Veazie: Ghost Town of the Namekagon
May 29, 2013
Driving through the town of Trego, Wisconsin, you may notice a street named Veazie Road. Veazie? What and where was Veazie? Veazie was the first permanent white settlement on the Namekagon. It grew up around the Namekagon Farm, built along the lumberjack tote road to St. Croix Falls.
In the winter of 1871-72 Walker, Judd and Veazie, one of the oldest lumber companies in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, established Namekagon Farm to supply their remote logging operations. At that time it was a 4-day oxen walk from St. Croix Falls to present day Trego. Namekagon Farm would grow crops to feed the draft animals for their winter logging operations and house the draft animals in the summer. Namekagon Store sold supplies to the lumberjacks and the Veazie House provided a stopover for lumberjacks and businessmen on their way to logging camps. As it was the only store within a 4-day walk, they held a geographic monopoly. The owner’s nephew, George, was put in charge of the operation; James Goff was appointed store manager; and Marcelina Bigelow, from Maine, was the hostess and bookkeeper.
Marcelina was quite the character: she smoked a pipe, drank and wore men’s clothes. When the town of Veazie was formally established in 1881, she was elected town clerk and treasurer.
Namekagon Farm was a big operation. They employed 25 lumberjacks as farmhands and housed dozens of draft animals. Two massive one hundred foot long barns were built side by side with a connecting roof so a hay wagon could pull in between them to fill both hay lofts.
In 1877 the company built Veazie Dam next to the farm on the Namekagon River. It was an ideal location below the mouths of Whalen and Spring Creeks, and between two large hills. The dam had four large gates, a mechanized hand-powered winch and could build up a thirteen foot head of water that would carry logs 40 miles on down to the St. Croix.
When the railroad came through in 1880, George laid out the town straddling both sides of the tracks. But logjams on the St. Croix in 1883, and low water in the spring of 1884, eventually lead to financial losses. By 1885, Walker, Judd, and Veazie went bankrupt. Namekagon Farm closed, and Veazie House later burned down in 1898. Veazie Dam washed out in 1902, and a farmer cleared the remaining building in 1955.
What’s left of Veazie today? You can still see a few remnants from the river. About a mile and a half down from Earl Landing you’ll come around a bend and see a flat topped hill directly in front of you. This is the historic railroad bed, and is still active today (watch out for the historic Spooner train!). From the top of the embankment, you can turn 360 degrees to see the big bowl that was “carpeted” with millions of board feet of logs. Turning north you can see an old telegraph pole: it really brings the history of this location together. Walking down the tracks, you will pass another telegraph pole in the woods. Another fifty yards or so brings you to a cleared field up a bank on the right, all that’s left of the bustling metropolis of Veazie.
Back in the river, paddling through the culverts on the left brings you to Veazie Springs, an interesting side paddle if the water’s high enough. Continuing downstream about 200 yards look for timbers and spikes at the water’s edge. This is all that remains of Veazie Dam.
Isn’t it amazing to realize that the old logs you see in the river could well be over 100 years old, a tangible connection to the logging days of the past?
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Did You Know?
Mussels rely on fish to carry their young around until they are old enough to drop to the river bottom. To attract the fish and attach their young, mussels put on displays that make fish think they are fish or other food. The mussel shell, which is all we normally see, is now barely visible.