"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.
Henry, Guy G. proprietor of the Riverside Silver Fox Farm near Eagle River in Vilas County, was born in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, July 10, 1882. He graduated from the Cochranton, Pa., High School with the class of 1899 and from the Grove City Collage at Grove City, Pa., with the class of 1904, after which he spent six months in study at the Huron Roads Medical College. Deciding, however, to take up some other line of endeavor, he discontinued his medical studies at the end of that time and engaged in railroad work, entering the general offices of the Bessemer & Lake Erie lines at Greenville, Pa. Three months later he went on the road as fireman for the same company, and after working in this capacity for four years he was promoted to the position of engineer in 1908; he held rights as an engineer with this road until 1922, though after running an engine for three years he was appointed general chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive engineers and was subsequently occupied with the duties of this responsible office. His headquarters were at Greenville, Pa., until 1917, at which time the railroads were taken over by the government for the period of the war emergency and his offices were removed to Washington, D.C. He resigned his office when the roads were relinquished by the government after the close of the war, and he was ever since devoted himself exclusively to the silver fox industry, in which he has become interested in 1916, buying at that time a one-third interest in a large silver fox ranch on Prince Edward Island. He came to Vilas County on May 30, 1921; here he first built the Pioneer Silver Fox Farm, on Pioneer Lake near Conover, but finding this locating too isolated, he purchased 16 acres of pine timber land on the banks of the Wisconsin river near Eagle River in August, 1922, and on this site he has built up an establishment which is one of the show places of northern Wisconsin. In August, 1923, he went to Alaska and brought back 23 pairs of Alaskan silver foxes and eight pairs of blue foxes, these animals coming from Seldovia, Alaska. Today Mr. HENRY has 81 pairs of the finest-bred animals obtainable. All his equipment and methods are along the most recently developed and proven lines. The enclosure for each paid of foxes is built in octagonal shape and contains 724 feet of floor space, and each of these is accompanied by a "dog pen" 12 feet square. A "Henry" sanitary kennel is being installed in each octagonal pen; this kennel, invented by Mr. HENRY himself and manufactured and sold by him, has proven to be a wonderful improvement over anything of its kind previously offered, and it is rapidly being installed by all the leading fox raisers in Wisconsin and other states; the kennel duplicates all the conditions selected by the wild mother fox for denning, including warmth, dryness, seclusion, etc., and its success has been little less than sensational. Around all the pends at Mr. HENRY'S farm there is an eightfoot guard fence built of boards and posts with screen protection at top and bottom; there is a space of 30 feet on all four sides between the pens and the guard fence; the purpose of this guard fence is to prevent the escape of any fox that might work its way out of the inner enclosures. The only point of access from the outside to the space inside the guard fence is by way of the office building. This building is three stories high and is 18x30 feet in dimensions, with full basement. Visitors in passing through this building to the enclosures traverse the display room, where many diffent varieties of furs are on show and a great deal may be learned regarding this interesting industry. On the second floor of this building are the general manager's offices, which are finished in mahogany, and the third floor consists of the general office, the private office of the sales manager, and the watch tower. the main offices are equipped with all the most modern office fixtures, including an automatic typewriter. Mr. HENRY at this writing is just completing a $20,000 dwelling, built after the Swift and Gillette plan. Among the other buildings on the property may be mentioned a large house where meats and other food for the foxes are prepared; this building contains large compartments for the storing of meat which is cooled by electric refrigerating machinery. All the buildings, including Mr. HENRY'S residence, will be heated by a steam vapor plant when plans now under way are completed. The approach to the property is very attractive; over the entrance there is a large arch with the name in raised gilt letters; the driveway leading to the grounds branches off from Federal Highway No. 70 and is 400 feet long, cement curbed and filled with gravel. There is also a driveway around the entire ranch, and the whole property is truly a model establishment. It is precisely the sort of place, however, that one knowing Mr. HENRY would expect him to build up, for its every detail is typical of his thorough-going methods and energetic personality. The cost of construction and development was approximately $75,000. Besides owning this splendid property Mr. HENRY is interest in the Midwest and Gulf Oil Co. of Tulsa, Okla., the United States Steel Corporation of New York City, the Westinghouse Electric Co. of Pittsburg, Pa., and the Shenanago Tire and Rubber Co. of Greenville, Pa.; he also owns a one-third interest in the Willow Hill Silver Fox Ranch at Summerside, Prince Edward Island. He is affiliated fraternally with the B. P. O. E., belonging to their Greenville Lodge No. 145 at Greenville, Pa., and he is a member of Division No. 282 of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers at Greenville, Pa. Mr. HENRY was marred at Erie, Pa., May 24, 1907, to Lena SALISBURY of that city. Mr. and Mrs. HENRY have three children: Clara L., born Nov. 16, 1908; Clarence C., born July 30, 1910, and Paul Gordon, born Oct. 2, 1921. The family is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church.
