C.M. Olson was a longtime resident of Couderay, and continues to serve his community through the C.M. Olson Scholarship Fund, which has helped many Winter High School students afford higher education.
The Beginnings of a Town
by C.M. Olson
The writer of this came to Couderay the 4th of January, 1907, as station agent for the Omaha Railroad.
The town was a typical mill town of the kind found in the new and undeveloped sections of the north. Saloons open night and day, Sundays all the year round, so the class of new employed was not of the better class by far. Signor Crisler Company operated in the Couderay Indian Reservation with A. O. Nustad owning the sawmill and doing the sawing at Eddy Creek. This concern soon went bankrupt account of poor management and slump in price of lumber. The Chippewa Hardwood and Hemlock Company, a Heffelinger concern owned by the Heffelinger of Minneapolis operated the sawmill in Couderay. This concern also went bankrupt in 1907 due to mismanagement and slumps in lumber prices.
During the first years, or 1907 and 1908, both these mills were operating night and day. After those concerns went bankrupt, the two mills were idle for a year, when M. H. Bekkedahl of Westby, Wisconsin, purchased all the interests of the Signor Crisler Company, A. O. Nustad and Chippewa Hardwood and Hemlock Company. Also securing the contract for the timber on the Couderay Indian Reservation from the government. Timber consisting of pine, hemlock, basswood, oak, and birch. He remodeled the mills, built a large addition to the planning mill which is used for a tobacco case factory, built a dry kiln, wrecked the C. H. and H. Company mill using the machinery to enlarge the Eddy Creek mill and planning mill here. The saloon element and the dry voters soon began to disagree and the dry voters tried two times to oust the two saloons and finally in the spring of 1915 they were voted out by a vote of 25 to 56, as more of the better class of people had started to move in by that time, crowding out the booze fighters. Blind pigging was started during that summer, but soon discontinued and parties left town as the residents of the place had voted the town dry and intended to keep it and in that it was so kept.
In spring of 1916 the saloon question was not brought up as the conditions predicted by the dry voters were fulfilled. Morality, financially, and economically great improvements were easily seen. Business at the stores increasing, our third dispensing with the village Marshall. No transients asking for meals and lodging after having spent their last penny in the saloons. Other winters it was a regular thing to have those callers every week. So during the first year of the dry town a number of voters were soon over to the dry cause.
During all those years we had a lumber company and one other store here. Most of the dwelling houses were owned by the lumber company and occupied by their employees. The population being about 300 all those years, moving out and in as a population of a typical mill town does. A great number of Chippewa Indians, from the Couderay Indian Reservation being employed in the mills here for all common labor. Settlers began to settle up and buy land near town in 1912, adding to our county population from that date on.
During the winter of 1907, a Methodist minister from Birchwood held several services here, but on account of lack of attendance he soon gave up the work. Then there was about one year when there was no services of any kind here. In the winter of 1908, Reverend McConnell of Superior came and took up the work for the Presbyterian Church, coming here to preach occasionally from Superior until a regular minister was assigned to the field. Reverend MacFadden being the first regular man who preached here as well as at Radisson and Winter, as they were all mission points at that time. Reverend McConnell (1910) also organized a Sunday school here soon after, which has been kept up ever since. And also organized a Ladies Aid in 1911. Services and Sunday school were held in the schoolhouse during all those years, there being no other protestant organizations here of any kind.
Mrs. C. M. Olson took over the Sunday school and taught a class for about 43 years. She also had class meetings during the week. When the Ladies Aid was organized, they soon started to lay aside some money which was to be used towards the building of a church here and soon had $100.00 placed in the bank towards this fund. Later increased to $200.00. The minister assigned to this field very seldom would stay the regular year out on account of the small attendance at services and failing to get the promised amount of salary. Not being used to the new and undeveloped county, they soon became discouraged and left the field for a new man to take up as the work did not look very promising. Most of the ministers assigned to this field were students, who preached during their vacations, etc., vacancies being filled by Reverend McConnell and Reverend ______. Mrs. Olson also headed the Ladies Aid during most of those years using the one east waiting room of the depot here from the winter of 1907 to June 1934.
Regular services having been held here up to April 1st 1915, for several years. It was decided upon to organize a Presbyterian Church here and often holding special services here for a week by Reverend Alexander assisted by Reverend McConnell and Reverend Boller of Reserve. The organization was perfected on April 25, 1915 with a membership of 27.
In the summer and fall of 1916 the First Presbyterian Church here was built and out of any local debt at the time it was dedicated in October, 1916. The Ladies Aid furnished over one thousand dollars in cash towards the building of the Church in Couderay, Wisconsin. M. Anderson and Anton Raudnut were the carpenters that helped to build the church here. Several others helped including Reverend Moffitt. O. O. Olson of Minneapolis donated the 3 lots and pulpit and bible to the church at Couderay. He owned the town site here and much land in this section. A lady from Superior donated the used organ to the church.
We got donations from so many of the wholesale houses, Sears Roebuck Company, Montgomery Wards, Swift and Armour Company, the governor an senators at that time etc. We got the lumber for the church from the Bekkedahl Lumber Company at cost. Also all other materials at wholesale costs to us. We borrowed $700.00 from the Presbyterian Board, all other debts paid in full when church was dedicated in October 1916. The addition to the church was built in 1922 and dedicated at that time. All paid for and most all of the money needed was supplied by the Ladies Aid, who did a wonderful job during all those years. They really were the spark plugs all the time. All the time from its organization. In 1916, working hours at the mill were 7AM to 6PM, 6 days a week.