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THE

NEKOOSA
STORY
A Commemorative History
Of
Nekoosa Papers In,.
Preface
Corporate anniversaries come and go. Some of was my capable grammarian throughout this
these events commemorate a much longer his- project.
tory than Nekoosa Papers Incorporated can
boast of. Because of their remoteness, we tend Perhaps not in keeping with good literary style,
to ignore or overlook them. That is, until it gets the author has not provided a bibliography of
closer to home. And what could be closer to references nor footnotes. However, all of the
home or more dear to our hearts than our own material contained herein is from the documents
company, Nekoosa Papers Inc. and printed matter on file in the Nekoosa Papers
Archives Department, located in the Admini-
Our reason for celebrating an anniversary or stration Building in Port Edwards. Should any
birthday is threefold. The year 1987 marks statements made in this text need referencing,
ONE HUNDRED FIFTY years since entering the the original source can be found in these
lumber business; ONE HUNDRED years of collections.
pulp/paper making and FIFTY years since enter-
ing into the fine, writing paper field by the in- Finally, this book is divided into four parts or
troduction of Nekoosa watermarked papers.
And as the text of this monograph will bear out,
time spans:
I. The Lumber Era (1831-1887)
5
it was the entrance into the fine paper field that II. From Lumber To Newsprint (1887-1918)
really gave us the impetus to grow to the prom- Ill. Wrapping Papers And Specialty Sheets
inence we have reached today. (1918-1937)
IV. The Switch To Fine Papers (1937-1987)
In recognition of these three milestones, Ne- Each of these parts is subdivided into chapters
koosa management has deemed it fitting to have that deal with some important part of our
this historical manuscript prepared. history which falls within that period. As you
read these pages and observe the pictures, I
Without the assistance of many people, this think you will be amazed, just as I am, how
book would not be possible. But one person a small sawmill in the northern, virgin wilder-
should be singled out for special recognition. ness of Wisconsin could grow into one of the
That person is John E. Alexander, a former world's largest producers of fine papers. Truly
President of Nekoosa Papers Inc. It was Alex- this is an example of phenomenal success
ander who collected historical documents and brought about through the combined efforts of
then fostered the idea of an archives department management, labor, and customers, all work-
wherein records, photos, documents, and arti- ing together under the free enterprise system.
facts would be preserved for future generations.
It is from these collections that the bulk of the J. Marshall Buehler
material for this book has been obtained. There
are others who are responsible in some way or
another for making this book a reality. They
include Nekoosa President, James Crump, Ne- Notice!
koosa's Sales Management group, the Nekoo- The reader should be made aware that this is
sa Stenographic Department, the Public Rela- a historical presentation. As such, the illustra-
tions Department, and the Publisher, Fey Pub- tions included are of a historical nature and do
lishing Company. Finally, I acknowledge the ef- not represent any operations at Nekoosa Papers
forts of my co-worker, Mrs. Sandra Gross, who today.
Part One THE LUMBER ERA (1831-1887)
Chapter O ne: Daylight Enters the Forest
'Timber;' as it was called by the lumberman; trees army, which had control of the Indian lands, to cut
to you and me. Not just any trees, but pine trees- timber thereon . The operation was closed and the
virgin pine trees! So many of them that the northern shingles taken to Fort Winnebago to be used for
half of the state would be referred to as the Wiscon- roofing the fort's buildings.
sin Pinery.
Whitney, temporarily discouraged but undaunted,
And running through this pinery were water moved upstream to a point on the Wisconsin River
courses. Rivers that flowed from the north to the referred to as Pointe Basse (low point), meaning end
south and smaller freshets that flowed east and west. of the rapids; the place where the river flattened out.
Water on which a log could be floated to a sawmill, At this point, Whitney would start a move that
water that could be used to move lumber to a mar- would let daylight into the fores t. As trees were cut,
ketplace; but most important, water that could be sunlight fell upon ground that had not been expos-
dammed and harnessed for power to operate a saw. ed to the direct sun's rays for a hundred years or
Thus, timber could be converted to lumber and more. The year was 1831. This time Whitney had
delivered to a market. permission from the war department; and built a
dam across the Wisconsin River, at a point off the
The preceding paragraphs serve as a very brief
geography of Northern W isconsin in the early
end of the island, located just north of the present
highway bridge at Nekoosa. The site was ap-
7
1800's. It doesn't sound like much, trees and water; propriately named Whitney's Rapids.
but it was all that was needed to start an economic
boom in a portion of Wisconsin which, up to that Pine lumber and shingles were the lifeblood of the
period, knew nothing of economics other than the new settlement, which sprang up just below the hill,
bartering of some blankets or cloth for a few beaver at a site across the r iver from the present city of
pelts. Nekoosa. This was Poin t Basse.

Daniel Whitney of Green Bay recognized the poten-


tial of these two natural resources; and consequently
in 1829, built a sawmill, the first on the Wisconsin
River, at a point about thirty miles south of the pre-
sent city of Nekoosa. It was a small operation and
really was not a sawmill in the strict sense of the
term. Rather, it split shingles from a bolt of wood-
hardly a sawmill. And really, it is not definitely
ascertained if the mill was located on the Wiscon-
sin River or the Yellow River, which has its con-
fluence with the Wisconsin River at that point.

But it doesn't really matter where the mill was, or


when it was built, since it only operated a very short
time; in fact, only loJ01g enough to produce some
Wakely's Tavern was located abo ut one mile from the site of the
200,000 shingles before the product was confiscated Nekoosa mill. It was situated a t the end of a series of rapids in
by Major Twiggs, commandant of the United States the Wisconsin River, and became a resting stop for raftsmen before
army fort at Portage (Fort Winnebago). Twiggs al- another trip over the rapids. Nekoosa Papers Incorporated
donated the property in 1986, to the Wakely Foundation. The
leged that Whitney did not have permission from the Foundation's goal is to restore the historical landmark.
Point Basse was a small settlement, maybe half a A village plan, complete with town square, was plot-
dozen homes, a general store, a ferry boat, and Bob ted on the east side of the river, ironically on the
Wakely's Tavern, an overnight stop on the New opposite bank of the river from where the future
Lisbon-Plover stagecoach line. It is said of this city of Nekoosa would develop.
establishment that it was preferred over the Cen- OLD .fifvlf fl"'
tralia hostelries, since Wakely always had on hand NEKOOSA TH.& FJRSJ
a supply of "Goodhues Best" and 'Devil's Eye Water:' SAJUJ'r)(l,( :rH'P.
Sazi~. 600/~ ·hP£"-
As a result, a good time was always had by all.

In 1836 a treaty was made with the Menominee In-


dians, making available a strip of land three miles
wide on each side of the Wisconsin River, begin-
ning at Point Basse and extending northward 40
miles to the vicinity of Wausau. The lumbermen had
access to a new and vast supply of virgin timber,
thanks to this 'Three Mile Strip" treaty.

In 1848 Indian title to the balance of the land was


extinguished, and the supply of timber was greatly
augmented. A large portion of this land eventually
was to become the property of Nekoosa Papers Inc.,
and its immediate predecessors.
8 Lumber was cut and piled on the ice just below the
mill. The entire pile was then bound together using
wedges, wooden pins, and tie boards. Thus, a
lumber raft was built. In the spring of the year, when
the ice went out, about four men would board the
Nekoosa Lumber Company's plan for the city of Nekoosa. This
raft and set up housekeeping. A small bunkhouse plot was to be located on the east bank of the Wisconsin River.
was erected on the top of the raft, while meals were However, the city was never developed, since the Nekoosa
Lumber Company never materialized. It was thirty years later
cooked and eaten on the "deck." At night the raft w hen the present city of Nekoosa was plotted and this time on
was tied to the river bank. Once the raft reached the west bank of the river.
the Mississippi, it was kept moving day and night.
From Pointe Basse to St. Louis was a slow, rather Shortly after the dam was built (1860or1861), and
easy trip; the only danger spot being the scenic nar- before a new sawmill could be built, high water
rows of the Wisconsin Dells and the ever sh ifting washed out a section of the dam. Soon thereafter
sandbars of the lower Wisconsin. the company became bankrupt, and nothing more
was done with the valuable water power rights un-
In 1854, Moses M. Strong, a Mineral Point lawyer, til 1893. For the following three decades, the settle-
purchased one-half interest- in the Pointe Basse ment of Pointe Basse became stagnant. Settlers mov-
sawmill. Three years later, he purchased the other ed to nearby Frenchtown or Centralia. A few began
half interest from Mr. Whitney. Mr. Strong in turn to till the soil, while others began to trap for fur or
sold the sawmill, timberlands and power rights to raise a few cranberries.
a newly formed organization, the Nekoosa Lumber
Company, so named after the Indian word for "swift After the failure of the Nekoosa Lumber Company,
running water:' This new lumber company was the property reverted back to Moses Strong, who
capitalized for half a million dollars, of which refused to sell the power rights for $10,000 and held
$300,000 was to be raised immediately; the funds onto them for thirty years. The only interest received
to be used to purchase Whitney's water power rights, on his investment was a few barrels of cranberries
forest lands, and to construct a dam across the river. raised on the marshes, located on the property of
the Nekoosa Lumber Company, in what is now the
city of Nekoosa. Today these same water rights are
owned by Nekoosa Papers Inc., and are valued in
excess of a million dollars.

In 1887 George and Frank Wood, sons of Joseph


Wood, after whom Wood County was named, pur-
chased the assets of the defunct Nekoosa Lumber
Company from Mr. Strong at a price of $4,500. A
year later the property and rights were sold to
Thomas E. Nash for $8,000. Mr. Nash, in turn, The lower ferry operated across the Wisconsin River at Wake-
transferred them to the newly created Nekoosa ly's Tavern. In later years, a second ferry would be installed at
the present site of the City of Nekoosa, and referred to as the
Paper Company in 1893 for $50,000 worth of capital upper ferry. In periods of low river flow, it was possible to ford
stock in that organization, a very good return on the Wisconsin River at this site.
his original investment.
Thus, the seed was planted. And just as the giant
The settlement of Pointe Basse finally moved closer timber grew from a tiny seed, so would a giant cor-
to the new mill area, where it grew until it was in- poration grow from this humble beginning at
corporated into the city of Nekoosa in 1907. Nekoosa, Wisconsin.

The Nekoosa Lumber Company dam that was never completed. sent dam. Being completely submerged under water, the wood
Remains of this timber dam are submerged under the backwater does not succumb to rot. Thus these timbers that are well over
from the present Nekoosa dam. This photo was taken during a a hundred years old will perhaps remain for another century.
drawdown of the river when repairs were being made to the pre-
Chapter Two: They Named the Town
in Honor of Edwards
The motivation that gave Pointe Basse its start in rights, and water power rights.
1831 repeated itself in 1837 at a point three miles
upstream. The very early records are somewhat The senior Edwards was engaged in several business
sketchy as to just who did what and when; but there activities, including lead mining, lumbering, land
is documentary reference indicating that Messrs. speculation, and retail merchandising. He admin-
Grignon and Merrill were partners in a sawmill istered these ventures from Hazel Green, Wiscon-
operation at a place that became known as French- sin. Being a man of financial means, he was able
town, later named Port Edwards. The same mill fell to invest in a lucrative venture when the opportunity
under the partnership of Merrill and Whitney (same presented itself. Just such an opportunity was the
Whitney as in Pointe Basse operations) sometime lumber mill at Frenchtown. But he needed a person
in 1836. Next, Merrill bought out Whitney's interest to oversee the mill; a man knowledgeable of the
in the operation and then, in turn, transferred the forests and familiar w ith sawing operations. He
business to a partnership of Edwards and Clinton. found such a person in Henry Clinton, whom he
This brings the sequence of events up to 1840. took in as a par tner, placing him as manager of the
Frenchtown mill and suppor ting operations. The
The mill that was changing hands as frequently as partnership business was known as Edwards and
10 a football during a bowl game, was a single saw
operation located about a thousand feet north of the
Clinton Co.

present Port Edwards paper mill. The physical plant A settlement soon developed around the nucleus of
consisted of most likely an unheated, wooden the Edwards and Clinton sawmill. Since its in-
building; three or four foot high dam constructed habitants were mostly of French descent, the village
of brush, timber, and native stone; and a water tur- was appropriately named Frenchtown, a name
bine or perhaps even an old water wheel driving a which prevailed uni! 1869 when it was changed to
single rotary saw. But all of these assets were not Port Edwards in honor of John Edwards, Jr. Perhaps
as valuable to the lumbermen as were the water it should have been called Port Merrill, or Grignon's
power rights and the government permit to cut Rapids, or Whitneyville. There already was a Clin-
timber on the land made available by the 'Three tonville, so they named the village in honor of
Mile Strip" treaty previously mentioned. Edwards.

It was these proprietary assets that Edwards and In 1855, again in 1858, and once more in 1859, Clin-
Clinton took over in 1840. In fac t, there is some ton found himself financially obligated to the
question as to whether Grignon and Merrill really business. Unable to make payments, he transferred
did build an operating lumber mill. Some sources portions of his equity in the partnership to Edwards.
make note of Whitney being the motivating force In each case, Clinton signed over to Edwards por-
behind the building of a producing mill located at tions of his land holdings in Wood, Marathon, and
the end of Main Street in Port Edwards. However, Adams Counties in Wisconsin. Finally in 1862 an
due to an undeveloped north woods economy, the agreement was reached between these two, whereby
lack of good transportation and the limited capaci- Edwards took over management of the business
ty of the mill, very little lumber was sawed at operations, while Clinton was ban ished to operate
Frenchtown between 1836 and 1840. Whatever lum- the farm and lumber camp on Mill Creek in north-
ber was cut was probably used locally. At any rate, ern Wood County.
the wheels of progress did not begin to turn in the
Port Edwards area until 1840, the year in which John Clinton was murdered a few years later, reportedly
Edwards, Sr., bought out Merrill's sawmill, timber by an irate saloon keeper in Centralia; and Edwards
...

-<llr~~?
T . I ~.,

11

John Edwards, Jr. (standing on the steps) built this home in 1872. remodeled into a spacious mansion, surrounded by four village
It was across the street from the office of the John Edwards & blocks of landscaping. It was demolished in 1958 when the John
Company mill. In subsequent years, the home was enlarged and E. Alexander YMCA Community Center was built on the site.

gained full control of the Wisconsin operations. He A good description of Frenchtown in 1861 has been
renamed the business John Edwards & Company. preserved through the years. The settlement was re-
Active management had been turned over to his son, ported to be small, consisting of a store, a black-
John Junior, who remained in active management smith shop, a school, two boarding houses, and a
until 1890, when he was elected to the Wisconsin number of white homes. John Edwards, Jr., in an
legislature. He died while serving in this capacity. effort to keep a neat, clean village, sold white paint
to the property owners at a very attractive price.
The senior Edwards died in 1871 and his estate, This encouraged the home owners to keep their
including the Wisconsin River lumber business, fell buildings well painted even though they were all
into the hands of seven heirs. With the financial help uniformly white. As a result, the village was nick-
of T. B. Scott in 1873, John Edwards, Jr., was able named the White City. Large refuse burners burn-
to purchase the Wisconsin interests from the other ed day and night, disposing of bark and sawdust.
members of the family. Once more it became a
partnership to be known as Edwards and Scott Perhaps a little insight into the lumber business con-
Lumber Co. ditions in the era following the Civil War would be
of interest. In 1872, John Edwards & Co. cut ten and
It is interesting to note that the company was not a half million board feet of timber at the Mill Creek
only a vendor of wood products such as pine camp near Arpin, Wisconsin. This was floated down
lumber, lath, pickets, and shingles, but also a sup- Mill Creek to the Wisconsin River and then down-
plier of dry goods, groceries, and provisions. river to Frenchtown; a roundabout way, but certain-
ly the least expensive way. Another account jour- on this site. However, in 1878 an expansion program
nal of Edwards indicates that he sold 697,057 board resulted in the dismantling of the old mill and
feet of lumber at a price of $13.00 a thousand, or replacing it with a more modern facility. The old
a total of $9,061.78. He indicated his cost as double rotary saws (two circular saws operating side
$2,136.20, or a profit of $6,925.58! Slabs (the bark by side) were replaced with new gang saws (several
and curved sides of a log) sold for fifty cents a cord blades operating simultaneously as a group).
as firewood; while sawdust brought in $2.25 for two
wagon loads, no doubt from a local icehouse. What In 1885, with financial assistance from W. E.
appears to be quite expensive, at least to this writer, Southwell of Milwaukee, Edwards was able to pur-
is the price of horses. Edwards bought four of them chase the Scott interests in the mill.
on one occasion for $500, or $125 each. About this
same time, Edwards indicates in his personal diary In 1890, upon election to the state legislature, John
that he hired a Mr. Benedict at a rate of twenty Edwards, Jr., invited a young banker to join him in
dollars a month! operating John Edwards & Company. This was
Lewis M. Alexander, who later became Edwards'
At some point in time between 1840 and 1878, the son-in-law. That same year, John Edwards, Jr., and
site of the Edwards mill was moved from its loca- L. M. Alexander reorganized the lumber business,
tion at the end of Market Street to the site of the renaming it John Edwards Manufacturing Company,
present paper mill in Port Edwards. Up to 1878, Ed- the immediate predecessor of the Port Edwards
wards conducted his business from his original mill paper mill.

12

The lumber mill of John Edwards and Company was located on the mill to the drying yards. The bell in the tower was used for
the same site occupied by the present Port Edwards mill. The announcing the beginning and ending of the work day as well
railroad tracks in the foreground were not common carrier tracks as a general fire alarm.
but only an intramill system used for transporting lumber from
Chapter Three: Peerless, Kidney Wine and
Lice Powder
The lumbering background of Nekoosa Papers Inc., gram which awarded land to a railroad that would
includes a third operation, this one located in north- build tracks into virgin areas.
ern Wisconsin. Since it was one of the companies
merged into Nekoosa Edwards, it is only fitting to In 1901, Thomas Nash, for a sum of $23,867.00,
give a brief resume of its history. purchased several thousand acres of these lands.
Two provisions stipulated by the seller were that
Water and timber- the water being the Chippewa Nash agree to build a lumber mill in the Glidden
River in this case, and the timber being on lands in area and secondly, that all lumber be shipped via
northern Wisconsin in the area of Glidden, Wiscon- the Wisconsin Central Railroad. The latter clause
sin. Much of this timber-covered land was acquired was no great problem as the Wisconsin Central was
from the Wisconsin Central Railroad, which in turn the most logical railroad to ship on, since it was the
had obtained it under a Federal Land Grant, a pro- only railroad in the immediate area.

The Nash Lumber Company sawmill at Shanagolden, Wiscon- walls of the boilerhouse still exist, just across the Chippewa River
sin. T he mill became part of Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company from what was downtown Shanagolden.
in 1908 and burned shortly thereafter. The remains of the brick

13
Shanagolden was born some five or six miles south-
west of Glidden. The nucleus of the village was the
Nash Lumber Company, located on the Chippewa
River, which flowed along the south edge of the
community. But one big difference existed between
this mill and other mills we read of in previous
chapters. This mill was steam engine powered,
rather than water powered. Hardwood was sawed
at the mill while the softwood, mostly hemlock, was
shipped to the Nekoosa Paper Company to be used
as pulpwood. In 1908 the name was changed to
Shanagolden Lumber Company.
The vault or strong box lies in the rubble of the old foundation
of the Nash Lumber Company's office building. This photo was
taken in 1966. A recent visit to the same spot failed to produce
The Shanagolden holdings included the sawmill at
the strong box. It perhaps rests in some antique shop. Shanagolden and 34,000 acres of timberland in that
area. In order that the outlying timber could be
The sawmill was built by D. J. Murray Manufac- made available, the Shanagolden Lumber Company
turing Company of Wausau, Wisconsin, which was operated a private railroad. An agreement had been
considered to be one of the best builders of sawmills made with the Wisconsin Central Railroad whereby
in the Midwest. And so it was that the village of the lumber company was to furnish the graded right-

14

The main street of Shanagolden, Wisconsin, about 1910. The picture were moved to Glidden, Wisconsin, a distance of seven
buildings on the left were the office, store and boarding house miles, where they are still occupied today.
operated by the Nash Company. Several of the homes in this
15

A Lombard steam hauler builds up a head of steam prior to haul-


---
ly called a jammer, has transferred the logs from the sleighs to
ing a train of empty sleighs into the woods. The crane, popular- the rail cars at Shanagolden, Wisconsin.

of-way and the cross ties, while the Wisconsin Cen- ive. Thus when the Glidden and Southwestern re-
tral would furnish the steel rails. The main line ran ceived its locomotive back, it was minus a bell. It
from Glidden to Shanagolden, a distance of eight
miles. Several branch lines into the woods made up
the balance of the thirty miles of trackage operated.
The ·line was operated by the lumber company.
However, a portion of all shipping charges paid to
the Central were turned back to the lumber com-
pany to apply on the Wisconsin Central's purchase
of the line. Thus the Central eventually became
owner of the Glidden and Southwestern Railroad.

An amusing story is told about the locomotive that


the Glidden and Southwestern Railroad owned. It
seems that the locomotive, which had been pur- Not only is the only locomotive of the Glidden and Southwestern
Railroad out of service but the main line is also fouled up. The
chased second-hand from a Colorado railroad, was derailment was caused by a soft roadbed in the marsh area be-
sent to the Wisconsin Central's shops at Fond du Lac tween Shanagolden and Glidden, Wisconsin.
for boiler repairs. While there, some engineer ad-
miring the beauty and tonal quality of the brass bell, is reported that the Central offered the Glidden and
removed it for his own Wisconsin Central locomo- Southwestern any bell on any locomotive on the
Wisconsin system, but the original bell was never 11 pairs of drawers
returned. 28 pounds of plug tobacco
421/2 pounds of Peerless tobacco
As many as four logging camps were operated by 6 bottles of kidney w ine
the Shanagolden Company, perhaps not all at the 5 boxes of lice powder
same time. The camps were connected to the mill
via a spiderweb of some thirty miles of rails, plus To support the Nash operation, the company oper-
numerous tote roads on which steam tractors ated a boarding house with annex, ice house, of-
operated in winter, while thirty horses skidded logs fice, store, warehouse, barn, railroad "roundhouse,"
out of the woods in summer. and blacksmith shop. Several of the homes in the
community were built by and owned by Nash and
Logging camps are a "men only" tradition which rented to employees. Log loaders (jammers), loco-
has been described by many authors. A cursory motives, railroad cars, sleighs, "rut cutters;' icing
glimpse of life in a lumber camp could be obtained sleighs, a steam tractor, and even a gasoline rail car
from a supply inventory of Camp 3 of the the Nash complimented the Shanagolden sawmill.
Company. The 1907 multipage inventory lists,
among other items, the following commodities: In 1908, this northern operation became a part of
170 pairs of blankets Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company. Then in 1909,
1 dinner horn the lumber mill at Shanagolden caught fire and was
72 pairs of mittens completely demolished. Inasmuch as the select hard-

16

A McGiffert log loader working on the Nash property in North- Company. Cars were loaded by pushing them underneath the
ern Wisconsin, somewhere along the ra il line of the Glidden and loader toward the front of the derrick. After loading, the full
Southwestern Railroad. The logs were destined for the sawmill cars were picked up by the logging train.
at Shanagolden. The railcar carries the name of the Nash Lumber
wood had already been cut and only limited pulp- Now enter a new subsidiary operation. Nekoosa
wood remained, Nekoosa did not resume opera- Papers organized the Shanagolden Investment Com-
tions, but hired the Mellen Lumber Company to pany with an office in downtown Glidden. The pur-
complete the cutting operations on their land. The pose of this new company was to sell to prospec-
Glidden and Southwestern Railroad eventually tive farmers, the cut-over timberlands, complete
became the property of the Wisconsin Central with stumps. Land agents did their best, especially
Railroad, which in turn became a part of the Soo to immigrants, who were not told of the stumps, the
Line, and was abandoned sometime prior to 1925. rocks and the nothern Wisconsin winters.

Mellen Lumber Company, under contract to Nekoo- Although some farming got started, it wasn't until
sa Edwards Paper Company, agreed to cut the tim- the depression years of the early 1930's that Nekoosa
ber, selling the hardwood to a woodworking plant Edwards finally disposed of the land. About 1932,
in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and shipping the softwood the U. S. Forest Service became interested in land
(pine and hemlock) to the pulp mills at Port Edwards acquisition, and Nekoosa Edwards found it favor-
and Nekoosa. The Mellen Company did the cutting able to come to an agreement with the U. S. Govern-
and paid Nekoosa Edwards a stumpage fee of $2.00 ment. As a result, 23,000 acres of cut-over land were
a thousand board feet. The contract was to terminate transferred to the National Forest System to settle
when the timber ran out . a $56,506 outstanding tax claim against Nekoosa Ed-
wards Paper Company.
But along about 1920, things were not going well
for Mellen Lumber Company. The company was
heavily indebted to eight banks and two private
lenders. An attempt to make a profit from "swamp
timber" was tried; the less desirable species being
17
used for broom handles, railroad ties, mine timbers,
lath and shingles. Bark was even sold to leather tan-
neries. Other hardships befell the operation. In 1920,
fifteen horses died. Coal was up to thirteen dollars
a ton, and "so poor in quality that the engine won't
run on it"!

By 1922, losses were over $140,000, and Mellen


wanted to cancel the contract with Nekoosa. Fur-
thermore, fire, which was the plague of the woods,
was threatening the cutting areas. The president of
Mellen wrote to the president of Nekoosa:

"All crews are out fighting fires. The trestle on Shanagolden of today has less than six homes, plus a communi-
the Heagearl branch of the railroad is burned ty hall; lots of stone foundations and this one remaining hydrant
which marked the intersection of two of the village's streets. No
out. The cutters have to keep out of the longer supplying water, the hydrant only serves as a reminder
slashings over near Foster Junction, as fire of this ghost town which flourished and then died.
started there will put us out of business."
And Shanagolden today? A few homes are left
And so the Shanagolden operation came to a close. around the village community center building. Two
The village of Shanagolden had a population of partial brick walls of the mill still stand, resembling
about three hundred at one time; today it would be a building hit by an earthquake. The foundations
difficult to get a mass meeting of thirty together. of the office, store and boarding houses are still
Many of the homes were loaded onto railroad cars there; and one Ione hydrant stands in a field, a
and hauled to Glidden, where some still remain. rusting monument marking an almost forgotten
Finally, the railroad itself was removed. street corner.
Chapter Four: Dynamite it Bigger
At some point in this volume, a chapter should be one end, and tapering to five inches at the "small"
included emphasizing the importance of the Wiscon- end. Picture the river in one of its savage moods,
sin River to our company's growth. After all, it was conjured up by spring floods. Ahead of you is a dam
the river that gave cause to the lumber industry to barricading your progress downstream. There is
be established here. Likewise, it was the river that "slide" or "chute" just barely wide enough to permit
brought the paper industry following in the foot- your raft to pass through . It's no wonder that daily
steps of the sawmills. entries, like the following, found their way into John
Edwards' diary.
The Wisconsin River, longest of the streams within
the state's boundaries, has the temperament of an
Irishman. It is wild, forceful, and powerful when
aroused by spring thaws or heavy rains; yet it is
peaceful, tranquil, and passive at low flow. It alter-
nately displays these moods, often with no other
warning than the unpredictable conditions of
weather. Since man has never been able to control
the weather, pioneer lumbermen turned their efforts
toward controlling the river. Their goal was to more
evenly divide the periods of ferocity with the inter-
18 vals of quiescence. This was done as early as the
1850's when sawmill operator Henry Clinton obtain-
ed a permit to build four dams on the Wisconsin
River in the vicinity of Wisconsin Rapids, so as to
more effectively run logs and lumber down the river. Gus Giese, former Nekoosa Papers employee, remembered the
rafting days of his youth and spent several hours of hls retire-
T he resulting dams were called "wing dams;' and ment building this minature replica of a Wisconsin River lumber
their purpose was to direct the river flow toward the raft. The raft is now the property of the Nekoosa Papers AI-
chives collection. Giese had the honor of running the last raft
center of the stream, or toward a certain channel. down the river in 1887.
The building of dams, for the specific purpose of
regulating the volume of flow, was begun in the lat- "Farrish's raft 'saddlebagged' my dam today."
ter half of the 1800's. By law, these dams had to pro-
vide for the passage of logs and lumber being traf- What this means is that the pilot was unable to guide
ficked on the river. These passages were called chutes his raft lengthwise through the chute. Rather, the
or sluices. What one person might consider as be- pilot was in trouble as his raft was approaching the
ing an ideal situation for his operation might not dam floating sideways. Upon hitting the rock foun-
be to the best advantage of another. Consider the dation of the dam, it buckled and broke into pieces.
problems surrounding lumber rafting. A book
should be written just on this exciting subject alone; Another entry from the same source reads:
and the Nekoosa Archives has some firsthand
documents that would provide background "Farrish dynamited my dam today."
material. However, it is not the scope of this work
to present a detailed history of lumber rafting. Evidently feeling the dam's chute was too narrow,
or not passing enough water, Farrish instructed his
Consider, if you would, a pile of lumber four feet crew to use dynamite to enlarge the opening. Acts
high, sixteen feet wide, and one hundred-twelve feet such as this did not promote good harmony between
long. Imagine trying to steer this raft by wielding rival lumbermen!
a rudder that has been fabricated from a pine tree
thirty-five feet long, fourteen inches in diameter at Here are some more interesting documentations
taken from various sources. But the river not only had its cataclysmic traits; it
also had its dormant side, as shown by these quotes.
"Your (Edwards ') logs wrecked my (Neeves)
dam today. If you are man enough, you will "All hands spiked (pried) all day getting raft
come up here to discuss putting it back the off sand."
way it was."
"No time was lost. River dropping two inches
"One man killed today and one injured. They every twenty-four hours, and that means a lot
were dynamiting at the dam and one lit his on the lower river."
pipe. The dynamite went off prematurely, kill-
ing one and badly injuring the other." "Stuck on island-one day lost."

"Two men drowned today at the dam. Their And then there were the problems of floating logs
raft went over the dam sideways, and they from the upper river cutting areas down to the mills.
were washed off the raft." Boom companies were formed, whose purpose it
was to disperse the logs down river, taking the best
"Edwards' dam unsafe for rafting." (Newspaper advantage of the river flow. Imagine a pile of logs
article.) choking the river for a distance of two miles. The
boom company was supposed to avoid this, but ob-
"My dam is safe but pilots have to be ex- viously did not live up to their purpose.
perienced. I will insure for twenty-fiv e cents
a raft, all going over my dam if certain pilots It wasn't only lumbering that depended upon the
are used." (Newspaper advertisement.) river. Paper mills that followed in the footsteps of
sawmills required hydro power also. In 1898, L. M .
19
Alexander, President of John Edwards Manufactur-
ing Co., cited the need for water regulations, stating
that he did not have enough water for operating the
mills. He accused the dams up river, some of them
owned by the boom companies, of holding back the
water and even suggested that the dam at Minoc-
qua, Wisconsin, be removed. It is interesting to note
that on June 9, 1898, the Minocqua dam was blown
up. Tom Nash, President of Nekoosa Paper Co., in-
structed his representative there to "find the culprit.
It should be easy to find out who bought dynamite
around there recently:'

All of the foregoing are interesting and even humor-


ous incidents; nevertheless, they all posed serious
problems to the river users. And so it was that
L. M. Alexander and other interested persons made
an attempt at controlling the river flow. The dam
owners and mill operators formed the Wisconsin
River Hydraulic Association on February 28, 1895.
The association made an attempt at controlling the
two hundred and fifty foot fall of water that existed
Lumber rafts congregate at Kilbourn Town (Wisconsin Dells), in the river's course over a distance of slightly over
prior to going through the narrows of the Dells. The raft in the
foreground is being separated into what is called a rapids piece. a hundred miles. An interesting capitalization struc-
In the background are rafts that have come down the river from ture made it possible for each water user on the river
Port Edwards, Grand Rapids and other points further north on
the Wisconsin River. to subscribe to a number of shares of stock in direct
20
The dam at Nekoosa, Wisconsin, is quite typical of the dams with steel gates that we associate with river control today replaced
that existed at each of several lumber mills along the river. They these older dams in later years. The present Nekoosa mill dam
were of timber and rock construction. The concrete structures is built on the foundations of the one illustrated here.

proportion to the feet of water controlled by his Perhaps somewhat improved, control of the river
dam. was still not at its best. Regulation, that would
only come from a system of dams and reservoirs,
However, the Hydraulic Corporation fell short of which could impound the spring high water and
its intended goal; perhaps because it lacked the sup- release it during the dry seasons, was needed. The
port and authority of the state legislature. At any federal government had done this on some rivers.
rate, the problems were not solved as indicated by Here in Wisconsin, a group of water power users
the following reports of the John Edwards Manufac- took it upon themselves to not only regulate, but
turing Co.: also improve the Wisconsin River's moods.

"Mill down because of grinders and machinery In 1906 Alexander and Nash, both presidents of
on line shaft not operating due to high water predecessor Nekoosa Edwards' companies, along
with no head and flooding in the basement." with others, founded the Wisconsin Valley Improve-
ment Company. Twenty-five water power users
"Number five and six machines down. One subscribed to their proportionate allotment of stock.
and a half inches of water in grinder room and Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company was the largest
machine room basement." investor, since three of its parent companies controll-
ed eleven percent of the river's developed power.
And the opposite conditions: Nash and Alexander were both directors of the new
company, which was chartered by the state of
"Grinders shut down at midnight to conserve Wisconsin in 1907.
water."
And what has it accomplished? Well, rafting and relation to size-to doing the greatest good for
log drives are things of the past. There is no com- the greatest number of people, the Wisconsin
mercial traffic on the river other than a few sight- River heads them all.
seeing boats at Wisconsin Dells. Yet the Wisconsin
River is the hardest working river in the country. The Wisconsin River is an active demonstra-
Mills no longer shut down for the annual spring tion of the development of a river valley by
floods or late summer droughts. An excerpt from tax-paying, self-supporting private industry. It
a pamphlet distributed by the Wisconsin Valley Im- illustrates how at twenty-six dams on the river,
provement Company best summarizes the accom- hydro-electric plants are busy 24 hours a day
plishments. producing electricity for industry and the peo-
ple of the State. Twenty-one additional reser-
''Through the support of its member com- voir dams of the Wisconsin Valley Improve-
panies, the river plant owners, the program ment Company store the water runoff in wet
has now developed into a complex, effective seasons and release it during dry periods. This
system of 21 storage reservoirs." materially reduces flood damage and makes the
river more useful all year. This system of reser-
As rivers go, there are many far larger- voir dams and power dams not only controls
carrying a vastly greater volume of water. floods and produces water power, but creates
There are many more publicized-but when a series of lakes, thus adding lake facilities to
it comes to work-to production of energy in the advantages of the River."

21

As late as 1920, the river was still being used for logging as il- in storage on the river. A boom, secured by three stone cribs
lustrated in this photo of the mill pond at Port Edwards. The monitors the flow of wood to the mill.
view is from the water tower at the mill and shows pulpwood
Part Two: LUMBER TO NEWSPRINT
Chapter Five: They Were Called Visionaries
The Wisconsin River is about 450 miles long. The the pulp and paper manufacturers in the eastern part
middle third of this stream is home to thirteen paper of Wisconsin, eventual competitors, were most eager
mills, from which there flows over five thousand to advise Garrison and his group that the Wiscon-
tons of paper each day. It is said more printing paper sin River water was not suitable for pulp manufac-
is produced in one twenty-five mile portion of the turing, let alone for making paper. After all, every-
river than in any other place in the world! Nekoosa one knew that there was too much decayed vegetable
Papers Inc., is proud of the fact that it was one of matter-tannin, to the chemist-in the water. Why,
its parent mills, Centralia Pulp and Water Power the name of the river itself was derived from it
Company, that has the distinction of being the birth- characteristic swamp color and odor!
place of this gigantic paper business. This same
parent company is the door by which we entered Garrison was not disheartened. He found technical
into the pulp/paper business. support in two experienced papermakers, George
Whiting and Frank Steele. They experimented with
This account of the birth of the Wisconsin River the water and found it suitable for making pulp. Ac-
paper industry, as well as the birth of Nekoosa cordingly, on February 12, 1886, eighteen sharehold-
Papers Inc. , is taken primarily from an article pre- ers subscribed to $100,000 worth of stock; and the
22 pared by this writer. It appeared in a trade magazine
entitled The Papermaker, published by Hercules
Centralia Pulp and Water Power Company was born,
incorporated under the laws of the State of Wiscon-
Company, a supplier of raw materials for paper sin. Financial support was also obtained from John
manufacturing. McNaughton, Frank Wood, and John Edwards, Jr.

