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Mellen History

Our Rich History by resident historians

1886 – The Wisconsin Central Railroad buys part of Samuel O’Grady Bennett’s homestead, which he named Iron City. A boxcar is placed at the junction of the Penokee and Central Railroads, which had newly connected the Gogebic Range with the Ashland shipping docks.

1888 – Iron City is renamed Mellen in honor of William Solon Mellen, the general manager of the Wisconsin Central Railroad. Mellen builds its first school on West Street.

Late 1800’s – The Main Street building that now houses the Iron City Laundromat was erected to house a tailor’s shop, and then a shoemaker’s shop.

1896 – Fayette Shaw (of Boston, MA) builds 5 tanneries in Wisconsin. The largest and most productive tannery in North America is built in Mellen. The Mellen City Hall building is constructed.

1898 – George Foster (of Wausau, WI) purchases from Shaw the sawmill that was built to provide lumber during the construction of the tannery complex. Foster quickly becomes a major player in the lumber industry of the north.

1901 – The Mellen Weekly Record Newspaper is first published by James Pratt. Jim & Sandy Christl still publish every week.

1903 – The telephone connects Mellen with Ashland. Mellen gets its first bank, the Mellen State Bank, housed in Mellen’s first brownstone building. This building can be seen on Bennett Street across from the Post Office. This area served as Mellen’s financial district for the next 16 years.

1905 – The Lockhart building, which houses the Mellen Weekly Record, is built on Bennett Street.

1907 – Mellen votes to become a city. A.J. Sullivan, a Mellen businessman, is the first mayor. Mellen’s fire and police departments are established. A veneer plant is built in west Mellen. Today, Columbia Forest Products produces veneer on the same site. A fire destroys south Bennett Street. The new brick buildings erected after this fire still serve Mellen’s downtown.

1910 – The school built in 1897 burns to the ground. A new brick school is built on the same site. Circa

1910 – Most buildings on the east side of Main Street are constructed to house local businesses. Northland Foods grocery store occupies the building that the Block family constructed to house one of Mellen’s first grocery stores.

1920 – The largest census in Mellen history was taken: 1,981.

1922 – The tannery closes. The Northern State Bank Building is constructed on Main Street.

1927 – The Legion Memorial Library is created in City Hall.

1940s- Soo Line Operations recreations by George Roen the grandson of one of Mellen’s first Depo Agents, IB Roen.

1945 – Mellen loses 24 soldiers in World War II.

1946 – Mellen Flood

1947 – Veneer mill supplies birch for SPRUCE GOOSE Howard Hughes flew the Spruce Goose only once (it wasn’t spruce, by the way–it was mostly made from birch). By far the biggest airplane ever built, the H-4, also known as the Hercules, had a wingspan of 320 feet–20 feet longer than a football field. It had enough cargo space to carry two railroad boxcars. It had eight massive engines with 17-foot propellers. It weighed 300,000 pounds. And it was made of wood.

1950s – Main Street & Bennett Street

1962 – Hollywood Movie Filmed Here: Ernest Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man

Best Picture – Drama (nom) – 1962 Golden Globe Best Actress – Drama (nom) – Susan Strasberg – 1962 Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor (nom) – Paul Newman – 1962 Golden Globe Best Supporting Actress (nom) – Jessica Tandy – 1962 Golden Globe Best Director (nom) – Martin Ritt – 1962 Golden Globe

1963 – Black Granite Quarries – There are two quarries in the Mellen area. Fashionable building stone from these quarries was shipped to all points of the compass, including the President John F. Kennedy grave site.

1967 – Mellen lost two local men in Viet Nam War.

1967 – Local Star Scores 54 points in Basketball Game, BOB Boettcher, before the three-point rule.

1970 – High School Baseball team loses first conference game in 14 years ending one of states longest winning streaks.

1986 – Mellen celebrates its centennial.

2005 – “WHAT A STORM” Mellenites are calling it the worst storm ever to hit in such a short time span. 28 inches was the official tally of snow fall that day.

2008 – The Story of Edgar Sawtelle novel. Author David Wroblewski along with Oprah Winfrey’s production crew were in Mellen filming the area described in his book. It was aired on Oprah’s Live Web cam interview with David.

2010 – All School Reunion, 4th of July weekend old classmates, friends, teachers past and present gathered for this special four-day event.

2012 – on Sept. 16, Mellen became Wisconsin’s first “Trail Town”. This honor was presented to Mellen by the North Country Trail Association which recognizes a community through which the trail passes and accommodates hikers and other trail users. Mayor Joe Barabe accepted two trail markers identifying Mellen as a Trail Town. The North Country Trail runs from North Dakota to New York, a distance of 4600 miles.

2013 – July – Congratulations to Terry Peters Logging.  Ashland Area Development Association recently named Terry Peters Logging as “Business of the Year”.

2013 – October – Members of the Mural committee unveil a Mellen history Mural with local artist Irene (Levelius) Buzzell. The mural is located on Bennett Ave. next to Mellen City Hall.

2022 – the torch has been passed for most points scored in a Mellen Highschool Basketball game. Bob Boettcher scored 54 points back in 1967. Tommy Zakovec scored 60 points on December 1, 2022, against Winter, WI. Then, he broke his own record by scoring 62 points against LCO Highschool of Hayward, WI on January 9, 2023. Congratulations Tommy!