New Office in Elmwood!

BIG NEWS!!  We have signed a lease for a building in Elmwood at 110 S. Main Street that started August 1, 2023.  We will be opening this as a satellite office to our main one in Bay City. We feel this will allow us to better serve the community in terms of proximity to their areas and it will also allow us to tap into a wider network of volunteers that span the entire county.  Additionally, we were in dire need of more space to house our collections and the eastern side of the county provided the most economical option for our organization.  The basic operating costs for this location will be around $6,000 per year, we hope with increased visibility and presence, we can increase our membership, donations, and seek grants to help cover these costs.

Our history centers in both Bay City and Elmwood will cover and serve the entire county, so people can research, donate, and work on volunteer projects that would cover all communities in our county.  Our Prescott location is run by our Prescott Area Historical Society and their focus is on Prescott and the surrounding area.

Since August, our volunteers have been working on getting the Elmwood location up and running.  Volunteers, Julie Huebel, Mary Erickson, and Pat Mory (with the help of others!) have been busy setting up shelving, moving furniture into the building, setting up a false wall to hide storage at the back of the building that will double as display boards, and deciding what to move from our very full Bay City office into this new space.  To begin with, we have decided to move our fabric collection.  This includes all things fabric in our archives.  Even without being fully set up yet, people are stopping in when they see cars parked outside the building on Main Street.  It’s been wonderful to so quickly feel like part of the community there.

Volunteers are working on finishing up a country school display, some of it we share each year at the Freier School during the Pierce County Fair.  We also plan to have a rotating collection of art displayed on our gallery wall. Our first collections we will highlight are the historical paintings of Spring Valley local, Tom Gunderson and country schools depicted in various art mediums by a variety of artists.  These will be ready for viewing by early December.

This location will be open Thursdays 10-3 as volunteer availability allows. The more regular volunteers we have there, the more consistent we can be open.  If you are planning a visit from a distance, please reach out to confirm we will be open.  Please note, the office may be closed for the month of February due to volunteers being out of town.

We’ve decided to host the 2024 annual meeting at the new Elmwood office, see our calendar of events for details.  A great opportunity to check it out.

Pierce County Historian Publishes Book at Age 92

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: 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.

Website Updates! Inventory of Major Collections Added

We have taken on the project of updating our website.  We have so many collections of great resources in our archives here at the History Center in Bay City and wanted to better share a list of what we had that may help people in their research.  We have just added the following:

We take great pride in our extensive newspaper collection, we have been fortunate enough to pretty much double it in size in the last few years.  If you or someone you know is looking to rehome their collection of Pierce County area newspapers, please do think of us!  We would love to keep growing this terrific resource of our area’s historical record.

We have over 200 family histories that have been donated to us for our collection and we happily accept both digital and/or paper copies to add to our research library.

If you haven’t looked up where your relatives lived on the various years of plat maps you are in for a real treat!  These are an essential tool in showing where exactly your relatives lived.  If you find deciphering land descriptions confusing, I’ve included a helpful tutorial that I shared on our Facebook page last year.

Fred Johnson, Early Selfie Photographer – Maiden Rock, Wisconsin

We are excited to release a very special video to the public on our new YouTube channel of a collection of early selfie and landscape photos.

The photographer, Fred Johnson, was born in 1888. He was a farmer and an amateur photographer that lived in Maiden Rock, Wisconsin and I would confidently put his collection of 1943 farming photos up against anyone’s.

We don’t just get to see what farming was like in 1943, but we get to see the man that took them since he worked to perfect the early selfie using a string.


Learn about Fred…

Carl/Charles Fredrik “Fred” Johnson was born June 5, 1888 in Maiden Rock Township. His father was Adolf Johnson and his mother was Elsa (Ereckson), they emmigrated from Sweden in 1869. By 1909, with both parents deceased, Fred was living alone at age 21 running the family farm along the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. Fred never owned a tractor, doing all of his farm work by hand with the use of horses.

Likely self taught, Fred took many photos of himself, his horses, his dog Toby, river boats, his farm, and the beautiful landscape around Maiden Rock, Wisconsin. Fred had many cameras, carrying one with him almost everywhere he went. Fred built himself a dark room in the upstairs of his house where he could develop his own film. What makes his collection so remarkable, are his “selfies” he would take using a string connected to his camera. Look carefully for the string in the photos he took of himself.

He would track the date, time of day, lighting, and what the camera settings were for many of the photos he took. Of those photos that are dated in this collection, they were all taken in 1943. Fred’s main mode of transport was a bike. He died in 1944 after being hit by a car while riding.

He and his parents are buried in the Maiden Rock Cemetery. In 1946, Sidney & Grace Johnson, purchased Fred’s farm, home, and its contents. They preserved his photo collection and passed it to their daughters. Barb Sand and Harriett Rothe donated the collection to the PCHA.

We are running a display at our History Center in Bay City on his collection.  Visitors can also browse a photo album of the entire collection of over 200 photos.  A true treasure!