living fossil

Crex Carpet Company History


In acres of native grass prairie once harvested by the Crex


Carpet Company in the early years of the last century, Crex Meadows is now a mosaic of wetlands, prairie and forest. Crex Meadows is comprised of nearly 30,000 acres of land that by 1940 had virtually no value. It was ground that could scarcely support a family in any fashion, and yet many families tried, again and again. It was land that was made up of sedge and marsh and a brush-like prairie that was drained for farming. When agriculture failed, efforts at cranberry bogs were also attempted. However, an effort at harvesting native prairie grasses to weave grass mats was profitable for a period of time and the Crex Carpet Company was born. Eventually however, the poor soil and the desperate economic times of the Great Depression left the land tax delinquent. In the late 1940's, Norm Stone, working for the Wisconsin Conservation Department began dreaming of a plan for Crex Meadows as we know it today: a mosaic of wetlands, prairie and forest that has been transformed into Wisconsin's crown jewel of wildlife habitat for waterfowl, prairie flowers and many unique types of flora and fauna. Few people know the Crex name is derived from the regions "true sedge" wiregrass of the genus Carex that were used to make the now antiquated carpets.


The bog shoe is a wooden board that horsemen fit to the bottom of the horse's hooves so the animals could pull a hay wagon across the floating bog. The bog shoe acts like a snowshoe to lift the heavy beast up on soft ground or bog and allowed the farmers to harvest the marsh grass. Every horseman made his own bog shoes or a local blacksmith crafted them from iron. Many stories abound of how horses got bogged down in the marsh even while wearing their "bog shoes". If you make a visit to the Crex Meadows Visitor Center in Grantsburg, Wisconsin you can see a real pair of bog shoes on exhibit that were used in the carpet harvesting days. It is truly remarkable the effort these early pioneers put forth to make a living on such a barren land not well suited to traditional farming. The grass carpets helped bring forth a recovery to the poor sand country of Crex, if only temporary, until modern idustrial progress replaced twine carpets with longer lasting, though far less beautiful, synthetic fiber rugs.

Rug making at the St. Paul Plant, American Grass Twine Co., Ramsey County Historical Society

Photos by Ray Bergerson and Paul Nelson



 Field of Carpets
Marsh Rider
 Grass Harvester
Marsh Friends
Team and Hitch
Marsh Pioneers
Grass Fortunes
Man and Horse
Work Break
Ladies in the Marsh
Pioneer Women
American Grass Twine
Meal Time
In the Warehouse
Grass Loom
 Twine Bundle