Marshfield History – The Columbia Park Mystery


Columbia Park Marshfield Wisconsin Vintage Postcard
Photo courtesy of North Wood County Historical Society

Columbia Park which houses the Columbia Park bandshell is the oldest park in Marshfield.  The Columbia Park bandshell is a beautiful art deco structure, with musical symbols decorating the top corners of the outer columns and a painted sky with clouds on the top interior. It was built in 1931 and was placed on the National Register of Historical places in 2008. Concerts and summer events are held in the park to enrich the lives of Marshfield’s residents.

A longtime place of recreation for Marshfield residents, the park was first known as ‘city park’. It was a place for baseball games, picnics, Independence Day festivities, and even an 1885 circus. The first bandstand was built in June 1903 and often featured the Second Regiment Band. By the early 1900s, the park was known interchangeably as a city park or north side park. In August of 1915, the Women of Civic Pride Committee proposed to the Common Council that the park be named ‘Columbia Park’.

In 1892 a 125-foot standpipe, (water tower in today’s parlance), was erected in the city park in conjunction with the new city-wide water works.  Little did the town know that the standpipe and the mysterious disappearance of a man named Jacob Faber would cause a near boycott of the city’s drinking water.

December 6, 1894, the Marshfield News and Wisconsin Hub newspaper quipped “Where is Jake Faber?” Apparently one day after breakfast Jake left home and went missing, and for months no one knew where he was. Speculation turned to the macabre when a rumor started that Jake had climbed to the top of the standpipe and jumped in. From there, like ‘the fish that got away’, the tale grew…

In a February 16th article from 1895, the Steven’s Point Journal reported that Farber allegedly had stated,

“If the republicans win the ticket, I’m going to drown myself in the standpipe!”

Despite the Marshfield News and Wisconsin Hub’s attempt to dispel such rumors, Jacob’s disappearance caused some residents to avoid drinking the city’s water until the city drained the standpipe.  However, draining the standpipe would cost too much and the city had limited funds.

Mid-February 1895, rumors were put to rest when Joseph Dumas, a cook at the Dancy lumber camp, reported Jake was working there. Apparently, Faber had gone to Chicago and while there, had ended up in the hospital for 13 weeks. After leaving the hospital, Faber wanted to move back to Marshfield but did not want to arrive broke. So, he worked at the lumber camp in Dancy.

From now on, when you look at the big ‘standpipe’ located by St. Joseph’s Ave, built to replace the city park standpipe (which was knocked down in 1930), think of the Columbia Park Mystery.

Art deco style divider graphic

This slice of Marshfield History has been provided by the North Wood County Historical Society.

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Thank you to NWCHS for sharing this fascinating story with us!