Woodruff is a small, unique town that was established in 1888 in Oneida County. The town is believed to be named for George Woodruff, owner of the Woodruff-Macguire Lumber Company. He often had freight labeled, “Ship to Woodruff at Muskonegan Creek, NorthWestern Terminal.” Thus, his name became associated with the site.
Today, Woodruff is the center of a flourishing tourist industry and is home to a wide variety of accommodations, attractions and endless four-season outdoor recreational opportunities.
A significant Woodruff historical attraction is the Art Oehmcke State Fish Hatchery, which began in 1901. It continues to be one of the only hatcheries still operating in Wisconsin that is responsible for raising and restocking muskellunge, walleye and northern pike in lakes throughout the state.
Town of Woodruff
1418 1st Avenue
P.O. Box 560
Woodruff, WI 54568
Town Office: (715) 356-9421
Police: (715) 356-9424
Population and Geography
Woodruff has approximately 1,958 year-round residents, which jumps to many more during the summer months. At just 38 square miles, Woodruff is part of the Lakeland area, which is considered to have one of the largest concentrations of fresh water bodies in the world.
Approximately 95 percent of Woodruff is owned by federal, state and county interests and is not available for private sale, ensuring an enviable recreational environment for all future generations. The natural resources of the area are managed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for the benefit of public and private enterprise.
The Town of Woodruff is governed by a town chairman and a four-person board of supervisors. The first town board meeting was held in Woodruff on Wednesday, July 5, 1905. Board meetings are now held every second and fourth Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the all-purpose room of the community building.
The Woodruff Community Building, located at 1418 1st Avenue, houses the town offices, police department, fire department and meeting rooms.
The History of Arbor Vitae - Woodruff
The towns of Arbor Vitae and Woodruff are considered the “Crossroads of the North,” where Highways 51, 47 and 70 join.
Both towns boast a rich logging history. Primitive, roughly constructed dams were built in the mid 1800s to back up water levels on area chains of lakes to form waterways for the conveyance of timber.
The lumberjack era provided colorful history! Late fall brought the “jacks” to the lumber camps ready for hard work and the constant companionship of fellow lumberjacks. During the fall and cold winter, the jacks had little or no other social interaction.
The lumberjack’s day began at daybreak when he heard the call “daylight in the swamp,” and knew it was time to rise. The gabriel (dinner horn) blared at 6 a.m. announcing breakfast. The jacks raced to the cook shack where they took the same place at the same table every day. As it was considered a waste of time to talk during meals, every meal was quietly devoured. Chewing food was also discouraged, another time consuming activity, so lumberjacks learned to bolt their food rather than chew it.
The lumberjacks put in thirteen hour days and earned from $18 to $30 per month. During spring when the rivers thawed and the logs were harvested, the lumberjacks left the camps and headed for town. These were truly “party animals.” Singing and dancing were other well-loved pastimes of the men, and little could stop them from pursuing their fun. When the bar halls lacked enough women for partners, the lumberjacks simply danced with each other.
In 1953, sixteen children in a mathematics class were responsible for the monumental biggest penny in the world. This replica of a 1953 Lincoln penny (made of concrete) is ten feet in diameter, eighteen inches thick and weighs in at 17,452 pounds. It stands on the grounds of the former Arbor Vitae-Woodruff School and symbolizes one million, seven hundred thousand pennies.
Seventeen thousand dollars wasn’t kids stuff in 1953. That is the net contribution collected by the first Million Penny Parade for the building fund of the Lakeland Memorial Hospital. The hospital, located in Woodruff, near the junction with Hwys. 47 and 51, was named “Doctor Kate’s Hospital.”
Dr. Kate Newcomb was available summer or winter, sunshine or storm, by auto or on snowshoes. Dr. Kate served everyone, alike. Her pay might have been a check from a city bank or a beaded buckskin garment, a load of cordwood or a sack of potatoes. As more and more people frequented the Northwoods, Dr. Kate’s expanding practice demanded more and more use of hospital care. It was this need that demanded the new hospital.