Pinery Road: The Legend


Park Falls, Iron County, Wisconsin
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"An old Indian legend says that Bearskull Lake is sacred. Any white man who had anything to do with the lake or its vicinity will have everlasting ill fortune."

In 1904, a tornado ripped through this area, toppling the last great stands of virgin pine. The “windfall” in salvageable timber attracted brothers John and David Emerson to the vicinity of Bearskull Lake.

Hauling sawmill machinery, supplies, and logging equipment 25 miles through swamps and forest from Park Falls, they established a sawmill town here in 1905. Work to salvage wind blown timber had just begun when a fast moving forest fire destroyed the mill and new community of “Emerson.”

Come spring, the brothers hauled in larger, more modern sawmill equipment. Emerson was rebuilt. Wood frame homes, to house lumberjacks and their families, lined both sides of Emerson’s half mile long main street.

Emerson boasted a school, post office, store, and town hall— but there was no saloon. The Emersons were pious prohibitionists. Intoxicating liquor was not allowed in their town.

Was it curse or coincidence when lightning struck and killed brother John and three members of the Emerson family, while they were fishing near Bearskull Lake in 1908?

The family never recovered from the tragedy.

The mill and town were soon abandoned and logging operations moved away from Bearskull Lake.
The marker is located on eastbound Wisconsin Highway 182, east of its intersection with Ferry Lake Road, at the Sherman Town Hall, 3061 Wisconsin Highway 182, Park Falls, Wisconsin 54552.

This marker is included in the Iron County Heritage Area series of markers. Click here for more information and to view all markers in the series.

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