"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 IX: The City of Merrill, Part B

   Incorporation as a city was effected in 1883, and the first city election was held March 6, 1883, city officers being chosen as follows: T. B. Scott, mayor; M. W. Sweeney, treasurer; A. A. Helms, city attorney; J. H. McMurray, assessor; and D. W. McLeod, city clerk. The first aldermen were H. Baehman, Thomas P. Mathews, John Phelps, M. Botts, A. H. Stange, Adolph Drewson, Fred Wilkes, William Bisbee, W. H. Cannon, M. O. Munnick, Henry White, and S. M. Hoyt. D. W. McLeod and C. C. Townsend were elected justices of the peace, and Herman Zipp, George Gibson, and H. W. Boyer were selected for constables. The first city marshal appointed was John T. Adams and the first superintendent of schools was M. C. Porter. The first board of supervisors under incorporation comprised H. R. Skinner, John Woodlock, H. H. Chandler, William Canfield, and V. R. Willard. The first meeting of the common council was held in Hoyt & Helms' office March 13, 1883, and T. B. Scott was elected president of the. body. A city hall, which is still serving as headquarters of city government, was erected in 1888-89 at a cost of $16,275.

   Having thus considered the principal facts in the early history of the city, let us look at the more recent development. This is best done through the medium of individual accounts of the business enterprises, public utilities, schools, churches, etc., and these will now. be given. To avoid needless repetition, little mention will be made here of the mercantile enterprises, since accounts of them will be found contained in the sketches of their owners in the biographical portion of this volume. Electric service for the city is furnished by the Wisconsin Valley Electric Co., whose headquarters are at Wausau and whose power plants at Wausau, Merrill, Rothschild, Mosinee, Stevens Point, and Tomahawk, are interconnected. This company until 1916 was known as the Wausau Street Railway Co. Its interests in Merrill were acquired Dec. 1, 1915 from the Merrill Railway and Lighting Co. The latter company had its origin in 1889 when J. N. Cotter, Harry Turner, and their associates were granted a 30-year charter for the operation of street cars. The first street cars under this charter were put into operation in Merrill in 1890, a unique fact in the city's history, since it makes Merrill one of the first cities in the world to install electric transportation. The Merrill Railway and Lighting Co. for the first ten years of its existence rented its power from the T. B. Scott company. When the latter company's mill was destroyed by fire in 1899 their water power was purchased by the Merrill Railway and Lighting Co., then consist-ing of J. N. Cotter, John Daley, E. S. King, John O'Day, Walter A. Scott, Frank Hixon, and H. W. Wright. Harry Turner, who was associated at the time the charter was granted, had taken no further part in the company; David Finn and J. W. Ladd were connected with it for a short time, later selling their interests to the other members of the company. The original dam, which had been injured by the fire, was repaired and a power house was built, the latter by a new organiza-tion under the name of Cotter, King & Co., the interests of H. W. Wright, Frank Hixon, and Walter A. Scott having been purchased by the other members of the company. The power house then erected is the building, now vacant, that stands near the head of the flume; the present power house of the Wausau company is about 200 feet below this building. The original dam was replaced by the present structure in 1913 and 1914 by the Merrill Railway and Lighting Co. Operation of street cars in Merrill was discontinued at the expiration of the original charter in 1919. Officers of the present company are: C. C. Yawkey, president; B. F. Wilson, vice president; H. L. Geisse, secretary and general manager; and C. S. Gilbert, treasurer. H. G. Tank is in charge of the Merrill interests of the company.

   The city waterworks were built by the American Waterworks & Guarantee Co. of Pittsburg, PA. in 1887, and pressure was first supplied in that year. The plant was operated by this company until 1914, when the company became insolvent and the plant was subsequently operated for some time by a receiver. Later the original company was reorganized under the name of the American Waterworks' & Electric Co., with offices in New York, and again took over operation of the Merrill plant, which they have continued up to the present time. In 1887 there were 10 miles of water mains and 100 fire hydrants; there are now 20 miles of mains and 186 hydrants, and the average consumption is 500,000 gallons per day. Power is furnished by three 100 horse-power boilers operating four steam pumps, three of the pumps being of 1,000,000 gallons daily capacity and the fourth having a capacity of 2,000,000 gallons per day. The water is obtained from the Prairie River and receives a chlorine treatment besides passing through a mechanical filtration plant. The pumping station has been remodeled and enlarged and two steel tanks have been installed, one for storage and the other as a settling tank. The system is direct pressure, supplying 45 pounds per square inch for domestic use and 85 to 90 for fire purposes. The following have served successively as water superintendents since the plant was built: E. H. Schriber, M. F. Wright; A. T. Ainsworth, F. M. McElroy, W. T. Hunter, James Wilson, D. W. Derr, F. M. Cunningham, and H. W. Schofield. The last named has been in charge for nine years, while John W. Cotey has been outside foreman and collector since 1898.

