"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.


   Under Chapter 411, Laws of 1885, Oneida County was formed from Lincoln, comprising all of the territory formerly in that county north of Townships 34 in Ranges 9 and 10 east, and that north of Townships 35 in Ranges 4 to 8 east. This included most of what is now Oneida and Vilas Counties and a part of Iron. Its northern boundary was the state line; its western boundary the line between Ranges 3 and 4 east from Township 36 to Township 44 north (inclusive); its southern boundary followed the line between Townships_ 35 and 36 north to the line between Ranges 8 and 9 east, then south to the line between Townships 34 and 35, then east to the line between Ranges 10 and 11 east, from which point its eastern boundary ran north to the state line.

   Under Chapter 411, Laws of 1893, Vilas County was erected from Oneida, and Townships 41-44 of Range 4 east detached from Oneida and added to Iron County. This cut off all of Oneida north of the line between Townships 39 and 40, and also Townships 39 of Ranges 6 and 7 east. Under Chapter 275 of the same year, Townships 35 in Ranges 9 and 10 east were detached from Oneida and annexed to Forest.

   Under Section 1, Chapter 278, Laws of 1897, the north half of Township 39 of Range 10 east was detached from Oneida and annexed to Vilas County. Under Section 2 of the same chapter, Townships 35 of Ranges 9 and 10 east were restored to Oneida from Forest; and Townships 35-39 of Range 11 were taken from Forest and annexed to Oneida

   Under Chapter 57, Laws of 1905, Townships 39 of Ranges 6 and 7 east were detached from Vilas and annexed to Oneida County.

   Oneida County is said to have been named for the New York Indian tribe of that name, a branch of the Iroquois, who removed to Wisconsin early in the nine-teenth century. The name is said to signify "Granite People." (Organization Boundaries and Names of Wisconsin Counties; Louise Phelps Kellogg, pH. D.; Wis. Hist. So. Proceedings, 1909.)

   The bill to set off Oneida County passed the Assembly by a large vote, but be-cause of strong opposition was retarded in the senate until the day before the clos-ing of business, when a compromise was effected whereby its requirements were granted but the organization of the county delayed until January 1, 1887. The leading lobbyists against the measure were M. H. McCord and W. H. Cannon, who were backed by the authorities of Lincoln County, the latter being opposed to cutting up their territory, as such a measure would naturally make the assessed value of Lincoln County much smaller. But in the strife the Oneida County people were aided by the non-resident landowners and the railroad companies, and while it cost them a large sum of money, they were victorious. Rhinelander was made the county seat of the new county and the first officers were appointed by Gov. Jeremiah M. Ruse in 1886. Chris Eby was appointed treasurer; J. W. McConnick, judge; F. W. McIntyre, clerk of court; W. L. Boers, county clerk; A. Sievwright, sheriff; Ole Oleson, register of deeds; Jacob Jewell, coroner, and Mrs. A. W. Shelton, county superintendent. Ole Oleson after serving a few days resigned in favor of E. S. Shepard. All of the above mentioned officers (except Oleson) served two years, to January, 1889.

   The first official meeting of the board of supervisors of Oneida County occurred Jan. 3, 1887, "in pursuance to the provisions to Chapter 411 of laws of Wisconsin for the year 1885." Present, Chas. Chafee, A. Denton and W. L. Beers, ex-officio. Chas. Chafee was made chairman. At this session the board decided on the amount of bonds to be required from county officers. At the next days' session the board took measures to procure such record books and other outfit as were necessary. The salaries of county officials (per annum) were fixed for the time being as follows: Treasurer, $1,000; clerk, $1,000; clerk of circuit court, $300; district attorney, $550; county judge, $100 (soon increased to $200). It was decided that the county superintendent should be paid at the rate of $5 per day.

