Black River Falls, the Black River and LDS/Mormon lumber colonies
Undated photo of loggers from the area believed to be of Mormon loggers
2003 marker placed by the LDS church as found along Foundation Trail in Black River Falls
Hydroelectric Dam on the Black River were a sawmill once stood
1939 marker nothing both the early sawmills and LDS presence in Black River Falls
Close look of the "Mormon Riffles"
Mormon Tabernacle Choir with Elder Craig A. Cardon of the Seventy at the dedication of marker in Black River Falls.
Backstory and Context
"The town of Black River Falls is the county seat of Jackson County, Wisconsin. It is here that the falls of the Black River cut through a region of granite. The town was established to utilize the waterpower of the river.
Previously, the Saints had purchased a share of a mill located on the confluence of Roaring Creek and the Black River below the settlement of Black River Falls. The mill was in poor operating condition and there was strife between the involved parties with regard to when and for how long they could use the mill. The amount of lumber output from Roaring Creek was minimal. The Mormon loggers pulled out of that struggling arrangement and moved upriver.
The Latter-day Saints worked out an agreement with Jacob Spaulding to utilize three sawmills in Black River Falls to prepare the fallen trees which had been floated down the Black River from Neillsville and other logging settlements. The mills would have been open-sided with a single up and down blade. Circular saws would not come to Wisconsin for about another decade. Presently, the falls are covered by a hydroelectric dam.
Once the trees had gone through the mills they could be pegged together as rafts and floated down the Black to the Mississippi River and on to Nauvoo, a journey of some 400 miles from beginning to end. Small, temporary living quarters were set on the rafts for use by those guiding the rafts and their families. The journey took about two and one half weeks if all went well.
WhiIe on tour in 2013, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir stopped in Black River Falls and performed at the dedication of a historical marker that members of the choir had paid for by personal contributions. They also stopped in the former Mormon logging settlement of Neillsville where they had lunch, a welcomed but logistical challenge for such a small town."
*Information on the Black River also from Mormon Historic Sites:
"During the period of 1841-1845, logging settlements in Clark County, Wisconsin harvested lumber to supply the needs of building projects in Nauvoo, Illinois, some 400 miles downriver.
Once a tree was down, it was floated down the Black River some twenty-five miles to Black River Falls in Jackson County where the Mormons operated three sawmills. The tannin content in the water gives the river its name.
White pines were the trees most frequently harvested. As they grew, these trees would often self prune leaving the wood with few knots. Moreover, white pines floated well for something so massive. Some trees were first floated down a tributary, such as Cunningham Creek, and on to the Black River. One of the challenges of sending such large trees down the river was a combination of rocks, snags, and rapids which could block the massive logs as they floated."