ROYAL TREAT & THE DESCENDANTS

It’s always sad when a local business closes, but I was especially disappointed when Treat’s Landing closed a couple of years ago on the “crooked end” of Water Street; not only because I’d miss their tasty treats, but also because it was the only consistent reminder we had that Princeton exists because of a man named Royal Clark Treat.

Royal Treat remains, in my opinion, a hall-of-fame name. The Royal Treat should be someone’s signature dessert. Or cocktail. (Nominations since posting this include candy bar and cannabis strain!)

Treat, of course, is considered the founder of Princeton, though I think we too quickly overlook the role of his brother, Henry, in the 1848 venture. I profiled Royal in the early chapters of my book “Bartel’s History of Princeton, Vol. I,” including his move west to raise cranberries in 1872, construction of a beautiful home, a terrible fire in the 1890s and his passing.

But I have often wondered what happened to the Treat family after Royal passed in 1902 and his wife, Elizabeth, in 1906.

Genealogy is not my thing, but I scratched the surface on the next generation of Treats this week. I did not go that deep – just through his grandchildren, but I think it’s safe to say Royal Treat’s cranberry venture paid off and there are descendants of Princeton’s founder living not that far away.

The other discovery on this project was a photo of Royal Treat! (See pdf at bottom of post.)

Royal’s berries

Local historians have been unable to document much significant information about Royal Treat prior to his arrival here in 1848.

He was an entrepreneur, for sure. He taught a shorthand class near Little Green Lake before founding Treat’s Landing, which the Treats soon renamed Princeton. Royal sold lumber and drugs, operated a general store, shipped wheat, established a quarry and kiln just south of Princeton, and had jobs involved with bringing the Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Railroad here.

But what brought him here? What was the dream?

My favorite theory – some might say fantasy – is Royal Treat came upon the site of Princeton while scouting the Fox and other area rivers for marshes conducive to growing cranberries. The guess is based on his interest shown in growing cranberries while in Princeton and his subsequent departure for cranberry country west of the Wisconsin River.

Of course, he might have been looking for any opportunity to make his fortune.

If he was searching for berries, Treat was on the right track. The sand and peat marshes in central and northern Wisconsin ultimately proved to be perfect growing conditions for cranberries. Berlin and Aurora Township were the first hubs of commercial cranberry production in Wisconsin, beginning about 1860 and lasting 10-20 years before the wild marshes farther west were developed.

This mural of the cranberry harvest decorates a wall at the Berlin post office.

The Princeton Republic captured a couple of Treat’s cranberry flirtations around Princeton.

Princeton Republic, May 16, 1867 – “Our fellow townsman J.P. Stevens is planting out a few acres of cranberry vines this spring upon a prepared marsh, which he can overflow at will. … Mr. R.C. Treat also thinks of experimenting with a marsh near his quarry.”

Princeton Republic, April 2, 1868 – “Mr. R.C. Treat has just completed planting twelve acres of Bell cranberries. He prepared the soil on his marsh by harrowing the surface to a slush just as it was thawing in the spring.”

Treat eventually looked west along with others.

Wood County Reporter, Nov. 9, 1870 “Several parties from Berlin and vicinity have been exploring the southern part of this county for the purpose of entering the marsh and with an idea to cultivating cranberries upon it.”

Princeton Republic, Aug. 5, 1871 – “R.C. Treat of the firm Treat & Hinman was seen wandering in a westerly direction on Monday, the 31st with two teams loaded with men and provisions. Report says cranberries were the cause of his leaving, and that they are situated about 50 miles west of the Wisconsin river. We hope he will load his teams back, with green backs.”

The Republic dutifully recorded the founding family’s final departure.

Princeton Republic, Aug. 24, 1872 – R.C. Treat, original proprietor of the village of Princeton and who has been constant and earnest in building up the place, and is assisting every laudable and praiseworthy public improvement, has, we are sorry to say, determined to try his fortune in a new and yet undeveloped country west of the Wisconsin River. The cranberry fever has affected good men before, and we hope our old and tried friend may succeed in his venture. Mr. Treat has for the past fifteen years been engaged in the different branches of merchandising and has made many friends in all his intercourse with his people. He left us Wednesday of this week to chance a fortune in cranberries in the western part of Wood County, where he has a large amount of marsh.”

Treat and his oldest son returned to Princeton on occasion to recruit workers for the cranberry harvest. He also wrote and published a pamphlet “Cranberry Culture.”

Royal Treat was at the center of the Wisconsin cranberry industry as its vines took root.

Princeton Republic, Feb. 3, 1887 – “A state association has been formed for the purpose of gathering from all sources all knowledge useful in growing, protecting, picking, and marketing cranberries and disseminating the same to its members. R.C. Treat, of Meadow Valley, elected president.”

Royal’s kids

Royal Treat married Elizabeth Streeter in November 1850.

(Before proceeding I must protest the scurrilous comment besmirching the Treats’ spotless reputation last summer at the Princeton Cemetery Walk. (I’m joking, cemetery people, R-E-L-A-X.) During an entertaining, expressive delivery, a speaker said Royal Treat had three wives. LIES!😊 Royal and Elizabeth Treat were married for over 50 years. It was his brother Henry who married three times.)

