"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.


Ball, Mrs. Joseph A. who was the first white woman to settled in Tomahawk, of which place she is still a resident, was born in Portage County, Wisconsin. Nov. 28, 1856, daughter of Bartholomew and Helen (FLEMMING) MAHANNA. Her parents were from the east, having been married in Malone, N.Y., on June 1, 1854, immediately after which they had set out to make a home for themselves in the wilds of Wisconsin, traveling by boat over the Great Lakes to Sheboygan and from there overland to Portage County. It took courage to say good bye to all old friends and associations and make up their minds to suffer years of privation in a country consisting mostly of forest inhabited by savages, and with white neighbors few and far between. But they both possessed this courage and bravely and steadfastly played their humble parts int he drama of the West. Mr. MAHANNA'S part in it lasted some 16 years, for he died on the Portage county farm on Aug. 13, 1871. His wife Helen survived him many years, passing away in Tomahawk Oct. 8, 1912. She had witnessed many wonderful changes; seen the passing of the Indian, the clearing of the forests, and the growth of towns, villages and cities, and the coming of the railroad and the automobile. Through it all she had done her part as a good wife and mother. Her children were: Wallace, who died Oct. 29, 1923; Ella, a twin sister of Wallace, deceased; Helen, also deceased; Mary, the subject of this sktech, and Louise who is deceased. Mary MAHANNA grew up on her parents' farm, and was instructed by her mother in household duties. On Oct. 7, 1877, she was united in marriage with John TOBIN of Portage County, Wis., son of Mr. and Mrs. James TOBIN, who had come to Wisconsin at an early day from Connecticut. Mr. MAHANNA was a California pioneer, having joined the rush of gold seekers to that territory soon after the discovery of the yellow metal there in 1849. He had the trip by way of Cape Horn and met with some success in his search. His wedding ring was made from a gold nugget that he brought home with him. John TOBIN was 21 when he began farming for himself, having previously lived on the home farm and assisted his father. He acquired a tract of 200 acres and put up a good set of buildings and by 1887 it was regarded as one of the best in that part of the country. In the spring of that year, leaving his wife on the farm, he came to Tomahawk to examine this locality, as it was the time when the village was just starting. Not wishing to decide upon removal too hastily, he got a job driving a stage between Tomahawk and Merrill, and after being thus engaged for a month he sent for this wife. On her arrival they located in a log shanty at a point on the Wisconsin River west of the Tomahawk town site, and just opposite Rodgers Island, and it was thus that Mrs. TOBIN, now Mrs. BALL became the orginal women pioneer of Tomahawk. It was above a month before the second white woman appeared. Mr. TOBIN cleared 125 acres west of the town site for the Tomahawk Land & Boom Company for flowage ground, after which he launched out into business for himselft, buying lots on S. Railway Street, corner of Spirit Avenue, and erecting a frame building into which he and his wife moved, turning it into a boarding-house as well as a residence. It was a good move to make, as the railroad was then building in, bring many workers to the place during its construction, and, after its completion many new settlers. Mr. TOBIN did not depend upon the boarding-house for a living entirely, however, for he became active in various other occupations, including the cord wood business, the dairy business and the ice business, building a large ice house. Later he became local agent for the Miller Brewing Co. of Milwaukee and the Badger State Bottling Co. of Watertown, and altogether he built up a large business and was successful so long as his health lasted, but on March 17, 1894 he died, and his widow took up the care of his business interests, including the farm, and conducting the boarding-house also until 1911. Some years previous to this latter date she had married for her second husband Joseph A. BALL of Tomahawk. Mr. BALL was born at Defiance, Ohio, and in 1900 came to Tomahawk, entering the employ of the C. M. and St. P. Railway in the car department, of which he is now foreman. In 1911 they gave up the boarding-house and they now have a comfortable residence on Spirit Avenue. Mrs. BALL had three children by her first husband, J. Leroy, Raymond J. and Mercedes. J. Leroy was born Aug. 7, 1880 and is now living in the west. Raymond J., born July 6, 1884, is in Seattle, Wash. Mercedes, born April 2, 1893, was married July 7, 1916 to Raymond J. WEIK, a traveling salesman, and she has had two children: Raymond J. Jr., born April 5, 1821, who died Jan. 19, 1922, and another who died in infancy. She was educated partly in the Tomahawk High School, where she spent one year, and partly in St. Mary's College in Prairie du Chien, which she entered in 1906, being graduated from the academic course in 1911 and in music in 1913. She is a lady of culture and refinement, and, though bereaved of her children, of an aimable disposition, resigning herself to the will of Providence.

Transcribed by Susan Swanson, from pages 538-539, 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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