"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.


   Lincoln County was erected from Marathon County under chapter 128 of the Laws of 1874. Consisting of all the territory previously belonging to Marathon County lying north of the line between townships 30 and 31, it included everything from that line north to the Michigan boundary between ranges 2 and 10 east inclusive; this territory was all of the present Lincoln, most of Oneida and Vilas, and parts of Langlade, Taylor, Price, and Iron counties, and amounted to about 2,750,000 acres. Under chapter 178, Laws of 1875, townships 31-33 in ranges 2 and 3 were detached in the erection of Taylor County. Townships 34-40 of the same ranges were detached under section 1, chapter 103, Laws of 1879, when Price County was formed. Lincoln County's remaining territory in these two ranges was annexed to Ashland County under chapter 74, Laws of 1883, and was later used in the erection of Iron County. Section 1, chapter 436, Laws of 1885, detached townships 31-34, ranges 9 and 10, annexing them to Langlade County. Lincoln County assumed its present boundaries when Oneida County was established by chapter 411, Laws of 1885, which detached from Lincoln all the territory of the line between townships 35 and 36, ranges 4-8, and north of the line between town-ships 34 and 35, ranges 9-10, leaving the county consisting of townships 31-35, ranges 4-8.

   The first meeting of the county board of supervisors of Lincoln County was held Oct. 24, 1874, the members being Charles Sales, Henry A. Keyse, and G. W. Strowbridge, with Z. Space acting as clerk. Three resolutions were passed at this meeting, one establishing the county seat in "Section 12, Township 31, Range 6, commonly known as the village of Jenny," one determining upon the provision of suitable quarters for the county offices and records, and one organizing all the land in the county into the town of Jenny.

   The first county officials were as follows: Z. Space, clerk; T. P. Mathews, treasurer; and V. R. Willard, register of deeds. When first organized Lincoln County was attached to Marathon for judicial purposes. April 6, 1975, F. C. Weed was chosen county judge of Lincoln County and Charles O'Neil district attorney. A. D. Gorham was elected clerk of court and A. W. Crown won the office of sheriff over John T. Adams.

   As settlement in the county progressed, one of the chief functions of the county board was the establishment of new townships and the equitable adjustment of territory among those already existing. As provided at the first meeting of the board, all the land in the county was originally organized into the town of Jenny. As the territory became settled more thickly portions of this were detached in the erection of new towns, until the town of Jenny assumed the boundaries of the present town of Merrill, to which its name was changed when the village of Jenny became Merrill. The first new towns to be established were Pine River, Rock Falls, and Corning, which were set off in 1876. Rock Falls was created as the town of Skanawan, but its name was changed to Rock Falls in 1877. The next town established was Scott, set off in 1881. Russell was formed in 1885. The town of Harrison was established by act of Legislature, chapter 153, Laws of 1889. The town of Tomahawk was created about 1898 from a portion of Rock Falls. The town of Birch was established at a meeting of the county board held Nov. 19, 1902. Bradley and Somo were set off from parts of Tomahawk in 1903 and 1905 respectively, the former by act of Legislature, chapter 351, Laws of 1903. Por-tions of Pine River and Russell were detached to form the town of Schley in 1903. 'Wilson was set off from Somo in 1912, and Skanawan from King about the same time. Townships 32 and 33 North, Range 5 East, were detached from the town of Scott and erected as the town of Harding in 1922, bringing the political divisions of the county to their present form.

   The three outstanding characters in the development of the county aside from the early pioneers, O. B. Smith, T. B. Scott, M. H. McCord, T. P. Mathews, H. A. Keyes, Henry Sales, D. A. Kline, and P. B. Champagne, are J. N. Cotter, Julius Thielman, and W. H. Bradley, all of whom are mentioned in the chapters on the cities and elsewhere in this volume. Messrs. Cotter and Thielman respectively were acting as chairman or influential member of the county board during the carrying out of all the important projects which have made the county what it now is. Another name intimately connected with the county's development is that of S. Heineman. The first town board of Russell was composed of "Squire" Cleveland (chairman), A. O. Terry and Geo. Hart, with Geo Knapp, clerk.