The waters of the mighty Wisconsin were harnass- Immediately, two consulting civil engineers were
ed at South Centralia in Wisconsin Rapids in 1848 engaged to develop plans for the new mill. Captain
when Timothy Hurley built a sawmill for the cut- A. B. Towers of Holyoke, Massachusetts, and N . M.
ting of white pine lumber. Subsequent transfers of Edwards of Appleton, Wisconsin, made a survey of
ownership eventually placed the mill in the hands the river banks at the sawmilI site, certain islands in
of John Rablin, who operated it as a tub-and-pail the river, and the water power potential. They recom-
factory. However, financial troubles in 1879 resulted mended that a new dam be constructed, a pulp mill
in the mill and the water rights being sold to a group be located on the river, and that a boiler house be
of investors headed by Frank Garrison. located on the island. Furthermore, they found that
the island had an excellent stone base and suggested
Garrison was a successful merchant and lumberman that it would be a suitable site for a paper mill.
but knew little or nothing of papermaking. Never-
theless, on January 21, 1886, the Wood County At this point, and to quell the adverse criticism of
Reporter carried the following news article: competitors, the consulting engineers again perform-
ed experiments on the river water and again "approv-
'A serious movement is on foot to utilize the ed of it for pulp and paper manufacturing;' as their
Hurleytown mill site. Citizens have banded report stated. Captain Towers further told the Wood
together to form a stock company to buy the County Reporter, "The water power here is amongst
site and erect a pulp mill. This is a move in the finest in the United States:' The Reporter added:
the right direction."
'All that is needed is capital to make the two
Probably because Garrison lacked practical cities of Grand Rapids and Centralia a second
knowledge of the industry he was about to enter, Minneapolis and Saint Paul."
The newspaper expressed great faith in the success Final cost was $75,000, and the first pulp was pro-
of the new undertaking, and the Centralia Pulp and duced less than a year later, on June 5, 1888. The
Water Power Company was determined to make pulp mill consisted of a single building, the foun-
every attempt to make this conviction come true. dations of which formed six fl umes constructed of
natural stone with each flume housing two turbines.
The first step was the construction of a dam 12 feet The wheel pits were blasted from solid bedrock; the
high which created a 14-foot head of water. The dam dislodged stone was used for flume construction and
was built of white pine timber and followed a pat- to fill the cribs of the dam.
tern referred to as "crib and spar:' The cribs were
filled with Wisconsin River bedrock. Consisting of The turbines, when operating under a full head of
three separate portions that interconnected the is- water, were capable of producing 1,845 horsepower.
lands, the dam had a total length of 950 feet and To express this another way in terms more familiar
was reported to be the best dam on the entire to a papermaker, the wood grinders could devour
river-one that would withstand the severe ice and twelve cords of wood daily. Ten extra grinder stones
floods characteristic of the Wisconsin River. Parts were kept on hand and had a value of $1,395.
of the same dam, although now raised and improv-
ed, still hold back a head of water for a hydro- A wood room, housing two Morgan barkers, a
electric plant. Morgan splitter, and saws, was located on the west
bank of the river. Wood was prepared here and then
On July 18, 1887, construction of the mill proper dropped by gravity to the grinder room . Fiber was
was begun under the direction of Charles Lemke. screened over bronze screens and then sen t to one

23

The Centralia Water Power and Paper Company's facilities at mill and the taller building on the left is the wood roo m. The
South Centralia, Wisconsin. The building on the right is the paper mill operated two pa per machines.
mill. The buildings that span the river is the groundwood pulp
24 The boiler room at the Centralia mill burned wood as fuel. The was powered by water turbines. This building still stands and
only need for steam was for heating the dryers on the paper serves as a garage and storage builing at the Centralia hydro-
machines. Mechanical power was taken from a line shaft that electric plant.

of two 76-inch Beloit wet-lap machines. The entire producing an exceptionally strong fiber.
mill was heated with small stoves and was lighted
with "modern electric lamps:' Power for the lights Centralia Pulp and Water Power Company's claim
was furnished by a 150-kilo~att Mather dynamo. to fame rests in the fact that it was the first paper
mill on the Wisconsin River. This title was earned
Located on an island in the river and adjoining the in 1891; for in that year similar letters were sent to
pulp mill was the boiler house, a brick building all shareholders, a typical one being:
housing three coal-and-bark burners capable of gen-
erating 450 horsepower of steam. A brick-and-steel Dear Sir:
stack, 108 feet high, domina ted the skyline, assur-
ing local residents of no air pollution from the new You are hereby notified that the Board of Di-
mill. The boiler house also had a steam water pump rectors have this day ordered that a 35 percent
for fire protection, a piece of equipment that was assessment be levied upon all subscribers to
to play an important role in the eventual fate of the the capital stock of the company, 20 percent
mill. Employed in the mill during those early days payable March 15 and 15 percent payable April
were twenty-five to thirty men, who worked ten 10. This will amount to $5,145 upon your sub-
hours a day for as little as $1.25 per day. scription. Please respond immediately.

It is noted in the newspapers of the area that the Yours sincerely,


pulp mill started up without any difficulties. The
Centralia newspaper, expounding on the quality of Centralia Pulp and Water Power Co.
the pulp, stated that the abundant horsepower Frank Garrison, President
available from the high head of water enabled the
grindermen to run their stones quite dull, thereby Stock in the company had been assessed to raise
capital for the purchase and installation of a paper joists and a floor of three inch pine planks covered
machine and auxiliary equipment. with a hardwood surface. (Note the apparent abun-
dance of select lumber in the Wisconsin pinery.) The
It is interesting to note here that John Edwards, Jr., superstructure of the mill was also of wood. The
an original shareholder, paid not only his own basement of the machine room contained equipment
assessment, but those of two other directors as well. to filter the river water used in the operation of the
This step on Edwards' part was not entirely an mill.
altruistic one, for it enabled Edwards and his son-
in-law, L. M. Alexander, to gain control of the com- A beater room, 42 by 56 feet, housed five beaters
pany in later years and to take over the positions and two refiners. All tanks, vats, and tubs were con-
of president, treasurer, and general manager. structed of pine lumber and held together with iron
hoops. A finishing area of 2,240 square feet and a
When the necessary funds had been raised, construc- 24 by 36-foot machine shop complemented the
tion of a paper mill was begun in 1891. A 104-inch paper mill. The whitewashed interior walls and 168
paper machine was purchased from Beloit Iron windows in the finishing room alone, combined
Works of Beloit, Wisconsin. with electric lights, justify the statement of the
Reporter, that "the mill employees are assured plenty
The paper mill building complex was located on an of light:'
island and consisted of several buildings, the largest
of which was a machine room measuring 40by175 A standpipe, five fire pumps, and 1,300 feet of two
feet. The foundation walls were of stone construc- inch fire hose, provided fire protection to even the
tion and were three and in some cases, even four most remote corner of the mill. Further, no rags were
used in the process-hence the mill's claim to the
feet thick. On these rested 12 by 14-inch white pine
25

An interior view of the Centralia paper mill, showing their two wooden flooring, foot injuries were quite prevalent; and no doubt
paper machines. Note the bare feet of the employees and the influenced the safety rule requiring hard toe shoes in the mills
wooden floors. Between debris on the floors and slivers in the of today.
insurance firms that there was no fire hazard from Our mill is small, but ultra-modern and is a
paper dust. fully integrated operation-from wood to
finished paper. We own 200 acres of proper-
The product was newsprint, and apparently it was ty, most of it woodlands. Up the river a few
a quality one. At any rate, the Centralia Enterprise hundred yards you w ill see four homes
thought so, and editorialized accordingly in May of (rental-$4. 70 monthly) and a boarding
1891: house, all owned by this company. The barn
over there houses the teams of horses we use
The product is equal to, if not superior, to that in our daily operations.
manufactured in the Fox River Valley.
The spur railroad track connects with three
And who might know newsprint quality better than different railroads, assuring us of excellent
a newspaper editor? By 1893, business warranted the delivery of our product to all parts of the mid-
installation of a second paper machine, an 88-inch west. The wood room consumes about 16
Beloit. cords of wood daily or 563 railroad cars an-
nually. (Wood cost- $3.50 per cord.)
The Centralia mill was managed by Frank Garrison,
one of the founders, until his death in 1905; where- We employ nearly 100 men, and our monthly
upon the bookkeeper became mill manager. This payroll is in the neighborhood of $2,500. We
may seem a rather big promotion, but is even more maintain an inventory of 45 to 50 tons of
phenomenal when one learns that the former book- finished paper and a stock of about 230 tons
keeper and new manager was a woman, Callie of pulp. Our wood yard contains about 475
26 Nason. cords of spruce wood.

Born at Nasonville, Wisconsin, Miss Nason was Our product sells for $1.85 to $2.25 per hun-
educated in Marshfield, Wisconsin; and then taught dredweight, and our earnings are in the neigh-
school until 1888, when she entered the employment borhood of $45,000 annually. Our mill is
of Centralia Pulp and Water Power Company. She valued at $164,367.24, plus another $787 for
served as secretary and general manager until her this office building and its furnishings. (Fur-
retirement in 1919, and is believed to be the only nishings included the Mullen tester, three
woman to serve as general manager of a paper mill. desks, two typewriters, and a gilded, fireproof
vault.)
Under Miss Nason's direction were a pulp mill, a
paper mill, and the hundred men needed to operate We own stock in the Wood County Telephone
the mills. Production from the paper mill was about Company, the Wisconsin Valley Improvement
35 tons a day, and groundwood pulp production Company (a Wisconsin River regulatory co-
amounted to about 12 tons daily. The remainder of operative), and the Northern Paper Company
the pulp needs was satisfied by the purchase of (a cooperative wood buying concern). We pay
sulphite pulp from other mills. an annual dividend of 5 percent on our out-
standing stock.
Let's talk to General Manager Nason. Bubbling over
with feminine pride in her mill operation, Miss Miss Nason doesn't say it, but she might have men-
Nason meets us in the general office of the company, tioned that business was getting a little competitive,
which is located in a 20 by 30-foot frame building with the dividend becoming a little harder to meet
on the west bank of the river. The building houses each year because of competition from the new mills
her office, the general office of the company, the being built up and down the river.
sales office, accounting department, personnel de-
partment, and the laboratory, which contains only At this point in Miss Nason's interview, a young lad
a Mullen tester. Miss Nason might describe her mill of about fifteen years of age comes running into the
and its operations in these words: office to announce that the stone on the number two
grinder just "blew up:' Miss Nason detects our anx- Company raised $300,0000 "payble in gold coin in
iety and explains that this happens occasionally. 1932 and bearing two percent interest also payable
in gold coin:' The bonds were signed by C. Nason,
The speed of the revolving stone is too great, and the funds thus raised were used to construct an
and centrifugal force causes the stone to fly ultramodern hydro-electric plant on the site. In 1917
apart at its weakest point, usually a crack in L. M . Alexander, who was president of a pair of
the stone. We keep a stock of ten extra grinder paper mills down the river a few miles, became
stones on hand for just such emergencies. president of the Centralia mill. In that year, share-
holders of the two companies agreed on the sale of
And with this explanation, Miss Nason excuses her- Centralia Pulp and Water Power Company, its pro-
self and starts for the mill to direct the repair work. perty, groundwood mill, hydro-electric plant and
water rights to the Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Com-
pany for $300,000, with the new owner assuming
all outstanding debts of the old paper company.
Thus, Centralia lost its individuality and became the
south side electric plant of Nekoosa-Edwards Paper
Company.

One small facet of the story remains to be told. In


1923, the new owners decided to abandon pulping
operations and devote the water power exclusively
to hydro-electric power production. Accordingly, the
remaining pulp mill was dismantled and deliberately 27
The remains of the pulp mill at Centralia are deliberately burn-
ed to clear the site for an addition to the hydro-electric plant.
Unfortunately, no pictures were made the night of the fire that
destroyed the mill.

On May 20, 1912, the story of the Centralia mill


operation came to an end. To use a cliche, it was
now an open-and-closed case. The mill that started
it all, rose from an idea and grew to a prosperous
business, and then, through catastrophe, faded in-
to oblivion, had planted the seed of the Wisconsin
River paper industry. When only twenty-five years
of age, the mill was demolished by fire. That sub-
ject will be covered in a subsequent chapter of this
work. Perhaps pioneer attorney Theodore Brazeau's
reminiscences best eulogize this event. He stated
" ... and they were called visionaries. For they used
to say that some day a great paper company would
flourish in what was then a frontier settlement,
hemmed in by tractless forests:'

The mill continued to produce groundwood pulp for


another five years. But the river was capable of
greater expectations. Official Wisconsin State Historical marker has been erected at
the site of the first paper mill on the Wisconsin River. The marker,
placed here in 1962, is on a landscaped area overlooking the mill
In 1913, a bond issue by Centralia Pulp and Water site, and is on state highways 73/ 54.
burned out. Hugh Boles was invited to supervise the duction over a high voltage line to the Nekoosa and
dismantling work of the old mill "as a reward for Port Edwards mills, supplementing power being pro-
his faithful, long, and continuous service as a duced at each of those sites.
machine tender:' A fitting tribute to a papermaker?
In 1961, the Wisconsin State Historical Society
And today? Well, the sturdy concrete and steel dam recognized the historical significance of the Centralia
and the modern hydro-electric plant are providing paper mill to the Wisconsin River Valley economy.
power to the Wisconsin mills of Nekoosa Papers Inc. An official state historical marker was erected at the
Originally, four generators supplied electricity for site, thereby commemorating the birthplace of the
the mills, homeowners in Port Edwards and Ne- mighty Wisconsin River paper industry and the
koosa, and for the local street car line. Today six entrance of Nekoosa Papers Inc., into the pulp/ paper
generators in this company plant send all their pro- world.

28

The "Administration Building" of the Centralia Water Power and bank overlooking the mill. A curling rink occupies the site today.
Paper Company was this modest frame structure on the river-
Chapter Six: We Can't Find Nekoosa
on the Map
Thomas Nash was born in 1852 and died in 1917 Nash. Kimberly stated, in an 1891 letter to Nash,
at the age of sixty-five, which is the age most peo- that his company (predecessor of Kimberly Clarke
ple are considering retirement. Nash was not able Co.), had no interest in expansion in Wisconsin, and
to reflect on his retirement years; but he could look they "will not attempt to build any more pulp mills
back upon a business career in which he was per- anywhere:' He felt that Wisconsin could not sup-
sonally involved with the organization and direc- port any more mills; the state's potential for paper-
tion of three paper mills, a pulp mill, a lumber com- making having already been exploited. His letter
pany, and a railroad. His career included the closed with, ''Trusting that you may strike some
presidency of Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company, a good fellow to go in and make a fortune with you,
position which he filled upon the consolidation of and wishing you the compliments of the season, I
this company in 1908. This chapter reviews his beg to remain, very truly yours, J. A. Kimberly:'
organizing and building of the Nekoosa Paper
Company. With this rather discouraging Christmas greeting,
Nash now turned to his friend in Port Edwards,
Upon the demise of the Nekoosa Lumber Company L. M . Alexander, who turned out to be the "good
in the 1860's, the property and water power rights fellow" that Kimberly referred to. Accordingly,
reverted to a former owner, Moses Strong, who was
a Milwaukee attorney. Having received no interest
Thomas Nash, Lewis Alexander, Frank Garrison,
and Frank Wood were the prime movers who form-
29
for over thirty years on his investment, he sold the ed a corporation in 1893 to be called the Nekoosa
land and rights to George and Frank Wood of Grand Paper Company. The new business was capitalized
Rapids (Wisconsin Rapids), Wisconsin. These two for $350,000, of which Nash was the holder of
brothers, in turn, sold their assets to Tom Nash in $50,000 worth of stock. In exchange for this interest
1888. in the new company, he surrendered his water and
timber rights to the new corporation. Nash was
Nash had a plan for these rights and the property. elected president of the company, a position he
Bear in mind that this was raw timberland, much would fill until Nekoosa Paper Company was merg-
of it cut over by lumbermen, and an uncontrollable ed into Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company. He
river. There were no buildings in the mill vicinity. would sit in the chair of president of that company
All high ground was covered with a growth of for several years, until failing health would make
timber, while the marsh area, now the pulpwood him step down.
storage yard, was being utilized as a cranberry
marsh. A large beaver dam, reputed to be over one Nash took the responsibilities of presidency of the
hundred yards in length, was just west of the pre- new company very seriously. He took a very active
sent wood yard. Such was the site of Nekoosa in role in the business affairs of Nekoosa Paper Com-
1888. This is what Nash was gambling his life sav- pany. During construction he personally handled the
ings on. legal paperwork, had stock certificates printed,
employed laborers and contractors, and purchased
Nash had water power rights, land, and an idea. He equipment and materials. When the mill went into
turned to J. A. Kimberly of papermaking fame in operation, he handled the sales, complaints, and
eastern Wisconsin, asking if Kimberly's Paper Com- finances. He found time to devote some of his ef-
pany would be interested in building a paper and forts toward the plotting of the city of Nekoosa. He
pulp mill on the Wisconsin River, using Nash's assets named the streets after directors in the company, but
as a nucleus for the mill. Kimberly responded with failed to include his own name. He planned and con-
not only a refusal but also some candid advice for tracted fo r the building of the school, contributed
30 The Nekoosa Paper Company plant in 1898 included two paper
machines, a groundwood pulp mill, boiler house and finishing
will uncover many of the foundations and walls of the buildings
seen in this photo. However, remodelings and expansions have
room. An exploratory trip through the Nekoosa plant in 1987 been built around them.

An interior view of the Nekoosa Paper Company about 1900. apparently had a better housekeeping policy than the Centralia
The photo shows the first two paper machines that the Nekoosa mill, as is evident when comparing this photo with the photo
mill operated. The prominent display of finished product in the of the Centralia paper mill interior. Incidently, the two paper
foreground is newsprint paper. The Nekoosa Paper Company, machines in this photo a re still operating today!
toward a church structure, and discussed parks and Laborers were hired for construction of the dam and
landscaping of the city with a landscape artist. mill. This writer's grandfather gave up fa rming to
get a job on the dam building crew, as it would be
a way to get a foothold on a permanent job in the
mill once it started production. The going rate was
$1.75 per day, plus $3.50 per week for board. Dam
work was evidently more difficult or strenuous since
mill construction workers only received $1.50 per
ten-hour day plus the board allowance. Masons,
however, had a more skilled position, just as today.
They were offered a rate of $4.00 per thousand
bricks laid and $6.00 per thousand if the bricks were
Horses cooling off in the Wisconsin River! They might be doing on the smoke stack.
that but the primary reason for being in the water is because the
wagons they are pulling are full of rubble from the river bed .
The scene is in the tailrace of the Nekoosa mill. By excavating A few other trivia facts pertaining to the outfitting
the tail race of the power plant, the effective head of water is
increased, thereby creating greater power generating capacity. of the mill . Nash bought five new beaters at a cost
of $920 each . A paper machine was secured for
The fi rst task in building the new paper mill was $21,400, and a second machine for only $19,1001
to harness the valuable water power of the Wiscon- This second machine has an in teresting heritage all
sin River. The spring of 1893 saw the beginning of its own, and this history will be dealt with in a
an 888-foot dam across the Wisconsin River. Sixty- separate chapter.
four feet wide on the bottom and 22 feet at the top,
the dam was actually one long continuous crib con-
structed of 12 • x 12 • timbers and filled with over
When it came time to fire the boilers and Nash turn-
ed to purchasing coal, one coal supplier responded
31
20,000 loads of rock fill. to Nash's inquiry with, "Where is Nekoosa? We can't

The boiler room at Nekoosa Paper Company is much cleaner plemented by coal. Bark from the wood room has been dumped
and better maintained than the one at Centralia, shown in a on a pile in front of the boilers and awaits shoveling into the
previous photo. Bark is the primary source of fuel here, sup- boiler door.
32
The grinder room of the Nekoosa Paper Company about 1900. the basement of this room. Note the one lone stove for heating
The grinders to the right of the center posts are d riven by water the room in w inter.
turbines below them. The Wisconsin River actually flows through

find it on the map:' The grinder room was located over the river, about
where the Nekoosa hydro-electric plant is now
Wisconsin's newest paper mill of 1894 consisted of located. Thirty-seven turbines, set in stone flumes,
a boiler house, beater room, grinder room, machine produced power fo r fourteen pulp grinders, as well
room, finishing room, and blacksmith's shop. Twen- as operating saws, barkers, and beaters. Fifty-five
ty-five employees were engaged in the art of paper- tons of groundwood pulp were produced per day.
making.
In 1896 the demand for more and better pulp
brought into being the addition of a sulfite mill.
Thirty-three tons of sulfite pulp were cooked each
day in two digesters.

In the paper mill, fifty-five tons of newsprint paper


were being made daily on four paper machines. It
is interesting to note that these same four paper
machines, two installed in 1893 and two installed
in 1897, are still producing quality paper today.
However, it would be almost impossible to recognize
It's a rather stem look that employees get as they walk past the the original machines since they have been well
timekeeper's office on their way to and from work. Employee's disguised by enlargements, rebuildings, and
records are most likely kept in the card files on the counter in
the background. modernization.
Things went well for the fledgling paper company, digesters, the Nekoosa sulfite mill was abandoned.
and in 1896 a substantial fifteen percent dividend In 1930, groundwood production was discontinued;
was paid on the stock. Nevertheless, Nash ran into this tonnage being replaced with kraft pulp
financial problems that year. Alexander, who was production.
ready to enter into the paper business with the con-
struction of a new paper mill at Port Edwards, call- Five more paper machines were added over the
ed in his loan to Nash. Nash was able to satisfy the years; but there was a removal of two, resulting in
payment with financial assistance from a friend in a complement of five today.
Madison, Wisconsin, Col. William Vilas.
Once a specialty paper mill, the plant became noted
The 1898 annual report of Nekoosa Paper Company for its wax, oil, and wet strength treated wrapping
indicated that they produced that year 13,500 tons papers, many of them used in the food industry.
of paper, 7,500 tons of sulfite pulp, and 9,500 tons
of groundwood pulp. And the name Nekoosa? It's the Indian's nomencla-
ture for the rapids which provided the water power
In 1917, the need for more quality pulp brought that Tom Nash developed in 1893 for the Nekoosa
about the building of a two-digester kraft mill. From Paper Company.
1917 to 1929 three kinds of pulp were being manu-
factured in the Nekoosa mill; groundwood, sulfite In 1908, Nekoosa Paper Company became a part of
and kraft. In 1929, after adding two more kraft Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company.

33

The pulpwood storage yard of the Nekoosa Paper Company. neatly stacked in piles for drying. Each man carries a log weighing
Pulpwood logs are being unloaded by hand, from box cars and at least 100 pounds.
Chapter Seven: "They Say They Can Run it
up to 300 Feet a Minute"
To many, a steam locomotive is a rather romantic view the machine. More likely though, the exhibit
piece of machinery, and so magnificent that an or- would be viewed by thousands of people who would
ganization known as the Railway Locomotive and never again come in contact with a piece of paper-
Historical Society was formed to study and preserve making equipment. This did no t dishearten the
the history of these giants of the rails. No such or- Beloit people, who must have felt that, after all,
ganization exists on behalf of paper machines; but there was the possibility of a sale of the machine
a paper machine is just as large and as heavy as a when the Exposition closed.
steam locomotive, is constructed of the same ma-
terials, and usually costs considerably more. And Hubert H. Bancroft in his Book of the Fair describes
a paper machine has every bit as romantic a back- the Beloit paper machine exhibit as follows:
ground as an old-time locomotive.
Papermaking machinery is included, as I have
Beloit Iron Works' (now known as Beloit Corpora- said, among textile apparatus, and here may
tion) Columbian paper machine is a typical exam- be observed the process whereby wood pulp
ple. Now let's get one point clear at the outset. The is transformed into bulky rolls of paper ready
paper machine referred to here is not the oldest still for the printing press. The pulp is made from
34 in operation, nor is it the largest or fastest machine
ever built. Nevertheless it is, as far as we have been
spruce logs, cut into suitable lengths, ground
and mixed with sulphite to soften the fiber and
able to ascertain, the only full-size, commercial destroy all deleterious substances. When ready
paper machine ever built and operated specifically for the mill, the material is placed in the beater
for a world's fair. and thoroughly mixed with sizing, coloring,
and other matter which enters into the finish-
For the complete story, we have to turn back to the ed product. Then, in a semi-liquid condition,
year 1893. If that year strikes a bell in your memory, it is drawn off into a storage tank beneath, and
you will associate it with an economic and finan- presently submitted to a further mixing and
cial crisis in this country, referred to as the panic grinding operation performed by a so-called
of 1893. It was also the year that Chicago celebrated perfecting machine. As yet, however, the
its progress as a leading Midwestern city by stag- paper is anything but finished, resembling
ing a fair, better known as The World's Columbian somewhat curdled cream, but of whiter com-
Exposition. plexion, and only after much further manip-
ulation, which need not here be described, is
At Beloit, Wisconsin, not too many miles northwest ready to receive on its surface the news of the
of Chicago, the Beloit Iron Works took a decisive world. In this machine, fashioned at the Beloit
step. The company, already well on its way to be- Iron Works, with a capacity of ten tons of
coming a leader in the manufacture of papermaking paper a day, and occupying more than 100 feet
equipment, decided to build a paper machine for of longitudinal floor space, are contained near-
exposition at the fair. It was intended that this ly 200 tons of steel and iron.
machine would represent the ultimate in design, and
that it would actually produce paper on the fair mid- Rossiter Johnson's book, A History of the World's
way. A costly exhibit, but Beloit, in spite of the Columbian Exposition, describes the exhibit more
financial panic, invested practically all of its surplus briefly but in another light. Johnson states:
funds in its demonstration machine. Remuneration
would be in the form of advertising, and perhaps The novel Fourdrinier machine of the Beloit
a potential buyer of paper mill equipment would Iron Works, one hundred and twelve inches
35
A view of the Columbian paper machine as it appeared at the for slightly over nineteen thousand dollars. The machine is still
Chicago World's Fair in 1893. The machine actually made operating today, but has undergone several rebuilds, speedups
newsprint paper at the fair. Upon completion of the fair in the and modernization projects.
fall of 1893, the machine was sold to Nekoosa Paper Company

wide, with a capacity for ten tons of paper a to Beloit Iron Works to inquire if Beloit was in-
day, has a deckle frame with slice and pulleys terested in manufacturing a paper machine for the
of aluminum so light that two men can lift it new mill. Beloit responded with a letter asking if
from the machine. Nash would be interested in a machine similar to
the ones just built a year or so prior for the Cen-
And when the Exposition came to a close, Beloit tralia paper mill. (The Centralia mill, it will be re-
pointed with pride to the elaborate and ornate called, was located a few miles north of Nash's mill.
plaque earned by its exhibit. The award read, "For It will be further recalled that Nash was a partner
very high standard of workmanship and produc- in the Centralia venture and accordingly was famil-
tiveness, making 2,000 pounds of printing paper per iar with the Beloit Product.) Beloit's reply continued:
hour. Machine shows great advancement in the art
of paper making:' But earning awards does not pay Referring to machine that you will soon con-
dividends. Beloit, in addition to having a beautiful tract for, we would like to have you consider
plaque to hang on the office wall, now had an un- a probability to take the machine we are
sold paper machine on its hands. Furthermore, a building for the world's fair. The machine will
good share of badly needed capital was invested in be available November 15th and will make
this machine. you a price on this machine of $21,800
delivered and set up in your mill. We name
Now, if you have read one of the previous chapters this price in order to make the sale at once.
of this series, you will recall that the Nekoosa Paper Also will say we are enabled to do this on ac-
Company also had its origin in the year 1893. Ac- count of other reasons which we cannot give
cordingly, Nekoosa President, Thomas Nash, wrote now. The machine will only run for seven to
36 J.i-J.c lJJ'JJJW SJ)tfl'.S Df A1~J1'.IiJCA
·11Lr: ~1Drt1!E'B:UTIJ1JIJ'i1i2!J'JjJ<lj~::iJmJ
~ r~ urr~tli.tfnww.e.;uW1.rr1on W.w> 1n·tr~ .oJrlr.v tl.HllUO.u.4f.krl!.ruJJ...iJJ~1t1 Y1J~ Y~ J.Wal..
"/(JLJG.1l.:1M A~.li(\iU"m~~ fJD ;J~Ut'l:nlJ!)i;JH)r.&fJ'.bU.nJ~:ra'1.c.;1 •flf,t.~bJ.An.u!b.rn.,o.llAI.
JUll'1t..A01'Jtf!) -'10 All £1AUU!L:t. U;><..J]J •fi-1.f; nn.wu.o 0' A~UA;lll w J/1fLHllA11UIUI. .J!J.D:l:-~ 'trl

Plaque awarded to Beloit Iron Works for their paper machine was capable of manufacturing a ton of paper each hour. This
exhibit at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. Note that the machine was the state of the art in papermaking in 1893.
eight hours each day and will receive splen- After further correspondence, the machine was
did care and for practical business, be in just finally purchased by Nekoosa Paper Company at
as good condition if not better, at the end of a price of $19,240 delivered and installed at the mill.
the fair than a new machine. Being built for Final specifications included three coats of paint
the purpose of exhibit at the World's Fair, we with proper striping, polished brass caps on ends
think it unnecessary to say that we have of rolls, along with polished brass hand wheels.
spared no expense and attention to make it a
model machine in workmanship, convenience The actual start-up date of the machine at Nekoosa
and finish. is not known but was, no doubt, during the sum-
mer of 1894. At any rate, in the late summer of 1895,
Now Beloit's president, A. Aldrich, took things in Nash again approached Beloit on the possibility of
his own hands, and wrote to Nash offering to sell increasing the speed of the Columbian paper ma-
him the 'World's Fair Machine" for $21,000 delivered chine. In his letter Nash stated that the World's Fair
in the mill and set up with $330 deducted for machine was running perfectly well on newsprint
wooden felt rollers instead of brass. "I believe this at a speed of 250 feet per minute, producing twelve
to be the finest machine put up to date with a tons of product per day. Nash, concerned with safe-
number of improvements. It will have the best of ty, continued his letter by writing: 'The boys say
care and will be in better condition, I believe, for they can run it up to 300 per minute but I haven't
business after the little running at the Exposition:' permitted that yet and will not until every condi-
He then specified terms that could be arranged for tion is feasible:'
payment, of the machine extending over a period of
several months. Beloit's answer specified some changes that should

It is believed that at this point, Beloit's president was


be made in the machine if it were to be modified for
the new speed, and added: 'We see no reason why
37
also attempting to negotiate a sale of the machine the machine would not run safely at 300 to 320 fpm:'
to a Fox River area paper mill in eastern Wisconsin,
since the next letter from Aldrich to Nash was writ- The matter of quality at this increased speed was
ten in longhand on an Appleton, Wisconsin, hotel another concern for both Nekoosa and Beloit. Beloit
letterhead. Nash was not sold on the used machine suggested the adding of sulphite pulp to the furnish
and continued to carry on correspondence for a for added strength which would be needed when
completely new machine. running at higher speeds. Thus Nekoosa Paper
Company began construction of a sulphite pulp mill
Beloit engineers sent specifications to Nash for such to augment its groundwood pulp supply.
a machine but added on the letter of specifications
the following: The Columbian World's Fair Machine story does not
end here. In 1908, the Nekoosa Paper Company
How about the "World's Fair Machine"? Have became a part of Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company.
you sufficiently considered it to give us a In 1923, the Columbian was completely dismantled
decision? and reassembled at the Port Edwards mill. Subse-
quent rebuilds have resulted in the addition of an
You need have no fear buying this machine as entire new dryer section, headbox, drive system, and
it is built upon honor. Will say that although Fourdrinier Section. In fact, about the only parts
we made a desperate effort and expect it is of the original machine that still exist are some of
right in every respect and as fine a machine the base plates, a brass nameplate identifying it as
as ever built, if anything shows up that is not the "Columbian;' and a heritage of being the
just right we would of course correct it and "Worlds' Fair Machine."
stand behind it same as we do with all our
work. We have never built a machine that Today the machine, designated as number seven
received as much care during construction as machine, operates at speeds in the neighborhood of
this did. a thousand feet per minute and produces grades that
are far superior to newsprint. Daily production to- machine has made "news" in more ways than one.
day is about one hundred tons per day.
NOfE: The foregoing article was prepared by the
Old-timers around the mill still refer to her as the author and orginally appeared in The Papermaker,
"Columbian" rather than Number Seven. This old a publication of Hercules Co.

38

A view of the Columbian paper machine shortly after its reloca- of the product at the far end of the machine, it appears that the
tion in the Port Edwards mill. It has been renumbered now bear- machine has been converted to meat wrapping paper at the time
ing the identllication of No. 7 paper machine. From the looks of this photo.
Chapter Eight: Maybe We Should Have
Stayed in Lumbering
With the diminishing availability each year of pine the French are great drinkers:' The settlement of
logs in the Central Wisconsin pinery, John Edwards, Frenchtown was incorporated into the Village of Port
lumber entrepreneur at Frenchtown (Port Edwards), Edwards in 1869. Finally, John Edwards was elected
saw the proverbial handwriting on the wall. The tall to the Wisconsin legislature in 1890, where he serv-
timber was just about depleted. There were smaller ed for only one year before his death.
trees and an abundance of hardwood forests remain-
ing, but these trees were not desirable for satisfy- Edwards and Alexander, in October of 1890, reor-
ing the ravenous appetites of the saws. Some other ganized the Port Edwards lumber business as a cor-
events were transpiring at Frenchtown that would poration, naming it the John Edwards Manufactur-
help to plot the destiny of this lumbering business. ing Company. The organization of this company
John Edwards, Jr., took in a partner, as well as a was hardly more than a legal procedure since no
son-in-law, in the person of Lewis Miller Alexander. change in product or physical plant was undertaken.
The French lumberjacks were being replaced by Ger- The sawmill remained the same as when it was the
man and Scandinavian settlers; and, as one French- John Edwards Lumber Co. Products were still white
man admitted, "the Germans are hard workers and pine lumber, hardwood lumber, shingles, lath, and

39

The above photo of John Edwards Manufacturing Company each day. The object on the roof is a little puzzling. In another
shows the down river side of the mill. On the skyline to the left picture, it has been replaced with a ventilator. However, here it
is the Port Edwards Fiber Company pulp mill. Two paper looks like a wrapped package just sitting on the roof.
machines were producing about fifty tons of newsprint paper
...

40
The John Edwards Manufacturing Company groundwood pulp an area designated as the mill pond. Thus, pulpwood arrived
mill and newsprint papermill at Port Edwards about 1900. at the mill either by horse drawn wagons or brought to the wood
Although some pulpwood was stored adjacent to the mill, as room via a conveyor that brought them from the river w here
shown here, much was also stored on the Wisconsin River, in they floated to the milJ.

pickets. John Edwards Jr., was still president and The first pulp produced was groundwood, produc-
L. M. Alexander, secretary. ed by a series of six grinders, powered by Wiscon-
sin River power. The grinder room, still standing
In 1896, with Alexander now in the office of presi- today, was located over the river. To the west of the
dency, a decision was made to complement the line grinder room was the wet machine room, then the
of timber products by the addition of newsprint wood room, saw room and machine shop. These
paper. Thus, the John Edwards sawmill was demo- departments all have since been relocated to make
lished in order that the valuable water power on the room for the Port Edwards finishing room. The
Wisconsin River might be better utilized for a new ·beater room was in the location it now is. However,
paper mill. Construction began in 1895, and it is the boiler room and steam engine room were located
interesting to note that L. M. Alexander kept a jour- where the finishing room now is.
nal of material and equipment used in the mill con-
struction. Here are a few of the purchases of con- Two paper machines, now Nos. 5 and 6, were pur-
struction items taken from said ledger. chased from the Beloit Iron Works in 1896. Total
cost of these two machines, along with some aux-
4,084.62 Cords of Worden Quarry Stone iliary parts, was $57,000. But even this price, which
(About 1,000 railroad cars) seems very small today, was rather expensive for a
2,252, 980 bricks newly organized paper mill in 1896. Therefore, the
(About 250 railroad cars) machines were paid for on the installment plan,
353 Window Frames with Sash some payments being as small as $1,000. The
30 Wooden Doors economy had not yet recovered from the 1893 panic.
For the next few years, paper was the principal prod- up residence in Milwaukee. He would return to Port
uct of John Edwards Manufacturing Co.; about forty Edwards later.
tons being produced each day. Some lumber was still
being produced and sold by the timber products With groundwood pulp mills and newsprint paper
division. mills springing up all around the state of Wiscon-
sin at the turn of the century, the price of ground-
Lewis Alexander was not a paper maker. He was wood pulp plummeted to eighty cents a hundred-
trained as a banker and was a successful business- weight in 1898. A couple of years later, Alexander
man, organizer, leader, and manager. He was engag- commented, in a letter to his mother-in-law, the
ed in several other activities, including Cream City widow Edwards, the following:
Sash and Door Company, Port Edwards Land and
Investment Company, Merchant's and Manufac- "No dividend will be paid this year because
turer's Bank of Milwaukee, Iroquois Door Company our money is all tied up in a two-year purchase
of Buffalo, Two Rivers Company, and Inland Em- of pulpwood, which we did to preseroe rela-
pire Paper Company in Idaho. With all these busi- tions with the cutters."
ness activities, it is not surprising that Alexander
turned the management of the mill over to Frank There is undercurrent of talk about labor
Garrison in 1902. Garrison was operating the mill troubles."
at Centralia. However, he died shortly thereafter,
and the resident manager position was then turned "Sometimes I wonder if we should have stayed
over to George F. Steele. Meanwhile, Alexander took in lumber."

41

The crew of Number Five paper machine at John Edwards photos of machine crews, the men have elected to go barefoot
Manufacturing Company, takes time off from operating the about their work. Today, all employees in the mills are required
machine to pose for the photographer. Here again, as in other to wear safety toe shoes.
42

located on an island in the Wisconsin River, but still connected material is groundwood pulp in laps. To the right of that is a
to the mainland via the John Edwards groundwood pulp mill, pile of ground wood pulp bolts, waiting to be taken into the mill
was this pulp and pulpwood storage area. The pile of lighter for grinding into pulp.

Wet laps of groundwood pulp became one solid mass in the winter "Mount Edwards and Pinnacle Point:' No, not really but rather
time. Moisture in the pulp freezes, resulting in one large block a winter view of what can happen to an o utside storage pile of
of pulp. Spring has come to Wisconsin and workers in this pic- pulpwood bolts. Just to the right of the pinnacle are two men
ture are using wedges and a sledge hammer to pry apart the laps about to attempt to dislodge the frozen logs. To do so they will
of pulp. require quick footwork in order to escape the falling logs.
It is interesting to note that Centralia Water Power However, a year later the market price dropped to
& Paper Company, Nekoosa Paper Company, and $39.00 a ton. Something had to be done! As we will
John Edwards Manufacturing Company, were all see in subsequent chapters, it looked pretty gloomy;
competing with one another. Yet all three were related but there was a light at the end of the tunnel. The
to each other through their overlapping leadership motto became, "convert to higher grades of paper";
and management. As a sideline, it is interesting to a slogan that would echo again some twenty years
note that competition was set aside by other mills later.
in the state when a need arose. As an example, in
1898, when the Park Falls Paper Company needed Groundwood pulp production was phased out in
a pulp grinding stone in a hurry, John Edwards the 1940's when the grinders were removed and sold
Manufacturing Company loaned them one of their as scrap iron for the war effort. There was no need
spares; thereby getting the mill back in production for groundwood pulp in the papers that would
much faster than if a supplier were to furnish it. replace newsprint.

Newsprint prices improved by 1909, but probably Today there are still a few senior employees in the
only because of normal inflation, which had already Port Edwards plant who still refer to the east end
gotten a start in this country. John Edwards Manu- of the property as the John Edwards mill, thereby
facturing Company was producing newsprint at a associating it with the original mill of the John Ed-
cost of $39.15 per ton and selling it for $40.15. wards Manufacturing Company.