An industry which is rapidly gaining great prominence and importance in this region is the raising of foxes. No better treatment can be given this subject than to quote herewith from an article prepared by Guy G. HENRY, of Eagle River, one of the most prominent men engaged in this industry, which article was published in the May 23, 1923, edition of the Vilas County News: "The fact that Nature will preserve her more perfect species, again all handicaps, is exemplified in the case of the silver black fox. This animal at one time roamed the forests of America in considerable numbers, and constituted a true species, a superior in size, coloring and quality of fur to the common red fox of that day and this. Indeed, it was the wondrous beauty of the silver black fox fur that became the principle obstacle of its existence, for we may suppose that even primitive man recognized the superior beauty of this pelt. Consequently, the animal was diligently hunted to the point of extinction as a separate and distinct species.
"It was at this point apparaently that Nature intervened and by causing the silver black to mate with his humbler cousin of the red coat prevented the breed being entirely wiped out. The strain has persisted through unknown generations and to this day in the wild state silver black whelps are found in litters of the red fox.
"The earliest fur traders in America knew and valued above all others the pelt of this wonderful little animal. Trappers and hunters were ever keen to obtain even a single specimen. To do so gave a mark of distinction. A single black pelt would give him sufficient credit at the fur post to render work unnecessary for many months thereafter. Little wonder, then, that the taking of silver black fox pelts was looked upon in that circumscribed world as the event of a lifetime.
"Some 35 years ago, in Prince Edward Island, a trapper discovered a den containing silver black whelps. He conceived the idea of raising and mating these and thereby insuring himself a steady income from the sale of pelts. With two of his closest friends he determined to keep the secret, even from members of their immediate families. They intended to use thie secret resource for supplying the pelt market, and did not realize the fact that by giving the news to the world they would reap a much greater reward through the sale of the animals for breeding purposes.
"The secret finally leaded out. This one was disclosed by the sudden abnormal prosperity of the three friends. The drafts received from the London fur brokers became too large to be handled by the local banker, a fact which aroused a lively curiosity. their struggle to guard their hidden source of wealth from possible competitors makes a story by itself, of long journeys to distant points to mail small packets of furs, and various wily strategems to defeat the curiosity and suspicion of their native community. Finally, the knowledge was shared and three backwoodsmen became millionaires, fathers of a new industry. The demand for foxes as breeders became acute. Prices went from $5,000 to as high as $40,000 for one pair of breeding animals.
"These were boom days when owners of one pair of foxes could form a company, capitalizing the pair for $200,000 or more and have the stock oversubscribed in a few hours. Many such companies were launched, some survived, but others smashed when the prices suddenly declined.
"Following the break of the original combine the business of breeding grew steadily on Prince Edward Island. At present there are more than 300 ranches in the province. Persons employed numbered about 9,000. During 1921 pelts sold for the aggregate sum of $1,240,000. This is in addition to the value of the animals sold for breeding stock for which the figures are not available. the industry spread until "fox ranching" exists in nearly all the provinces of Canada, and in the United States is found in practically every state north of the Mason Dixon Line.
"The fox-breeding industry at the present time is at the point of becoming of great general interest rather than being confined to localities. Closer co-ordination of the larger producing ranches in the opening of new producing points will within the next few years so increase the producing facilities that the enormous demand for these pelts can be met from the yearly increase without the danger of depleting the breeding stock. At the present time there are not enough ranchbred foxes in the country to supply a fraction of one year's demand. Raw pelts of high grade sell in the fur auctions at from $500 to $600 each, with extra fine specimens commanding still higher prices, and high-grade stock can be purchased at approximately $2,000 a pair.
