RICE LAKE — Evidence of northern Wisconsin’s proud lumbering heritage can be found throughout the region. Look no further than the street signs in the city of Rice Lake, many which bear the familiar surnames of prominent lumber barons such as Knapp, Stout, Tainter and Wilson.
Indeed, few industries have played as big a role in developing communities here as the forestry and logging industries, yet the area has been sorely lacking a place to publicly and properly display this history.
A small but ambitious group in Rice Lake is working to remedy that. For several years, they’ve been raising funds to open the Great Lakes Forestry Museum at the National Lumbering Hall of Fame Park in downtown Rice Lake.
At least $10,000 still is needed in order to begin relocation of an 1864 log cabin to the site, according to Heinz Eller of the Great Lakes Forestry Museum Committee. The cabin will serve as a temporary museum until a more permanent structure can be built.
“Having a temporary home will show the public that something is actually happening,” he said. “If we become successful and are able to build a permanent home, that temporary log cabin home will remain as a permanent exhibit.”
Eller said they hope to open the museum later this year and eventually partner with area lumber and wood manufacturing companies and educational institutions such as UW-Stevens Point, with its strong forestry program. The site could become a venue for hosting industry and conservation gatherings.
Eller said it’s important that people understand the heritage of the area: “You should develop a certain amount of pride in the history of the place you’re living in.”
To that end, the museum will share interesting tidbits about the industry, such as the fact that it took only four massive virgin white pines to build a three-bedroom house in the late-19th century.
Eller, an active retiree who also sits on the Friends of the Library board for the Rice Lake Public Library and drives school bus, said the group initially formed in an effort to open a National Lumbering Hall of Fame in Barron County’s biggest city. Four years ago, they decided to open a Great Lakes Forestry Museum that would include a hall of fame.
Two years ago, they were tipped off to the availability of a more than 150-year-old log cabin on Nancy Yeager’s property about five miles west of town. Yeager donated the two-story cabin, constructed of popple logs by a Norwegian immigrant, to the museum. It was dismantled in 2017, and the logs are being stored in the yard at Rice Lake Utilities until the committee can reassemble the cabin at the park, on the peninsula south of the dam. Because some low-quality logs had to be discarded, it will be resurrected as a one-story structure.
Finding that cabin was “a stroke of luck,” Eller said, and if all goes well, they hope to begin re-assembling it this spring and summer.
Through baked potato dinners, brat feeds at Louie’s Finer Meats in Cumberland and membership drives, they’ve been busy raising funds for the relocation of the cabin, which will temporarily house artifacts salvaged from northern Wisconsin’s lumbering era.
Eller said they hope that having a structure and artifacts prominently on display will kick the project into a higher gear, setting wheels in motion for a more substantial fundraising push leading to construction of a permanent facility. Some in-kind donations have come in from local companies, but more is needed.
The park also features 21 indigenous tree varieties that remain important to the region’s logging industry, which really began in earnest in the early 1800s. The trees will be accompanied by educational information for self-guided tours.
“The trees were planted before the museum idea even was born,” Eller said.
Wisconsin’s forestry industry is the second largest employer in the state, and businesses around the state still produce a variety of paper products, quality veneer and saw logs. Around the turn of the century, before the forests were cleared for farmland and the lumber industry began moving west, Rice Lake was home to the largest lumber mill in the world, Eller said. The city still has several wood product businesses, including American Excelsior and Mastercraft Industries.
Eller said they hope the museum will be a boon for downtown Rice Lake, which has seen diminishing traffic in recent years as development in the city — considered a regional shopping destination — has been focused primarily on the south end.
“The museum would be one more reason for people to come and visit downtown Rice Lake,” he said.
Visitors to the National Lumbering Hall of Fame Park on Stein Street also can see a series of stone pillars — all that remain of the old monorail system that helped transport lumber throughout the city until it was shut down in the 1930s. There is a boat landing and a couple accessible fishing piers, and a fishing identification kiosk is in the works.
“We’ve got some work to do yet,” Eller said, adding that no admission will be charged, but donations will be welcomed.
For more information, contact the Rice Lake Chamber of Commerce at 715-234-2126 or search for “Great Lakes Forestry Museum & National Lumbering Hall of Fame” on Facebook.
One is “very, very, very outgoing,” whereas the other is “much more laid back.”
