"History of Lincoln, Oneida, and Vilas Counties Wisconsin"

Compiled by George O.Jones, Norman S. McVean and Others. Printed in 1924 by H.C.Cooper. Jr. & Co., Minneapoli-Winona MN. ill. 787 pages. The first two hundred pages are history of the three counties, the remainder of the book is biographies.


Alban, Stephen Harris in this day one of the best known and best loved citizens of Rhinelander, or, it may be said, of northern Wisconsin, who was a leading member of the bar, for eight years postmaster of Rhinelander, at different times held other important offices, and was besides a thoughtful writer on timely topics, was born in Stark County, Ohio, April 7, 1836, son of James S. and Amanda (HARRIS) ALBAN. The father, well known in his locality as an able lawyer, was also a brave and patriotic soldier in the war for the preservation of the Union and, as colonel of the 18th Wisconsin regiment, was killed at the battle of Shiloh. The mother was a daughter of Stephen HARRIS, a prosperous farmer of Stark County. It was in 1837--the year after his birth--that Judge STARK'S parents moved to Wisconsin, settling on government land on the west side of the Wisconsin River in Sauk County, the Indian title to which had just been extinguished. Five years later, or in 1842, Mrs. Amanda ALBAN died. The father, James S. ALBAN, was afterwards admitted to the bar and removed to Plover, Portage County, where he subsequently practiced until he went into the army to meet his death in battle. The education of the subject of this sketch was acquired in the common schools, at Lawrence College, Appleton, and at Madison. On the death of his mother, being then about six years old, he was sent back to Ohio to live with his grandfather on the latter's farm, and there he spent his boyhood. It is related that when 13 years old he walked five miles to hear the Ohio statesman, Thomas CORWIN, make a political speech. He had but three cents with him to buy his lunch, which he made from a melon and a piece of gingerbread. When he returned home on foot he was able to give a complete review of the speech, much to the delight of his grandfather. When 16 years of age he returned to Wisconsin and entered his father's law office. His law studies were completed at Lawrence College and he was admitted to the bar in Portage County, in March, 1857. In April, that year, he moved to Grand Rapids, Wis. (now Wisconsin Rapids), where he was appointed district attorney and practiced until some time in 1858, when he returned to Plover to form a partnership with his father. By this time he had gained the reputation of a lawyer who would not take a case that he know to be unjust. He was just 26 years old when the battle of Shiloh was fought (April 6-7, 1862), and soon the news arrived of his father's death. That same spring President LINCOLN appointed Stephen Harris ALBAN--perhaps in recognition of his father's sacrifice for his county--as register of the U.S. land office at Stevens Point. In that position he served for 24 years, or until March, 1884, handling the vast business with a sterling and uncorruptable integrity that left him a comparatively poor man where others less scrupulous made big fortunes for themselves. He was not all that time at Stevens Point, however, as in 1872 the land office was moved to Wausau and Mr. ALBAN with his family moved with it.

After his term in the land office was over Mr. ALBAN resumed the practice of law and was appointed municipal judge of Wausau. In January, 1888, he moved to Rhinelander, forming a partnership with John BARNES under the name of Alban & Barnes. This partnership was dissolved in July, 1897. In 1906 Judge ALBAN was appointed postmaster at Rhinelander, which office he held up to the time of his death on Dec. 27, 1913. Owing to the failure of his health he had tendered his resignation in the fall of that year, but it had not been accepted and so he had died in the harness and in the service of the country he loved so well. Judge ALBAN was a man of simple tastes, loving his home and family and deeply religious but without ostentation. he had a rarely keen mind, was a writer and scholar, using language full of gems of wisdom and information couched in words that all could understand. He had great literary ability and contributed largely to magazines and various papers including the local press, and a few years before his death he issued a book entitled "Lay Sermons," which he said "Seemed to the writer simply a convenient and possibly an effective medium for heart to heart talks with his neighbors." This volume is worthy of a place in the library of every home. Judge ALBAN "wrote from his heart and his philosophy was like that of Ralph Waldo EMERSON, but tinctured with an even sublimer trust in Divine power and goodness. He seemed to have no enemies though he never compromised with sin or wrong. He was never a 'knocker' nor even a 'reformer' in the common acceptation of that word, for he saw some good in every man and aimed to raise the standard by influence rather than by force or law." Judge ALBAN joined the Masonic order in Plover, Wis., in 1859, and subsequently advanced to high positions in the blue lodge, chapter and in the Scottish rite degrees, being past master, high priest Knights Templar and a 32d degree Mason. As a signal and unusual honor he was offered the 33d degree, which is limited to men of special ability, but he declined the honor on account of the expense necessary to maintain it. In announcing Judge ALBAN'S death a local paper (the News) said: "After weary months of pain and suffering which would have distraught a weaker man, Judge Stephen Harris ALBAN, postmaster and best beloved man in Rhinelander, and one of the greatest men in this great state, passed away at 10:45 Saturday morning, Dec. 27, the end coming peacefully and without apparent pain. As gently as a little child falling asleep his soul passed from the clay which had enveloped it and went onward and upward to that reward surely prepared for those who, like him, had served their Master faithfully and well. The funeral was held Tuesday afternoon from the Methodist Church and was in charge of the Mason, Omar Commandery of Knights Templar acting as escort." Judge ALBAN'S home like, which lasted 44 years, was particularly happy. On Sept. 27, 1869, at Menasha, Wis., he was married to Helen Neolia COWAN of that place, who was a native of the New York State. When a girl of twelve years she moved with per parents to Belleville, Ontario. In 1860 she entered the preparatory school for Albert College, from which latter institution she was graduated in 1865, and in the same year the family moved to Wisconsin settling in Menasha. For two years or more before her marriage she taught in the high school as assistant to the principal. To Mr. and Mrs. ALBAN three children were born, Edith, Ann and Helen Louise. Edith is the wife of B. R. LEWIS, a hardware merchant and prominent citizen of Rhinelander, and has five children, Helen, Hugh, Stephen N., Bennett and Edith. Ann is now Mrs. S. T. WALKER of Madison, Wis., and has three children, Dorothy, Jean and Helen. Helen Louise is residing at home with her mother. Mrs. ALBAN is a refined and cultured lady of the old school whose mind is still young and who has kept up to a large extent with modern educational progress, being able to converse intelligently with an abundant fund of information upon all the leading topics of the day. She is a member of the Methodist Church and of the Woman's Club of Rhinelander. While the United States was engaged in the World War she took an active part in patriotic home work to the extent of her powers, especially in connection with the Red Cross.

Transcribed by Susan Swanson, from page 212-214 (with picture); History of Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas Counties Wisconsin; Compiled by George O. Jones, Norman S. McVean and Others 1924, H. C. Cooper, Jr. & Co.

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