|A History of STRUM
and the TOWN OF UNITY by Roy Matson
|A Train-Auto Collision
There have been several train-automobile collisions on Foster’s Fairchild-Mondovi spur,
some of them fatal to auto drivers. Whether the train ever hit a horse driver vehicle is
unknown although we are certain young blades raced the train in their buggies.
This writer was witness to an early morning collision in 1931 at the Main Street crossing
in Strum. It could have ended with serious results but for some quick action by the train
For some time it had been noticed that the Dahl sisters, living south of town, had been
crossing at about the time the 8:05 morning passenger was due from the east. One of the
sisters was employed at the Farmers Store Co. and began work at that hour. Comment
had been made that these ladies did not take adequate precaution, in fact, seemed unaware
of any train. An accident had been predicted not once, but several times if this practice
It was a beautiful summer morning, I remember, and I was busy repairing a tire at the
south door of the Ford garage when I heard the train coming and sounding it usual
crossing whistle. Suddenly the whistle began a series of short blasts and a screech caused
by locked drivers of the engine rent the air.
The Dahl auto was on the middle of the track when the cow-catcher hit, knocked the auto
forward about ten feet and hit it again as the train slowed. The locomotive pushed the auto
and had began rolling it when the backward turn of the drivers halted forward motion.
Of course the racket and crash gathered a large crowd at once and two very frightened
women, pale as sheets, crawled out of the wrecked Chevrolet 4 door. The auto had
reached the sidewalk, its rolling action was halted and any forward motion by the train
would have crushed everything.
The auto was brought into the Ford garage and in the days following, people would view
the car and ask, “Is this the car that was hit by the train?” The question became so
monotonous that I printed a sign: “Yes, this is the car that was hit by the train.”
The Beef River Station
It seems that Osseo is and has been in a favored location when travel in western Wisconsin
is considered. Today I-94 graces its edge with autos and freight loads in an unending
stream. Autos can cross the state in two or three hours, semi lodes of freight service the
entire northwest. East-west traffic from U. S. Highway feeds or separates its share to
make Osseo a familiar name to travelers from all directions.
It has nearly always been so. One of the first legislatures of our state empowered a
commission of three men to lay out a highway from Sparta via Black River Falls to a place
called Eau Claire. No money was provided for improving travel, no dollar was allowed for
any bridge. The three men were permitted expenses while laying out a right-of-way
between those points on which travel would be permitted at no charge. This highway, if
you dare call it that, generated a stage coach line that provided freight, mail and passenger
service for nearly twenty years to a sparsely settled area of the earliest pioneers.
The first freight wagons and the stage coaches that followed graced the outskirts of
Osseo. The pace was a little slower and more rough, but at the time it was a necessary
service. From the east came a freight line that had a horse exchange at Foster. Another
light wagon made semi-weekly trips down the Beef River Valley for a while. In any event,
the Osseo area seemed to be a crossroads. The pace was slower and no brightly painted
autos with flashing lights to fix the travel rate were needed.
The center of activity was a mile or more northeast of the river fork. A frame building
with a sign reading “Beef River Station” and owned by William Silkworth had been
erected in early 1855. It served as a stopping place on the Sparta-Eau Claire stage line,
providing passengers with food at times. It had available a supply of frontier staples and
mail could be left for forwarding by the few early pioneers of