"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.


Crosby, Charles Purnell a prominent representative of the lumber industry, now a resident of Rhinelander, Oneida County, was born in La Crosse, Wis., Aug. 3, 1859, son of Gen. William Wheeler CROSBY and his wife Mary, whose family name was PENNELL. The father was a native of Blandford, Mass., and came to La Crosse, Wis., in 1854, engaging in the lumber business in partnership with G. C. HIXON, under the firm name of Crosby, Hixon & Co. The mother was born in Honeoye, N.Y. Charles P. CROSBY grew up on La Crosse under favorable conditions. The surrounding country was as yet but thinley settled and game was very plentiful, while past the town flowed the Great River on two-thousand mile journey to the sea, sometimes bearing on its current great rafts of logs or lumber, with their jolly, noisy crews of hard-drinking, hard-fighting lumberjacks, taking their floating freight to southern markets. Or at other times the scene was enlivened by the arrival of a steamer laden with immigrants upward-bound, some of whom, perhaps, disembarked at La Crosse. It was by no means a monotonous place to live in, and young Crosby, who was a good hunter, and who could also ride, swim and row, found plenty of recreation. At school he showed a particular aptitude for mathematics, and also ventured on literary work, in company with another youth editing and publishing a high school paper, said to have been the first one printed in Wisconsin, an one or two copies of which he has still in his possession. The work he did on it helped to improve his English, forcing him to study more carefully his syntax, punctuation and other departments of grammer--knowledge that he has found useful to him in later life. Leaving school at the age of 18, Charles had his first experience in the lumber business. He was instructed to drive a yoke of oxen from La Crosse to one of General CROSBY'S camps, located near Unity in Clark County. It was quite an experience for him to walk 100 miles through November mud, driving oxen, to which he was not accustomed; but he had grit, as well as pride in "going through," and the cattle were safely delivered, and he then began work in the woods as a common hand. This was the starting point of his career as a lumberman. A few years later found him operating a wholesale and retail lumber yard in North La Crosse, where he continued in business for nine years. In 1887 he married Sarah E. ARMSTRONG of Galesburg, Ill., and of this union were born three children, namely: Florence Armstrong, now Mrs. Harold M. PECK; Harold Sutor, who married Helen LEWIS of Rhinelander; and Charles Logan. All of the children attended the University of Wisconsin, Charles Logan especially distinguishing himself, graduating from the agricultural course. In 1895 the family removed to Wausau, Wis., in which city Mrs. CROSBY died in June, 1896. Mr. CROSBY engaged in the hardwood lumber business at Wausau and was very prosperous, buying up mill stock and selling to his customers. In July, 1898, he married Helen G. WRIGHT of Milwaukee, and two daughters were born of this union, Marion Pennell and Elizabeth Wright. In 1900 the family moved to Hawkins, Rusk County, where Mr. CROSBY built a modern saw mill, which he operated until 1902, when he came with his family to Rhinelander. Mr. CROSBY'S success in the lumber business has been the result of his untiring energy and forceful character, which have made their impression upon every community in which he has lived. To operate a saw mill, be on duty from 6 A.M. to 6 P.M., and then spend the evening in the planing-mill, has been his routine. Twice overtaken by adversity in business, he quickly recovered, advancing to a higher position then before. He prides himself on holding all customers, some of whom have bought lumber from him for 30 years. He is recognized as an authority on hardwood lumber, having been president of the Northern Wholesale Hardwood Lumber Association, and also having been correspondent for the American Lumberman of Chicago for many years. With the exception of one or two years of business life in La Crosse, as one member of a corporation, the Crosby Hardwood Co. Inc., he has been doing business under his own name exclusively since 1882. Mr. CROSBY has never cared for membership in secret societies, though he belongs to the Elks lodges at Wausau and Rhinelander, which he joined more for the sake of helping to keep them up than from any other motive. A Democrat in politics, he has at various times taken a prominent part in the councils of his party, having been county chairman, a member of the State Central Committee, and a delegate to the National Democratic Convention in St. Louis, Mo., in 1916. While this country was engaged as a participant in the great World War he took an intense interest in all war activities and did some good home work. He was chairman of the Home Service Department of the Red Cross, chairman of the Four Minute Men, and a member of the Executive Board of the Oneida County Council of Defense; also chairman for this county of the Loyalty Legion. Mr. CROSBY is a member of the Wisconsin Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, and besides coming of ancestry who helped to make history in this country he is a descendant of John KNOX, the famous Scottish reformer in the days of Queen Elizabeth and Mary Queen of Scots. He is a man who is on good terms with all classes of society, having as pleasant a word for the laboring man as for the richest man of his acquaintance. He has been very active in the First Congregational Church, having been a trustee for 20 years, during a part of which time he has been president of the board, and having also served it as deacon and treasurer. The question of heredity plays so large a part in shaping human character and destiny that a backward glance at Mr. CROSBY'S ancestry may be included as an essential