How Ladysmith got its name:
Some background: Ladysmith was founded in 1885 with the name Flambeau Falls but was renamed to Corbett, then Warner in 1891. On July 1, 1900, the name was formally changed to Ladysmith, named after the bride of Charles R. Smith, head of the Menasha Wooden Ware Company. Since the 1920’s the city has had a fairly steady population of between 3,100- 3,900+ residents. Of the teams in the Heart of the North Conference, Ladysmith had the second largest school attendance to Rice Lake (Around 6,000 city population). The other members in the HON had city population of between 1,800-2,800.
John Brodie took over the Lumberjack program in 1963 and directed the team to a 5-3-0 record. Bill Mestelle
(Tom’s brother) was a sophomore running back who was destined for stardom. Bill had made the varsity as a freshman and got some experience but now he was a starter. The team opened witohn Brodie took over the Lumberjack program in 1963 and directed the team to a 5-3-0 rh a win against Chippewa falls McDonell, a team that they seemed to open against from about 1955 through 1967. They followed things with three losses and then four consecutive wins. Bill earned first steam All-Conference and led the league in scoring as he had 65 points and rushed for 449 yards on the season.
Things looked bright for the 1964 year and Mestelle and his teammates didn’t disappoint. Besides Mestelle there were all-conference players like linemen Ed Haasl, Ed Krenzelok, John Jirak and Craig Redwine, a defensive end as well as runni9ng back. All were also honorable mention All-Northwest with Redwine earning honorable mention All-State. Others who strongly contributed were Jim Schweke, Mark Bauer, Paul Morgan, Dave Garnatz, Frank Poquette and Don Dennis.
What made Bill Mestelle so special was his speed and his ability to elude opponents. In the season opener a 32-14 win over Chippewa Falls McDonell, Mestelle showed his rushing and receiving talent as he scored on touchdown runs of 1, 21, 70,1 and 44 yards. He caught four passes for 54 yards and converted on two extra points. That’s ALL of his teams 32 points as he carried the ball 17 times for a 16.7 average, 284 yards. He had been good as a sophomore but now, a year later, he had gotten much better. The state now knew about him as his effort was highlighted around Wisconsin in many newspapers.
A few weeks later he helped destroy Bloomer by rushing 14 times for 134 yards and four rushing touchdowns plus two extra points (26 total points in the game). Craig Redwine strongly contributed with 111 rushing yards and a score. The Chippewa Falls Herald-Telegram newspaper must have thought Tom Mestelle was still playing for Ladysmith as they reported that Tom and Craig Redwine paced the team. After the hurt Bill had put on McDonell they shouldn’t have made that mistake. Against Spooner Mestelle racked up five touchdowns and two extra points (32 total points) as he caught TD passes of 55,53 and 29 yards while scoring from 25 and 12 yards out on the ground.
Against Chetek Mestelle scored four touchdowns, all in the first half and only played in the second when he was sent out to kick extra points of which he converted on nine of 11 attempts in the game. Bill broke the conference scoring record that Tom had set in 1962 in the Chetek game. It took Tom seven games to score 108 points bur Bill did it in five as his total in conference play was now 110. That night’s scoring gave him a total of 33 points in the game, even though the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram story said 35.
The following week was a different story as the Lumberjacks eked out a 14-13 win over Cumberland. The Beavers stopped the Lumberjack running game for the most part, but the play of quarterback Frank Poquette was key. Mestelle hauled in a 40-yard pass from Poquette with 1:30 left in the game to help avoid the upset. He then converted the extra point for the win. The Lumberjacks led at the end of the first half 7-6 on an 80-yard Poquette return of an interception and Mistelle’s extra point kick. Up next was the season final showdown with Rice Lake and Bill and his teammates didn’t disappoint the fans. They outgained the Warriors 359 yards to 214 as Mestelle closed out the season with three touchdowns…44 and 32 from scrimmage and took a 54-yard reception from Poquette along with converting three extra points.
Bill Mestelle ended his magical junior season with a state leading 174 points on 25 touchdowns and 24 extra points. He was named to the Leader-Telegram All-Northwest team, the UPI and AP first team All-State teams and honorable mention All-American on the Scholastic Coach listings. He was becoming a most sought player by colleges, and much was expected of him going into 1965. Besides the 174 points on the season, he rushed 98 times for 968 yards and caught 31 passes for 482 as well as picking off three opponents passes.
1965 rolled around and Kick-off Magazine, a national pre-season publication that named Mestelle as one of the top 100 backs in the country. The school and the press nicknamed him “Missel Mestelle” and he was ready to please the Lumberjack fans.
Bill Mestelle was hurt in the sixth game with a shoulder injury that kept him out of parts of three games, but he still gained 850 yards on 113 attempts, caught seven passes for 128 yards, scored 12 touchdowns and kicked 13 extra points. He punted for a 35.1-yard average, led the team in kick-0ff and punt returns plus he had a team leading 175 defensive points. He again earned All-Northwest, first team All-State and well as honorable mention All-America.
The “Missel” taking off for a long touchdown…1965 Ladysmith yearbook.
The team went 6-2 as Mestelle had opponents keying on him as the Lumberjacks lost the opener to Chippewa falls McDonell, 20-7. Bill ran for 123 yards and the seven points the team scored but the Macks were able to contain him from scoring like he did in 1964. His high scoring was again held in check as Rice Lake was beaten 19-7 as he ran for 161 yards and a touchdown and an extra point. Game three was his breakout for the season as he ran for 182 yards, scored four touchdowns and was 3-4 kicking extra points. He also intercepted two passes in the 27-0 shutout of Hayward.
The team lost to the eventual Heart of the North conference champion Barron, 19-12. I found no newspaper report for the game. They beat Bloomer the next week 20-13 as Mestelle rushed for 180 yards and scored three touchdowns and two extra points. Spooner was a very tough opponent as the Lumberjacks were held to a 6-0 win, but it was the “Missel” who led the way with 127 yards on 16 carries and a 15-yard touchdown run. In this game Mestelle only played the first half as he hurt his right shoulder and this would keep him out of the next game, a 21-0 win over Chetek. Football is a team sport and his backup, Bruce Stewart stepped in and he was fabulous, rushing for 225 yards and three scores. Bill didn’t play much the next week, a 33-13 victory over Cumberland but he was able to haul in a touchdown pass and kick three extra points. For his career four-year Bill rushed for 2,273 yards, caught passes for over 500 yards and scored 324 points. Maybe not a lot by todays stats but very impressive for the era. Going 6-2-0 was quite an accomplishment for the team and all the players could be proud.
It’s interesting to note that Ladysmith failed to get any statewide recognition in the state press polls for their undefeated seasons of 1961 and 1962, not even honorable mention. But they were ranked in the final polls as the #6 team in 1964. The strong streak of winning seasons, from 1958-65 (50-14 record for the period) ended in 1966 when the team went 1-7, 1-6 in conference play. The school would have some more good seasons after 1966 but the stretch of such a strong success was never again matched.
In 2019 the football Ladysmith became part of the Lakeland and the other former members, Barron, Bloomer, Chetek, Cumberland and Spooner remain in the HON. Many years ago, Rice Lake moved to the Big Rivers and now is part of the Middle Border Conference as of 2022. When it comes to other sports, like basketball, Ladysmith is back in the Heart of the North.
Thanks to the Ladysmith Public Library and to Kristi Flohr of the Ladysmith High School library for taking the time to send me yearbook information on the school's history.