Special Edition: IXL Historical Museum
Updated: Aug 8, 2021
For this edition of my blog, I wanted to share some photographs from my recent visit to Menominee County. I thought you might want to see what life was like in Hermansville at the turn of the century. I especially wanted to share my visit to the IXL Historical Museum, where you can step back in time to the early years of the lumber industry and a Michigan company town. Enjoy!
Also, mark your calendars for next Sunday, August 15, from 12:30 - 4:00 CDT. The IXL Historical Museum in Hermansville will be hosting its Vintage Day, including live music, blacksmithing, pasties and homemade cookies, and possible horse-drawn wagon rides. If you are in the area, I encourage you to visit the museum on River Street in Hermansville and learn about a unique time in our history. I cannot be there, but certainly wish I could be.
IXL Historical Museum
The IXL Historical Museum is a historic office building and museum complex in Hermansville, Michigan. The main building was constructed as the headquarters for the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Company in the 1880s. The museum was organized in 1982, and the main building, also known as the Wisconsin Land and Lumber Company Office, was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1973 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
A Typical Company House
The IXL Historical Museum purchased this company house and relocated it to the museum grounds. Many of these homes remain in Hermansville, but they've been remodeled and expanded over time and no longer have their historical value. This home was never remodeled to any large extent and it's been beautifully restored. You enter through the small kitchen and then move into the main part of the home to the right. In addition to the kitchen, there were two rooms downstairs -- a sitting room and bedroom -- and two bedrooms upstairs. Note the primitive "facilities" out back to handle your necessities. Several families would have shared a hand-pump water well. When Minnie visited her cousin Minnie Arsenault Raiche in Hermansville, she would have walked into a house just like this. Click on any of the photos below to get a closer look.
Wisconsin Land & Lumber Co. Offices
These offices give you a first-hand look at lumber company history. It's as though Dr. Earle and his staff left for the day and will be returning to work tomorrow, even though Dr. Earle died in 1923. Dr. Earle's medical bag is on the table in his office. The vault contains records dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. In addition to the offices, you can tour the living quarters upstairs that were used by company founder C.J.L. Meyer during his visits to Hermansville. I even found some interesting correspondence on the third floor.
"Gayest of All the Nationalities"
This description of the French Canadians who settled in Hermansville confirms what I've found in Minnie's Diary. "Gayest of all the nationalities in the area, they liked marriage, merrymaking, hunting and family parties," it reads. Some of the French families who settled "Frenchtown" predated the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Company's arrival and the founding of Hermansville. Minnie's family lived in the French settlement known as "Camp 7" -- named for the lumber camp that was once there. Once the land was cleared of usable lumber, the company sold it to settlers who wanted to farm. Also note the sad story of the beautiful Hotel Herman, which burned to the ground in 1888 before it hosted a single guest.
Nieman & Pipkorn Bros. General Store
By 1906, the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Co. decided to allow outside businessmen operate at least one of the town's general stores. The IXL Historical Museum has recreated the Nieman and Pipkorn Bros. store in the old company warehouse. If you have historical ties to the community, you might even find your ancestor's name in the general ledger there. I found Peter Gamache had paid $9.68 to settle his outstanding account at the store on October 15, 1906.
The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Depot
Although the original Hermansville train depots are gone, the museum obtained a depot from nearby Wilson, Michigan, and restored it on museum grounds. You can see the telegraph desk, the waiting room for passengers, and the storage room for freight and baggage. Nearby is a restored caboose. All aboard!
Minnie's Home and Neighborhood (Camp 7)
I'm grateful to the current owner of Minnie's childhood home for letting me visit and take some photographs while I was in the area. The house (shown in second photo below) has been remodeled and expanded since Peter Gamache built it in the mid-1890s, but it still has two apple trees that he likely planted and the original fieldstone basement. Across the street is the home once occupied by Joe Raiche and his wife, Emeline (photo 6). The beautiful home built in 1904 by Joseph Marchaterre Sr. (photo 7) still stands up the road, along with other homes that once housed Minnie's friends and neighbors.
I hope you enjoyed these photographs. I'm still working on the next edition of Minnie's Diary. I hope to have it to you soon.