Town of Barnes
Town of Barnes, WI

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History of the Town of Barnes

The following is a history of the Town of Barnes (beginning in the year 1888) written in 1976 by Virginia M. Wilkinson.

In the year 1888, George S. Barnes came to this area with his wife Martha, and daughter Euseba. After looking the surrounding country over, he decided to settle on Island Lake and build a small home. The country at that time, was largely an unsettled wilderness, heavily forested and inhabited mainly by Indian families, a few hardy woodsmen and abundant wildlife. Their nearest neighbors were two Chippewa Indian families, John and Eliza Morrison and the Bosquets, Mrs. Bosquet being a sister of Mrs. Morrison. They were all very helpful people to the Barnes family, who had made up their mind to make this area their permanent home. This same Island Lake is now known as Potowatomi Estates.

Also, Dr. and Mrs. William Gray had a summer home on the Island. Dr. Gray's grandson, William Percell, spent his childhood summers with his grandparents there. In his later life, he wrote a book, "The St. Croix Trail Country", telling of his young life spent at Island Lake and of the people who became his friends.

Mrs. Nettie McCormick, widow of Cyrus McCormick, the inventor of the Harvester, visited Dr. Gray and his family in 1887. Her late husband was a business partner of Dr. Gray in Chicago, and she came here for the first time to see the property which she and Dr. Gray had purchased. They secured legal possession of Island and surrounding forest in Bayfield County, Wisconsin.

In 1905, George Barnes sold a team of colts and used the money to go to Madison, Wisconsin to appear before a Legislative Committee, to create the Town of Barnes, which was then part of the Town of Cable and Drummond. By this time, he was farming on quite a large scale and also logging. He hired men to help him. He had moved and built a larger home for his family, about five miles south of Island, as now there were six children.

In January of the same year, 1905, a terrible tragedy struck the Barnes family. Mrs. Barnes, the two younger children and a school teacher lost their lives when their home burned. Mr. Barnes and the men from his logging camp fought frantically to save them. The older children, seeing they could be of no help either, ran to safety.

Later on, Mr. Barnes married May Machon from Iron River, Wis. They had two children, Mrs. Ben Norton (Ruby), now deceased, and Stanley Barnes, who has lived his entire life in the town founded by his father. Stanley is in the real estate and accounting business on Highway 27.

About 1909, the town had a post-office, Mr. Barnes being the Postmaster. In those days, the mail came from Iron River, Wis. Horace Barnes was the carrier and would go to Iron River three times a week to bring the mail to the Barnes office. This was done by driving a team of horses.

By this time, under the same roof were a saloon, grocery store and large living quarters. The Indians would come to the store to buy their groceries.

Some could speak nothing but their native Chippewa language. This was no problem to Mr. Barnes, as he could understand when they would want sugar, flour, salt pork, etc.

We had many Chippewa Indians living in our area and they were very friendly people. There were two Indian villages on the shores of the Eau Claire Lakes, also an Indian Cemetery was near the Village on the Middle Lake. Margaret Buck Holmes, better known as Maggie, worked for the Barnes family and was a favorite to all.

Her husband was Henry Holmes. They had a daughter, Mary Ann (Mrs. Amos Barber) who is living in Minong, Wis.

Bony Lake derived its name from a famous chief, Bony Lombard. He had a son Pete, who was very young when his father died, and being that his mother was also dead,he was cared for by an Indian family, and also attended our country school. Many of us remember Pete Lombard, as he didn't leave here until he was about 18 years old. However, no one from here ever heard from him since.

We have many lakes in our area; the famous Eau Claire Chain is made up of three large lakes, the Upper Eau Claire, the Middle Eau Claire, the Lower Eau Claire, and many smaller lakes.

This chain is the headwaters of the Eau Claire River, which connects with the St. Croix River, which then in turn empties into the Mississippi River. These lakes make what is known as the famous Eau Claire Lakes resort area. Among the pioneer resorts are the Pease Resort, Point O'Pines (formerly Earharts), Rustic Lodge (now known as the Frontier Resort), Ellison Resort, Boulder Lodge, Lake View Resort and Lyndale Bay Resort.

Every year since 1938, there has been an increasing number of resorts built. There are well stocked grocery stores, many fine eating places, a Real Estate business, Peggy's Beauty Salon, Jim's Bait Shop, two garages, Friermood Bros. and AJ's Riverside, and a carpet company, complete with installation. There are others which I may have forgotten to mention, but our natives and tourists have most everything needed.

Forest fires were a great menace in the early days, not having the means to stop them before they got out of control. Every available man would fight day and night to try to save homes, forests and wildlife. Many families lost their homes in the forest fire of 1936. This was in our neighboring town of Highland.

One family, the Newell Irles, then moved to Milwaukee, Wis. After being gone about 30 years, they moved back and are now retired in the Town of Barnes. People do not have to live in fear of these fires now, due to having fire towers, the fire departments, ranger stations and modern equipment.