   The first telephone office in Merrill was built by the Wisconsin Telephone Co. in 1881 and service was started with 20 telephones. In 1882 a toll line was built between Merrill and Wausau consisting of a grounded line of No.16 iron wire. The first call passing over this line was a message from S. Heineman to Heineman Bros. at Wausau. Miss Tena Clark, who handled the call, is still a resident of Merrill. In 1896 the citizens of Merrill organized a local telephone company which they operated until Oct. 1, 1910, when their plant was bought by the Wis-consin Telephone Co., who rebuilt it in 1912, giving the city a more modern tele-phone system. This company continues to operate the plant. When taken over by them in 1910 there were about 500 subscribers. There has been a steady growth since and at the present time there are 1,070 stations in the city and 486 rural subscribers. The telephone office is located at 910 East Main Street. The exchange has been under the management of E. L. Dexter since Oct. 11, 1913. The present post office building was erected in 1916 and was occupied for the first time in April of 1917. It is a modern brick structure with steam heat, electric lights, etc., and $75,000 was expended in its construction. The post office employs an assistant postmaster, seven carriers, and four clerks, in addition to the postmaster and, operating eight routes, covers a radius of 25 miles. Herman A. Krueger is the present postmaster and John A. Rusch the assistant postmaster. Until the erection of the present building the quarters were in the Masonic Building, the office having been moved there in 1907 from a location on the old T. B. Scott property south of the present Citizens National Bank building, near the railroad right-of-way. It had occupied these quarters since 1897, at which time it was moved from the Berard block across the street. Its original location was in the Jenny Hotel, where it was first conducted by Cyrus Strowbridge, as has been mentioned previously. Mrs. William Averill was postmistress for a number of years while the office was located in the Jenny House, and later Charles Wiley had charge of the office; while the latter was postmaster the office was moved to where Peterman Bros.' meat market is now located. Merrill has two newspapers, the Daily Herald and the Star Advocate. The Herald was started in May of 1908 by William R. Jaeger, now publisher of the Rhinelander Daily News, who brought up his machinery from Wausau. Mr. Jaeger continued operation of the paper for a little over one year, when it was purchased by C. N. Johnson ad W. B. Chilsen in partnership. In the spring of 1913 a partnership of F. J and A. H. Smith and W. B. Chilsen was formed under the name of the Merrill Publishing Co. and took over operation of the paper. Since the spring of 1920 it has been published by W. B. Chilsen. The paper is Republican in politics and is a modern newspaper, well gotten up and ably edited. Its first organization, under Mr. Jaeger's ownership, included John Gumtz on news, J. W. Bruce on news and advertising, and Stella Trantow (now Mrs. Arthur Martinson), Maybelle Pomerville, and Carla Everson (now Mrs. Elmere Foster). Several of the carrier boys who worked on this paper at that time continued on the staff for years afterward, among them being Harold Henrich and Milton Frye. The plant originally was in the Kathryn Luedtke building at 1211 East Main St. and was moved to its present location, 909 East Main St., when it passed into the hands of Johnson & Chilsen.

