"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.

Biography of


Brown, Anderson W., pioneer lumberman of Oneida County, who is often called the "Father of Rhinelander,” was born on a farm near Peterboro, Madison County, N. Y., Nov. 27 1849, son of Edward D. and Helen (ANDERSON) BROWN. When he was eight years old his father moved to Newport, Columbia County, Wis., and two or three months later to the town of Hull near Steven Point, where the family lived for several years, Edward D. BROWN having a sawmill and small clearing on Plover River. After living at the mill for about four years, they moved to a farm in the town of Stockton some ten miles from Stevens Point, which place was their home until about 1868. While there the father was engaged in logging during the winter time, and in turning the logs into lumber at his mill during the spring and summer and in selling the product in southern markets, sometimes taking the fleets in rafts down the Wisconsin and Mississippi Rivers as far south as St. Louis. In 1868 Edward D. BROWN sold his interests in the farm and settled in Stevens Point, securing a residence on the site of the present normal school. In the meanwhile Anderson W. BROWN had attended school in Stevens Point up to the age of 18 years, and then with his brown Webster went to Lawrence College in Appleton. They attended there three terms and one term at the Spencerian Business College at Milwaukee and in the fall of 1870 both entered the State University at Madison. Anderson W. remained there until the following spring, when he was formed to leave on account of the illness of his father. Soon after that he started out cruising in the north woods in the interest of his father and others. While thus engaged in 1874, he came across the site then known as Pelican Rapids, on the Wisconsin River, but which is now the site of the city of Rhinelander, arriving here in a birch bark canoe from lower down the river.

