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Stories of Metonga : Part 1

Good afternoon Crandon residents. Last week I presented at a History On-Tap Program at the Hotel Crandon to a crowd of about 85 people. Afterwards, I received a few different requests to share my power-point presentation and while I am willing to do that, I also am planning to post the material online in hopes that others will find their way to it. (Local history is much more fun and exciting if it is shared!) Publishing my research on this site will also allow people to post comments about the presentation and hopefully, we will continue to learn from each other about our county and its heritage.

What’s in a Name?

When Forest County officially became a county by an Act of the Legislature in 1885, the lake that we now know as Metonga, was called Sand Lake.  And in truth, the lake today is still called by that name.  The definition of Sand Lake is in fact the Indian name “Mitaawangaa”, or as the English spell it, Metonga.

In fact, only a few short months after the county was established, the editor of the Forest Leaves published a description of the lake known as Metonga.

Additional research from The Ojibwe People’s Dictionary defines the word “sandy” as “mitaawangaa”

Another source document that was beneficial in determining the origin of the Lake’s name was provided by the Forest County Potawatomi Library and Cultural Center. In September of 1941, Mrs. Wm. Tahwah of Wabeno provided the following list of names of Forest County Lakes and their meanings:

source: Forest County Potawatomi Library collection

Page 1 of Forest Leaves, published in Crandon, Wisconsin on Thursday, August 6th, 1885

Lake Cisco?

Lake Metonga residents might also be suprised to learn that they were at one time destined to live on a lake named after a the fish Cisco, also known as Lake Herring.  

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cisco_(fish)#/media/File:Cisco.jpg


The Forest County Spy, published in Pelican Lake, Wisconsin on Tuesday, May 26th, 1885

The Forest Leaves, published in Crandon, Wisconsin on Thursday, August 27th, 1885

Calling the lake by its Indian name caught on, and very soon there was no doubt the lake would be called Metonga.

However, its possible that not everyone agreed to have the name returned to its proper Indian title. As you can see from this 1906 Crandon map that hangs in the Forest County Courthouse Treasurer’s office, the name Sand Lake stuck around for some time.

Next week we will begin our tour around Lake Metonga courtesy of a March 1887 newspaper article. Don’t forget to leave your comments and share some of your local history related to Lake Metonga.

CARTER HOUSE MUSEUM OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

Tired of staying in? Looking for something to do this summer?  The Crandon Historical Society after careful consideration has decided to reopen the Carter House Museum, located on the corner of Hazeldell and Jackson streets for public viewing.

The Carter House dates back to the year 1902. It has been used as a church, hall and mission.  In 1920 it was sold to Henry Carter and remained in the Carter family until 1994 when it was purchased by the historical society.

Discover what life was like during the 1900’s.  Come see the old school room. Learn about the making of maple syrup and moonshine.  Displays are ever-changing and are sure to bring back memories for the young at heart and a chance for kids to learn what it was like in the “olden days”.

The museum will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Due to the pandemic, hand sanitizer and masks will be available. Social distancing is required and admittance will be limited.

Eagle Scout project honors veterans buried in Crandon Lakeside Cemetery

An Eagle Service Project, the culmination of a Scout’s commitment to an intensive advancement program, must demonstrate leadership of others while benefitting the scout’s community, school or another non-profit organization.  It is estimated that Eagle Projects contribute approximately 3 million hours of community service every year.

Local veteran’s-service organizations have loyally marked the graves of servicemen at Lakeside for many years but the lists they use to locate the graves are incomplete, inaccurate and confusing.  With the guidance of local UW-Madison Division of Extension Positive Youth Development Educator and Historical Society president, Michelle Gobert, Bradley reviewed those outdated materials and lead family members and his fellow Scouts from Crandon Troop 649 in confirming and correcting information on-site.  He then developed an online database that includes the block and lot location of each veteran.