   At the meeting of the county board June 6, 1876, it was resolved to build a courthouse, but this was postponed until 1880, when a site was purchased for $1200, consisting of 16 lots in Mathews' & McCord's addition to Jenny (now Merrill) the building was erected the following year. This structure and the first county jail, which was built in 1885 and located just north of the first courthouse, are now the buildings of the Lincoln County Training School. Until the erection of the courthouse circuit court was held in a building owned by T. B. Gallagher on Main Street in Merrill. The present courthouse was completed in 1903. The site, in Block 1 of the original plat of Jenny, was purchased in 1900, ground was broken May 4, 1901, and the contract called for completion of the building by September of 1902; widespread labor trouble in the industries furnishing the material retarded the work, however, and the contractor's time was extended. The total cost of the courthouse was $119,882, and the building far excels that possessed by the average county. Built in colonial style, the ground dimensions are 98x125 and the height from the grade to the top of the tower in 156 feet. The entrances to the building open into a beautiful rotunda, 32 feet in diameter and with a height from floor to roof of 50 feet. The rotunda has a tile flooring laid in a handsome mosaic design, and is skirted by a balcony from which the second floor offices open. The entire plan is artistic to the highest degree. The present county jail, also a handsomely designed and constructed building, was erected in 1911.

   A farm on which to make provisions for her paupers was purchased by the county in 1876, but was never used for this purpose. Until the present county home was put into operation paupers were maintained at an establishment located near the Prairie River in Merrill which was run by a paid agent of the county. Mr. and Mrs. A. S. Chilsen operated this place for many years. The present county home, located about two miles east of Merrill, was started about 1900. The farm origin-ally consisted of 80 acres, but about the year 1920 an adjoining 74-acre tract was purchased, so that the farm now contains 154 acres. The building, a good brick structure, was erected at a cost of $8,000 and has provision for about 50 inmates. About 40 are now taken care of. A fine herd of pure-bred Holstein cattle is main-tained and 60 head of these have been sold during the past two years. A portion of the meat and all the milk, eggs, and vegetables used to supply the inmates are raised on the farm which they operate. There is a fine barn, thoroughly modem in equipment, and a concrete silo. C. N. Johnson is superintendent. The number of paid employees ranges from five up, varying at different times of the year. A county hospital was opened July 14, 1920 in connection with the county home; for a detailed account of this reference may be had to the chapter on Merrill. The county home and county hospital, together with the care of all paupers, were controlled by the county board until Jan. 1, 1921, when a board of trustees was formed to take over this control. The board now consists of the following members: J. S. Griffith, Tomahawk; J. E. Lambert, Merrill; and Dr. J. M. O'Reilley, Merrill.

   Forest fires swept the territory east and south of Merrill in 1893, causing the loss of several lives and heavy property damage. Funds to aid sufferers were appropriated by the county board.

   The early records of the county board are replete with propositions of various railroads to extend their lines into the county. In 1886 it was proposed to build tracks from Abbotsford to Merrill by a corporation organized for that purpose. but this scheme was abandoned the following year. In 1894 a corporation known as the. Merrill, Antigo & Eastern Railroad Company submitted a proposal to build from Prentice through Merrill to Antigo, which proposition was accepted. In 1914 the Minneapolis, Merrill & Marinette Railroad Comapny submitted a proposition to build from Merrill "to or near Athens," but this line, like others mentioned, never materialized.

   The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, traversing the county north and south. and the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste Marie, the Chicago & Northwestern and the Marinette, Tomahawk & Western, with tracks in the northern portion, are the roads now operating in the county. The last named was originally built and owned by the Wisconsin & Chippewa Railway Co., and was one of the Bradley interests. On Nov. 21, 1906, it passed into the hands of Edward and J. W. Bradley as trustees, and on Nov. 30, 1909 C. H. Grundy took it over as receiver. At the receiver's sale held Oct. 15, 1912 the property was purchased by R. B. Tweedy and it was assigned by him to the present owner, the M. T. & W. Railroad Company, which was organized and incorporated Oct. 30, 1912 under the general laws of Wisconsin. The issue of 2500 shares of capital stock at $100 per share was author-ized Nov. 21, 1912 by the railway commission. The first meeting of the board (:" directors was held Nov. 27, 1912, and the following line of road was acquired by purchase, receiver's deed being given Nov. 30, 1912: Harrison, Wis. to Bradley, Wis., 18.80 miles; Antigo Junction to the south line of Township 34, 6.47 miles; Jersey City. Wis. to Spirit Falls, Wis., 13 miles; Somo Junction, Wis. to the Wis-consin River dam, 3.50 miles; and Spirit Falls to end of tracks, 2 miles; a total of 43.77 miles. A lease between the M. T. & W. and the Tomahawk and Eastern R. R. Co. dated Aug. 12, 1907, covering the line of road from Tomahawk to Harrison and Antigo Junction to the south line of Township 34 was assumed, and was can-celled Dec. 31, 1919. Passenger service on the M. T. & W. has been discontinued and operations are now confined to switching and freight service, logs being the principal commodity transported.