He was quick to visualize the possibilities of this country and realized that its fine water-power and natural advantages formed an ideal combination for the site of a city. He noted that what is now Boom Lake held wonderful possibilities for lob storage, and estimated that by means of a dam it could be made a save storage for from 100 to 125 million feet of logs. He know that the Wisconsin River was the natural outlet for the extensive forests tributary to its shores and that all conditions here were favorable for the founding of a prosperous city based on the lumber industry. On his return to Stevens Point he reported these things to his father and brother and urged them to purchase the site. They induced Mr. T. W. ANDERSON, the father’s brother-in-law, to join them in purchasing the necessary land along the river and lake to control the situation, each party taking a one-fourth interest in the property, consisting of about 1500 acres, which they purchased from the government and state in 1874. About this time the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway began the construction of a railroad from Milwaukee to Ontonagon on the shore of Lake Superior, in upper Michigan, and the BROWNs seeing the immense advantage of having the road come to Pelican Rapids, furnished the railway officials with an estimate as to the number of tons of freightage they would secure it they built the road to the village, also offered them a one-half interest in the lands purchased by them. The offer was accepted in 1878 and a contract was made in which the company agreed to complete their road to Pelican Rapids by Nov. 1, 1882, which they accomplished, and the railway engineers then proceeded to plat a few fractions into village lots and mill sites along the river and lake frontage. After the population of the town had reached the 1500 mark in 1885, the “Soo” line was building east from Minneapolis to meet the line they were building westerly from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. Thereupon the Browns interviewed W. D. WASHBURN of Minneapolis, the president, and other officials of the “Soo” company, with the view of having that road also built through Rhinelander, and offered them a half interest in all of their property that remained outside the interest already given the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Ry., but the officials of the “Soo” company made a counter proposition demanding a one-third interest in all of the unplatted property which made it necessary to induce the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway to join with the BROWNs in giving from their interest so that each would own one third. This offer was accepted and the road was built accordingly, reaching Rhinelander during the fall of 1887. The arrival of the “Soo” railway put new life into the village an where there had been but two sawmills in operation within the next two years five others had some in to assist in making Rhinelander an important lumber centre. In the spring of 1875 Anderson W. and his brother, Webster E. BROWN, started the Brown Bros. Co. as a partnership at Stevens Point, and were joined by another brown, Edward O., in 1882. They continued in business there until 1883, although they had started construction work at Rhinelander the year previous. Here they began building a mill and boarding-house in November, 1882, the lumber for the latter being brought in on the first train that entered the city, the Milwaukee, Lake Shore, & Western (now the C. & N. W.) having completed their line from Monico Junction to Rhinelander. The small dimension lumber for the Brown Bros.’ Mill was sawed by the Tolman Conro Lumber Co., who erected a portable mill here, the heavy timber being hewn from logs from the adjacent property. The Brown mill had a capacity of 50,000 feet every ten hours, as it was originally built, which was later increased to 100,000 fee, in addition to which the Browns had a planing-mill and other accessories of a well equipped lumber company. On Jan. 1, 1890 the business of the Brown Brothers was incorporated under the name of the Brown Bros. Lumber Co., of which company Anderson W. was president for the rest of his life. At one time they carried on a private banking business under the name of E. D. Brown & Sons, which was afterwards merged into the Merchants State Bank of Rhinelander, of which the subject of this sketch was a stockholder. Helen M., wife of Edward D. BROWN, died at Stevens Point in 1888 and in the fall of 1893, he with his two daughters, May and Helen, came to Rhinelander, making their home at first with the son and brother Anderson W., Mrs. E. D. BROWN afterwards building a fine residence which he occupied with his daughters until his death. The children in the family were Anderson W., Webster E., Edward O., Walter D., Florence H., Helen, May and Isabel. The first seven mentioned are all of Rhinelander, Florence being now the wife of Paul BROWNE. Isabel is now Mrs. Douglas D. FLANNER of Columbus, Ohio. The Brown Bros. Lumber Co. continued to operate their saw mill and planing-mill until 1917, when the saw mill was sold to the Brown Land & Lumber Co., the stock of the latter company being owned by Luther E. and Webster A. BROWN, sons of A. W. BROWN. During the period of its greatest prosperity the company’s annual output of logs was between 15 and 20 million feet. A. W. BROWN had charge of their camps and their timber buying, while Webster E. had charge of the mill operations and the marketing of its product. The Brown Brothers also helped to promote other industries besides their lumber business, among them the paper mill, built in 1903-04, of which A. W. BROWN was president. He was also president of the Pelican Boom Company during its active operation in sorting and delivering logs to the saw mills for some 20 years. He was one of the most active men in the county in the development of its agricultural interests, aiding in experiments before the country had an agricultural agent, and he was influential in having the subject of agriculture made a part of the curriculum in the Teachers’ Training School in Rhinelander. He was the owner of Tamarack Farm near Sugar Camp, which was started by Brown Bros. some 20 years before and which is today one of the best farms in the county. There are some 180 acres cleared, with commodious farm buildings, and some 60 head of fine Guernsey cattle-some pure bred and all of high grade. Anderson W. BROWN did much to promote the case of education; he served on the building committee during the construction of the present court house, served on the Oneida County board of supervisors a number of years as its chairman, and was chairman of the board of the town of Pelican before the organization of the country. Mr. BROWN was married June 6, 1878, at Stevens Point, Wis., to Anna a. HANCHETT, daughter of Luther and Lucinda (ALBAN) HANCHETT, and he and his wife were the parents of five children: Luther E. and Webster A. of Rhinelander; Raymond of Chicago; Edith, residing at home in Rhinelander, and Kathryn, now Mrs. W. D. CONNOR, Jr. of Laona, Wis.

April 25, 1923, marked the close of this action and useful life. With the passing of Anderson BROWN, Rhinelander and Oneida County sustained a great loss. His participation in the development of his community’s affairs have indelibly stamped his personality upon the city and the state. His contribution toward the development of northern Wisconsin is not to be overestimated. His rare combination of progressive and conservative qualities, his practical experience of early struggle, his clear foresight and executive ability, make of him the best type of American citizen, and his death marked the passing of a great pioneer and a true commoner.

Transcribed by Susan Swanson, from pages 206-208 (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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