Either way, both approaches have proven effective as married couple Jordan and Stephanie Donnerbauer embrace their roles as agriculture teachers in west-central Wisconsin.
Jordan, in his 11th year teaching for Stanley-Boyd Area Schools, received the Outstanding Agriculture Educator Award earlier this month at the Wisconsin FFA Alumni Convention in Stevens Point.
“Honestly, I was really surprised,” Jordan said. “I know that I have a good program and do a good job, but you never think you’ll be selected as a state winner. I was honored to receive the award.”
Caleb Green, one of his former high school students, recently expressed appreciation for his former teaching on Facebook, writing: "I would like to give a shoutout to Mr. Jordan Donnerbauer. Where do I even begin. This guy has been there for me throughout my time in the FFA. He has shown me what it truly means to make a positive difference in the lives of students. He has not only selflessly helped me, but hundreds of other members during his time as an advisor.
"Stanley-Boyd is very lucky to have such a fantastic educator and I am superbly lucky to call him my advisor, mentor, colleague and friend. Mr. Donnerbauer is the reason why I wish to be an educator in the future. If I have half the influence he has had, I would be grateful. Thank you for all of the great memories and I look forward to many yet to come."
Stephanie, in her fourth year teaching for the School District of Loyal, said she’s proud of Jordan's award and accomplishments over the years as well.
“I think his biggest thing is his passion for teaching his ag students,” she said. “I’m much more laid back than he is. He’s very, very, very outgoing. The kids feed off of that with him.
“They know he expects excellence, and that’s why they get so many awards in so many FFA events — because he’s willing to put in the time. He’s there early every morning, late every night. I know most ag teachers are like that, but I think he’s like that even more so. I think they want to work hard for him because he’s so passionate about what he does.”
Jordan was equally complimentary, saying of his wife: “Her passion for her students makes her a great teacher. She’s similar to me in establishing that rapport for kids and setting high expectations for her students.”
Both husband and wife enjoy being married to an agriculture teacher, saying they’re aware of only a handful of husband-wife ag teaching tandems in the state.
“She and I collaborate and share ideas,” Jordan said. “Not too long ago I was working on updating my animal nutrition unit and I asked Stephanie what labs she did and other things she does. It’s pretty awesome to have somebody right in the house who's skilled and does a lot of the same things you do.”
Stephanie concurred, saying: “If we had a hard day, it’s really nice to be able to come home and talk about it. But we have so many other interests we like, that’s not all we talk about. We’re both big into camping and fishing, too, and other outdoor activities.”
Jordan and Stephanie live in the Clark County city of Neillsville.
Stephanie grew up not far from their home on her family’s hobby farm. She graduated from Neillsville High School and went on to major in agricultural education at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
After earning her degree, she taught agricultural education in the Gilman School District for one year before transitioning to her current role at Loyal. She said about 80 students take ag classes there.
Jordan also was raised in a rural setting near Marshfield. Several relatives worked as farmers, so he spent countless hours getting his hands dirty.
“That’s where my agricultural passion began — definitely on the small-town Wisconsin dairy farm,” said Jordan, who helped feed calves and clean as a youngster before milking cows and helping with field work as he got older.
Jordan was a member of Marshfield’s FFA chapter from 1998 until he graduated high school in 2001. He was the first member of his immediate family to be in FFA.
“It was something where I knew I had a passion for agriculture, and it just seemed like a good opportunity so I got involved with FFA,” he said. “It was a place to belong, a place to compete with friends. It helped shape what I wanted to do.”
Jordan said his high school ag teachers, Tim Heeg and Mark Zee, were positive influences “and the things I learned from them and their passion for what they were doing affected my decision to major in agricultural education.”
After earning a degree in agricultural education from UW-River Falls, Jordan spent the next 2½ years teaching ag at Rushford-Peterson High School in Rushford, Minnesota, about 40 minutes west of La Crosse.
“I was ready to go. I finished student teaching on a Friday and started there on the next Monday,” Jordan said. He was one of two ag teachers at the school and helped develop its FFA chapter.
Jordan said that although he enjoyed his interactions with students, staff and the community in Minnesota, he wanted to work closer to home. So he began teaching at Stanley-Boyd in the fall of 2008 and has been there ever since.
He also serves as an assistant varsity coach for football and track. He said he met his future wife during one of the school’s athletic events.
