Tomahawk, The Miracle City

Historic Dates and Firsts

By Don Paulson, member of
the Tomahawk Historical Society


    Frenchman, Germaine Bouchard, was our first settler. He built the first tavern and trading post
at "The Forks,"named so; because the three rivers; the Somo, the Tomahawk, and Wisconsin
Rivers come together here at the mouth of the Tomahawk River. A small Island Northwest of Rodgers, or Box Factory Island, as it was sometimes called, is said to be the site of Bouchards Tavern and Trading Post. White Fur traders and Indians came to his post to trade and use his barge or ferry to cross the Wisconsin River.

    The Chippewa were the Indians that settled in this area.. Their Burial Grounds and Mounds
were found in Heafford Jct.(seven mounds in a row were found under water) from the dam on
the Tomahawk River, also at Skanawan Creek just north of Gilbert in the town of Bradley.
They lived in teepee's in summer, and wigwam's in winter. In the wigwam's they brought outside
air from a covered ditch to the center of the lodge to keep the fires going. Of course there was a
hole in the roof of both dwellings to allow smoke to escape.

    Deer were not very plentiful in this area at this space in time, so they striped their deer hide
teepee's, loaded their birchbark canoes and headed south for the winter, following the deer
herds.  Deer was their main food supply, and many other items were made from the
deer skin.  The trees in this area were: The Red Pine (Norway Pine), White pine, Jack
Pine, Birch, Maple, Hemlock, Tamarack, and small pines, such as Spruce, Balsam, etc., were
present .

    If we take a ride through Bradley Park this is a good indication of what our whole area looked
like back before 1885.

The Logging Era 1885

    In 1885 a man, from Maine, sporting a snow white beard, by the name of William H. Bradley
came to this area in hopes of building a large city much like Milwaukee, Wis. (This is why we have such nice wide streets in our City of Tomahawk) and seeing that this area had an abundance of trees for building, this was it!, this was the place!!


Mr. Bradley formed the "Tomahawk Land & Boom Company." Built the first Bank out of wood slabs to handle his booming business. The French, German, Norwegians, Swedes and some Poles migrated to this area. Logging was starting to grow with leaps and bounds. Many saw mills were constructed. Never was there such a fast and furious pace set by Mr. Bradley. He began
laying out a plot of his new "Milwaukee"and within four years there was 65 buildings up and
operating. The population was 1,816, (1891). His dream was to control the flow of the Wisconsin River, all 400 miles of it. But he did not live to see that happen, as he died in 1902.

Here are some of the fine accomplishments made by our founder William H. Bradley