   There are about 255 miles of gravelled highways in the county. State High-ways 10, 63, 64, and 14, the latter following the northern boundary of the county. traverse a total of 80 miles in Lincoln County, and there are 215 miles of county trunk highways.

   Lincoln was the second county in the state to employ a county nurse. Miss Thead, the first to hold that office, resigned after three years to accept a very prominent position in Minneapolis. The present county nurse is Miss Emma Evjue.

   The first county fair held in Lincoln County was in 1885, the grounds of the Lincoln County Agricultural, Mechanical, and Driving Association of the City of Merrill being used for the purpose. These grounds, located in Section 7, Township 31, Range 7, with the improvements which had been made on them, were purchased by the county the following year for $4500, and were thereafter used for holding annual county fairs. Due to the war, the holding of the fairs was suspended during 1918 and 1919, but was resumed under new management in 1920. In the early part of that year a group of business men met at the rooms of the Liberty Club in Merrill and at this meeting it was decided to solicit subscriptions and ascer-tain if sufficient interest existed to warrant resumption of the annual fairs. The committee appointed for this purpose consisted of George Gibson, John Petzka, Adam Schewe, and W. B. Chilsen. Their efforts met with hearty response. A sum in excess of $5,000 was raised, of which $1,000 was donated by the A. H. Stange interests, and plans were immediately set on foot for holding the first of the new series of fairs that year. A board of nine directors was appointed, made up as. follows: W. B. Chilsen, George Gibson, Lee O'Reilly, Adam Schewe, John Petzka, Peter Govig, A. T. Curtis, Cole, and Frank Clark. W. B. Chilsen was elected president; Peter Govig, vice-president; John Petzka treasurer, and Lee O'Reilly secretary. The idea of having nine directors was a unique one and the experience of the organization has proved it to be a most excellent plan, inasmuch as in almost every case a director fitted by previous experience can be found to take charge of each particular phase of the work. Under the new management the list of premiums was enlarged and the purses increased; horse racing, which had been eliminated at the two previous fairs, was reinstated; and the exhibits were confined solely to Lincoln County products. These policies were immediately successful. At the first of the new series of fairs the gate receipts were nearly $20,000. The fair was taken up as a part of the Wisconsin Short Ship Circuit, composed of fairs in central Wisconsin, including Stevens Point, Wausau, Marshfield, Chippewa Falls, La Crosse and Durand. The same officers were elected the second year, with the exception of Mr. Gibson as director, who refused the office. The present officers are as follows: Adam Schewe, president; Frank Kudick, vice president; Lee O'Reilly, secretary, and John Petzka, treasurer. The booth exhibits are noteworthy. Through the co-operation of the chairmen of the various townships a booth in the agricultural hall has been allotted to each town, and the exhibits would do credit to a state fair. Rivalry is keen. Some towns spend as much as three days preparing the booth, and some of the ideas in decoration which have been carried out would be worthy products of those who make their living in this kind of work. An example of this is the booth gotten up by Birch Township, with ceiling, walls, and entrance facade of white birch. The scoring of booths is on a point system, which is passed on and agreed to by the chairmen at a meeting held at the close of the fair each year. The keystone of the management's policy is to make the fair a well-balanced one, with something to please everyone, whether his interest lies along the line of dairy farming, beef stock, poultry, or hog raising, machinery, or simply good clean fun. The free attractions are selected on their merits as clean and high class entertainments, fit for women and children. The premiums for the women's exhibits have been increased, and the Lincoln County fair is one for women as well as for men. The aim throughout has been not merely to make it a bigger fair, but a better fair. A new policy has been instituted for 1923 in the matter of the annual dinner he}d by the association. The custom has been to have this in the fall after the premiums were paid, but starting with 1923 it will be held in May, which should be a distinct improvement inasmuch as a larger attendance can be had and the plans for the fair of the current year can be discussed.

