Heritage Story: Wolf Creek settlement once a transportation hub


Wolf Creek Mill

Wolf Creek Mill

The St. Croix River and its tributaries have been major transportation routes for as long as people have called the region home. Dakota and Ojibwe people used them to travel between their seasonal camps, to trade, and to hunt and fish. Voyageurs also traveled by river to trade for furs, and millions of logs were floated down the rivers to mills during the timber era.

Local historian Russ Hanson tells the story of the village of Wolf Creek and the store which was located there, and reveals how the St. Croix was not always a great highway. Wolf Creek was built above a miles-long set of rapids on the river which have since been covered by the flowage of the dam at St. Croix Falls, WI.

Before the dam was built, supplies being shipped upstream were off-loaded at St. Croix Falls and transported by land along a rough road to Wolf Creek, where they could be put back on boats again to continue the journey upriver.

In the winter of 1831-32, Joseph Renshaw Brown built an Indian trading post in this area.  Initially, it appears that it was located on the MN bank, although later trading posts were located on the east bank of the river, the site of Wolf Creek.

Wolf Creek was the stopping place after a walk or oxen trip up river, where 8 miles through the heavily wooded trails was slow and often needed delays to repair washed out sections where rains created new cuts in the road from the steep banks along the WI road.

The town briefly flourished during and after the construction of Nevers Dam (the site of which is located in the Wild River State Park section of the river), but went bust when the logging boom did:

In 1888 things changed for Wolf Creek.  Loggers, tired of huge log jams down river at the falls, began to build the huge wooden dam at the Nevers home along the St. Croix a mile or so downriver from Wolf Creek (which by then had tried on different names including Avondale, Eightmile and Wolf Creek Crossings).  The presence of two to three hundred builders in the area made the town boom.

Several stores and new businesses sprang up.  For one summer there was even a newspaper.  The boom lasted a decade or so but as the 1900s came, the inexhaustible supply of white pines up river were exhausted and by  1914 no more log drives came through.  Nevers became a water regulating dam to hold back water until 3pm when it was released to reach the electric generating plant at St Croix Falls in time for the folks coming home from work to turn on their electric lights all the way to the Twin Cities.

Read the rest of Hanson’s history of Wolf Creek on his website, River Road Ramblings.

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