Trade Lake History
Trade Lake is located in Burnett County in the northwest corner of Wisconsin. The town has a total area of 35.5 square miles. Approximately 8.42% or 3 square miles is water. The Town is made up of the unincorporated communities of Four Corners, Trade Lake and part of Pole Cat Crossing. The 2010 census has 823 people living within the town.
The Town of Trade Lake sits at an elevation of 945 Ft above sea level and is mainly a farming community but are seeing a steady shift to tourism. Trade Lake boasts an abundance of wildlife and numerous species of birds and fowl. Fishing is good in both summer and winter. Fish species include bass, sunfish, perch, crappies, walleye, northern and muskies. Hunting opportunities include large game, small game and fowl.
The original inhabitants of this area were the Chippewa Indians. In 1671 the French laid claim to the area followed by the British in 1763 and finally under American rule after the war of 1812. Wisconsin became a Territory in 1836 and became a state in 1848. The first US government survey of this area was 1855 or 1857. Abraham Lincoln’s Homestead Act of 1862 brought settlers to Wisconsin. Burnett County was founded in 1865 with the boundary’s set for the Town of Trade Lake in 1874.
A Little History
In 1865 J.W. Farsell built himself a log cabin. He wrote to a Swedish newspaper telling them about the beautiful land and the cost of $14.00 to settle a homestead. Charles Anderson came to the area in 1868 and settled in the Four Corners area which was the first settlement in the Town of Trade Lake. He returned twice to Sweden to bring shiploads of Swedish Settlers. Between 1868 and 1870 about 100,000 Swedish immigrants arrived to settle the land. Three churches were built at the Four Corners, a Baptist Church in 1869, the Lutheran Church in 1870 and a Methodist church (no date). They opened the first post office in the Town which was later moved to Trade Lake. The first Town hall was built in Four Corners and the first election was held in 1875.
The Village of Trade Lake was started by homesteader J. O. Akerlind, who built a stone dam on the Trade River which was later replaced by a timber dam and In 1877 a grist mill was built for grinding feed and flour. In 1878, soon after the mill was built, John Carlson opened a trading post on the hillside in the new Trade Lake Village. “Trader” Carlson learned to speak Chippewa and was known to be friendly with the Indians. The Indians would set up camp on the location where the present day town hall sits. Carlson exchanged commodities for furs. If trapping was good in the area it was said he often took in $ 450.00 a day in furs in everything from Black bear to black housecat pelts, and during the Spanish American war Carlson shipped a wagonload of navy beans every day for a week. Carlson also traded in Ginseng roots which grew wild in the surrounding woods and was in great demand by the Chinese. Ginseng went for 15 cents a pound for dried roots. Carlson built himself a large grand house just east of his store. Trader Carlson’s original house was carefully restored to its glory and is now the home of his grandson, Jack and Evelyn Carlson.
By 1883 Trade Lake Village has grown to 2 stores, the grist mill, blacksmith shop, creamery (which closed in 1964 and still stands on its original site), a Hotel, and several homes. At one time there was also a hoop factory, a butcher shop, feed store, brick factory confectioner’s shop, shoe repair, livery stables, a few taverns and a post office. There were hopes at one time of the railroad coming to Trade Lake. Autumn days were spent gathering wild grapes, thorn apples, butternuts, wild plums and cranberries.
A little About Wisconsin’s Oldest Town Hall Still In Use
The first Trade Lake Town hall was built at Four Corners and held the first Town meeting on April 6, 1875. The hall was destroyed by fire in 1889. The Town held a special election in May of that year to vote upon the matter of rebuilding the Town Hall. The votes were cast and approved to rebuild the Town Hall but it would be relocated near Carlson’s Trading Post in the new Trade Lake Village. Bids were received and Sept 1889 the board awarded the bid to Andrew Johnson of Wood Lake for the sum on $393.00. The first Town board meeting held in the new hall on the new site was in January 1890.
When Round Lake School became overcrowded the Trade Lake hall served as a schoolhouse from 1909-1914 complete with its own baseball team. Many groups have met in the Town Hall over the years. The Town hall was remodeled in 2016 with new siding, insulation, roof and windows and wiring. The original floors were redone and the interior has been kept as close to original as possible. There are law books and town records dating back to the late 1800s at the hall. If you are ever in the area please contact the town clerk to have a look inside.
Swedish Mission Church
Trade Lake Swedish Mission Church was built in 1890 to provide the area children with Sunday school classes, but the building was never officially used as a church. The church and cemetery still stand on the original spot overlooking the Town. The building has been restored with light and heat and still hosts 3 meetings a year. Their annual meeting, a summer picnic and a wonderful old-fashioned Christmas program performed by local children.
The first burials in the new settlement were on Davison Island, a small island in Little Trade Lake. This was used by Indians and white settlers alike. Since boards were hard to come by, coffins were often made from splitting a length of white pine in half and hollowing it out with an ax to fit the body. The two sides of the log were put back together with wooden pegs. Bodies were safe from wolves on the island.
As The Years Go By
The Post office closed in 1919. And the mill was destroyed by fire in 1935. Art Nedvidek’s tavern, held rooster fights for betting and sporting purposes until 1940 when Trade Lake discontinued all alcohol and liquor and the taverns were closed. The mill pond and old dam finally washed out in 1946. In the early 1950’s nearly a million volunteers across the county served with the Ground Observer Corps. Around 16,000 Watchtowers were built east of the Rockies to cover gaps in the National Radar. Residents manned these towers scanning the skies for any signs of a Soviet invasion by air. Trade Lake was home to one such tower nicknamed “Uncle Nan”. This program concluded in 1959.
Though many of the smaller villages have disappeared with the changing times, many descendants of the early Scandinavian settlers still live here today, along with many newcomers. The Trade Lake Baptist and Lutheran Churches are still in 4 corners and in use today. The Methodist Church moved a few miles south to Atlas. The Town of Trade Lake remains a beautiful land of sparkling lakes and streams, woods and meadows. Colorful in autumn with all the maple trees and beautiful in spring with the wildflowers. Trade Lake is still a place of beauty and full of rural charm.
1st white child born in the Town — Hulda Carlson
1st tax roll — 1875
1st frame house 1890 by A.G. Melin
1st Post office - 1870 was located at Four Corners
1st Creamery in Burnett County 1896-1964.
1st election in Trade Lake - 1875