Royal and Elizabeth Treat had four children: Joseph (1859-1895), Jane (1857-1858), Clara (1859-1920) and Clark (1869-1951).

Joseph was one of the first children born in Princeton and followed in his father’s footsteps. Jane died in infancy and is buried in the Princeton City Cemetery. Clara married a man named Henry Carter; I have not found much information about them to this point. Clark remained in the cranberry business until his retirement.

· Joseph Treat

As the oldest son, J.H. Treat was more involved in Royal Treat’s business ventures than his siblings. He helped scout the family’s cranberry investment before the big move to Hog Island and then Meadow Valley.

Princeton Times, Republic, December 23, 1871 – “Mr. J.H. Treat returned this week from Jackson County, west of the Wisconsin River, where he had been for about two months with a crew of men, improving their extensive cranberry marsh. Mr. Cale Washburn, who was with Treat, met with quite a mishap last week, by falling heavily upon a corduroy or pole bridge, breaking two ribs and otherwise injuring him.”

Joseph was elected secretary-treasurer of the State Cranberry Growers’ association in January 1880 and held the position until his death.

The Centralia Enterprise and Tribune, July 13, 1895 – “Mr. J.H. Treat of Meadow Valley, secretary of the Wisconsin Cranberry Growers’ association for the past fifteen years and one of the most enthusiastic cranberry growers of the Wisconsin river valley, the Enterprise regrets to state, has been for the past year and is at present quite seriously ill with kidney trouble.”

Princeton Republic, August 1, 1895 – “Joseph H. Treat, of Meadow Valley, passed peacefully and quietly out of this life at his home, Wednesday evening, July 24th, at 7 o’clock, surrounded by his family and friends. The sad news reached here the following morning through a telegram to his father-in-law-, R.P. Rawson, and occasioned sincere regret. ‘Dode’ Treat, as he was familiarly known, was the son of R.C. Treat, the founder of the village that bore the name of Treat’s Landing, later changed to Princeton, and was one of the first children to be born in the new village, the date of his birth being Oct 27, 1851. Here he received his education and here he married the second daughter of R.P. Rawson. Later he moved to Meadow Valley, where he died.”

Joseph H. Treat had six children (Royal Treat’s grandchildren):

Royal (1879-1963) was a jeweler and insurance agent in Abbotsford. Known as “Harry” (Royal Harrington Treat), he had one daughter, Helen Broeren (1907-1997), who had one son, Roy Broeren, who was raised in Medford and worked in the paper industry in sales and management. He died in 2021 in Minnesota and at that time was survived by four children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Katherine (1877-1965), or “Kit,” married railroad conductor Ned Lombard and raised a son and daughter in Olympia, Washington. Kit had two grandchildren. (I have not spent much time tracking the Treat girls in Washington.)

Mary (1869-1946) married railroad conductor Timothy Linehan and moved to Washington. They had three sons, all deceased – one buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and at least two grandchildren. (I have not spent much time tracking the Treat girls in Washington.)

Lela (1873-1964) married mill worker Joseph Thomas, lived in Appleton and had two children, Jane and Joseph Treat Thomas, and two grandchildren. I believe a granddaughter survives but have not verified.

Gertrude (1882-1966) lived in Encinitas, California, when she passed. She previously lived with her sister Ruth (1892-1962) in Mississippi, where Ruth was a bookkeeper and Gertrude kept house. Neither married.

· Clark Treat

From their stop at Hog Island in Wood County, Royal Treat and family had moved to Meadow Valley in Juneau County, where they remained until after the turn of the century.

After Berlin in the 1860s and Wood County in the 1870s, the center of the Wisconsin cranberry industry shifted to the Cranmoor area, just west of Wisconsin Rapids, by the 1890s. Marshes were later developed in the Black River Falls, Warrens and Tomah areas.

Clark Treat was among the original members of the Wisconsin Cranberry Sales Company, which formed in 1906 as a cooperative venture to better market the state’s cranberries.

Treat grew and harvested cranberries in the Dano marsh near Tomah and Baker marsh near Shennington before purchasing the Gebhardt marsh near Millston about 1929. (Another source says 1932.)

Clark Treat, far left, back row, was on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Cranberry Sales company for several years.

Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, Sept. 24, 1937 – “The only active remaining charter member of both the Wisconsin Cranberry Growers’ association and the Wisconsin Cranberry Sales company, C.R. Treat, Millston, is still very actively engaged in growing berries. Mr. Treat now owns 1,080 acres of marsh land in Jackson County near the town of Millston. … To trace the history of the Treat family is to recount the life of the Wisconsin Cranberry Growers association. R.C. Treat, the father of Mr. Treat, was the first president of the Growers association. At that time, 1887, the Treats were located in Meadow Valley. Young C.R. Treat was 19 years old when the organization was formed. His name appears on the record as one of the first men to join. … Quizzed as to where he learned the cranberry growing business, Mr. C.R. Treat answered, ‘I grew up in it. Guess I learned it from Dad.”