"The most significant angle of the story of the rise of fox farming to the position of a profitable industry of national scope is that it heralds the return to this country of one of America's chief sources of wealth, furs. Furs were wealth. Furs were money. Furs were credit. Furs were commerce. But ruthless exploitation combined with the rapid settlement of the country practically eliminated the wild fur bearer, and now comes a new generation to foster and restore another of America's natural resources.
"Instead of the picturesque frontiersman in fringed buckskin whose pitfall, trap and gun, respected neither time nor season, but killed when opportunity offered, we now have mating on scientific lines, trained veterinarians and attendants, feeding schedules, stud books, and careful registration. Instead of pelts taken during mating season or when a denned litter of sucklings were sacrificed with the death of the parent animals we now have furs taken at the very prime condition from animals killed quickly and painlessly.
"The ranch fox is a likeable little chap. His conduct of family affairs and social relationships might well serve an example to the human family. Added to the ordinary fox psychology developed in wild environment, the ranch-bred animal has a new set of impulses resulting from association with man. He still distrusts and fears mankind in general but is quick to respond to care and attention from the individual.
"Foxes are mated in pairs. Mating usually endures for the lifetime of the animals. Each pair occupies a space about 30 feet square inclosed by a special woven wire fence. The inclosure has a woven wire partition, shutting off about one-third the area of the pen when occasion demands. A concrete foundation for the pen walls is sunk to about 30 inches below the ground to circumvent the fox's desire to dig himself out. Where the soil demands, a piece of woven wire about 18 inches wide is laid flat below the surface of the pen floor just inside the walls as an added precaution. The fox starts operations close to the obstruction. His engineering does not quite run to starting a few feet back.
"The mating season is in January, and 51 days later the young are born. During this time the fox and his mate, particularly the latter, exhibit those traits of character which in human beings are placed under the head of temperament. Tempers are short, and trifling annoyances become causes of prolonged irritableness, while fear may easily become panic. Visitors are excluded from January until early summer.
"As their main residence, the pair select the largest den. This is a two-roomed affair, the inner sleeping chamber being double-welled with a packing of sawdust or ground cork between the wals to insure the litter against cold. The outer or living room as a single wall only but is weather-tight, as are all the dens. Some ingenuity is required to devise ingress and exit. The fox idea requires that the real entrance to his living quarters be placed as far as possible from the dwelling itself and with no apparent relationship between the front door and the dwelling. To humor this idiosyncrasy, ranches have reproduced as nearly as possible the hollow log which the wild fox finds so convenient for disguising the entrance to his den.
"Once settled, the fox and vixen find it ample for a home. The other two dens are used only for lounging. Near the time of maternity, the nerviousness and anxiety of the parents is evidenced by quarrels of high frequency and tension. It is frequently necessary to isolate for fox. He is driven into the partitioned-off space. All openings are closed and father fox spends several weeks of enforced bachelorhood. The vixen left alone finds solitude more or less sedative. She is constantly under observation by the caretaker guardian in the watch tower, and when she emerges from the den exhibiting nervous excitement he knows that a new family has arrived. He knows, too, just what will serve to calm her excitement and as quickly as possible he gets a live chicken or pigeon, wrings its neck and tosses it to the vixen. The rending of warm fresh affords an outlet for the vixen's irritableness and quiets the nervous condition, so that she can give attention to the puppies. In a few days the closed runways are opened and the fox family circle restored. From then on the fox and vixen find their time fully and joyfully occupied.
"After the birth of the litter the need for the third den become apparent. As soon as possible the caretaker lifts the top of the large den to count the litter and to put the den in a sanitary condition. this act arouses the suspicion of the vixen. She seems to feel that the entire world as been let in on the secret of the location of her wonderful new family and decides to hide them anew. The third den offers a convenient hiding place. Without it, the vixen would undoubtedly attempt to dig out a den for hiding her puppies which might result in the death of some from exposure.
"Foxes are fed chiefly with cereals and milk, the old ones receiving meat twice daily. The meat, chiefly beef, with occasional allowances of poultry, is fed clean and sweet though mostly a little tough, and at no time are scraps and remnants allowed to remain about the pen. The eating and drinking vessels for the foxes are kept immaculately clean and every precaution taken to keep the living quarters sanitary. The silver black will eat almost anything and thrive under any conditions but modern ranchers whose stock consists of pure bred animals take every precaution."
Transcribed by Susan Swanson, from pages 408-411 (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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