   On Jan. 11 the board selected for temporary quarters rooms in the building on the southwest corner of King and Stevens streets. On Jan. 12 the public printing was given to Chas. F. Barnes, proprietor of the" New North," it being stipulated that the proceedings of the board should be printed in that paper, and also in the Oneida Herald and Eagle River Vindicator. Soon after this, Jan. 27, John Barnes was appointed a commissioner to represent the interests of and be authorized to act for Oneida County in making settlement with Lincoln County. With this object in view he was to meet a person selected by the Lincoln County board of supervisors, and a third person whom the other two, or the circuit judge of the Tenth Judicial District might agree upon, the three to constitute a committee for the purpose mentioned. The settlement was effected by or previous to April 12, that year.

   At a subsequent meeting (Feb. 15) it was" resolved that the district attorney be instructed to commence the necessary proceedings to compel the custodian of all tax certificates belonging to Oneida County and now held by Lincoln, to turn the same over to the county treasurer of Oneida County, pursuant to Chapter 411, Laws of 1885." W W. Carr was instructed to procure from the assessment rolls of 1886 the assessed valuations of the counties of Lincoln and Oneida. The county clerk and treasurer were instructed to procure from the proper officers of Lincoln County the necessary transcripts for their respective offices.

   Feb. 16, 1887, it was resolved that the board appropriate $1,000 to purchase a site for the court house, and on March 9 the county clerk was instructed to ask for bids, accompanied with plans," for a two-story frame building, with suitable vaults, for a court house, to be erected at Rhinelander and completed during the year 1887, the cost of said building not to exceed $7,500. The further history of the court house may be found consolidated on a subsequent page of this chapter.

   March 16, land inspectors were elected (by the board) to secure a correct valu-ation of the property of Oneida County, and the territory comprising the county was divided among them, report to be made on or before June 20, 1887. On the same date $500 additional was appropriated for the court house site.

   The members of the board in April were W. E. Brown, T. B. Walsh and W. L. Beers. The work of the land inspectors was proving expensive, as there were 30 or more of them, at $6 per day each, with assistants at $4 per day, and Mr. Brown wanted to pay them for their work up to date and dismiss them, but his resolution was voted down by the other two members, and other land inspectors were ap-pointed to fill vacancies. But in June it was found that funds were lacking to pay them, so it was necessary to issue more bonds, to the extent of $25,000, and pro-vide for their payment by a special tax, which question was submitted to the voters June 28; their vote was in favor of the proposition. As additional items of expense in getting the new county started were the amounts paid for making transcriptions from the records of Lincoln County. Thus E. Dutruit was allowed a bill of $1,83595 for making a transcript for the treasurer's office, and H. R. Fehland a bill of $3,253.33 for the transcript for the county clerk's office. The transcript for the register of deed's office cost $3,788.90.

   In October the financial resources of the county were so limited that the board found it necessary to transfer temporarily the sum of $2,000 from the court house fund to the general fund. The county assessment of all real and personal property in the towns of Oneida County-Pelican and Eagle River-liable to taxation for the year 1887 showed the following: 'Aggregate value of personal property: Pelican $83,265; Eagle River, $60,569. Aggregate value of real estate: Pelican, $604,566; Eagle River, $743,848. Total valuation of all property: Pelican, $687,831; Eagle River, $804,417; for the county, $152,248.

