The Township of Otter Creek is located in the northeast part of Dunn County and is believed to have been formed out of the then larger Township of Grant in the year 1877. It is the only township in the County that has never had a post office within its borders. It shared with neighboring Township of Hay River the Village of Lochiel, an early trading center and stage coach stop that straddled the line dividing the two townships, but the post office was on the Hay River side of the line.
The village grew under the care and feeding of the McPherson brothers, Duncan and Alexander. Alexander, the younger of the two, operated a farm outside the village and was co-owner with Duncan of the feed mill in the little community. Duncan, besides taking a role in the management of the mill, ran the local hotel, was a notary public and was the postmaster for the entire length of time that the post office was in the village until 1906.
L.A. Engh was a farmer and cabinet maker and C.D. Dahl ran a blacksmith shop in Lochiel. In Section 31 there was a small settlement that approached village status with a hotel, store, livery stable, blacksmith shop, several homes, and a railroad spur line running from the main Wisconsin Central RR line (now the Soo RR). This was the center of the brick making activities of the Minnesota Brick Company in the 1880’s. Some of the old foundations and kiln locations still remain.
There is the persistent tale that has survived the years that claims that the McPherson brothers, true Scotsmen, got a “good deal” on some half-baked brick from this yard and proceeded to build the buildings in Lochiel with the material, only to see the buildings “dissolve” over the years. By 1896 Lochiel had essentially disappeared.
Some of the early schools in the townships include Misselt, Oak Grove, Little Otter and Model. Town meetings were first held in an abandoned house, of which they used the upstairs loft as a voting booth, and at which time women were not allowed to vote. On October 19, 1912, one-half acre of land was purchased for $10 from Andrew H. Johnson, a merchant in Menomonie, and was located in the NW corner of the NW corner, of Section 22. They then built a cement block building to be used as a town hall. On July 20, 1957, the board purchased the Misselt School plus one acre of land for $1 from the Colfax School District for their current and existing town hall. Axel Bark, Menomonie, donated one more acre of land to the township on December 28, 1977, so the town hall is on two acres of land along with a pole type town shed located on Highway S. The Township of Otter Creek has approximately 40 miles of road.
Two cemeteries are located in the township, the Upper Popple Creek Cemetery and the Little Otter Creek. We have the Soo Line Railroad running through a lower portion of the township.
Otter Creek Township is the site of a very rare deposit of salt imbedded rock and this is one of the few, if not the only, natural “salt lick” in northwest Wisconsin. Legends tell us that early settlers used to boil the rocks in water and as the water evaporated there was a ring of salt crystals left on the side of the pot.
Pioneer establishing families in the township settled primarily near marshes for the hay and creeks for the water, and were mostly farmers dealing with milk, potatoes, clover seed, rutabagas, and raising tobacco. Early settlers with some descendants still residing in the township include the families of Snyder-Weaver, Goetzingers, Birds, Dahls, and Flatlands.
Otter Creek road maintenance and building was all done by man and horse machinery up until about 1930, when WPA and the county started helping out. The township first bought a used Model A dump truck in 1935 and their first power grader around 1940. As times have changed, we now have more modern equipment, along with more blacktop roads.
As time has progressed, land from about 1936 to 1950 sold for about $5 per acre, in the 1980’s sold for between $500 and $750 per acre, and around 2019 woodland sells for $2,500 to $3,000, and farmland sells for $3,000 to $5,000 per acre. More dwellings or residential places have been established, with less farming and in 1980 the main products were corn, dairy, raising turkeys, and cash cropping. In 2019, dairy is almost non-existent in Otter Creek, with some beef farming, cash cropping, timber harvesting, and recreational land use. Many people now commute to jobs outside the Township, with the current United States census count at 498 residents.
Otter Creek is primarily known for its trout streams and deer country. As of 1980, two main businesses were were established in the Township, being Deepwood Ski Area, Inc. and Otter Creek Inn. In 2019, Andy’s of Otter Creek still remains, with various horse farms, and a few bed and breakfast businesses. Another draw to the Otter Creek area is the abundant deer herd, where land owners plant food plots, lease land for hunting, and locals come to drive through the beautiful area. Other residents came and bought small tracts of land to have access to the outdoor activities.
In 1980 the town board members were Chairman Kenneth Rothbauer, Supervisor 1 Leslie Snyder, Supervisor 2 Daniel Swett, Clerk Anita Rundle, Treasurer Rosalie Anderson. As of 2019 the Chairman is Mark Warner, Supervisor 1 is Cecil Hayes, Supervisor 2 is LeAnn Ralph, and patrolman is Gary Anderson. In 2017, the clerk and treasurer positions were combined and the current clerk treasurer is Bev Bernier.