"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.
CHAPTER XVI RHINELANDER, THE COUNTY SEATPart 1 of 3
Rhinelander, the county seat of Oneida County, is a city of some 7,000 inhabitants on the Chicago & Northwestern and the Minneapolis, St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railways, the latter for the sake of brevity being usually called the "Soo." The city possesses many advantages; it has good stores of various kinds, an excellent public library, and a hotel said to be the finest in northern Wisconsin. Its elevation above the sea level is about 1500 feet and its annual rainfall is 34 inches. It has a good water supply and its climate, as that of the surrounding territory, is healthful. Rhinelander's greatest asset, however, lay originally in its location in the heart of one of the finest timber regions in the world, and on a convenient natural waterway connected with a lake of great storage capacity. These advantages in the early 70's caught the eye of one who knew what they meant, and from that moment Anderson W. Brown, sometimes called the "Father of the Rhinelander," never rested until he realized the splendid vision which then came to him.
Many pioneers of this city have told the story of its early days, and it is upon their varied accounts that the present article, insofar as it deals with that period, is based. Oneida County was then a part of Lincoln and almost its entire area was covered with timber, with white and Norway pine predominating, though there were considerable quantities of basswood, birch, maple, hemlock, balsom and spruce. The earliest settler in the. immediate vicinity of Rhinelander of whom there is any record was undoubtedly John C. Curren, who, it is said, had arrived on the spot as early as 1854 or 1855. He never had a residence, however, either before or after the establishment of Rhinelander, on the property owned by the founders of the city, but lived for many years just south of the Pelican River where it flows into the Wisconsin. Another early settler in the vicinity was Martin Lynch, a trapper and hunter, who married a Chippewa Indian woman and raised quite a family. He was undoubtedly in this country some years before Rhinelander was on the map, but the exact date of his arrival is not known. A good many of his children and grandchildren are still in this vicinity. A word picture of the site of Rhinelander, as it looked somewhat more than half a century ago, was penned in 1912 by the pioneer, Eugene S. Shepard, and was printed in December in the New North. The following was his description:
"Away back in 1870 A. A. Weber of New London rescued the writer from a job on a farm and made cruiser, cook, compass man, beast of burden and canoe man of him. After traveling up the Wisconsin River to Eagle River we returned and arrived at what was then called Pelican Rapids and camped on the poplar grove point at the mouth of Lake Creek, where Tolman & Conro built their sawmill. I came down and explored the flat country where the city now stands. The land was covered with a thick growth of jack pine and larger long slim Norway. John C. Curren had settled at the mouth of the Pelican River some 16 years before and had a clearing made where the city park now stands. He was engaged in buying furs of the Indians, and, in a small way, logging in company with L. S. Coon of Wausau or Berlin. About a dozen yoke of oxen were grazing around the country and about a dozen families of Indians lived in tepees around the place and worked as Indians usually do-at intervals. Martin Lynch lived down the river a mile or two. He and Mr. Curren were the only white men living on the river between the Eagle River and Grandfather Falls at that time. The Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway was pushing north for somewhere on Lake Superior, so one day when I was at the land office, I found that a goodly chunk of land had been purchased by that Stevens Point family of Browns and A. T. Anderson, an uncle of theirs. I had met Mr. Anderson T. Brown on exploring trips up river and on the stage coming back and forth."
Such was the site of Rhinelander in the early 70's as seen by Mr. Shepard, and in was in 1872 that Anderson T. Brown first saw it on his arrival here in a birch bark canoe from lower down the river while on a cruising trip in the interest of his father and the Stevens Point Boomage Company. The fine water-power and the great log-storing capacity of the body of water since known as Boom Lake were instantly apparent to him and he saw that here was the place to found a city whose initial prosperity, at least, should be based on timber trade. On his return to Stevens Point he communicated his views to his father, Edward D. Brown, and also to his other employers, the Stevens Point Boomage Company and urged his father to purchase the site. But money was scarce at the time and to obtain the necessary capital they took in Edward D. Brown's brother-in-law, A. T. Anderson, who furnished it. In 1874 they made their first purchase from the state of about 1500 acres of land fronting both along the river and around the lake, and subsequent purchases increased the total amount to 2,000 acres. Each party took a one-third interest.
