An eclectic collection of historic artifacts tell the story of Lake Tomahawk’s early beginnings at the Lake Tomahawk Historical Society.
“Most of the artifacts, I believe, were collected years ago by a lot of the older members of the historical society, waiting for a place to display them. They stored them over in Hazelhurst,” Beverly Fagan said.
Fagan is the treasurer of the Lake Tomahawk Historical Society.
In 1957, the Northland Historical Society of Oneida and Vilas Counties was founded by local residents, which was the basis for the Lake Tomahawk Historical Society. Town residents would have to wait 30 years for a location to showcase the historical artifacts stored over the years.
On Oct. 12, 1987, Max E. Hofman and Maxine Trierwiler donated a “little house” with a garage to the Lake Tomahawk Historical Society. One year later, Robert Binette of Lake Tomahawk, in addition to the help of men from McNaughton Correctional Center, razed the original garage and built the 24- by 32-foot shed that stands today.
“Members worked very hard to make this into the start of a museum so our stored treasures could be brought to Lake Tomahawk,” Fagan said.
In February 2005, members of the society board and the Wisconsin State Historical Society of Madison renamed the first organization the Lake Tomahawk Historical Society.
“A lot of people are gone, and some of the history they knew, that went with them,” Elaine McCarthy, Lake Tomahawk Historical Society member, said.
Today the historical society is undergoing its first stage of reorganization in hopes to save the town’s history.
“The Lake Tomahawk Historical Society is an important part of our community, and we need the whole community’s support in this worthwhile organization with new ideas for the future,” Fagan wrote in a letter promoting the historical society.
Future plans for the historical society include promoting membership and hosting monthly educational programs.
“In the past we held antique shows and five salad luncheons with vintage fashion shows, which people of the community loved,” Fagan said.
Other monthly programs the historical society has hosted in the past covered topics that include the history of Wisconsin, logging, fishing facts, DNR programs on animals of the Northwoods, ghosts of the forest, the Lakeland Barbershop Singers and the Lakeland Union High School Madrigal Singers for holiday programs.
As of now, the temporary board includes Fagan as treasurer; Darlene Neumann, president; and Dolores Kania, secretary, and will remain in place until the number of members is large enough to support an election for a full board of seven directors. Every fourth Thursday of the month, the temporary board meets at the Sloan Community Center, 6:30 p.m.
“It’s everybody’s history that lives here, and we’re just interested in trying to preserve the past because a lot of the past is gone,” Fagan said.
Historical society’s collection
Lake Tomahawk artifacts are displayed in two areas at the historical society – a large shed in the backyard and a small house.
The shed is home to a variety of items, ranging from old tools, logging and farming equipment, antique fishing gear, a wooden row boat built in 1905 and vehicles from around the turn of the 20th century.
“These cars I believe were made by Sunflower Boatworks. [Fabian Woodzicka] had a passion for dabbling in this stuff,” Fagan said.
Though the exact year of the vehicles is unknown, the classic cars that came from another lifetime are nostalgic.
“There recently was an AV-W reunion out at the Rainbow Flowage, and a lot of those old-timers came and said, ‘Oh, we’re going to contribute some more stuff.’ We’re so happy that they noticed us,” Fagan said.
There’s even an old washing machine with a clothes wringer on display in the shed.
“Can you believe ladies used to wash with something like that? Actually it was probably great in its day because it beat the washboard and the tub, because otherwise you had to wring them out by hand and hang them over the clothesline,” McCarthy said.
The display of logging artifacts holds importance for Lake Tomahawk’s history.
“That’s basically what founded Lake Tomahawk was the loggers,” Fagan said.
“And even that tree outside the museum, it must be well over 100 years old,” McCarthy said.
In addition to items from the 1900 era, the historical society has several photographs depicting everyday life during that time, and there are more expected to come in.
Leaving the shed and walking into the historical society’s small house is like taking a step back in time to the early 1900s.
“We redid the house a few years ago. We had somebody come in and redo all the walls, and then we put this floor in because there was a cement floor,” Fagan said, describing the board’s dedication to the historical society.
It’s set up like a home would be at the turn of the century, giving visitors a picture of life 100 years ago.
“A lot of these old kitchen appliances were all collected and donated by some of the older ladies in town,” Fagan said.
Like any other kitchen in today’s standards, the historical society’s kitchen and has soap containers from a simpler time.
“[Oxodol] used to be the only kind of soap you would buy,” McCarthy said.
“Oxodol was a heavy duty soap, and Lux was for your fine things,” Fagan said, differentiating two of the cleaners.
The parlor and the rest of the house captures the culture of the time with antique artifacts, arranged in a way that would have been called “home” by those living during that era.
“When the lady had company, she would put on her best apron, so she always had her best apron ready,” Fagan said, explaining some of the historical society’s items. “We have a lot of clothes on display from people who have donated them.”
“That dress had to be from the 1880s or 90s. It’s pretty fragile,” McCarthy said.
A globe and teacher’s desk from the original Lake Tomahawk schoolhouse as well as an antique typewrite are kept in the office of the historical society house.
“Those [typewriters] were a beast to type on,” Fagan said.
Offering visitors a walk-through time, the Lake Tomahawk Historical Society endeavors to preserve the community’s past.
“A lot of the original families that started are still here, and they contributed so much. They just want us to see what it was like. Their means of survival was so great because often there were no jobs and there was no government money coming in. They had to make it hook or crook, and they did,” McCarthy said.
The Lake Tomahawk Historical Society is located at 8247 Kelly Drive, behind the BP gas station, and is open Saturdays, 1-3 p.m.
“To keep growing and attracting visitors to our community, we ask for our community’s support as well as their membership,” Fagan said. “We need to preserve the great heritage of the Lake Tomahawk area, and the Lake Tomahawk Historical Society is being reorganized to do just that.”
Sarah Hirsch may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org