The History of Wisconsin Rapids

By: Paige Lambrecht
By: Paige Lambrecht

The history of Wisconsin Rapids begins in the early 1800's when a group of settlers, mostly French Canadian, Irish and English set up camp on both sides of the Wisconsin River. They would endure hardships like the flood of 1880 and the first world war.

Paul Gross wasn't around for those events, but he's been around for just about everything else that's ever happened in Rapids, and he has the proof.

Paul, who will turn 81 in September, was just a young teenager then, but his fascination for documenting everything around him has stuck with him.

Now he produces about one movie a year on different aspects of the history of rapids. He knows about everything from the great fire of 1931 to the prosperous days of the paper mills after the second world war.

"I recall at one point where they were so busy that some of the union workers said if they didn't start giving them some Sundays off, they were gonna go on strike."

Paul's a living history of what's made Wisconsin Rapids what it is today. Ask him who some of the most prominent people in Rapids history are and he'll go on about George Mead.

Mead began the paper mills that would become synonymous with Wisconsin Rapids. Mead worked out a plan to keep nearly all the employees working even at the peak of the great depression. Mead also kept the mills going with new technology.

It's that continuing fascination with history that has kept Paul working on his documentaries well after retirement. He has a high-tech work station in his basement where he spends three to four hours a day editing his movies.

When asked why he does it he uses the excuse, "someone's gotta do it". It's not just that someone's also gotta do it well and Paul says you can't underestimate the importance of that.

"If you're gonna record history, you better do it accurately if it's going out to the public because if you don't, 20 years down the road it's gospel.”

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