   It seems that at the end of the year there were still some matters of dispute with Lincoln County, or new ones had arisen, for on Dec. 20 the board adopted the following resolution: "Whereas, the county of Lincoln has failed to transfer the county lands belonging to and lying within Oneida County to said Oneida County, therefore, be it resolved that the clerk be instructed to demand an imme-diate transfer of title and the certificate on said lands to the treasurer of Oneida County." In these matters Lincoln County justified her position by the authority of an amendatory act passed by the legislature in 1887 nullifying some of the provi-sions of the act of 1885 under which Oneida County had been created, but the authority of which was not acknowledged by Oneida County, the latter county in December, 1887, passing a resolution directing the district attorney to institute proceedings to test the constitutionality of said amendatory act. The Oneida Herald was made the official county paper. The next year brought its own financial and other problems, as it appears from records dated March 5, 1888, that a large number of suits had been commenced against Oneida County and that judgments therein, including large attorney's fees and other costs, would be taken and entered against the county at the next term of circuit court unless orders were sooner paid; and as it was certain that a portion of the tax levied for the payment of county orders would be returned delinquent by the town treasurers, it was resolved to submit to the voters the proposition to apply to the commissioners of public lands for a loan to Oneida County of $15,000 for five years for the purpose of promptly paying all outstanding orders, the elec-tion to take place April 3. The vote was apparently favorable, as the board passed a resolution to make the application. In May, 1891, C. C. Yawkey was elected chairman of the county board, the New North was made the official paper, and an agricultural committee was appointed to take steps towards purchasing a site for fair grounds. The county of Oneida now contained the four towns of Eagle River, Hazelhurst, Minocqua and Pelican, and its total assessed valuation for real estate was $2,500,000, for personal property, $500,000; grand total, $3,000,000. The amount to be raised for the support of the common schools for the ensuing year was $2,550. It was so divided among the towns as to enable each of them to share in state school money. In 1893 Oneida County was reduced to a little more than half of its previous size by the creation of Vilas County, and at the same time Townships 41 to 44 inclusive of Range 4 east were detached from Oneida and an-nexed to Iron County. Commissioners were appointed by the governor to make settlements between the three counties, and in November, 1893, the Oneida County board instructed the county clerk to deed to Vilas and Iron counties the county land situated in their respective boundaries.

   From 1892, or perhaps a little sooner, there had been considerable activity in road building and all branches of county business were increasing. To provide for the various contingencies, it was resolved by the board in February, 1894, to borrow $3,000 from the Commissioners of Public Lands of Wisconsin, under provisions of Chap. 167, Laws of 1881, to be payable in 15 years in 15 equal installments of $2,000 each.

   In April, 1894, it was resolved that all distinctions between the town and county poor should be abolished, that the care of the poor should be a county charge, and a committee of three was appointed to look up a site for a poor farm and ascertain the cost of erecting a suitable building thereon. The subsequent action of the board in regard to this matter may be found elsewhere given in this chapter.

   The city of Rhinelander was allowed" to work the hoboes and all prisoners sentenced to hard labor," it being provided that the city should indemnify the sheriff against any and all harm that might arise from such custom. At this time the values of all taxable property in the county amount to a total of $1,500,000, or about half what it was before Vilas County had been detached. In March, 1895, some matters which had still remained a subject of dispute and legal action between Lincoln Counties, were finally settled.

   Aug. 1, 1895, the sum of $500 was voted by the board to aid Oneida County Agricultural Society purchase a site for a county fair ground (see Chapter on Agri-culture). At the same meeting a resolution was passed creating the Oneida County Emigration Committee to advertise the county and encourage settlers therein, the sum of $250 being appropriated got the same.' At this time persons sentenced as vagrants or as drunk and disorderly, were boarded by the sheriff for two dollars per week.

   In the latter part of 1896 a plan was devised to bring the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway to Rhinelander. For this purpose a company called the "Rhinelander & St. Paul Railroad Co." was formed and came before the Oneida County board requesting a subscription by the county of $20,000 to its capital stock, to be paid by the issuance of bonds in exchange therefor, the company agreeing to have its line completed and running from a point of connection with the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway to Rhinelander within nine months from the time its proposition was accepted; also to build side-tracks to mills and factories where needed. The proposition was favored by the tax payers and adopted by the council as an ordinance in January, 1897, but the scheme proved ineffective, as the said company found itself unable to make connection with the St. Paul.

   In 1895 the legislature had passed a bill creating the municipal court of Oneida County, the municipal judge to have exclusive jurisdiction in all criminal cases in the county; and on Nov. 4, 1896, the county board adopted a resolution that the same should be amended so as to apply to the city of Rhinelander instead of the county of Oneida, a copy of the resolution to be transmitted to Hon. G. H. Clark, member of assembly from this district for suitable action in the matter.

