Clear Lake, Wisconsin All Veterans' Memorial: A Korean Commemorative Community
Received the 2000 - 2003 designated title of: A Korean Commemorative Community from our Department of Defense.



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Historic  Highlights:
--Contributed by: Doug Cahow

Part 1

    Visitors from nearly every state in the union  and many foreign nations  come to Clear Lake each year to share in the rich cultural heritage of one of Polk County's oldest settlements. Because of the work ethic and community obligations those early pioneers left as their contribution to the development of Western Wisconsin, succeeding generations profited from their efforts and established the fabric of patriotism which exists today in and around Clear Lake. It was those early pioneers that acted as the vanguard of community, state and national pride. Those early pioneers were the chief inspiration for building an All Veterans' Memorial!

     However, an historic background will help the reader to understand why a small community of 1000 citizens were prompted to make a community sacrifice to honor veterans. With that thought in mind, let us look at some historic dates and how they fit into the story about the Clear lake Veterans' Memorial.

     Indian relics and other prehistoric evidence suggest  there  are numerous  opportunities  for any person willing to dig and look for cultural finds  of the past. Some of the most prominent artifacts  are arrow heads, spear points and  peace pipe (s)  which were found in  Black Brook Township by Clarence Mara and   a number of  other  early settlers. These Indian artifacts are today in the  possession of Mr Mara's daughter, Margaret, and are regarded by her as being priceless. But today most of the forests are gone being replaced with rich farmland and small, thriving villages and  cities.

     As time marched on into the early 15th century, European explorers penetrated the rich wilderness of the Mississippi Valley looking for gold and other treasures. But instead of gold and silver,  French fur  trappers  found a rich bonanza of animal skins and furs and with them came Christian Missionaries who were looking for ways to convert Indian Natives to their Christian belief!

      Settlements sprang up along the great lakes and major rivers.. As early as the  1600s  adventurous  explorers and entrepreneurs were developing animal fur trade enterprises through this part of Wisconsin.  But their (trappers) need for uninhabited  forests was negated as   other adventurous entrepreneurs seeking lumber and fertile farmland  forced the trappers further west and  north into Canada.

      By the early 1800s, our nation was expanding westward and with that growth came  a need for building supplies to build the prospering cities of the Middle West. In the northern states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota  were  huge forests of coniferous trees and the abundance of those forests drew   the lumber boom  to build sawmills along   several major rivers in Northern Wisconsin. White pine was abundant in the Polk-Barron-St. Croix-Dunn County  region and presented an opportunity of employment  for  hardy men to harvest those behemoths of the north. Pine  was  noted for quality and strength which made it suited for building homes, factories, schools, etc.

      But at that time there were few roads and no railroads to get lumber from the sawmills which had to be built where there was adequate water power for sawing logs into lumber!. However, fast rushing streams and rivers were abundant because of the humid continental climate which prevailed in Northern Wisconsin. To increase the flow of these rivers and streams, hundreds if not thousands of  log and earthen dams were built all over the northern forested region. Millions of logs were hauled and dumped onto the frozen  ponds each fall and winter above the dams. When spring floods came, the dams were opened  wide and logs flowed freely to awaiting saw mills down stream from the dams.

      Even to this day, earthen works and log artifacts  still manifest themselves along nearly all  Wisconsin  streams and rivers. Near Reeve, Wisconsin, the McDougall Dam has remnants of an earthen dam  reinforced with  white pine logs with steel spikes driven into them  which helped hold the logs in place. These pine logs are as sound inside today as they were a hundred and fifty  years ago and still act as a deterrent for  rushing Hay River floods. According to historic records, the McDougall Dam stood over 20 feet in height and had a width of of some 200 feet.

     Even in the 21st century evidence of  other earthen dams are found along the Willow River as it flowed southward  to New Richmond and later into the  St. Croix-Mississippi  River system. The Willowville, Harmon and Highlanding Dams are examples   of  those early lumbering landmarks. However, not all of the pine and hardwood forests  were on or near rivers and consequently another method of hauling the logs to the mills was needed. One of the fastest anc cheapest methods was the railroad.

