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IXL Museum reveals lumber town’s past

(Terri Castelaz/Daily News photos) The IXL Historical Museum of Hermansville displays the former office of Dr. G.W. Earle. He used the large table when a medical crisis or accidents occurred.

HERMANSVILLE — Inside Hermansville’s IXL Historical Museum, a fascinating story of the once-booming lumber company town is told through its exhibits.

The first floor of the 1881-82 Wisconsin Land & Lumber Co. building that was dedicated to the administration staff houses artifacts that are 99% original, with the office equipment still the way Dr. G.W. Earle left it.

“When you enter the main floor, it looks like they closed the doors on a Friday night and didn’t return,” Board President Marilyn Popp said.

Popp noted the desks are still in a neat and working order, complete with handwritten ledgers and sale orders that appear as if an entry has just been completed.

In addition to the hundreds of documents the public can view, they will see the century-old crank telephones, dictaphones, inkwells and adding machines.

Marilyn Popp, president of the IXL Historical Museum, shows recently acquired furniture in the original “company house” that is among the oldest homes in Hermansville. Matt and Edna Perry, the original owners of the house, would have lived there with their three daughters in the 1920s.

A couple unique attractions are the walk-in vault and a Hermansville-printed $5 bill.

“On display in the office hangs its original ‘company money,’ which they used to pay their employees,” she said, adding the mill employed a lot of people during its time.

The hardwood flooring business was big for such a small area, Popp said.

Every piece of flooring was stamped with the letters “IXL” inside a circle, which stood for “I excel,” to reflect on quality products.

“It was very popular — the ‘Cinderella of wood’ at that time,” she said.

The IXL Historical Museum in Hermansville has opened for the season. The multi-complex museum, at W5551 River St., will be open from 12:30 to 4 p.m Fridays and Saturdays.

The second story of the 19th-century structure was a residence and features pieces from that period. Dr. Earle and family occupied it for several years until the construction of his new house on the hill was complete.

Popp said before becoming the living quarters, several rooms were used as offices that still have the dumb waiter system that carried documents to offices below. The rooms were last occupied to renters about 1974.

This year they have changed up and made additions to several displays, including the dining room table. The second-story kitchen was open to the public for the first time for the 2023 season.

“We have added decor pieces and kitchen items to the room, including several aprons,” Popp said, adding, “It’s such a cute little room now.”

The second story has several displays of vintage women’s hats and dresses. They have opened up the third level as well that contains many documents, old travel trunks and equipment.

The produce warehouse building received a revamp of its displays for this year.

The basement level had the original kitchen and a dining area. “The construction was very posh,” Popp noted, referring to all the detailed woodwork.

After touring the main office building, spectators can travel out the multi-complex’s seven outbuildings and the pavilion that houses many pieces of milling machinery.

The original “company house,” which is one of the oldest homes in Hermansville, received a donation of time period furniture for display last fall.

Hermansville’s original produce warehouse, which now contains a representation of a company store from the early 1900s, has received a makeover for the 2024 season.

Museum volunteer Ken Olson of Hermansville has been organizing the space, including relocating pieces and restoration of a carriage.

Shown is an original certificate of “company money.”

“He has done so much here,” Popp said. “He is also doing work on the permanent blacksmith shop that was built last year.”

Other features on the grounds include their carriage house, Wilson’s railroad depot, caboose and train car.

In 1878, C.J.L. Meyer of Fond du Lac, Wis., started a saw and shingle mill to process pine and cedar timber on lands he had purchased, giving rise to the village of Hermansville. Meyer operated the mill until 1883, sending most of the product to Fond du Lac to stock his sash and door factory.

At that time, Meyer organized the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Company, which acquired the mill and landholdings as the principal stockholder. In 1900, his son-in-law, Dr. G.W. Earl, acquired almost all the stocks and bonds of the company.

“What an era really that was — he really put flooring on the map,” Popp said.

The second-story bedroom furnishings were donated by the family of Sarah Hiller, a former kindergarten teacher. This included a gown and photographs.

She added that Meyer was an extremely smart man who invented a “tongue and groove” — end to end — machine for his flooring.

“That is something that was no longer on the grounds and we don’t know what happened to it,” Popp said.

The museum was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1973 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.

She encouraged everyone to take a ride to the museum to see its local history. “Every year I come, I see something different and learn something new,” Popp said.

This year, they plan to repaint the depot and do other minor upgrades. They hope by next year to obtain funding to paint the main office building.

The board is always seeking volunteers. Anyone interested doesn’t need to know the history, as they will assist them, Popp said.

Some of the museum’s upcoming events include the annual Fourth of July car show and Vintage Day set in August.

Hours for the IXL Museum at W5551 River St. will be 12:30 to 4 p.m Fridays through Sundays through the summer until Labor Day. Group tours or tours outside of regular hours can be arranged by calling the museum at 906-236-5163. Admission to the museum is by donation.

Terri Castelaz can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 241, or tcastelaz@ironmountaindailynews.com.

Shown is the original kitchen as it was in the basement level of the main office building.

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