   The Star Advocate, a weekly paper published by Willam Allen, is a consolida-tion of two earlier papers, the Merrill Star and the Merrill Advocate. The latter was the first newspaper published in the city, its first edition appearing as the Lincoln County advocate Feb. 6, 1875, with M. H. McCord, editor, and A. D. Gorham, publisher. In March of 1884 it was taken over by Van R. Willard, who sold it to Alexander Black and Dewitt Johnson in December of 1885. Norman R. Black bought out Johnson's interest in April of 1886. M.E.Northrop and C. H. Cummer took over the paper in December of 1886 and operated it until the following March, when L. A. Harrison and C. F. Hanson took it over. Hanson severed his connection after six months, but in October of 1889 he purchased the paper from Harrison, operating it for the following six months. The Advocate Publishing Co. took it took it over in April of 1890 and operated it until February of 1892. This company consisted of the following men, some of the wealthiest and best known Republicans in Lincoln County: Walter A. Scott (son of T. B. Scott), Frank P. Hixon, W. H. Flett, Henry C. Hetzel, Dr. J. D. W. Heath, and C. A. Norway. Scott, Hixon, Norway, and Heath were lumbermen; Flett and Hetzel were lawyers. Under their ownership a building was erected on the site now occupied by the Ford auxiliary station on Main Street west of Mill Street. In February of 1892 C. N. Johnson took over the paper and in October of 1893 he changed the name to the Merrill Advocate. It was continued by Mr. Johnson until 1906 and then sold by him to A. C. Thompson, who published it until August of 1909; the Lincoln County Bank then acquired it at sheriff's sale, and it was sold by them to Mr. Allen. The latter had established the Merrill Star about 1902, and on taking over the Advocate he consolidated the two papers into the present form of the Star Advocate, a weekly newspaper with a wide circulation, Republican in politics as were both of its predecessors during the entire period of their existence.

   Besides the two papers now published there has been a considerable number in the past. The second paper to be established in Merrill was the Northern Wisconsin News, which was Democratic in politics and was founded by David Finn and Reuben F. Vaughan in 1878. This paper was sold to W. H. Cannon and H. C. Hetzel on June 17, 1881. In January of 1884 J. N. Cotter purchased Hetzel's interest and the paper appeared with Cotter as publisher and Cannon as editor until April of 1885. Cotter's interest was then acquired by Cannon. In December of 1888 Cannon sold out to A. G. Christenson, who six months later sold to E. A. Dunn and C. N. Johnson. In February of 1892 Dunn became sole owner. A. G. Christenson again bought an interest in the paper about 1894, and under the owner-ship of Dunn & .Christenson the name was changed to the Merrill News. In 1895 it changed hands again, A. T. Curtis becoming the owner, and about 1898 Thomas N. Locke took it over. Its publication was continued by Mr. Locke until 1902, when it was purchased by D. S. Johnson. A. G. Christenson became connect-ed with it a third time when he bought out Johnson in 1904, and he remained its publisher until Mahon & Fitzgerald purchased it. Edward D. Mahon became sole owner. about 1912 and published it until 1918, when it was discontinued. Under Christenson's ownership in 1888 the Merrill Times had been merged with it. The latter paper was established by Norman Black, now editor of the Fargo Forum, about 1887, but became involved in financial difficulties the following year and passed into the hands of W. R. Schofield on Mar. 27, 1888. It was purchased a short time later by Christenson. A German newspaper, the Lincoln County Anzeiger, Democratic in politics, was established in February of 1888 by C. W. Honigman. In July of 1894 this paper was purchased by F. W. Sallet, who con-tinued its publication until September of 1902, changing its name on Sept. 21, 1900, to the Wisconsin Thalbote. While publishing this paper Sallet also got out a Swedish paper, the Wisconsin Valley Posten, for a year or two, starting about the same time that he purchased the Anzeiger; the Posten did not prove a success and he suspended its publication. The Wisconsin Thalbote was sold to Otto Susemihl in September of 1902, and by him to Frank Beer in January of 1910. About two years later it was closed down. Its publication was resumed in 1917 by Authur Hessel and Gust Belling in partnership, but was permanently suspended in 1920, its last issue being published on Aug. 27 of that year.