No further action was taken for some years, but in 1878 when the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway began the construction of a railroad from Milwaukee to Ontonagon on Lake Superior, the Browns saw the opportunity to start Rhinelander and accordingly offered the railroad company, through its general agent, J. O. Thayer, one half of the land they then owned to make a rail connection with this place, then called Pelican Rapids, at the same time demonstrating to them the large amount of freightage they would be sure to get in the event of it becoming a busy lumber town. The offer was accepted and a contract drawn up, the deed to the land being executed May 12, 1881, and the company agreeing to reach Rhinelander with their road by Nov. 1, 1882. Accordingly they sent engineers-Geo. L. Young and Charles Vinal - to layout the town site. The surveyors' and owners' certificates are dated Oct. 10, 1882, the plat being recorded Nov. 27 that year. At the same time the name of the place was changed from Pelican Rapids to Rhinelander in honor of F. W. Rhinelander of New York City, president of the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western road. In the same year, the main line having been completed as far as Monico, only 15 miles away, a spur line was run from that point to Rhinelander, where a box car depot was established with George H. Reader as the first agent. The first train reached here November 9. After thus making connection with Rhinelander, the main line was continued north from Monico as far as Watersmeet, Mich., when the original plan was changed and the line built westward to Ashland in order to tap the mining country just then opened up. Owing to limited capital it was built in five-mile sections, bonds being issued as soon as a section was completed in order to raise the money to build the next. Progress was necessarily slow, but the road was finally completed.
In 1875 the Brown Bros.' Lumber Co., consisting of Anderson W. and Webster E. Brown, had been organized at Stevens Point, and Edward 0., another brother, had entered the company in 1880. In 1883 the Browns transferred their business and domestic interests to Rhinelander and here built a large mill, another being built at about the same time by the firm of Tolman & Como. From that time on events marched rapidly. In October, 1882, when Alex McRae arrived, there were two buildings on the site of the present city, both built of logs, one having been erected by Thomas McDermott, Sr., and the other by Frank Jepson, the former having previously run a boarding-car. Where the court house now stands there was an opening in the forest which, the first year, was broken up and planted with potatoes, a crop of excellent quality being raised, foreshadowing what has since been done in that line in Oneida County.
At first the farming community was in better condition than that on the village site. John C. Curran's log house at the mouth of Pelican River was a good one; Leonard Horr was just completing a comfortable house on his homestead, which is now the Brown Bros.' farm opposite the creamery, and Joe St. Germain had good buildings on what is now the John Hess farm. But matters in the village were changing. The buildings either completed or under construction during the months of October and November, 1882, were: Brown Bros.' boarding-house; J. L. DeVoin's store on the corner now occupied by the Reardon drug store; William Webb's hotel, part of the Oneida House; James McCrossen's small store, where the Nichols hardware store now stands; Coon & Chafee's barn, occupied and used as a hotel during the construction of the Rapids House; the Rapids House itself, which was the first frame building in the village, and the Allan House, which is now the Arlington Hotel. Tolman & Como also constructed the mill boardinghouse and were preparing to build their sawmill. They had brought with them from Oshkosh a small portable sawmill to saw timber and lumber for their larger mill and they also sawed the lumber for the Brown mill, which was completed by July 4, 1883. Other prominent actors on the stage of events at that time, in addition to those mentioned, were Thomas McDermott, Jr., Archie Sievwright, Gumauer & Dickie, Dereg & Averill and Pat and Frank Smith, loggers. D. L. Barnes, at first store manager for H. L. Powell, soon opened a drug store of his own, which was the first in town. In 1882 he was appointed justice of the peace, D. E. Briggs being elected to that office in the following year and remaining in it for many years thereafter.
To quote E. S. Shepard once more, his account, if somewhat colloquial in style, being breezy and graphic: "I watched the commencement of the city of Rhinelander. It grew like magic. In a few days the railway company got across the creek bridge and laid the iron on the finished grade to where the Chicago & North western depot now stands, and shoved a box car off onto skids for a depot, put in a wye and a sidetrack and were hauling in all kinds of things." After mentioning the two sawmills and boarding-houses connected with them, he continues: "Coon & Chafee came and pitched their tent on the Rapids House site. They had a building up in a very short time, which was used that winter for a hotel, and it was full all the time until the Rapids House was ready for occupancy, and then both of them were chuck full of people. There were buildings going up on every hand. Casper Faust came and built a frame building where the Merchants Bank now stands. Charlie Barnes' father (D. L. Barnes) built a drug store away up Brown Street and put in a stock. Jim McCrossen of Wausau came and put up a drug store about where the post office now is. (This was the site of the present Markham & Stone clothing store). A man from Stevens Point came and built the Oneida House. Brown Bros. and Tolman & Como got their mills going some time during the spring and summer of 1883. After the railway got to running into Rhinelander down-river lumbermen made this their headquarters. No saloons were allowed on the village plat or on any of the Brown Bros.' property. McCrossen sold out of his drug stock something like 1,800 bottles of Hostetter's bitters."