43

Number five and six paper machines (originally one and two in along with their barefoot operating crews. These two machines
the John Edwards Manufacturing Company) are shown here, were almost twins as far as physical dimensions were concerned.
Chapter Nine: If it Smells Sweet-it's Done

44

Port Edwards Fiber Company plant at Port Edwards about 1910. round window toward the top of the digester building. This mill
Cold acid, ma de from milk of lime, was used in the three digesters. was located only a few hundred feet from the mill of the John
The architect who designed the mill, had a flare for decorative Edwards Manufacturing Company.
touches as is illustrated by the crest of the smokestack and the

In 1872, Wisconsin's paper production was three a-half dollars a cord. But hardwoods did not make
tons per day, but by 1900, it had increased to 850 good groundwood pulp. Something had to be done
tons a day; a 28,233% increase in only twenty-eight and the cry became, 'Turn to better grades of paper:'
years. That's an average increase in production of
a thousand percent each year! In order to fulfill this goal, it was first necessary to
have a better quali ty, stronger and cleaner pulp. In
At the turn of the century, paper mills were pro- 1906 there were three choices of pulping techniques
liferating all over Wisconsin, but especially along to choose from, other than groundwood. One of
the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers. Most of these were these, the kraft process, produced a very dark col-
manufacturing groundwood pulp and newsprint ored pulp, which was unsuitable for fine papers. The
paper. It appeared that the market was becoming choice was between sulfite pulp or soda pulp. The
saturated- and it was just that. Furthermore, spruce three mills in central Wisconsin, John Edwards
pulpwood, the preferred wood for groundwood Manufacturing Company, Nekoosa Paper Company,
pulp production, had doubled in cost between 1899 and Centralia Water Power and Paper Company, all
and 1907, now commanding a price of between needed a source of better quality pulp. According-
eleven and twelve dollars a cord. Hardwood, on the ly, in 1906, the presidents of these three mills put
other hand, was more reasonable at only three-and- aside their competitive practices, and in turn joined
hands to form a new company, the Por.t Edwards The pulp mill that was erected had three ten-ton
Fiber Company, whose purpose it would b~to build digesters with a combined capacity of sixty tons of
a sulfite pulp mill in Port Edwards. The actual pulp each day. The cooking liquor used for cook-
signers of the incorporation papers were Thomas ing the wood was a cold, lime-base acid system. It
Nash, Lewis Alexander, and J.B. Nash. Tom Nash would be converted to a hot acid system in the
was elected president, Alexander secretary/treas- 1920's, thereby speeding up the cooking time and
urer, and George Steele was appointed general thus increasing capacity. The pulp was bleached
manager. with bleaching powder in a single Bellmar Bleacher.
The bleach powder was purchased in steel drums
In January of 1906, 2,500 shares of one hundred- and the empty drums were flattened and sold for
dollar par value stock was issued and immediately their scrap metal value.
subscribed to by the Nash family, Alexander, Steele,
F. J. Wood, Col. Vilas, and W. MacNaughton. The
property and assets of the Nash Lumber Company
made up Nash's contribution to the cause, and with
these tangible assets, the new company immediate-
ly mortgaged the Nash Lumber Company and other
land holdings to obtain a loan of $500,000. With
the combined funds from stock and loan, the com-
pany began the construction of a sulfite pulp mill,
right in the front yard of the John Edwards Manu-
facturing Company, from whom they leased the
As the margin between cost and selling price of pulp becomes
land and shared joint railway tracks. Even process
water was purchased from the "John Edwards mill
smaller, the Port Edwards Fiber Company looked for ways to
increase their profit. One such way was to salvage the metal in
45
empty steel drums used for shipping bleach powder and other
pond:' For these considerations, Port Edwards Fiber chemicals to the mill. These men are flattening the drums prior
Company paid the sum of one hundred dollars a to selling the metal for recycling.
year to John Edwards Manufacturing Company.
Quite a bargain! The pulp mill was a separate entity, even to the ex-
tent of not being connected to the neighboring paper
mill, as is the case today. Instead an outside ramp
of about two hundred feet in length connected the
two buildings; and pulp was moved on hand-pulled
wagons from one building to the other.

In the 1920's, several improvements and expansions


took place at the Port Edwards Fiber Company. A
fourth digester was added in 1923. A three stage
bleach plant replaced the drums of bleach powder.
A unique cable-way log loading system spanned the
wood storage yard west of the mill.

The milk of lime acid preparation was changed to


a method that utilized limestone. It is interesting to
note that the sulfite mill at Port Edwards had used
calcium base, ammonia base, and sodium base
cooking liquors before finally adopting the
magnesium base system in use today. A versatile
Three digesters in the pulp mill at Port Edwards were erected in operation!
1905 and are still in use today. The steel shells are about two
inches thick but inside are two layers of ceramic brick, which
are replaced periodically. In retrospect let's reflect for a moment to those ear-
46

Each and every log was hand inspected as it moved down the by the men with the axe, or even taken off the line for a more
conveyor line in the Port Edwards Fiber Company wood room. thorough deaning later.
If there was bark, rot, or knots on the log, it was cleaned up

Rifflers in the Port Edwards Fiber Company were long troughs floated off the end. Screens and centracleaners do a much better
in which the pulp slurry flowed. Particles of dirt, bark, sand, job today.
slivers, etc., would settle to the bottom while the clean fiber
47

The working crew of Port Edwards Fiber Company pose for a mised that the mill was not too well heated . Note the somewhat
picture that just might be valuable some day for a centennial an- bashful youth peering around the post on the left.
niversary book. From the dress attire of the men it can be sur-

ly days of cooking wood. Imagine a "cook" trying Edwards Paper Company, if the new corporation
to prepare a ten-ton batch of pulp from twenty tons would assume payment of their $500,000 loan, and
of raw wood, inside a steel digester where it was im- other outstanding debts. An agreement was reach-
possible to see what was happening. Instrumenta- ed and in 1908 the Port Edwards Fiber Company
tion, as we know it today, was not as refined then. became the Port Edwards pulp mill of Nekoosa Ed-
How did a "cook" know if the digester was up to wards Paper Company. However, formal dissolution
temperature? By expectorating a precisely measured of the company did not come until 1921 when
amount of saliva toward the top of the digester and papers were submitted to dissolve the company.
observing the time required for evaporation of the Why they retained their corporate identity for thir-
"reagent;' the cook would know if more steam was teen years is somewhat of a mystery.
needed. O ld timers claim that a good cook could
tell if a batch of wood was completely cooked by Today the Port Edwards pulp mill and the adjoin-
the smell of the cooking liquor. A pungent odor in- ing paper mill are one common manufacturing
dicated a raw cook, a sweet odor, a finished batch facility. Expansions have filled the gap that used to
of pulp, and a burnt odor meant overcooked wood. be spanned by a ramp. Two hundred and sixty tons
of bleached sulfite hardwood pulp are produced
After a very short life as an independent company, each day for use at Port Edwards and Nekoosa. And
the Port Edwards Fiber Company offered its assets, sophisticated instruments have replaced the senses
valued at $400,000 to the newly formed Nekoosa of the cook.
Chapter Ten: It Was a Beautiful Fire
Our company has weathered some catastrophes dur- The mill, with the exception of the boiler house and
ing our first hundred years in the pulp/paper busi- foundations, was of wood construction; in fact,
ness. These events, mostly fires, cannot be assign- tinder-dry pine lumber-the kind that burns fast!
ed to any specific one of the four time spans covered
by this book, since they have occurred throughout Now the retirement of an active paper mill is usually
the entire course of our history. For that reason, they a slow, drawn-out procedure, but not for Centralia.
will be included in this part of this book which At 2:00 a.m. on May 20, 1912, the night watchman,
covers the time span wherein the greatest conflagra- William Snyder, noticed during his tour of duty that
tion, (the burning of the Centralia mill), occurred the wooden roof of the machine room was afire. He
in 1912. Other fires and catastrophes will be includ- immediately ran to the office, where the only
ed on these pages, even though they occurred later telephone was located, and turned in the alarm.
in our history, and in one instance, resulted in con- Both the Centralia and Grand Rapids volunteer fire
siderably more costly damage. departments responded to the call . Four hours later
the retirement ceremony for the mill was completed.
The Centralia mill, whose development was covered Centralia Pulp and Water Power Company, the first
in a previous chapter, operated two paper machines paper mill on the Wisconsin River, was out of
and a groundwood pulp mill in 1912. Production business. A decision the following day, on the part
was twenty-five tons of newsprint each day. of the directors, made it permanent.

48

The steel skeletons of two paper machines stand atop the only pletely burned in the fire. The twisted iron will be sold for scrap,
remaining portion of the Centralia paper mill after the fire that while the foundations will be torn down and the rock used for
demolished the mill. The wooden superstructure has been com- constructing the flumes of the new hydroelectric plant.
Everyone had done his best to save the mill, but to trical wires that were left coiled near the ceiling
no avail. The conflagration was quite inaccessible, during a remodeling project of the previous day.
since it was on the roof of a building located on an Only the brick boiler house and the pulp mill were
island in the river. There were no water mains in saved. A corner of the pulp mill caught fire but the
that part of the city, and the mill's fire apparatus, flames were extinguished, and the pulp mill was able
including 1,300 feet of hose, five fire pumps, and to resume operations the next day. It is reported that
standpipe, was not sufficient to the need. The metal a new electrical interurban line did a thriving busi-
roofs were of no value in protecting adjoining ness the following day in transporting hundreds of
buildings. A locomotive at Centralia Station was spectators to view the burned-out mill. A local
summoned to remove three railroad cars of paper woman who remembers the fire well remarked, "It
from the mill site. However, it took an hour to raise was a beautiful fire. The whole sky was red like
a head of steam and get to the mill, by which time Fourth of July." Incidentally, her family managed a
the three cars of paper had been destroyed. competitive paper mill in Wisconsin Rapids.

In spite of these fateful circumstances, the Wood Almost as if-a restraint, other fires, floods and even
County Reporter went on record commending the a tornado have dealt temporary setbacks to our pro-
fire fighters who responded to the call, and especial- gressive advances over the years. Lewis Alexander
ly the role played by the new steam fire engine which commented to Frank Garrison in a 1904 letter, "I
pumped water from the river at such pressure that learn with much regret that high water had not
several men were needed to steady the nozzle. only shut you down but that last night, through the
carelessness of one of the men breaking an oil lamp,
The cause of the $80,000 fire was laid to some elec- that fire destroyed the clothing on one of the ma-
49

The steel remains of what was once a carload of newsprint paper, as fortunate as John Edwards Manufacturing Company or
still remains on the rails just outside the burned out Centralia Nekoosa Paper Company who had their own locomotives. Cen-
Paper mill. A steam locomotive arrived too late on the scene to tralia Paper Company had to rely on common carrier railroads
remove the cars from the vicinity of the fire. The mill was not to do their switching.
chines and part of the other and burned the ventila- In 1912 and 1925 severe flood conditions prevail-
tor on the roof:' ed, and again in 1938, flood waters caused con-
siderable damage to Nekoosa-Edwards dams and
Two other spectacular fires occurred in Nekoosa caused a temporary shutdown in operations at
Papers' history. The west log yard fire in September Nekoosa for a period of twenty-four hours. At Port
of 1922 was Port Edwards' worst fire. It is believed Edwards, the groundwood mill had fifty-four inches
to have been started about noon one hot summer of water standing on the floor. Two paper machines
day, by sparks from the steam switch engine. The were out of service for forty-eight hours.
pulpwood piles were soon ablaze, being fanned by
a strong wind out of the south. Sparks and burning High water had been an annual spring and fall oc-
embers were blown northward where they settled currence. As the river rose, it was often necessary
down on the village. Some twenty houses and other to suspend operations due to the mill basements be-
buildings were set afire by the flying embers, most ing flooded. Boats were often used for getting around
of them resulting in minor roof fires. Village residents in the basement of the mills. From these boats, elec-
took fire watch vigils, sitting on the roofs of their tricians would disconnect motors and remove them
homes with pails of water, waiting to quench a live to dry places. However, the improved dams, the
ember which might have settled on their roof. Port building of reservoirs on the river, and the redesign-
Edwards had no fire protection service at that time, ing of mill sewer systems has practically eliminated
therefore fire fighting equipment was dispatched from the annual spring damages due to floods.
Nekoosa, Wisconsin Rapids, Stevens Point and
Marshfield. Nekoosa Papers Inc. was very much involved with
the organization of fire protection service in the
50 Nekoosa's third worst fire is more recent, when
several thousand acres of forest land and pine plan-
Village of Port Edwards. In 1902, L. M . Alexander
appeared before the board of trustees of the Village
tation were destroyed by fire in Adams county. In of Port Edwards, offering the use of the mill water
addition to these fires, several smaller fires have tower and the mill fire pump for fire protection, pro-
broken out in the mills during our history. However, vided the village would lay the necessary water
a program of safety and fire prevention measures has mains. This arrangement was carried out and suf-
greatly decreased the seriousness of fires. ficed for several years. Hose carts and ladder wagons
were strategically located around the mill, log yards
One tornado has exhibited its force on our Ashdown and village.
mill, and that was on the afternoon of April 2, 1982.
Heavy damage was inflicted to buildings, including However, in 1922, the inadequateness of the system
the paper machine building and pulp drying facili- was shown during the log yard fire of that year. Con-
ty. Collapsed roofs and walls fell onto manufactur- sequently, a group of volunteers organized the Nep-
ing machinery, thereby bringing the mill to a stand- co Fire Department in 1923. An old company truck,
still, but not for long. Two paper machines resumed the Reo Speed Wagon, was donated to the group, to
production that same night, while the third started be converted into a fire truck. This conversion was
up the following day. With the exception of the pulp made by maintenance crews in their spare time.
dryer, the entire mill was back in operation by April
4; in spite of a loss in excess of five million dollars. In 1924, the department acquired its most roman-
Unfortunately, one life was lost due to falling tic piece of apparatus. This was the old 1912 model
equipment. 66 Pierce Arrow. Originally bought in 1912 as a
touring car by L. M. Alexander, it was used for that
Floods have besieged Nekoosa Papers since its incep- purpose until 1919 when it was sold to a Wisconsin
tion, the worst being in 1880, when John Edwards Rapids car dealer. It was later purchased by
aRd Company lost about a million dollars worth of Nekoosa-Edwards. Nicknamed the "Green Dragon;'
logs, booms and dams. A river flow of 100,000 cubic the Company in 1924 donated this car to the fire
feet per second was recorded. Normal river flow is department. This vehicle had played a colorful role
less than 3,000 cubic feet per second. during a strike in 1919.
Rebuilt and outfitted as a fire truck, it was used suc- modern brick garage and fire station located on
cessfully until 1949. The Pierce Arrow was sold to Wisconsin River Drive. Also in that year, they
a used car dealer who in turn sold it to an antique donated their share in the Nepco-Port Edwards Fire
auto collector. Department to the village, and the volunteer fire

The village of Port Edwards, the paper mill and the adjoining The Nepco-Port Edwards Fire Department proudly poses with
log yards were first protected from the destruction of fire by this their two trucks, just prior to entering them in a parade, pro-
simple ladder wagon and equally crude hose carts that could be moting fire protection. The white uniforms are not their fire com-
hand pulled. bating uniforms. The truck in the lead is the famous Pierce Ar-
row and the rear one, the Dodge. Both were outfitted at the Port
Edwards mill.
The Reo Speed Truck was replaced in 1925 by a
Dodge truck. The truck chassis was purchased new department became a village project.
by Nekoosa-Edwards and company crews added the
body. This truck was replaced in 1937. The Dodge
was turned over to the village mosquito control pro-
However, even at this writing, Nekoosa Papers still
has a hand in local fire fighting in Port Edwards.
51
gram, and spent its last days aiding in the abate- The company's telephone switchboard is still the
ment of mosquitos. dispatcher for fire calls, and the mill whistle is still
sounded in Port Edwards and Nekoosa as a "call to
Up to 1955 the fire department was located in the arms" for the volunteer firemen . The Nekoosa mill
rear of the Port Edwards mill clockhouse. Then, the whistle still retains its mournful wailing, or siren ef-
company built and donated to the village, the fect, that unmistakably says, "FIRE:'

The combined Port Edwards and Nekoosa fire departments munities had arrangements with the mills, whereby firemen could
display their equipment outside the Port Edwards mill. Both com- leave their work when the fire alarm was sounded.
Chapter Eleven: One + One + One ONE
"United we stand; divided we fall ." Such was the sales company were such prominent names as
slogan that may not have originated with the paper St. Regis, Kimberly Clarke, Gould Paper, and Im-
industry, but certainly became the slogan for several perial of Canada. A three percent commission was
small independent paper mills in Wisconsin. It was charged by Manufacturer's Paper Company to the
a buyer's market at the turn of the century caused member mills on the sale of their tonnage. They also
by a glut of newsprint paper on the market. Money became involved in group purchases for member
invested in paper mills would have been better in- mills, somewhat similar to the way Northern Paper
vested in one of those new telephone companies that Company was purchasing pulpwood.
were springing up. And each time mill managers
coped with the problem, they came up with the same In 1900, unhappy with the efforts being made by
solution - merge! Manufacturer's Paper Company, fo urteen Wiscon-
sin mills withdrew. Their dissension was that Man-
In 1897 five mills in Wisconsin (Nekoosa Paper, John ufacturer's Paper Company was favoring the eastern
Edwards Manufacturing, Centralia Water Power and mills in sales of newsprint. Thus, in July of 1900,
Pulp, Port Edwards Fiber, and Grand Rapids Pulp a group of Wisconsin and Minnesota mills formed
and Paper ), joined hands to form the Northern a new sales company to handle exclusive sales of
52 Paper Company. Officers were Tom Nash, George
Steele, and L. M. Alexander; names that have ap-
their products. The General Paper Company was in-
corporated with L. M. Alexander serving as secre-
peared several times previously in these pages. tary and treasurer.

Northern Paper Company accomplished only one In 1902 General Paper Company and Manufacturer's
profit-improving achievement. Through its efforts Paper Company entered into an agreement whereby
in consolidating purchasing power of member mills, Manufacturer's would sell only east of the Missis-
it became the primary pulpwood contractor for the sippi River, while General would sell only west of
mills. No paper sales were made, and no mill man- the Mississippi, plus the state of Wisconsin. General
agement was undertaken. All that Northern did was now acquired other mills increasing its ranks to
purchase pulpwood. The arrangement lasted until twenty-three member mills, including Nekoosa Paper
1909 when the Northern Paper Company was offi- Company, John Edwards Manufacturing Company,
cially dissolved, the property and assets being sold Centralia Water Power and Pulp Company, and Port
to L. M. Alexander. Edwards Fiber Company. General would decide who
would sell to which markets, the price, and terms of
In 1897 a group of mills, including those in Port Ed- the sale.
wards and Centralia (but not Nekoosa), formed a
combine whose primary purpose was to market the With business proceedings such as these, it is not sur-
paper of the member mills. Manufacturer's Paper prising that in December of 1904 the Minnesota Cir-
Company represented mills in the eastern part of the cuit Court issued a restraining order against General
country as well as in the Midwest. Nash's Nekoosa Paper Company, charging them with violation of the
Paper Company did not go along with the group and Federal Anti-Trust laws. By court order, the General
was referred to as the "obstreperous minority:' All Paper Company was dissolved on May 10, 1906.
the member mills were small, eleven being from Wis-
consin. They joined hands with competitive mills in The paper mills were not finished yet. Sixty mills
Manufacturer's Paper Company and turned their en- throughout the United States threatened to consoli-
tire production over to the conglomerate to contract date into one company; not just for sales, but a full-
the price and make sales to printers. Included in the fledged merger. This was their way of retaliating
against the court order. The new company would The attorney read the articles of incorporation that
be known as International Paper Company, and al- had been signed by, (you guessed it!), Tom Nash,
though International Paper Company did become L. M. Alexander, and George Steele. The articles of
a reality, the five mills in Central Wisconsin decid- incorporation stated the purpose of the company:
ed at the last minute against joining.
" . . . incorporated for the purpose of dealing in
So here we are in 1903 with several small mills once real estate, timber lands, timber of all kinds,
more competing with one another. Prices were still sawmills, planning mills, mills for the manufac-
falling while costs were mounting, and merger was turing of sulfite fiber, groundwood, and paper
still the byword. and paper products; contract keep and main-
tain business blocks, apartment houses, dwell-
In June of 1907 the mills in Nekoosa, Port Edwards, ings, buildings and structures of all kinds; for
and South Centralia once again looked at merger sale, rent or lease. To create, buy, and sell elec-
prospects; the merger to include two mills in the Fox tricity. To sell and hold personal property, im-
River Valley, Outagami Paper Company, and Pat- plements and machinery. To buy and sell goods
ten Paper Company. Both of these mills were man- as merchants. To construct and operate rail-
aged by gentlemen who were also financially involv- roads, trams or other forms of transportation.
ed with the Central Wisconsin mills. However, their To engage in logging and operating camps. To
proposed marriage to the Wisconsin River mills did acquire water powers. To build and maintain
not become consummated. dams. To hold stock in other corporations
engaged in similar business."
This brings us up to a merger that would last for
sixty-two years, when it would be superseded by a
larger one. On June 19, 1908, a group of nineteen
At this first shareholders meeting, one of the first
duties was to collect the funds represented by the
53
interested investors met in the law offices of Gog- stock subscribed to. It was duly ordered that the
gins, Brazeau and Briere in Grand Rapids. It was shares of stock subscribed to should be paid by June
8:30 a.m. In person or by proxy, ninety tentative 30, 1908, eleven days hence. However, since all sub-
shareholders had indicated a willingness to invest scribers were represented and expressed a desire to
in a new company. They had collectively subscrib- pay at once, a ten-minute recess was called, during
ed to a stock offering being proposed by the new which $2,800,000.00 was collected as payment of the
company, Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company. Some subscribed stock.
had pledged to purchase as little as one share, while
others would commit to as many as 5,661 shares, Next, a board of directors was elected, said board
with some family groups controlling even more of immediately ordering a director's meeting at which
the $2,800,000.00 of proposed stock. Tom Nash was elected president; L. M. Alexander,

G!~TRA1:1 1J.iiY2-~..Wb-~~I!i:Iwtfll~Q;

_J.ijf~~-

There will be no need for four letterheads any longer, since they However, Centralia Pulp and Water Power Company did use their
represent companies that no longer existed after the 1908 merger. letterheads as late as 1919 as is indicated in the illustration.
vice president; and George Steele, secretary. Now
the board appointed three negotiating committees
whose purpose it was to come to agreement with
the Nekoosa Paper Company, The John Edwards
Manufacturing Company, and the Port Edwards
Fiber Company to sell their respective mills to the
newly formed Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company.
Another recess was called, and the meeting was
resumed at 3:00 p.m., at which time the three com-
mittees reported the following terms of sale had been
reached:

Nekoosa Paper Company - $1,942,134.76


John Edwards Manufacturing
Company - $1,238,167.89
Port Edwards Fiber Company - $400,000.00*
*plus assuming payment of a bond of in-
debtedness of $500,000.00

Horrors! This totaled $780,000 more than the share-


holders had paid in that morning. Evidently, the ten-
minute recess for collecting the cash that morning
54 should have been extended to fifteen minutes. The
directors, therefore, levied a twenty-five percent as-
sessment on the stock, and it too was immediately
paid; thereby making the purchase of the three mills
a reality. Thus, two small mills, in Nekoosa and Port Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company was as well known by their
Edwards, plus one pulp mill, became one competitive nickname, NEPCO, as they were by their corporate name. In this
giant in the paper world of 1908! photo, they have proudly worked the name into the brickwork
of a new smokestack. The letters are actually a white brick that
still show up today.

But the new board of directors was not finished with


their work. The next order of business was to ap-
prove a million dollar bond issue, putting up the mills
of the new company as security. With these addi-
tional funds, payment of the old Port Edwards Fiber
Company's bonds would be accomplished, as well
as other debts of the member mills being paid.

Another order of business for the day was to place


a restriction on mill management, limiting their ex-
penditures for repairs to $150.00 per occurrence, and
requiring executive committee approval for any ex-
penditure over $500.00. Furthermore, any salary
change for an employee who received $100.00 or
more a month had to have approval of the executive
committee.
Financial certificates from the four independent companies that
formed Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company are illustrated in this
photo. All were surrendered to the new company in exchange for And with that, the directors adjourned their meeting
shares of stock in NEPCO. at 11:00 p.m. Quite a day's undertaking!
Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company was too much of and had replaced it with a hydroelectric generating
a mouthful to say, so the company became well plant. Nekoosa-Edwards issued 2,000 shares of
known as Nepco. $100.00 per value stock, which really sold for $150.00
a share, thereby raising $300,000.00. Said funds were
In 1917 the shareholders of Centralia Water power used to purchase the Centralia facility, making it a
and Pulp Company approached Nekoosa-Edwards part of Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company.
Paper Company offering the sale of their hydroelec-
tric plant and groundwood pulp mill for $300,000.00, Now the new company was ready to cope with the
plus Nepco to assume payment of their outstanding second facet of survival, a conversion to a higher
debts of $250,000.00. You will recall that Centralia grade of paper that would command a higher sell-
had lost its paper mill in a fire about five years prior ing price. Wrapping papers was the choice.

55

The White City Band could not afford uniforms in 1908 but was made up of employees of the company. The sign on the
members rud wear their Sunday Best suits when performing. The building has not been changed to show the new name of Nekoosa
band was sponsored by Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company and Edwards Paper Company.
Chapter Twelve: Impossible to Use
Wisconsin River Water
The old adage that you can't wash a white shirt in taxing the wells. Underground wells were not reli-
dirty water can be paraphrased to state, "You can't able as two neighboring mills in the area suffered
make white paper using dirty water:' John Alex- water shortages when their deep wells went dry.
ander, serving as Nepco general manager in 1927, Although the Wisconsin River was adjacent to the
stated in his annual report to shareholders, mills and could be treated to make it suitable, the
cost became prohibitive. Two natural streams, Moc-
"You will all appreciate that in getting into our casin Creek, just west of Port Edwards, and Four
higher grades of paper, we discovered that it Mile Creek, to the east of the village, were the re-
was impossible to use Wisconsin River water, maining considerations. Moccasin Creek's flow was
and we were forced to look for a clean water erratic and unreliable, so the water "diviners"
supply." selected Four Mile Creek.

And where did Nepco's engineers look? The Port Ed- Whereas the river had a comparative color of 170,
wards and Nekoosa municipal sources were in- Four Mile Creek water was only 60. Another way
vestigated, but the domestic demands were already of relating these two sources of water is to say that

56

From this small stream will come the water to flood the cleared photo might have been taken from the 'lamp post' tree seen in
landscape in this picture and thereby create Nepco Lake. This another photo in this section.
Four Mile Creek water contained only a third of the to create a twelve-acre settling basin, power house,
amount of color that was in river water. Further- dam, and chemical feeding building.
more, the stream, which originates in the Buena
Vista marsh area, drains a 150 square mile water- Since the Wisconsin winter was encroaching, work
shed, and is intersected by an elaborate system of was carried out around the clock using horse drawn
drainage ditches. wagons in the daytime and tractors at night. As
many as three hundred men and thirty teams of
In July of 1925, tests were conducted in a pilot plant horses were engaged in the project. Some of the men
located on the bank of the creek. After treating the resided in a temporary boarding house built on the
water with alum, and allowing it to flocculate, set- site, and the teams of horses were kept in a barn
tle, and filter, the final results were conclusive. Ac- next door. A blacksmith practiced his trade in a tem-
cordingly, 1,200 acres of land were purchased, of porary blacksmith shop. A camp of about fifty In-
which 350 acres were cleared of trees and brush in dians, who preferred to live with their families, set
preparation for flooding. The expanse of land to be up a camp on a hill overlooking the Wisconsin
eventually covered with water would be close to 400 River. This promontory is still referred to as Indian
acres. Camp Hill. Large floodlights illuminated the area
to facilitate night work.
Clearing of land was begun in September of 1925,
and at the same time earth moving was started to Still another crew of men were engaged in laying
create a 2,000-foot dike at the west end of the pro- a thirty-inch diameter iron pipeline from the lake
posed lake. Additional work was being carried on to the Port Edwards mill, crossing the Wisconsin

57

. ..
•.
. .-
' .. " ,'
"\:... ' "'-..

'.
'
' '• ~ ',

"-' ...... .,., ,.._

Earth moving equipment used for building the dams and dikes eventually be removed but here it serves as a support for several
at Nepco lake was primarily horse and wagon a s seen in this flood lights which illuminated the area at night so that work could
picture taken during the lake construction. The lone tree would be carried on around the dock.
58
It was no easy job to cross the river with the NEPCO lake pipeline the river bed. It appears from this picture, that the coffer dams
during the coldest of winter months. Here, the river has been did not hold out the water which has filled in the area and frozen.
sectioned off with temporary dams and a trench excavated in

River enroute. The river crossing was a challenge argument that the lake itself would serve as a four
that was met during the coldest winter months. A hundred acre primary settling basin; thus re-
third of the river's width was dammed up by tem- ducing the workload on the rest of the treatment
porary coffer dams. The water was pumped out, and facilities.
a trench was excavated in the rocky river bed to a
depth of about four feet. After placing the thirty- On April 1, 1926, the dam gates were closed, and
inch diameter pipe in the trench, it was covered over the filling of the lake was under way. On April 15,
with backfill and then the dam was removed. The aided by the spring runoff, there was sufficient "'{ater
entire procedure was repeated two more times in in the lake to operate the generator and supply
order to complete the crossing. power to the pumping operations. The spring runoff
of 1927 enabled Nepco engineers to add an addi-
By February 6, 1926, 3,750 feet of pipe had been tional three feet of headwater to the lake. Two later
laid, and water was introduced into the system- raises in head elevation added another 51/z feet to
only five months after the project had been initiated! the lake. Ten thousand gallons of water a minute
could be treated and pumped to the mill. Treatment
There was no lake yet, but water was pumped direct- included chemical flocculating, settling for fo rty-
ly from the creek into the intake building via two eight to seventy-two hours, screening, chlorinating,
pumps, mounted on a barge floating in the creek. and finally, filtering through sand filter beds.
Incidentally, there was a question originally as to
whether an actual lake was needed, or could the The original plan for the project called for excess
water be diverted directly from the creek to the mill. water to be passed through a hydroelectric unit
The proponents for a lake won out with their which would provide the necessary power to operate
the pumps. However, the increased demand for brought about the building of a ditch and pipeline
water in subsequent years would bring an end to to bring the water of the Five Mile Creek into Nep-
this practice. The 300 kilowatt generator was un- co Lake. In September of 1953, two 8000 GPM
loaded from a railroad car in the Port Edwards island pumps began pumping this water into the lake.
log yard. It was then placed on skids, and pulled
to Nepco Lake on the snow and across the Wiscon- In the summer of 1954, a public beach and picnic
sin Ri.ver on the frozen ice. ground were opened on the north shore of the lake.
A modern bath house, a safe beach, and a well-
In the spring of 1930, work was begun on the equipped picnic area are a sharp contrast to the
building of a 48" concrete pipeline to the Nekoosa earlier beach and picnic area opened in 1926.
mill. The 19,000 feet of concrete pipe were built at
Nekoosa; the Lock Joint Pipe Company establishing Final cost of the lake project, not including pipelines,
a temporary plant there. The first water to Nekoosa was about $350,000.00.
was pumped on November 24, 1930.
Our man-made lake is truly a vital link in the paper-
In the spring of 1926, Nepco built a fish hatchery making process. To satisfy her many pumps, two
at Nepco Lake. Rainbow trout eggs were supplied separate power lines from two different sources, feed
by the State Conservation Department. Nepco per- her control board. Should one line go out of ser-
sonnel nursed the eggs through the summer months; vice, it would be only a matter of seconds until the
and in the fall, half of the young trout were taken other line would be pressed into service. Should
by the state, the other half were placed in Nepco both lines fail, she can still satisfy 65% of her own
Lake. This program was discontinued in 1930. power needs by using her hydroelectric generator.

In the fall of 1953, a need for additional water An incident worth mentioning is one which occur-
59

The interior of the Nepco Lake pumping station and hydroelec- lake was built. However, in later years, there was not enough water
tric plant. The pumps for transferring the water from the lake for the mills and hydro unit. Accordingly, it only operates during
to the mill are located in the basement. This is the electrical periods of excessive flow.
generating unit that supplied operating electric power when the
60 When Nepco Lake was new, Nekoosa Edwards Paper Co mpany,
in cooperation with the State of Wisconsin, planted young fish
end of the lake. Here eggs were hatched and the fish cared for
until such time that they were old enough to survive in the lake.
in the lake. This fish hatchery was built by NEPCO, at the west

Weed and algae control is being practiced in this photo. Water hose. The entire lake was treated several times each summer, using
fro m the lake is pumped to the wooden barrels, mixed with cop- this method .
per sulfate and then sprayed back into the lake thro ugh the fire
red in 1948 at Nepco Lake. The settling basins, which and began to overflow, thereby threatening to wash
are lower than the lake level, had been emptied for out the dikes. The dam was immediately opened and
cleaning in the summer of 1948. The intake building, the lake level pulled down. Nepco Lake crews work-
a 16' x 35' brick building which admitted water and ed round the clock for several days, hauling dirt to
chemicals to the settling basins, was acting as a stop- fill in the gap left by the intake building.
per in the dike, holding an eighteen-foot head of lake
water out of the basins. A crew of men was about Should Nekoosa's supply of pulpwood be sudden-
to begin work on the footings in the basement of the ly severed, the mills could continue to operate for
building, when one of the windows shattered. Mo- perhaps three months by utilizing the wood in stor-
ments later, the entire building was catapulted into age in the mill yards. However, should the supply
the air and over onto its side in the settling basin. of water be turned off, mill operations would cease
in about three minutes. Truly then, water is the
The settling basins filled up in a matter of miniut~s, lifeblood of the paper industry.

61

The brick building in this illustration is the water intake building. first being treated with alum to facilitate the removal of impurities.
Through this building, lake water entered the settling basins, after It is this building that capsized into the lake.
Chapter Thirteen: Three Connections
Without Meters
In the preparation of this series of historical sket- first the new utility was going to •put its distribu-
ches, many subjects cannot be told in their entirety tion lines on the same poles that supported the
since they are ongoing right up to the present. How- telephone transmission lines. However, the local
ever, the story of the Nekoosa Edwards Light and telephone company, after thinking it over, decided
Power Company is a "closed book" covering a period that electric lines and telephone lines were not com-
of thirty-nine years in our company's history. patible on the same post; and that the electric lines
would interfere with good telephone service. Thus
Actually, the story of the electric light in this area N.E.L. & P. Co. was forced to incur the added ex-
dates back to 1896. When the John Edwards Manu- pense of setting their own posts for their lines.
facturing Company built the pulp and paper mill
at Port Edwards, one of the flumes, which contained To supply the electricity for the growing utility, as
the water turbines for driving the wood grinders, well as the demands of the mills, Nekoosa-Edwards
was also equipped with a small turbine for driving Paper Company operated its water turbines and
a Smith and Vale direct current generator. The steam turbines during the day when the demand was
power generated was used in and about the mill for the greatest. Then in the evening, steam only was
lighting purposes only. used until midnight, at which time the steam tur-
62 A short time later, Nepco President and General
bines were shut down and the water turbines used
until 7:00 a.m. It sounds complicated, but there must
Manager, L. M . Alexander, had a line installed to have been some good rational for doing so. The elec-
his home from the mill. This line, about one block tricity supplied to the utility, and subsequently to
long, was the beginning of a public utility venture the consumers, was 220 volt direct current. How-
on the part of the Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company. ever, this was changed after only one year of opera-
tion to the standard 110 volt alternating current in
At Nekoosa, streets, business places and a few use today. The reason for the change was two-fold.
homes were being lit by gaslight, gas being manufac- As electric lines were extended, the direct current
tured by the Nekoosa Gas-Light Company. This had a tendency to drop in voltage. The further one
company was established in 1910 but was out of was from the source of power, the lower the voltage
business by 1915. became. Secondly, it was just not compatible with
other electric systems. An inconvenience was put on
Perhaps the most contributing factor to the decline patrons when moving into or out of the area since
of gas lighting in Nekoosa was the incorporation in their appliances, lamps, etc., required conversion
February 1913 of the Nekoosa Edwards Light and from one voltage to the other.
Power Company. The village of Port Edwards
granted a franchise to service that area in 1913, and During the second year of operation, 1914, the new
Nekoosa followed a short time later with similar utility reported a profit of $1,800, $1,200 having
franchise for the Nekoosa area. come from customers in Port Edwards and $600
from the city of Nekoosa. Remember, Nekoosa still
From that date on, the lines of N.E.L. & P. Co. were had a gaslight utility in 1914. It might also be
pushed outward. Port Edwards, Nekoosa, Cran- pointed out that this annual report stated that they
moor, the towns of Grand Rapids, and Seneca, all were servicing nine customers who were not being
benefited by the service offered by N.E.L. & P. Co. metered! However, they promised to correct this by
N.E.L. & P. Co. owned no electricity generating connecting six of them leaving only three "charity"
equipment. It purchased all its power from its parent cases, which were the Methodist Church, the village
company, Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company. At bandstand, and the street car waiting station.
An interior view of the Centralia Hydroelectric plant showing these units, but supplemented by additional facilities in the Port
63
six generating units. Most of the power distributed by the Edwards and Nekoosa mills.
Nekoosa Edwards Light & Power Company was produced on

Not all electric power was generated from water power. There bine generators in the Port Edwards mill. The unit in the left
were, and still are times when river flow is not sufficient to pro- foreground has been replaced by a much larger unit. Nekoosa
vide the power needed. The picture shows one of the steam tur- mill also depends upon hydro and steam generated electric power.
This is a good time to insert a few paragraphs il- tained in the atom is great power; and
lustrating Nekoosa's traditional foresightedness. In although recently I have noted there is some
January of 1934 a Sunday newspaper supplement doubt of the general belief along that line, I
carried a photo of Dr. E. 0. Laurence of the Univer- am sure your experiences must have lead you
sity of California, sitting alongside of his elec- into some very definite conclusions along that
tromagnetic atom smasher. For his work in this field line.
he would be awarded a Nobel prize in 1939.
The question I would like to ask you, and if
Lewis M. Alexander, President of Nekoosa-Edwards it is not inconsistent with your policy of
Paper Company, noted the photo, read the caption disseminating information, is as to the v alue
under it, and then clipped the picture from the of the atom as a power unit in a commercial
paper. A few days later he directed a letter of some sense and if, in your judgment, it contains
length to Dr. Laurence inquiring as to the possibili- enough encouragement in that direction to at-
ty of harnessing the power of the atom's structure. tempt something in the line of development
besides its wonder and possible usefulness in
Dr. Laurence was working in a different field, that the laboratory and the sciences.''
of utilizing the new power for medical treatment of
cancer. Alexander saw great potential in atomic Mr. Alexander then closed his letter with an invita-
power if it could only be harnessed. In his letter to tion to Dr. Laurence to further discuss the subject
Dr. Laurence he wrote: with him, indicating his willingness to participate
and mentioning that he had several contacts that
"I have been led to believe, however, that con- might prove to be helpful.
64

The line crew of Nekoosa Edwards Light & Power Company take rear wheels are equipped with chains to make sure the vehicle
a moment to have this photo made of their service truck. The will respond to any emergency, regardless how deep the snow gets.
The employees of N.E.L. & P. Co. apparently liked to have their black bow ties, while the linemen dressed appropriately for their
picture taken in the winter months. Note that the servicemen wore outdoor work.