   In the history of Merrill newspaperdom the most outstanding name is that of C. N. Johnson, his newspaper style in editorials and news having a distinctive touch which commanded the attention of the press throughout the state during his long association with the news publications of Merrill. A former reporter of his, Hans von Kaltenborn, made an unusual ascent in the newspaper world. When only a boy Mr. Kaltenborn left the Merrill high school and became a reporter and general utility man on the Merrill Advocate. After two years of this work he desired to go to Europe, and Mr. Johnson furnished him transportation to Chicago. There he bought a scalper's ticket to New York for $8. In New York he engaged to feed cattle on a cattleship going to Liverpool, Eng. For this he received $5. Mr. Kaltenborn travelled all over France as the European correspondent of the Merrill Advocate. He sent home some very interesting stories and early established the fact that he was a born newspaperman. After two years in Europe Mr. Kaltenborn returned to the United States and entered Harvard College, from which he was graduated four years later, having earned his way through by teaching French and working at such other employment as he could get. After leaving college he secured a position on the Brooklyn Daily Eagle as police reporter. From police reporter Mr. Kaltenborn has gone through every news department of the Daily Eagle, Washington correspondent, musical critic, and editorial writer, to that of managing editor, the position he now holds. Another former Advocate employee who made a great success in life is Mr. Edward S. Jordan, president of the Jordan Motor Car Co. of Cleveland, Ohio. When Mr. Jordan graduated from the Merrill high school he secured a position on the Advocate as reporter at a salary of $5 per week. This position he held for two years, when he entered the Univer-sity of .Wisconsin, from which he graduated in four years, earning his way through. After graduation he secured a position on Collier's Weekly and created a nation-wide sensation by his articles criticizing college sports. He engaged in newspaper work in the East for about two years, when he secured a position with the J. G. Jeffreys Automobile Co. of Kenosha, Wis. as advertising writer and manager. He was employed in that capacity for three of four years, when he organized the Jordan Motor Car Co. He is recognized today as one of the leading men in the automobile business. Still another former member of the Advocate staff is Mr. Ernest E. Curtis, now holding a prominent position with the Wisconsin News, Milwaukee, the well-known Hearst paper. Mr. Curtis, after starting his news-paper career on the Merrill Advocate, spent several years in the East in newspaper work. Returning to Wisconsin, he secured a place with the Hearst publication named and is making good. The T. B. Scott library at Merrill was opened early in 1891, Miss Janet Russell, now deceased, being librarian. Illness drove Miss Russell from the work in 1904 and the next regularly appointed librarian was Miss Helen Price, who started in January of 1905. Miss Price was a most devoted worker and much advancement was made under her administration. She set on foot a movement for a new library building and after much effort a donation of $17,500 for this purpose was secured from Andrew Carnegie and the present beautiful building was erected. Miss Price was succeeded as librarian by Katherine C. Barker; in 1915 Winifred Bailey took Miss Barker's place, to be followed in 1918 by Eliazbeth Burke. Edna Dearth Orr came in 1921, and following her resignation Sept. 1, 1922, the present librarian, Mrs. Nathalie H. Scribner, assumed the office. There has been a very gratifying growth both in the facilities of the library and in the use of those facilities by the public. Since 1906 the circulation has grown from 21,141 to 40,922, and in the last year the number of rural borrowers has nearly doubled, there now being 434. In the summer of 1922 four traveling libraries were established for county library service, donated respectively by the Woman's Alliance, the Study Class of Merrill, the Heineman Lumber Co., and Mr. Flett. The present library board is made up of the following members: Dr. J. W, Peroutky, Mrs. A. T. Curtis, Mrs. R. B. Runke, Mrs. M. C. Porter, Mrs. W. D. Martin, Dr. W. S. Van Nostrand, Dr. E. B. Owen, J. C. Anglebeck, E. W. McCrary, and H. W. Kircher.

