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Historic Merrill - Beginnings

Jenny Bull Falls, Jenny and a Sawmill

Prior to the establishment of the first settlement, Chippewa Indians lived in the area of what is now the City of Merrill. In 1846, Andrew Warren bought a tract of land at the juncture of the Wisconsin and Prairie Rivers. He assembled a crew of workmen and built a dam and a sawmill. He also built log cabins to house the men, and Jenny Bull Falls, later to be called Jenny, was born. The mill was eventually purchased by T.B. Scott and the T.B. Scott Lumber Company began. Under the new management team led by Scott, the Scott mill became one of the largest and most important mills on the Wisconsin River.

More Sawmills

Loggers at Work
Loggers at Work

As a result of the success of the Scott Mill, other sawmills were built in the area. Below is only a partial list:

1880 - M.C. McCord & H.E. Howe form the Jenny Lumber Company

1880 - Mihill Mill begins operation and is eventually purchased by August Stange

Early 1880s - Island Mill started by H.E. Howe

1883 - Lincoln Lumber Company Mill built in the Sixth Ward area

1883 - Wolf River Lumber Company built in the Sixth Ward area

A "Booming" Lumber Industry and Merrill is Born!    

Buoyed by the thriving lumber industry, the 1880s and 1890s were certainly a "booming" time in the area. Speaking of a booming time, the word boom was very important back in those lumber days, but many people are unfamiliar with the word boom as it relates to the lumber industry.

The Merrill Boom Company, organized in 1881, was important to all the mills as the Wisconsin River was used to float the logs from the logging camps to the mills. Booms were logs chained end to end to make channels to divert the logs to different parts of the river. All the logs were stamped to show mill ownership and the lumberjacks quickly separated the Merrill logs from those destined for mills further downstream. Closer to town, the logs were again separated for quick delivery to each mill.

The year 1892 was the peak year for the lumber industry in Merrill. In that year, the output of the eight mills was 150,000,000 feet of lumber and 86,000,000 shingles.

The "booming" time described above helped in the eventual "birth" of the City of Merrill. A resolution of the Wisconsin State Legislature in the winter session of 1880-1881 changed the name of the community from Jenny to Merrill. In 1883, the City of Merrill was incorporated and the first Common Council meeting was held.