Lugerville is located in the town of Flambeau, Price County, Wisconsin, eleven miles northwest of the city of Phillips. How did it get its name, you might ask?
In 1903, an enterprising young man, Robert Luger, acting as a scout of sorts for the Luger Furniture Company, set off for northern Wisconsin in search of tracts of forested lands which could be harvested to satisfy the growing needs of the family's successful furniture company. He, along with some other men in his party, traveled along the North Fork of the Flambeau River and bore witness to great expanses of hardwoods, pines and hemlock. Luger liked what he saw and sent word back to his father Frank and uncles John and Louis. In short order, forty-acres were acquired by the Lugers and by 1904 a site had been cleared along the river for a sawmill. This first mill was constructed in 1904 solely to cut logs into lumber which was then used to construct an even larger commercial steam-powered mill on the banks of the Flambeau River. The larger mill was operational by 1905.
Pine trees in the area were cut and floated down the Flambeau to the mill. In the winter months, felled pines close to the mill were transported by horse-drawn sleds. The first year, heavy wagons would haul the finished lumber over a primative road to Phillips--a long and difficult trip. But soon access to the sawmill would be greatly improved with the construction of a rail spur directly to the mill by the Wisconsin Central Railroad. A "wye" was constructed at the mill enabling the locomotive to turn around. From that point on, all finished lumber was shipped out by rail. The Mill purchased its own locomotive to bring the carloads of lumber to the mainline, a distance of four and a half miles, and would later acquire a second locomotive to haul wood to the mill from additional rail spurs built into the wooded land.
With milling operations running at full capacity, the Lugers constructed eight frame company houses to house their mill workers and families, and the Lugerville settlement became official. Three other homes were privately constructed in 1906. A company store was constructed, a cook's shanty for meals, a bunkhouse with private rooms and then a barracks-like bunkhouse. The workers were paid with coupons which could be redeemed at the company store. The company store had practically everything one could need at the time, which was improtant given how isolated the workers were--it was a long trek to Phillips!
By 1909, with most of the sought after Pine trees cut, the Lugers sold their interest in Lugerville to the John R. Davis Lumber Company, who had operated a sawmill in Phillips until it burned to the ground. The sale to Davis was official in January of 1910, however Robert Luger was asked to stay on as the mill's general manager. It is unknown how long Mr. Luger remained at the helm, perhaps just a few months as the 1910 Census indicates he was living in Minneapolis. Davis invested heavily to expand the sawmill's production capacity, which topped out at 100,000 board-feet of lumber per day. By 1912, Davis was running the mill two shifts per day, however due to the struggling national economy and the depressed lumber market, the mill was forced into receivership. The receiver's sold Davis' holdings in Phillips and Lugerville in August of 1912 to David Kneeland and Percy McLurg. Two years later a George West bought into the operation which then became know as the Kneeland West Lumber Company.
The settlement of Lugerville incorporated on June 17, 1914, and the mill regained steady operation and high production, harvesting the hardwoods that remained in the area. During this time another 14 or 15 homes were added to the settlement. On October 25, 1915, a fire started in the lumberyard which spread out of control. Before it was extinguished, as much as 5,000,000 of the 12,000,000 board feet of lumber on hand was lost. Thankfully, the loss was covered by insurance and one week later the mill was back in business. On December 1, 1915, the company reorganized under the name West Lumber Company. The week following, partner David Kneeland died rather unexpectedly. In 1917, despite the country entering World War I, business at the mill remained good and another 20 homes for the workers were constructed.
From 1914 through 1919, when the mill was at its peak production, the Lugerville population had swelled to 450 residents with the mill company owning more than 50 homes. In 1920, the Town of Flambeau was incorporated, absorbing with it the Lugerville settlement. The mill continued operating until 1933, the year the last log was sawn at Lugerville. By 1936, the mill and all its many buildings had been dismantled and the rail lines removed.
While we know the Lugers made periodic trips and visits to the sawmill on the Flambeau, there are no records to suggest any of the Lugers had ever taken up residence in the little village bearing their name carved out of the lush Wisconsin forest on the Flambeau River. The town of Flambeau is eleven miles northwest of the city of Phillips, Wisconsin, the county seat of Price County.
If you have general questions about the company or the Luger family, please feel free to contact me.