Did you know that Antigo Silt Loam is Wisconsin’s state soil?

In 1983 state legislators voted to make Antigo Silt Loam our state soil. It is found prevalently in the area of Antigo, Wisconsin. Antigo is where our Kretz Lumber sawmill is located. This soil provides nutrition for the hard maple, basswood and red oak trees that are grown, harvested and hauled to our mill for processing into lumber. Our high quality northern hardwood lumber is then dried and sold throughout the United States and all over the world.

During the last ice age, which ended 11,000 years ago, a sheet of ice three miles high covered our area. When the glacier melted the soil it held, settled in the region that includes the Kretz mill in Antigo and extends almost to Minnesota. The soil the glacier deposited was then mixed with organic material over time to create the fertile Antigo Silt Loam.

Antigo Silt Loam has a unique mixture of sand, clay and silt. This combination can hold moisture, yet drain excess water. Its composition is capable of holding optimal nutrients to grow quality agricultural products including the forest we are surrounded by in North Central Wisconsin. Quality hardwood trees thrive in this type of soil.

Next time you visit Kretz Lumber, or the city of Antigo, it is worth a trip to the northeast side of the city to view our historical marker. It is pictured here and overlooks our treasured soil resource.

Did you know that Kretz Lumber Company’s roots go all the way back to 1929? Kretz Lumber was founded by Joseph and Myrtle Kretz on the site of their dairy farm in 1929. That year they cut hemlock trees from the farm’s property, stripped the bark, and sold it to a local tannery. Having the logs leftover, the dairy barn needed repair, so they bought a portable sawmill from a “farmer up the road” for $75. As word got around the neighborhood the Kretz family was running a sawmill, other farmers from the community brought their logs to the Kretz family to be sawn into lumber for their own use.  The picture above are three of the Kretz family members and that portable mill.

Having success with the portable sawmill, the family built a permanent sawmill at the same location of the farm. Through wise business decisions the Kretz family survived the Great Depression in the lumber business. Joseph and Myrtle succeeded the business to their three boys in the 1960’s. A grandchild, Dan Kretz, took the reins of the operation in 1973 and ran the business until 2006.

In 2016, Kretz Lumber produces 9,000,000 board feet of North American hardwood lumber that includes species like; hard maple, soft maple, red oak and basswood through their sawmill in a year. It also kiln dry’s 12,000,000 board feet of these same northern hardwoods and sells its products nationally and internationally.

Hard Maple has increased in popularity since the early 1990’s. What has made it a preferred choice of consumers and producer’s alike?

Prior to 1990, very few manufacturers could dry Hard Maple to the consistent white color that it is today. Dry kilns were often old and there was little if any detail paid to sticks that are used to place between lumber courses. But in the 1990’s, producers made adjustments to kilns, processes and stick design to produce a beautiful wood that was consistently white and free from drying blemishes.

At the same time European tastes in wood color was changing to lighter tones. This permeated to the United States where darker colored woods had been preferred for some time. Timing is everything and Hard Maple with the improved processes described above was primed for strong demand from changing consumer tastes.

Finally, the density and grain pattern of Hard Maple combines a fairly easy wood to machine with a grain pattern that offers variation, aesthetically. Making both suppliers and consumers pleased to manufacture products used with Hard Maple lumber and purchase those products that are beautiful in character.

So, the three reasons Hard Maple is a preferred white hardwood specie to everyone, alike, are:

  1. Consistent White Color
  2. Offers Alternative Color to Darker Hardwood Species
  3. Density and Grain Pattern are Fairly Easy to Machine and Offer Variation Aesthetically
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