     Above the McDougall's Dam at Reeve was a spur line  which came from Pineville located  3 miles north of  Clear Lake.  The railroad's length was  about 8 miles and it connected with the main Omaha-Northwestern line which ran between St. Paul and Ashland, Wisconsin. . Evidence of the abandoned railroad  may be seen (21st century) in many places by  observing road cuts and  other railroad artifacts such as spikes and ties near Reeve.. The rail line  ended at the McDougall's Dam  and  one historic document  states there was a wye built on the west side of the dam to allow engines to "turn around".  Many stories still exist about the Reeve Railroad...but the one most prominent story was told by pioneer - Dana Yelle.

     Apparently the   train brakes on the engine were not too good!  Sometimes,  in order to help stop a train, brakemen  were  needed on each car  to assist the engine in stopping the moving train.  According to Dana  Yelle, a steep rail road grade went right by their Vance Creek Township home  about 1 1/2 miles northwest of Reeve and as the engine was leading the train down the grade, it derailed and turned om its side because of too much speed. One or both crew men were badly burned by steam and had to be hauled by horse drawn wagon  to nearby Clear Lake for medical care. To this writers knowledge the rail road had no other derailments in its short history of about 15 years. 

      Since Clear Lake was  at the headwaters of  the  Willow River, which eventually flows into the St Croix River,  numerous sawmills were built along  it  to take advantage of cheap water transportation.  By building numerous dams on these  rivers, several hundred million  board feet of  white pine and hardwood  lumber  was harvested in the Clear Lake and surrounding  areas.Eventually those sawed trees made  their  way down the Mississippi River to build cities such as Chicago, St. Louis and a million other homes and factories to meet the needs of a growing nation..

     Clear Lake prospered and grew while the forests were harvested. Evidence of early logging is prevalent in and around Clear Lake today  including several abandoned railroad beds, numerous saw mill sites, old logging tote roads, railroad ties, spikes, dams and  hundreds of other artifacts just waiting for any visitor to discover. But as the forests dissappeared, other uses were being made of the fertile land. 

     The first farm settlers appeared in the Clear Lake area in the  late 1840s. Population growth was slow until the railroad came into Clear Lake from Deer Park  in 1875. In that year Clear lake became a town and in 1975 celebrated its Centennial Anniversary. From that date on, Clear Lake has enjoyed a slow but steady growth.  Today evidence of two (2) saw mills  may be seen at the end of Main Street in Clear Lake. Other large mills in the area were at Pineville, 3 miles north on US 63  and at Graytown which is 4 miles south of Reeve on Highway K. There were many other mills too in neighboring towns...but except for an occasional portable mill, that era of logging has passed in the Polk county area.

      Now most of the mills are gone...but a lumbering lore lingers yet.  Frequently members of the older generation tell stories of their fathers, grandfathers and  themselves about life in the logging camps and show some of the artifacts that earlier generations used to harvest those giant sentinels of the Primeval Forest.  And when the final groves of hardwoods and softwoods were cut off,  large sections of land was opened to agriculture.  Consequently another wave of settlers came to plant and harvest crops on this   rich and  fertile soil. Suitable climate and soils conducive to hay and grains encouraged the dairy industry to thrive in all of Western Wisconsin.

       In the late 1800s a small band of farmers formed a dairy cooperative in Clear Lake and by 1950, Clear Lake became site of one of Wisconsin's largest Cooperative Creamerys. Butter and milk products were shipped all over the nation. Clear Lake sweet cream butter won many state and national prizes and  was always the first choice of butter users.

Part 2

     Schools churches and other civic groups flourished  too. Those early pioneers gave stability and roots to succeeding  generations of hardy,  patriotic  people. These were folks who understood hardship and dedication...and  their efforts were rewarded by raising children who loved their family, community, state and nation.  Such were the folks who gave our nation men and women who fought in every war from 1848 to the present.
With that thought in mind a few dedicated people decided to honor the more than  3000 to 4000  men and  women from the Clear Lake Area who have served in our Armed Forces during peace and war time.

