Exploring fire towers is never boring

One of the advantages of writing and tower talking is that the information becomes a two way street. Articles are written and stories told and often answers and tales come back. You may remember I wrote a series of fire tower articles for the River Hills Traveler last year. One of them was on “tower mysteries”. One of the mysteries was seeing double at Possum Trot.

In September 2016 my wife and I made our way to a site on my “to do” list. This was the Possum Trot site located south of Winona on Route 19.

It was an easy historic site to find. My GPS unit is based on topography maps and some of the past and present tower sites are shown. 

I was able to walk right to it. However, I didn’t expect to find what was there. The footings or piers were right there – all eight of them!

As you can see in the picture, there were four smaller 50-foot footings located concentrically inside four larger. I had never seen that before; I have never seen it since.

It is not uncommon to find multiple footings at a site. Maybe a steel tower replaced a wooden one. Maybe a larger tower replaced a smaller. But, how do you explain one set inside the other?

Now, it seems the smaller was there first. I have a list — “Fire Towers of the Fristoe” — which has a 50-foot “Possum Trot 1938” listed. With that date it seems certain a larger 100 foot or so tower was built later on.

A tower friend, John Timmermann, would answer the mystery. He sent me a picture and if you look close, you can see a 50-foot “windmill” tower sitting right inside a much larger “internal ladder” type tower.

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Why that was done this one time remains a mystery. Was it done to provide coverage until the larger tower was up? You didn’t have to put one on top of another for that. There was plenty of room there.

Was it an experiment to use a standing 50-footer to help erect a 100-footer? There is only conjecture.

I was also able to clear another mystery off the list. The same “Fire Towers of the Fristoe” listed a tree lookout at “Mud Pond Ridge” – no location given. I asked here and there for some time. Nobody could quite remember.

Then, I asked Kevin Cox from the Winona Office and he said sure, he grew up near there. It seems Mud Pond is south of Winona on 19 and east on Old Tram Road. You go a few miles and turn south and that is Mud Pond Ridge.

A tree lookout was located there at one time, probably to provide coverage over the ridge for Possum Trot Tower.

Sydney Buchman once observed, “If there were no mystery left to explore, life would get rather dull, wouldn’t it?”

If you are into a tower hobby, there is never a dull moment!

Questions or comments? Bob Frakes can be reached by email at frakes2@mvn.net or by phone at 618-244-1642.

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