Treat retired about 1939. He received a pen and pencil set in appreciation of his service and efforts at the annual meeting of the Wisconsin Cranberry Sales company in October 1946.

Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, Dec. 24, 1951 – Clark Treat, 82, Tomah, last of the charter members of the Wisconsin Cranberry Sales company formed 41 years ago, died at 8 p.m. Friday at his home. He had been in ill health for some time. Funeral services were to be held at 1:30 this afternoon at White’s Funeral home at Tomah, where burial is to take place. Mr. Treat, a partner in the Treat and Harkner cranberry marsh at Millston, has been in retirement about 12 years after an active membership in the sales company during which he investigated many programs for the benefit of cranberry growers. He is survived by one son, R.C. Treat, now a director of the Cranberry Sales company, and four grandchildren.

After leaving Princeton in 1872, founder Royal Treat and family raised cranberries for a brief time at Hog Island and then established their marsh at Meadow Valley. From there, Clark Treat moved the family farther west, ultimately to the former Gebhardt marsh near Millston. The former Treat and Harkner marsh is now the Harkner marsh operated by Joel Harkner.

Clark Treat had two children, Raymond (R.C.) and Grace; both remained in the cranberry business.

Raymond (1898-1976), more often referred to by his middle name, Chelcie, was eager to get back into the business after time as a mail carrier, the Daily Tribune reported in 1937. R.C. not only got back into the business, but he was also elected director of the Wisconsin Cranberry Sales company in December 1951, days before his father’s death.

Chelcie – the last of Royal Treat’s grandchildren to pass – left behind one son, Raymond, who died in Missouri in 2017 and had two daughters and three granddaughters.

Grace (1902-1940) – the first of Royal Treat’s grandchildren to pass – married William J. Harkner, who worked for Clark Treat and later became a partner. The Treat-Harkner marsh was about three miles southeast of Millston in Jackson County.

William and Grace had three sons: William, known as Treat (1927-2020), Bruce (1931-1980) and Richard (1937-1944). William J. Harkner remarried after Grace’s death in 1940.

Bruce Harkner had six sons, four daughters and numerous grandchildren.

William Treat Harkner was preceded in death by his three children, but four grandchildren and descendants survive.

Loose ends

I believe Treat and Thomas Harkner operated the Harkner and Sons Cranberry Marsh after William J. passed but have not yet verified that with the Harkners.

According to old profile found on Buzzfile.com, Harkner and Sons Inc., W5607 Cranmoor Road, Black River Falls, primarily operated in the “agriculture production-crops” section of the cranberry bog industry. The firm employed three people; annual revenue was estimated at about $87,000.

I found a couple of the Harkners on Facebook.

Wm. Neal Harkner is Royal Treat’s great-great-great-grandson. His family moved to Colorado when he was 10. (His father was Wm. Craig; grandfather, Wm. Treat; great-grandfather, Wm. John. Naturally, Neal and his wife named their son Wm. Logan.) He has two brothers, Tyler, in Colorado, and Ryan, in Canada.

Neal told me that Joel Harkner now operates the marsh and occupies the same house as Wm. J. Harkner did. Thomas Harkner, the last surviving son of Wm. Treat Harkner, has lived in another house there for decades, he said.

I messaged Joel’s daughter, Shelby, on Facebook and left a voicemail for Thomas Harkner. I will update the post if I learn anything new.

I also heard from Leigh Kinyon, granddaughter of Wm. Treat Harkner and another great-great-great-grandchild of Royal Treat, who helped clarify part of the Treat-Harkner tree for me. She lives about 12 miles from the cranberry marsh, near Black River Falls.

I’ll leave further tracking, or at least pause to complete a couple of other projects before returning to the hunt, to the genealogists among us, but I’m pleased to know there are descendants of Royal Treat still in Wisconsin, though none still bears the Treat name. (Please, please, please correct me if I’m wrong.)

Wouldn’t it be fun to see Royal Treat descendants in next year’s 175th anniversary parade?

And be sure to bring your cranberry-inspired Royal Treat dessert or cocktail!

Thanks again for reading and caring about local history.

(If pdf is too small, you can change percentage in the black bar directly below to enlarge.
I suggest 300 percent. You can use tabs at right and bottom to scroll.)

4 comments

  1. This was a very interesting article. My Grandfather was also William Treat Harkner.

    1. Hi, Leigh: Thank you for responding to the post! Do I understand the Grace (Treat)-Wm. J. Harkner tree correctly? Do you know how many siblings or first-cousins you have that also would be great-great-great-grandchildren of Royal Clark? Any others in Wisconsin? Thanks so much for any help you can provide!

  2. I found your blog on accident. I’ve been trying to find out history on the Treat family because I recently purchase the R.C. Treat marsh from the Gordon Family back in February of 2022 just north of Tomah. From what I have found, Royal was one of the original founders of commercially cultivating cranberries. Any more info would be greatly appreciated if you have any

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