   In December, 1896, the taxable property values of Oneida County showed a grand total of $4,500,000. In the city of Rhinelander the real estate valuation was $1,020,000; personal property, $600,000; total, $1,620,000. That the total wealth of the county, as reckoned in taxable values, had increased in two years from one and a half to four and a half millions was due almost entirely to the rapid development of the lumber industry, which brought a large amount of outside capital into the county, the effect of which was felt throughout the greater part in the erection and operation of sawmills, planing-mills, company stores and others, necessary for the increased population consisting of the men brought in by the companies and their families. In November, 1898, the amount to be raised for the support of the common schools for the ensuing year was $3,550. In the mean-while considerable road building was going on and occasionally new towns created. In June, 1899, in consequence of an ordinance prohibiting the running at large of cattle, it was thought unnecessary to have any longer a fence around the court house, and it was removed. In January, 1900, the county appropriated $300 for the purchase of" two well -trained bloodhounds for the use of the sheriff of Oneida County." These dogs were procured in the South and kept for a while, but their use was not a success. One of them disappeared and the idea of using dogs to catch criminals was soon afterwards given up.

   The county board now consisted of 13 members, namely, the respective super-visors of the six wards of the city of Rhinelander, and the respective chairmen of the towns of Gagen, Schoepke, Pelican, Woodboro, Sugar Camp, Hazelhurst and Newbold. In January, 1901, the Oneida County Emigration Committee, which had been organized in 1895, was dissolved, having been practically succeeded by the Oneida County Land Commission. The moneys in hand ($79.30) were placed in the general fund. In January, 1903, the total value of real estate in Oneida County was determined as $3,718,050; personal property, $1,281,500; total, $5,000,000. The school tax levied in December, 1905, was as $32,600.

   The following resolution was passed by the county board March 22, 1911: ""Whereas, the state of Wisconsin has withdrawn from entry certain lands in Oneida County and purchased from individual owners and corporations certain lands also in said county, amounting to 62,468 acres, located in the towns of Hazelhurst, Newbold and Sugar Camp; and by reason of the above lands not being subject to taxation, the taxable property in said towns is materially reduced and the devel-opment of Oneida County seriously retarded and the burden of taxation materially increased in the aforesaid towns and also in the entire county, and the settlers in the territory cut off from schools, churches and markets by reason of the state owning lands surrounding them, and settlers being driven from settlements by the purchase of land by the state, Resolved, that the county treasurer be instructed to request the state treasurer to reimburse the towns of Hazelhurst, Newbold and Sugar Camp, and also the county of Oneida for the losses sustained by them by reason of the withdrawal of the said lands from taxation." A copy of this resolu-tion was mailed to each state officer, all candidates for state office, each member of the assembly, senators and others. A further episode in connection with the same matter was that on Sept. 18, 1913, the county board passed a resolution thanking the Hon. Justice Barnes, H. W. T. Stevens, Hon. W. J. Whiteside. Hon. Douglass Anderson, E. 1. Luther, F. A. Lowell, Hon. H. F. Steele, Barney Moran, Henry Wubker, E. W. Knapp and Geo. W. Dawes "for their efforts in opposing the present policy of the Wisconsin State Board of Forestry in its endeavors to take from the county and other northern counties thousands of acres of good agri-cultural lands for forestry purposes." Nothing, however, has yet been done by the state to remedy or modify the matter complained of.

   In December, 1913, the tax levy for county purposes was as follows: General county taxes, $40,600; Soldiers' Felief Rund, $800; interest on bonds, $3,750; bonds, $5,000; court expenses, $4,500; state and county road and bridge fund, $12,000; bounties, $300; Training School, $1,800; court house grounds, $250; Oneida County agricultural fund, $1,250; Oneida County agricultural representa-tive, $1,250; county bridge fund, $500; total, $72,000. The above did not include certain special taxes. The levy for the support of the common schools (not includ-ing salary of superintendent) was $43,500.