Alexander was about twenty years ahead of his Eventually, Nepco did not have generating capaci-
time; but his words indicate that Nekoosa Papers ty enough to supply the utility and still take care
Inc., has always kept abreast of modern technology. of its own needs. Therefore, on November 30, 1952, 65
Nepco sold its wholly-owned subsidiary to the
Nepco, in order to meet the demands of the public Wisconsin Power and Light Company. The bill of
utility, as well as its own growing demands, had sale included all transmission equipment, a few
been continually adding generating capacity. There pieces of office equipment, franchises, and seven
was the building of the hydroelectric plant at Port motor vehicles.
'Edwards in 1926, the building of the Centralia hydro
plant in 1913, the addition to this plant in 1923, and On January 2, 1953, articles of dissolution were fil-
the installation of the Nepco Lake generator in 1926. ed with the state, and the 39-year history of the
In addition to these hydroelectric plants, steam tur- Nekoosa 'Edwards Light and Power Company was
bine generators were also being added to the mills. brought to a close.
Part Three: THE WRAPPING PAPER ERA
Chapter Fourteen: A to Z in Wrappings
Just about every letter in the alphabet is represented subject to be considered in detail in a subsequent
by a grade manufactured by Nepco during the wrap- chapter. For this effort, $13,255.00 was spent in
ping paper era, and at the end of this chapter there 1930. But John Alexander, in his General Manager's
is presented a listing of some of these grades. One report of 1931, asked for $50,000.00 for agency ex-
hundred and fifty-two products are listed, and the penses. His justification for asking for the healthy
list it not complete! When you consider that many increase was that the airplane advertising program
of these grades were made in several colors and would pay for itself via charter fees.
various weights, there is no contention as to the
statement that we made well over three hundred As for a sales department, only two men directed
grades of paper during the 1920's and 1930's. Fur- the sales of Nepco's product line. Laurence Nash
thermore, when Nepco's advertising department served as General Sales Manager, assisted by his
presented a book illustrating our collection of paper brother, William. But by 1927 production records
grades and entitled it "A To Z In Wrappings;' they were being broken. In March of that year a recor d
were almost correct; although this author has not tonnage of 5,900 tons was turned out. Seventy-two
run across a grade starting w ith the letter Z. thousand tons would be produced that year. This
called for an addition to the sales department in
66 You will recall from previous chapters, that the goal
of Nepco's management was to convert from news-
order that this record production could be moved.
Accordingly, regional sales offices were established
print to higher quality papers for which a higher in New York, St. Louis, and Chicago. Additional
markup in price could be achieved, since they could sales people were added to the home office sales
not survive in the newsprint business. team in Port Edwards.

The first step into this field was met by the introduc- At this point I would like to relate some interesting
tion of manila printing papers, a small step above antecedents concerning our sales during this "boom
newsprint, and still made from groundwood pulp. and bust" era. First of all, we claimed to be the
From this simple beginning we gradually added largest manufacturer of butcher's paper; and if you
more grades with the ever-increasing list of products examine the list at the end of the chapter, you will
constantly becoming more refined in respect to see no less than thirteen (there may even be more),
quality and appearance. grades of wrapping paper designed for meat packag-
ing. This does not include the locker and freezer
A close companion line to wrapping papers was the grades.
specialty papers we produced during this same era.
Waterproof, oil and wax treated, creped, twisting Some of the papers are identified by their end use;
stock, saturating, and flameproof were only a few such as Drinking Cup, Shade Paper, Baking Cup,
of the many types that were made in our mills. Diaper Paper, and Soda Straw. Others, however,
were sold under a trade name which left you guess-
Whereas the newsprint production was sold ing as to the end use. As an example, it took a
primarily by a sales agent (i.e., General Paper Co.), salesman to explain to a customer just what Aero-
it was now necessary to have a sales department as foam, Palmleaf, Lykglass, and Radio Stripe were to
well as an advertising budget. Nepco's advertising be used fo r.
budget in 1930 was $23,094.00, which was paid to
an advertising agency who handled all the promo- When it came to purchasing kraft wrapping paper,
tional work. Nepco's own publicity effort was con- such as a hardware store would use, the customer
centrated on operating a Ford Tri-motor airplane; a might become somewhat confused. Should he pur-
67
Employees pack interfolded Nepco Delicatessen paper into count.er mill. This grade of paper was first introduced as Nepco Delica-
top boxes on an assembly line in the basement of the Nekoosa tessen but was later changed to Nekoosa Delicatessen.

chase Nekoosa Kraft, Nepco Kraft, Comet Kraft,


Number 1 Kraft, or Number 2 Kraft? Regardless
which one he preferred, Nepco made them all!

Then there were the grades which seemed to oppose


each other in their end use. Saturating paper was
made to absorb water, while King William was a
waterproof sheet. Transparent was almost just that,
while Film Wrap was a black, opaque sheet made
to prevent light from getting through to the film or
photographic paper packaged in it. There were oil-
impregnated sheets (Modelwrap), and oil-resistant
sheets (Pork Loin).

Some names were misleading. Car Wrap was not


used to wrap up a car, but to suspend under the car
to collect oil and grease drippings while the car was A dispenser that was seen in many butcher shops up to the period
of World War Two, is illustrated here. The dispenser took a small
on display. Flower Paper was not used for making roll (usually nine inches wide) that was referred to as a pony roll.
artificial flowers, but for wrapping cut floral bou-
quets. Batting had nothing to do with baseball, and customer. B and B was a wrapper for Bauer and
instead was used for packaging cotton batting. Black Co., P and G was a soap wrapper, while
Karolton Klasp was a heavy kraft paper made for
Lastly, some grades were identified with one sole the Karolton Klasp Envelope Company.
Some of the customers who purchased these wrap- bark, chips, knots, dirt, and even some sand, for
ping papers from Nepco are still valued customers $15.00 per ton. Believe it or not, screenings were us-
of Nekoosa today, and to mention them here would ed for some grades.
be inappropriate for fear of omitting some. In many
instances these merchants and customers have Paper sold in rolls was shipped on iron cores with
changed their line of sales, just as we did. the customer paying a deposit of five cents per lineal
inch of core. A return of the core to the mill, rather
And did it show favorable results? Definitely yes! than use it for a piece of sewer pipe, resulted in an
In 1932 Aerofoam Wrapping commanded a selling equal credit to the customer.
price of $103.70 a ton, netting a profit of $17.19 per
ton. It was made in a variety of colors and was really
a dual color sheet; that is, a solid base color sheet
with splotches of white, referred to as clouds, on •••• WILLIAM
a..------- ..... ..
111 •• - '

··----·
-·-------
___ a-_
,... ____
-_____
·--·--.,_a-
the top surface of the sheet.
-------
-·----
Modelwrap, a petrolatum-treated butcher's sheet,
sold for $115.23 a ton in 1932. This, as well as
similar prices, were a definite improvement over the
1904 price of newsprint which sold for a third of ...-CO • CUt&nHH

• .,<o ••U• •••• nu1i1•


those prices. •INO W&l:H LOau . . . . .

Our pulp prices in 1932 varied from $27.16 to $39.21


68 per ton, depending upon the degree of bleaching.
But you could buy screenings, which were pieces of
An envelope stuffer of the early 1940's. The famous NEPCO seal
trademake is prominent on the inside cover.

Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company was a wrapping paper mill paper, are waiting to be loaded into cars. King William was
in 1926 when this photo was taken of the Nekoosa mill shipping available in large size sheets as well as rolls and some of those
room. Rolls of paper, including King William meat wrapping bundles are in the background.
-

----- 69

-----
------·-·

--~--

Only two of these products are intended for use other than wrap- remaining eight, seven found their way into meat markets. Nep-
ping food products. They are Palm Leaf and Drug Bond. Of the co claimed to be the largest producer of meat wrapping paper.

At one point in time, Nepco had the distinction of carpets of today, you can relate to the multitude of
being the largest buyer of dyestuff in the paper field. shades and colors of paper we made to satisfy the
The grade which made the greatest demand on the homemaker of yesteryear.
purchasing of dyes was Twisting Stock. This paper
was used for making seat covers and floor rugs. If As the seasons changed, so did the pattern and col-
you can picture the multitude of colors in your or change in these paper rugs. Nepco was right in
lUn~11 ~·
l!lll"JU
'tll~~u.:.

I G;
lt$'!tW:~m

rm "-
~
.;:i
. ~
' ~

19- I ! •

~
"

70

An open ho use display at Nekoosa shows how Nekoosa papers multi-color strings were then woven into a rug. Nekoosa was the
were transformed into rugs for the ho me. The paper was cut in- major supplier to two prominent rug manufacturers.
to narrow strips, which in turn were twisted into a string. T hese

there ready to supply the latest spring shade of phane that is used for wrapping, and compare
paper. it to your efforts to produce a similar paper
which turned out to be gelatin."
Two human interest stories associated with this
period should be mentioned in passing. In the ear- And now some myths to be set straight before clos-
ly 1930's L. M. Alexander approached his friend, ing this chapter. Nepco did make a watermarked
Luther Burbank, famed botanist responsible for paper in this era! However, it was not a watermark-
developing many of our hybrid fruit trees of today. ed printing paper such as is associated with water-
Alexander suggested that a special paper be marks today. But we did have several watermarked
developed as a mulch to be placed over seed beds, wrapping papers around 1930, which was the year
thereby retaining moisture on the germinating seed, we purchased an engraving machine to make pat-
and eventually fertilizing the young seedling by rot- tern rolls for embossing a watermark into the sheet.
ting and decomposing. However, this project did not Examples were Wrapsure, King William and
materialize, nor did another project investigated by Palmleaf.
Nepco. In 1930 L. M. Alexander, President of Nep-
co, wrote in a letter to his son, John Alexander, Another myth concerns our entry into the Fine
General Manager of Nepco: Paper field. We usually associate that with 1937, but
in reality we were making Nepco Bond, Mimeo,
"I'm shipping you some fruit from Florida. Ledger, and Offset in the mid-1920's. They were not
Take special note of the quality of the cello- the watermarked business papers which really iden-

There is a Nep«> paper for
~ wrapping pur~....
As new req,ui~~s: anu.
Hepco~ technical staff and
et19lnttrs~ ~P"" to
satisfy them .. · ,..s. ~ah
This spirit of~""!.,ablish<d
adh•""""' "'ho est quo~ty •
tradition of n N.,c<> paf''·
~..,.,y

71

There is a Nepco paper for EVERY wrapping purpose. So states ture was taken (about 1940) Nepco was known as a wrapping
this display at a trade show. The sample books on the display paper mill.
are entitled "FROM A TO Z IN WRAPPINGS:' When this pie-

tified Nekoosa Papers Inc. , as a writing paper mill. Bread Wax Coated Car Wrap
Butcher's Special Comet Kraft
The entry of Nepco into the wrapping and special- Billboard Camlet Butcher
ty grades was only a temporary remedy to the ever- Bakewrap Cover
increasing struggle to survive in the competitive Bird's Eye Creamo
paper world. Once more the advice of "Switch to Baking Cup Corona
higher grades;' would echo around the planning Box Cover Creped Cap Stock
table; and Nekoosa would make a radical change Cordex Cu mac
in product line, completely abandoning the grades Christmas Wrap Creped Saturating
that follow. Commercial Butcher Car Liner
Cabeca Den site
Applewrap Baker's Fleece Canary Stripe Document Manila
Anti tarnish Batting Calendar Drug Bond
Anchor Battery Paper Can Liner Dubonet Kraft
Ad wrap Beaver Candy Bag Delicatessen
Aero foam B&B Caramel Wrap Drinking Cup
Arcade Envelope Blue Macaroni Carvel Parchment Delta
Artone Envelope Bluetone C.B.S. Butcher's Diwipe
Blancraft Blueprint Chemical Wood Manila Diaper Stock
Badger Butcher Bread Wax MG Check Darwin Cover
Dry Wax Glossite Laundry Bag Nepco Kraft
Drapery Stock Grey tone Lettuce Wrap Nekoosa Freezer
Echo Kraft Green tone Locker Neverslip
Extra #1 Hoskins Lilac Stripe Napkin Tissue
Excelsior Hidense Lace Paper Neptone
Envelope Manila Identification Lykglass No. 1 Kraft
Flower Paper Interleaver M.G. No. 2 Kraft
Flour Sack Ivory Marbletone Oil Protector
File Folder Kraft Manifold Opaque
Foil Mounting King Kraft Match Manila Para
Fleece White King Cold Modelwrap Palmleaf
Flameproof King William Minard Waxing Pan Liner
Full Bleach Sign King Snow Maderite Butcher Pork Loin
Garment Bag Karolton Modem Parchment Polar Stripe
Gasket Paper Kralow Butcher Nekoosa Kraft Peerless

72

Pity the poor stock room clerk in a large department store of Nepcds advertising department maintained a constant barrage
the 1930's. He had to keep a stock of wrapping paper for every of brochures to familiarize him with the proper paper to stock.
department, and each department had its own customized paper.
Pattern Stock Seal of Quality Superior Cover Toilet Tissue Wrap
Paramont Soap Wrap Strong Check Transparent
Pink tone Soda Straw Tag Stock Tissue
Protecto Shirt Band Table Cover Tuftex Sandpaper
Pressboard Service Envelope Tray Cover Waterfinish
P&G Stylemark T Sealing Waybill
Radiostripe Sign Paper Textile Wrap Window Shade
Roofing Scaling Wrapper Toweling Wrapsure
Railroad Manila Special Kraft Twisting Wet Strength
Red/ Green Sponge Paper Tire Wrap White Cross
Christmas Wrap Star Tapco Waxing
Sealing Sterling Tiswrap Yellow "S"
Screenings Steel Wrap TNT

73

Shown in these two photos are the Nekoosa and Port Edwards mills of Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company in the late 1920's. The
1920 decade saw many expansion projects completed in both mills, making them more suitable for the manufacturing of wrapping
and specialty papers.
Chapter Fifteen: Beware of Imitations

K INC .VVILL.IAM
-::~WORLDS GREATEST
~ ~RAPPER
~~--~....: ~~ .~---- ~-:

74

King William meat wr ap is promoted in this parade float. The occasion. In a modern day parade, the truck shown here would
roll of paper is really a mock roll of paper, prepared just for the attract more attention than the roll of King William.

As was indicated in the previous chapter, butcher's or meat juices which might penetrate through the
paper was our claim to fame in the late 1920's; Nep- wrapper and stain clothes. It had to be clean and
co having produced over a dozen different grades, sanitary, a very important quality; and it had to be
qualities, or colors of the paper. Some of these tough so sharp pieces of bone would not puncture
papers, Number 2 Butcher's, sold for as little as it. King William met all of these qualifications.
thirty-eight dollars a ton in 1923. This was only
slightly better than newsprint in profitability and The "King" came to Nepco from Rhinelander Paper
perhaps only slightly better fo quality. There were Company in 1922. Nepco paid Rhinelander the sum
better grades of meat wrappings available from Nep- of two thousand dollars for the label copyright, the
co; but none of them were of the quality and trademark, and a license to be the sole manufacturer
prestige of King William, advertised as the perfect of King William Waterproof Fiber. Nepco immedi-
meat wrap. ately changed the name to King William Meat Wrap
and then launched a vigorous advertising campaign
I suppose a word of explanation is in order here for to promote the grade to butcher's country-wide.
readers under the age of thirty. As late as the 1950's
most meat products were bought from bulk displays King William was heralded as being "sanitary, of
in a refrigerated display case. Fresh meats were often consistent strength; always made on the same
cut while you waited and then wrapped in paper. machine by the same satisfied workers; wound on
The paper had to protect the purchaser from blood our own paper spools; wound by the same winder-
men; always cut on the same cutter by the same packaging. Furthermore, the ever-increasing sales of
man; wrapped by the same efficient girls; run fine papers by Nepco was preempting paper
honestly to forty pound weight; weighed and load- machine production time. Wrapping papers were
ed by people expert in handling paper; and guar- not compatible with fine writing papers. G. E.
anteed by Nepco!" What more could you ask for? Veneman, Vice President of Sales, wrote to the trade
It almost made Nepco sound like a family operation. in 1966, " ... changes in our pulp mills and an em-
phasis on the acquisition of pulpwood required for
the manufacture of business communication papers,
has dictated that we take this action:' And what ac-
tion was Mr. Veneman referring to?

In July of 1959 number three paper machine made


the last run of King William in our mills. The grade
was made in our Nekoosa plant and for a couple
of years in our Potsdam mill. But as of July 19, 1959,
all future runs of the popular butcher paper would
be manufactured in the mill of Mosinee Paper Com-
pany, but still marketed by Nekoosa Papers Inc.
However, in December of 1966 the entire business,
production, trademark, and sales rights were sold

King William advertised that you always received fair weight.


That meant that the basis weight of the paper was uniform and
that you received the actual weight of paper that you were in-
voiced for. Nepco claimed that the paper was weighed by the 75
same devoted crew. This photo captures the look of pride that
those scalers had in their responsibility.

Sold in rolls and sheets, the King found its way in-
to paper merchants' warehouses across the country.
The paper was a kraft sheet that carried a water-
mark to identify it as the leading meat packaging
paper available to meat markets. "Beware of imita-
tions and accept no substitutes;' warned the
advertisements.

A wet strength additive made the sheet "blood-


proof ," thereby eliminating the wax or petrolatum
treatment used to accomplish this in other grades.
Petroleum treatments could acquire an odor as the
oil-derived treatments aged and oxidized. However,
Nepco still manufactured the petrolatum treated One of the promotional items used to help sell King William were
butcher paper (Modelwrap) for the traditionalist scratch pads made up of King William paper. The other pad,
butcher. shown in this picture, advertises Nepco Delicatessen paper but
at the bottom of the pad it also makes a pitch for that famous
King William meat wrap.
King William was pink in color except for a period
during World War Two. At that time the color to Mosinee Paper Company. Thus, Nekoosa divorc-
changed, due to a lack of dyestuff, to a faded pink ed themselves from the wrapping paper business by
or off white; whichever you preferred to call it. the sale of this once popular paper. In 1944 King
William, along with other meat packaging grades,
Sales of butcher paper, including this grade, began accounted for nearly twenty-five percent of our total
to decline in the 1950's, being replaced by film production, according to President John Alexander
in his annual report to shareholders. the wet end, or an embossed "trademark;' if on the
dry end! The entire night's production was culled!
This writer recalls an interesting and somewhat The next night this young lab technician went
humorous incident that took place in the early 1950's through the mill with an insect fogging exterminator
concerning this grade and himself. It seems that a but alas, the hatch was over and the flies did not
run of the paper was being made in Nekoosa dur- return.
ing a night shift. The mill, being located on the bank
of the Wisconsin River, was the victim of a prolific King William was one of those grades that bridged
mayfly hatch that night. The flies were attracted the transition years between wrapping grades and
toward the interior mill lights and migrated in that fine papers for this company. And as for the "King"
direction. Of course, many of them died as they at- today? The "world's greatest meat wrap" has fallen
tempted to cremate themselves on the hot light by the wayside, having been completely replaced by
bulbs, their bodies falling onto the paper machine. the plastic films which we associate with our meat
There they either became a part of the paper, if on purchases today.

76

King William paper demanded a clean, and strong pulp to realize pulp is being transferred from the pulp mill to the paper machine
its stringent specifications. Here a skid load of bleached kraft where it will come off as King William.
Chapter Sixteen: Find a Cheaper
Raw Material
Although wood is the primary source of cellulose ing material and had formed a very important
fiber for papermaking, a variety of other plants pulp source before the advent of wood pulp.
could be, and in fact are, used as the basic raw Recent improvements in processing have ex-
material for pulp production. Some of these alter- tended its use, and the time seems ripe for the
nate sources of fiber are straw, cotton, sugar cane, consideration of its use in the operations of
and hemp. Nepco, during a short period of our Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company."
career, experimented with three alternatives to
wood; corn stalks, straw, and marsh hay. A 72-ton pulp mill was proposed at an investment
of $212,000. Cost of the pulp was estimated at
It was during those pre-depression years (1928-1930) $16.75 per ton; and this straw pulp was then to be
when we seriously considered using straw as a blended with our regular wood fibers to make cer-
source of our papermaking fiber. This was not tain grades of wrapping paper, just as we blend
revolutionary, as straw paper mills were quite com- sulphite and kraft fibers today.
mon, even in Wisconsin. At one time the Badger
state was a leader in wheat production, and the What was management's answer to the proposal?
straw was a readily available by-product of this L. M. Alexander, then president of Nekoosa-
flourishing industry. Straw, like wood, contains Edwards in 1929, answered with these words:
cellulose fiber; and several small paper mills were
77
scattered about the state making paper from this "I have an idea! Hail to another birth! It oc-
refuse which was so abundant. However, an abun- curs to me that we ought to get in under the
dance of wood in the northern part of Wisconsin, rope on the cornstalk pulp very soon and
plus the development of better techniques for pro- make a study of that situation."
cessing it and the demise of the wheat growing in-
dustry in the state, all resulted in wood displacing So n ow emphasis had switched to another
straw for papermaking. agriculture by-product, cornstalks. Cornstalks were
held in high esteem, at least by agricultural research
It is quite surprising then to see as late as 1928 centers, which claimed that the humble cornstalk
reports and letters advocating Nekoosa's entering in- would one day provide our paper, lacquer, gun cot-
to straw pulping. Excerpts from a report to Nekoosa ton, string, artificial silk and a host of other
management stated: products.

"The competition in the kraft field from the Other archival letters indicate that one of the prob-
southern mills has forced down the selling lems with the cornstalk project was the lack of
price of unbleached kraft wrapping grades and cooperation on the part of the farmers. Ernest
liner board. There are two ways of meeting Eichstead, supervisor of outside crew, wrote in a let-
the competition. One is to make semi-kraft ter to L. M . Alexander, "Can't get husks yet. Farmers
pulp. The other is to find a cheaper raw have to get potatoes in seller (sic). Then they will
material suitable for use in the grades under husk corn :'
consideration . This second alternative is possi-
ble and depends upon the use of straw grown A slightly different approach occurred in 1930 when
exclusively in the adjacent counties to the East marsh hay was proposed as pulping material.
of Wood and Juneau counties. Located in Portage County just a few miles east of
the mills, was the Buena Vista Marsh. Several acres
Straw has always been prized as a pulp mak- of a variety of marsh hay were cultivated that sum-
78

The round drum in this photo is a rod mill. As the drum revolves, bling rods. Originally designed for pulverizing ore, Nekoosa used
steel rods inside the drum tumble against one another. Any them here for macerating pulp, including pulp made from straw
material inside the drum will be pounded to pieces by these tum- and corn stalks.

mer and were harvested and cooked at the Nekoosa co was concerned, and there was good reason for
mill in a trial procedure. lack of interest. Most important was the fact Nep-
co was on the brink of a decision which would be
Rod mills, commonly used for ore processing, were the most important one in its history, the conver-
available in the Nekoosa mill and would have been sion to fine papers. Straw pulp and cornstalk pulp
used to macerate the straw or hay pulp. However, had no place in these lines of paper. They were
the equipment had a tendency to leave iron particles wrapping paper pulps, and we were playing our last
in the pulp, the chips of metal coming from the tum- act in wrapping paper production.
bling rods that beat the pulp. Thus, they were
eliminated when we migrated to finer grades of One investigator summed it up by saying that there
paper. never was going to be a shortage of pulpwood in
North America. Why then should we turn to an in-
None of these raw materials progressed beyond the ferior product? Thus, the project was dropped and
investigational or experimental stage as far as Nep- only lives in the files of the Nekoosa archives.
Chapter Seventeen: Nepco Buys
Monster Airship
The operation of aircraft for business purposes is ing about two hours. It had a wing span of 74 feet
old hat to Nekoosa Papers. Our entrance into this and was 49 feet long. There were accommodations
business support field dates back to mid-1928 when for 12 passengers, plus the pilot, and a "mechani-
Nepco hired Major L. G. Mulzur as Aeronautical cian" who serviced the plant. Ample baggage space
Engineer. Mulzur had previous experience with the was provided in the rear.
army, having flown planes of all types from a small
messenger plane to the largest bombers of that time. The cost of the plane was $48,000; and a local
He had a flying log of over 2,500 hours of flying tabloid announced the purchase with the headline,
time and safely carried over 4,000 passengers. "Nepco Buys Monster Airship:'

As Nepco Aeronautical Engineer, Mulzur was So now we had an airplane but no place to land it.
responsible for the operation of the Nepco Trimotor Accordingly, Nepco's General Manager, John E.
plane. The plane was an all metal, three-engine Alexander, organized Tri-City Airways, Incorpor-
plane build by the Ford Motor Company. It was pur- ated. Three hundred and eighty-eight shares of $100
chased new by Nepco in 1928; and its first trip was par value stock were purchased by 16 shareholders,
from Chicago to Tri-City Airport, the trip requir- of which Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company was the
79

The proud and mighty Ford Tri-motor airplane poses on a dirt Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company. The planes were often call-
taxi-way (runways were sod), shortly after being delivered to ed the "tin goose" because of the corrugated metal side panels.
largest investor. The fu nds thus raised were used to
purchase 330 acres of land east of Port Edwards. Sod
runways with excellent drainage were laid out, a
hangar was built, a 24-inch rotating beacon and
wind sock were installed, obstruction lights and
field markers were placed, a manager was hired and
by dedication on O ctober 21, 1929, the airport
boasted being the largest all wea ther, all way air-
port in the state.

The port was managed by M ajor L. G. Mulzur from


1928 to 1932. Major Mulzur operated a flyi ng
school, complete with dormitory facilities. The air-
port, under his direction, offered storage and ser-
vice facilities and even night landing light service.

An ambitious attempt to associate the Tri-City Fly-


ing School with Lawrence College of Appleton, Wis-
consin, thereby granting a degree in aeronautics, fell
shor t of Lawrence's goals of higher education.

To assure confidence in the safety of what was a first time flight


for most passengers, this booklet was handed to passengers upon Nepco used the Ford Trimotor plane for advertis-
80 entering the plane. On the first page it points out that there are
three engines. Only two will get the plane to its destination. One
engine will give the plane an angle of descent equal to half the
ing its products and promoting the local airport. Its
primary purpose was to fly customers from various
state of Delaware. cities to the airport. There, the Nepco bus would

A typical group of customers arrives at Tri-City Airport on the immediately upon arrival. The plane carried twelve passengers
NEPCO Ford Tri-motor plane . Each group posed for their photo and a crew of two. Maximum speed was about 125 miles per hour.
In the spring of 1929 Major Mulzur took the "Nep-
co" on a barnstorming flight throughout the coun-
try. It is reported that this was the first close view
of an airplane that many people ever had. The plane
carrying the Nepco trademark, could, and did, land
in most any level field since it required only a 900
foot runway. In the summer of 1929 all of the Nep-
co employees and their families were treated to a
free ride in the "Nepco:' This airlift operation re-
quired several Sundays since there were 3,000 rides
to be given.

In Jacksonville, Florida, the Jacksonville Paper Com-


pany staged a "King William Day;' sponsoring free
rides for all butchers of the Jacksonville area.
Interior view of the Ford Tri-motor plane. Wicker seats provid-
ed little comfort during turbulent flights. Note the lack of
seatbelts. Some human interest stories concerning our early
aviation career are preserved in the Nekoosa Ar-
meet them and take them to the mills. After tours, chives. For instance, the Tri-City Flying School pur-
lunch and a sales conference, the customers were chased a Travelair plane in 1928 from a Madison,
flown back to their homes. Often several trips were Wisconsin, dealer. Madison is 100 miles due south
made in a single day. On these trips the plane travel- of Wisconsin Rapids. The pilot charged with deliv-
ed at a maximum speed of 145 miles an hour, car-
ried 5,400 pounds, and consumed one gallon of
ery of the new plane took off from Madison.with
navigational instructions to follow the railroad
81
gasoline for each mile of travel. tracks to the Wisconsin River, then follow the river

In 1929, Wisconsin became famous in court proceedings when might fly over the scene of the crime, thereby better acquainting
it found a defendant guilty based on circumstantial evidence. them with the case.
NEPCO furnished the use of the Ford to the jury so that they
AIRP~
!>ME OF NEKOOSA·EDWARDS PAPER CO TRl·M

82 Passengers arriving at Tri-City Airport on the Ford plane were overnight visit. The bus spent its last years as an intercity bus
met by this Buick bus which conveyed them to the mills or the between Wisconsin Rapids, Port Edwards and Nekoosa,
Port Edwards Hotel were accommodations were provided for the Wisconsin.

Classroom of the NEPCO Tri-City Flying School. When com- was a ticket counter. When a new airport terminal building was
mercial airline service came to Wisconsin Rapids, this classroom built, these facilities became the office and lounge of the fixed
was converted into a waiting room while the office to the rear base operator at Alexander Field.
Tri-City Airport became an airforce training camp in 1940. This
operation was a summer only training mission. During the
a warehouse. Some permanent buildings were added during
World War II when the airfield became a radar training facility.
83
balance of the year the airport was dormant, and the hangar was

to Wisconsin Rapids. But alas, out of Madison he Another report on file, this one a letter from Major
chose the wrong railroad tracks. He ended up in Mulzur to John Alexander, reporting on activities
Watertown, Wisconsin, where he was forced to land at the flying school:
in a farm field, having run out of gasoline. A sup-
ply of fuel was obtained from a farm tractor, it first "We sold two of our four training planes to
being strained through a silk handerchief as it was the insurance company this summer. For-
administered to the plane. Once refueled, the plane tunately, no one was killed."
again took to the air and returned to Madison where
the pilot spent the night and then attempted the trip Another report by Mulzur, written upon the crash
the following day. of another Ford Trimotor and pointing out the safety
of that model of aircraft:

"There must have been something else wrong


besides one engine conking out. I went up to-
day and cut my right motor off and flew
around for twenty minutes with ten passengers
on board."

And how about this report to management in March


of 1929:

"I had a deal all worked out with Pathe News


The Nepco Flying Service had other planes besides the Ford Tri-
motor. Here is a Curtis Robin. Others were a Stinson and a Fair- Film to fly the Daytona race films to New York
child. Planes of this style were used for charter and training. City. But as you probably read in the papers,
one car crashed and killed the film man tak- Enter phase two of Nekoosa's flight activities. In
ing the pictures I was supposed to fly. I was 1958 Nekoosa purchased a Beechcraft Twin Bonan-
going to get $3,000.00 for the trip with the za plane. Although we had an airport in our own
Ford. It would have been non-stop (Daytona backyard, the plane was kept at the Stevens Point,
to New Yo rk), as I would have filled all tanks Wisconsin airport until 1959 when improvements
and put five, fifty-gallon drums of gas in the were made at Tri-City Airport so that our new plane
cabin." could be accommodated. Starting in the summer of
1959 a unique, but not totally successful, innova-
The devastating depression of the early 1930's tion was carried out. The airport property had been
brought an end to our flight operations in 1932, but completely acquired by John Alexander, who pur-
only temporarily. The Ford was sold to Mulzur and chased all of the outstanding stock of the now
leased to Nepco for $15.00 an hour as needed. The defunct Tri-City Airways Company. Now an at-
wing advertising remained on the plane up until the tempt was made to convert the grass runways to a
5,000 and 3,800 foot, hard surface runway by the
utilization of spent sulfite liquor roadbinder, a by-
product of sulfite pulping. This material was fre-
quently used to stabilize the surface of secondary
roads in the vicinity of a sulfite pulp mill. After
grading the sandy soil to rigid specifications, darker
top soil was spread on top. The roadbinder liquor
was mixed to an eight-inch depth, and after com-
pacting, asphalt road oil was used as a seal coat,
84 followed by sand blotting and drag brooming.
When completed, the airport claimed to be the
fourth largest facility in Wisconsin. That was in
1959 when the 240-acre airport and its 98 x 102 foot
Nekoosa Paper's re-entry into the aviation field was in 1958 when
this twin engine Beechcraft Bonanza was purchased. The plane hangar-administration building were given to five
was too small and was replaced very soon thereafter with a larger South Wood County municipalities as a gift by John
Beech plane. Nekoosa Papers president, John Alexander and Mrs.
Alexander are about to embark on a trip. Alexander was a naval
E. Alexander, president of Tri-City Airways, Inc.,
pilot in World War I and a promotor of aviation. and owner of the property. Construction of the run-
ways used an additional 60 acres of Nekoosa-
time that it was demolished in a tornado while on Edwards Paper Company land. This added proper-
a trip to Iowa some years later. ty enabled the airport to extend its clear zone at the
end of the runways.
The airport, named Tri-City Airport, continued to
service small, private planes. Then in 1939 the The airport was renamed Alexander Field in com-
army began using the flying field as summer train- memoration of Alexander's gift and today operates
ing base. From 1939 to 1945 National Guard units, as a municipal airport. For many years, commer-
Airforce units and a radar training school all used cial service was available at Alexander Field.
the airport as a base. Then in 1945 it was converted
into a prisoner of war camp housing captive Ger- In late 1959 Nekoosa replaced its Beechcraft Bonan-
man soldiers who worked on the nearby cranberry za with a larger Beechcraft Super 18. This was
marshes and nurseries. followed in early 1963 by the acquisition of a
Lockheed Learstar, which in turn was replaced by
From 1946 to 1948, a period of dormancy fell over the present Dehaviland H125 Jet in 1969.
the Tri-City Airport. Paper Cities Flying Service
leased the port and serviced a few private planes. The need for a second smaller plane was realized
From 1948to1959 the airport became nothing more in 1960 when a Beechcraft Baron was put into ser-
than a weed patch, the hangar being leased to a local vice. After 16 years of service and over two million
manufacturer for storage purposes. miles of travel, the Baron was traded in on our cur-
rent Rockwell Turbo Commander in 1976. cian . Now a fligh t to Chicago on our jet requires
about thirty minutes as compared to two hours in
The DH125 and the Commander, plus a staff of four 1929. Both planes are still used extensively for
pilots and a mechanic have replaced the Ford Tri- transporting customers to the mill for a first-hand
motor, the aeronautical engineer and his mechani- look at Nekoosa's way of making paper.

85

Nekoosa Papers Inc. labeled this Learstar "No. IV", since it was was a nine passenger plane that was converted to corporate use
the fourth plane to enter service in the Nekoosa fleet. The Learstar fro m a Lockheed Lodestar.
Chapter Eighteen: One Engine Will
Replace Ten Teams
Having reviewed the aeronautical history of
Nekoosa Papers Inc., it is only fitting to give com-
pensatory time to the railroad advocates. This can
easily be done since Nekoosa has had a finger, in
fact a whole hand, in several railroading ventures.
Although John Edwards, Jr. served as a director of
at least three common carrier railroads, these were
not directly associated with Nekoosa. However,
from some records on file, it appears that Edwards
did operate a logging line prior to 1900 in Central
Number Five locomotive was the first locomotive purchased new
Wisconsin. from the builder. Locomotives were numbered as they were
acquired.
However, in 1900 the Nekoosa Paper Company
became directly involved in railroading when they Thus by 1908, when the mills merged, Nekoosa-
acquired a steam locomotive for the purpose of Edwards Paper Company was well established in
shunting cars around the mill property. Prior to this operating their own railroad equipment. Why, we
86 purchase of mechanical power, two double teams
of horses and four men were involved in moving
even had a caboose at one point!

cars. In 1900 the H. K. Porter Locomotive Company About this time we acquired a used locomotive for
advised Tom Nash, President of Nekoosa Paper the Nash Lumber Company in Northern Wiscon-
Company, that one steam locomotive would replace sin; and it became the nucleus for the formation of
ten teams and at half the cost. Dobbin was doom- a common carrier railroad, The Glidden and
ed! Nash was sold on the idea but not on a new Southwestern Railroad, all of four miles of mainline.
Porter locomotive. Instead he purchased a used

Nekoosa Paper Company became involved with railroading with


the purchase of this steam locomotive acquired from the Chicago
Elevated Railroad.

locomotive from the South Side Elevated Railroad


of Chicago, which was converting their operations All railroad equipment operated by Nekoosa Edwards was not
to electricity at that time. associated with moving cars. Several steam and in later years
diesel powered railroad cranes were vital for loading and
unloading logs, coal, limestone, etc. This steam crane is unloading
A few years later the John Edwards Manufacturing coal at the Port Edwards mill.
Company saw the advantages of steam traction and
purchased a new Brooks built locomotive. The next venture came in 1909 when the Grand
Rapids Street Railway was organized; and although was responsible for getting cars of pulpwood out of
not a Nekoosa-Edwards property when incor- the Canadian forests to a connection on the Cana-
porated, this eight-mile electric line did become our dian National Railroad for continuing movement to
property just prior to abandonment in 1931. The the mills in Wisconsin.
line operated between Wisconsin Rapids and Ne-
koosa and received its electric power from Nekoosa- Still another railroading adventure, which was uni-
Edwards' Centralia hydroelectric plant. Part of the que from the others, was the portable, narrow gauge
line is still in service as Nekoosa's intermill railroad line known simply as the "Milwaukee:' The name
connecting our two Wisconsin mills. had no connotation as to cities served; but rather,
it was named after its locomotive, a Milwaukee
-- ----...
... gasoline engine.

The Wisconsin Rapids Street Railway Company became the prop-


erty of Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company prior to being aban-
doned. They operated two motor cars, one of which is illustrated,
and two trailer coaches for heavy traffic periods. It appears that
87
a trailer should have been attached for this particular trip as the
The "Milwaukee" gasoline engine at Nepco Lake with five of its
car is quite crowded.
minature ore cars. This line had no permanent roadbed since the
tracks were somewhat like toy train tracks; the sections being
In 1946 we moved to Canada with our rail activities. laid on the ground and bolted together.
There, with a retired steam locomotive from the Port
Edwards mill, the Sturgeon Lake Transportation Purchased in 1928 from Wisconsin Valley Improve-
Company Ltd. was incorporated as a subsidiary of ment Company, the motive power, cars, and tracks
Alexander Clarke Timber Company, which in turn were moved to Nepco Lake to be used for hauling
was a subsidiary of Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Com- dirt for the dikes and chemicals for water treatment.
pany. S.L.T. Co. was a common carrier, which with In 1931 it was loaded onto a truck and hauled to
its one piece of equipment and seven miles of track, Nekoosa, where it saw service on the mill dam to

Originally built for the Soo Line Railroad, NEPCO purchased


two locomotives like the one illustrated. They operated in the
Port Edwards and Nekoosa yards until replaced by diesel All of the Glidden & Southwestern's equipment was not of
locomotives. One of them was scrapped while the other went massive size and heavy steel construction. This motorized unit,
to Canada where it worked its last days on the Sturgeon Lake believed to be a model T Ford, carried passengers between Glid-
Transportation Company line. den and Shanagolden.
facilitate the laying of the 40-inch pipeline from
Nepco Lake to the Nekoosa mill. Other service was
incurred in the 1940's when the entire railroad was
again loaded on a truck, having been loaned to
Wood County for assisting in building a man-made
lake. Finally, the unit became a piece of beach
playground equipment at the employee's recreation
area at Nepco Lake, where it has become a popular
children's attraction.