      Standards  such as  thrift,  hard work, love of family and country are criteria on which  the Clear Lake Veterans' Memorial was  founded in 1997. Frugality, loyalty  and  principled people were and are the stuff that make folks of all nationalities with  ties to Clear Lake, so proud of their Veterans' Memorial which includes the young people of our schools.

     Each spring, hundreds of students from neighboring schools visit the Memorial. May 19th, 2006 will mark the sixth visit by   Clear Lake Schools. Other schools that appeared in the past  were Turtle Lake, Clayton, Prairie Farm, Amery    and  Glenwood City.

     A visit to the Memorial is always a wonderful experience for our young people. The teachers from each and every visiting school always prepare their students by teaching units on  American  patriotism and  why we should honor our Veterans. It goes without fail that when students from  those schools   talk about their experiences of  visiting  our Memorial,  the subject of sacrifice and honor  by our Veterans is most often mentioned.  Our students recognize that without the willing sacrifice of our brave men and women,   our freedom wouldn’t last long. They know that American troops have selflessly served to defend the freedom we so often take for granted.

     It is never too  early for our young people to learn more about their heritage. In 2006  the Memorial Committee will focus  on the words of "honor, trust and integrity."  Visiting students will be  reminded our Memorial is not a church…but it is not a playground either. For that reason the students will  treat all parts of the Memorial with reverence and respect.

     The program for each visit is simple. After saying our Pledge of Allegiance and singing the National Anthem, a study guide will be  given to each student and an historic background is prepared for them to read. On the other side of the guide  are some simple questions about the Memorial. By answering those  questions, most students  will begin to see some of the hidden aspects about the Memorial. For example, students  will  want to know why there are  15 benches built around the Memorial; or why are there 5 gray stones and only one black stone?

     If time permits, a brief visit is made to the adjacent historic graves of two W.W.II soldiers. One of the graves is for one of the first men killed at Pearl Harbor in 1941. One government source indicates only  32(?) American soldiers and sailors are buried in Continental United States; the rest are still in the USS Arizona  or in nearby cemeteries in Hawaii. This was an historic fact brought to our attention after the Memorial was built and  consequently places the Clear Lake  Veterans' Memorial  in  a position of national prominence. The second nearby  grave is for one of the last MIAs found from W.W.II. After nearly 57 years in 2001  an American soldier was found in a shallow,  unmarked grave in Germany. He too now rests next to our beautiful Memorial. Both of these soldiers and the stories about them were not known when our Memorial was dedicated in 1999. If anyone knows of other historic stories such as these two,  please contact our Memorial Committee.

     As students conclude their visit, time is taken to answer questions and allow our citizens of tomorrow a chance to express their feelings. The most often heard remark is the pride our young people have for a veteran they now know or of   a deceased relative. When the  comments are  over, each student is given  a  Patriotism Certificate and a souvenir Commemorative Pen as a sign of appreciation by the Veterans’ Memorial. Many  students  eventually visit our web page and sign the guest book. It is always a delight to see the concern our young people have for their veterans!

      As a sign of last respect a selected student is given the honor of placing a wreath at the foot of the Black Cenotaph. On this historic stone are the names of 65  local men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice from previous wars fighting for our freedom!  Silently the floral  procession moves slowly down the walkway , reverent attention tells how  each students feels about our Veterans as the tender sound of  the "taps" are played.  Day is gone…all is well!

God Bless America!

Please visit and sign our Guestbook.
And remember to thank a veteran!

In the past, Clear Lake All Veterans' Memorial received the designated title of: 
A Korean Commemorative Community from our Department of Defense for the years 2000 through 2003.

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Site Design byjoella: JoElla (Pittman) Younkin,  USN, RM3, 1981-1985 (Peacetime veteran with connective tie to Clear Lake)
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