1949 Holly Mills' Fire
Shoto mills predate the Civil War and were well established until 1949. The latter half of the mill industry in Shoto was led by the Holly family.
In 1899, Joseph Holly Sr. partnered with Charles Hacker to operate a saw and grist mill in Shoto. Holly became the sole owner of the mill in 1908 and operated it until his untimely death in 1916.
On January 27, 1916, Holly fell into the West Twin River will trying to break up an ice jam at the dam. His body was swept downstream and not recovered until April 7, 1916. The Manitowoc Daily Herald wrote of the body’s recovery on April 8, 1916: “The body of Mr. Holly was recovered by Fred Juchinstahl and Edward Bishop late yesterday after a search which had started early in the morning and in which the two men had followed the river as far as Two Rivers. Returning, on each side of the river, dragging with a hood, they found the body about one-half mile from Neshoto in two feet of water only a short distance from the shore and half covered by sand.”
Following Holly’s death, his wife, Anna, along with their two sons, Joseph Jr. and Alvin, and an uncle, Frank Sladky, continued the operation of the mills. Joseph Jr. operated the mills for 33 years. The saw and grist mills were both operated with water power featuring two waterwheels of 60 horsepower and a smaller wheel with 40 horsepower.
Joseph Jr. operated the mills until June 18, 1949 when a terrible fire consumed the mills.
The Manitowoc Herald Times covered the events of the fire on June 20, 1949. “A $40,000 fire Saturday evening leveled the frame sawmill and brick grist mill of Joseph Holly at Shoto…and for a time threatened to spread to other buildings in the little village.” Responding fire departments included Rockwood, Francis Creek, and Mishicot.
“Fire trucks answering the call had difficulty getting through the traffic, which by this time jammed all roads heading into Shoto. The pumpers set up along the river bank, and soon had six lines of hose playing on the blaze and on adjoining property across the street from the frame mill and brick structure by this time a roaring furnace.”
“Floors in the frame mill soon gave way tumbling machinery into the basement. High piles of logs, stacked west of the mill along the river bank also caught fire but were quickly wet down by the firemen. Trees along the road close to the mill were seared brown. So intense was the heat that paint on traffic signs was blistered.”
Joseph Jr. decided not to rebuild the mills and five years after the fire, his son, Eugene started the Shoto Woodworking Shop in a portion of the mill that survived the fire. His shop produced kitchen cabinets. As business expanded, five additions were added on. The name later changed to Shoto Fixture and Supply, and changed again to its present name, Shoto Corporation.
Eugene also constructed the River Falls Supper Club, overlooking the West Twin River, which opened in March 1984.