I grew up in Smokey Valley for the first 11 years of my life.
I was in and out of or in back of most of the buildings of Smokey Valley, and these memories are still vivid in my mind. So many of you weren’t born or living in Chilton when Smokey Valley was a common Chilton term, so this article, written by Rod Ronk for the Chilton Spirit newspaper for May 15, 2001, is a perfect reminiscence of a piece of Chilton history and deserves to be republished. —Herb Buhl
Downtown Chilton was often referred to as Smokey Valley.
It got its name because Chilton industry used coal for their power and heat, and all of Chilton industry was located in what was called downtown Chilton.
The Manitowoc River split the city into two unique districts. Uptown Chilton had its own business district along with Chilton City Hall, the county courthouse, many attorneys, and all were located on higher ground. The downtown area, too, had its own business district, but also all its industry was set in a small valley. The railroad which was built in Calumet County in 1872 was in downtown Chilton, and naturally industry built near the rail lines.
I don’t know who gave downtown Chilton the name “Smokey Valley,” but Bill Minahan, who resided across the street from the Chilton Malting Company, proclaimed himself to be the “Mayor of Smokey Valley.” Bill was Chilton’s goodwill ambassador.
Before natural gas and electricity were used for power, heat, and light, coal and wood were the main sources of energy. The Chilton Malting Company, Chilton Millworks, Carnation Company, Aluminum Specialty, Calumet Brewing, and the Chilton Canning Company were all huge coal users in the downtown area. They generated much black smoke and soot.
(Please see the October 15 issue of the Tri-County News for more on this story.)
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