A History of STRUM
by Roy Matson
the area.

A half-dozen families lived nearby and may have had partial employment as Silkworth had
several interests. He had secured title to the property located in section 2, T24, R7 in
March, 1855 through the land office at Eau Claire. Mr. Gordon Hong owns this land at
present and found the exact location of the station recently when an addition to his home
uncovered original footings.

Silkworth’s 1855 operation places him as possibly the first resident of that area and notes
of that time fixes him there a year earlier. In any event it was recognized as a stopping
place by the legislature when another three man commission was appointed by that body in
1856 to lay out a highway from Fountain City to the “Beef River Station.” The building
had some size because an early assessment fixes its value at $1,000.00 when ordinary
homes rated a $200-300 figure. Silkworth was appointed postmaster of Sumner in 1859.
Three of his men had preceded him beginning in 1855. The stage coach era ended in 1870.
By that time the post office had been moved and the name changed to Osseo. It is
noteworthy that Silkworth had a partner named Greene and that their place became known
as “bed bug station” during its last years.

The first vehicles on the Sparta-Eau Claire line were light freight wagons. Sometime in the
early 1860’s the business had been purchased by W. T. Price of Eau Claire. The line was
active and he secured some $2,000 Concord stage coaches. The Sparta to Eau Claire run
took 25 hours and cost $2.00. For awhile the coaches ran each way every day. Price had a
stage to Augusta in 1867.

It was a hard ride. A note at the Black River Falls library tells of a discussion regarding
punishment for Confederate president Jefferson Davis after his capture. A prominent
traveler volunteered that a ride on a Price stage coach would be ample punishment. A
day’s run would begin at Sparta, a main stop at Black River Falls, then through Garden
Valley, a stop at Tamarack House east of Levis, Beef River Station, McClellan’s (east of
Foster), the Parker House at Bracket and a final stop at a ferry crossing the Chippewa
River near the Highway 12 Bridge. During winter it could be a very cold trip. Heated
stones were furnished for passengers but the driver sat stop the coach, guiding four horses
and unprotected from the weather. A report reads that one such employee was found
frozen to death at the Sparta stop.

Jim Nix of Clear Creek adds some interesting facts about this stage line. His dad, Andrew,
was postmaster at Nix  Corners for years. He says the Coon brothers had a barn where
horses were exchanged. It is still standing (1975) just north of Foster. Connections with a
stage or freight lines from Stevens Point and Neilsville were also made at this point. The
Coon brothers were horsemen. At times they would hitch three horses abreast. Heavier
loads would demand two teams. Headman for the line seemed to be Bert McClellan. The
route came from the east to a spot where the present road forks near the church east of
Foster, then traveled northeast past Lester Peat’s place. A crossover to the Coon brothers
barn came next, then back to the main route. The next stop was Bracket at the Parker
House, located just south of a present service station. Nix remembers the house having an
orange color, later a green. It was a two story building and overnite stops could be made
there with meals available.

In 1878 the legislature granted a franchise for an operation from Whitehall to Eau Claire
with tri-weekly mail service. Stops were mentioned at Alhambra post office (section 26),
at Chimney Rock post office where C. Wenberg had authority to open mail bags, at
Hamlin post office, then Hadleyville post office and Eau Claire. Mrs. Babcock, then 93,
recalled a light freight wagon with passenger seats was used and that at times four horses
pulled the rig.