The main point of Bradley’s presentation was that his project is not a finished product, rather it provides a base for more information and corrections to the existing list.  “There are actually people that are on the list who don’t belong there and a LOT who should be on the list but are not”, he said.  The Society is hoping to schedule some organized efforts to continue Bradley’s work.  In the meantime, we encourage the public to visit the site.  Visitors can search for friends and family members and will find a form on which they can provide additions and corrections.

Searching the database is easy. The database is online and veterans are listed by lot number but can be easily searched by last name.  While the primary goal of the list is to provide a more accurate and complete tool for locating graves, the database has future potential to store biographies, obituaries and other documents pertaining these brave men and women.  The database also includes a suggestion form for capturing information that may be missing from the database. Please direct any questions about the project and/or the database to Michelle at 715-478-7797 or forestctyhistory@gmail.com

Stories from Metonga : Part 6

I hope you are enjoying these stories of Metonga as much as I enjoy writing them. I apologize for the brief break over the past two weeks, but somehow the Metonga stories ended up at the bottom of my to-do list. The good news is that the Metonga series was pushed to the bottom due to some other really important historical happenings in Forest County we’ve been working on! More about this soon – but until then, enjoy the photos below.


Our next stop in the “Lakeland Series” from March of 1887, is what the author of the newspaper column referred to as “Echo Bay”.

Forest Republican. March 1887.

When I started this research project, I was bound and determined to find a map and/or another resources that positively identified the area known as Echo Bay.  Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to find any other reference to “Echo Bay” in print.  However, based on the newspaper article in its entirety, the area known as Echo Bay has been identified as the area we now commonly call Glen Park.   

In fact, the area more than likely has been called Glen Park since shortly after this article was published in March of 1887.  Glen Park, on the North Shore of Lake Metonga, was purchased by one of Crandon’s earliest pioneers, Sam Shaw and eventually platted in the Register of Deeds office as the Glen Park addition.  

The history of Metonga and Samuel Shaw are intertwined so I feel its important to give you a brief description of what  some refer to as the “father of Crandon”.    Sam Shaw’s obituary, published on March 9, 1917, in the Forest Republican defined him as the “founder of our town” and states that “his faith in Forest county was unbounded and is justified by the gains he has made from his investment of early days”.  The Antigo newspaper took a more conservative approach and pointed to not only Samuel Shaw’s friends but also his enemies.  It’s important to point out that numerous Forest County debates, including the fate of our current courthouse and fairgrounds, are the direct result of Sam Shaw’s knowledge of property law.  

Forest Republican. March 9, 1917
Antigo Journal, March 1917

According to a April 1975, Forest Republican article Samuel Shaw’s first house in Crandon was a log building that stood on the same property on which his bigger house was built later.  It is possible that these cabins, which eventually became part of the Lake Metonga Camp, were Shaw’s original log cabins. 

Crandon Area Historical Society collection
Crandon Area Historical Society collection
Glen Park Hotel. Crandon Area Historical Society collection.

Samuel Shaw’s Glen Park, a a total of 170 acres of land and his residence, was sold to Dr. and Mrs. C.O. Decker in 1910 for $22,400.  The Decker’s re-named the resort complex “Lake Metonga Camp” in 1922.

Forest Republican. March 3, 1922.

Numerous photos of Lake Metonga Camp exist in our collection.

Dr. Decker passed away in 1934 and his obituary lists the Lake Metonga Camp as the largest resort in Forest county.  Mrs. Decker continued to operate the resort until 1941 when she sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Ludwig who operated it as the Lake Metonga Lodge.   

Lake Metonga Lodge changed hands again from the Ludwigs to a partnership that included Rosa Ammer (who later owned the Crandon Arcade), Archie Orlebeck and Tony Paris, and then finally to the Keeler’s when it become Keeler’s Resort in 1946.