According to W. E. Brown, the Barnes drug store was the first in town, and the McCrossen store "was a pioneer store and carried general lumbermen's supplies, which included drugs, groceries, all sorts of wearing apparel for loggers, hardware, etc.; in other words was a general department store carrying everything needed in logging and manufacturing lumber." "A man who was badly in need of strong liquor, or more correctly, who wanted it badly, could get it," says Mr. Shepard, "at the Faust hardware store if he exercised due discretion. He would' sneak off by himself' to the store, open the door under the stairs and step inside when Mrs. Faust was not looking, and draw a glass of something in the liquid form that tasted like corn juice, make a deposit of ten cents on the head of the barrel, or make his own change from what he found by the dim light of a lantern hanging on a nail, listen very quietly for customers in the store, and then step out quick and leave the premises like an honest man." The situation as regards the sale of liquor in Rhinelander has been explained by Mr. W. E. Brown as follows: "Under an agreement with the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway when the town was first platted, all deeds of property sold contained a five years' restriction prohibiting the sale of liquor on the property included in the deed. It was also agreed between the parties interested that no saloon would be allowed on any of the property belonging to them jointly. However, there being so much property belonging to the government, and privately owned, outside of that owned by the founders, it became very difficult to control the traffic in liquor; and also, as the community was governed by the town system up to the time the city was chartered in 1894, it was found difficult to control the sale of liquor, and after about two years of strenuous experience in trying to keep it out and to relieve the city, it was decided to discontinue prohibition and from that time on the liquor restriction first placed in the deeds was overlooked."
The second drug store in town was started across the street from the Rapids House by P. P. Stoltzman in 1882. Asa Newel built one of the first houses and many residences were built the succeeding summer. "Most of the activity in the summer time was getting up dwelling-houses, planing-mills, lumber sheds and trams and stringing-booms. We only had a town organization and had to struggle some to get that. The country was all Lincoln County to the state line, and the boundaries were very narrow, but we finally got set "off into a town by ourselves and things went better."
A few more words about E. S. Shepard, who was one of the best known pioneers of Oneida County and served for years in public office, being practically the first register of deeds and long a member of the county board of supervisors. In character he was quite eccentric and one of his practical jokes has come near to making his name immortal. This was the construction of a monstrous-looking animal with immense claws, and great spines on its back, which he called a "hodag," claiming that he and one or two others (who were in the secret) had captured it among some rocks near Rhinelander. Representing it to be alive, he kept it in a sort of den, where it could not be too closely examined, and by a system of wires could make the animal move, while at other times it was heard to utter weird howls or terrifying growls. It has been claimed that P. T. Barnum was fooled by it, which is not impossible, as he was not a naturalist, and in any case would have cared little what it was so that he could have fooled the public with it. For some reason or other, the "hodag" made a great sensation and after some 30 years have passed away, is still talked about. Post card pictures of it can be bought in a number of the Rhinelander stores, and even the Minneapolis Journal, in its Sunday edition of June 24, 1923, reprinted a picture of it.
The village had been in existence but a few months when a newspaper was established in it. This was the New North, of which Charles F. Barnes was the proprietor, the first issue appearing Dec. 7, 1882. It contained the following remarks: "Probably never before in the history of the Badger State has a town been laid out within its limits that afforded the natural advantages for the manufacture of lumber that can be found at Rhinelander. Not only does it hold tributary the vast timbered country lying adjacent to the Wisconsin River on the north, but it also possesses a boomage second to none in the state-a lake amply large enough to secure the safe storage of 100,000,000 feet of logs. In addition, the river has a fall (Pelican Rapids) of 22 feet in a hundred rods and 80 feet in half a mile-a fine water-power, which can be utilized at a far less expense than any fall of the river, the stream being quite narrow and the bank high. The opening of this point is almost wholly due to the combined efforts of the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway and Messrs. Brown of Stevens Point. The railroad company completed their line to this place September 20, some ten weeks since, and are running three regular trains per day-mail, express and accommodation. The company have made one of the finest yards in the state, nearly completed an engine-house that will stall four locomotives, and in a short time will have a commodious and nicely arranged passenger depot. * * * Nearly all the lots in the first plat of the town are sold and many stand ready to purchase as soon as the other plattings are opened for sale. Business lots range from $125 to $175. Residence lots are sold for $60 for comer and $40 for inside lots." The same issue of the paper conveys the information that "T. H. Powell is postmaster, with the office in his store"; further that" C. Faust was the first man to sell goods in the place. He has since purchased a desirable site and put up one of the best furnished blocks, and has nearly everything in the hardware line, paints, oils, sash, glass and door stock" It also appeared that the firm of J. McCrossen & Co. was the first to occupy a frame building; they handled general merchandise and lumbermen's supplies. The other merchants and business men whose advertisements appeared at that time on the pages of the New North were: J. L. DeVoin, general store; D. E. Briggs, meat market; M. Langdon, groceries; pool table and barber shop; J. N. Keefe, blacksmith's shop; the Webb House kept by W. Webb; the McDermott House, kept by Thomas McDermott, Sr., who had previously run a boarding-car, and a boarding-house kept by M. Allen. W. H. McAuley was a contractor and builder and J. H. Carter was doing a dray business. The Rapids House was nearing completion. The New North office was located in a two-story frame building at the southwest corner of Brown and Davenport streets.