   Sept. 10, 1914, the sum of $1,000 was appropriated by the county board to assist the Oneida County Immigration Society and to form part of a fund to be known as the Immigration Society Fund.

   In November, 1914, the board passed another resolution criticising the project of forestry and reforestration carried on by the state in Oneida and neighboring counties, complaining that 400,000 acres of lands of high agricultural value had been thus alienated to the discouragement of settlers and the increase of tax bur-dens, alleging mismanagement, waste and extravagance, and demanding that the existing laws on the subject should be repealed and the lands opened to settlement. In the meanwhile various public improvements were being made, new towns being set off, bridges and roads built and constructed, public buildings erected, and the school system expanded. Into all these matters it is not necessary to enter into in detail, but a general survey of the most important subjects will be given.

   As previously narrated, the county board in February, 1887, resolved to ap-propriate $1,000 to purchase a site for a court house, and the clerk, W. L. Beers, was directed to advertise for bids for a two-story frame building, with suitable vaults, to be completed during the year 1887 at a cost not to exceed $7,500. In March an additional appropriation of $5,000 was made, and in April plans were accepted. In May the bid of Joseph Webber of $7,470 for construction was accepted, C. Eby being appointed superintendent of construction. The building was completed in 1887 and cost $7,700, a little more than the contract price. It was decided to temporarily use the jail of the town of Pelican for a county jail, but plans for a sheriff's residence and jail were considered in July, 1888, and accepted in August, and A. McRae was appointed to construct same. The building was completed at a cost of $5,546. To raise the money to construct these necessary public build-ings the county issued bonds to the extent of $12,000. The first court house stood on the site of the present one, and was the seat of general county business for more than 20 years. By December, 1907, it was recognized to be inadequate to the needs of the county, and plans were started for the construction of a new and larger one. The comer-stone of the latter, which is the present large and imposing building, was laid in 1908 and the building completed and occupied in August, 1911, no work having been done on it in the winter seasons. The contract was let for $96,500, which was the amount it cost plus $1,300 for extras. In addition to the cost of the building, the heating, plumbing, lighting and furnishing cost ap-proximately $12,500. The old court house was moved back one block and is now used as the County Training School for teachers.

   The location of the Oneida County Poor House was selected by the county board in April, 1894, as the north half of the southwest quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 32, Township 37 north, Range 9 east, the said location, at the extreme north end of the city of Rhinelander, being known as the old race track. The sum of $3,000 was appropriated for a building, the construction of which was superintended by 1. Tuttle. G. W. Marks and wife were engaged to conduct the Poor House and did so for some years thereafter. No outside relief was given except in rare cases. In December, 1913, when Peter Doyle was superintendent, the board voted to return to the old town system, each town looking after its own poor, but in a few months the county poor house system was resumed. Edward Cronan was appointed superintendent in 1915, and in January the same year James O'Melia was appointed poor commissioner, in which respective positions both are still serving. The Poor House is a two-story building standing on a 20 -acre tract, while in the vicinity is a 4O-acre tract used for pasture. A little farming is done there but the main part of the poor farm is three or four miles southwest in Section 2, Township 36 north of Range 8 east (town of Crescent), where 80 acres are under cultivation, the rest being cut-over land, swamps or lakes. The house will accommodate 20 or 21 inmates.

