Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Feb. 21, 2000

Life in Middleville's 40-acre settlement

By Edward Reinmuth and other family members

Third of a four-part series.

After J. G. Reinmuth and August Enkie had staked their claims, they set about the task of building a cabin.

They decided to build J. G.'s first. Here it was that J.G. set down his roots at a place later known as Howard Lake. By the fall of 1856, they had the first cabin completed and began work on Enkie's cabin. Winter came on before it was completed and the men went back to St Anthony.

J. G. had intended to take his family out to the cabin to live, but that didn't happen. The reason was Barbara was expecting a baby and it wasn't born until Jan. 22, 1857. Also, Grandfather Lewis was about 4 years old then, and the riggers of the wilderness would have just been too much.

However, J. G. did go back to the cabin that winter. He cut down trees and cleared land until spring of 1857 and then returned to St Anthony to get the family. J. G. has the distinction of being the first permanent settler in Middleville Township.

The account has it that a Mr. Cook loaned J. G. some money so that he was able to buy a team of oxen and a wagon so he could move his family out to the cabin in the wilderness.

My uncle, George Reinmuth, stated in a written document that when the family reached the Crow River and tried to ford it, the wagon and oxen became mired in the mud and high water. Most of the supplies had to be unloaded and carried to the opposite shore. I think that most of their things got wet.

Aunt Helen Gruenhagen once told me that the original cabin was built near the lake and was located very close to the spot where our house now stands. I have to agree with Great-grandfather, it is a lovely spot for a house to stand.

Soon, a second cabin had to be built. The reason being that the first had a dirt floor and the roof began to leak when it rained. The roof was made of slabs that deteriorated. It is thought that this leaky roof is what caused the family Bible to become stained. The Bible remains that way even to this day.

The second cabin was built with a plank floor and a roof made with split shingles that a local fellow had split for J. G.

The spring

When we were children, Grandmother Bertha told us about when the family had to carry water from the spring up to the house for drinking and other purposes. It was located near the first cabins. It still flows and is about 100 feet west of our present house.

An interesting tidbit is that when we built our house in 1977 and dug the trench from the well to the house, water flowed down the trench and began to fill the well pit. This necessitated the tiling of the well out to the lake bank in order for the well pit to remain dry. The whole process opened up a new spring which has flowed for 22 years.

Another interesting thing about J. G.'s choice for his first building site is that it was close to water so the animals could drink. Wells weren't dug on the farm until the building site was moved up the hill to its present site now owned by Dr. Thiesse. Grandma Bertha told me that the first well had boards lining the side walls. This was soon abandoned because the water quality was poor. A driven well was then put in and several wells have been drilled after that.

In 1857, the Enkie family came out to the lake and their cabin was completed. It is not known if the two families traveled together for the trip to Howard Lake. One could think that that was what happened. It must have been nice to have close neighbors.

Once the family was settled, J. G. set about clearing land so that crops could be planted. This must have been a tremendous task. The large trees had to be felled with an axe and a cross-cut saw. This process continued for years. When Grandfather Lewis became old enough, he helped his father cut down trees.

When Lewis owned the farm, if time permitted, he would cut down trees during the day and then burn them at night. Grandmother Bertha would become concerned about Lewis and would go out to see if he was all right only to find him still working with the trees.


When J. G. staked out his land, he expected it to be homestead 1and, which means the land is free if you build a cabin and live on the land. But, Congress passed the railroad act in the mid-1800s, and J.G.'s land was considered to be railroad land.

This was land given to the railroads that they in turn sold for money to build railroads and make it easier to settle the land. J.G. had to pay $1.50 per acre for his land. That seems like a small sum, but without any income, it became a lot of money. J.G. managed to pay for it some way.

It was only a short while before the whole area was settled. For about five to seven years, Middleville Township was known as the 40-acre settlement, because it was divided up into many small parcels, each supporting a family.

In those days, ginseng could be found in the forest. The Chinese were buying it, so many early settlers dug wild ginseng to supplement their income. J. G. and August Enkie started digging and selling ginseng. It became the main source of income and it helped them buy the land from the railroad.

J. G. purchased the land from St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, the predecessor to Great Northern, now the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad.

The Chinese merchants were the principle buyers of ginseng. Even when I was a youth, I dug ginseng for spending money. Some plants remained in the Reinmuth woods.

Ginseng is a plant about 18 inches tall with fern-like leaves. In the fall, there was a small clutch of little red berries that became the seed of the plant. Under the plant, there was a small white root that resembled a carrot with a couple of attached side roots.

The root is the valuable part of the plant. After digging, it had to be dried on screen rack. Care had to be taken so air could flow around the roots otherwise it would mold and lose its value. When I sold it, I received $4 per pound. That was quite a lot of money for a kid in those days. I don't believe there is any wild ginseng to be found around here anymore. Today, most is commercially grown. There are growers in Wisconsin, and the price is much higher today for it.

The early pioneers dug ginseng for many years, and after the railroad was built through Howard Lake, maple cordwood was cut and sold to the railroad for fuel for wood-burning locomotives.

Even my father, Louis, sold wood to the railroad when he was a young man. He said that there were huge piles of stacked cordwood along a siding just east of the town of Howard Lake.

At one time, the grade on the railroad just east of town was one of the steeper places along the rail line. Sometimes the older, small locomotives couldn't make it up the hill on the first attempt. They had to back up quite a ways and take a running start to get over the hill.

J. G. wanted to be a farmer, so he spent most of his time clearing land to grow crops. Enkie, however, spent his time digging ginseng and didn't clear enough land for farming. Eventually, the price of ginseng dropped and the Enkies moved to Washington.

Uncle Allen Reinmuth kept in touch with a Theadore Enkie, the son of August Enkie, the pioneer. About four years ago, I was contacted by a Linda A. Todd who lives in Kettle Falls, Wash. She is a great-granddaughter of August Enkie. She had a couple of letters that were written to her grandfather, Theadore Enkie, from Allen Reinmuth and sent me copies of them.

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