"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.


Somewhat more than one-half the soil of Oneida County is adapted to agri-cultural purposes, there being about 500,000 acres of tillable land in the county. Though it was the timber wealth that caused the opening up of his region, the farmer was not long behind the lumberman. The suitability of the soil for most branches of agriculture followed in the northern part of the country was early ascertained. In 1882, when Rhinelander was founded, a small clearing or opening existed in the forest on or near the site now occupied by the court house. It was planted with potatoes and yielded a bountiful crop of excellent quality.

    Not much was done for some years, however, except that a few vegetables were raised by some of the settlers for home consumption; but by the early 90's some progress seems to have been made along agricultural lines, as in May, 1891, the county board took steps to procure a site for a fair ground, appointing a committee for that purpose. The matter seems to have been dropped for the time being, however, and it was not until 1895 that it assumed a practical shape. It was in that year that the Oneida County Agricultural Society was formed, with Fred Coon as president and Arthur Taylor as secretary and treasurer. The county board of supervisors took co-operative action, appropriating $500 to help the society purchase a site for the fair ground, which was the same that is now in use for that purpose, lying just outside the city limits, southeast from the court house, in the town of Pelican. The necessary buildings were erected and a half-mile race track laid out. Frank Parker, who had been very active in promoting and organ-izing the society, built the grand stand with his own money, but was reimbursed later from the funds of the society after there were sufficient proceeds. By 1903 the Rhinelander race track had the reputation of being one of the best in the state. From time to time as necessity arose the county board aided the Society by appropriations, as in February, 1907, when $500 was thus appropriated to help pay for the improvements in buildings and grounds. In January, 1908, the Society or Association, as it was now called, found itself in financial straits, "owing to con-ditions of fire that prevailed in the county during fair week, 1908, causing many to stay away," and the county board had to help to the extent of about $1,000, the Association turning over to the board a deed in trust for the land, some 25 acres in all. In May, 1919, the land, including improvements, was purchased from the Association by the county for the sum of $3,500, but subsequently the property was re-transferred.

    The Association was reorganized in January, 1922, and the county board ap-pointed an agricultural committee. The officers after the reorganization were: William T. Gilley, president; Charles Cross, vice president; B. L. Horr, treasurer; and A. J. Bramm (county agent), secretary. The property had been improved at a cost of $9,000, the additions and improvements including a new exhibition building, two race horse barns, and repairs to the track. Prizes were given for exhibits and for racing, The fairs are held annually early in September, and for 12 years the Oneida County Agricultural Association has made exhibits at the state fair. Trial plats on the fair grounds were started about 1913, and in the same year the Oneida Order of the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Association was formed. The Association spends from $2,000 to $2,100 each season in premi-ums for potatoes and other exhibits.

    The interest in potato growing was much stimulated about ten years ago when Arthur Taylor began giving prizes for the best exhibits of this vegetable, in particu-lar those best adapted to this soil and climate. These, after much experiment, have proved to be the Green Mountain, Rural New York, Bliss Triumph and Irish Cobler. The prizes are as follows: First prize, $15 for the best bushel; second prize, $10 for the second best bushel; third prize, $5 for the third best bushel. A fourth prize, of $3, is awarded for each of the 22 bushels next in quality, making just 25 bushels in all on which prizes are awarded. As a potato growing county Oneida has gained a high reputation. In 1922 it produced 100,000 bushels of certified seed potatoes, chiefly Green Mountain "and Triumph, with some Early Ohio. Of the Green Mountain some 80 to 90 cars were shipped to Long Island, N. Y., which is the county's biggest market. The Triumph seed potatoes were shipped to southern states, amounting to about 30 carloads. The Early Ohio went mostly to Illinois and Ohio. Oneida potato growers won first prizes at the State Fair in 1914, 1915 and 1916.

    In February, 1922, the Oneida County Land Clearing Association was organ-ized, with 75 members, embracing business men, bankers and lumber companies, who subscribed from $10 to $300 each, making a cash fund of $3,250. They hired an expert demonstrator covering land clearing, holding meetings in every rural schoolhouse, passing around cards among the farmers, who agreed to clear up a certain number of acres. This resulted in 4,586 acres being cleared up during the campaign that year, the greatest amount for any previous season having been 1,000 acres. Many of the farmers had no money either to clear the land or feed their stock. To meet this situation and provide the necessary funds, a finance committee of 40 business men was organized, backed by the banks, and raised $10,000, of which amount $6,406.58 was used, covering 56 loans. This land asso-ciation was so successful that the organization has been renewed and a higher mark set for 1923. Oneida County was the first in northeastern Wisconsin to employ a county agent under the Smith-Lever Act, the United States paying one-third, the state one-third and the county one-third each, and this measure has proved of great benefit in promoting better fanning both along crop and dairy lines.

