what we now see. All buildings were built of wood-some not as well made as others. Many of the homes were made of logs, although a few frame houses were constructed.
Grantsburg was the closest town with Spooner the next closest. The roads were all dirt roads. There was a train that went from Minneapolis to Grantsburg and back once a day. In the winter as soon as the rivers and lakes froze, they were used as roads, as well.
The social life consisted mainly of people visiting one another, sometimes walking many miles to see friends and relatives. Since distances were so great, visits often lasted for several days. People also had dances in their homes. The school building could not be used because so many people disapproved of dancing. People would move all the furniture outside to make room for one or more sets of square dancing. A violin and guitar, or a violin and an organ provided the music.
The first school was the Moro school, which was built on land donated by Tim Spafford. Meetings were held so people could work on getting the money together. Finally, the district allowed $100 to build the school. Logs were cut and the building was constructed. The $100 allotment was used to buy 2 kitchen chairs, one for the teacher and one for a visitor, a pail and dipper for water and a box heater. The heater was placed on one side of the door and the teacher’s desk was placed on the other side. The teacher stayed warm and the children were cold. Ethel Spafford was the first teacher.
At first church services were held in the schoolhouse by a traveling priest or missionary. A Baptist minister moved into the area. He was a farmer as well as a traveling preacher.
There were no doctors in Jackson Township until Dr. Aker moved here from Knapp.
A mail route was finally established and the mail was brought from the Orange Post Office 2-3 times a week. Horse and rider did this.
There were many small farms in the area; the largest was about 10 to 25 acres. There were a few cattle and horses that were used for pulling plows. Eventually area farmers raised a number of cash crops.
About 1916 there was a pickle factory in Webster located just west of the railroad tracks. Farmers were contracted to raise cucumbers, which had to be picked every other day and brought to the factory where they were graded. Horse and wagon hauled them in.
Some farmers contracted to raise string beans for Stokley Canning Factory in Frederic. These beans were then hauled in mesh bags to Kaufman’s store in Webster where a truck from Frederic picked them up and transported them to the factory.
Potatoes were another cash crop. They were sent to the starch factory in Grantsburg.
Roads were actually nothing more than dirt trails that wound around swamps, lakes and other obstructions. They were usually filled with ruts, mud holes, sand pockets and high centers. It wasn’t until 1917 that Burnett County built Highways A & C and graded them. Albert Stone had the first horse-drawn grader and he patrolled from Highway 35 to Pratt Road. Lawrence Augustine patrolled from Pratt Road through the Town of Scott and Albert Kappen patrolled Highway C.
There were no bridges in those days so stream crossings were done at shallow places. One such crossing was located on the Yellow River in North Sand Lake Township and it was known as King’s Ford.
Roads in the winter were opened by horse-drawn snowplows. Of course there were not as many snowplows as we have now and the drifts were high and solid before the plow came through. The story is told that after one snowstorm in 1928 the county plow operator worked all night to open the road along the north shore of North Sand Lake.
As early as 1908 the Bashaw Valley Telephone Company provided service to Burnett County patrons. Entire communities were on one line. There were no telephone numbers, just short and long rings, which was produced by turning the crank on the side of the telephone box. One long ring brought the operator in Webster on line and in case of an emergency; several longs rings brought the entire community on line. You had to listen for your own ring since everyone’s phone rang when any phone rang.
In the very early days of Jackson Township telephone service, Mark Blodgett had a switch at his home and he could connect Jackson patrons with Spooner.