By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Don’t let the name fool you. These ghost towns aren’t haunted, they are just plain gone. There may be a house or two remaining, but the life that was once there is no more.
Wood County has 133 towns that have mostly disappeared.
They were communities that grew around gushing oil wells, busy sawmills, or promising railroad tracks. Sometimes all it took for a town to take root was a general store, a post office, or a doctor to live nearby.
But once that vital component was gone, it wasn’t long till the town died off too. When the oil dried up, the sawmill closed, the railroad moved or the one-room schools consolidated, there was nothing left to keep the townspeople there.
“The oil petered out, the post office closed. There was no one to buy products, so the stores closed up and the churches moved on,” said Millie Broka, of the Wood County Genealogical Society.
The genealogical society will have an exhibit on Wood County’s ghost towns at the Wood County Fair this week.
In some cases, the towns were barely big enough to warrant a tiny spot on the map.
“They could be a grouping of houses,” Bob Broka said. “They weren’t too big to begin with. They just withered away over the years.”
“Some were just crossroads and people lived around them,” Millie Broka said. “The kids would move on, and once there was no one there to buy the products, the stores closed.”
The genealogical society has collected several black and white photos of towns that once were. They show old hotels with guests posing out front, one-room schools, general stores, railroad depots and churches.
There are stories of shindigs in the old town of Bays, where people from miles around would gather for square dancing upstairs at the general store.
And stories of 5,000 barrels of oil a day gushing up in the ghost town of Ducat in 1888.
And in Bloom Center in 1876, when 20 men and 22 women organized a literary society to improve their knowledge of history, letters and sciences.
Some of the smallest towns were just swallowed up by the Great Black Swamp.
Some of the names are familiar and are still used by old-timers. The exhibit at the fair lists those and the less known ones like Adams Curve, Awpatowajowin, Ted, Coontown, Egypt, Germany, Hull’s Stockade, Missionary Island, Slabtown, and Tank Siding.
The ghost town exhibit is located in the Grange Building on the fairgrounds.