Manitowish Waters History
As recalled by Betty Koller
In 1945-46 five families came to Manitowish Waters to start cranberry marshes. Vern Goldsworthy found the land suitable for cranberries – acid soil and alkaline water supplied from Little Trout Lake. The five families were Howard & Mary Folsom, Herbert & Florence Indermuehl, Delbert & Myrtle Bartling, John & June McFarland and Frank & Betty Koller. The town did not welcome us. The land was in forestry, where no one could live year-round.
We had together changed the land into agriculture. There was no telephone or electric. To get our weather reports, Ehlerts Market would get them, and then we would get them there. After a few years the growers hung wires for both utilities. We had to get to the marsh from Powell Road as there was no way to cross the Rice or Trout Rivers. There was a road we could park in, it had once been a camp. First one in had to be last one out. Everything had to be brought in by wheel barrow, stoneboats, or any other means that you could carry with. Some years later, the growers had a culvert put in so we could get to the marsh down Hwy 51.
We had to get roads into each marsh. The growers had very little equipment that they shared with each other. We all dug the ditches into Trout Lake and individual marshes with a hired drag line by hand.
Frank Koller was the last original grower and passed away in 2012. Betty Koller is the last woman today from the original growers.
There were many small resorts, but the larger ones were Deer Park, Koerner’s, Voss’, which is still the last one operating.
Highway 51 extended into Boulder Junction with Thlieker’s Silverdale Diner and Tavern, which is now the Rustic Road House. Ehlert’s market is now Lake Side Living, which is owned by McGraws.
The first building was Marty Cains, which is now the Howling Dog. There was a fix-it-shop, a real estate office owned by Wally Klest, Wagner’s Restaurant and Cottages – now Koller’s Real Estate office. Edmond Kment had a taxidermy shop, Voss’ Birchwood Lodge had a tavern with music as well as dining. They carried a small amount of grocery, had a gas station on the corner of the building. Dr. Newcomb had an office upstairs at the Voss’ Coffee shop. She would stop in at various times and check on patients. At one point, there were three ladies expecting children: Betty Koller was expecting Frankie (he was born in Tomahawk). Audrey Dickerson was expecting Ruthie (she was born in Wausau). Betty Skrobot was expecting Barbara (she was born in Tomahawk). Voss’ is on Spider Lake. Across the lake was Koener’s Resort. Deer Park Resort was across the road on Manitowish Lake. They catered to the Jewish clientele. They were self contained with a swimming pool, horses, tennis court and entertainment as well as dining and liquor. Part of Koener’s is now Blue Bayou Inn, across Hwy. 51 on Manitowish Lake.
Going north was a bakery, now an animal clinic. Still north was the Manitowish Grade School. Grades one through four, and five through eight. My son Frankie Koller went to that school. Wally Engle and Ebba Elz were teachers. Art Elz(Ebba’s husband) owned what is now Dietz’s Gas Station. Ebba Elz was the sister of Arden Michich. Bernice Bart was the cook. After the school closed, Benji Reimer bought it for $12,000. Further north, Oscar Nehring had a garage and cottages. Tom Crawford built a garage which is now Charlie Rayala’s Little Star Garage. Ernst Meinel had a resort which is now called Northern Highland Lodge. Little Bohemia Lodge was dining owned by Emil Wanatka, Sr.
The town hall and cemetery are further north and off the road. The town hall had a coal furnace, no water, but held many dances and social events to raise money for the school’s hot lunches. When elections were held at the town hall, the candidates put on a feed and dance with Whiley and Little Eva providing the music. Costume dances were held and all were dressed for the occasion. The building has been torn down and is now the cemetery with the Veterans Memorial for all the Veterans passed and future. This was put up by Frank and Betty Koller, names added as needed paid by the Kollers.
The Feather Factory started where the Rod & Reel had been (right next to Koller Park). Benji Reimer, Henry Larsen and Tom Hill were partners, then they split up. Benji later built the present factory on Hwy. 51.
Lloyd McElwan ran a coffee shop, now the Broken Oar. The village consisted of LaPortes grocery and Hanson’s Hardware. Now there is a post office, real estate and many other shops. Across the highway was the original post office, (the first post office was in Manitowish), art studio, now owned by Liz Uihlein.
North was Rudy’s Rest Haven now the Park side, they had a Mina Bird which said “My name is Joe – What’s your name?”. You could hear it all over town.
Next is the Koller Park on Rest Lake, which was the only lake frontage, which was formerly a boat landing, dock and gas pump.
There was a bait shop, called Rod & Reel, now torn down. Next was Art Elz gas station, now Dietz’s gas station. Across the highway was Garber’s which is now the Angler’s.
Lloyd LaPorte owned what is now Ye-Olde-Shillelagh. Dan ? was owner before Lloyd, and he started the Manitowish Waters Lions Club.
The airport was here when the five cranberry owners came. It was a grass runway and potatoes were planted on part of the property. It has been expanded with a very nice building and runway. The building was bought by Al Cherne and aviation department. There was a building on the airport property that was used by the Boy Scouts.
In the village was Laporte’s store – then a dress shop on one end started by Jaegers. Later a coffee lunch shop. Around the curve was Bob Maleskey’s Barber Shop. A beauty parlor run by Paula Chamberlin and a Laundromat, which is now the only original business remaining after LaPorte’s sold. LaPorte’s was sold to Village Market. There is a Bank on the corner. The Hardware Store was Hanson’s, now it is True Value. The original post office was across 51 with other shops (The postmaster’s wife, Florence Daniels, started the Art League). Now it is near the hardware store. Robert Dickerson had his law office between Laport’s and the post office. Further north was Rudy’s Rest Haven, now Parkside. Next is Frank Koller Park with docks, and Music in the Park in the summer. Next is Dietz gas station , formerly Art Elz’s place. Across from Dietz’s was Larber’s Timber Inn, now Anglers. There was an observation tower now torn down.
The Community Center replaces the old town hall. The Fire Department was on the property where Little Star Garage is located. They now have their own fire department. Also, next to the Fire Department is the Frank B. Koller Memorial Library.