CStPM&O & CNW
Holcombe, originally known as Little Falls until December 31,1902 is a small community of less than 1000 people. The new Post Office and town were named after a railway official. Two men vied for prominence in Holcombe. The northern plat of the town was called Barneytown named after Adolph Bernier, a business man who happened to own most of the business in that section of town. During it's development, it had many activities to boast about. Logging was it's primary attribute, although the railroad delivered many dry goods and some perishables to the community. Adolph owned two general stores, a furniture store, lumber shed, a garage and a doctors office. Although he tried, Adolph was not successful in getting the depot on his side of town. Depot is shown on mid right side of photo.
(1930's plat shown on the left courtesy of Cornell Historical Society) "Little Falls" a name given to compliment "Big Falls" (Chippewa Falls) stayed with this logging community until it gained a post office in 1898. It's first Postmaster, Amasa J. Edminster named it "Martin". This name would be short lived as the Omaha Railroad was soon to change the name of both to Holcombe". The name of "Little Falls" was as hard to kill as Adolph Bernier, a local businessman laid out the first plat of "Little Falls" in 1902. The Omaha Railroad was coming up from the south that year and the company wanted to locate a depot nearby, but Bernier and the railroad could not agree on terms for the land purchase. As a result, the railroad bought land to the south of the dam and called it "Holcombe" and "Little Falls" got it's new name and post office on December 6, 1902. The community which was called "Little Falls" north and east of the dam was called Barney Town" after Bernier. Holcombe, named after an employee of the Omaha Railroad possibly the surveyor or the person who platted the town and right of way was located south and east of the dam where it stands. After the dam was abandoned most of the houses in "Barney Town" were either moved, torn down, or burned down and the village of Holcombe developed to the south of the dam.
Holcombe was eventually laid out and platted by the Eau Claire Realty Company. The Dam had been in line with Third Street on the east side. Puffer -Hubbard Mill was located east along the track opposite Quarrels and Spooner Ave. The Depot was next to the tracks on the north side of Irvine Ave. As soon as the new railroad was assured, A. J. Edminster moved his small store and post office from his farmhouse at Martin Settlement three miles south of Holcombe into a new building on the corner of Main and Spooner Ave. He build a warehouse and planing mill along the tracks and began maneuvering to get the depot in his part of Holcombe.
In the early days Holcombe was the trading center of the area. Ed Porter who had a store and post office in Estella came by wagon for supplies from his store to Edminster's warehouse. Edmister bought flour, kerosene, fruit jars, and other necessities by the carload lots. Max Dietzler's team from the Fern forded the Jump River to get supplies for his store. The Flambeau Post found it convenient to get supplies especially after the bridge was built across the Chippewa River in 1906.
H.L. Tinker came to Chippewa county in April 1906. He was an agent for the Chicago, St Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway at Holcombe. Born in Westfield Massachusetts in 1985 he prospered in Holcombe. Fraternally he was a Mason, an Odd Fellows, and a member of the Order of Railway Telegraphers.
Mail deliveries began with the arrival of the Omaha Railroad. In 1903 Edminster was appointed postmaster and the post office was located in a corner of his new store. It was moved in 1919 to an addition to the bank building. Robert Zimmerman succeeded Edminster in 1924 and served as postmaster until Louis G Bernier was appointed in 1933.
In 1945 Percey Tonnacour bought the old train depot and made it into a bar with a dance hall in the back. There was also a restaurant in the back. It was a thriving while the new dam was being built. Living quarters were upstairs. The bar was sold in 1954.
The area around Holcombe held the greatest stand of white pine in the world and was gone forever in a matter of a few decades. The mighty Chippewa River made the cutting and transporting of this great white pinery possible. All that remains of the great logging days of "little Falls" and the area are the stories that have stood the test of time and the names of the descendants of the hearty people who lived through it all.
B&W Pictures and narrative on this page unless noted are from the "Holcombe Centennial 1905 - 2005" unless otherwise noted.
As we venture into Holcombe WI today, we are reminded of the CSTPM&O rails that once ran through town allowing the local people to check their watches and remark on the arrival of a freight as to whether it is on time or not.
Leading into Holcombe from the South is what is left of the right of way shown by the poles that used to follow beside the tracks. To the West of the tracks is where the spur went to one of the businesses in Holcombe. This would be the local the Feed Mill that supported the farmers. Another view of the Feed Mill. The track rights would have been beside the building to allow box car's cargo to exchange, and possibly allow hoppers to load or unload corn, oats, or whey.
The Chippewa Log and Boom had part of their operation at "little Falls" which utilized the river to transport the logs to Chippewa before the dams were built in Cornell and Jim Falls. A "Straw Boss" by the name of Luke Lyons, decided that he needed to create a symbol of security in the form of a wooden Indian for the men that risked their lives on the river. The men known as "log rollers" held their respected position in the logging crew by breaking up the logs when the logs would get interlocked creating a "Log Jam". The Indian sat above the dam in the mid 1800's until a flood swept it into the river in 1881. It was found down stream and brought back to Little Falls and repositioned on the bridge to carry out it's duties. The Indian, carved from one log, shows the size of the virgin trees that were harvested in the area. It would have came from a log about 5-6 feet in diameter.
The wooden dam would close it's gates while it accepted logs from the local short line for the Chippewa Log and Boom Company. When there were enough logs in the river, the dam would open and the rush of water would carry the logs down the liquid trek to a waiting lumber mill.
A logger named Luke Lyons "borrowed" a log and carved a nine foot Indian out of it. When the owner of the logs found out he kept one dollar out of his wages to cover his loss.
After the loss of the Indian from natural disasters the first time, the wooden Indian was placed atop the old wooden bridge in Holcombe to continue watching over the lumberjacks as they would walk over the floating entangled logs and break them up.
Even though the Wooden Indian was watching out for the loggers, a boat capsized in the rapids and 11 men drowned in the river on July 7, 1905. The men were on their way to the log jam when the Batteau boat that they were riding in, capsized. 5 men survived from this catastrophe caused by the forces of Mother Nature.
One of the more dangerous jobs of logging was breaking up log jams. Skillful workers would go out with their Batteau boats, and use special tools to walk from log to log and twist them to break them up
The work of the "log rollers" was far from safe and cost lives from time to time. At one point during a major jam, there was a large loss of life when one of the boats capsized and most of the lumberjacks on the drive were drowned
The Wooden Indian today is in a display about 150 yards west of the old road bed next to the Holcombe community center to remind the residents of their heritage. Today Holcombe is host for a great recreational area for fishing, camping, and canoeing.
If you have any information, stories, corrections, or pictures regarding this or any of the other towns along the Hannibal branch line, Please let me know, < E-mail > along with your permission to publish your personal memories in an attempt to keep the history available for future generations. Non-digital pictures and documentation will be returned upon request.
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