The drive south on County Road E from highway 2, is a picturesque journey of rolling hills and farmlands leading towards Mason Wisconsin. Silos rise high gleaming in the sunlight next to barns of red, white or aging wood grays. One finally notices most of these farms have converted from dairy to cash crop farming. It is hard to believe these once rolling hills were covered in timber which led to the biggest industry in the northern Wisconsin logging.
Mason was a town solely built as a Company Town to host the White River Lumber Company where the Humbird sawmill was built in 1882 when the logging operations began creating the Mason Village that year. Loggers started arriving for lucrative jobs in the industry, many coming on the “Chicago, St Paul, Minneapolis, and Omaha Railway” establishing itself as the north/south primary service to this small town in northern Wisconsin in 1883. In 1887, the east/west railway expanded service with the “Duluth, South Shore, and Atlantic Railway” with service via Bibon and spur to Mason. Both railways made their stops at the Mason Depot becoming a busy hub of the community expanding the small farming economy with loggers and mill employees. This influx was quick and records show the White River Lumber Company Store took in $100,000 of revenue in 1883, its first year.
This bustling community soon saw farms take shape on logged out property adding families to the area and by 1914 farming became the primary economic base as the last of lumber was shipped from Mason ending the high-volume logging industry that created the company town.
In 1991 a group of citizens came together to preserve the dilapidating Depot, once a cornerstone of the community to establish the Mason Area Historical Society. This group’s mission is “to preserve, advance and disseminate knowledge of the Mason, Wisconsin area.” Local participants and those with a strong connection to the area began the work of refurbishing, raising funds and contributions which continues to this day. What has materialized is a historical museum housed in the Depot with enough land around it to host structures from the past opening a visual historical view of a time remembered.
The Depot houses a wide variety of displays telling the story of the Mason long before it was established from the 1500’s with the rich history of the Objibwe (Chippewa) nation, and the various claims by other nations to the lands including Spain declaring the Mason area in 1513.
As time progresses, the museum has displays depicting the lifestyles and progression of the area. The history is not only in their displays but also documented electronically where visitors can sit down at a computer and see additional photos, narrative, and artifacts digitally. Available is the picture book created by the Society “Historical Timeline of the Mason Area” which starts in the 1500’s. A wealth of information and photos encapsulate the history.
Today, Mason is a small village hosting a population of 79. This quiet community is rich with history surrounded with forests, rolling hills, farmlands and a beautiful park along the White River where the White River Lumber Company site on the bluff across the river is located. The White River Saloon is the perfect place for a beverage and a meal within a short jaunt from the Depot.
(Museum open Sundays 1pm-4pm –Information from Historical Timeline of the Mason Area-members of the Society-for more information Marian Schraufnagel, President of Mason Area Historical Society, 715-765-4554; email@example.com)