Rhinelander at that time was the northern railway terminal and supply point for a large area, and 2,000 or more men reached their camps, scattered throughout the upper Wisconsin River district, from this place. The actual residents of the new and crude little hamlet were, however, few; yet to accommodate the army of woodsmen, prospective railway men and others, the need for hotel accommodations was pressing. The Rapids House, the McDermott House (later the Arlington) and the Webb House (afterward Oneida House) were all running in full blast by the first of the new year, and over-taxed, at the Webb House the lumberjacks often sleeping as thick as they could lie upon the office floor. The business men, though few in number, accorded the newspaper excellent support, and of those largely interested none gave more substantial assistance than the enterprising officials of the old Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western' Railway.
In April, 1883, F. E. Mathews was appointed as county superintendent of schools, Rhinelander being then in Lincoln County, and about the same time George H. Peters had an advertising card in the paper as counsellor-at-law, with "office in Shepard's land office." Apparently there was as yet no local physician, but the village was visited every Wednesday by Dr. John H. Dawley of Antigo. There was already a literary society in the village, of which Mrs. W. H. McAuley was secretary. Two private residences were built that year by Anderson W. and Webster E. Brown. By November; Archie Sievwright was conducting the Sievwright House, and Langlais, Rheawne & Co. a grocery, notions and cigar store. R. A. Lindner was soliciting patronage as a boot and shoe maker. As in all "boom" towns, it was a time of high local prices. It is said that when an early resident expressed surprise on being charged five cents for a darning-needle, the merchant said in excuse, "Well, you see, freights are so high." It was soon after this that W. W. Fenelon built the store on the corner of Davenport Street now occupied by the Wood Hardware Co. Mr. Fenelon was afterward killed by a traveling man with whom he had a dispute and his death was one of the notable tragedies in the history of the city. The man who killed him was arrested but never went to trial, as he died of pneumonia before court was convened. There was a hardware store on the corner across Brown Street, which later was moved down a block to make room for the Merchants State Bank, which had been founded as a private bank by the Browns in 1886 and conducted under the style of E. D. Brown & Sons, and which had been organized as a state bank in 1890. The second bank was started by A. D. Daniels & Co. in the fall of 1888 and has since merged into the First National Bank. The first brick business blocks were put up by Coon & Chaffee, W. L. Beers and the Brown Brothers.
In early days the only way to reach the north side was by a trail that extended through the swamp to the river-a part of the swamp north of Frederick Street that was later filled up. The swamp made a fine dumping place for slabs from the mills, much to the discomfort of the first company to lay water-pipes. It was also a breeding place for vast numbers of mosquitoes, which were very troublesome for some years. In 1885 Dr. T. B. McIndoe, the first resident physician, had an office over Stoltzman's drug store, and in September the following year, if not earlier, Dr. E. E. Graves was also in practice here. Deacon Tibbets, of Antigo, preached the first sermon in the summer of 1883 in a building afterwards used as a blacksmith's shop, across the street from the Rapids House. In 1886 the Congregationalists erected the first church edifice in town, which was used also by other denominations.
Several years after they had got the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway to come to Rhine1ander, Brown Brothers again gave one half their landed possessions, this time to the" Soo," in order to bring it here, the Lake Shore road doing the same thing. This is probably the only case on record when one railroad gave another a grant of land to induce it to make the same town. The "Soo" road, originally known as the Minneapolis, Sault Ste. Marie & Atlantic, was started from Turtle Lake, Wis., in 1884, carried forward in an easterly direction, reaching Rhinelander, 141 miles distant, in November, 1886, and in 1887 was finished from Rhinelander to Sault Ste. Marie. On June 30, 1893, the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western road was taken over by the Chicago & Northwestern.