Among some of the older families coming to the Town of Barnes to settle were:

The Barnes family in 1888, Mr. Barnes was the first town chairman, a post he held for many years, D.O. Hall in 1904, B.F. Ellison in 1906, L.D. Pease came from Cable, Wis. in 1915 and started his resort in 1916.

John Kennedy came here about the year 1910 from Black River Falls, Wis. He helped Mr. Barnes in his logging operations and also was Town Clerk for many years. Later on he married Euseba, daughter of George Barnes. Others were Frank Moores, Ben Roes, John Dicks, Ole Ulvin, who all raised large families and made their living from farming and working in logging camps.

Alfred Kaufman and his father came here from Oregon in 1923, Alfred attended school here and helped his father on their large farm. The Fred Kaufmans and Adolph Kaufman arrived here in 1932. Fred and Adolph were brothers and farmed on a big scale, and also were in the dairy business. There were other families who lived here for awhile and then moved on, perhaps to seek a better living.

The first school in the town was what we called the "Little Red school" and was located across from where Roy Norton now lives. Later on we had seven country schools, namely: the new Barnes School, which was built in the early 1920's, Pease, McNeil, Lake, Hall, Moore and Ulvin schools. The first through 8th grades were all taught. One by one, these schools were discontinued and in December of 1947, the Barnes school was destroyed by fire. School busses were then started, coming out from Drummond to pick up the grade school students and those who wanted to attend high school. Many more children then had an opportunity to get a high school education. We now have two busses from Drummond and our children are attending the Grandview, Cable and Drummond schools.

Other post offices in our earlier times were located at the Frank Moore place and was named Bingo, Wis.., although this was in the Town of Barnes. The mail came from Iron River, Wis. by a carrier three times a week, and the postmaster was August Ellerman.

The other post office was Fresh Air, Wis. located down by the Middle Eau Claire Lake, the postmaster was a lady by the name of Mrs. Beatrice Howard, who came here from Chicago for health reasons, therefore, she called it Fresh Air. She was granted authority to form a post office in her home. This was in 1928 and the mail came out from the Gordon, Wis. office. Roy E. Lawler was the postmaster at Gordon. Grover Smith, the rural mail carrier, brought the mail as far as the Hughes Corner, now known as Draganowskis. Kenneth Ellison would meet Grover and bring the mail on to Fresh Air, Wis. Mrs. Howard lived out her life at Fresh Air and is buried at Gordon, Wis.

When the Barnes post office was abandoned, we started getting our mail on a star route from Solon Springs, at first only three times a week, then in the late 1940's it was changed to a daily route. We have two vehicles in town that are very important to our community; they are the ambulance and volunteer fire department. The ambulance has modern equipment and capable people driving and taking care of the sick or injured on the way to the hospitals.

The fire department has saved homes and many fires from spreading when called. It seems like only a matter of minutes until they are both there. We are proud to have these services for our town. One of our large undertakings was the organizing of the V.F.W. Post. The first meeting was held at Stan Barnes' Tavern to decide if a Post was wanted. Then, on Sept. 10, 1946, a meeting was held at the Town Hall, being called to order by Al Hunter of Marshfield, Wis. (Al had been a V.F.W. member for years).

Members were registered and we had the Barnes Post 8329 now organized. IN October, 1946, it was voted to have a Ladies Auxiliary. In this year we started our first community work.

April 8, 1947, the Post voted to buy land for their own Club House. They bought forty acres of land on the Lake Rd. for $100.00 from the county.

They also bought a school to be moved. The first joint memorial service was held at the Town Hall and cemetery in 1951 in memory of William Denver, a World War I Veteran.

Our Post was honored in having the 10th District Fall Encampment here on Sept. 24 and 25th, 1954. The business places had floats and we had a big parade, starting from the Town Hall and ending at the Club House. In a V.F.W. magazine, it was called a "Parade in the woods". The Post now has a beautiful, all modern building.

The Barnes Lions Club, organized April 21, 1975, has had a very successful year. The Charter night was sponsored by the Cable Lions Club and Lion members from other towns were also there. This was held at the Frontier Supper Club, with a delicious dinner being served. The ladies were also guests for the evening.

We also have two very active Homemaker Clubs, the Jackpine Club and the Barnes Club. They have done many good deeds during the years, some being the buying of equipment for the kitchen at the Town Hall.

All roads in the area are in excellent condition. The main State Highway 27 goes through our region, and also two county trunk roads. The many town roads are kept in very good condition, summer and winter. With the modern equipment and our excellent road crew, every one is snow-plowed out as soon as possible,even during the blizzards which we have quite often during the winters.

In later years, many new business places have started, people have come here to make their permanent homes, and some of those who spent their childhood days here have come back to their home town to retire Those of us who live here have always loved and respected our Town of Barnes.

Additional Resources

We Celebrated our Centennial in 2005

Barnes: A Breath of 'Fresh Air'
Purchase a copy of our centennial book.

Silver Beach Elk
Discovered in 2005

Germann Road Wildfire
May 14, 2013

The notices, agendas, minutes and postings on the Town website are for informational purposes only. They may not be the most current version and therefore are NOT considered the official or legal copy.
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3360 County Highway N, Barnes, WI 54873

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