   Statistics relating to the county show its area to be 902 square miles; its popu-lation in 1875 was 895, in 1885 6,989, in 1890 12,008, in 1905 19,125 in 191019,064, and ;n 1920 20,987. The total value of real estate in the county in 1922 was $24,340,669.00; the total value of personal property was $6,513,818.00.

   The presidential vote, eliminating local issues, reflects with fair accuracy the general political sentiment of a locality, and hence the following presidential elec-tion statistics are given covering the period from 1884 to 1920, to which has been added the vote for governor during the same period.

   188O-The presidential candidates were James A. Garfield, Republican, and Winfield S. Hancock, Democrat, of whom the former received 370 votes and the latter 262. Jeremiah M. Rusk, the Republican candidate for governor, received 254 votes and Nicholas D. Fratt, Democrat, 111. Thus both the presidential and gubernatorial contests showed a fair, but not excessive, Republican plurality.

   1884-For president, James G. Blaine, Republican, received 1,077 votes and Grover Cleveland, Democrat, 989. John P. St. John, Prohibition, got only 14 votes. For governor, Jeremiah M. Rusk (R) received 1,081 and Nicholas D. Fratt (D) 994. In 1886 the vote for governor gave Jeremiah M. Rusk, the Republican candidate, a plurality of 55 over his Democratic opponent.

   1888-The results of the presidential election were: Benjamin F. Harrison (R), 1,138; Grover Cleveland (D), 1,032; and an inconsiderable vote for the candi-dates of the minor parties. For governor, W. D. Hoard (R) received 1,114 and James Morgan (D) 1,050. In 1890 the gubernatorial contest resulted in George W. Peck, the Democratic candidate, receiving a vote of 1,398 while his Republican opponent, W. D. Hoard, scored 901.

   1892-The population of the county was at this time slightly in excess of 12,000. The presidential vote was as follows: Grover Cleveland (D) 1,443; Benjamin F. Harrison (R) 997; and James B. Weaver, the representative of the People's party and the only other candidate to receive a considerable vote, 398. George W. Peck, Democratic candidate for governor, received 1,479 votes and John C. Spooner, his Republican opponent, 981. In the gubernatorial vote of 1894 the county gave George W. Peck (D) a plurality of 79 votes over William H. Upham (R); the vote throughout the state, however, gave Mr. Upham (of Marshfield) a plurality of 53,900 over Peck, who had held the office during the two previous terms.

   1896--In the presidential election William J. Bryan, running on the Democratic ticket and standing for free silver coinage, received 1,802 votes while his Repub-lican opponent, William McKinley, received 1,706. For governor Willis Silver-thorn (D) with 1,849 votes had a plurality of 174 over Edward Scofield (R); Scofield, however, received a plurality in the vote of the state as a whole.

   1900-William McKinley, Republican candidate for president, received 2,147 votes while William J. Bryan, Democrat, polled 1,552. For governor, Robert M. LaFollette (R) obtained a plurality of 424 over Louis G. Bomrich (D). For govern-or in 1902 Robert M. LaFollette (R) again obtained a plurality in the state as well as the county, receiving 1,992 votes in the latter while his opponent on the Democratic ticket, David S. Rose, polled 1,412.

   1904-For president, Theodore Roosevelt (R) received 2,850 votes while his chief opponent, Alton B. Parker, received but 1,004; Eugene V. Debs, running Op the Social-Democratic ticket, polled 109 votes. In the gubernatorial contest Robert M. LaFollette (R) received 2,175 votes, George W. Peck 1,675, and Edward Scofield (Nat. Rep.) 75.

   For governor in 1906 James O. Davidson (R) was opposed by John A. Aylward (D); former received 1,652 votes in Lincoln County and the latter 1,047, a ten-dency which was maintained by the state as a ",hole, Mr. Davidson receiving the office.

