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Fosterville/Winegar, A Company Town.

A "Company Town" is a place where in this case the store and many of the homes were owned by the main employer, Vilas County Lumber Company (VCLCo).

Vilas County Lumber Co., Company Town - Fosterville/Winegar, WI.


Company Store

Company Store - Company Office - Post Office

Henry E. Daily was in charge of the Company Store. Howard Rogers was one of his workers.

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Note: Sawmill Teamster having driven his Lumber Wagon into town for ............

Fosterville/Winegar was a “Company Town.” The VCLCo coined its' own money that could only be exchanged for goods at the Company (general) Store, the Winegar Recreation Hall, and other company entities.


Click the coin to the right for more information on the Fosterville/Winegar lumber companies coins.


The prospect of working in the sawmill or on the railroads lured people into this area. The stability in a Company Town, with housing provided, was attractive to many families, this was the goal of the VCLCo. Such facilities enable the VCLCo to hire a larger percentage of married men (married workers were considered more stable than single men).

People came to Fosterville/Winegar because of job advertisements put out in newspapers. Many came from economically depressed areas such as Kentucky. The company controlled much of their life including the color of their homes. Perhaps the influence of the company on the lives of the residents helped them to feel united and protected. The company paid supervisors to enforce prohibition. Some might now call such actions intrusions into employee privacy. And, yet when W. S. Winegar asked his laborers to continue working without pay until the end of WWI, (This was the only mill in the area with dry lumber.) they did. W. S. Winegar eventually paid his men their do. The company took care of things, and the townspeople seemed very loyal in return.

Noise from the mills would drown out all but your thoughts. It was a forward moving community; - two churches, - Hotel de Foster/Fremsted boarding house (up the hill to the left of the mills), - the community Winegar Recreation Hall, (Located across the street and a bit further from the de Foster Hotel.) which housed 3 pool tables, 5 or 6 slot machines, a player piano with a saloon/bar on the main floor, a barber shop in the back (where C. Childers shined shoes for the men attending the Saturday night dances). A large hall above was the “town hall” where weekly dances and an occasional silent movie were held. Wooden sidewalks were present to keep pedestrian out of the muddy streets. 

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Hover over and to the left of the Hotel de Foster, and your cursor will turn into a magnifier to view a couple Big Wheels which were used to skid logs in the Pinery.

Hotel de Foster.

Winegar Recreation Hall is on the right hand side of the street. Looking down at the end of the street is the first frame school house.

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Winegar Recreation Hall.

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There were few cars in town, mostly horse-drawn wagons. The town had postal, railway express, telegraph, and telephone as part of its amenities. The big homes on the hill belonged to the VCLCo elite and C&N-W Ry Section Foreman. These were the village mansions. Waiting for the train from Mercer you could stop at the Fremsted boarding house for breakfast of ham, eggs, pancakes and 15 different pies or a huge lunch after the train arrived. Many lived outside of town and raised their own vegetables, poultry and cows.

Water was bought from the VCLCo.  They would come around with a great tank pulled by a team of horses and fill barrels at 25 cents apiece or company tokens.


This Post Card probably shows every car in town. The Car with trailer probably belongs to photographer A. J. Kingsbury. End of the street is the Mill Superintendent, Henry Daily’s home.

On some days it was possible to count the smoke of a half dozen fires burning in the slashings of the “Stump Pastures”. At night their ascending flares cast a red glow along the circle of the horizon. If the fires got too close, some attempt was made to check the progress; but usually they burned on entirely out of control until the next rain came. So large were these fires at times, the air was blue with drifting smoke and peoples eyes would smart from the irritation. The hot days of summer always held the threat of roaring forest fires. Forest fires were just part of summer. Though most of the areas had been burned over many times stumps would burn as each fire passed, then char black and go out to wait for the next fire. There were many tall, dead pine trees standing as they had no commercial value. They looked like tall candles when they burned at night. The tongues of fire creeping upward along the aged trunks made a weird, glaring, grandiose spectacle as they went up in great billows of pitch-black smoke.


Looking down main street towards the C&N-W Ry terminal in Fosterville/Winegar. Note, there are no autos in the top photo of Fosterville with a couple visible in the middle Winegar Photo.

If you look closely at the bottom photo on the right hand side you can see the Fremsted Boarding House (formerly the Hotel de Foster) being dismantled.

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Note: stumps on left from first logging which was used to build the Sawmill.

Also note: close observation shows the home to right was built with poor quality siding that the mill would have had difficulty selling.

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First one room School House was built in Fosterville in 1906.


VCLCo President's home.

VCLCo Superintendent's home.

In the 1920’s Spinney’s was the only bar in Winegar. Gunnar’s replaced  Spinney’s. Gunner Larson was also the banker where you could cash a check and perform other financial transactions.

The development of the summer resort business after WWII went to compensate for the rapidly diminishing timber industry and has provided the basis of a new prosperity, of a more permanent kind. Prearranged local guides would still meet visitors and transport them by canoe, boat or horse drawn wagons to resorts and vacation homes. Winegar was where you left your car if you drove. County road W was the only road, County Road B was just a fire lane.

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