part of this biography. William W. CROSBY, father of Charles P., was born July 26, 1818 and was the son of Logan and Sally (KNOX) CROSBY. According to genealogical records the CROSBY family was transplanted to this country by three brothers who came from London, England, in 1660, one settling with the Massachusetts colony on Cape Cod, one at what is now Portland, Conn., and the third in the province of Maine. William W. and the subject of this sketch sprang from the Connecticut branch, and according to tradition, its founder, David, was a Baptist minister who took an active part in the Indian wars then being prosecuted along the banks of the Connecticut River. Coming down several generations, we find that Williams's grandfather moved from Connecticut to Massachusetts and settled in the town of Blandford. He had a family of ten sons and two daughters, and there is a record that he with eight of his sons were among the Americans surrendered by General HULL to the British in August, 1812. They were held prisoners at Detroit, where two of the sons died of the smallpox which broke out among the prisoners. William's grandfather, with his other sons, managed to escape from Detroit, and he settled in Batavia, N.Y., where he died. Logan CROSBY, father of William, was born in Blandford, Mass., May 8, 1789, and made that town his home for life. He served in the War of 1812-15. On March 2, 1815 he married Sally KNOX, who was born in Blandford, Feb. 6, 1790, and belonged to the celebrated KNOX family who claimed to be descendants of John KNOX the reformer. Because of religious persecution, they had fled from Scotland to the north of Ireland, whence they emigrated to America, settling in the town of Blandford, Mass., where a remnant of the family still remains. Mrs. Sally KNOX CROSBY died Mary 12, 1822 at the comparatively early age of 32 years. She left two children, Alonzo K. and William W., the former of whom died in La Crosse, Wis., Sept. 1, 1855. After her death Logan CROSBY was again married and by his second wife had two children, Sarah and Homer, the latter of whom was killed in an accident. Sarah, who married G. C. HIXON, a banker of La Crosse, died in 1856. Logan CROSBY died Sept. 29, 1875 at the age of 86 years. William W. CROSBY said at one time by way of reminiscence: "My father was a farmer in a small way and resided about four miles from the center of the town, which contained two stores, two taverns, a post office and a "meeting-house." Nothing but sickness was an excuse for not going to church on Sunday. We boys were conducted to the gallery by the "tything man," armed with a hickory whipstock about six feet long. Here we were seated and not allowed to look in any direction except at the preacher. If we made a move we were sure to get a rap over the head with the hickory. The older ones were seated in the square pews below, that were owned by them and deeded the same as their farms were. In those days we had to stand during prayer, which was from one-half to three-quarters of an hour long; then listen to a long sermon on the doctrine of election from "firstly" to fifteenthly." In imagination I can now see the old men and women, the young men and maidens, and children, afternoon service in winter, eating their frozen lunch, and trying to keep warm by whipping their hands and stamping their feet, so as to be able to endure the servere cold for the afternoon service. This was before stoves for houses and churches were invented. In winter they used to go to the meetings from the outskirts of the town with ox-sleds. In summer the husband mounted his horse, with a pillion strapped to his saddle, role to the horse-block, where he took up his wife and child behind him. The young man waited upon his sweetheart in similar manner." Speaking of himself Mr. CROSBY said: "My school advantages were limited to the district school, where the town appropriations were small and the qualifications of the teacher were reading, spelling, writing and arithmetic, and the wages for male teachers in winter were from ten to twelves dollars per month. I was called on to teach when I was but 16 years old. I informed the committee that I was too young and that I could not get a certificate, but "No" would not do; I must go forward and be examined." Mr. CROSBY intimates that the committee often did not know whether the answers given to their questions were right or wrong. At all events, he received a certificate and taught successfully for seven winters. He afterwards engaged in mercantile business, which he followed until the spring of 1854, when he moved west to La Crosse, Wis. and engaged in the lumber business. LaCrosse had then but 300 inhabitants, but he lived to see it grow to a city of 16,000. In fact it was organized as a city in 1856, at which time he was elected alderman, an office that he held for twelve years. He was first U.S. assessor, raised the second company of militia, called the Light Guards, that later enlisted for service in the Civil War and did serve until the end of that great struggle. William W. CROSBY was appointed major-general of militia by Governor RANDALL, Wilson COLWELL at at the same time being made captain of the Light Guards. Mr. CROSBY was married to Sarah M. WRIGHT, of Chester, Mass., on April 4, 1841. On August 15, 1855--the year after their arrival in La Crosse--Mrs. Sarah CROSBY was killed by lightning. On Sept. 8, 1856, Mr. CROSBY married for his second wife Mary PENNELL of Honeoye, N. Y. The children born of this married were: William Logan, born Oct. 27, 1857; Charles Pennell, Aug. 3, 1859; Homer, Feb 11, 1865; and Mary, April 30, 1867.

Transcribed by Susan Swanson, from pages 228-231 (with picture); History of Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas Counties Wisconsin; Compiled by George O. Jones, Norman S. McVean and Others; 1924, H. C. Cooper, Jr. & Co.

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