“I’m proud of the fact we offer a wide variety of courses at Stanley-Boyd,” Jordan said. “We have our production-based animal science, dairy science, a horse-care class. We also have a horticulture class, fish and wildlife course, forestry. And I try to stay up to date with what’s going on in those by attending professional development conferences, networking with other ag teachers, trying to stay on top of my game.”
Jordan said about 175 students take ag classes at Stanley-Boyd, but not many are traditional farm kids.
“They’re few and far between,” he said. “The number of kids that live on an actual farm is in the single digits. And kids that work on farms, there's maybe 10 or 20 of them. We have fewer and fewer each year.”
Regardless of their farming background, Jordan wants his students to absorb as much information as possible.
“I’d like them to come away knowing the importance of agriculture and where their food comes from,” he said. “I hope they gain confidence in whatever they go on to do in life. And I’d like them to be good human beings, good citizens.”
PRAIRIE DU CHIEN — Excitement was in the air at Kramer’s Auction Gallery in early January as auctioneers prepared for their Winter Firearms Sale. A record number of registered bidders were watching the auction items closely, with 1,500 bidders anxiously following online while a record-setting number of people packed on to the gallery floor. Representatives of the auction company reviewed a large number of absentee bids as well, placed prior to the sale.
“All around, it was very successful,” said Curt Kramer of Kramer Auction Service. “We had some really exceptional firearms that did outstanding for us.”
Registered bidders had their eye on a number of interesting firearms with over 700 up for auction, but one in particular seemed to draw the record-setting crowd: a fully registered, automatic, German MP40 sub-machine gun, developed in Nazi Germany and used extensively during World War II.
While it was a common gun for German infantrymen, only a relatively small number of civilian-transferable MP40s are in circulation. And this firearm was a matching gun from an estate, adding to its very desirable characteristics sought after by collectors for that type of weapon.
“As soon as we put it out there, we were getting some great response,” Kramer said. “We had a lot of calls and inquiries, and I knew it was going to do fantastic.”
Kramer and his colleagues had projected the sub-machine gun to sell in the $20,000 to $25,000 range, which is typical of what they’ve seen similar types of weapons go for in the past, but were blown away when the bid climbed over $30,000.
“It really exceeded our expectations with a hammer price of $35,000,” Kramer said.
He has checked into whether an online bidder’s final price of $40,250 for the MP40 was record setting, and at this point in time, Kramer believes they’ve set the new world record at auction for an MP40 of that type.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said.
Two “great English double-barreled rifles” also did well at auction, bringing in bids of over $10,000 for each piece. A Holland & Holland Royal 360 Nitro Express and “an even scarcer double rifle,” a Greener 310 Cadet, each sold for $11,000 to bidders in-house at the Kramer Auction Gallery. Kramer believes the rare Greener firearm may be the only one known to be produced.
Less than 250 Kimball Arms 30 Caliber Carbine Pistols were ever produced during the mid-1950s, and an online bidder purchased one of them at this auction, with its original box and manual, for a final price of $4,100.
Several Colt revolvers and rifles were also sold at this auction, with particular interest from bidders on a Cattle Brand Engraved Single Action gun that was intricately engraved and signed by master engraver David Wade Harris. This firearm sold for $6,325. Another top selling Colt, a 1967 production nickle finish Python Revolver, sold for $4,945 to an online bidder.
Kramer added that overall, prices were strong on good Colt guns, fetching prices from $2,500 to $5,500 at the Jan. auction.
Kramer Auction Service promotes five national firearms auctions each year, annually selling over 2,500 firearms both online and at their Prairie du Chien auction house. Their next auction will be Saturday, Mar. 23 at 9 a.m. and has been billed as their Spring Sale.
Auctioneers are excited about several items set to be sold at this auction, including a fresh-to-market Parker Brothers 28 gauge DHE double barrel, a “super rare gun that’s been buried away in a family since the early 1960s,” Kramer said. He also eluded to several cased John Dickson target pistols, Tiger pistols and other great firearms that will be available for purchase at the spring sale.
A sale preview is planned for Friday, March 22 from 2 to 7 p.m. at Kramer’s Auction Gallery and a complete, printable catalog for this sale will be available online closer to the date of the sale.
For more information, visit http://www.kramersales.com.