|A History of STRUM
and the TOWN OF UNITY by Roy Matson
|Strange Sights and Main Street
Through the years there have been many strange sights on Main Street. It is short, a mere
two blocks in length, so anything unusual is always noticed. But the following happenings,
some quite routine, some otherwise, are worthy of mention.
Life on Main Street, now 5th Avenue, began when N. C. Fosterís crew delighted area
farmers by building up the grade and laying rail down the prairie in late 1889. No pictures
of this operation can be located. It is generally remembered that Paul Moltzau headed a
crew that provided fill for railroad bridge approaches and that men used wheelbarrows
during the final few feet.
There was no business operating on the south side of the river at that time but someone
influenced Foster to provide a side track which was soon put to use. During the next year
there was activity and wagon tracks leading to Carterís Crossing began to shape a main
street. In a few short years there were many buildings, all frame lumber, all housing an
activity necessary for serving an agricultural community.
N. C. Foster was a Fairchild lumber baron and when his freight train began depositing his
products it was welcomed by the growing town. The small office and piles of lumber lay
on the west side of Main Street, south of the track. A second requirement of an
agricultural community, a stockyard, lay next west of Foster's yard. Ole Nysven, long time
postmaster, built his small office about thirty feet south of Foster's property. Access to the
active yard area was a narrow alley between these two owners, an entrance that was very
limited and caused considerable difficulty at times. The stock yards and their loading
facilities were very necessary to farmers and buyers alike during the pre-motorized period
of produce marketing.
Marketing of livestock was made possible by Foster's newly laid rails and every farmer in
the area really appreciated this service. Heretofore, raising of cattle was limited by travel
to locate a buyer. Sever Olson, John Call, Adolph Rye, Ole Romundstad and several
shipping associations were early buyers. They scoured the countryside, buying and lining
up cattle for shipment, usually to a Chicago market.
Farmers in a certain area would be alerted as to the day stock would be received. A drive
would begin in the early morning hours, 10-12 miles out, and as the herd traveled toward
town, sellers would add their number until 40 or 50 or 60 head of cattle would be turned
into the alley at Nysven's post office corner. Drives from the north came across the river
bridge and up Main Street. Pedestrians had ample warning.
Shipments were large. Olson had 21 cars loaded one day. Other buyers had equally busy
days. The drovers usually were treated to a dinner at the hotel after a strenuous half day's
work. According to Eau Claire Leader records, hogs brought $4.65 to 4.80 in February,
1900, cattle $4.25 to 5.25. In September, 1920 that market was paying $14.40 and up per
hundred wt. for hogs, $8.50 to $18.00 for cattle. Butter was 54 cents per pound, oats 55
cents per bushel and wheat $2.25 per bushel. In July, 1927, their market paid 45 cents for
oats, $1.30 per bushel for wheat. Butter was 36 cents, hogs - $9.50 per hundred wt. and
cattle was $10.00 and up. In 1909 hogs were $7.65, wheat $1.10, oats 52 cents, cattle
$7.00 to $9.00 and butter 25 cents.
A different sort of drive took place down
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