The property now known
as Glacial Lake Cranberries,
Inc. has been producing cranberries since 1873.
The 6,100 acres of property is located in central Wisconsin,
about 15 miles west of Wisconsin Rapids on the north shore of old
Glacial Lake Wisconsin. This
lake disappeared thousands of years ago and left behind some of the
finest wetlands in the state. The
high water table, available sand, and acid soil conditions make the area
conducive to cultivating North America’s native red fruit – Vaccinnium macroparpon - the cranberry.
The State Land Book has
an entry showing John B. Arpin, a prominent lumberman, acquired the land
on October 11, 1873. Pioneers
in the industry, like Arpin,
built up dikes around native stands of vines that became the cultivated
cranberry beds. Over
the years all the varieties cultivated have been developed from native
Of the approximate
6,000 total acres that make up Glacial
Lake Cranberries, Inc.,
approximately 3,000 acres of water reservoir support 330 acres (96 beds)
of producing cranberry vines, 2,200 acres are in a forestry management
plan, and the balance of land is diverse support land.
Basically, the same
water reservoir system is maintained as when the Arpins first tamed
these wild lands. Through
the years, additional reservoirs, ditches, dikes and roads have been
added to meet the needs for increased efficiency in the cultivation and
harvesting of cranberries.
During the early part
of the 1900s, there was a huge effort to drain the wetlands of central
Wisconsin for other agricultural purposes. However, in the low-lying marshy areas, killing frosts can
occur at any point of the growing season, and this forced many farmers
to abandon their plans. The
cranberry pioneers of the time slowly reclaimed these drained areas and
built up large water reservoirs which not only made for better cranberry
growing conditions, but also made ideal habitat for an abundance of
diverse avian species, including Great Blue Herons, Sandhill Cranes,
ducks, geese, and provide an ideal stopover for migrating species.
The forested or upland
areas of the property provide excellent habitat for diverse flora and
fauna including Trailing Arbutus, Pink Lady Slippers, Blue Flag Iris,
Turk’s Cap Lilies, Blazing Star, Black Eyed Susans, White-Tailed deer,
ruffed grouse, Red Fox, badger, raccoon, and River Otters.
The marshes are also home to an abundance of other species
including turtles, frogs, and fish.
CRANBERRIES (Click here for Wisconsin Cranberry Production)
Although there are more
than one hundred known varieties of cultivatable cranberries, seven
are grown by Glacial Lake
Cranberries, Inc., providing stability
Ben Lear -
Originator unknown but first introduced in the Berlin, Wisconsin area
in 1870. Ripens early season.
Bergman - Early
Black x Searles cross made in 1930 by H.F. Bain, U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA). Ripens early to mid season. Good keeping
GH 1 - Searles
x Rezin McFarlin cross made in the 1980's by Ed
Grygleski, Sr., Wyeville, WI. Ripens mid season.
- Selected from the wild in New Jersey
Selected from the wild in South Carver, Massachusetts by Thomas B.
McFarlin in 1874. Ripens later season. Good keeping
Selected from the wild in Wisconsin (Town of Cranmoor) by Andrew Searls in 1893. Ripens mid- season.
Stevens - Potter
(wild selection) x McFarlin cross made in 1938 and named after USDA
Plant Pathologist, Neil Stevens. Ripens late season. Good
The Arpins retained
ownership of the marsh until 1923 when it was sold to the newly
organized Central Cranberry Company. The stockholders of the new
company included seven members of the Arpin family, T.W. Brazeau, Guy
Babcock, the Wood County National Bank and nine others. Records
show that much assistance was given to the group by A.E. Bennett and M.O.
Potter, but it was Harry Merk who, as foreman for close to half a
century, dedicated all of his energies to the property.
By 1931, Central
Cranberry Company was owned entirely by the Brazeau family: T.W.
Brazeau and his sons, Bernard and Richard. Bernard Brazeau took
over the management of the marsh and continued to operate the property
until April 1, 1960. In the meantime, in 1939 Richard Brazeau
developed a new marsh, R.S. Brazeau Cranberry Company, adjacent to
Central Cranberry. This new marsh was ably supervised by Donald
"Duck" Winker who was its foreman from 1940 until 1978.
In 1960, a group headed
by Richard Brazeau and included Nelson Johnson, Richard Yankee, Ben
Pankuk, and T.W. Brazeau II (Bernard's son), bought Central Cranberry
Company from Bernard Brazeau and formed a new company called Winnebago
Cranberry Corporation. At this time Richard also incorporated his
marsh as R. S. Brazeau Cranberry Company. The demands of his legal practice did
not allow Richard enough time to run the cranberry marsh, so in 1964
Clarence A. Searles accepted the position of General Manager. From
the time Clarence became General Manager, he and Richard launched a
master plan to rebuild the cranberry marsh to increase its efficiency
and production which required major rebuilding of the beds to accommodate
modern harvesting equipment. In February 1968, Richard purchased
an adjacent property,
the Sahara Cranberry Marsh, for his wife, Virginia, which they in turn
named Wilderness Cranberry Corporation. This property, too, underwent
major rebuilding directed by Clarence Searles.
Brazeau's untimely death in July 1968, he had purchased all of the
Winnebago Cranberry Corporation stock held by other shareholders.
Virginia Brazeau assumed the Presidency of all the marsh properties and
in 1972 consolidated them all into R.S. Brazeau, Inc. At the time
of Virginia's death in 1997, Mary Brazeau Brown, one of Virginia's
daughters, purchased all outstanding shares and is currently sole owner
and President of Glacial Lake Cranberries, Inc..
From the 1920s until
1948 the berries from this marsh were sold to Wisconsin Cranberry Sales
Company which was allied to the American Cranberry Exchange, a
Cooperative whose trademark was "Eatmor Brand."
In 1948, Richard and
Bernard Brazeau, Charles A. Walman, G.A. Getzin, and Wm. F. Huffman
withdrew from the American Cranberry Exchange and formed Cranberry
Growers Inc., marketing their cranberries under the brand name
"Indian Trail." Dean Foods bought "Indian
Trail" brand in 1965.
The cranberries from
the Brazeau properties were sold through Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc.
from 1970 to 1978. From 1979 until 1998, R.S. Brazeau, Inc.
marketed its berries independently to the likes of Welch Foods
Inc. and Clermont, Inc. Glacial Lake Cranberries® became
their registered trademark in 1984. From 1998 to 2002, the
cranberries from this property were marketed through Ocean Spray
Cranberries, Inc. Currently the cranberries are sold through
Cranberry Sales, Inc. and Wisconsin Rapids based
Mariani Packing Company.
The land, the wildlife,
the varieties, the ownership, and the marketing all add up to Glacial
Lake Cranberries, Inc.'s priority in doing
business...QUALITY. The harvested cranberries are driven off the
marsh to a state-of-the-art receiving facility where they are degrassed, graded,
optically sorted, and tested for color (TACY) and percent sugars (BRIX)
before being packed in large wooden totes (about 1,000 pounds) and
delivered to a freezer.