"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.


Kinney, Norman Lafayette who enjoys the distinction of having been the first regular farmer in Vilas County, and is now engaged in house and land improvement, reaiding at Eagle River, was born in Barord, Province of Quebec, Canada, Just 23, 1857, son of Oliver and Sarah (BANFIELD) KINNEY. The father in his younger days had followed the logging industry in that state of Maine and was accustomed to handle ox teams. From Maine he went to Lower Canada, where he engaged in farming. Hearing of the gold discoveries in California in 1849, he at once set out for that distant territory, making Cape Horn passage on a sailing vessel, the voyage taking six months and 21 days, and on his arrival joined in the search for the precious metal. He continued it but a short time, however, for, being a religious man, he found himself unable to stand association with the rough and dissolute characters who swarmed to the mining camps from all parts of the world--many of them adventurers of the lowest type, whose loud-voiced profanity, loose lives, and disregard for the most elementary morals, or even for human life, repelled him, and he therefore took a job as cook for wages of $100 a month, and after saving $300 returned to his home in Canada, no better off financially but with a wealth of experience that made him more contented with his former lot. At this time he already had a family of 13 children, who, as well as his wife, were delighted to see him return safely home. This large family was subsequently increased by the birth of the subject of this sketch, making 14 children in all. Oliver KINNEY died in 1878 and his wife in 1888. Norman L. KINNEY had but limited opportunities for obtaining an education, but for a short time attended a rural school in his neighborhood. His parents were farmers and he remained with them until he was 19, at which time he was united in marriage to Alice MAY. Two children were born of this union: Ellsworth, now in Los Angeles, Calif., and Nettie, who is now Mrs. John PETY of Tacoma, Wash. After awhile Mr. KINNEY got tired of farming in Canada, and, leaving his family at thome, went to Grand Rapids, Mich., where he had a brother in the lumber business. There he took steps to improve his education, learning bookkeeping through home study and taking writing lessons at a commerical college in Grand Rapids. He then went north into the woods where the camp and sawmill of his brother were located and took charge of a crew of men in the logging department. He learned to scale logs in the woods and to scale the tally lumber at the mill. Having thus gained some practical experience in the lumber industry, he came to Wisconsin, and after working two or three months in Rhinelander, came to Eagle River and entered the employ of the T. J. SHERIDAN Co. as foreman in their mill, for one year superintending the work of taking logs from the river. He then built a boarding-house, which he conducted for two years, at the end of which time he sold out and took a homestead of 168 acres in the town of Eagle River, the place, however, being now in the town of Linccoln. There he built a small house, and the first year broke two acres of the land, but raised only 30 bushels of small potatoes. During the following winter he worked in a meat market at Eagle River and in the next spring got a cow and resumed the work of clearing his land. The first corn he raised was of the hard flint variety. This was the first land broken for farm purposes in Vilas County, and besides raising the first corn and building the first corn crib (which is still standing) he raised the first buckwheat in the county. In the second year of his agricultural experience he rented a quarter acres of land on the river bank and on it raised over 100 bushels of good marketable potatoes, besides 10 bushels of small ones. He continued, however, to live on his original farm, and in order to have a better residence he borrowed $200, with one hundred of which he bought a small house in Eagle River, paying the other hundred to August RADKE (still a resident here) to move it to his farm and set it up, uniting it with the building he had erected himself so as to form one dwelling-house, which proved sufficiently commodious. He also put up necessary out-buildings, and later erected one of the largest barns then in Vilas County, it measuring 30x65 feet, with 20-foot posts. When times were hard in the early days Mr. KINNEY would buy stock and graze them on the wild lands on his farm and in the vicinity and in the fall would kill them and peddle the meat in Eagle River and surrounding lumber camps. For his place of slaughter he made a windlass, cutting the wheel from a large pine log, and near the river bank he set it up, using two crotched trees for the uprights, with the wheel suspended between them; though of cruide construction it answered the purpose. Mr. KINNEY lived on his farm until 1910, when he practically gave it to his son, and in the following year he made a visit to his old home in Canada. On his return to Eagle River he began buying residence property and farm lands, remodeling, painting and otherwise improving the houses and renting them. He made a success of this line of enterprise and now owns eight houses in Eagle River, also 20 acres of tillable land within the village limits. In addition to this he has 40 acres of land in the town of Lincoln and 160 acres in the town of Conover, and to a small extent he carries on a general real estate business. He was the first man in Vilas County to raise alfalfa, and is now cultivating 14 acres of it, which he has found profitable. Since early manhood he has been an enthusiastic hunter, trapper and fisherman, and every fall finds him with his gun on his shoulder tramping the woods in quest of game, some of which he never fails to bring home. This he disposes of, realizing from $150 to $200 dollars every fall. He is a member of the Congregational Church and for ten years was one of its trustees.

Transcribed by Susan Swanson, from pages 516-518; History of Lincoln, Oneida and Vilas Counties Wisconsin; Compiled by George O. Jones, Norman S. McVean and Others; H.C. Cooper Jr. & Co, 1924

You are our    [an error occurred while processing this directive]    Visitor --Thanks for Stopping By.

© Copyright: All files on this website are protected by the US Copyright Law, Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998, they are not to be copied or altered in any way for commercial use. Individuals may copy the information for their personal use. WIGenWeb Oneida and Vilas County Coordinator Judy Groh.