Stories of Metonga : Part 5

Good morning folks. Sorry for the bit of delay this week. It’s been a bit busy here – I have been planning for additional History on Tap programs, planning for the Historical Society’s annual meeting and working on lesson plans for the upcoming Centennial Club. (Stay tuned on details for all of these!)


This week’s visit to Metonga begins at the North End of Metonga “where the banks are high, in most place being about 20 feet above the lake level”.

Forest Republican. March 3, 1887

The Historical Society has quite a few photos of the North End of Lake Metonga in its collection.

Crandon Area Historical Society photo collection. ID 23404-20
Crandon Area Historical Society photo collection.
Crandon Area Historical Society collection. City Hall 1148-1.

The City Hall photo collection photo, pinpoints the location of the original homestead of C.T.H Riggs, one of Crandon’s earliest businessmen. A biographical sketch of C.T.H. is not necessary as his obituary, published on June 10, 1926 in the Forest Republican, paints a picture of a dedicated father, teacher and Crandon booster. A photograph of Mr. Riggs can be found in the City of Crandon first Council meeting. He is identified as the bearded gentleman sitting in the front row with his hand on the Mayor’s desk. It was Mr. Riggs’ daughter Melvina, a school teacher, who conducted the early Crandon history project mentioned in blog post #3. I believe descendents of C.T.H. Riggs still own the Lake Metonga property identified above.

Forest Republican. June 10, 1926.

Crandon Hospital on North End of Metonga

One of the most interesting photos of the “North End” is a photo that includes the Crandon Hospital on the banks of Metonga. A close up photo of the Crandon Hospital can also be found in the Historical Society’s collection which includes 12-page promotional brochure.  The publication date of this brochure is unknown, however, many of its photos are also reproduced in the 1907 Forest Republican.

MG personal collection.
Crandon Area Historical Society collection. 2014.02.09
Crandon Area Historical Society collection. 2014.02.09
Page 8 of The Forest Republican, published in Crandon, Wisconsin on Friday, August 23rd, 1907

The location of the original Crandon Hospital building was recently brought to my attention by local resident Stacey Karcz. Last summer, prior to the digitization of the Forest Republican newspapers, Stacey brought me a copy of a 1907 newspaper article that was included in paperwork associated with her house on Lake Metonga. According to Stacy, the original Crandon Hospital building was moved across an icey Lake Metonga to the east shore a few years ago with her family still owning the residence. The article, not only has a great photo of the house, but also provides information about the illustrated book now in the Society’s possession.

Source: Stacy Kracz, clipping. Forest Republican July 19,1907

Photo mystery Solved

Those of you that attended the Metonga Presentation at the Crandon Hotel, may remember that during the presentation I also showed a photo from the M.S. Barker collection that raised questions about the original location of the Crandon Hospital. The photo, labeled “M.S. Barker home”, seems to show the same building including the same flag pole, as the Crandon Hospital photos. Zooming in you can see the same latticework and the same front porch. Yet, we know from Metonga research that M.S. Barker’s home was on the West side of Lake Metonga. Or so we thought! It appears that M.S. Barker owned not only West shore property, but he also owned North end property. According to the June 14, 1907 Forest Republican, Drs. Murphy & McCarty rented the Miles Barker house and grounds on “Lake avenue near the Lake shore” for hospital purposes. Mystery solved! We also now know that the building known as the Crandon Hospital was not built for purposes of a hospital but originally as a residence and that it was built prior to 1907. Excellent information for the current owners of the property.

Miles Barker home. Crandon Area Historical Society photo collection. 2019073104a
Forest Republican. June 14, 1907.

That’s all for this week. Next week’s tour will take us to Echo Bay on Lake Metonga which, according to research, is now most commonly known as Glen Park.

Stories of Metonga : Part 4

Hello again folks! I’m back with another installment of the blog series titled “Stories of Metonga”. I hope you are enjoying these mini-history lessons. I know I am. I’m also working to develop my Fall programming schedule for Extension which includes local history classes and family history classes. Stay tuned for more details!