Early in 1894 an active movement was begun for the incorporation of Rhinelander, a large number of the tax payers being in favor of city government, as they felt that the village was at a disadvantage under the town system. The question was submitted to the voters at an election held March 16 that year, the vote resulting in favor of incorporation as a city. This was accordingly effected, the city being divided into six wards with two aldermen to each, and the first ward caucases were held on March 21. At the ensuing election W. E. Brown was elected mayor, Charles Chafee, comptroller; A. D. Sutton, treasurer; T. G. Hagen, assessor; C. M. Olson, police justice, and C. F. Dillett, justice of the peace. One of the first acts of the city board was to pass an ordinance closing all saloons on Sunday and fixing 11:30 p. m. as the closing time for week nights.
Among the new problems, which soon came up for consideration, was the municipal waterworks. Accordingly a small steam pumping-plant was installed near the Davenport Street bridge, the water being drawn from the river. The permit for the first connection tapped was issued Jan. 1, 1896. By 1911 that plant was found insufficient and was superseded by the present waterworks, which consist of two Laidlaw-Dunn-Gordon duplex cross-compound non-condensing pumping engines of the sizes 14-24 and 11-24 inches, with a combined capacity of 6,000,000 gallons per day; and two 150-horse-power, horizontal-return, tubular steam boilers with a working pressure of 140 pounds. The water is drawn directly from the river and treated chemically by the liquid-chlorine process. The pumping-station and standpipe are in the north end of the city. The standpipe, having a height of 65 feet and a diameter of 20 feet, stands on an elevation, the base of the pipe being 65 feet above the pumping-station. There are now (May, 1923) 1,560 domestic users, and the mains on most of the streets are being extended. The domestic water-pressure is 53 pounds, the fire-pressure 105 to 110 pounds, and there are 173 fire-plugs. The present city engineer and superintendent of the waterworks is A. O. Rendell, who has been in charge for two years.
The improvement of the streets has been carried on according to local needs and there are about six miles of paved streets in the city, with the amount gradually increasing. The development of a sewerage system was begun in 1892, and has been carried on in accordance with the city's needs. The present city hall is a large two-story and basement brick building, with a tower, which stands on a triangular lot between South Stevens, East King and South Pelham streets. It was built in 1908-1909 at a cost of $25,000.
An electric light plant was installed in Rhinelander in the fall of 1889 by E. A. Forbes, an Iowan from Minneapolis, for the Faust Electric Light Co. It took several months to install and was placed in operation in 1890. In 1897 Mr. Forbes, with C. A. Wixson, arranged for the purchase of the Faust electric light plant for $21,000, and in 1898 they began operating. It was then a steam plant located in a building that had formerly been the Congregational church and was the first church building erected in the city. In 1905 a dam was built across the Wisconsin river eight miles south of Rhinelander and the Rhinelander Lighting Co. was incorporated for $100,000; the old steam plant was dismantled and the current was bought from the Rhinelander Power Co. to supply their customers in Rhinelander. In 1915 Mr. Forbes bought his partner out and also purchased a controlling interest in the Rhinelander Power Co. He consolidated the two and now owns what is known as the Rhinelander Light and Power Co. The plant has a capacity of 2,500 horse-power, and the company now owns 40 miles of transmission lines, serving Rhinelander, Monico and Crandon. There are 2,400 customers, among them nearly all the manufacturers in Rhinelander and Crandon. The rates are among the "lowest in the state and the company plans extensive additions during the present year, 1923. The officers of the company are: E. A. Forbes, president manager; W. L. Rideout, vice president; and E. W. Boyce, secretary-treasurer.
The Oneida Gas Company was established by Dr. Alfred D. Daniels in 1907 and is still owned by him. The gas furnished is mostly used for fuel purposes by hotels, restaurants and private residences.
