Historical Hub


Knox Creek Heritage Center Honors Price County’s Past

They came for the logging, and later for the farming. Immigrants from all over Europe made their way to Price County in search of new opportunities, bringing traditions from their home countries that came to define the communities they created here.

At first it was the trees that attracted them. The vast stands of white pines that covered northern Wisconsin in the late 1800s turned the area into a hub of logging and lumbering operations that helped supply the fast-growing country with much-needed lumber. As over-aggressive logging took its toll on the landscape, logging gave way to agriculture, with the newly cleared land attracting a new wave of immigrants who sought to establish a farming lifestyle similar to what they had left in their rural homelands.

As a result, Price County today has a rich and diverse cultural heritage, which is preserved and honored at Knox Creek Heritage Center, a cluster of nine buildings paying tribute to the various ethnic groups that helped form Price County. Located in the countryside of the unincorporated Brantwood community, Knox Creek Heritage Center is an affiliate of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. The complex’s buildings contain historical artifacts and displays depicting life of days long gone by in southeast Price County.

“This was originally founded to commemorate the settlers that came to this area,” said Kevin Wollemann, president of the Knox Creek Heritage Center’s board of directors. “Around the Brantwood area there’s a lot of Finlanders of course, but we also have a lot of Swedes, a lot of Germans, and a little farther north there’s a lot of Czech people. [Knox Creek Heritage Center] was kind of set up to help celebrate some of the folks that settled in this area in the late 1800s and early 1900s, so some of the buildings are from that era.”

The grounds are accessible for anyone to wander through at any time, with private tours of the buildings available by appointment. In addition, Knox Creek Heritage Center hosts four major events for the public each year, including a Midsummer Celebration held this year June 24. At this event, visitors can explore the exhibits in each building, enjoy a meal featuring some traditional ethnic foods, take in live music or other entertainment, and shop at the gift store.


(1) A cluster of historic buildings, each a museum in itself housing historical artifacts, comprises Knox Creek Heritage Center in Brantwood. Among them are the original farmhouse (2), the Spirit Baptist Church (3), a second farmhouse known as the Keto House (4), and a Finnish sauna (5). Click photos to enlarge.














It Takes a Village

Wollemann, a member of Price Electric Cooperative, has been a member of the Knox Creek Heritage Center board since 1997, but as a descendant of one of the settlers to whom the center pays tribute, his connection to this place predates its very existence.

“When my grandfather came from Finland and settled here after the overcut back at the turn of the century, the logging companies offered the loggers a parcel of land and they began dairy farming. My grandfather was one of those loggers,” Wollemann said.

His mother, Sylvia, was among the local historians who began meeting in the 1990s with the goal of creating a historical society. Their plans took hold in 1995 when Brantwood native Donald Hoffman donated a couple acres of land with its original 100-year-old farmhouse and summer kitchen, as well as a pole building that was erected on the site later, for the purpose of establishing a heritage center. Volunteers worked over the years to move other historical buildings from the local area to the Knox Creek property, transforming what was once just a farmsite into a little village all its own.

Each building was filled with donated historical items, equipment, and documents. The original farmhouse has a living room, kitchen, and bedroom set up with period furniture and other details. The pole shed houses displays about blacksmithing, dairy farming, and mechanics, among others. In addition, a shed on the property houses a thresher, a 1920s-era tractor, and other old farming implements.

Among the relocated buildings is the Spirit Baptist Church, constructed in 1890, which houses a revolving veterans display as well as lots of old photographs and newspaper articles from the area.

A second farmhouse, built around 1900 and known as the Keto House, has a room set up as a one-room school with historic items from local schools, another room set up to represent a general store, and an exhibit focusing on the area’s logging past.

A restored two-room log cabin was also meticulously reconstructed on the site and is furnished with period items to depict the home of an early settler family.

There’s also a restored, fully operable Finnish sauna, which Wollemann donated from his own property. “It was actually the sauna I grew up with,” Wollemann said. “We moved it onto that site about 15 years ago. I had it all deconstructed and rebuilt here. There were a couple of timbers that needed to be re-hand-hewn, and it’s got the old Finnish dove-tail style logs. It’s a pretty neat little building.”















Each building contains historic exhibits, including (1) the general store display and (2) a collection of old logging tools inside the Keto House, (3) a settler’s home inside the log cabin (photos courtesy of Knox Creek Heritage Center), and (4) old farming implements inside the shed. Click photos to enlarge.

Building On

Most recently, Knox Creek Heritage Center added a new, modern pavilion to the property, constructed with community support, including a donation of Federated Youth Foundation funds from Price Electric Cooperative. The pavilion has greatly enhanced the two special events held annually on the site: the Midsummer Celebration in June and the Country Afternoon at Knox Creek Heritage Center held the second Saturday in September.

“We now have a nice covered area outside,” Wollemann said. “We used to use the pole building as a serving area, but it got a little congested with a lot of people in there. So we built the pavilion so we could serve outdoors and under a covered area, and that way we could set up the pole building with some additional displays that we’ve got in the main house.”

He added, “With the new pavilion there we’ve also opened up the grounds to special events, so if someone’s getting married or has a graduation or something like that we would certainly arrange to have a board member or two there to have the buildings open.”

Knox Creek Heritage Center also holds two yearly events in the Brantwood Community Center: The St. Patrick/St. Urho Dinner on the third Saturday of March, and the Finnish Independence Day celebration on the first Saturday in December.

However, interested guests don’t have to time their visits around one of Knox Creek Heritage Center’s special events to experience this unique place. Visitors are welcome to stop any time to simply walk through the grounds. If they want to see the displays inside the buildings and learn more, they can contact a member of the board of directors, listed on Knox Creek Heritage Center’s website along with their email addresses and phone numbers.

“We’d be happy to set up a private tour with anybody who’s interested,” Wollemann said. “We want to have more people come through and take a look.”

Like the settlers who came here at the turn of the century, Knox Creek Heritage Center guests may find themselves feeling very much at home.—Mary Erickson

Knox Creek Heritage Center is located at N4517 West Knox Rd., Brantwood, WI 54513. To learn more, visit https://sites.google.com/site/knoxheritagecenter/home or call 715-428-2261.