   The prosperity of Oneida County has been closely connected with the good' roads system, which for years has been in a state of constant progress and develop-ment, and includes six state trunk highways: State Trunk Highway No. 63, run-ning south through the county and passing through Rhinelander, the county seat; State Highway 39, running northeasterly through the county; State Highway No. 14 east and west; State Highway No. 70 tapping the northwest comer of the county, connecting up Phillips and Fifield; State Highway No. 32, northeast from Forest County on the east and running northwest into Vilas County, and State Highway No. 10, which enters Oneida County from Lincoln in Section 32, town of Cassian, soon joins Highway No. 14, runs with it some miles, then leaves it and runs north to Minocqua and Woodruff and into Vilas County. This makes a total (in April, 1923) of 156 miles of state trunk highways in the county. There are also five county highways connecting up the whole of the farming district and having a total length of 185 miles, which have been completed in whole or in part as pass-able roads; and in addition there are 324 miles of town roads. These with the Rhinelander Telephone Co.'s rural telephones, the Oneida Farm Telephone Co's. lines and those of the Pine Lake Rural Telephone, connect every farmstead in the county. Then much of the county is well covered from Rhinelander by rural mail routes: No.1 covering 31 miles south and west, with 101 boxes; No.2 south and east, covering 35 miles with 107 boxes; No.3 29 miles north and west, 50 boxes, covered three times a week; a star route of 30 miles, 40 boxes, to Robbins and north. All of these routes are on good roadways and the residents on them have to suffer none of the pioneer rigors that characterized the first settlement of the prairie states.

   The amounts expended in Oneida County under state and federal aid for road construction and maintenance during the period of 1918 to 1922 inclusive were as follows: State and county aid: town, $42,616; county, $93,465; state, $16,954; total, $153,035. Federal and state aid: county, $59,335; state, $59,335; federal government, $59,335; total, $178,005. Maintenance of state trunk lines: $146,712. Grand total, $477,752. It is expected that state aid construction for 1923 will equal $9,787.14, of which the towns and county will each pay $3,114.09 and the state $3,558.96. Federal aid construction for 1923 will amount to about $75,000, of which the county and state and federal government will each pay $25,000. The state win expend about $42,000 for maintenance of the state trunk highways during the season of 1923. According to the report of the assessor of incomes for Oneida County, dated Oct. 27, 1922, the total value of all real estate in the county was $17,466,464; total real and personal property, $21,568,642; total personal property, $4,102,178. These values were divided as follows: Horses, mules and asses, $240,205; neat cattle, $151,342; sheep, $6,056; swine, $6,454; wagons, carriages and sleighs, $42,548; merchants' and manufacturers' stock, $2,018,735; logs, timber, lumber, etc. (not manufacturers' stock), $58,475; steam and other vessels, $74,587; property and franchises, (water and light companies). $281,133; bank stock, $395,565; automobiles, $550,656; other motor vehicles. $170.

   The population of Oneida County in 1900 was 8,875; in 1905 it was 11,234; in 1910 it was 11,433, and in 1920 it was 13,996.

   Oneida County's home war work during this country's participation in the great World War was directed by men and women of sound patriotism, abundant personal energy and adequate business experience, and as a consequence its record is good. The County Council of Defence was formed April 18, 1917, the members being appointed by the chairman of the county board of supervisors. The Council was to consist of one representative of the manufacturing interests of the county, one representative of labor, one representative of the farmers, one woman to rep-resent the women's clubs and the Red Cross, a physician to represent the medical profession, one representative of the bankers of Rhinelander, one representative of the merchants, two representatives of newspapers and two other citizens of Oneida County at large; the chairman of the county board to act as ex-officio chairman. Albert J. O'Melia was secretary and treasurer of the Council of Defence, county manager of war savings stamp activities and also handled one Red Cross drive. Mrs. Anna Moe had general charge of the Red Cross and home service work, and in Rhinelander Charles F. Smith was chairman of all Liberty Loan committees, except during the first loan, which was handled by the banks.

   The Oneida County Patriotic Fund was the result of a plan organized by the Oneida County Council of Defence with the object of raising money for the various patriotic organizations who were carrying on relief work in the field. At a meeting of the Council April 29, 1918, the following resolution was read and unanimously adopted: "That the executive committee be authorized to work out a patriotic fund for Oneida County on the basis of every workingman, farmer, business or professional man donating at least the equivalent of one hour a week, and the

Continued on Chapter XIII Part 2

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