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1 Everyone Comes to Turk's

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

It's official name is "Turk's Brunet Bicycle Club Tap & Grill." It's located at 116 Main Street, Cornell, Wisconsin. Zip: 54732. Area Code: 715. It's where this story begins.

By the way, it's "Brunét" as in Jean Brunet, pioneer and founder of Brunet Falls, WI, which was later renamed Cornell. Story Number 1.

I ordered my Budweiser (in the new cool, cold aluminum bottle) and less than five minutes later, Dave Hoel comes over from 10 feet down the bar to introduce himself to this obvious stranger.

"Dan Mansoor" I tell him when asked.

"You related to Mansur from Jim Falls?" which, despite its familial name is a town about 15 miles south of Cornell.

Sensitive (overly) to being an outsider, I tell him I'm visiting from Madison, since Cleveland, Ohio seems, for this joint, too foreign being a whole time zone away. "I'm doing some research on the history of Cornell University and Ezra Cornell's Wisconsin pinelands," I tell him, wondering where this might lead.

"Really?" he says. "My grandfather worked in lumber in the late 1800s. My dad was born in 1904. He was a cookee for the lumbermen. I work in the mill down the street."

I'm hooked. Before I'm halfway through my first bottle of beer, I'm chatting with a guy whose grandfather might have met Ezra Cornell.

Within 30 minutes I learned about Aaron Phelps (Wisconsin State wrestling champ 1995) from Cornell (WI) High School who went to Cornell – the university. On my left is a forty year old, Randy Carter, who told me that he offered to fell some trees on Aaron's parents' land to help pay for this native son's Cornell tuition bills.

Oh God. Was this the same land and second-growth trees that originally were sold to build Cornell University's endowment over a century earlier? (Fact check!)

He throws two more zingers at me.

"Did you know that local lumber helped rebuild Chicago after the 1871 fire?"

I did know that the 1871 Chicago fire was the same night as the more devastating Peshtigo Fire 200 miles due east of this bar (burning 1,200,000 acres and killing between 1,250 and 2,500). A change in weather patterns and Cornell University's pineland investment would have been worth squat. (Update: In 1865 Ezra contacted friend, Ira Millard of New London, WI, about the possibility of locating some of the scrip on the Green Bay watershed. Would have been a really bad idea!)

"There is something Cornell could do for this community," Randy offers long before I'm ready to introduce altruism into the conversation. "Cornell still owns the mineral rights to my eighty acres."

The library and city hall are closed but I'm looking around the bar for an attorney to explain to me whether Cornell University still owns the mineral rights to all 500,000 acres in the State of Wisconsin.

Day One wasn't done yet, but I know there's a new story to tell. And I'm not going to sleep well tonight.


Mike said...

Check out this link at ePodunk to Cayuga, Wisconsin and it's connection to Cornell. Cayuga is south of Mellen Wiscons which is rich in minerals. I wonder if the University still retains mineral rights there.

Mike Radtke

Mike said...

Sorry I forgot to drop in this link in my previous post.

Scott said...

Seven years later, a response! I visited the beautiful Cornell campus in Ithaca this past October with my 16 year old son.

The area around Cayuga, as you may have noticed, includes the Bad River which runs through the Bad River Reservation to the north, and into Lake Superior. This river is worth seeing in the gorge of Copper Falls State Park just north of Mellen, WI. The hiking along the gorge is first class. There is a confluence of two rivers at the bottom of the falls from the Bad (40ft) and the Tyler (30ft). From the falls they meander north as the Bad River to the greatest of lakes.

As to the mineral rights, people in Wisconsin just had a scare with a proposed open pit mine north and east of Mellen 4-6 yrs ago. The governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, a mining advocate, supported a mine that would have been about three miles across and 21 miles long. I believe the plan did not go forward. I would think that if the good people at Cornell University saw the scarring in the "Iron Range"of Northern Minnesota due to mining, they would take pause before allowing a mining company to inflict such horrific wounds to the beautiful and forested landscape of Northern Wisconsin.