For four or five years after the starting of the village there was no protection against fire except by means of a "bucket brigade" and each citizen constituted himself a fireman. As Rhinelander grew the inadequacy of this means of protection became apparent and at a meeting of citizens held Oct. 25, 1887, two volunteer fire companies were organized, of 25 men each, to be known as Hose Company No.1 and Hook and Ladder No. 1. though in later years the number of members was cut to 15 men for each company. (This included Hose Company No.2 organized two years after No.1). On Oct. 28, 1887, P. J. Johnson was elected captain of Hose Company No.1, which made him chief of the department, in which position he served until his death in November, 1889. He was succeeded by Captain P. Brennan, Dec. 1, 1889, and the latter on June 3, 1890, by John Moriarty. The next captain of Hose Company No.1 was J. H. Schroeder, who served as such until May 1, 1894. Up to that time the captain of Hose Company No.1 had also been recognized as chief of the entire department, but now that rule was abolished and the city council appointed J. E. Jackson chief, who served as such from May 1,1894, to May 1,1896. The subsequent chiefs have been: J. H. Didier from May 1, 1901 to May 1, 1903; A. J. Lytle from May 1, 1903 to May 1, 1904, and John D. Cole from May 1, 1904 to the present time. In August, 1893, the department was improved by the addition of a hose-wagon and horses. In 1896 a horse-drawn combination hose-wagon carrying short ladders, hose and chemical, was put into No.2 station at the north end of town. In 1915 a combination motorwagon was bought for No.1 station at a cost of $5,000. The hook and ladder truck now in use was purchased for $2,000 in June, 1904.. No horses are now used in Station No.1, and an additional part of the equipment there is a chief's auto car. On July 3, 1923, the city council closed the contract for a triple-combination, motor-driven apparatus of 1,000 gallons per minute capacity. The Gamewell fire alarm system was installed in 1890; it has since been extended and is still in use. The volunteer service was abandoned Dec. 15, 1911, and the department, now of ten members, placed on regular pay. Owing to Rhinelander being a lumber town the department has had many fires to contend with, several of them of considerable size. One which occurred July 19, 1904, starting in the planing-mill of the Johnson-Hinman Lumber Co., far out 'on the north side, destroyed not only that building but also a part of the J. H. Queal lumber yard and 19 dwellings. A still greater fire was that of Oct. 4, 1905, when the Brown & Robbins lumber yard burned, together with two churches and 44 dwellings. The Rhinelander fire department is now a highly efficient organization, doing good work whenever its services are needed.
The first amusement hall in Rhinelander was a frame building erected in 1888 by Mose Broulette, who came here from Waupaca County. The building was used for shows of all kinds, including dances, and was conducted by Mr. Broulette until 1902, when he sold it to W. H. Gilligan, Sr. It is now known as the "Labor Temple," being used as a meeting-place by union workmen.
The Rhinelander Telephone Company was organized as the Rhinelander Mutual Telephone Co. on April 4, 1901, and began business in October the same year. The directors were D. J. Cole, C. C. Bronson, W. E. Brown, S. S.Miller and Frank Parker, of whom Mr. Brown is the only member still on the board. S. S. Miller was president, C. C. Bronson, vice president; Arthur Taylor, secretary, and M. H. Raymond. In order to distribute the stock widely and prevent concentration in the hands of a few, patrons of the company could at first buy no more than two shares for each phone used, though the purchasable amount was afterwards increased to four shares per phone. The company was intended to be purely local in its operations, though it built two outside lines-one to the Olson farm, seven miles to the southeast, and the other to Moen's Lake, six and a half miles east, and the latter line was later extended east to Gagen, 14 miles from Rhinelander. The company also took over the local operation of the Wisconsin-Bell Telephone Co., previously established, whose service had not been satisfactory. The limitation of stock sales after a few years resulted in the company accumulating a surplus of $7,000 which under its laws could not be divided among the stockholders, and, as the surplus was growing larger, a reorganization was effected Feb. 8, 1912, under laws and regulations permitting stock to be sold in larger blocks, The directors of the company as reorganized were: Arthur Taylor, C. F. Barnes, E. O. Brown, D. F. Recker and E. A. Forbes. Mr. Taylor was president, E. O. Brown, vice president; M. H. Raymond, treasurer; George F. Mahoney, secretary, and H. W. McWayne the active manager. In addition to its lines previously mentioned, the company now switches for the Pine Lake Telephone Co., the Oneida Farmers' Telephone Co. and the Bundy-Crescent Telephone Co., all small rural lines. Including the above it now has about 1,800 phones in use. The present directors are Arthur Taylor, W. E. Brown, F. A. Hildebrand, F. T. Coon and Charles F. Barnes. Arthur Taylor is president, Fred T. Coon, vice president; George F. Mahoney, secretary; M. H. Raymond, treasurer, and Joseph J. Kuehn, manager.