Today our rail activities are limited to the operation


The first of the diesels arrives in 1941. The iron horse was doom- of 6 diesel locomotives, 145 cars, 1 snowplow and
ed. Veteran engineer George Elliot poses with his new unit. George about 20 miles of track. These facilities serve our
operated steam locomotives at Glidden prior to doing the same
work a t Port Edwards. Wisconsin and Ashdown properties.

88

Two cranes (jammers) are at work in the Port Edwards wood moved by a locomotive. Steam is the power source for all three
yard about 1910. The first crane is a mobile unit while the pieces of equipment.
second one is mounted on a railroad flat car which has to be
Chapter Nineteen: The Paper in the
Machine Burned Up
A paper machine's life span can extend over a period Upon graduation from Armour, Alexander's first
of nearly a hundred years, such as our Columbian position with Nepco was in the capacity of Chief
machine. It may also be short-lived as our "First Chemist. In this position he was able to further pur-
Number Nine," referred to by the nickname of sue his study of an electric paper machine; and ac-
"John's Electric Machine." cordingly built a pilot plant model in 1922. This ex-
perimental model was twenty inches wide; and in-
Conceived from an idea and plan developed by John stead of a conventional Fourdrinier wet end for for-
Alexander, while a student at Armour Institute in ming paper, it incorporated a cylinder mold. The
Chicago in 1916, this revolutionary paper machine dryer was a single drum dryer; the drum being
was supposed to utilize the abundant and low cost heated by electric heating elements placed inside the
electricity available to most paper mills by virtue drum.
of their being located on water courses. The idea was
revolutionary in two ways. First of all, the paper Alas, it didn't work! The drum did not heat
would be dried by means of electrically heated uniformly over its entire surface, with the result be-
dryers rather than steam heated ones; and second- ing a sheet of paper wet in some areas and over-
ly, the machine would be driven by electric motors dried in other spots. But John did not give up. He
instead of a steam engine. had another idea.
89

The pilot model of an all electric paper machine is shown here. the reel. The grade of paper being run is called "paper:'
Here the web of paper is exiting the oven and being wound on
90
Veteran Nekoosa papermaker, Lewis Meyers, was machine tender Paper machine rooms were notorious for wet floors. This pic-
for the experimental all-electric paper machine. Louie will have ture shows the press section and the entrance to the drying oven.
dry shoes to walk home in since he is going barefoot at work.

Alexander's solution to the problem was an entire- inches wide and designed to operate at a speed of
ly new principal for paper drying-pass the wet three to five hundred feet per minute. Production
paper through a giant oven to dry it out. So the pilot was in the neighborhood of one thousand pounds
model was stripped of its drum dryer, and in its of paper per hour.
place a sixteen foot long, electrically heated oven
was built. On this small machine, newsprint, kraft The wet paper, formed on a conventional Four-
wrapping, and even some writing paper was drinier wire, was placed between two bronze wire
manufactured over a period of two years. screens. Sandwiched between these wire screens, the
paper made five trips through the hot oven.
Results looked promising; so Alexander, who had
been promoted to Assistant General Manager by this The oven, which was thirty-six feet long, seventeen
time, decided to build a commercial, all electric feet wide, and twelve feet high, had brick walls that
machine. First Number Nine was built in the Port were fourteen inches thick. They consisted of two
Edwards mill. This was a joint effort of the Port Ed- courses of four-inch brick with six inches of mineral
wards machine shop; the Nekoosa Foundry Com- wool insulation between them. The oven required
pany; Bagley and Sewall Company, who supplied 2500 kilowatts of electric power to heat its electric
the Fourdrinier; and Westinghouse Electric Com- heating elements.
pany, who supplied the heating equipment for the
dryer. These collaborators had completed their joint One of the problems encountered was traceable to
efforts in only six months; and on July 7, 1924, the the well insulated walls of the oven. A copy of the
machine was started. machine's log book relates to this:

This commercial size trial machine was ninety-four "Belt broke. Turned off machine, but chamber
so hot that the paper inside burned up. This John's electric machine operated on and off until
is the fourth time in ten days that this has mid-1926. The high temperature in the drying oven
happened." affected the wire screen, causing it to expand and
wrinkle. The paper was easily ignited if there was
Another comment from the same log of operation: a break in the web. Still another problem was
lubrication of bearings inside the oven.
"Eleven heating elements badly burned at ter-
minals, and all the connectors completely Accordingly, in 1927, after plans for converting to
melted away. Melted metal fell on wire caus- conventional steam dryers proved to be too costly,
ing dents in wire." the machine was dismantled. Meanwhile, the
original twenty inch pilot model was converted to
But the final blow to the machine crew and builders an experimental paper machine with a conventional
was dealt with this entry: steam dryer. Still later, it was converted into a
coating applicator. Surprisingly, after all this time,
"The finishing room crew does not seem very nothing has replaced steam for drying paper on to-
enthusiastic with the paper." day's modern paper machines.

91

An early association between Nekoosa Papers and Great North- Electric Company and NEPCO management. In the rear of the
ern Paper Company is indicated by this photo which portrays gentlemen is the novel electric drying oven.
visitors from Great Northern, representatives from Westinghouse
Chapter Twenty: A Hundred & Twenty-Five
Beds and a Barbershop
'What does providing room and board have to do the night. It is questionable, however, whether he
with paper making?" I will respond by letting it be slept in the 'bunkhouse:'
known that Nekoosa has been involved in providing
bed and board on at least four teen instances. In ad- In a similar manner, Nash Lumber Company, another
dition, on two occasions, they have been involved parent company, operated a logging camp and a
in real estate transactions pertaining to home rentals. boarding house in Northern Wisconsin. The reader
is referred to an excellent description of life in one
Ever since John Edwards sent men into the woods of these facil ities in a thesis entitled, "A Boyhood in
to spend the winter cutting timber, Nekoosa, or a the Bush" by T. LeBlanc. Accordingly, we can pass
predecessor company of Nekoosa, has been involved on to more recent Nekoosa Papers Inc., ventures in-
in providing a home away from home for its to the business of providing accommodations to tran-
employees. sients as well as employees. These abodes were the
more conventional hotel setup such as we associate
Home? Yes, a home even though it may have con- with hotels today.
sisted of a logging camp bunkhouse at the Edwards'
farm on Mill Creek in Central Wisconsin. Edwards Exactly when Nekoosa-Edwards got into the hotel
92 himself, according to his personal diary, made
periodic trips to this hostelry, where he would spend
business is not precisely known. Perhaps the first
hostelry was the old Delmonico Hotel at Centralia.

Hotel Port Edwards Prior to 1895. The building on the right sur- the "Hotel Annex:' The John Edwards sawmill appears in the dis-
vived until about 1960. The building in the center was a boarding tant left of the photo.
house that was later moved closer to the ho tel and became
Originally a stage coach stop, the Delmonico Hotel
was later acquired by the Centralia Water Power &
Paper Co. as a boarding house for employees. In its
later years, it served as a family residence.

Better known perhaps are the accommodations of-


fered for Port Edwards employees. The operation
began prior to 1900 with the erection of the
Blackstone Hotel which was located where the Port
Edwards mill parking lot is now. After a few short
years, when the Blackstone grew short of accom-
modations, the well known Port Edwards Hotel was
built. The Blackstone was converted to a multi-
family residence, and the Port Hotel prospered Interior of the Port Edwards Hotel showing the white marble
tables used for serving Nekoosa Edwards customers who visited
under the management of Charles Meyers, a former the mills. Nekoosa Edwards operated a label printing shop in
lumber camp cook from the Nash Lumber Co. In this area for many years after the hotel closed its doors to visitors.
fact, the demand for accommodations, especially in
the late 1920's due to several company expansion Also included were a dining room, where no liquor
projects undertaken at that time, was so great that was served, and an in-house barbershop.
another building was built along side of the hotel
just to the east of it. This building was called the The reputation of the Port Edwards Hotel probably
Port Edwards Hotel Annex. At this time, the Port received its best impetus from F. J. McGargle, who
took over operation in 1921. McGargle, better
Edwards Hotel boasted of having 125 beds, not
necessarily in private rooms and not with a bath. known as Mac, had as many as 168 resident
93

The Port Edwards Hotel and annex with the "Barracks" on the in many single employees who resided in these buildings as well
extreme left . All three facilities were 'sold out' in the 1920's when as a similar one at the Nekoosa mill.
this photo was taken. A prolonged strike at the mills brought
boarders at one time or another. To accommodate the residents in its accommodations. Both of the bar-
that number of guests, an addition to the hotel call- racks operated their own dining rooms during their
ed the annex was added, as well as a completely peak occupancy.
separate, but adjacent building, called the barracks.
Upon closing in 1921, the Nekoosa barracks were
Three bounteous meals were served daily to these dismantled. The Port Edwards building, however,
men, in addition to non-resident boarders, so that was used for storage facilities, until 1941 when the
Mac often prepared as many as 700 meals a day. shell of the building was converted into the famous
Paper Inn. This popular restaurant, which was
With McGargle as manager, the hotel was operated recommended by gourmet diner, Duncan Hines, also
by six chambermaids and a cook. Fresh vegetables had available a lunch counter, six bowling lanes and
were on the menu almost daily in season, since Mac a billiard room. The Paper Inn was operated by
raised several of them himself in back of the hotel Nekoosa Papers Inc., until the mid-SO's. At that time,
where the parking lot is now situated. They say the it was leased to a private operator, and then finally
desserts were something to remember since Mac and torn down in 1961 when the Administration
his cook did all their own pastry baking. In fact, Building was erected on the same site.
it was the policy of Nepco to provide the best food
for its employees. To do this, the most modern and
sanitary equipment was available to the chefs. Meals
were served on marble top tables. So deluxe were
meal accommodations at the hotel, that several din-
ner meetings, conventions, and conferences were
94 held in the dining room there. The Nepco customers,
flown to the mill on the Ford Trimotor plane, were
housed in the "suites" on the second floor and were
served their meals in the common dining room.

Mac liked to tell a story about the flood of 1911. The Paper Inn was formerly the Barracks that housed single
Men working in the mill had their meals packed at employees of the Port Edwards mill. Even after this picture was
taken, the second floor was still partitioned off into small rooms
the hotel and sent to them in the mill. Due to the that formerly served as sleeping rooms. The walls between rooms
flood conditions, hotel employees had to use a were of wallboard construction.
rowboat to take the meals to the mill from the hotel.
Nepco operated smaller caravanserai, such as the
The Port Edwards Hotel operated for nine years after temporary one at Nepco Lake during construction
McGargle's retirement in 1944. It was then converted of the lake, and still another in Northern Wiscon-
into the Nekoosa Papers print shop, photography sin in conjunction with our reforestation operations.
studio, and file storage rooms.
On two occasions, this company launched a home
Two other company operated boarding houses were building campaign providing homes for employees.
built in 1919. Referred to as the barracks, one was The first venture was about 1900 when Nekoosa-
located in Port Edwards on the site of the present Edwards built homes in Port Edwards. These houses
Administration Building. The other was located in were in the south portion of the village, one on each
Nekoosa at a site midway between Market Street corner of the block, all painted white, and all of the
and the mill woodroom. These two buildings were same basic plan. It is easy to recognize these homes,
erected in connection with the strike of 1919; their even today, in spite of their remodelings. In 1920
purpose being to provide rooms and meals for some eighty homes were rented out by Nepco. All
migrant workers brought in to operate the mills in were sold during the 1930 depression in an effort
spite of the striker's picket lines. After serving their to raise badly needed cash.
purpose for about three years, the two facilities were
closed in 1921, and the Port Edwards Hotel absorbed Following World War II, Nekoosa once more went
into the housing business by constructing a dozen In the 1920's one of Nepco's slogans was ''Live where
new homes; and although not all the same color this you work!" Although an attempt in the 1920's and
time, all were of the same basic design. All have again in the 1950's was made by Nekoosa-Edwards
since been sold to private interests, as was an eight- Paper Company to make this a reality, the automo-
unit apartment building built in Port Edwards bile won out, making commuting to and from work
following World War II. a daily reality.

95

The famous Paper Inn offered pool, bowling, billiards, soda foun- finally being torn down after a new YMCA was built in Port
tain, and elegant dining. The facility was operated by Nekoosa Edwards.
Papers for a number of years and then leased to a private operator;

With a goal of providing housing for employees as well as beauti- pany built this eight unit apartment building. Named NEPCO
fying the village of Port Edwards, Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Com- Court, the property has since been sold to a private investor.
Chapter Twenty-One: Specify Natural
No one likes a war. Nevertheless, it affects every- The war affected our business in several ways, two
one, and Nekoosa is no exception. During our of which were the procurement of dyestuff and
business career, several military conflicts have in- chlorine gas. Prior to World War I, most dyes were
volved our country and its people. Two, however, manufactured in Germany. With the outbreak of the
had a major influence on Nekoosa's daily opera- war, the supply was terminated. Chlorine gas was
tions. These were the conflicts that went into the also in short supply due to its use as a weapon. This
history books under the title of World War I and prompted a directive from the Nepco sales depart-
II. As stated in the opening line of this chapter, ment, wherein customers were advised that due to
nobody likes a war, so I will get the details of both raw material shortages they should "specify natural
conflicts out of the way in just one chapter. This shade:' If they wanted white, it would be a two
is a logical thing to do since the conditions and situa- dollar a ton upcharge, and colored sheets would
tions affecting Nekoosa in World War I and World carry a fifteen dollar a ton upcharge over natural.
War II were quite similar. However, in the case of During World War II, Sales Manager Adam Remley
World War II the efforts put forth by Nekoosa and advised customers, "It's only reasonable to conclude
its employees were greatly magnified, just as the that the color and brightness of our paper will be
whole war was. affected. We, of course, will keep as near our pre-
sent standard as possible:'
Let's start with the War Bond purchase effort. Dur-
ing World War I, each employee at Nepco was ask- Price increases, however, did not cover the added
96 ed to sign a pledge card, which authorized a two costs of bleach and dye. Consequently, on January
dollar deduction to be made from his or her 22, 1918, all merchants were advised that Nepco was
paycheck each payday, until such time as a fifty withdrawing all prices on all grades and would
dollar war bond could be purchased. This war was quote on inquiries only, and only in full carloads.
not as expensive as the one which followed, when The last stipulation was to conserve on railroad cars
Nekoosa Papers' employees earned the United States which were in short supply.
Treasury Department's Minute Man flag for having
97.5% of the employees saying "yes" to a regular The shortage of chemicals during World War I
payroll deduction for war bonds. This time, resulted in one plus factor for Nepco. The lowly
waste bark that for years had been burned or used
for landfill now became valuable as a source of tan-
nin. The biggest use of tannin was in the leather pro-

A victory flag and this small 2' x 4 • aluminum plaque was


presented to Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company for their sup-
port of the War Bond Drive between 1941 and 1945. Evidently
the shortage of metal prohibited the awarding of a larger bronze
plaque!

however, fifty dollars did not suffice. Instead, a Neatly stacked piles of softwood bark dry in the sun at Port Ed-
regular payroll deduction was made for the entire wards, prior to being loaded into railroad cars and sold as a source
of tannin. Tannin was primarily used by leather tanneries. It pro-
four year duration of the war! vided an auxiliary cash receipt for NECPO during World War II.
cessing industry. Crews were engaged to hand peel Employees became involved in the war effort in
the bark from the wood, stack it for drying, and other ways. One hundred and fifty employees took
then load it into rail cars. This practice continued first aid and home nursing courses offered by the
well after World W~r I, through the depression Department of Civilian and Industrial Defense.
years, and through World War II, providing an ex- Through their unions they purchased two hundred
tra source of income to Nekoosa-Edwards. dollars worth of bonds, contributed five dollars to
the Red Cross, and purchased ten cartons of cigaret-
Meanwhile, back on the home front, another effort tes to be sent to servicemen. It may sound small,
was duplicated during both wars. During World but their heart was in the war effort, and their union
War I, Nepco made available to employees plots coffers were not heavily endowed.
of ground to be used for "war gardens:' Twenty-
five years later, Nekoosa's president, John Alex- The employees' greatest contribution was leaving
ander, instituted a program which again made their job, community, and family to serve in the
available to employees an eighth of an acre of land armed forces. The "NEPCO DIGESTER" reported
to be used for raising of food crops. Some of these the number of men leaving Nepco each month. For
plots were on the same land that had served in example, September, 1941 - 7; October, 1941 - 22;
World War I! Nekoosa Papers plowed the eighth February, 1942 - 72. An illuminated victory sign was
of an acre after first fertilizing it. To climax the an- placed on the lawn outside each of the mills, and
nual "Victory Garden" harvest, Nekoosa sponsored on these signs the names of the men and women
a garden festival offering prizes for the choice garden in the service were inscribed. The proud claim is that
specimens. Two hundred employees, including 435 of approximately 1,400 employees entered the
Nekoosa's first lady, Dorothy Alexander, wife of service. That's thirty-one percent! Their jobs were
John Alexander, took advantage of the offer and
raised their own crops.
filled by housewives, who took their places until the
veterans returned in 1945. Nekoosa president, John
97

t
--·----0
,j .,1; I I I
-1

• .
.

A group of employees demonstrate their patriotism by support- to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to give blood. Buses made routine trips
ing a blood drive in the mills. Employees generally had to go to that city w ith donors.
98

This victory "V" was located on the lawn near the Main Office the sign was too small and the reverse side had to be used. The
at Port Edwards. World War II service personnel were named Nekoosa plant had a similar sign for their service personnel.
on the sign. However, as the war went on longer than anticipated,
Alexander, remembered these servicemen by writ- seven day a week operation. A far cry from paper-
ing letters to them and sending gifts of stationery making, but it was a contribution to the war effort.
and cigarettes at Christmas time. It should be pointed out that the maintenance
workload at the mills did not suffer because of this
Meanwhile, what was going on back at the mill? diversion of energy. With replacement equipment
Well, it was obvious that there was a war on. In both being almost impossible to secure, the maintenance
conflicts notices were posted in the mills, "All Aliens crews were taxed to keep the operating equipment
Must Register:' An indication that precautions were performing, and they did just that.
being taken was the installation of fences around
mill property. Gates were kept locked and guards Papermaking is what we do best, and here too we
posted. This was an unheard of step to a family went to war. Our mix of grades started to include
operated company in such a small community. As some specialty sheets that were war related. Water-
soon as the war was over in 1945, however, the proof Map Paper, made for the army, would find
fences were removed and guards retired. a use after the war as outdoor billboard paper. Anti-
Tarnish Paper, used for wrapping bombsight parts,
The mills took a step toward cleanliness as old, ob- would have a use after the war for packaging syr-
solete equipment and machinery were dismantled inges and needles. Nepco Refrigerated Locker Paper
and sold for scrap. The goal was to supply one thou- assumed an entirely new role. It was fo und to be
sand pounds of scrap metal for each of the 1,400 an ideal waterproof wrapper to be used for shipping
people employed, or a total of seven hundred tons. aircraft engine parts to the South Pacific tropics,
Thus, an old boiler and several pulpwood grinders thereby preventing rusting. Cartridge Paper and Bat-
found their way to the melting pot. Several old tery Paper were two of our grades that were discon-
railroad cars from the Nepco Lake narrow gauge tinued after the war. And King William! It is docu-
railroad were dismantled by local boy scouts, this mented that this old reliable meat packaging paper
99
author included, and sold as scrap, only to find that was used on one occasion to send a package to a
the cars were badly needed a few years later. The fighting man in Italy, who then used the same piece
Port Edwards machine shop rebuilt the fleet. of paper to return a gift to his mother. The same
sheet of paper went to Italy and back, protecting
While on the subject of machine shops, here is one its contents both ways.
group which really became involved in the war.
Their lathes, drill presses, and manpower produc- When the war was over, Nekoosa-Edwards wel-
ed parts for submarines, aircraft, bombs, and comed the men and women back by offering them
torpedoes. From parts weighing a fraction of an their original jobs or similar ones. House construc-
ounce, to some that weighed in at two and a half tion, which had been curtailed for four years, was
tons, the Port Edwards and Nekoosa shops helped once more begun. To encourage employees to build
to outfit twenty-six submarines that were built in a home, Nekoosa-Edwards inaugurated a home
Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The Peto, Hammerhead, building incentive program. Three hundred dollars
and Loggerhead were three of these craft that gain- was made available to each employee who built a
ed recognition during World War II, and Nekoosa- home for his own occupancy.
Edwards had a hand in their construction. All in all,
over 27,000 man hours were spent in machining Servicemen signs were removed, fences came down,
antennae masts, steering gear, hatch covers, valves, and the guards retired. The war was over. Why
and door locks. It was a twenty-four hour a day, dwell on it any longer?
Chapter Twenty-Two: Damn Those Yankees
For thirty years Nekoosa-Edwards had made quali-
ty paper on six paper machines (eight between
1908-1912). They were the basic Fourdrinier "run of
the mill" type paper machines, consisting of a wet
section, press section, and a mul titude of steam
heated dryer drums for drying the paper.These con-
ventional paper machines produced more grades of
paper than there were dryers on the machine.
Operations were going along quite smoothly- that
is, up to early 1923. Then someone had an idea that
Nepco's future was in MG (machine glazed) papers,
and that Nekoosa-Edwards should invest in not just
one, but two of those new style "Yankee" paper
machines. The initial investment would not be great Erecting Number Eight paper machine at the Port Edwards paper
mill in 1923. The frame work for the Yankee machine is being
when compared with a conventional Fourdinier put up. An entire wall of the mill building will be torn out in
paper machine, and a greater spectrum of grades order to get the dryer section into the mill.
could be added to Nepco's product list.
highly polished surface of this steel drum, it obtain-
A Yankee paper machine differs from a Fourdrinier ed a glazed surface. At the same time, the reverse
100 machine in one distinct area. Instead of twenty or
thirty steam-heated drums for drying the paper, it
side of the paper was in contact with a felt blanket,
which resulted in a dull finish on that side.
has only one steam-heated drying drum. What a
drum it was-twelve feet in diameter- the largest Two of these machines were ordered from Beloit
ever built to that date. Iron Works and were ready to go into production
in July of 1923, one at Port Edwards and the other
Since one side of the paper was in contact with the at Nekoosa.

Number eight paper machine in the Port Edwards mill was mak- the lower left of the photo can be seen the wet end pit for Number
ing machine glazed wrapping papers when this photo was made seven paper machine w hich would be moved into this spot from
about 1928. The machine still shows some of the ornate decora- the Nekoosa mill.
tion and striping on its framework and the calender stack. In
Sister paper machine Number Two at the Nekoosa mill is shown tion. The steel dryer drums on these machines weighed 38 tons
before having additional dryers added to the dryer section. This and were the largest ever built to that date.
machine was sent to Potsdam, New York for our mill at that loca-

In spite of the fact that they were boasted as being At Nekoosa, however, Mill Superintendent Len
Smith and his assistant, C. Youngchild, had a
the most up-to-date paper machines in the state of
Wisconsin (and that took in a lot of paper ma- brainstorm. O nly a year or two after the machine
101
chines), the operating crews did not look with favor was started, these men convinced Nepco manage-
on them. They were not used to this newfangled way ment that performance and versatility could be im-
of drying paper. There was also another complica- proved if the machine only had more drying capaci-
tion to operating these new machines. Instead of ty. Accordingly, a bank of ten conventional dryers
driving the paper machines by a good old reliable were added just after the Yankee drying drum.

Both machines operated on light weight grades. One


of these grades was called box cover and was used
for the outer covering of shoe boxes, candy boxes,
etc. Another large volume grade was twisting stock
used for braided paper rugs. The machine at Port
F.dwards made white tissue gift wrap, second sheets,
carbonizing paper, and foil mounting paper. Since
none of these grades are in the current Nekoosa
Papers specification book, you may ask "Whatever
Startup time is that moment when the culmination of months happened to the twin Yankees?" Number two at
of planning and effort plus thousands of dollars, is finally realized.
The expectant crew stands by waiting to see the end result. It Nekoosa was dismantled in 1958 and sent to the
is interesting to note that two veteran papermakers, Art Sarver Potsdam, New York mill, which we operated then.
and 'Stoogie' Frisch had the distinction of being o n the startup
crew and the crew that made the last run of paper on the Yankees. Number eight at Port F.dwards operated until 1965,
when it was sold to a used equipment dealer. For
steam engine, these two new mechanical monsters all we know, it may still be turning out light weight
were automated by steam turbines; the first ones to papers in some third-world country. As for
be used by Nepco. Maybe this is why the Oilschlager Nekoosa, both machines were replaced by new,
brothers, Walter, F.d and Oscar (all veteran machines larger machines, which were also numbered two and
tenders) referred to their charge as "those damn eight-and they were conven tional Fourdrinier
Yankees:' paper machines!
Chapter Twenty-Three: Forests Are Forever
Ponder, if you will, on the numbers that follow. program began, we were using many more trees
Nekoosa's No. 63 paper machine produces about 600 than were being grown. Our Wisconsin forests were
tons of paper each day. A rule of thumb is that two in bad shape. There was no planned forest control,
tons of wood are required to produce a ton of paper. no fire protection, and no concerted effort to pre-
Thus, 1,200 tons of pulpwood are consumed each vent the trees from becoming victims of the ravages
day in order to keep No. 63 paper machine running. of insects and disease. Forests were either so thick
That amounts to 22 railroad cars of wood needed that the trees died fro m sheer lack of space in which
to satisfy the daily appetite of just one of Nekoosa's to grow-or they were desolate wastelands, destroy-
giant paper machines. ed by fire or the axe of man.

With a demand like that being placed on our forests, We introduced our reforestation program on
it is no wonder that Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Com- January 1, 1926 . It was the first forest conservation
pany became worried some years ago and decided program in our section of the country and one of
that their major raw material might someday the very first programs of its kind in the United
become depleted. It easily would have if we and States. It came at a time when the common concep-
other concerned parties had not been farsighted
enough to reforest cut-over lands.

Since 1926 Nekoosa Papers has moved steadily


102 toward the Utopian idea of "Forests Forever:' Under
our forest management plan, a plan which has
become one of the largest in the country and a pat-
tern for many others to follow, plus the efforts of
other public and private forestry operations, there
are now enough trees growing in our forests to meet
Nekoosa's papermaking requirements indefinitely
for some species. We are fortunate that our raw
material is a replenishable one, and we are doing
just that. Nekoosa's pioneer Manager of Woodlands, George Kilp, is ready
to cut a Norway Pine which he planted in the 1920's.

tion was that "the plow followed the axe." You cut
down a forest, left the land barren, and moved on
to the next stand of trees.

Nepco president, L. M. Alexander, is credited with


motivating Nepco into perpetuating our forests. In
1925 he hired a young graduate forester, F. G. Kilp,
and made him chief forester of the new forestry
department. With a budget of $5,000 and a plot of
land near Nepco Lake that was not much larger than
a good-sized garden plot, about half an acre, Kilp
started the first industrial nursery and reforestation
An early plantation of Nekoosa trees. Planted about 1929, this
planting of trees has had at least two selective cuttings of mature program in the Lake States.
timber taken from it.
In the fall of 1926, as well as in the spring of 1927,
It was not always this way. Before our reforestation 100 acres of cut-over land were restocked with young
103
No air view was necessary in 1930 to capture the overall view ed the tractor and truck used by the nursery in those formative
of the NEPCO Lake nursery. This is it. The building was the head- years.
quarters for the Woodlands operation. An adjacent building hous-

tree transplants obtained from a state of Wisconsin teams, thereby, enabling the planting crews to
nursery. Subsequent transplants would come from restock larger areas each year. A budget of $28,625
Nepco's own seed beds. The first plantation of young permitted the planting of five million trees in 1930.
trees was on a hill across the river from the Nekoosa T he modest beginning was growing, but as yet, no
mill, and coincidently, on the site where the city of return on investment was being realized, nor would
Nekoosa was first plotted, but never developed. a return be seen for 30 or 40 years, the growing
period for pine trees in the Wisconsin climate. Dur-
Kilp and his crew planted 350,000 trees during the ing the financial depression of the 1930's, in the light
first two years of their efforts. This was done by of increasing expenses and no return on investment,
hand using a planting bar and placing the trees in John Alexander, general manager of Nepco, had a
a furrow opened by a farm plow pulled by mules. rough role to carry out in trying to convince direc-
tors and shareholders that we should continue and
In 1928 a land acquisition program was initiated, even expand our reforestation efforts. In his report
and the land holdings were increased from 100 acres to shareholders in 1931, Alexander stated,
to 3,500 acres. Although Kilp's twelve-man crew
planted as many as 30,000 trees in a nine-hour day, "The forestry program is one of the most sub-
the hand planting technique was not sufficient to stantial dev elopments this company has un-
reforest all the available acreage. The Wisconsin dertaken so fa r, and nothing should be done
planting season was too short to get the crop in. In in any way to retard its progress."
1930 a new Caterpillar tractor, nicknamed the
"Monster 60," (60 horsepower) replaced the mule Alexander convinced his audience. By the early
1940's, we had 36,535 acres reforested with 46 mil-
lion trees, and the program was gaining momentum.

Nekoosa's Woodlands Department operated this fire truck which


was designed for woodland fires. The truck was staffed by the
nursery employees and was used for fires on Nekoosa property
as well as on call to the Wisconsin State Conservation Depart-
ment. (Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources today.)

Even more destructive than fire, and more insidious


In this photo, trees are lifted from transplant beds by hand. While
one crew of men loosens the trees with a shovel, others pull the because they cannot be readily detected, are the
trees from the dirt. Today this is partially done by tractor pull- ravages of tree diseases and insects. As part of the
ed equipment.
Nekoosa-Edwards reforestation program, and in
cooperation with the Wisconsin Conservation De-
Other steps were being taken to assure Nepco that
partment, we jointly pioneered a program of insect
there would be a return on investment someday. To
and disease control research and prevention. Coop-
protect the plantings and forest land, a fire fighting
eration with the state of Wisconsin was further ex-
system was organized as early as 1926. The first
104 equipment consisted of shovels and back-pack
emplified when Nepco donated land on the shore
of Nepco Lake for the purpose of building Griffith
pumps. In cooperation with the state of Wisconsin,
State Nursery.
the state's fire tower network was enhanced by Nep-
co's own strategically placed fire towers. Several hun-
Meanwhile, back at the half acre garden plot, things
dred miles of fire trails were built to provide quick
were also moving ahead. The half acre had grown,
access to any conflagration .
spreading almost up to the lake shore, and by the
mid-1940's, no additional space was available for
seed beds. Accordingly, a new nursery was opened
a mile south of Nepco Lake and still another one
in northern Wisconsin near Minocqua. In order that
the trees might be planted at a faster pace, the
nursery's master mechanic, Harry Liebig, developed
several pieces of mechanical equipment to facilitate
planting. Some of these inventions consisted of a
two-row tree planter, capable of planting 25,000
trees in a day and a rough terrain planter, capable
... of planting 8,000 trees a day in rocky and hilly coun-
try. Still another of Liebig's developments was a five-
row transplanter, capable of planting 100,000 seed-
lings a day.

\ :_ ~
J I
~ ---1- -- ~.
It is interesting to note that several of the buildings
currently in use at the nurseries in central Wiscon-
sin and northern Wisconsin were salvaged from the
To supplement the Wisconsin state fire tower network for spot- Nepco Tri-City Airport, where they were original-
ting fires, Nekoosa operated additional fire towers where they
had exceptionally large holdings of timber lands. This early tower ly built for use by the army and later as prisoner
was near the present NEPCO Lake. It was an open air tower. of war camps.
105

An early transplant machine developed by Nekoosa's nursery provements would make this a one-man operation and provide
maintenanace personnel is shown. It planted one row at a time for a more compact piece of equipment.
and required two men to operate it. later modifications and im-

In 1966, Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company joined


hands with several private wood lot owners and
together launched the Nekoosa Tree Farm Family.
Through this program, the independent woodland
owner is offered free advice, assistance, and con-
sultation on how to maximize the yield on his
reforested lands. In exchange for these services, the
landowner promises to give Nekoosa Papers Inc.,
a first option to purchase the pulpwood off those
acres at the prevailing market price at the time of
When plantings became too thick, a thinning was made. The cut harvest. The Nekoosa Tree Farm Family is associated
out trees were sold as Christmas trees. Two nursery employees with the American Tree Farm System, which has
are bundling trees in this photo, after which they were loaded
onto trucks and shipped to dealers in large cities in the midwest. members in all of the forested states.

Today, the Central Wisconsin Nursery encompasses With the efforts displayed by Nekoosa Papers Inc.,
65 acres, Pine Lake Nursery in northern Wisconsin and the cooperation of the private landowners, as
has 15 acres, while Nekoosa's reforestation land well as the work of the Federal, State, and County
holdings have grown to 260,000 acres. governments, "Forests are Forever:'
Chapter Twenty-Four: Teutonic Nerve and
Russian Snuff Dreams
Has there ever been, in a free country, a corpora- president of Centralia Water Power and Paper Com-
tion that has endured for over a hundred years pany, wrote to L. M. Alexander, "Can't you muzzle
without having a labor dispute? Wherever men and the preacher in some way?" Alexander was an in-
women come together as a group, they are sure to fluential church supporter and obviously was ex-
join hands toward a common cause. Thus labor pected to exert his influence on the minister.
unions were born.
On the evening of April 5, the employees met in
Nekoosa's past has not been free of labor disputes. Brooks Hall in Nekoosa. There in the city's "Opera
In fact, there is documentary evidence as far back House;' by the light of kerosene lamps, the workers
as the summer of 1878, indicating that the John Ed- were informed that-
wards sawmill crew walked off the job. Edwards
notes in his daily journal, 'A.nyone leaving their work could never return
as long as the same management w as in
"There was a strike among the crew. The mill power."
did not run. Several strikers left for Grand
Rapids in afternoon. Seen in saloon." That evening, the night shift did not report for
106 Edwards did not elaborate on just why his men
work, nor did the morning crew of April 6. An
orderly picket line walked the street outside the mill.
deserted him, or how long they remained off the job.
Maybe it was just a hot July day; and the men need- On that date there were already six Wisconsin mills
ed cooling off, some way or another. out on strike, including the John Edwards Manufac-
turing Company and neighbor mill, Grand Rapids
Nekoosa Paper Company was only nine years old Pulp and Paper Company. Five hundred employees
when its first labor dispute took place. It was in 1902 around Wisconsin were off the job, a third of them
when laborers attempted to "unionize:' Nekoosa's women. Before it was over, six more Wisconsin mills
president, Tom Nash, would have nothing to do would shut down, affecting twelve hundred
with it and wrote to L. M. Alexander, his counter- workers.
part at Port Edwards, that there were agitators all
over the country, including in Nekoosa. He went on The important question is, "What was the issue?"
to state that the eastern paper mills, including Great Essentially, the employees were seeking shorter
Northern, were awaiting the outcome of events in hours of work. It wasn't a money issue, since several
Central Wisconsin before taking a position. Thus, strikers secured alternate work with the Chicago and
sides were being taken for a major labor dispute that Northwestern Railroad, which was building track
would affect many of the country's paper mills. in the area. For $1.75 a day they shoveled sand,
grading the right of way. This compared with $3.75
The Nekoosa mill employees had united and chosen a day for work in the mill. Several strikers were
the side of the United Brotherhood of Paperworkers. quoted by the local newspaper as saying that mill
On the other side was management and owners of work was easier than shoveling sand.
the Wisconsin paper mills.
Management operated a single machine at Nekoosa,
In Grand Rapids, a church pastor rallied to the sup- but the other three were idle. Tom Nash attempted
port of the would-be strikers, and spoke openly in to increase production by hiring some out-of-town
favor of the union, and encouraged a strike to enable machine tenders, who arrived in Nekoosa on the
the employees to attain their goals. Frank Garrison, evening train. Nash met the train, as did a group
of strikers. In a flare of tempers, Nash wielded his The mills being down for one week, L. M. Alexander
revolver at the group. An observer reported, "It was announced that he would rehire any employee who
a disgraceful affair that broke up in a row:' But ap- would return to work, Several did and now there
parently Nash was convincing enough, for by April were three sides: strikers, "scabs," and management.
24, all the machines were again running, and
without union labor. The pickets were gone and the At the end of a week the matter of wages and hours
product was reported to be "as good as ever:' The had been resolved; the only remaining issue being
Grand Rapids Tribune reported that the strike had the recognition of the union. Alexander wanted an
"fizzled;' and that the "outcome was against the open shop. He did offer to form and bargain with
strikers." The mills were operating once more and an employee's committee, representing mill workers,
with non-union help. but not a nationwide brotherhood. He added that
the mills were going to restart, and they did on
But the union movement was not dead. After a dor- August 18, 1919. A threat by management to evict
mancy of 17 years, four of those being World War families of strikers from company owned homes, and
I years when it was considered unpatriotic to strike, single men from the company boarding house, no
the union sought certification as the bargaining unit doubt encouraged some strikers to return to work.
for mill employees. This was a local issue affecting
only Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company and its em- A second strike vote on July 17 indicated the men
ployees. The issues finally resolved down to two were still supportive toward the strike (448 to 31).
items: an eight-hour day and the recognition of the The strike continued.
union as a bargaining agent.
Now the wives of the strikers became involved.
Management refused to deal with an outside group
(The National Brotherhood of Pulp, Sulphite, and
Uniting, they called their group, Daughters of the
Democracy. One of their goals was to change the
107
Paper Mill Workers). Thus it happened once again. name on the Nekoosa school from Alexander school
The mills were struck on June 21, 1919. At first it to a name what would be more honorable to its stu-
was mostly a verbal battle. Management said it was dent body.
"teutonic nerve" for the union to tell their members
that "victory was just around the corner." Manage- The mills resorted to hiring new employees; sixty-
ment was resorting to left over patriotism from the five of them coming from Chicago on a special
recent war. railroad car that was switched right into the mill
yard. The train, just as in 1902, was met by strikers
The unions spoke up and said that the Federal gov- who stoned the train, injuring the engineer with a
ernment was about to revoke the water power rights well-directed rock. The union chastised their
on the river and would be taking over or closing members, later apologizing to the engineer for this
down the mill. violence. He was a union man!