   In the matter of fire protection the city is exceptionally well equipped, and the East Side engine house is a model for its kind, known throughout the state. This beautiful brick structure was erected about seven years ago; it is two stories high, hardwood finished throughout, and is provided with a separate sleeping room for each member of the department, in addition to which there is a billiard room, an office for the chief, excellent baths, showers, etc. One feature of this engine house in particular is worthy of notice as being unique: a specially contrived relay-box, designed by a former member of the company, is so arranged that when connected in the electrical circuit at night by throwing a switch, any call on the telephone during the night releases a suspended knife-switch blade which establishes connections lighting all the lights in the building and sounding an alarm bell. An additional device automatically breaks these connections when the main door is opened for the fire truck to pass out. The West Side engine house, on Grand Ave., was built about 1884, and has since been added to. It is equipped with a triple combination truck with 750-gallon pumper which was purchased three years ago. The combination truck in the East Side house was obtained ten years ago and was the first motor fire truck in the Wisconsin Valley. There are four men in each of the two branches of the department, including the chief on the East Side and the assistant chief on the West Side. The chief, Andrew Milsbaugh, has occupied this office for 22 years and has been with the department since 1894, when he went in as the first paid driver on the old hook and ladder truck. This long experience as well as a very exceptional degree of aptitude for the work quali-fies him to fulfill the position in a manner that has gained a wide recognition and an excellent record for the department as to efficiency in extinguishing fires. The first regularly organized fire department in Merrill was started in 1887 with Julius Theilman as chief. Previous to this there had been a semi-organized department for a short time; H. W. Wright was chief of this, and chemical apparatus was purchased about 1884. After the installation of the city water works in 1887 the department was reorganized with Fred Stroud as chief and after a short time under him it was regularly organized as a volunteer department with Mr. Thielman as chief. Besides Thielman the members of the department were: Edward J. Crawford, Robert Truax, George Haywood, Jr., Jesse Sipes, Frank H. Skinner, F. Moffatt, G. F. Koehler, C. Goodwin, Alex. Black, J. W. Mathers, R. J. Collie, A. H. Stange, James Coon, L. C. Tyner, John W. Cotey, Burton Crown, H. R. Fehland, E. F. Hanf, Thomas DeVall, T. R. Newell, Joseph Downie, P. Berard, L. A. Harrison, M. W. Sweeney, Jens Ballschmieder, F. W. Stroud, Herman Zipp, H. R. Skinner, O. E. Byington, H. Littlejohn, David M. Phinney, W. H. Cannon, Willie Gambien, and F. H. Hutz. Only one engine house, that on the West Side, was erected at the beginning, the first East Side house being erected in 1890. In 1890 or 1891 two hose carts, each drawn by one horse, were obtained to supplement the hand-drawn chemical and hook and ladder apparatus, and in 1882 a horse-drawn hook and ladder truck was added. A paid driver for this apparatus was employed in 1894. Julius Thielman after serving as chief for two years was suc-ceeded by Richard King and four years later John Cotey took charge; Mr. Cotey also served for four years and was followed by Owen Love, who occupied the position for three and a half years, at the expiration of which time, in 1901, Mr. Milsbaugh, the present chief, took the office. The change from a volunteer to a paid organiza-tion was made about 1898.

   The history of the police department has been touched on in the preceding paragraphs. The present chief is Thomas A. Calder, who has been with the de-partment since 1901 and has been its chief since 1903. The department now has four patrolmen and is very efficient in its operation.

   The Lincoln County Hospital, operated in connection with the county home, is not strictly a charitable institution, although those unable to pay far hospital facilities are cared far there without charge, in addition to the regular paying pa-tients. This hospital was opened July 14, 1920 in the addition which had been made to the county home building for that purpose. The first and second floors of this new section form a fireproof hospital, with sun porches on both floors facing the west. Besides the three wards and seven private rooms there are operating and sterilizing rooms, nurses rooms, baths, etc. Everything is thoroughly modern, and the operating room is particularly well equipped, having among other features an electric illuminator six feet in diameter. The floor and wainscoting are of white tile. There is a combination silent and audible nurses calling system and many other features to be found only in the most modern hospital construction.

   The Ravn Hospital was a well equipped private institution containing 25 beds, located at 708 Second Street, owned and operated by Dr. Michael Ravn. Drs. W. H. Monroe and John Bergesen erected the building in 1892 and operated the hospital far about two years, when Dr. C. C. Walsh bought out Dr. Bergesen and for the following two or three years the owners were Drs. Monroe and Walsh, after which Drs. Walsh and L. B. Collier operated it until 1898. A Catholic sister was then in charge until 1900, when Dr. Ravn became proprietor. He operated it until June 9, 1923, when he closed it. At present there is no hospital in the city of Rhinelander.