   1908-The main political contest was between William H. Taft (R) and William J. Bryan (D). Mr. Bryan was again disappointed in his presidential aspirations and Lincoln County went as the country went, giving Taft 2,308 and Bryan 1,813. Eugene V. Debs carried off 99. For governor, James O. Davidson (R) received 2,276 and John A. Aylward (D) 1,849.

   In 1910 the vote of the county for governor was practically a tie, Francis E. McGovern (R) with 1,533 having a plurality of only one vote over Adolph H. Schmitz (D), who polled 1532.

   1912-In this year there were six presidential candidates represented on the ballots. The real contest was between William H. Taft, Rep., Woodrow Wilson, Dem., and Theodore Roosevelt, Progressive-Independent, and the independent candidacy of Roosevelt, which split the Republican party, gave the election to the Democrats in the country at large. The result of the voting in Lincoln County was: Wilson, 1,760; Taft, 712; Roosevelt, 627; while Eugene V. Debs, again running on the Social-Democratic ticket and the only other candidate to secure a vote of any consequence, received 212. The vote for governor gave Francis E. McGovern (R) 1,661, John C. Karel (D) 1,421, and Carl D. Thompson (Soc.-Dem.) 188.

   In 1914 Emanuel L. Philip (R) received 1,528 votes for governor, John C. Karel (D) 983, and John J. Blaine (Ind.) 196.

   1916--In this presidential election Lincoln County was on the losing side, giving 2,189 votes to Charles E. Hughes (R) and 1,282 to Woodrow Wilson (D). For governor Emanuel L. Philipp (R) polled 2,035 votes and Burt Williams (D) 1,330.

   In 1918 the vote for governor resulted in Philipp (R) receiving 1,106 and Moeh-lenpah (D) 724.

   1920-In this presidential year, owing to causes arising out of the war, the Democratic party was snowed under, the vote in Lincoln County reflecting the general political sentiment of the country. The county cast 3,713 votes for Warren G. Harding, the Republican candidate, and only 838 for James M. Cox, Democratic. Eugene V. Debs, running on the ticket of the socialist party, came to the front with 542 ballots. In the election for governor, also, the Republicans were in the majority, Blaine, the Republican standard bearer" receiving 3,085 McCoy, Democrat, polled but 1,603.

   Education Settlement in Lincoln County began at Merrill, and as shown on another page of this volume the first school house there was built in the early '50's, long before the establishment of the county. When the county came into existence, however, one of the first considerations of the county board, was to set in motion the machinery of a county system of schools that would keep pace with the development of the outlying portions of the county and extend educational opportunity to the children of the pioneer in the wilderness.

   From the report filed in 1880 by David Finn, then county superintendent of schools, we learn that there were then 527 children aged 4 to 20 and that 339 of these had attended school that year, an excellent percentage when allowance is made for the fact that the age limits quoted take in many above and below the usual grammar school age. There were then five townships in the county, of which Ackley had two school districts, Coming two, Jenny two, Pine River five, and Rock Falls two, a total of 13 school districts. There were fifteen teachers, and three of the schools had three departments each. The school houses owned by the county were valued at $11,650 and the sites on which they stood at $707. Eleven third grade certificates were granted to teachers, .one second grade, and one first grade. Merrill early secured municipal rights and established her own school system, and later this was done in Tomahawk also. For an account of the develop-ment of these separate systems reference may be had to the chapters on the respec-tive cities.

   By 1892 the number of county school districts had increased to 30, the number of teachers to 49, and the value of school houses and sites to $17,739, despite the fact that about two-thirds of the territory which was included in the county when the report for 1880 was compiled had meanwhile been detached to form separate counties. According to the 1892 report J. J. Hoffman was then superintendent of schools; the number of children in the county aged 7 to 14 was 669, the attendance at public schools 581, and the attendance at private schools 7.

   In 1893 there were ten more teachers, one more district, and one more school house. The number of children aged 7 to 14 was 676, of which number 603 attended public school and 8 attended private or parochial school. Six first grade certificates were granted, eight second grade, and 39 third grade. J. J. Hoffman continued as superintendent. The report for 1894 shows 709 children of school age, of whom 672 attended public school and 27 private school. There were now 34 school districts employing 53 teachers, and 43 school houses valued at $18,950.

