It’s time to gather around for some ghost stories.

Third-generation railroad man Brian Paulson and local historian Jim Pellman will team up tonight for a program exploring Douglas County towns that were lost to time.

“There were towns all over the place,” said Old-Brule Heritage Society President Dennis Hill, whose group will host the presentation. “It’s just a mystery what all went on there. A lot of it is not documented.”

Once-bustling sites with schools, churches, stores, saloons and more, some are now only a name and a memory. The towns sprang up for a reason, usually along railroad tracks or waterways. When the reasons disappeared, so did they.

“We have many, many layers of history,” Hill said. “Each layer is different.”

Peeling back the layers leads to Le Claire, LaChappelle, Parkdale, Bellwood, Nutt, Carrol, Hines and other now-ghost towns.

Pellman points to Clevedon as the earliest of these ghost towns. Now, only the name of a road shows it ever existed. The settlement at the mouth of the Brule River was platted by Samuel Budgett, a wealthy merchant and speculator from Bristol, England, in the early 1880s. His dreams of a copper strike didn’t pan out, and there wasn’t enough infrastructure to allow the settlement to last more than a few years.

Le Claire was a railroad station on the Duluth South Shore & Atlantic Railroad next to a sawmill that supported enough population to call for a school, store, post office and saloon. The town was situated just up the hill from where Nebagamon Creek joins the Brule River, just west of logging juggernaut Lake Nebagamon.

One ghost town, Waino, still holds tenaciously to a few traces of its past. With Maple and Oulu, it encompassed part of the most densely populated farming area in the state of Wisconsin. The working dairy farms are gone now, but the town still boasts one garage, Pioneer Chapel and Everrest Cemetery.

“Ghost Towns of Northern Douglas County” kicks off with a potluck lunch and refreshments at 6 p.m. today at the new Amnicon Town Hall on U.S. Highway 2.

The event is free and open to the public. Hill and Pellman, the organization’s secretary, hope to encourage new historical society membership.

“We try to preserve and document history,” Hill said, to keep it from being lost. They need people with varied talents to pitch in.

The Old-Brule Historical Society owns, maintains and operates the Davidson Windmill site on state Highway 13, which also houses a pioneer Finnish log home and the last wooden, queen-post truss bridge left in Wisconsin.

The organization just kicked off a capital campaign to restore the one-room Monticello School, which served students in what is now the town of Amnicon from 1887 to 1911. It later was moved to a site in Lakeside and used for grain storage until it was purchased by the historical society. It has been placed on a parcel in Maple that is rich with history, having been the site of the original and first Brule Town Hall, two Maple schools and a joint Maple Town Hall and school structure built in 1921.

The school will rest on a modern poured concrete walkout basement that will serve as work and storage space for the historical society’s archives and become the operational base for the organization. Once restored to its 1890 state, the school will be made available for class visits and public tours.

Money and know-how are needed to make that plan a reality. Constructing the foundation and basement and placing the school on it is estimated to cost about $19,000; additional money will be needed to restore the school.

Tax-deductible donations can be sent to Old-Brule Heritage Society Inc., 4808 S. County Road F, P.O. Box 24, Maple, WI 54854. Gifts can be designated “Monticello School Museum & Archives” or “MSMA.”

More information is available online at oldbrule.org, by calling (715) 363-2549 or by joining its Facebook group, Friends of the Old-Brule Heritage Society.