The last Metonga blog post provided a glimpse of how our earliest pioneers made their way via the County Road to Crandon and Metonga. Today we’ll actually get a glimpse of both Metonga and Crandon Lake Avenue as our earliest settlers saw it.

If we continue on our path of following the March 1887 Forest Republican article, we are now on paragraph three which begins “an opening in the forest…”

[Source: Crandon Area Historical Society photograph collection. 20160219]
Crandon Area Historical Society photo collection. AS000018.

Crandon’s earliest pioneers took great pride in photographing Lake Metonga from not only East Hill and from the roof of the Courthouse as the above pictures show, and they also took great pride in photographing Metonga from Lake Avenue. Early newspapers describe the work involved in clearing the forest from the courthouse square and the “lake road”. In November of 1886, the Forest Republican reported that “Lake Avenue is now open full width to Lake Metonga.  A great improvement”  Early photographers took advantage of this photo opportunity as the following photos show while standing on the roof of what is now the Subway building.

Crandon Area Historical Society photo collection. lfk00132.
Crandon Area Historical Society photo collection. lkf000025.
Crandon Area Historical Society photo collection. 2019060101.

Next week we will continue our series focusing on the north end of Metonga where the “banks are high”. Enjoy the photos! [Extra credit points to the readers who find the dog sleeping on the sidewalk and the little boy taking a break]

It is an amazing time to be a local history researcher!

Exciting news for those of you interested in researching either your Forest County family tree or the history of our county! The State Historical has recently announced a third-wave of a digitization grant which enables them to add to their holdings in the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America digital newspaper repository.

Not having been to the Chronicling America site in awhile, I decide to jump over and take a look at what Wisconsin papers were freely available and keyword searchable. Turns out that the 2nd wave of the grant allowed the state of Wisconsin to digitize four years worth of Wabeno newspaper the Northern Wisconsin Advertiser!

Currently the online holdings cover the years 1899-1902 but hopefully additional scans will be added soon. Please note that if you need additional Wabeno research, the Crandon Public Library does offer all of the Wabeno newspapers on microfilm.

Happy Searching!

P.S. Here’s a quick link to a Wisconsin Historical Society research guide on using the website Chronicling America.

If you’re looking for direct link to the Northern Wisconsin Advertiser, click here.

We interrupt this blog post…

We interrupt this Lake Metonga series blog post for an important message about John F. Kennedy’s visit to Crandon which included a fishing report from Lake Metonga! What??? That’s just crazy!

I agree. This is what happened. As I was conducting my research for the Metonga presentation, I was searching the Crandon Public Library’s Newspaper Archives for the keyword “Metonga” and an article blurb appeared on my screen that mentioned both “Metonga” and “John F. Kennedy”. So I had to investigate. (Seriously, I had to investigate. In my world an old newspaper = bright, shiny object)

The article was from March of 1887 and discusses a visit by John F. Kennedy of the “Sheboygan News” to the Crandon area. Turns out this John F. Kennedy, while his family was from Ireland and may, in fact, be a distant relative of President John F. Kennedy, was a hard-working Wisconsinite who lived the majority of his life in the Plymouth / Sheboygan area working as a farmer, carpenter and writing columns for the “Sheboygan News”.

I apologize for the leading headline AND the short blog post this week. I’m working on the Forest County 4-H Fair and needed a quick little blog post to keep your attention on Metonga stories. I promise to write more and share more photos next week.

Until then, here is Mr. John F. Kenney’s article on Crandon. While you’ll notice that some things have changed in Crandon (we are definitely not a temperance town) I especially like the following description of Crandon:

…”its people are remarkable for their business enterprise and hospitality. Every one seems to want to do you a kindnes, and the good heart shines out in honest faces, that have a smile and a kind word for every one they meet”

132 years of Crandon Pride! #CrandonProud #HistoryMatters Enjoy!