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A regional newspaper profiled C.M. Olson sometime in the 1960s. Photo: Mr. and Mrs. C.M. Olson outside their home, with Tubby, for whom the Tubby Forest is named.

Lumberman, 83, Gives Away Money for Fun

By Trygve M. Ager
Minneapolis Tribune Wisconsin Correspondent

COUDERAY, Wis. - Charles M. Olson, 83-year-old timberland philanthropist, is having a "swell time" with projects such as:

  • Helping struggling youngsters get college educations (he has 16 on his list).
  • Buying a trout pond and "giving it to the people."
  • Buying electric organs for several northern Wisconsin churches.
  • Dedicating a four-acre forest to the memory of his dead dog, Tubby.
  • Donating 550 acres of lake front land to the American Lutheran Church for a "dead end kids" summer camp.

Until eight years ago Olson worked as station agent at Couderay, but he really didn't need the money.

"My lumber business," he recalls, "accounted for 95 per cent of everything shipped in and out of Couderay during the last 20 years I was agent."

Olson says he gets about $20,000 from investments "and it's all surplus." With this he pays for his philanthropies.

Olson's is a rags-to-riches story - almost classic in every facet.

"I was born on a St. Croix county farm. We were pioneers. I knew what it was to be poor," said Olson. "I couldn't even go to school in the winter because I didn't have the clothes or shoes to hike two miles in the snow."

In 1902 he began working for railroads. Less than a year after he went to Couderay a Rice Lake, Wis., banker staked him to a try at the lumber business - "as a sideline."

By 1920 Olson's was one of the last lumber operations still functioning around Couderay. About the same time - as the depression deepened - a stock broker gave Olson some tips on investments. The lumberman-station agent set himself up for philanthropy by following his tips.

The elderly man was just beginning to recover last week from a series of operations. Yet his projects have made him a happy man. He grins broadly as he says:

"Nobody's got it better than I have."

2015 Jeff Scharlau.