Scrapbook opens window on lost history of building a power line over the upper St. Croix River

New York woman donates grandfather’s photo album to local historical society, illuminating a major construction project in 1930.




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Originally published on the River Road Rambler blog, reprinted with permission.

The vertical line in the center of the photo is a wire overhead leading to the toweron top of the hill (not really visible here)

An interesting scrapbook came to the Luck Museum last week from New York. I had exchanged emails last fall with Lisa N, whose grandfather spent the summer of 1930 working on electricity projects in Polk and Burnett Counties of Wisconsin and Pine County Minnesota.

The scrapbook was 100+ photos of the project and included building a tower on the Wisconsin side of the St Croix River and running a high voltage line (66 kilovolts) from a new power plant in Pine City to Cumberland, WI.

Wisconsin Hydro-Electric Co., headquartered in Amery, WI appears to have been the owner of the line. A clipping from the a September newspaper, the Cumberland Advocate, explains the project.

Here is the clipping, some photos and some maps that are related to the St Croix River crossing only. There are also photos of the new Pine City Steam Power plant being built, the Cumberland electrical substation, the Huntingdon MN dam, a dam near Star Prairie and some from Milaca.

All that is left of the St Croix Crossing is the tower base — 4 galvanized irons sticking out of the ground on the high WI bank of the River.

Everett Hanson, my brother, said that the DNR crew he worked with in 1972 (or about then) came across them when building some trails along the St. Croix. He said the folks speculated, but none knew what they were. The next time he heard about the base was in 2015 when another DNR person, Mike Wallis, was looking at the area for timber sales. At the time, he contacted Everett, who contacted me, and again we speculated, but found no information.

Finally we know! The next question is — when was it removed. As best we can pin it down right now is between 1940 and 1950. [Note: If you know the year it was removed or any other information about the tower, please get in touch.]

Photos from the Harold M. Holm Album

Holm was one of the engineers on the project (noted in the clipping above). His granddaughter, Lisa passed along the album.

Harold was a Dane from Racine, WI.  At the time the power line was being built, Harold’s father and mother-in law were living in Luck as Minister Neilsen of St. Peter and Luck Lutheran churches.  Harold parked his truck in the parsonage garage, and Lisa’s father was born in Luck.

The crawler was used for pulling up the H wooden poles.
Building the tower on the Wisconsin side of the St. Croix River
Although you can’t see it, on the far bank in the cut right of way is the electric tower on the Wisconsin side.
View from the St. Croix Wisconsin tower looking east across the Burnett County, Anderson Township sand barrens.

The 1938 Wisconsin Aerial photographs are on the internet. With them you can trace the exact route from Pine City MN to Cumberland WI. The route is Pine City to Benson (Randall) to Trade River, to Atlas, Luck, McKiney Cumberland. I drew the yellow mark just above and right of the cleared right of way. Here it crosses the St. Croix River.
Complete tower.
This about 1940 land use survey map of along the St. Croix in Burnett County shows the electric line angling from lower right to upper left.


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Scrapbook opens window on lost history of building a power line over the upper St. Croix River