Marshfield History – Marshfield’s Paper Mill

1904 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map #15– Marshfield, Wood County
1904 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map #15– Marshfield, Wood County

The area in and around the Marshfield Furniture store on the corner of South Chestnut and West 9th Streets has seen quite a number of businesses since the first buildings were erected in the mid-1890s. However, one of the more unexpected ones was a paper mill, which lasted a mere 6 months.

On the southwest corner of the present-day Marshfield Furniture factory, there was a building site that started out in 1894 as the Marshfield Chair & Manufacturing Company. 

The company had the misfortune of starting just as the 1890s Depression began and although it had a fairly decent run, the company was never able to make enough for working capital. According to an August 27, 1897, Marshfield Times article, four years after it began “several stockholders, to keep the wheels moving… have become responsible for about $13’000 borrowed money.” (Nearly $500’000 today.) In 1898, the factory closed for about 5 months and did try to start over; however, in July of that year, a severe windstorm that hit many Wisconsin communities destroyed the company’s roof and by August, the company closed for good.

The building was then bought for $4500 by three brothers from Nebraska who intended to set up a windmill factory. One of the brothers had just obtained a patent on a windmill and prospects were good for a successful enterprise… According to a June 1900 article in the Marshfield News and Wisconsin Hub, “the Hamel Brothers have arrived with their machinery, stock and household goods from Nebraska, and are now making active preparations to start operations in the building formerly used as a chair factory. Windmills and well drilling machines will be their product, and as the proprietors are thoroughly familiar and experienced in their line it is practically certain that the new industry will flourish and be a substantial addition to Marshfield’s manufactories.”  

Unless the man with the patent moves to Stevens Point…  

By November the property was again for sale.

Three months later the Marshfield News and Wisconsin Hub was a bit more tempered in its enthusiasm when it announced on February 7th of a new plant coming to town,

“A mill for the manufacture of tissue paper will probably be in operation in Marshfield within a few months”. 

Nekoosa resident and experienced papermaker Michael Hesser, and Ex-County Treasurer and Marshfield businessman M.G. Flekenstein had become partners to establish a mill for wrapping, and tissue paper in the old chair factory site. 

As just about everyone in Central Wisconsin knows, water is essential for papermaking, and plenty of it. According to the May 1901 News and Hub article, the company used an existing well but also dug a new thirty-foot by eight-foot well and believed that with both wells the estimated ninety-gallon-a-minute flow would be sufficient for the enterprise. 

The article went on to say that along with Mr. Hesser’s papermaking experience, Mr. Flekenstein’s business acumen, and a strong demand for the product, ‘Marshfield’s tissue paper mill will be the success we all hope for is practically assured.’ 

By July 23, 1901, the factory was creating tissue paper, by October 12 its capacity was 2.5 tons a day and according to a November 12 article in the Marshfield Times, the mill employed 15 men with two crews working night and day. It looked like things were going very well and the mill had a bright future; except for one thing… lack of water. In mid-September 1901 Fleckenstein and new partner, H.C. Eiche had sunk more wells, constructed a large reservoir, and were looking for more water.  (Hesser had sold his interests and moved to Hudson to build another plant – and then eventually moved to Florida.) The only other option would have been to use water from the city water works, and that would have been too expensive. 

In February 1902 the entire mill was sold to the Wausau Paper Mill in Brokaw which, being on the Wisconsin River, did not have to worry about water supply. Since securing sufficient water for the growing city of Marshfield had been a major undertaking in the early 1890s, it was an interesting idea to attempt paper manufacturing. However, the Marshfield Times’ February 14 article stated,

Marshfield was selected in the first place for its excellent shipping facilities (railroad) and central location in the sulfide section of the country.” 

In November 1902 the R. Connor Company purchased the building and became the R. Connor Lumber Retail which sold lumber and other construction materials.  The site remained in the lumber yard business until it became known as ‘a commercial building’. In 2005 the building was demolished. 


 Learn More about the 1890s Depression

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

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