There is some difference of opinion among the early settlers of Rhinelander now living as to who was the first postmaster of the community. The New North in its first issue, dated Dec. 7, 1882, mentioned T. H. Powell as then acting in that capacity, but the same paper said in an article on early Rhinelander, printed Dec. 1, 1892: "The first postmaster was J. L. DeVoin, in 1882, the office being located in a tent at first and soon afterwards in Mr. DeVoin's store." E. S. Shepard in his reminiscences assigned the honor to "Billy Beers," meaning W. L. Beers, the first county clerk of Oneida County, but therein he was doubtless wrong. The probabilities seem to favor Mr. Powell, as the editor of the New North, when he brought out the first edition of his paper, Dec. 7, 1882, undoubtedly knew who was then postmaster, but a different editor ten years later (as the paper had changed hands in the meanwhile) might have misquoted the first article, or taken the word of the first pioneer he asked, whose recollection might have been faulty. However, if Mr. Powell was the first, Mr. DeVoin was undoubtedly the second, and at a very early date. Indeed, there are one or two pioneers of the town now living who claim to remember the DeVoin tent in which they got their first mail. W. H. Beers was doubtless the third postmaster, and since his time the history of the office has been as follows: About 1902 Frank E. Parker became postmaster and served for two terms, or eight years, the office under his administration being located where the Seidl clothing store now is on Brown Street. He was succeeded by Stephan S. Alban, who moved the office to the location now occupied by the Markham & Stone clothing store on Brown Street. Mr. Alban died in December, 1913, after serving four years. It was during his last year as postmaster that Congressman I. L. Lenroot and Senator Stephenson secured an appropriation of $80,000 for the construction of the present post office building. Mr. Alban was succeeded by Charles L. Calkins, who had served as clerk under Frank E. Parker, and who was appointed acting postmaster Dec. 27, 1913, and as such served to May 20,1914. He was succeeded by N. N. Stapleton, 1914 to 1920, who kept the office in the O. A. Hilgerman building. On April 21, 1920, Charles L. Calkins became postmaster and has since served as such. The Rhinelander post office now belongs to the "first class." It has three rural routes; No.1 running south and southwest, No.2 south and southeast and No.3 north and northwest. The present Federal building-a neat and substantial brick structure--was erected in 1919. The appropriation of $80,000 included the cost of the site (about $6,000), furniture, vaults, safes and decorations, the work being very thoroughly done and the interior arrangement being well planned, providing plenty of space and ample storage for years. It contains some special conveniences, such as a nice rest room for employees, shower-bath and electric water sterilizer. The office contains 525 lock boxes, all of which are rented. Sixteen years ago the business ran to about $8,000, which is the amount required by the government to justify city delivery, and accordingly it was made a city delivery office at that time. Since then the business has increased at a rate of about $2,000 per year, and in the main it has been steady. When free delivery was first allowed the office force consisted of the postmaster, assistant and two clerks, and three city carriers. There are now seven clerks and five carriers. The assistant postmaster is Ray Marks. Within recent years, as a result of the war, a department for the sale of revenue stamps has been added, which does a good business.
In the administration of city affairs the schools have always been given careful attention. The following sketch of what has been accomplished in this direction (up to December, 1912) was written by the late Mrs. A. W. Shelton, at one time county superintendent, the data in regard to subsequent facts having been obtained from other sources.
"Rhinelander was settled in the fall of 1882 and the town of Pelican set off in 1883. On April 21, 1883, a school meeting was held and John C. Curran was elected clerk, Casper Faust treasurer, and Charles Chafee director. A one-room schoolhouse was built on the present site of the high school building and school was opened on June 18, 1883, with an enrollment of 18, Miss Jennie Loomis teacher. Miss Loomis taught continuously until Dec. 21, 1883, when she resigned to become Mrs. Alexander McRae, and Miss Cora Phillips, of Omro, finished the year. Miss Mary Kelly of Fond du Lac opened school Oct. 26, 1884, and the following summer a three-room school building was erected on the present high school grounds and the old building was moved across the street, where it is now occupied as a dwelling house. In September, 1885, Miss Jennie Meyer of Lancaster opened school in the new building and was succeeded by Miss Jennie Moulton in September, 1886. In the spring of 1887 it was necessary to employ a second teacher and Miss Lottie Stevenson became primary teacher. In the fall of 1887 Mr. Albert Prideaux was engaged as principal. Mr. Prideaux was a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and remained four years. In January, 1889, Mr. Prideaux also assumed the duties of county superintendent of schools in place of Mrs. A. W. Shelton, who had been appointed county superintendent of schools in January, 1887, when Oneida County first began to function as a political entity. In 1888 a three-year high school course was adopted and Miss Helen Wheeler of Neenah was the first high school assistant. During this time in the town of Pelican, just south of the Curran home, was a one-room schoolhouse with Miss Ella Finnessey teacher. The pupils of this school were all Indians, except that the Curran children attended this school. When a high school course was adopted this school was abandoned and later was moved to the site of the Joe McLaughlin schoolhouse. Most of the Indians went on to the reservation and the Currans came to town to school.