   Merrill is often referred to as "the city of parks" and there is full justification for the bestowal of this title, for her park system is unexcelled in northern Wiscon-sin. One of the most popular of the parks is Riverside, a large and beautiful natural park with everything to delight the nature lover. Every known wildwoods flower indigenous to the northern states has been found here, and even walnut trees, not natural to this locality, are to be seen; it is possible that the latter have sprung from walnuts dropped by the Indians during their migrations. Near the former T. B. Scott mansion, located in this park, a single pine tree stands, towering magnificently above its surroundings, and to this tree a story attaches. T. B. Scott, on one of his first trips up the Wisconsin River, camped on this site, and on making preparations for the night he noticed an eagle's nest in this tree. After keeping watch all night for the return of the eagle to its nest, he succeeded in the morning in bringing the bird down, and it proved to be a magnificent specimen of its kind. 'When, later, this land came into Mr. Scott's possession he decreed that the tree in which the eagle had made its home should remain untouched by axe or saw, and so it stands today, a symbol of the past. Nineteen acres of the park were acquired by the city in May of 1915, the Woman's Alliance having been active in this move. The tract had been owned at a previous time by Gust Braatz and had been purchased in 1903 by an association formed within the Liederkranz known as the Merrill Park Association, with Julius Thielman as president and J. G. Poser secretary. This association had made the purchase in order to preserve the property for the city and the city acquired it from them. Telling of their work, Mr. Poser says: "Back in 1902 we had a big Sangerfest which attracted 10,000 persons to this naturally beautiful spot on the Wisconsin. It always was a popular picnic grounds and the owner used to make a little there selling beer to the picnicers. Well, after this big Sangerfest, he said he was going to sell that property or turn it into a cow pasture. A few of us just took one imaginative squint at that timberland feeding a few cattle instead of contributing to the enjoyment of all Merrill and then we got busy. Our committee of the Merrill Park Association bought the land for $1600 and we spent $1,000 in filling in with dirt the level place where the bandstand and shelter-house now stand. That used to be a slough from the little waterways that always branch out from the river. We also made the ball park at a cost of $800 and erected a few bridges across the creek to the island. But every time it rained hard and the water in the river rose, our bridges were washed out. You can see the wreck of one there now. We decided on another direction of approach and so the present winding path that leads into the park from the steel bridge was made. About this time the Woman's Alliance began to come to our aid, and after quite a little agitation among the townspeople they succeeded in May, 1915, in getting the city of Merrill to buy Riverside Park for its indebtedness, the stock-holders in the Merrill Park Association donating their shares. This was accomplished under the administration of Mayor J. A. Emerich. The sum paid by the city was $3300." The property comprising the remainder of the park, about 38 acres, was purchased by the city upon the death of its previous owner, Mrs. Mary Fehl-haber, the consideration being in the neighborhood of $8500. The two parks extending along the banks of the Prairie River are known respectively as the Stange Public Park and the Stange Private Park. The former was purchased by the city in the spring of 1908 and was laid out by a firm of Minneapolis landscape artists, forming a very beautiful property. The Stange Private Park was prac-tically a donation to the city by A. H. Stange, made in October of 1920, and is also a very attractive park. The Sixth Ward Park, consisting of five lots covered with beautiful pines, was purchased by the city about 1915 and will probably be extended east; Dr. A. R. Wittman was active in urging the purchase of this property as well as in other movements for the improvement of the park system.

   Besides the public parks there are many beautiful private grounds, and the residential section of the city presents an unusually attractive appearance during the summer months. The average house lot in Merrill is 140 feet deep and 60 feet wide and in many cases the property owners have reserved two lots, giving a fine opportunity for flower gardens, etc. Peonies, iris, and other hardy plants are grown in many Northern Wisconsin cities, but Merrill has gone into gardening more progressively and has succeeded in developing many beautiful rose gardens in spite of the short season. Great attention has been paid to wild flowers; violets, hepatica, meadows rue, the native orchids, trillium, liverwort, and native shrubbery of all kinds have been translated to scores of gardens with fine success. In parks and private grounds of the city virtually every type of shrub that. can be grown successfully under the severe winter conditions of northern Wisconsin are to be seen, and in many cases the owners have successfully carried through the winter by proper covering many of the varieties that would not otherwise stand the severity of the seasons. There are a number of lily ponds, in the immediate vicin-ity. Two miles north of Merrill is Lake Pesobic (the Indian name for Lake View).

Chapter IX continued on next page Part C

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