   Superintendent Hoffman's report for 1895 shows 730 children of school age and a total attendance at public and private schools of 726. Three more school houses had been built and the total value of school houses and sites was listed at $22,440.

   In 1900 there were 47 districts, 59-school houses, and 61 teachers. The number of children of school age had increased to 1055 and of these 847 attended public school and 22 private or parochial school. The buildings were valued at $27,465. Eight first grade certificates were granted, 36 second grade, and 30 third grade. J. J. Hoffman's service as superintendent terminated that year, J. H. Hamlin taking the office in 1901 and continuing until 1915, when W. L. Holden was elected.

   The figures for 1902 show that the number of children of school age had increased to 1406; 1227 of these attended public school. There were 53 school districts employing 69 teachers. Five school houses had been built in the preceding two years, bringing the total number to 64, with a valuation of $30,150. Three years later, in 1905, there were 1631 children of school age, of whom 1287 attended public school and 44 attended private or parochial school. There were 79 teachers in the 57 districts, and 72 school houses valued at $40,687. In 1908 the school census showed 1614 children of school age, and of these 1273 attended public school and 39 attended private school. The number of teachers had been increased to 85. There were 61 districts and 79 school houses, the latter valued at $59,175, an increase of nearly $10,000 over the preceding year, when there were 74 school houses. 28 first grade certificates were granted, 27 second grade, 55 third grade, 37 limited. In 1910, 1292 children attended school out of a total of 1570 of school age under the county's jurisdiction. The valuation of school houses and sites passed the $60,000 mark in that year.

   W. L. Holden served as superintendent of schools during 1915 and 1916; in 1917 W. S. Freeman assumed the office.

   In the past ten years very rapid strides have been made in the development of the county school system. New construction has been chiefly of stucco or cement blocks and there are about eight or ten brick school houses in various parts of the county. The superintendent's report for 1922 shows that the value of school buildings and sites has now reached the imposing figure of $225,755, and the equipment alone is rated at $43,448. There are 75 teachers in the rural schools, and two rated as high school teachers, a total of 95. School libraries have been built up and now contain 14,456 volumes. The school census shows 3978 children aged 4 to 20 years in the county, divided among the townships as follows: Birch, with four districts, three rural schools, and on state graded school, 208; Bradley, having six districts, eight rural schools and one state graded school, 384; Corning, with two districts and eight rural schools, 348; Harrison with four districts, three rural schools, and two graded schools, 256; Harding, with one district having one rural school, 49; King, with two districts and four rural schools, 97; Merrill, seven rural schools in the same number of districts, 333; Pine River, ten districts and ten rural ,schools, 545; Rock Falls, four districts and four rural schools, 157; Russell, five districts having four rural schools and one state graded, 282; Schley, eight rural schools in eight districts, 452; Scott, six districts and six rural schools, 386; Skanawan, a rural school in each of two districts, 79; Somo, with only one district but having three schools, one rural, one state graded, and one high and grades combined, 182; Tomahawk, two districts with four rural schools, 140; Wilson, having three rural schools in three districts, 80. In 1907 the county board appropriated $3,000 for the establishment of a normal school, and on Sept. 2 of that year the Lincoln County Training School opened its doors. The first quarters were in the room in which the county board met at the courthouse. With the rapid growth of the enrollment, however, greater facilities became necessary, and permanent quarters were established in the build-ings which had served as the county's first courthouse and jail. A. H. Cole, the first principal, left in 1913 and was succeeded by W.A. Clark, who was followed in 1916 by the present superintendent, E. W. McGrary. Besides Mr. McGrary the present faculty consists of Cora Doxrude teaching methods, and Nellie Evjue, practice supervisor. Fifty students enrolled for the 1922-23 school year. The school has been eminently successful in equipping its students for the all-important profession of teaching. Since its beginning it has graduated a total of 350 students, and practically all of these have practiced the profession for which they were thus trained. One graduate is now teaching high school in Chicago, and another is teaching high school in Milwaukee; one represented the Milwaukee normal school at the national convention of kindergarten teachers in Washington, and a number of others have attained high positions in their field.

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