The city’s early life was founded on the lumber industry, and the coming railroad simultaneously with the beginning of the settlement bought about rapid growth. New sawmills appeared in rapid succession to swell the tide of the city’s prosperity.
The first mill was built by King and Weymouth of Winneconne, Wisconsin in the spring of 1888. This mill was subsequently sold to Bradley interests and became known as Mill #1. It was next owned by the Rice lumber Company and from this concern it passed to the Somo Lumber Company., who operated it for a time and then sold it to the John Oelhafen Lumber Company. It was aquired from the last named company by its present owners, the Raymond Lumber Company, in 1923. It is located west of the Marinette, Tomahawk and Western tracks and north of Bradley Park, across the bay.
The next sawmill to be erected was put up by the Tomahawk Lumber Company in the winter of 1888-1889, making its first cut in the spring of 1889. This was known as the Bradley Mill, #2, W.H. Bradley being the moving spirit of the Tomahawk Lumber Company. It was situated on the Wisconsin River west of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul tracks. It burned down in 1897 or 1898 and the new mill with which it was replaced was also destroyed by fire. The mill now standing on this site was moved from Woodboro by the Bradley interests, who operated it for several years and then sold it to its present owners, the Mohr Lumber Company.
The Crane Mill was moved here from Gagen, Wisconsin in the winter of 1889-1890 and started making lumber in the spring of 1890. It was owned under the name of Crane Bros., by Timothy and Abner B. Crane, who had come to Wisconsin originally from the state of Maine. This mill was located across the river, north of the present city pumping station and was sold and moved away in 1904, having finished sawing timber from Crane Brothers holdings here.
What was known as the #3 Mill was built by Farmers Lumber Company in 1890 and was owned and operated by Robert hall and George R. Gray of Muskegon until its ownership was combined with that of the Bradley and Rodgers Mills. It was located across the Wisconsin River north of Tomahawk Avenue, and was destroyed by fire in 1893.
The Rodgers Mill, or #4, was moved here from Muskegon in 1889 and was located west of the railroad tracks on the west end of what is now known as Rodgers or Foss’s Island. It burned in 1903 or 1904.
There were several other mills of more or less brief duration. Alexander Rodgers erected a shingle mill across the river just north of the #2 Mill in 1890. This mill was dismantled after one or two seasons of operations. The Bradley Company built a large box company in 1890, located just west of the intersection of the Marinette Tomahawk and Western tracks with the street that runs to the Rodgers Island and Mill#1. This factory burned in 1893 or 1894. At a later date W.H. Foss had a box factory on the east end of Rodgers Island; the plant was built in 1908 and destroyed by fire in 1913.
The Bay Mill, which burned in 1903, was built by W. H. Bradley at the location known as Bay Mills, west of the city of Tomahawk. A settlement grew up around the mill.
In 1890, Mr. Newton and Mr. A.M. pride built a pulp mill on the east side of the river at the dam. And in 1895 a paper mill was added to the plant. A second mill was built in 1904 and 1905 at the west end of the dam. And is known as Mill #2 of Tomahawk Pulp and Paper. Another mill was built and located at Kings Dam. Kings Dam was built in circa 1910 by Mr. Bradley. This location was named because a man, named King, owned a tavern or station there in the early days. The Tomahawk Pulp and Paper Company manufactured catalog paper for Montgomery Wards. It could not supply enough paper so the president of the company, C. B. pride established another independent mill called the Pride Pulp and Paper Company . After WW1 it was sold to Mosinee Paper and became the Tomahawk Kraft Paper Company.
At the heyday of the lumber industry here the annual cut at Tomahawk ran 60,000,000 to 75,000,000 feet of lumber with about 25,000,000 shingles.
Excerpted from: A HISTORY OF LINCOLN, ONIEDA AND VILAS COUNTIES 1924