Management accused the unions of making prom- Guards rode the train and remained inside the mill
ises to their members that were just "empty Russian fence, protecting the replacement employees.
snuff dreams:' The union retorted that management Anyone leaving the confines of the mill property
was lying to employees. Now management capitaliz- was threatened with a beating.
ed on a piece of Civil War history, the carpet bag-
ger's movement, when they stated that the strike An additional 25 strike breakers, coming by train
"was a result of war time pro-German agitation, the from Minneapolis, were met by strikers at Stevens
strike being fostered by IWW socialists, Russian- Point, where they were changing trains. There they
Soviet advocates and human barnacles; men who were convinced to reverse their travel and return to
lined their pockets_with the hard-earned savings and the Twin Cities.
pay of honest working men:' A bomb threat to one
of management's homes followed. Things were get- On September 3, 1919, the mills announced to their
ting rougher. customers that they were once again making news-
print on one machine, with all new employees. Addi- With the arrival of Spring, 1920, the gardens need-
tional machines were started as manpower became ed planting, the homes needed painting, and other
available; and in December of 1919, the mill boasted summer preoccupations relieved the tension. Mills
that they produced more paper that month than in were running at full capacity; and the strike gradually
January of the same year. Alexander went on to say, died, but not without hard feelings. Nobody wins
'The machines are humming and 60 basket lunches in a strike! In this case, mill management had gotten
are sent into the mill each shift:' (The picketers were the;r way. The union was not recognized, and the
ouside the mill fence, still enforcing their "beating- mill was still an open shop.
up policy:')
Forty-eight years would pass before there would be
Alexander commended the non-striking office crew another work stoppage due to labor negotiations at
for remaining on the job, doing menial tasks such a Nekoosa mill. In July of 1967, the papermakers'
as working on the company farm, and unloading union rejected a company offer by an affirmative vote
bricks and pulpwood. His year-end report, Dec. 24, of "98% of members present" at the meeting, as re-
1919, climaxed with the announcement that the strike ported by the union. The issue was a mere 4 cents
was over. The union which had dug in for the winter, per hour increase in wages. Nekoosa had offered 16
counter announced from their bonfires outside the cents, and the union wanted 20. Four other opera-
gates that "It's up to the union to say when it's over:' ting unions not only accepted the company offer, but
crossed the picket line and came to work during the
Alexander's personal, green Pierce Arrow touring car walkout.
was nicknamed the Green Dragon and the Battle
Wagon, as it transported strikers to and from their The strike began on July 19, 1967, and lasted ten
108 homes. On one trip it was reputed to have picked
up 14 nails or tacks on a trip from Nekoosa to Port
days. Pulp production continued for a few days, and
shipments from warehouse stock continued.
Edwards.
Several things semed to be against the union right
Management built a barracks at each mill, to accom- from the start, including many of their own mem-
modate their workers. Kitchens and dining halls were bers. The Plover and Potsdam mills continued to
on the first floor, while the second floor provided operate since they were represented by different union
rooms with bunk beds as sleeping accommodations. chapters. local businessmen threatened to deny credit
And all the while, armed guards patrolled the to strikers. This was a real threat to the family that
grounds. The city of Wisconsin Rapids warned that had become accustomed to living from one payday
guards should, "Leave your guns in Port Edwards to another on credit.
when coming to town:'
But what really brought about the beginning of the
And so the strike went on through the winter end was a petition asking for another vote. If you
months. A Grand Rapids Tribune reporter wrote that recall, "98% of the members attending the meeting"
his "inspection showed everything running well:' But called the strike. What was not publicized was the
the winter was full of minor entanglements between attendance number at the meeting. Nine members of
management, strikers, and workers. Throughout the a twelve-hundred member body could put the group
winter, the local newspaper reported assault and dis- on strike if only ten members attended the meeting!
orderly cases in the local court. The usual fine was
one dollar-levied against both complainant and de- Thus, an informational meeting called on July 29,
fendant. saw a rally of members in attendance. A motion for
a new vote, by secret ballot, was approved; and when
On April 4, 1920, the union asked employees to not the ballots were counted, it was 585 to 275 to accept
be a scab. They defined a scab as, "Someone that was the company offer which had been made ten days
made from the awful stuff that God had left over prior. Ten days of lost wages. Ten days of lost pro-
after creating the rattlesnake, toad, and vampire:' It duction and sales. Once more, no one won! Both
sounds humorous today, but it was serious in 1920. sides lost.
Episode number four took place in 1980 when our So successful was the counter-strike effort, that after
Plover mill (Whiting Plover Paper Company) went the first month of the strike, Nekoosa reported hav-
on strike on August 11 of that year. Four days later, ing shipped 16,957 tons of paper, half of which had
the mill announced it was ready to ship paper from been manufactured during the strike, and the other
its abundant inventory. Fifty-nine days later the half coming from inventory. In addition, Ashdown
union accepted, on a two-to-one ratio, the same shipped 35,488 tons during the same period.
company offer that they had rejected two months
earlier. The issue had been money. Just as union members rallied to their cause and
showed their loyalty by walking the picket line in the
The union asked for a ten percent annual increase hot August sun and the late summer showers, so did
each year for two years; and the company offered the company worker show a "esprit de corps" by giv-
eight percent each year. The union accepted the ing their last tired muscle an extra push for the cause.
company's eight percent offer, but the company did This writer recalls seeing an eastern secretary get off
not win the argument. They merely got their own the shuttle bus after 12 hours of work in a hot mill,
way. kick off her safety shoes, and collapse almost in tears
on the parking lot, resting her back against the
Finally, we come to the latest stand-off between building. But when asked if she wanted to go back
management and labor; this one in 1983. It affected to Stamford, her answer was, "Hell no, bring me a
the two Wisconsin mills, and the issue resolved Coke and give me a night's rest; and 111 be ready for
down to health insurance benefits. Nekoosa Papers tomorrow:' She carried on to the end.
Inc. asked for greater deductibles before paying
benefits. The union objected and accordingly went On August 12, ten percent of the 1,400 members sub-
on strike July 29, 1983. mitted a petition asking for a revote. It was defeated,
as was another vote on August 29.
109
Four days later the Nekoosa mill began operations,
using supervisory help. Of 1,060 employees 'work- Now a group of union members threatened to file
ing in the two mills during the strike, 548 were non- charges with the National Labor Relations Board,
union and 512 were union employees from four charging the union with not informing members of
other unions which did not strike nor did they progress in negotiations and giving out misleading
respect the picket line. information. Their solidarity was starting to weak-
en, and on September 9, a vote of the members end-
The entire Great Northern Nekoosa Corporation ed the strike. What was gained? An additional .05%
rallied to the call for workers that went out from wage increase! That's not a typographical error. It
Port Edwards and Nekoosa. From the Ashdown mill was .05%. The health insurance program was re-
(not on strike), from the corporate offices, and from vamped as outlined by Nekoosa Papers Inc.
all the sister companies and subsidiaries men and
women came to operate the mills. Working twelve Two union members were quoted by the local news-
hours a day for a ten-day period, these people paper as saying, 'We were on strike against the
managed to turn out an "excellent quality product:' wrong people. It should have been against medical
costs:' The other summed it up by saying, 'We were
Salesman became boiler operators, secretaries drove beating a dead horse:'
towmotors, visitor hosts became machine operators,
and even one vice president did janitorial work! This has been a lengthy chapter. The stories, issues,
arguments, and views of both sides in a strike issue
A major air lift to get these people to and from Wis- could fill a book itself. Many of these points are still
consin, as well as a precisely scheduled ground vivid memories of many readers of this book. The
transportation system operated flawlessly. Housing most remarkable observance is how both sides put
was provided at several local motels, and meals were aside their differences after a strike settlement and
served from a kitchen and dining area set up in the once more rally to one cause - 'Doing the most and
mill. doing it best:'
Chapter Twenty-Five: No Brats

110

Nekoosa-Edwards President, John E. Alexander and Vice Presi- CO lake. The occasion is the annual shareholders meeting which
dent of Manufacturing, Charles Reese, enjoy a box lunch at NEP- was conducted at the YMCA camp.

Whereas the preceding chapter discussed some of As early as 1915, there is an account outlining the
the occasions of dissension between labor and lighting of the village Christmas tree. Both the com-
management, this chapter will review some in- munity and Nekoosa-Edwards sponsored the event,
stances when harmony and jocularity prevailed be- which was held on Christmas Eve in the school yard
tween these two groups. One way of accomplishing at Port Edwards. The mill was down for the hol-
this goal was to have a picnic in the park. iday, and one hundred-fifty contributors, including
the paper company, donated a total of seventy-five
The Nash Lumber Company, one of the Nekoosa dollars to put on the celebration . The event consisted
founding companies, probably started it all with of turning on the lights of the fo rty-foot tree,
their annual employee blueberry picking outing. distributing Cracker Jacks and apples to the child-
Families of employees boarded the train for a Sun- ren, singing Christmas carols in the schoolhouse,
day of berry picking and picnicking in a prime blue- and finally closing with three reels of moving pic-
berry patch. However, since no one ever disclosed ture films entitled, "Joseph's Tr ials in Egypt:' "Come
where they had found a "prime" blueberry patch, and celebrate the Christmas spirit as can only be
it is hard to believe that these Sunday expeditions fou nd in Por t Edwards;' announced the invita tion.
could have been successful. They were a success in
that they brought together management and labor, No further record of corporate picnics, open houses,
along with their families, for a day of relaxation- or parties can be found; that is, until 1921. Tha t year
assuming that blueberry picking is relaxing. witnessed an extravaganza that would be a credit
to any corporate personnel department. Sporting events, such as wrestling, boxing, log roll-
ing, and racing, highlighted the day. The entire pic-
It was June 20th in Nekoosa, Wisconsin. Nepco had nic was magically captured on moving picture film,
weathered a strike only a year prior. Now things which is still preserved in the Nekoosa Papers Ar-
were pretty much back to normal in the mills, and chives. Quite a feat for 1921! The event was a grand
L. M. Alexander, president of Nepco, decided to success, until a violent wind and rain storm brought
throw a picnic in the park. It was billed as the "First an end to the festivities late in the afternoon, sen-
Annual Nepco Picnic:' ding families running for cover from the elements.

On one of the subsequent annual picnics, the feature


of the day was a wrestling match between Ed
Strangler Lewis, world wrestling champion, and his
trainer. Naturally, the strangler won the match. Ed
Strangler Lewis (Robert Frederich) was a native son
of Nekoosa. It is reputed that a side of beef was
barbecued over an open fire at one of these picnics.

The ever popular beer stand at a NEPCO picnic for employees


on the shore of NEPCO Lake. Soft drinks would replace beer
in subsequent events of this nature.

The day opened with a parade down Market Street 111


in Nekoosa led by Parade Marshal, F. H. Rosebush,
Director of Personnel, riding his horse. L. M. Alex- ___,,,,- - -
ander followed, riding in one of his five personal ~
..-:-
~.-..~~;.;;;_~...-..

autos that had been selected for the parade. The Good Ship Lollypop was a featured attraction at NEPCO
employee picnics for many years. The scow was pulled by a motor
boat and gave rides on the lake, sometimes to the accompani-
The parade terminated on the river bank at ment of an orchestra on board.
Nekoosa, where a serving of ice cream, soda pop,
and food was dispensed. A first aid tent, staffed by The employee picnics were "rained out" for several
the two mill nurses, provided remedies for those years, the rain being caused by the dark cloud of
who overindulged. No alcoholic beverages were the depression years in the early 1930's. In 1935,
served due to prohibition. Perhaps it was just as however, a picnic was held at Nepco Lake. Nekoosa-
well, since the strike of 1919/1920 was still a vivid Edwards Paper Company was beginning to recover
memory, not easily forgotten. from the financial restraints imposed by the de-
pression.

The Port Edwards mill challenged the Nekoosa mill


to a softball match, the winning team to share the
prize of four dollars. Not much by today's standards,
but eight 5 cent beers for each player in 1935!

Subsequent picnics were held, but not on a regular


basis. Some were at Nepco Lake and some at Lake
Wazeecha County Park. During the World War II
years, free bus service made the employee picnic
Boxing and wrestling were always popular competitions in ear-
ly picnics. Perhaps it presented an opportunity to settle grudges easily accessible to those who were restricted in the
between employees. use of their car due to gasoline rationing.
school. Refreshments consisted of 18,027 servings
of soft drinks, 1,200 pounds of cookies, and 14,028
servings of ice cream!

A second open house in 1984, held at both mills,


attracted about four thousand employees, their
families, and friends. Proud employees had an op-
portunity to show their spouse and children where
they worked, what they did, and how it fit into the
overall papermaking process. The ususal refresh-
ment stand climaxed the tour, and a souvenir pack-
age of paper was distributed to all attendees.

Nekoosa mill's gateway to their 1954 openhouse tour was through Similar events have been conducted at Ashdown,
this tree lined path, past a display of woodlands equipment. The
grass gave way to bare dirt by the end of the week long event. the first being the dedication of the mill in 1968.
Twenty-five hundred visitors saw a paper
Two open houses deserve mention. The first was in machine-many for the first time.
1954, and was organized to commemorate the start-
up of number nine paper machine at Nekoosa. The In reviewing all these employee picnics, open
week long event attracted fifteen thousand guests houses, and social outings, this writer failed to find
who visited the mill, reviewed displays, and enjoyed any mention of bratwurst being served. How can
refreshments; the latter being served at the Nekoosa you have a picnic if there are no "brats"?
112

A chow line at a supervisor's picnic at Nepco Lake. Chicken the picnic in white shirts and ties.
chowder was the usual entree. Note that some guests attended
Part Four: FINE PAPERS
Chapter Twenty-Six: Product Will be Right
From its inception in 1887 and up to 1926, Nekoosa-
Edwards Paper Company specialized in the produc-
tion of wrapping paper and newsprint. By 1927 this
northwoods paper company had attained a reputa-
tion of having the largest daily production of meat
wrapping paper of any mill in the country. The deci-
sion to break ties with the product that had built
up a reputation, and in turn, embark into an en-
tirely new sales field, was a difficult decision to
make.

'1nsane;' said competitors. "Ridiculous;' echoed old-


time paper manufacturers. "Why," inquired the
stockholders. Nevertheless, that decision was made
in 1925. Nekoosa-Edwards General Manager, John
Alexander, in a report to the stockholders, summed
up the reasons for the change with these remarks.
'We were forced to do only one thing, namely, to
113
change our grades of paper and get into the mak-
ing of higher grades for which we knew there would
be a higher return on our investment:'

This was 1927. The warning had come as early as


1921 when Nepco Vice President, Judson Rosebush,
wrote to L. M. Alexander, outlining business con-
ditions in the paper industry and concluding with
this advice. "We must turn to something else-such
as specialty papers."
Nekoosa-Edwards' first sample swatch book contained ten colors
plus white in the new line of Nepco Sulphite Bond. The brochure
A year later, General Manager Alexander wrote to was die-cut with the samples illustrated under the cutting.
his father, "The wrapping paper situation is not
much better than the newsprint situation today. Amazingly, the grade proved to be a minor success!
There is keen competition and an oversupply of So much so that in subsequent years we brought
wrapping paper, so that it has become a football and out companion grades which included Nepco
is being kicked from one place to another, with all mimeo, duplicator, envelope, register bond, and
ranges of cutthroat prices:' tablet. An offset line of papers was introduced under
the name of Nekoosa Offset. However, our most ex-
So it came to be that as early as 1927, Nekoosa- pensive product in 1932 was Artone Ledger. Perhaps
Edwards Paper Company introduced a line of busi- that's why only ten tons were made that year, sell-
ness papers, the most popular item being Nepco ing at a price of $46.49 per ton.
Sulfite Bond. Available in white and a rainbow of
ten colors, the unwatermarked sheet could be had The acceptance of a few tons of business paper in
in four weights, ranging from thirteen pound to the marketplace did not translate into total success.
twenty-four pound. Accordingly, in 1930 the younger Alexander again
114
This finishing room was built at Port Edwards in 1927, to accom- the new and improved grades of paper being introduced by
modal2 the new finishing equipment that was required for finishing Nekoosa Edwards.

Interior of the Port Edwards finishing room in 1928. Sheeters of at a time, reducing it from rolls to sheets.
advanced design could handle as many as twelve rolls of paper
made a plea to his father asking for a switch to fine
papers. His letter states:

"(We) must get into the production of high


grade specialties and those papers which will
not be directly competitive against the South."

In another letter to his father John Alexander wrote:

"Our production (of wrapping papers) is still


the critical issue. The problem is a serious one
and the immediate outlook is none too bright
for this company."

Next, Alexander persuaded his good friend and


associate, Len Smith, Manager of the Nekoosa Mill,
A quality paper requires quality raw ma!Erials. Here a wood tedmi-
to write to the senior Alexander. Alexander had cian evaluates the quality of the wood. A sample of a log is being
taken up residency in Florida for the winter. Smith's microscopically examined.
letter, in addition to telling how grim business was,
outlined his remedy for improving these conditions. have little support from the sales department
because they perhaps know less about the
"In order to establish ourselves on these grades higher grades."
we must, in tum, take the business away from
someone else; either through a better sheet or Smith explained this last statement by saying that
115
a sheet nearly as good at a lower price. We the salesmen sent the mill an inquiry and the mill

Cut paper waiting to be packaged at Port Edwards. The paper producing quality and delivering service in a safe working
is NEPCO mimeo paper. The sign illustrates NEPCO's motto of atmosphere.
made it. He advocated a reversing of this policy, The sales department had an answer for Mr. Smith.
whereby the mill would come out with a line of A. R. Jackson, Chicago Sales Manager, directed a
papers and then turn them over to the sales depart- letter to his staff. The contents of the letter dated
ment to sell. ''Thus Nekoosa-Edwards would become November 4, 1933, became the creed of Nekoosa-
an initiator rather than an imitator;' as Smith Edwards in 1933 and remains our philosophy to this
prophesied-powerful advice to be served to a cor- day. Jackson's letter is important enough to be
porate president! reproduced here in its entirety.

C. A. Hodlmair I. N. Frisby Chicago, TI!., Nov. 4th, 1933


C. A. Polansky W. E. Nash Jr.
A. J. Archibald R. A. Love
N. E. Nash J. H. Manske

GENTLEMEN:
Subject: SALE OF FINE PAPER GRADES
Supplementing my earlier letter of today under this subject.
You have been assigned definite territories with definite customers and prospective customers.
It takes a long time to build mutual confidence and a complete understanding between a mill and its
reprensentative. Such associations once established are not to be thrown over for a temporary advantage,
no matter how inviting it may seem.
The efforts of any sales department are undeniably checked if the product is sub-standard.
116 You are advised here that the Nepco Management and Manufacturing Departments have assured us that
they have reached Standards of Quality which are not surpassed in their respective class by competitive
mills-you are assured of GOOD paper, good SERVICE and necessary UNIFORMITY. Proceed at once
therefore with full CONFIDENCE that the product will be right.
Do not overlook that "good will" and an "equitable business policy" are fully as important as a worthy
product.
Good business policy requires, -
1. Square and fair adjustments.
2. Regular personal contact.
3. Quick and reliable information when needed.
4. Selective list of customers that work in harmony.
5. Active cooperation in securing desirable orders.
6. No direct selling to ultimate customers.
7. Advertising.
F.quipped with all the above, go forth at once and see that ORDERS ARE SENT - and to the right
ADDRESS.
I am counting on all of you.
Yours for success,

A. R. Jackson
cc: J. E. Alexander
L. M. Alexander
L. E. Smith

With that, we had our foot in the door of the fine paper market by offering an unwatermarked line of
paper field. We were not established in the field yet. paper. Progress would come, but slowly. The Depres-
Rather, we were feeling the climate of the business sion years of the thirties would not help.
Chapter Twenty-Seven: Look For the Strutter
In an effort to further expand the business paper and sold under the name Destiny, and the trademark
specialty lines that Nekoosa-Edwards had establish- portrayed the permanence of two Grecian pillars
ed in the the late 1920's, in 1935 the company turn- and the slogan, "Pillars of Destiny:' It would be in-
ed toward the converting of paper to consumer teresting to determine just why this was picked as
products. a trademark for school supplies.

The first step was the introduction of a grade of The trade name for the companion line was Strut-
paper called Destiny Bond. From this grade of paper ter and pictured a strutting drum major as a trade-
we brought out a line of school supplies. With an mark. Certainly this mark would relate to school
ever increasing population, we were assured of a students more than a couple of Greek pillars.
growing market, or so we thought.
Nekoosa-Edwards was now into converting. The line
In order that we might convert Destiny Bond into of products included tablets, loose leaf fillers, in-
school supplies, we had to purchase the proper con- dex cards, adding machine rolls, gummed tape, and
verting equipment. On a mezzanine floor in the Port blue books (the traditional college examination
Edwards finishing room, we installed drills, cutters, book). Shortly thereafter household shelf paper and
stitchers, a rewinder, and ruling machine. Forty peo- gift wrap tissue were added to the line.
ple operated the equipment, producing two compan-
ion lines of school products. The premium line was With this new line of products, in early 1935,
117

As a step toward producing a cleaner pulp for a finer grade of had a ceramic tile lining inside. This one supplied number seven
papers, wooden beaters were replaced with new steel ones which paper m achine with clean stock.
Nekoosa-Edwards announced that its sales depart- for Nekoosa-Edwards it was one more step on the
ment would now be categorized into three divisions; road to becoming a leader in watermarked business
Course and Wrapping Papers, Fine Papers, and Rul- papers.
ed and Specialty Products.

Less than two years later the program was abandoned.


In November 1936, the ruling machine was sold, the
reason being that the grades were unprofitable. Fin-
ally, all of the products of the Ruling and Specialty
Division were dropped. Unprofitability was one rea-
son. However, the reason announced to the trade
was that the products we were manufacturing were TO\YN HALL
in direct competition with some of our customers, ADDING MACHlllE
which did not promote good customer relations.
=----PAPER~ ro HA I L
AIJOU\IU ,.U1r.1u"NF
' "A1 •r11 -

As for the speciality line, it would continue with


a line of papers, which we made and sold to con-
verters. Paper for school supplies, place mats, sucker
sticks, straws, baking cups, doilies, gummed tape,
floor coverings, and auto seat covers would be sold
by the Specialities Division.
The smallest rolls of paper ever produced at Nekoosa-Edwa rds
118 Converting came and went in a brief two years, but were rolls of adding machine paper, shown here.

Cleaner and brighter pulp for improved papers was assured in in the photo are the motors and gear boxes for the bleach tanks
1928 by the building of this bleach plant at Port Edwards. Shown that are under the floor.
Chapter Twenty-Eight: Pre.:fested Papers
If Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company thought it had 6. Will it be competitive in price with competing
reached the acme of fame when it became the products?
world's largest producer of butcher paper, the
distinction was small when compared with the He then went on to propose "sending a quantity of
phenomenal growth that this company experienc- bleached pulp to a mill that would be willing to run
ed after introducing watermarked business com- it across their machine to determine the appearance
munication papers. Note that the word 'business' is of our sheet in comparison with that, say of
inserted in the grade identification. Actually, we had Howard's product:' This sounds like a rather unor-
watermarked papers in our line, but they were in thodox way of making a trial run. It seems that any
the wrapping paper field. We were in business competitor would deliberately make the sheet look
papers also, having introduced our Nepco line some poor. Whether these trial runs were carried out is
years prior. not known.

<\ Alexander again wrote to the manufacturing


department:

"The two paramount characteristics that will


have to appear in this sheet, as I see it, will
be that of whiteness and brightness of color,
as well as cleanliness." 119
Evidently, Alexander was convinced that Nepco
could achieve the goals he had set forth. In 1936 he
proposed to his fat her that an expenditure of
$250,000 be made to begin the conversion of the
Watermarking rolls such as these, along with watermarking dan- mills from wrapping grades to watermarked writing
d y rolls were used for putting the Nekoosa watermark into the
paper. These are for Nekoosa Duplicator . papers. The money would be used for equipment
changes, as well as research and development. In
Now in the mid 1930's, we were once more asking for the funding, Alexander stated that in
evaluating the market to see if it might be timely spending these funds, "this company would be tak-
to introduce a number one, watermarked line of ing out an insurance policy for the future; and which
business and writing papers. policy if not adopted, I am afraid, will make the
coming years lean ones:'
John Alexander, who had promoted getting into fine
papers as the salvation for this company, now seem- The year 1936 was not as lean as the years during
ed to have some reservations. He dictated a letter the depression. Although hardly growing money
to his manager of manufacturing asking some ques- trees, father did listen. He managed to raise enough
tions, mostly on the subject of quality of apropos- money to embark upon a general mill cleanup which
ed watermarked sheet. Alexander's questions includ- was necessary to manufacture a number one sheet
ed the following: of paper. Concrete storage tanks were lined with tile.
Walls and ceilings were scraped and painted. Iron
1. Will the color be white and bright enough? and wood pipes were replaced with bronze ones,
2. Will it have proper printing character? thereby eliminating rust and slivers. Brass agitators
3. Will it have "feel" acceptability? replaced wooden paddles. Bleach plants were clean-
4. It must be clean. ed up, assuring the paper mill a cleaner pulp. Stock
5. Will it take laid marks and watermarks satis- lines were even repiped to eliminate sharp angles and
factorily? were replaced with gen tle, sweeping curves, there-
120 Number five and six paper machines at Port Edwards. Number This was for a running inspection of the paper for formation
five was the machine that made the first run of Nekoosa Bond characteristics and cleanliness.
paper in 1936. Notice the bank of lights over the reel of paper.

Hand wrapping of folio sizes of paper is being done by these remain a symbol with Nekoosa until replaced by a new style
finishing room personnel. The yellow and blue wrapper would wrapper in the early 1980's.
by eliminating corners where stock might lodge and in the watermarked business and writing paper field.
start to mold. The event was announced with the preparation and
distribution of a booklet entitled 'The World Behind
The efforts all came together in 1936 when number The Watermark." It portrayed the manufacture of
five paper machine at Port Edwards made a run of Nekoosa Bond Paper.
Nekoosa Bond. It was called a number one bond
sheet, but it was not up to Alexander's standards The printing world was now convinced that
as outlined earlier. Additional steps had to be taken Nekoosa-Edwards was established in the printing
to bring the sheet up to the quality necessary to meet and writing paper field. Encouraged by the recep-
the competition. One of these additional steps was . tion of its products, in 1939 Nepco added Nekoosa
the conducting of special classes to train operating Duplicator.
personnel on how to make the new paper. A quali-
ty supervisor was retained around the clock. A In April of 1940, number seven machine was con-
distinctive blue and yellow striped wrapper was verted to part-time production of bond grades. The
adopted to protect the paper after it left the mill. following spring, a two week shutdown for im-
Finally, another attempt was made. Results were en- provements on this machine made it easy for full-
couraging, and accordingly, number five paper time production of watermarked grades.
machine went to full-time production of Nekoosa
Bond. Companion papers were John Edwards Bond, During all this time, we were still deeply rooted in
Ardor Bond, and Mirra Mimeo. Four months later, wrapping papers. So much so, that in June of 1940
number six machine was also put on these grades. we introduced Nepco Refrigerated Locker Paper,
available in white and tan. As late as 1950, we were
With the dawn of 1937, Nekoosa-Edwards Paper
Company had built up a sufficient inventory of these
still introducing wrapping papers as we announced
King Cold Laminated Freezer Paper, a premium
121
papers to announce to the world that they were now companion sheet to Nepco locker paper.

The Port Edwards finishing room staff are busy inspecting, trim- prove to be inadequate in size for the popular new line of Nekoosa
ming and packaging Nekoosa Bond. The quarters would soon papers.
The installation of a humidity controlled testing papers. All those physical characteristics of quality
laboratory in the Port Edwards mill in 1940 war- that John Alexander worried about could be check-
ranted the adoption of the slogan "pre-tested" ed before shipment was made.
And ship we did. By 1938, only one year after its
introduction, fine bond papers accounted for 22 per-
cent of Nekoosa-Edwards' annual production!

The product was distributed nationwide through a


network of paper merchants, who agreed to stock
the complete line of papers. Most of these were the
same merchants who sold our wrapping papers.
They pledged their support and turned their efforts
toward our fine papers. They have continued their
support to this day. Although we do not have a mer-
chant south of the border, it is interesting to note
that in 1941 the Mayan Inn Hotel, in Chichicoste-
nango, Guatemala, reproduced its letterhead on
Testing apparatus for pre-testing Nekoosa papers is shown here. Nekoosa Bond! The pre-tested paper called Nekoosa
A brightness test is being made by the man in the photo. was on its way to world-wide acceptance.

122

Wrapped packages of Nekoosa Bond come out of a wrapping carton. A laminated, wax treated wrapper surrounded the
machine and are manually placed in a yellow and blue striped paper.
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Drafting a Team
There's more than one team performing in a suc-
cessful company. The men and women who produce
the product comprise one of the most cr ucial teams,
but there are others. There is the management team,
the team of craftsmen who maintain the equipment,
and the supporting teams of clerical personnel.
However, there is one team which makes it possi-
ble for all the other teams to play in the game, and
that's the sales team. In 1936, when Nekoosa-
Edwards Paper Company was getting ready to enter
the competitive fine paper business, they had no
team trained for this new role. There were salesmen
and sales managers scattered across the country, but
they were not a team that could take on the com-
petition. These men knew all about caliper, mullen
tests, and tear strength; but they were not conver-
sant with brightness, smoothness, and wax pick
tests. T hey were wrapping paper salesmen, who
were now faced with selling watermarked printing
and writing papers. New blood was needed in the
sales department, from top management right on
123
down through the ranks.
Hired in 1935 to oversee the sale of a new line of watermarked
So it was that Adam Remley was hired from an papers to the business and prin ting world, was Adam Remley.
eastern Wisconsin mill in 1935 to fill the position Remley accomplished his assignment as evidenced by the posi-
tion that Nekoosa holds in those fie lds today.
of Assistant Sales Manager, rising to the position
of Sales Manager only a few months later. In this
position, Remley successfully coached Nekoosa-
Edwards' salesmen through the early years of our
metamorphosis from wrapping papers to business
papers. Upon his retirement, Remley was able to
look back on a job well done.

At Remley's first sales conference late in 1936, he


compared his sales force with a football team. In
fact, the theme of the conference was 'The Rose-
bowl:' At the close of the conference Remley stated,
'The Rosebowl football game represents the best of
America's football teams meeting together. I have
the same feeling toward the team in this room:'

Remley really had two teams to coach. In the wrap-


ping paper division there was Neil Nash calling the
plays, while the fine paper division was looking to
A. Brown, their sales manager.
Dean of Nekoosa salesmen, L. A. "Bill" Gardiner elucidates on
the salient features of Nekoosa papers during a sales colloqujum.
Remley placed his emphasis on the fine paper group Bill was noted for his command of vocabulary.
and immediately drafted new teammates to help sell
the product. The year 1936 saw the hiring of several
new, first-line fine paper salesmen. Two of these men
were Carl Schiebler, who retired as General Sales
Manger of Nekoosa, and Nekoosa's well-known am-
bassador of good will. L. A. "Bill" Gardiner.

These were trying times financially, so much so that


there was a limit on the number of new salesmen
that could be added to the staff. Accordingly,
Remley, took some of the wrapping paper salesmen
and made them dual representatives. Wearing two
hats, these men promoted both wrapping and fine The traditional trip through the mill was and still is a part of
many sales conferences. Here a group of Nekoosa salesmen get
papers. Charles Polansky, Ken Podvin, and Larry a lecture on ream wrapping from a young guide, Jim Dupree,
Lyons were some of those individuals who eventual- on the far left.
ly found a permanent position on the fine paper
team. increase of about 500 tons. At this rate they should
reach that 20,000-ton goal in 1974! The inventory
At the 1939 sales meeting Adam Remley stated that of finished watermarked paper ready for shipment
"Quality, service and the customer's viewpoint are was almost equal to the annual sales of that line,
to be stressed in your daily calls:' By now his words which was 1,800 tons.
were being heard by Nash, Booten, Cole, Leonard-
124 son, Vanderheiden, Frisby, Ferris, Bloomstead, Love,
Manske, Hartwig, Rohr, and Hodlmeier. Some of
Carl Schiebler was one of those first salesmen hired
by Remley to concentrate on the sale of fine paper.
these early salesmen will be recognized quite readi- Focusing his efforts on the eastern ma rket, Carl's
ly, for they played out their entire career for the preparation for that battle consisted of three weeks
Nekoosa team. Others left for other teams. of training at the mills and home office. Asked if
he had confidence in this wrapping paper mill,
With a sales team somewhat comparable with a six- which was entering the fine paper field, Carl stated
man football team, Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Com- tha t he had made up his mind that he had moved
pany challenged the established teams representing for the last time; and therefore, he was going to
the competition. They returned to the locker room make it succeed ! Carl did make one more move, but
which also served as President Alexander's office that was back to Port Edwards to take over the team
and held their 1938 sales meeting. T hey had sold, in 1946.
in that first year of 1937, 583 tons of Nekoosa Bond,
367 tons of Nekoosa Mimeo, 108 tons of Nekoosa Carl was charged with the responsibility of in-
Ledger, and 374 tons of John Edwards Bond. This troducing Nekoosa Bond to the East Coast mer-
made a grand total of 1,432 tons of watermarked chants, a difficult task since the East Coast paper
business papers. Alexander wanted more and told mills dominated the merchants' stock at that time.
them their goal was 20,000 tons! The team accused He proudly reminisces how he not only sold one
the coaches of spiking the water pail. Meanwhile, merchant on the idea of being a stocking merchant,
the wrapping paper team smiled since they had long but then negotiated the rental of warehouse space
ago surpassed that figure. During the closing din- in that merchant's building from which Nekoosa
ner of the conference, held in the Port Edwards could ship to other merchants in the area. Many of
Hotel, Remley told his team that "Ninety percent of them were competitors of the merchant in
our selling success depends upon the men that do question-now that takes salesmanship!
the job of selling it:'
Some of the things Carl remembered about those
So they went out, only to return a year later to hear early years of his career, after retiring in 1966, are
the statistics. They had sold 1,921 tons in 1938-an as follows:
"The new watermarked papers had a decided Upon Remley's retirement, a young salesman follow-
wrapping paper form ation and feel. They were ed who would complete his Nekoosa career as presi-
hard to sell. When you mentioned Nekoosa , den t of the company. G . E. Veneman was named
they couldn 't even pronounce it. How could as Vice President of Sales in 1954 and promoted to
they order it if they couldn't say the word? It President in 1970. H. G. Brown and R. H. Wey-
usually came out as 'Kenoosa'. " mouth, respectively, followed Veneman as Vice
President of Sales.
"Without the support of our merchant net-
work, wh ich already marketed our wrapping Over the years there have been many teammates on
papers, we might have never made it. the Nekoosa team. Some have retired, some thought
the competitive team was more appealing, and some
"One salesman came to our sales meeting and changed careers to go into another field. To those
told us that the last sh ipment must have been who devoted a lifetime to Nekoosa, those who spent
alright because we didn't get a com plaint on it." a portion of their career on the Nekoosa team, and
those playing the field today, we on the other
Nekoosa teams send up a rousing cheer to all of you!

125

Oversize top hats replace helmets on the heads of the "team" in age of the salesmen is definitely older than it is in more recent
this 1972 formal sales photo. It should be noted that the average photos of the Nekoosa Sales Team.
Chapter Thirty: Ignoring Research
Was Shortsighted
With the completion of the first roll of newsprint le.DIN City, Jt>., !ne
21, 1000.
paper 100 years ago, the need for technical control
was realized. Accordingly, the Centralia Water
Power and Paper Company invested in a Mullen
Wemosa Paper Compaey,
Metooaa, •t ao.

tester, a device used for determining the bursting
strength of the paper. The tester was probably kept
in the area adjacent to the dry end of the paper
machine, where the finished paper could be conven-
iently checked. Basis weight was another quality to
be determined and a sensitive balance was added
to the "technical department:'

The Nekoosa Paper Company was a little more


elaborate in establishing their technical department.
An old frame building, which had seen prior ser-
vice as a construction office and administration
126 building, was converted into a laboratory. In this lab,
not only was the quality of the finished product
checked, but an analytical program was begun for
checking the wood, raw materials, and the cooking
liquors for the sulfite and kraft mills, which the
Nekoosa Paper Company operated.

At Port Edwards, the John Edwards Manufacturing A letter such as this one to the Nekoosa Paper Company went
Company, realizing it had to keep abreast of the cur- a long way in promoting the need for a Technical Department
rent trends, as well as keeping up with the neighbor- for quality control. Nekoosa Paper Company was in the paper
business for seven years when this letter was written. They
ing mills, established a laboratory in a small frame evidently still had some need for improvement.
building adjacent to the mill.
pleted his training at the Armour Institute in
Thus, all three of our founding companies realized Chicago. In this capacity he directed the operations
the importance of quality control. These labs were of a new laboratory, which was set up on the sec-
devoted strictly to technical functions; that is, pro- ond floor of the new time office at Port Edwards.
cess control and quality control of the end product. Under Alexander, the technical department under-
Sometimes the latter was not what it should be. took the development of several unique projects,
The reader's attention is directed to the 1900 letter some of them resulting in the issuing of patents.
reproduced on these pages wherein Nekoosa Paper
Company took a chastising for their apparent poor All of Alexander's efforts, as well as the efforts of
quality. However, if the product was saleable and his department were devoted toward process im-
the mill was running smoothly, the labs had ap- provement. No energy was directed toward research
parently performed their task successfully. or to develop new products to replace the newsprint
and wrapping papers, which dominated Nepco's
In 1919 this attitude was to change when John E. sales efforts at that time.
Alexander was appointed chief chemist for Nekoosa-
Edwards Paper Company. Alexander had just com- After serving his apprentice years in the laboratory,
Alexander was promoted to general manager. In this a research department. He proposed that the direc-
capacity, while reflecting on his past experience, tors set aside an allotment of one-hundred thousand
Alexander apparently saw the "handwriting on the dollars with which he would hire a qualified
wall," for in a 1930 letter to his father, he wrote: research director, plus other personnel, to staff the
program. Part of the funding would be used for an
"We were making a fair return on our invest- addition to the mill office building in Port Edwards,
ment. We did not need to spend money on which would be outfitted with the necessary eqip-
research. I admit my shortsightedness. ment to justify calling it a research department.

I feel confident that today this company would


have been further ahead in the way of its
knowledge on how to make more profit if we
would have invested in a research program."

In December of 1930, Alexander, the son, directed


another letter to his father, who was enjoying the
Florida winter.

