Seventy-three years after publishing her first historical book, Prescott, Past and Present, at age 19; Mary Beeler is publishing Log Buildings and Logging in Early Pierce County, Wisconsin at age 92. This 240-page book was co-authored by Mary and her late friend, Dorothy (Eaton) Ahlgren. It features the history of early settlers who built their homes, schools, and churches from logs, along with the sawmill industry. The book made its debut at the Pierce County Fair, with a special book signing event.
Mary (Cotter) Beeler, known as “Prescott’s Historian,” began working at the Prescott Journal five days a week at age 14, where she gradually began writing and reporting for the newspaper. She also edited the first Missicroixan yearbook at Prescott High School. At age 19, she authored and published Prescott Past and Present (1949). Mary married Gael Beeler in 1950, and they raised seven children while she continued to gather history, report, and freelance. From 1976 to 1987, Mary was the Prescott Journal’s only reporter, covering every school board and city meeting, along with local, county, and state news that affected Prescott citizens. Her motto: “Report the facts so people can make an informed decision.”
After retiring as a reporter, Mary remained active in keeping history alive by creating Prescott’s walking tour pamphlet, historical marker information for Mercord Mill Park and Freedom Park, and writing Pierce County Historical Association newsletters. In 1996, Mary and Dorothy Ahlgren co-authored A History of Prescott, Wisconsin: A River City and Farming Community on the St. Croix and Mississippi, a six-year effort resulting in 600 pages that won the State Historical Society Book of Award Merit for its “significant contribution to the history of Wisconsin.” She remained an active advocate of education, visiting classrooms and recording videos to share Prescott’s history. For 26 years, until age 88, she volunteered one day a week to assist fourth-grade students at St. Joseph’s School with their writing assignments. Mary was an original inductee into the Prescott Wall of Fame at Prescott High School in 2016.
Mary and Dorothy started working on “The Log Book” 25 years ago in 1998, when the Pierce County Historical Association acquired the Conlin’s 1850 log cabin for their site in Bay City. Interest in the log cabin led to wondering how many other log cabins were built in Pierce County. Mary and Dorothy volunteered to answer that question. They painstakingly researched old newspapers, microfiche, and researched documents at the UW-River Falls Historical Research Center and the extensive obituary collection at the Pierce County Historical Center. They dedicated countless hours to driving Pierce County roads in search of former sites and structures that remained in use. After requests for information appeared in newspapers, descendants of settlers came forward with family reminisces and photographs. Mary noted, “It seemed every time we saw the word log, we stopped and made notes, so our research expanded to include schools, churches, sawmills, household items, river shipments, and accidents involving logs.”
During their second decade of working on the book, Dorothy developed a long-term illness, resulting in her death in 2022. Mary credited Dorothy as a “fantastic researcher whose great contributions to this book will always be remembered.” Mary continued to craft their research into 240 pages of readable history connecting early settlers to Pierce County’s original log structures and log-related businesses. After Dorothy died, Mary was especially grateful for the steadfast help of her daughter, Helen, who made completion of the book format possible. Many other helpers are also credited in the book, along with the PCHA, who made publishing possible by agreeing to fund the printing.
The book can also be purchased at one of our offices or from our online store on our website: www.piercecountyhistorical.org. You can also return the book order form included in the newsletter, be sure to include shipping. We will also try to have these available for sale at upcoming community events our volunteers are able to attend.
-Article written by Mary Beeler’s daughter, Sara Heisler
Buy the book from our online store here.