It was the morning of July 25, 1909, a Sunday, and my great-grandfather Edwin Schmidt [21 years old at the time] had been in church that morning with his father Wilhelm Schmidt, his brother Louis Schmidt, and a bunch of the neighborhood boys. All the men were still wearing their Sunday best, but a plan had been hatched: the men were going to head off after the service to do a little fishing at a place called “Short Portage”, near Rothschild, Wisconsin. Wilhelm had stopped at his saloon to grab some beer, and some bottles of whiskey. They were already packed in a horse-drawn wagon outside. One of the other men brought a picnic basket full of food. There were lanterns, fishing rods, and bait… all ready to go. Nine men set off for their favorite fishing hole, loading their provisions and themselves into three low, heavy, wooden boats once they got there.
When they had been fishing a while, local Wausau photographer J. F. Schreiber must have happened across them. Schreiber made a living photographing daily scenes in and around the Wausau area. He’d take photos and then sell copies of them back to the people in the photographs. You could even have the pictures made into postcards to send to your friends and relatives. He took one look at the motley crew and knew he had a great photographic subject on his hands. This first photo shows the men out in the water, rods, keg, and a bounty of fish on display:
[Click on photos to download or enlarge.]
You can see the photo number on this one is “285”, and the caption says “At Short Portage, July 15, ’09”. My great-grandfather Edwin Schmidt is on the far left. His father Wilhelm is in the right-hand boat with the mustache and bald head, and Louis Schmidt is on the far right. One man was cropped out of the photo on the left, so there were at least nine men fishing together that day.
Another of the photos taken that day was sent as a postcard by Edwin Schmidt to his uncle August Zierke in Montello, Wisconsin on August 10th. He writes:
“Hello Uncle, I am here sending you a jolly bunch of boys going fishing at Short Portage. This is the way we got done. See if you no [sic] me on there. By by [sic], E. F. S.”
The photo itself is so good I had a hard time believing it was a photo of my family until I realized that Edwin himself said he was in the photo.
The photo number is “289”, and the caption says “We’ve got to go home in the dark.” I’m not sure what that means except that perhaps they drank enough that they had to wait to go home to avoid getting in trouble. There are seven men in this photo, so my great-great-grandfather Wilhelm went home along with one other man from the trip prior to this photo being taken. It also means there were three photos taken between the first photo and this one.
I’d encourage you to download this photo and take a look at it in detail. You can see that the men have their “Sunday best” clothes on with overalls over them in some cases. My great-grandfather is on the far left again, with the beer-bottle to his mouth. The man with the hat on the right is his brother Louis Schmidt. The other men are not yet identified. I like how the man in the front looks like he’s on a cell phone, 100 years before his time!
I’d love it if someone could let me know where “Short Portage” was, or where this building was located. Probably near Schofield, Wisconsin? At first I thought it was a covered bridge, but I believe it’s a storage building where the boats were kept. The three boats all have something like “Rothschilds BHSD #1″on them. It might have been a business that rented the boats out for fishing trips.
A good clue is mentioned in the history of the village of Rothschild:
“Before the dam was built, young men would take long narrow boats, tie them together and the head boat had a motor and it would pull the others down the river to Mosinee, make a turn to the right, and,that is where the good fishing hole was located. Sometimes they would remain overnight in an old barn and the next morning Mr. Hewitt would take his hay wagon, go down, and bring them back to Rothschild with all their fish. “
If this is the same scenario, it means they were likely fishing near Pine Island by Mosinee.