Home > Parish Roots (Pre 1914) > Trains and Ore Cars, but No Street Cars

Trains and Ore Cars, but No Street Cars


Turn of the Century

Passenger trains also ran on the Ashland line of the Northern Pacific railway (which is visible on the map along the bay). On the southern edge of Allouez ran the Duluth, South Shore, and Atlantic (DSS&A) railway (see map) which stretched from Duluth, Minnesota, through Allouez, to Sault St. Marie, Michigan. It was the lifeline of the north country. As on historian put it, “For many residents there was comfort in the sound of the DSS&A locomotive’s whistle heard in the middle of a long winter’s night. One felt connected to the outside world knowing that you could ride the DSS&A and connect to other railways that went to Chicago, Detroit, Montréal, and beyond.”

The region’s slow growth of infrastructure at a time in which the iron ore industry was expanding by leaps and bounds created a void in which the town found itself isolated along the south shore of the bay. The only way in and out were by Itasca Street and 4th Street both had wooden bridges across the Nemadji River and Bear Creek, respectively; the latter built in 1898 to connect the eastern edge of Superior to the county road system under construction. By 1910 the Bear Creek bridge was beginning to fall into a state of ill repair. It was eventually replaced with a wide road embankment through the creek valley. These improvements were being made, in part, because in 1896, the post office had inaugurated Rural Free Delivery in Wisconsin promising home mail service on roads passable enough to permit it. By 1902 Rural Free Delivery had been established throughout United States.

Rural carriers carried more than the mail. They could provide the latest local news or the current price of goods in town. Patrons expected a lot from their carriers. In addition to collecting and delivering mail, they also sold stamps and money orders out of their buggies or wagons. The carriers essentially operated traveling post offices out of their vehicles. They might also be asked to run errands or to read or write letters for those who could not read or write themselves.

Rural Free Delivery service was a welcome improvement for the isolated rural farms. Finally, farmers could get timely livestock quotations and produce price information, which allowed them to sell their stock and goods at the best time. Weather forecasts were delivered directly to farmers, along with newspapers, magazines and mail-order catalogs from Sears and Montgomery Wards. In 1897, one year after the start of the rural free delivery, Sears boasted that it was selling four suits and a watch every minute, a revolver every two minutes and a buggy every ten minutes. And within five years, Sears had tripled its revenues.

The roads in Allouez were often little more than dirt paths which meant that for much of the year they were mud. In spring the roads were often impassable. During the winter months residents used sleds. In the summer, for the most part, people braved the dirt roads which were dusty and filled with ruts. Fragrantly laced with horse dung and urine, people traveled on them to the train and back, or to bring their harvest from the farm. For any trip beyond that, they went by rail.

At the turn of the century, the residents of the Allouez demanded that their roads be improved. However, the city of Superior had little time to catch its breath, busy with its own projects. Whereas heavy freight wagons, or horse “trucks” as they were called had forced the city of Superior to pave its business districts, the crushed stone that was used was just too expensive for the less traveled “horse roads” of Allouez. (In 1909, only 8 percent of roads were improved in any way; more than half of the improvements was gravel. Concrete accounted for all of 9 miles.)

Although these “horse roads” of Allouez were sufficient for pedestrians and horses, residents wanted the street car line to extend into their town. However, in order for them to accommodate street cars they would have to be reinforced. As a spokesmen for the street car company stated, “We could hardly be expected to extend our line until there is something to build our track upon.” In 1914 sewers were finally built in Allouez.

In order to connect with the rest of the city, therefore, early residents of Allouez had to walk across the timber wood bridge on Fourth Street and then walk to the East End where the street car line ended. In 1900, the service was extended to the Nemadji River though, between the hours of 4-7 and early in the morning to accommodate those who worked on the ore docks and had homes in Superior. However, no accommodations were made on Sunday mornings for church services.


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Train and Ore Cars, but No Street Cars

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