"I am convinced in my own mind that we must


invest money in the establishment of a well-
organized research department for fortifying Photo of a chemist at work, complete with vest and gold watch
this institution in the future." chain. An extraction of an additive to the paper is being made.

"It will be our only salvation. It may come to In his presentation, John Alexander stated:
127
pass that butcher's paper will evaporate on the
horizon." "The value of research work cannot be over-
estimated. It is rather difficult to state what
''. .. we cannot be too farsighted or cautious in new and startling products one can develop."
considering a plan to displace this mass of ton-
nage of butcher's paper that we may be forc- John made his pitch at a bad time. A country-wide
ed to lose in the near future." financial depression, to be remembered as The Great
Depression of the Thirties, was rearing itself; and
Son evidently convinced Dad, for the following a hundred thousand dollars was just out of the ques-
spring John Alexander was allotted time at the 1931 tion. However, a compromise was made. A research
shareholders' meeting to make a pitch on behalf of group was organized as a branch of the technical
department. Both groups would occupy the same
laboratory space, but a chemist would be hired to
look into the study of new products. Research was
born for Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company.

Efforts were directed toward the field of specialty


sheets, glassine, creping stock, sanitary napkins,
flameproof sheets, plastic laminates, photo paper,
paper diapers, bed sheets, etc. A successful by-
product for waste sulfite liquor (the lignin portion
of the wood) was something to be sought after, as
well as a use for another by-product, lime sludge.
Both of these waste products were being dumped
Chief Chemist, John Alexander, proudly oversees his new
laboratory on the second floor of the new mill office building.
down the river or hauled away for landfill at that
The year is about 1920. time. Another look at corn stalks, rye straw, and
flax as a cellulose source was once again a subject an addition to the upstairs lab was realized. In that
to be investigated. year an expansion to the Port Edwards mill office
building provided space for a doubling of the lab
By 1937 a home-built experimental paper machine area. This new space was devoted strictly to research.
was making development grades of paper in the Port The work of research and technical control, however,
Edwards mill, while at the Nekoosa plant, a minia- was still under one department head and would not
ture digester of about five gallons capacity was mak- be segregated until some ten years later.
ing experimental cooks of various woods and even
some other plants.

Under the direction of Chief Chemist A. Luth, the


one room main laboratory was no longer large
enough to provide space for the ever-expanding
number of projects being investigated. Therefore,
some of the programs were carried out in the expand-
ed labs, which were opened in the adjacent "barracks"
building having been unoccupied since the strike of
1919. One of the pioneer chemists, who came at this
time and remained until his retirement, was Les Well-
man. He trained this writer during his first fourteen
years with Nekoosa Papers Incorporated.
With the introduction of pre-tested business papers, humidity and
temperature controlled testing rooms were needed to enable the
128 The year 1937 witnessed the beginning of a new era
for the technical department, when Nepco hired its
paper to be tested under controlled conditions of humidity and
temperature. This is one of those early rooms in the mill.
first Ph.D. Doctor T. A Pascoe was brought in as
a chief chemist. A short time later he would head The year 1955 saw the erection of a new technical-
up the research-technical department. He was fol- research-engineering building where three labs, a
lowed by Doctors Rowe and Crane, both graduates pilot plant, and other complementing facilities were
of the Institute of Paper Chemistry. Other graduate contained. Expanded in 1979, the facilities are now
chemists hired in the late 1930's were Peter Borlew totally devoted to research under the direction of a
and Rudy Weiler, both from Germany, and Joe Vice President of Research. That position, at the time
Smart, a hometown chemist from Wisconsin Rapids. of this writing, is filled by Dr. T. 0. Norris. Technical
work is carried on in laboratory facilities located
With this crew of trained chemists, augmented by within the mills.
a dozen technicians, the research activities of Nekoo-
sa-Edwards strived forward. In 1940 the importance In addition to the technical and research work car-
of paper testing under controlled conditions of ried on in our own laboratories, Nekoosa is a charter
humidity and temperature was realized; and accor- member of the Institute of Paper Chemistry at Ap-
dingly, a humidity room was built in the Port Ed- plet.on, Wisconsin. Here special research and analyt-
wards mill. Only Port Edwards needed such a facili- ical projects are conducted, either specifically for us
ty since all of the business papers were being manu- or for groups of member mills. When the Sulfite Pulp
factured in that mill. Nekoosa mill, on the other Manufacturers' Research League was organized for
hand, boasted having a color. \ lab, where the color the specific purpose of finding by-products to be
of the many specialty sheets could be developed and made from spent sulfite liquor, Nekoosa-Edwards
matched from one run to another. With the addition joined its ranks, remaining a member until the group
of the humidity room, Nekoosa-Edwards was now was disbanded.
able to justify their advertising slogan, which claim-
ed that their papers were "pretested:' Nekoosa papers are proclaimed to be 'The Best To-
day - Tomorrow Even Better:' Research has the
It wasn't until 1947, that John Alexander's dream of challenge of making this a truth rather than fiction.
The two photos on the top half of the page are the laboratory The building on the lower right is the same building but after
buildings of the Nekoosa Paper Co. and John Edwards Manufac- a remodeling and expansion had been completed. This building
turing Company . The building on the lower left side is John now houses the Purchasing Department and Product Quality and
Alexander's long fought for Research Laboratory built in 1920. Service Departments.

129
Chapter Thirty-One: Backing Up the Team
One reference indicates that in 1940 there were 51 ing departments, Nekoosa Bond in early 1937, had
paper mills operating in the state of Wisconsin. You found a home in the warehouses of 12 paper
can imagine the glut of paper available on the merchants.
market, just three years after Nekoosa-Edwards an-
nounced its entry into the watermarked business These pioneers, who risked their sales reputation on
paper world. The competition was rough. Nekoosa an unheard of watermarked business paper, were:
salesmen needed backup support, and that support
was forthcoming from the advertising department. Butler Paper Co. Marquardt Paper Co.
Midland Paper Co. Cincinnati Cordage Co.
Up to this time, Nepco's advertising department had Oklahoma Paper Co. Jacksonville Paper Co.
been occupied with making King William butcher West Coast Paper Co. Tampa Paper Co.
paper the leading meat wrap in the country. Now Barton Duer Koch Paper Co. Central Paper Co.
their talent was directed to promoting Nekoosa Everglades Paper Co. Central Michigan Paper Co.
Bond. The first step was to hire an advertising
manager who was knowledgeable in fine paper pro- This meager list of merchants would increase over
motion. This person was found in Tad Meyer, who the years, and in 1986 the ranks had swelled to near-
joined Nekoosa-Edwards in 1937. ly 80 merchants at over 200 locations.

Through the joint efforts of the sales and advertis- One of the first strategy moves to be carried out was
130

Nekoosa Edwards proudly displayed their product at the National a hospitality room at the meeting.
Paper Trade Association meeting in 1939. This display was in
The event is a Merchant conference held in Port Edwards in the
131
The neck ties identify this group of paper merchants as Nekoosa
supporters. The ties are replicas of the Nekoosa ream wrapper. mid SO's.

to gather together management representatives from information. R. G. Evans, President of Cincinnati


the merchants stocking Nekoosa Bond. According- Cordage Company, was elected as the first Chair-
ly, on the eve of the National Paper Trade Associa- man of the Council.
tion Meeting in the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago on
September 17, 1939, sixteen Nekoosa merchants Although 1956 saw many merchants at the mill for
assembled to hear and discuss plans for promoting the first time, for others it was not a new experience.
their new line of papers. A vote at the end of the As early as 1937, a group of sales personnel of the
meeting called for an annual repeat of this program, J. W. Butler Paper Company in Chicago visited the
but the ensuing war years prevented this goal from mill via a chartered railroad Pullman Car. The car
being accomplished. It wasn't until June of 1956 that was sidetracked in the mill yard long enough to per-
the next Merchant's Executive Conference was held mit a visit of the Port Edwards mill.
in Port Edwards. Eighty-two attendees from 38
states, representing 93 merchant houses, assembl- Mill visits were not new to Nekoosa-Edwards. A mill
ed and had a first-hand view of Nekoosa-Edwards; visitation program had been initiated in 1928, when
many for the first time. the Ford tri-motor airplane was purchased. Realiz-
ing that mill trips do help sell paper, Nekoosa open-
At this assembly it was decided that a Merchant's ed its famous Pullman Car guest house in 1955.
Advisory Council should be established. Its purpose Located on the shore of Nepco Lake, the all wooden
would be to meet twice annually to advise Nekoosa railroad car, decorated with inlaid mahogany
as to what direction they should take in production, woods, was home for four customers each night dur-
service, distribution, and promotion of Nekoosa ing the summer months. In 1966 the need for year-
grades. Mutual problems would be discussed and round accommodations dictated that a guest house
membership would be changed each year. Thus, all (Nekoosa Lodge) be built. This new facility, built
merchants would have an eventual input of helpful with the customer in mind, took care of 12 guests,
in addition to providing dining facilities for them. Theater in Nekoosa on January 12, 1949. Repeated
In 1981 a similar facility was opened in Texarkana showings were presented throughout the day.
to accommodate visitors to the Ashdown mill.
Nekoosa strongly feels even today, that the mill A word should be included on the subject of
visitor program is an important sales tool. Nekoosa publications. After all, it is from these
tabloids that much of the material in this book has
been gleaned. Nekoosa-Edwards' first employee
publication was the Nepco Safety Bulletin, which
came out in 1919. This was followed by the mon-
thly Nepco Digester, a magazine fo rmat publication
which was printed on non-Nepco paper! With the
advent of the depression years in the early 1930's,
publication ceased until 1935 when it was rein-
troduced in a newspaper format.

In 1941, 2,400 copies were being printed. The last


issue of the Digester was printed in December of
1950, being replaced in January of 1951 by the
Nekoosa News magazine. This current publication
is issued four times a year. Sixteen-thousand copies
Nekoosa's second guest house was the famous Pullman Car on
the shore of NEPCO Lake. The car accommodated four guests of each issue are printed and distributed to
in an atmosphere that recalled the plush days of railroading just employees, customers, and shareholders. A recent
af\er the turn of the century.
132 publication, aimed strictly at the employee's interest,
is the monthly Papergram.
Another selling tool that the advertising department
produced in 1948 was a 35-minute movie entitled
There are, and have been, other gimmicks, gadgets,
'The World Behind The Watermark." The movie
and gismos that have been used to promote Nekoosa
Papers. The advertising department is truly in there
backing up the sales department with new ideas and
promotions, all aimed a t getting the Nekoosa name
foremost in the eyes and minds of printers,
specifiers, and artists.

The big production in 1948 was the filming of the movie ''The
World Behind The Watermark!' Here characters, film crew, writer
and lighting crews are all coordinated by the director in his tradi-
tional director's chair.

received its premiere showing at a paper merchant


dinner in Chicago and then was shown from coast Nekoosa's famous caravans have taken the Nekoosa story across
to coast promoting Nekoosa's watermarked papers. the country on several occasions. The caravans travel from city
Two thousand eight hundred people reviewed the to city, putting on production promotion meetings for merchants.
Two Nekoosa personnel direct the unloading of some caravan
movie at its first public showing at the Rialto display material.
Chapter Thirty-Two: Check With the
Main Office
Call it "headquarters, main office, white house, brass
house, or administration building:' Every company
has a special location, be it a building or only a
room, from where the corporate decisions and
policies flow forth. The companies that were the
forerunners of Nekoosa Papers Inc., were no excep-
tion, the office buildings of these companies being
illustrated on these pages.

Nekoosa Paper Company actually had two structures


that served in this capacity during its fifteen-year span
as an independent company. In 1893 Thomas E. Nash
had a small wooden building erected near the pre-
Nekoosa Paper Company's second office building was this brick
sent Nekoosa bleach plant, which was to serve as a ediface. In later years it saw service as a time office and mill office
temporary construction office while he was engaged building.
in building the Nekoosa mill. About 1895, with the
mill construction completed, Nash turned his efforts
toward the building of a suitable office building befit-
ting the new mill at Nekoosa. The cream colored
brick building, consisting of basement, main floor,
133

John Edwards, Jr. built this office building


in 1872 to serve the it became the office of John Edwards Manufacturing Company
administrative needs of his lumbering operation. In later years and then the first office of the Nekoosa Edwards Paper Co.
and a smalJ second floor, was designed by an Ap- The John Edwards Manufacturing Company's main
pleton, Wisconsin, architect and built at a cost of less office had the most colorful background. Built by
than two thousand dollars. Included in the building John Edwards in 1872, the frame building, built from
were two fireproof vaults, a reception room, an ac- lumber sawed at Edwards' own mill, was the seat
counting office, and Mr. Nash's private executive of- of administration for the Edwards lumber industry.
fice, which included a fireplace. This new building, Inasmuch as the sawmill was the nucleus around
ultra modern and architecturally graceful and func- which the settlement of three hundred inhabitants
tional, was to be the control center from which was to grow, Edwards provided space for a post of-
Nekoosa Paper Company was to be run until 1908, fice and a retail store in the new office. Postal ser-
at which time it was incorporated into the Nekoosa- vice was established at Port Edwards in the mid
Edwards Paper Company. 1840's, and until 1935 was transacted in the Nepco
Main Office building. Odd? No, for John Edwards,
The small wooden building, which had been Jr., was postmaster for about 30 years.
Nekoosa's first main office, was now converted in-
to a laboratory. It was finally moved into the wood To further provide for the needs of the residents, Ed-
storage yard, where it served as a yard office until wards included a retail store in the same building.
sometime in the mid 1940's when it was razed. A stock of groceries, dry goods, and hardware was
carried. Credit was extended to nearby lumber
Following the transfer of administrative activities to camps and cutters for these supplies. Several pro-
the main office building at Port Edwards in 1908, missory notes are on record indicating that payment
the old Nekoosa main office was converted to a mill was to be made to the "company store" the follow-
office. Here the mill manager's office, first aid room, ing spring in shingles or lath at market price. This
134 and a few other supervisory offices were housed.
Finally, in 1960, the building was demolished to
store continued until around the turn of the century
when other retail establishments were begun in the
make room for an expansion of the Nekoosa plant. village.

Centralia Water Power and Pulp Company's ad- Edwards culminated the building of this office by
ministration building did not have such a varied having a three-foot high escutcheon carved and plac-
career. The modest frame building appears to have ed on the peak of the roof, indicating that the
been a single-room building, located on the river building was completed in 1872. This substitute for
bank, overlooking the mill. A property list of the a cornerstone is preserved in the Administration
Centralia Company lists the contents of the building Building at Port Edwards.
as including a desk, typewriter, vault, and chairs.
The building was removed after the Centralia mill In 1872 the modest building was ample for conduct-
burned in 1912. ing the business affairs of the lumber company and
still house the village post office and store. All that
was needed was a desk for the president, a high table
and stool for the bookkeeper, and a steel vault.
There was no need for a sales department since
lumber was the only product we sold. There was
no need for a traffic department since there were
no railroads, and all lumber was floated down the
r iver in the spring of the year. A woodlands depart-
ment was unnecessary since who would ever ima-
gine that this great fores t of trees would ever be ex-
hausted, and in 1872 even eccentrics weren't dream-
ing of such things as electronic tabulating machines!

The business affairs of the Centralia Water Power and Pulp Com- However, as the years progressed, the nature of the
pany were conducted in this modest building, located on the west
bank of the river, overlooking the mill. business completely changed. The product became
paper with a year-round market. Competition porate decisions being made. Great financial and in-
necessitated adding a sales force. Conservation- dustrial leaders, including two of our own past
minded forefathers established a woodlands depart- presidents, L. M. Alexander and Thomas E. Nash,
ment. River transporation was no longer suitable met here and changed the destiny of an industry and
for transporting the product to market. Thus, a community. In 1890 the building witnessed two
railroads were built and a traffic department came men sitting at a desk, perhaps by kerosene light late
into being. Production increased, sales went up, ac- into the night, as John Edwards, Jr., turned over
counts became larger, and so did the accounting management of John Edwards & Co., to L. M . Alex-
department. In 1920 the records indicate tha t the ander. This took place when the former was elected
main office force consisted of about twenty persons.

Added business activity constantly increased this of-


fice force, and in 1941 necessitated a complete
remodeling and enlarging of the main office. In that
year additions increased the working area and add-
ed an attractive conference room. Subsequent ad-
ditions made in 1953 and 1956 further increased the
working space of the main office. In spite of all
remodeling and additions, the exterior of the
building remained painted white in tradition with
a village custom, thereby perpetuating the village
sobriquet, "White City:' The nurse of the Nekoosa Paper Company takes a moment off

The old building witnessed many important cor-


from her first aid duties to have her picture taken in front of the
fireplace that originally saw use in the office of Thomas Nash,
President of Nekoosa Paper Company.
135

The 'White House:' was the nickname applied to the main of- office shows the many appendages that were added to the building
fice of the Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company. This view of the over the years.
136
Used lumber for sale! Some of it was well used for nearly a hun- The ground that the building occupied is now a p~rk area, in·
dred years by the time this old office building was demolished. corporating formal gardens and a statue of John Edwards, Jr.

to the State Legislature. In 1896 the old building


reverberated with the enthusiasm of a group of
Wood County pioneers as they made plans for a
paper mill to be constructed at Port Edwards to re-
place the sawmill. It housed some important finan-
cial transactions in 1908 when several small paper
manufacturers incorporated into Nekoosa-Edwards
Paper Co. Sometime in the 1930's there were heated
discussions which took place when a board of direc-
tors proposed to convert from a wrapping grade mill
to a bond manufacturer.

For many years the affairs of the village were car- John Alexander, President of Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company,
proudly places a sealed box of documents in the cornerstone of
ried on from the conference room, which served as the new administration building in Port Edwards. Directors and
the meeting place of the Village Board. Changes guests witness the event.
were gradually eroding away the grandeur of this
stately building. The original line of hitching posts was removed by the wrecking contractor after the
was changed into a wide sidewalk. This in turn gave corporate business activities had been transferred to
way to an additional ten feet of modern highway. a new administration building, dedicated in 1961.
Spacious lawns made way for parking lots. Vandals
caused the removal of the small cannon on the front Financed by the employees retirement fund, the an-
lawn, which had many and varied tales connected nual rent payments made by Nekoosa Papers Inc.,
with its origin. Finally, in 1961, the entire building were in turn placed back into the fund. The 220'
x 104' two-story building is an architectural work In front of the building, an Aqua-Hue fountain with
of art. Corners are of Cold Spring Rainbow granite constantly changing patterns of water sprays, takes
(the quarry is now exhausted) while the walls are on a rainbow of colors at night when colored lights
Thinlite Curtain glass blocks. Six carvings in granite illuminate the water.
blocks flank the main entrance and portray the
papermaking process. White and colored lights The functions performed within the building are all
highlight the building exterior. inclusive, from the decisions being made by the
company president down to the hiring of a new
Inside the ediface, flexible wooden partitions adjust employee.
to any room configuration. Completely carpeted
halls, with special lighting, serve as a local, With so many decisions, policies, and directives
hometown art gallery. The artwork is changed coming from this building, it is no surprise that mill
regularly and the public is welcome to view the personnel often "pass the buck" with the expression,
talents of the artist being featured. "Check with the main office:'

137

The road to the mill (Wisconsin River Drive) is dirt, littered with Company office. Building on left is the Port Edwards Village hall.
horse debris in this view of the John Edwards Manufacturing (About 1900)

Steel framework for a new administration building for Nekoosa on the right is the Research and Engineering Building.
Papers dwarfs the old office building that it will replace. Building
Chapter Thirty-Three: Remembering Those
Who Held the Ladder
In 1927 Nekoosa-Edwards' President, John Alex- Nekoosa Papers Inc. A few of them are worthy of
ander, wrote ·to an associate of his, "... always keep mention.
in mind that the real man who has climbed to suc-
cess will not forget the men who held the ladder for In 1927 a thousand dollars given to the local high
him. Accordingly, we should never forget those who school for band uniforms was considered a sizable
held the ladder while we climbed to the top:' contribution. Seven thousand dollars toward a new
high school gymnasium, was certainly an indication
What Alexander said was directed toward his per- of this company's loyalty to the community and its
sonal achievements in the business world. However, employees.
it can appropriately be related to the company he
directed. Nekoosa Papers Inc., during its successful As inflation grew over the years, so did the size of
career, has definitely remembered the men and the gifts. Being the major property owner in the
women who helped it attain the successful position area, it was quite easy for Nekoosa Papers Inc., to
it enjoys today. One of the ways in which this has make contributions of land to the State of Wiscon-
been accomplished is through Nekoosa's communi- sin-Griffith Nursery, Wood County-Edgewater
ty service efforts. It is beyond the scope of these few Nursing Home and Nepco Lake Park, and to the
138 pages to tabulate the hundreds of community proj-
ects that have been supported financially by
local community- park properties. On a smaller
scale, there have been programs developed by con-

. \\
I

In an effort to make his home town more attractive and to bet- building of the Port Edwards shopping center. The business unit
ter serve the residents of Port Edwards, most of them Nekoosa was built by Nekoosa Edwards Paper Company.
employees, John Alexander was the motivating force behind the
tributing city lots to employees for the building of In 1948 Nekoosa-Edwards established the Nepco
their own homes. Foundation. An initial grant of $144,000 was given
to the Foundation, whose purpose it was to promote
In 1940 Nekoosa-Edwards launched and financed a charitable causes, education, and community ser-
recreation program for the youth of Port Edwards vice projects.
and Nekoosa. Among other activities, the Boys and
Girls Club had access to a specially-built camp on I'm sure most people will agree that Nekoosa Papers
the shore of Nepco Lake. Included in the arrange- Inc., has made a tremendous impact in the com-
ment was a log mess hall, screened cabins, toilet and munities in which it is located.
shower facilities with running water, and a complete
aquatic facility. Six years later, upon the comple- Although these small communities may fall into the
tion of World War II, Nekoosa-Edwards invested category of "company towns;' most residents will
once again in the youth of Port Edwards by building agree that it definitely has its advantages. As
a $135,000 swimming pool. evidence of their conviction, they will point with
pride to the John Alexander YMCA Community
In 1948 a shopping center was built in Port F.dwards, Center in Port Edwards, which was made possible
replacing the country store buildings that had been by John Alexander. Built in 1957, the facility cost
located along Market Street. over a million dollars and serves the youth and
adults of the area. Very few metropolitan areas of
The list goes on almost endlessly, since the com- 40,000 people can point with pride to a facility as
pany's contributions are an ongoing thing. Some beautiful and functional as the "Y" in Port F.dwards.
items include: fire protection service, a tree plant-
ing program, college scholarships, a village garage
and fire station, employee's recreation area, etc., etc.
John Alexander remembered his co-workers and for
that the community continues to benefit.
139

What better way to remember his fellow employees than to build YMCA Community Center in 1958. It is located on the site of
a YMCA Community Center. Nekoosa Edwards Foundation, his childhood home.
with John Alexander's backing, built the John E. Alexander
Chapter Thirty-Four: Seventy-Five Cents
A Day
For that amount, one could exploit the fruits of ter? The recipient of the letter accepted Nash's offer
labor of a woman or a horse. Both were valued at and came to work. It was more money than he could
that amount for a day's labor. Perhaps nothing has make working on his father's farm at Wautoma,
witnessed more changes over the years than labor Wisconsin.
relations. The trends that began with the national
labor reforms at the turn of the century came home A man with a good team of horses could make
to Nekoosa and its predecessor companies as well. more, depending on how good his team was. The
Reflections of the past are interesting to look back usual rate was $2.50 a day for a man with a team.
on, so here are a few for your amusement. In read- In several instances a horse or team was hired
ing over these next few paragraphs, note the vast without a driver. There are several places in the time
magnitude of changes that have improved working books where a horse is listed as an employee and
conditions over the years. Also, be mindful that was actually carried on the payroll! The rate for a
where dollar values are quoted, they must be con- horse alone was 75 cents a day.
sidered in the light of the purchasing power of the
dollar at that time. Upon completion of the mill, Nash turned to
recruiting a production force . Most of the construc-
140 In 1878 John Edwards makes note that he hired Wil-
liam Harber at a rate of four hundred dollars a year,
tion laborers migrated into mill operating jobs. A
crew of one h undred and thirty people kept the mill
"for any kind of work:' That was in the lumbering operating in 1896. Of this, one hundred and twenty-
era . Things had improved only fifteen years later one were men , eight were women, and three were
when Tom Nash began construction of a paper mill boys under the age of eighteen. Two shifts kept the
at Nekoosa. Nash wrote to a would-be employee, m ill operating around the clock. A day shift, noted
'There is plenty of work here at $1.50 per day. Men with a white marker on the clock for the benefit of
hauling rocks on the dam receive $1.75 per day, but those who could not read, consisted of eleven hours.
that is hard work and the jobs are all filled up ..." The night shift, with the black marker on the clock,
consisted of thirteen hours. "Swells," as the office
What would you do if you received the above let- staff was labeled, worked only ten hours; i.e., 7:00

Some of those valuable teams at the John Edwards Manufactur-


ing Company. Workers tended their steed like some men look Seventy-five cents a day and all the water you wanted to drink
after their autos today. Ernest Eichstead is the foreman in the from this water drum. Germs from the common dipper went with
center of the photo. the drink.
a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The time books show instances it was a dollar and twenty-five cents. Horses received
of many people working more hours than a nor- seventy-five cents a day! Discrimination against
mal shift without the benefit of premium pay. women was quite the thing in the 1890's. There was,
however, some equality provided for employees.
Other people's salaries and wages are a matter of The early issues of the NEPCO Safety Bulletin were
curiosity, yet are usually confidential. The lapse of printed in Polish as well as English, thereby mak-
time will permit us to look at some rates being paid ing their message knowledgeable to the non-English
in 1904. The figures are from John Edwards Manu- speaking employees.
facturing Company's labor report.
Here are a few other interesting employee relation
Machine Tender (Herman Zurfl uh) .. 31 cents/ hr. matters that have arisen over the years. In 1902 an
Back Tender (Chas. Leverance) ... .. . 20 cents/ hr. appeal was made to L. M. Alexander, by his "Chris-
Fourth Hand (Albert Krenke) . ... .101/z cents/ hr. tian Brethren," to ban work on the Sabbath. The
Beater Man (Albert Oilschlager) .. 131/z cents/ hr. movement would have the mill shut down from 6:00
Pulp Skinner . . ...... ... .. . . ..... 8YJ cents/ hr. p.m. on Saturday to 7:00 a. m . on Monday. Alex-
Electricia n . . ... ... .. . .... . .. . . ... . $2.00/night ander responded that he would consider the request
Yard Man ...... . . ........ . . .... .. 15 cents/ hr. but reminded his "fellow brethren" that paper
Yard Boy ............... . .. . ... 12Yz cents/ hr. machines were not like other factories that could be
Steam Power turned off at midnight on Saturday.
Engineer (John Shellhammer) .. . . $75.00/month
In 1915 Nekoosa-Edwards, along with nineteen
The starting rate for women in the finishing room other Wisconsin paper mills, went on record as en-
in 1893 was seventy-five cents a day, while for men dorsing the Efficiency Institute whose motto was
141

The crew of the Port Edwards finishing room proudly pose for appears that the women are happy to show off their new
the photographer in this view. The time is early 1930's and it uniforms.
'Alcohol Is Not Food But Poison:' Since Port Ed- most unpleasant way. There is horseplay, and
wards had no saloons, it must have been the they put dresses on the new men."
Nekoosa mill that prompted the move!
"There are women in the mill at night."
Another file of employee's letters to management
contains the following excerpts which are dated "There is much stealing of paper, brass, and
around 1910: pipe."

"Some employees sleep during the night, 2-4. Perhaps it was for these aforementioned reasons that
or more hours." an employee's handbook was published in 1919. A
pass was now required if an employee was to leave
"The Nekoosa mill is considered an easy place the mill other than at shift changes. Warm-up time
to work. Th e Port (Edwards) mill gets fu ll and clothes changing time were expected to be on
value from every man." personal time, before or after the shift hours. There
was absolutely no smoking within the mill fence or
"The night watchman is instructed to w ake up yards. Failure to comply with this latter rule resulted
men, but they will not listen to him." in immediate dismissal on the spot.

"The Port Edwards night superintendent, 'Lit' Accidents were quite frequent. The tendency toward
Vechinski, is called a man killer. He does not accidents was due to poor working habits, employee
allow sleeping or loafing." fatigue, a lack of safety equipment, and the absence
of a safety program. For these reasons, Nekoosa-
142 "New employees are initiated and treated in a Edwards inaugurated an extensive safety program

Some days it was a cold walk home after a long night in the Port went barefoot at work. This habit assured them that their shoes
Edwards mill. It was for this reason that paper machine operators would be dry when walking home in the snow.
his family. The cost to take part in the program,
which was voluntary, was $1.50 per month, with
an added option of life insurance for an additional
ten cents per month. The plan paid two dollars a
day to an injured or ill employee and two and half
dollars if he was hospitalized. Fifty percent of
surgical costs were covered, but not in excess of
seventy-five dollars. (They weren't doing heart
bypasses in 1921!)

A bonus plan in 1936 and 1937, known as the


Standards Plan, paid cash bonuses for exceptional
performance. The plan was not popular with most
You can tell who is the machine tender in this group. He is the employees, believe it or not; and after a vote by the
one who gets paid enough to buy a pair of shoes to wear on the
job. workers in 1937, the plan was discontinued. To the
dismay of the workers, management announced that
just prior to World War I. The program included "the standards set up for production will be
a nurse, who spent her mornings at one mill and retained:'
afternoons at the other. A first aid room was
established in each mill. Safety suggestions were If the aforementioned policy was not popular, the
rewarded with cash gifts or a medal. An employee's program that initiated the retiree's pension plan in
handbook was issued listing several pages of safety 1948 was well received. The voluntary, co-
rules, a few of which are listed here: contributed plan had 98.15 percent participation and
saw the retirement of fifty employees on January
143
1. Keep fingers out of calender stacks. Use closed 1, 1949, all taking advantage of the benefits offered
knuckles to feed paper into the nips of the rolls. to them by the pension plan.

2. Going barefoot is dangerous and many accidents The ranks of employment have swelled as Nekoosa
are caused by not wearing shoes. Furthermore, has grown, from eight hundred and sixty-nine in
a papermaker wearing shoes can do more and 1929, eleven hundred in 1938, to a high of nearly
better work than one who is barefoot. thirty-seven hundred in 19861

One of the best received benefits instituted by Not to mention, women have won out over the
Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company came about in horse. Five hundred and seventy-one women are
1921 when the Nekoosa-Edwards Mutual Benefit employed by Nekoosa Papers Inc., with several in
Association was started. This insurance program management or supervisory positions. Compare
. was first available only to the wage earner and not that to what happened to the horse!

Nekoosa Safety Committee, 1915. Port Edwards Mill Safety Committee.


Chapter Thirty-Five: Ins and Outs
During that span of Nekoosa's history lasting from Canadian government made this operation less
approximately World War I to the present, several lucrative after World War II and it was, therefore,
small, and in some cases, diversified companies have liquidated.
found their way in and out of the annual financial
report. One of these has been covered in a previous Tomahawk Timber Company
chapter where the history of Nekoosa-F.dwards Light Organized in 1940, this company operated a lumber
and Power Company was presented. Very briefly, mill in Ely, Minnesota, where it had timber cutting
some of the other subsidiaries of Nekoosa Papers rights on a tract of three hundred square miles of
Inc., will be reviewed here. Some are still in our cor- Superior National Forest land. The assets of the
porate family, while others have been disposed of. company were jointly owned by two Wisconsin
paper mills, one of them Nekoosa-Edwards which
Alexander Clarke Timber Co. owned fifty percent of the company's assets. An em-
Organized in 1944 and liquidated in 1952, this bargo by the National Park Service brought about
wholly-owned subsidiary was a pulpwood producer the building of a lumber mill in 1954. Up to that
with cutting rights on two hundred seventeen square time, only pulpwood was being cut. However, the
miles of Canadian government lands. This company embargo stipulated that all merchantable wood
in turn had its own subsidiary. Sturgeon Lake Trans- must be cut under the agreement with the Park Ser-
portation Company, which operated a seven-mile vice. Thus, the sawmill was built to cut three million
railroad in Canada, moved pulpwood from the cut- board feet of lumber annually in addition to the
144 ting site to a railhead. Regulations enacted by the pulpwood. The corporation was dissolved in 1984,

In addition to providing pulpwood for Nekoosa-Edwards mills, tion in Ely, Minnesota. Pulpwood was rafted across Lake Superior
Tomahawk Timber Company operated this lumber sawing opera- to Ashland, Wisconsin.
145
Bibler Lumber Company operates this lumber mill at Russellville, Arkansas. It produces dimensional lumber and wood chips.

although production had terminated in the late and made a division of Great Northern Nekoosa
1970's. Corporation.

Bibler Lumber Company Marplex Products Company


Bibler Lumber Company operated sawmills in Marplex is a lumber mill in Rhinelander, Wiscon-
Russellville and Clarkesville, Arkansas, plus an ex- sin, and became a part of the Nekoosa group in
tensive turkey ranch and beef cattle raising opera- 1977. The company saws lumber and manufactures
tion when acquired by Nekoosa in 1974. The beef pallets and skids. It is a pulpwood chip supplier to
cattle operation, turkey ranch, and Clarkesville mill the Wisconsin mills. As of 1987, it was carrying out
were disposed of by Nekoosa shortly after being these operations as a Nekoosa subsidiary.
purchased. The Russellville plant was sold by
Nekoosa in 1986. Nekoosa Envelope Company
After having purchased in a series of separate trans-
Butler Paper Company actions, Wisco Envelope, Pakwell Envelope, Mail-
Nekoosa's first relation with Butler Paper Company well Envelope, Rockmont Envelope, Southwest En-
was in 1907 when J. W. Butler Company became a velope, Heco Envelope, and Photo Bag Inc., they
newsprint customer of Nekoosa Paper Company. were incorporated into Nekoosa Envelopes Incorpor-
Fifty-five years later, Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Com- ated in 1977. Plants for producing envelopes of
pany purchased a half interst in the Butler merchant every description are located all over the country.
business at a cost of approximately seven million The company, whose corporate headquarters was
dollars. For a similar amount in 1965, the balance moved to Colorado, has been given division status
of the Butler business was obtained. In 1985 Butler under Great Northern Nekoosa Corporation. Thus,
Paper Company, which operates merchant ware- after 1985, it was no longer a Nekoosa subsidiary.
houses in sixty-five cities, was given autonomy Nekoosa Envelope Company consists of 14 plants.
Whitewood Post and Pole Company plementing our business, while others were operated
Located in Whitewood, South Dakota, the company as community services. Some of those community
produced treated and untreated posts and poles, service subsidiaries are listed here. All have been
lumber, and treated wooden basements, as well as dissolved on the records of Nekoosa Papers Inc.
wood chips for papermaking. The plant operated
as a subsidiary of Nekoosa Papers Inc., from its pur- Nepco Airways
chase in 1975 to its sale in 1981. Tri City Flying Service
Tri City Airways
East Texas Iron Co. Wisconsin Rapids Street Railway Co.
Incorporated in Texas in 1975, this company is a land Shanagolden Investment Co.
holding company in Texas. Although the title im- Sturgeon Lake Transportation Co. Ltd.
plies mining ventures, no iron ore has ever been
mined. One of Nekoosa's financial officers publicly stated
that Nekoosa Papers Inc., always got "burned" when
There were some other subsidiary companies in the venturing out of the business it knows best-
family of Nekoosa. Some served us directly, com- papermaking or associated endeavors.

146

Marplex Products is located in Rhinelander, Wisconsin and is skids, pallets and wood chips for Nekoosa Papers Inc., as well
a producer of hardwood lumber. In addition they manufacture as for other customers.
Chapter Thirty-Six: An Appropriate Mouthful

147

An artist's rendition of the Nekoosa Paper Company in the ear- sidering consolidation. The artist has enhanced the proportions
ly 1900's when several of the Wisconsin paper mills were con- of the mill including a reflection of the buildings in the river.

In its one hundred years of papermaking history, met secretly in Neenah, Wisconsin, to work out a
this company, like most other companies, has at proposed merger of the two companies.
times promoted mergers, while at other times it has
fought them. We can reflect on the former, but ac- Consolidated's president, George Mead, had sug-
tually we have not had to "fight off" any takeovers. gested it. His proposal was based on the fact that
certain departments such as traffic, purchasing, and
As mentioned in an earlier chapter, those fledgling sales could be combined, thereby cutting costs for
paper mills that made up Nekoosa-Edwards Paper each mill. The new purchasing department, for in-
Company, did consider a possible merger around the stance, would have more "clout" in making purchas-
turn of the century. Most of the mills in Wisconsin ing contracts. Furthermore, Consolidated needed a
and Minnesota were being considered as candidates source of chemical pulp to augment their ground-
for joining the International Paper Company group. wood fiber supply. Nepco was operating two
Instead, three of the mid-Wisconsin mills carried out sulphite pulp mills and a kraft operation. We had
their own consolidation forming Nekoosa-Edwards the chemical pulp that Consolidated needed.
Paper Company.
The transactions went so far as to even propose a
The next merger fever rose in temperature in 1919. name for the new company, which would have been
While a personnel department coped with strike- Consolidated Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company. As
related problems, Nepco management and managers one Nepco official involved in the merger talks
of Consolidated Water Power and Paper Company stated, '1t's quite a mouthful but is deemed ap-
148
John Edwards Manufacturing Company's grinder room about of the century. A grinding stone is shown on the left while a bank
the time merger proposals were being discussed just after the turn of grinders are on the right.

NEPCO's supply of chemical pulp was an incentive that made In the photo, sulfite pulp is being formed into laps on a Rogers
it a desirable partner for another mill in a 1919 proposed merger. wet machine.
propriate for a company of these proportions." a successful merger between Great Northern Paper
Company and Nekoosa Papers Inc., in 1970. At that
The proposal was dropped, however, the reason time, the name of the Great Northern Paper Co. was
never being found out by this writer. Consolidated changed to Great Northern Nekoosa Corp., and in
this name it still operates under an old 1897 Maine
charter. Nekoosa Papers Inc., is a wholly-owned
subsidiary. Until 1974, Great Northern operated as
a division of the newly named company. Then,
however, it became two separate organizations,
Great Southern Paper Co. and Great Northern
Paper Co., each a division of Great Northern
Nekoosa. Now, Great Northern Nekoosa Corp.,
with its executive offices in Stamford, Connecticut,
is technically the old Great Northern Paper Co.,
which is now a division of Great Northern Nekoosa.

Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company shares moved


from the over-the-counter market to the ''big
board''...._the New York Stock Exchange. It is now
part of a company that is included in Fortune's Top
Five Hundred companies.