The growing town created a need for new school buildings and a two-room building was erected on the north side in 1888 which was later known as the McCord annex, and a school opened on the west side. During the summer of 1889 the high school building was built and the old building moved to Oneida Avenue and named the Curran School. In 1890 a four-room building was built on the north side and named the McCord school in honor of Congressman Myron McCord, who was instrumental in securing the passage of the bill that gave the money from the sale of the water reserve land to the public school fund of the county.
In 1893, following the location of the Wabash Screen Door Company in our city, the South Park School, consisting of four rooms, was built. In 1895 the high school building had a large wing containing three rooms added to it and again in 1900 it. was remodeled to gain more room. In the fall of 1904 the Curran school burned and was replaced by a solid brick building, which was occupied in the spring of 1906. In October, 1905, a disastrous fire destroyed both the McCord school and the McCord annex. These were replaced by an eight-room brick building, which was ready for use in the fall of 1906. Mr. Prideaux had been succeeded by George Peterson of River Falls Normal, who remained three years, and in 1890 the high school had grown so that it was necessary to have a second assistant. In the fall of 1894 C. M. Gleason, a graduate of Whitewater Normal School, became principal and took steps at once to establish a four-year high school course. In 1897 he was succeeded by F. S. Hyer of Milwaukee Normal, who was followed in 1900 by F. A. Lowell, a Wisconsin University graduate, with three assistants in the high school. In 1901 a supervisor of music and drawing was added to the teaching force and a teacher for the deaf and dumb was employed for a couple of years. In 1905 a fourth assistant was added, in 1906 another, in 1908 another, and in 1909 manual training became a part of the school work and in 1910 domestic science was added to the curriculum. In 1894 Rhinelander was organized as a city, and the school board changed from three to nine members, but it was not until 1902 that the schools were taken from the charge of the county and placed under a city superintendent of schools. The high school principal has since been the city superintendent of schools. In 1906 F. A. Lowell was succeeded by W. B. Collins, who in turn was followed by F. A. Harrison in 1908, and W. B. Colburn assumed the duties of the head of the schools in September, 1912. All these men were graduates of the University of Wisconsin. In 29 years the schools have grown from a one-room building with one teacher and 18 pupils to an elaborate school system with five buildings, several annexes and a beautiful modern high school building in the course of construction, with 36 teachers and about 1,400 pupils.
The high school alluded to by Mrs. Shelton at the close of her article, was completed at a cost of $100,000 and was opened Sept. 22, 1913. It is one of the finest in the state. Of brick construction, fireproof, it covers three floors, 30 classrooms, auditorium and gymnasium. The curriculum covers manual training, domestic science and commercial work, four year:;;' high school courses. There are 24 teachers employed, normal and university graduates, with a total enrollment of pupils of 486. The following description of the schools of Rhinelander other than the new high school, which has already been described, was written in the spring of 1923, and is therefore practically up to date: Central school, a two-story brick building; junior high, seventh and eighth grades. Nine teachers, 450 pupils. Also teaches the first to sixth grades. McCord school, a two-story brick building; kindergarten to sixth grade; eight teachers, enrollment 300. Curran school, two-story brick, first to sixth grades; six teachers employed, enrollment 300. South Park school, two-story frame building, kindergarten to fourth grades, five teachers and enrollment of 175. West Side school, one-room frame, first to third grades, one teacher and 30 pupils. Kindergarten at the city hall, one teacher and 35 pupils.
A new west side school will be erected this spring at a cost of $25,000, brick and modern throughout, to provide for the west side school children. The city has now $80,000 in hand to build the first unit of a three-unit building on the grounds where the Central school now stands for a junior high.
R. E. Brasure, superintendent of the Rhinelander public schools, came here in August, 1922, from Waupaca, where he was superintendent of schools for two years. He is a graduate of the Stevens Point Normal, class of 1906, and the University of Minnesota, class of 1913. Since coming to Rhinelander he has enjoyed the co-operation of the board of education and has made an excellent record. Free dental service is given the students, milk and lunches are served and a thrift and savings department has been established, all of which has made the public school system of Rhinelander equal to any in the state.
Chapter 16 Part 2 of 3
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