    In the fall of 1922 the present county agent, A. J. Bran, who had taken an active part in the land clearing campaign, organized a Boys' and Girls' Agricultural Club. Each member of the club has a piece of land rented from the father or parents, and operates a little farm of his or her own. The young farmers raise potatoes, com and garden stuff, seed being furnished free of charge by the banks of Rhinelander. The general organization is divided into various smaller ones, each with a leader or director, Mr. Bran being the director in chief. The Oneida Guernsey Breeders' Association was founded in the spring of 1923 and is putting in community sires. Guernsey cattle are those most largely raised here, though there are some Holsteins. Today there are in Oneida County 946 well improved farms, ranging from 40 to 160 acres under cultivation. The county has been tested for tuberculosis in livestock and placed in the State Tuberculosis Free Area.

    Oneida County may be regarded as the potato and dairy center of northern Wisconsin. It contains thousands of acres of choice cut-over, hardwood timber land open for farm settlement and selling from $10 to $20 an acre. Most of these lands are on good roads, with schools not far away and can be purchased on easy terms.

    According to federal government reports as embodied in the U. S. census of 1920, the total value of all crops raised in Oneida County in the season of 1919 was $1,858,872. Of this amount $1,277,139 was credited to "vegetables," showing the great part played by the potato raising industry. Hay and forage comes next with a valuation of $385,496; then cereals, valued altogether at $175,528: Of other grains and seeds raised the value was $14,994; fruits, $4,478; other crops not included in the above mentioned, $1,237.

    The amount of land planted to cereals was 6,695 acres, which produced a crop of 168,436 bushels. The greatest amount of land was planted to oats, namely, 4,222 acres, which produced a crop of 126,757 bushels. Rye came next, 1,533 acres being planted and 25,750 bushels being reaped. Of wheat there were 473 acres planted and 4,704 bushels reaped; of barley, 178 acres, 3,435 .bushels; com, 155 acres, 5,330 bushels; buckwheat, 75 acres, 1,165 bushels; mixed crops, 34 acres, 745 bushels. Of other grains and seeds, five acres were planted to dry edible beans and a crop of 111 bushels raised, and 118 acres to dry peas with a resultant crop of 1,623 bushels.

    The total amount of land devoted to hay and forage was 10,227 acres, the crop amounting to 19,849 tons. Of cultivated grasses there were 8,578 acres, produc-ing 14,781 tons. The amount sowed to timothy alone was 403 acres, the crop being 560 tons. Of timothy and clover mixed there were 7,287 acres, producing 12,809 tons. Of clover alone, 827 acres, with a crop of 1,299 tons. Alfalfa, 3 acres, 9 tons; other tame or cultivated grasses, 58 acres, 104 tons. Of wild, salt or prairie grasses there were 436 acres, producing 520 tons; of all grains cut for hay, 300 acres, 451 tons; annual legumes cut for hay, 71 acres , 64 tons; of silage crops, 405 acres, 3,110 tons; of root crops for forage, 153 acre, 793 tons.

    Vegetables.-The land planted to potatoes (Irish or white) amounted to 4,068 acres, producing 519,241 bushels. The land planted to other vegetables was 120 acres.

    With respect to miscellaneous crops, there were 4 acres planted in tobacco, with a resultant crop of 3,500 pounds. The number of maple trees tapped was 1.004; maple sugar made, 25 pounds; maple syrup made, 166 gallons. There were 22 acres planted with small fruits, resulting in a total crop of 22,058 quarts. Of this amount, 18 acres were devoted to strawberries, the crop amounting to 19,344 quarts. There was a single acre of raspberries, producing 1,071 quarts. In orchard fruits the total number of trees not of bearing age was 1,047; trees of bearing age, 547; bushels harvested, 241. These were divided as follows: apples-trees not of bearing age, 914, trees of bearing age, 445; bushels harvested, 229; plums and prunes-trees not of bearing age, 75; trees of bearing age, 97; bushels harvested. The number of farms in the county has somewhat more than doubled in the last 20 years. In 1900 there were 350, in 1910 688, and in 1920 there were 724. The farmers (1920) were about evenly divided between native and foreign born. Of farms between 20 and 49 acres there were 172; from 50 to 99 acres there were 248; from 100 to 174 acres, 172; 175 to 259 acres, 53; from 260 to 499 acres, 34; from 500 to 999 acres, 19; 1,000 acres or over, 3. The increase in the total value of all farm property is shown by the following figures: 190O, $506,628; 1910, $1,872,399; 192O, $5,252,505. The value of livestock in 1900 was $75,558; in 1910, $215,544; and in 1920, $634,479.

Transcribed Sept. 2004

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