All of this enabled Nekoosa to establish a better


fo undation to raise needed capital for its Ashdown
149
Upon completion of the successful merger of Nekoosa Papers Inc. expansion program. On the other hand, the amal-
and Great Northern Paper Company in 1970, the logo shown
on this beverage glass was adopted to indicate that two smaller gamation of the companies gave Great Northern
companies could now stand up to the bigger companies. Paper Company a market outlet for its products via
Nekoosa's wholly-owned merchant network.
built a sulphite pulp mill and Nepco went back to Neither mill was a competitor of the other in the
healing its wounds from the strike. paper market. Rather, they now complemented each
other's lines of paper.
In 1968 merger fever again erupted when Nekoosa-
Edwards entered into discussions with Continental It it worthy to note that two of Great Northern
Can Company. After several meetings over a period Nekoosa's three presidents had their roots at
of several months, the proposal was dropped, and Nekoosa. S. A. Casey began his career in Nekoosa's
the fever rapidly subsided as Nekoosa "kicked the legal department, and W. Laidig started out in
can." Sam Casey, Nekoosa-Edwards president in Nekoosa's engineering department.
1969, stated in a letter to the trade, "We are in com-
munication papers. They just aren't compatible with Was it a success? The corporate growth of Great
the Continental Can Line:' Northern Nekoosa since 1970 attests to a resound-
ing "yes:' The two little guys were now able to stand
The last time the fever emerged, it climaxed with up to the big guy.
Chapter Thirty-Seven: Two Castoffs
An urge to expand in the paper business became the cher paper, envelope paper, and converting
goal of Nekoosa Papers Inc., in the 1950's. The route specialties.
chosen to accomplish this was via acquisitions of
other mills in contrast to the alternate route of ex- In 1925 a bleach plant was added to the property,
pansion of existing facilities. It was this situation and the Racquette River Paper Company entered the
that brought about the aquisition of two mill prop- fine paper field. In 1929 the management foresaw
erties during this era- the Potsdam and Plover mills. a promising future in the further conversion of its
products as a part of their own production. They,
In 1867 a sawmill was built by George W. Sisson therefore, purchased a German made embossing
at a site on the Racquette River, two miles north of machine and began making a Rexall Drug Company
Potsdam, New York. In 1890 Sisson and James Out- embossed wrapping paper.
terson persuaded a group of local Potsdam men, in-
cluding Sisson, to build a paper mill. Thus, the Rac- A new converting plant was built in 1938 to house
quette River Paper Company was born. Corpora- the embossing machines, as well as a battery of new
tion papers were signed on February 10, 1892, with printing machines to make decorative wrapping
a capital stock of $50,000 authorized. This was papers. A paper bag factory was added in 1951.
about a year before the incorporation of the
Nekoosa Paper Company. In 1955 the Sisson family interests in the Racquette
River Paper Company were transferred to the Or-
150 The mill established a national reputation for its chard Paper Company, which operated the paper
products which consisted of wrapping grades, but- mill as a subsidiary until the summer of 1957 when

An early aerial view of the Whiting Plover Paper Company. Raw and worked their way around to exit as cotton fiber paper at
materials entered at the lower portion of the "U" sha ped building the upper right portion of the building.
Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company purchased the just south of Stevens Point. At this location, the
mill. abundant water power permitted him to build two
paper mills separated by two miles of rocky river
bed.

One of these mills, built in 1892, was the Whiting-


Plover Paper Company. When completed, the mill
cost in the neighborhood of $200,000.

Two paper machines were installed to produce fine


writing paper and book paper. However, the pro-
duction of fine writing paper was hampered by the
lack of clean water supply, the river water being
traditionally dark colored and unsuitable for fine
paper manufacturing. Geologists and well drillers
told Whiting that well water in quantity was not
Number one paper machine in the Potsdam mill, is shown in
this 1912 picture. This machine produced paper for Nekoosa Ed-
available in the area. However, Whiting persisted
wards after the mill had been purchased by them. and in 1912 Whiting Spring was tapped just a short
distance from the mill. The spring produces to this
Under Nekoosa ownership, the Potsdam plant pro- day a source of crystal clear water sufficient to sup-
duced two lines of products. Complimenting our ply the paper making needs of the mill.
Wisconsin tonnage of business papers, Potsdam pro-
duced about 100 tons per day of these grades
primarily for the eastern market. In addition, they
With this abundant source of fresh, clean water for
fine paper production, the mill was converted to the
151
continued to produce a line of converting papers production of cotton fiber paper exclusively. The
which were sold to the converting plant on the prop- name was changed to Whiting-Plover Paper Com-
erty. These papers were for decorative cover and pany in 1912.
wrapping uses.
The two-machine mill was purchased by Nekoosa-
After 22 years of operation, Nekoosa-Edwards Edwards Paper Company in 1964 in exchange for
decided to dispose of the operation in 1977, and ac- 37,500 shares of preferred Nekoosa-Edwards stock.
cordingly, sold the mill to a group of investors who
then assumed operation of the facility. Plover's grades of paper were added to our stock list
of business papers, but still retained their own iden-
A paper mill located at the confluence of the Plover tifying mill names.
and Wisconsin Rivers came under the dominance
of Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company in 1964, where In 1980 the Plover mill underwent a strike of 59
it remained until it was sold 17 years later in 1981. days. Shortly after, in 1981, the mill was offered for
sale and was purchased by a mill in eastern
In 1887 George Whiting became associated finan- Wisconsin.
cially with L. M. Alexander, Frank Garrison, George
Steele, and J. 0. Witter. This group was responsi- The tonnage of paper Nekoosa sacrificed from the
ble for building the first paper mill on the Wiscon- disposing of these two plants was more than replac-
sin River, the Centralia Water Power and Paper ed by the expansion of our Ashdown facility. Fur-
Company. thermore, many of the grades being made by these
two mills were doing nothing to enhance the sale
Whiting now ventured out on his own, moving of our Nekoosa Business Papers. Thus, they became
north about 20 miles to a site on the Wisconsin River the castoffs.
Chapter Thirty-Eight: To Exist Perpetually
To record the financial transactions of this corpora- Upon incorporation of Nekoosa-Edwards Paper
tion would result in a much too complicated and Company in 1908, a char ter was granted by the State
detailed volume. Furthermore, a lot of facts, figures, of Wisconsin. Said charter states tha t this company
and charts only create a textbook on economics- is incorporated to, "exist perpetually:' However, there
and they are usually dull ! One Nekoosa sales were times during the years following 1908, that it
manager used to tell his guests that, "Nekoosa's mill was quite questionable as to whether this company
tours show you everything except the washrooms would exist indefinitely. Fortunately, it survived
and the corporate books. The washrooms are reserv- through those turbulent years.
ed for the employees and the corporate ledgers we
show only to the IRS:' Passing over the years between 1908 and 1930, there
is not a lot to dwell on. Some major expansions and
capital investments took place in the last 1920's, and
the records indicate that from 1921to1930 over six
million dollars were spent in capital improvements.
They included, among other things, two paper
machines.

In 1923 a bond offering was issued and $600,000


was raised for capital improvements. This was
152 TU . \.J.J. •1· 0 \\llU-'1 T ltl<:tU~ 1•111 : ?'1 ; ;'\"' l'H'. h ll . \. l . 1. c n.'11~:

t JI. A.J~1·\!il l ' . ,.,,,,,,,7 •1 ,,,,,,


primarily for hydroelectric generating capacity an d
•//Pi //.14 I /.t;.,,,,,,,,,,/,A,,,/.y,••hly l/ml111lh1 :! the building of our Nepco Lake water supply.
J'dlf • / .• 'I' I"/ ,,.,.1/,,.,,-~,.,,,,4,,,,,./,,/,,..,,/ ...!.,::.l l/,1u
""' r~" Ill Q',, ",0,,,/,,.,,,1,/ //,tit,, ,, ,,,,1,,,,,,,,,,1," 11ull1•1 ~11',111/
•/,/11/,_,,, /.JH""''""' u<rl/, II '""''"1/ /..-1111117 If '"'0t1Hft•ll /,
'"Y /,../,
fr /f ; U•ll',lf l/.,
Five years later, another bond issue was authorized
Nd/; , ',t,/,f/..,/ Ito,( : ':"'.ticuu .ti :•.
1' ·~
in the amount of ten million dollars. Of this, only
/A1/r1Jt/11U•IH1/;f11~'u/if ,711;;;uA h o 1v t1.•W;r;:;:;;t1Gl .1~: ..~i r. r•. ,~. ..<A three and a half million dollars were actually issued
at an interest rate of five percent. With this money,
•rµ,/()l1/lu/,,.,1H /11u ,.....p,.l-y1A.-;1,//t1411.,/1/ 1. • l !t

/IH ; / t. , J.!.,•aliloor ~·J:1 """""""''' '"" _,,,/,,//,,/,_,,;, i'll'll , / / / , ; #J'illll the 1923 bond issue of $600,000 was redeemed,
~ ....,,,,,,,.,/1;:. .,,,,,, ' / - ...... ~ l"',,,;J,,,,,1/i,,./,,
''fl'"'',/1¥
/.;.i /.H /;,u /,..,, f,.u/ h'.rt'y1/#/,,.,'J"U ,h,,,;-y "'""'"',-6"":/,,/.,µ,;',. n»/¥f,.ul. thereby leaving three million dollars to be used for
/.1rrri•'/l,.,./161/,,,, M(... "1'/',.,l~,;,,,/4 //,, ,g,~/.fi,,/i-'"1,/ '/,,/,,,./,., ,,,,,
m• ,l,-,/,;11 //,,;1//"""'/ ~ //,Jl,.,41',/ "/,,,.~'/ /,..Jluly
extensive expansion in both of the mills. Included
/l,.uu.,1;• 11 ~' ~?'/ .·
- H '/"/ tW'
/h;;t'/u/. IA '/~4 ,/ J/,..;Hll •"' ,;;,. /:r,-r/1'1'"'"/,,,,~, l/u ,,.,,,,/
were the two Yankee paper machines, pulp mill ex-
pansions, and a new finishing room at Port
Edwards.

Now Nekoosa-Edwards ran in to some financial


troubles. The 1930's and those unpopular depres-
sion years fell upon Nepco. In 1932 payment on the
bonds could not be made, nor could the interest be
paid. A promise to pay on January 1, 1934 was not
Charter granted to Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company in 1908
kept. Accordingly, on January 1, 1934, a letter was
by the State of Wisconsin. sent to the bond holders, outlining how bad business
was and how costs continued to rise. 'We regret to
Nevertheless, there are some important highlights inform you;' the letter stated, "but we can't pay:' The
in our past that were definitely influenced by finan- letter suggested sending the bonds to a named bank
cial transactions. It is some of those highlights that for payment sometime in 1934, as a new plan of
will be reviewed in this chapter. The numbers financing was being worked on with the bank's
become exceptionally interesting when compared assistance. Said plan promised payment sometime
with today's economy. in 1934.
The plan called for an extension of payment of the to secure payment of the taxes due. Later, settlement
1928 bonds to 1943. It didn't help, for in 1937 would be made by the forfeiting of land titles in nor-
Nekoosa-Edwards once again defaulted in their thern Wisconsin to the Federal Park System.
payments, there being a little over two and a half
million dollars in unpaid securities. In fact, there were times when Nepco's treasurer,
C. A. Jasperson , asked Nekoosa's president, L. M.
The First Wisconsin Trust Company sent an Alexander if he couldn't make a personal loan to
"overseer" into management's ranks to look after Nekoosa-Edwards to cover a payroll or bond
their investment. Joseph Auchter was that person, payment!
arriving in 1934. With a tenth grade education, he
entered the banking business as a typist. Now he The year 1934 saw the tax bill grow to $239,236 and
would closely watch the purse strings of Nekoosa- Nepco was forced to make a second mortgage on
Edwards Paper Company until his "resignation" in its property. In addition, Nekoosa assigned 450
1939. shares of Nekoosa-Edwards Light and Power Com-
pany and 770 shares of Wisconsin Valley Improve-
Things did not greatly improve under Auchter. In ment Company to the IRS as security on its debt,
fact, at times they even became worse. Sales in 1934 while they struggled to pay $6,000 a month on the
were $3,984,711. A corporate operating budget for tax bill.
maintenance and improvements was only $671,985.
Any expenditure over five hundred dollars had to The year 1937 seems to have been the turning point
be approved by the president of the company. In of Nekoosa-Edwards in its financial struggle.
1933 outstanding Federal taxes amounted to Remember what happened in 1937! It was the year
$171,928.50 and Nekoosa was forced to mortgage
their water rights on the Wisconsin River to the IRS
we made our debut in the fine watermarked paper-
business. To put it bluntly, it saved the day and Joe
153

Nekoosa always maintained their plants in excellent condition, view of the Port Edwards mill about 1940.
w hether the periods were financially good or bad. This is an air
Auchter was sent back to his Milwaukee bank! Again in 1942, the bonds were called in, only to be
reissued at a still lower interest rate.

The war years were in progress and demand for


Total Annual Shipment5
Nekoosa Papers was constantly growing. Following
60
of Fine Papers the close of World War II, Nekoosa capitalized on
so in Thousands ofTons
the reputation it had established and in 1945
40 brought out a new bond issue of two and a half
million dollars. Half of this retired the 1942 bonds
30 I and half was used for postwar improvements in the
20 +-
plant. In 1946 additional funds were forthcoming
from a new stock issue of 63,000 shares of Nepco
stock. This raised roughly 1.6 million dollars which
also went toward plant improvement. Then in 1950
another bond issue was made, this one in the
Growth chart portrays the phenomenal growth that Nekoosa's
fine papers made in their first twenty years after introduction. amount of two and a quarter million dollars; said
The first three years represent sales of NEPCO BOND. funds to be used for improvements and the retiring
of all previously issued and still outstanding bonds.
In 1940 the outstanding bonds, slightly over two
million dollars worth, were reissued at a lower in- In 1951 shareholders authorized a loan of five
terest rate. Guy Babcock, president of Wood County million dollars to purchase and install a new paper
National Bank of Wisconsin Rapids, was appointed machine in the Nekoosa mill.
154 vice president and treasurer of Nekoosa-Edwards,
which probably indicates the refinancing source. It seems that this chapter has become just what it

Air view of Nekoosa plant in 1940's. The markings on the roof nearest airport, and that they are passing over the city of
indicate to pilots, the direction of north, the direction to the Nekoosa.
----------::::=~~:::=::
-:-:::-_ ii' - --

155

Group of shareholders tour Nepco Lake Nursery following a lands Department explains the nursery operations.
shareholders' meeting. George Kilp, Manager of NEPCO Wood-

was not supposed to be; a textbook in economics tion; and that is beyond the scope of this book.
and business finance. There were other bond issues,
including the largest of them all, the Ashdown mill Incidentally, throughout this book references have
bond issue. However, that and other issues, were been made to Nepco, Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Com-
really industrial development bonds issued by a pamy, and Nekoosa Papers Inc. The title used in the
municipality and only guaranteed by Nekoosa. text in a particular chapter is the one in use at that
period in history. In 1976 the name Nekoosa-Edwards
Following the merger with Great Northern Paper Paper Company was changed to Nekoosa Papers Inc.;
Company, all major funding has come from the to live on and "exist perpetually:' This truly becomes
parent company, Great Northern Nekoosa Corpora- a challenge for the company to achieve.
Chapter Thirty-Nine: Why Ashdown?
It's April 30th, 1966, and the annual shareholder's fare two years and five days later when the mill
meeting is in progress. The group sits in awe. They started up.
are spellbound as they listen to a fantastic proposal
being outlined for them. They are being told
Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company is going to build,
from the ground up, a new pulp and paper mill. The
pulp mill will be capable of producing four hundred
tons of pulp daily, while the new paper machine will
turn out at least two hundred tons of paper daily!
The cost of the project is what really stuns them-
forty-six million dollars! Actually, it would exceed
that figure, being closer to fifty-four million dollars
by the time of completion. No need, however, to
startle these investors any more than necessary at
this point.

Shareholders were put somewhat at ease when told


that even though this would be Nekoosa-Edwards'
largest ever single investment, they should have no
156 fear. The city of Ashdown (where's Ashdown?) was
going to finance the building of the mill by issuing
industrial development bonds to be guaranteed and
redeemed by Nekoosa-Edwards over a twenty-year
period. Thus, the city of Ashdown (that's in Arkan- Nekoosa Edwards was a welcome neighbor in Ashdown, Arkan-
sas. This sign appeared on a utility pole in down town Ashdown.
sas) was the actual owner of the mill for the first
twenty years.
Now there converged on the small town of Ashdown
NOW UNDER CONSTRUCTION (that's twelve miles from Texarkana) some two thou-
sand construction workers. Brown and Root Con-
tractors were awarded the turn-key contract. They,
in turn, scoured the southwest to find trade crafts-
AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EM PLOYER
men, engineers, teamsters, equipment operators, and
laborers. Ashdown (not Ashton) grew from 3,400
to nearly 6,000 people as workers moved into mobile
homes or rented any available housing. In fact,
rooms were rented by the shift; one person occupy-
ing the accommodation while his partner was home
for a few days.

Why Ashdown, Arkansas? It is reputed to take three


basic commodities to make paper. One must have
Nekoosa Edwards Management officials along with government cellulose fiber. There were three and one-half million
officials break ground for Nekoosa's new mill in Ashdown,
Arkansas, July 12, 1966. acres of dense forest lands within a fifty-mile radius
of the mill. Furthermore, replenishing of cut-over
That was the end of April 1966. Seventy-three days lands required only half the number of years that
later, on July 12, 1966, ground was broken in were needed in the North, due to a longer annual
ceremonies that would culminate with similar fan- growing season.
Secondly, one needs water- lots of it. Millwood began operation. A formal dedication followed on
Reservoir was only a few miles away and guaranteed November 8, 1968, with many state and national
a constant year-round source of water for the mill. dignitaries participating.

Thirdly, the human touch is needed to manipulate


the fiber and water in order to form a sheet of paper.
Ashdown had an abundance of labor available. Four
hundred and twenty-five people would be per-
manently employed at startup of the mill. Oh yes,
and the fact that the city was willing to risk its "all"
in staking a forty-six million dollar bond issue, also
helped persuade Nekoosa to build a mill there.
Thirty-four hundred men, women and children were
laying their pocketbooks on the line to raise forty-
six million dollars. That's almost thirteen thousand
dollars per person. Nekoosa papers, however, was An early airview of construction of the Ashdown mill. The
guaranteeing payment of the debt. buildings with the white roofs are buildings erected first to be
used as headquarters and shops for the contractor. The warehouse
to the rear was built first to provide a place to store incoming
Finally, the site would provide fast service to parts. ·
Nekoosa's ever growing Southwest market.
Ashdown's first paper machine was named The
Target date for the startup was August 1, 1968, but Communicator, commemorating John E. Alexander.
that date was advanced to July 17 when the mill This unit was capable of producing in excess of
157

Ashdown's first paper machine is being erected in this view of would be superceded by two larger machines, built along side
the mill interior in 1967. Although a glant when built, the machine of this one in years to follow.
158
Illustrated is the Ashdown mill after completion of phase one. This is how the single machine mill apeared in 1968.

Current status of the mill at Ashdown is shown in this view. Three mill is part of the waste treatment site. Shown is the one square
paper machines and two pulp mills occupy the site. Behind the mile stabilization pond.
65,000 tons of fine paper annually. Ashdown had a price tag of two hundred and forty-
five million dollars!
Things ran smoothly following startup, and Ash-
down settled down to its normal routine. Its popula- The Challenger started production in 1980 and
tion returned to more conventional numbers, but represented the "State of the Art" in papermaking
not for long. After all, the mill site consisted of 1,900 equipment. Built in Finland, the machine was
acres, and only a small portion of that land was be- assembled in the plant of Valmet, then disassembl-
ing utilized. Therefore, in 1973, an announcement ed and shipped to Ashdown where it was reassembl-
was made that Ashdown would be expanded by the ed in the mill. The machine operates at speeds in
addition of a second machine, at a cost of thirty- the neighborhood of three thousand feet of paper
nine million dollars. The 308-inch machine was call- per minute and produces 130,000 tons of fine paper
ed Enterprise II, and it began operation in the sum- annually. That can be translated to thirty-four miles
mer of 1975. of paper an hour! It also represents about 3,250
truckloads of paper annually.
Nekoosa, however, does not rest on its laurels.
Rather, it strives to achieve new goals. In January Each time the shareholders heard the name Ash-
of 1978 it was announced that a third expansion of down mentioned, it meant usually one thing, a new
the mill would be undertaken. This time, the pulp expansion expenditure. Each one had the reputation
mill and paper mill would be increased in capacity. of being the largest Nekoosa expenditure to date,
A new pulp mill would be built alongside the pres- and each one was larger than the previous one.
ent pulp mill. Using a continuous digester for pulp-
ing wood, 280,000 additional tons of pulp would The net result of it all is a fine paper mill reputed
be added to the annual production. A third paper
machine, The Challenger, would add 130,000 tons
to be the largest fine paper mill in the world, capable
of producing 460,000 tons of paper annually. An ad-
159
of paper annually to Nekoosa Papers' production ditional 75,000 tons of bleached softwood kraft pulp
capabilities. is marketed each year after satisfying its needs for
the three paper machines. Some of this excess pulp
If shareholders were stunned in 1966 when an ex- is utilized in the Wisconsin mills.
penditure of forty-six million dollars was propos-
ed, what then was their reaction in January of 1978, Where's Ashdown? Three miles from Nekoosa's
when they were told that this new expansion in paper mill in Arkansas!

local citizens stare in amazement at Number 61 paper machine of the Ashdown mill.
at Ashdown. This photo was taken on the day of the dedication
Chapter Forty: Heart and Soul
The dictionary defines soul as "a necessary or center all its own. Fur thermore, the crew of each machine
part:' Certainly, the paper machines that make the could sit and reminisce for hours on the problems,
paper for our company would qualify for the title idiosyncrasies, and shortcomings of their prodigy.
of "soul of the paper industry:' That one object Likewise, they could boast of the age of the machine
which keeps pumping life into something is a heart. and the records it has set.
In our simile, the crews that operate and maintain
the paper machine are, in a way, the heart of our There follows a chart which outlines some of the
industry. Without paper machines and labor to more pertinent facts concerning Nekoosa's present
operate them, we would not have paper mills as we complement of paper machines. However, bear in
know them today. Thus, it is with a certain amount mind the number of operating paper machines does
of respect and recognition that we refer to them as not determine papermaking capacity. One must also
the heart and soul of papermaking. consider the size and speed of these machines. Fur-
thermore, the newness of a machine does no t
Nekoosa Papers has operated at least twenty-three necessarily indicate superiority over other machines.
paper machines over the years, but of these, only Efficient performance comes from the way a crew
twelve are in operation today. Others were sold, operates a machine, and the quality of raw materials
some were scrapped, and some were sold as part fed to the paper machine.
of a mill sale.
Finally, Nekoosa's overall versatility in the market-
160 Each of these machines has a personality and history place is due to the selectivity it has in its machines.

Wooden floors and an arc light overhead date this photo of a Numbers five and six machines.
pair of veteran paper machines at Port Edwards. These are
There are small machines for the small specialty or- has the facilities to best serve all the needs of its
der, medium size machines for colors, and giant gar- customers.
gantuans for those large volume products. Nekoosa

NEKOOSA PAPER MACHINES


Machine Year Width
Number Location Built $Cost Inches Remarks
1 Nekoosa 1892 21,400 104
2 Nekoosa 1961 3.9M 172 The "Charles H. Reese"
3 Nekoosa 1898 26,750 94
4 Nekoosa 1900 43,000 114
5 Port Edwards 1896 96 (*)Numbers 5 and 6 bought as a
6 Port Edwards 1896 * 107 pair at total cost of $57,000.
7 Port Edwards 1893 19,100 96 "Columbian" World's Fair Machine.
8 Port Edwards 1966 3.lM 155 'The Paper Merchant"
9 Nekoosa 1952 l.9M 164 'The Pioneer"
61 Ashdown 1968 5.6M 230 'The Communicator"
62 Ashdown 1975 15.5M 308 "Enterprise II"
63 Ashdown 1979 23.7M 238 'The Challenger"
Note: Numbers 7 and 2 are actually the second machines to be so numbered. The first two were purchased as a pair-
one for Port Edwards and one for Nekoosa. The cost was three million dollars for the pair. One was moved to
Potsdam, New York, and and the other sold to a used equipment manufacturer. 161

First of the large paper machines was Number Nine machine L. M . Alexander, Nekoosa Edwards' second president.
erected at Nekoosa in 1952 and named the Pioneer in honor of
162
Enterprise II was the second paper machine to be built in rently Nekoosa's largest paper machine.
Ashdown. Over three hundred inches wide, this machine is cur-

T he wet end of Number 4 paper machine at Nekoosa illustrates straps, gravity headbox, screens, and wooden steps.
the state of the art features of paper machines in 1915, i.e., deckle
Chapter Forty-One: Meet the Presidents
It is not the intention of this book to be a biography family to Milwaukee where he received his educa-
of our presidents. However, leadership is always tion. At an early age he applied for work with a
necessary, for without good leaders governments railroad construction crew, where he learned tele-
would fall, organizations will become weak, mili- graphy in his spare time, qualifying him fo r a posi-
tary campaigns are lost, and corporations become tion as telegraph operator a t the age of fourteen.
weak and fail. Nekoosa Papers Inc., has had good
leadership over its corporate history, as is attested In 1874 he was made station agent for the Green
to by the success and growth it has experienced. Bay and Western Railraod at its Shiocton station .
Then in 1877 he assumed the same position fo r the
The purpose of this chapter is twofold. First, it will Milwaukee Road, working at Centralia (now
give the reader a brief synopsis of the goals and ac- Wisconsin Rapids), Port Edwards, and Remington .
complishments of these presidents. Secondly, it will The railroad appointed him traveling freight agent
pay recognition to these men for those accomplish- for the road, a duty he held until 1884, when he
ments. was elected to the state legislature as assemblyman.

Following his term in office, he was appointed chief


clerk of the Post Office department and later
superintendent of Railway Mail Service. In 1888 he
and his brother purchased a flour mill in Grand
Rapids, Wisconsin. 163
His railroad building knowledge, gained as a boy
some ten years earlier, was again put to use in 1889.
He supervised construction of the Port Edwards,
Centralia and Northern Railroad from Port Edwards
to Marshfield, which later became part of the Soo
Line.

The year 1891 saw Nash start the development of


the Nekoosa Paper Company at the site of Witney's
Rapids, having acquired the waterpower rights from
Frank and George Wood. He was active in manag-
ing this company until its incorporation into the
Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company in 1908.

Upon formation of Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Com-


pany in 1908, Thomas Nash was elected president
of the corporation, a position which he held until
1911 when, due to failing heal th, he was compelled
Thomas E. Nash to resign. Nash closed an active career and life in
Industrialist, builder of railroads, telegrapher, miller, 1917 at the age of 65.
postal clerk, and statesman; all can be used to
describe the honorable Thomas E. Nash, president Lewis M. Alexander
of the Nekoosa Paper Company and first president A native of Iowa, Lewis Alexander summarized his
of Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company, 1908-1911. own career in a letter he prepared for reading at the
1933 shareholders' meeting. Illness prevented his at-
Born in Ohio in 1852, Tom Nash moved with his tendance, and he died before the 1934 meeting.
ed the John Edwards Manufacturing Com-
pany. Upon the death of Edwards in 1891, I
became president. However, it w as a perturb-
ing sight for me to see that the choicest trees
had been removed from the forests. No longer
could we obtain large white pine trees with
which to run the mill profitably. All that re-
mained was an abundance of small trees that
had been rejected by the woodsmen. If the
John Edwards Manufacturing Company was
to remain in business, and Port Edwards was
not to become a ghost town, it would be
necessary to follow in the footsteps of Thomas
Nash and Frank Garrison and convert the
lumbering business into the manufacture of
pulp and paper which could utilize these small
trees.

"Jn 1896, I directed the dismantling of the old


sawmill and erected in its place a groundwood
pulp mill and a two-machine paper mill. Dur-
ing this time I was active in the management
164 Lewis M. Alexander
of the Nekoosa Paper Company, the Centralia
Pulp and Water Power Company, and the Port
"In January of 1889 I came to Port Edwards, Edwards Fiber Company. My partners and I
a settlement with a population of about one decided that it would be to our advantage to
hundred. Nekoosa was a marsh and wild incorporate the four mills into one company.
country on the west side of the Wisconsin This we did in 1908, forming the Nekoosa-
River. Centralia, including the south side, had Edwards Paper Company of which I was vice-
barely a thousand people, and Grand Rapids president. Upon the retirement of Thomas
possibly twelve hundred. Roads were almost Nash in 1911, I was elected president.
unworked and one train a day of not very in-
viting equipment served the area. To these sur- "Under my direction, the Nekoosa mill added
roundings, I was earnestly invited to cast my the kraft and and sulphite pulping facilities.
lot. I did so. The Port Edwards mill expanded, primarily in
the pulp mill and finishing facilities. I saw the
"Opportunity arose to make a strong virile addition of two new paper machines to our
community, developing at first south Cen- mills. One of my greatest projects was the
tralia, then Nekoosa, and lastly Port Edwards. building of Nepco Lake as a supply of fresh,
Time and work moved us ahead rapidly. Nine clean water for our mills. The conversion of
men put their shoulders to the wheel and we mills from steam and water power to electric
went forward. power was done during my term as president.
The highlight of this step in progress was the
"Prior to my coming to Port Edwards, I was building of the Centralia hydro-electric plant."
engaged in the banking business in California.
Then Mr. John Edwards, Jr. , whom I had met Alexander was also active in the management of
during the California gold rush days, invited other paper mills, banks, and paper sales organiza-
me to join him in operating his lumbering tions. He was involved with three real estate com-
business at Port Edwards. I accepted his offer panies and two woodworking companies. A founder
and came to Port Edwards where we organiz- of the Institute of Paper Chemistry, he was a trustee
of that college or its parent college, Lawrence "I realize that I am at the bottom of the lad-
University, for thirty-five years. He personally do- der and at the beginning of my career which
nated one gymnasium to the University and when I hope will be a successful and a Christian one.
it became outdated, he contributed half of the funds I am young and have many things to learn and
for a newer and larger facility. accomplish."

After an active business, civic, social, and religious And accomplish he did! In another letter he wrote
career, L. M. Alexander's term as president of to an associate of his in 1927.
Nekoosa-Edwards terminated upon his death in
1934. "It is my ambition to again, at least during my
lifetime, double the production of these mills
(then 230 tons per day), and I see no reason
why it should not be possible to realize and
produce three hundred to five hundred tons of
paper daily at our mills. This may sound in-
credible to you, but I am young and ambitious
and do not lack the courage of my convictions
to feel that eventually this program will be
realized and my dream fulfilled. I will be glad
to discuss with you in detail and show you
plans for Nos. 9 and 10 paper machines, and
perhaps even 11 and 12 machines."

With these goals, Alexander took over the presi-


165
dency of Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company in 1934.
He led Nekoosa during the depression of the thir-
ties. The company's cash box was no healthier than
most others around the country. Faced with this
handicap, he managed to bring Nekoosa-Edwards
through this crisis and nurtured it into a growing
organization to become the leader in the manufac-
ture of writing and printing papers.

In the field of paper technology, he is recognized for


several patents which he held pertaining to the pro-
John E. Alexander duction of paper. In the business world, his name
Born in 1894 in Port Edwards, John Alexander is associated with banking as well as papermaking.
graduated from the Armour Institute of Technology As for his outside activities, every child in the area
with a degree in chemical engineering. World War recognizes the name John Alexander. Among hjs
I was building up to a climax at that time and ac- many community projects, a favorite is the John E.
cordingly, Alexander became one of the first navy Alexander South Wood County YMCA Communi-
pilots. Upon the termination of the war, Alexander ty Center which opened in 1958.
joined Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company in the
position of chief chemist. In 1925 he was made No one will argue with you if you say John is the
general manager. Upon the death of his father in father of aviation in the Tri-City area, for who had
1934, he became president, serving in that capacity a bigger hand in bringing aviation to the area in 1929
until being made Chairman of the Board in 1962. and again in 19597
In this position he served until his death in 1963.
John Alexander's list of accomplishments, projects,
Alexander wrote, in a letter to his father in 1918, and hobbies could fill a book. He made not only
his own dreams, but those of his father and his and Pulp Association. He served in positions of
grandfather come true. "But these dreams," he says, leadership for both organizations.
"would not have been possible without the help and
confidence of the men and women of Nekoosa- In 1970 he was honored by the Great Northern Ne-
Edwards and our communities:' koosa Board of Directors when he was appointed
president of Great Northern Nekoosa Corporation .
He filled that position until his retirement.

166

Samuel A. Casey
A barrister by training, Sam Casey joined Nekoosa-
Edwards Paper Company in 1946 as secretary of the Gerard E. Veneman
company. He became executive vice-president and Coming to Nekoosa-Edwards in 1949 as a field
treasurer in 1954 and then in 1962, upon the semi- salesman, Veneman moved to the home office in
retirement of John Alexander, Casey was appointed Port Edwards in 1953 when he assumed the posi-
president. tion of general sales manager. Next, he was elevated
to executive vice president and director of sales in
It was during Casey's tenure as president that Ne- 1962. In 1970 he succeeded Sam Casey as president
koosa-Edwards undertook the all important step to of Nekoosa-Edwards Paper Company, a position
build a pulp and paper mill in Ashdown, Arkan- from which he retired in 1985.
sas, in 1966. Also under his direction, Nekoosa-
Edwards ventured into cotton fiber papers when they Under Jerry's leadership, Nekoosa changed its cor-
purchased the Whiting-Plover mill in 1964. Thus, porate image from "the world's largest manufacturer
Casey saw Nekoosa-Edwards grow into a five-mill of food wrapping papers" to "one of the largest, if
complex, although it would not remain that way for not the largest, producers of business and writing
long. papers:' He accomplished this by directing the in-
stallation of two giant paper machines at Ashdown,
Sam was active in the Lake States Pulp and Paper as well as overseeing the substantial increments in
Manufacturers' Association and the American Paper production at the Wisconsin mills.
During Veneman's term as president, Nekoosa James G. Crump
became active in the merchant field, having acquired Nekoosa Papers' presidency is currently filled by Jim
several merchant operations across the country. He Crump who replaced Mr. Veneman in 1985. Jim has
also thought it appropriate to diversify Nekoosa's had an active career in the paper industry even
operations, not only in the raw material end of though his tenure at Nekoosa only covers a period
papermaking, but also in the finished product. Ac- of six years. He came to Nekoosa in 1981 as vice-
cordingly, he was responsible for the acquisition of president of manufacturing.
lumber companies that could serve as a wood chip
source, and he also directed the acquisition of several After securing a degree in paper science from the
envelope producers which could provide a market University of Maine, Jim spent some time with a
for Nekoosa's end product. sister company of Nekoosa, Great Northern Paper
Company. He served as technical director and paper
Mr. Veneman played an active role in the Writing mill superintendent.
Paper Manufacturer's Association . In 1981 he had
bestowed on him the title of Papermaker of the Year. Jim has created a reputation for himself in the field
The president of the American Paper Institute stated of employee relations where he has spearheaded an
in the presentation speech, employee involvement program.

"He is one of the greatest warriors of the paper At the time of this publication, Mr. Crump had held
industry. He is always willing to pitch in and the position of leadership for slightly over a year.
fight on any issue on behalf of the industry." Thus, it is premature to write of his accomplish-
ments. However, on the following page of this
In 1984 he was further honored by being chosen as
the Citizen of the Year by the Wisconsin Rapids
book, Mr. Crump summarizes his goals and
Nekoosa's goals for the future of Nekoosa Papers
167
Chamber of Commerce. Incorporated.

Nekoosa's executive office is located in the Port Edwards Ad- escutcheon from the old Main Office building add interest to the
ministration building. The building retains some association with building.
our past. Rough sawed lumber, historic displays and the
168 We at Nekoosa Papers are proud of our heritage which goes back 150
years. This was a time when our predecessor, Nekoosa Lumber
Company, began sawing the abundant white pine trees into lumber to
meet the needs of settlements downstream on the Wisconsin and
Mississippi Rivers. Nekoosa Papers' history, chronicled so well by
Marshall Buehler in this book, follows our organization through its
move from lumber into the manufacture of commodity paper grades
and finally to the high quality business papers where we continue to
excel today.

Marshall Buehler has dedicated this book to all of our employees,


past and present, who have participated in our growth, from the
management people who guided us to the production of ever new and
better products, to the many dedicated people who have worked so
hard over the years to produce a quality product worthy of the
Nekoosa name.

Building on this base, we at Nekoosa Papers dedicate our fu ture to


continue to work closely with our customers and provide for their
product requirements in an expeditious and efficient manner.

Sincerely,

James G. Crump
President
Chapter Forty-Three: Yours Truly
After a couple of years of retail merchandising,
Buehler returned to the technical department at
Nekoosa-Edwards in 1952, hired as a water techni-
cian. In 1968 he transferred to the Sales Department,
where today he serves as Manager of Customer Rela-
tions and Internal Transportation.

Marshall has written nearly a hundred historical ar-


ticles for Nekoosa News, all on the history of this
company. Other writings of his have been publish-
ed in the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, Wiscon-
sin Magazine of History, The Papermaker, and TAP-
P/ Magazine.

His interest in local history has earned him the title


of "Company Historian ." He is a director of the
J. Marshall Buehler is a native of Port Edwards. His South Wood County Histor ical Corporation and
career with Nekoosa began in 1945 when he was served as president or vice-president of that group
employed, upon graduation from high school, as a for fourteen years.
lab technician. This position lasted three months due 169
to his being drafted into the army. After a brief ar- He is responsible for originating and maintaining
my career in a finance office, as well as operating the Nekoosa Papers archives collection. This collec-
a post theater, he attended Marquette University, tion was recognized by the Wisconsin State Histor-
majoring in chemistry. During this time, he spent ical Society in 1963, when they presented an Award
three of his summers in the Nekoosa labs as a lab of Merit to the company for their efforts in preserv-
technician. ing their heritage.

INFORMATIONAL SOURCES

BOOKS PERIODICALS
History of Wood County Nekoosa News
History of Northern Wisconsin Nepco Digester
Lumbering in Wisconsin Grand Rapids Tr ibune
Hercules Paper Maker

SOURCES
Nekoosa Papers Inc., Archives Dept.
Nekoosa Papers Inc., Records Dept.
plus
A multitude of current and retired Nekoosa employees

Printed on Ivory Nekoosa Linen, Bs. 70


Layout and Printing by Fey Publishing Co.
Binding by Worzella Publishing Co.