History: Taylor County, Wisconsin (1881)
----Source: 1881 History of Northern Wisconsin, pg. 1023-24
Hotel Gerard, Lady Smith, Wis., (printed in Germany #1247)
HISTORY OF TAYLOR COUNTY
The early history of this compact county of Northern Wisconsin and its latest history and present condition are not so far asunder as to require separate treatment. The county, although strong and vigorous, is not yet in its "teens," and it has thus far escaped the inflictions incident to youthful municipalities, which often breaks out in the form of bonded indebtedness for alleged internal or other improvements.
The act incorporating the county was approved March 4, 1875, by William R. Taylor, Governor of the State. It has for its neighbors Chippewa and Price on the north, Lincoln and Marathon on the east, Marathon and Clark on the south, and Chippewa on the west.
The county was taken from territory formerly belonging to Clark, Chippewa, Lincoln and Marathon. Ten townships were taken from Clark, ten from Chippewa, six from Lincoln and one from Marathon—twenty-seven townships making a fair sized county, forty-two miles long from east to west, and twenty-four from north to south. It is a regular parallelogram, with a single township wanting in the southeast corner, where it is impinged by Marathon County. Gov. Taylor, in accordance with the act creating the county, on the 25th of March, 1875, appointed the first officers of the county, as follows: County Judge, E. R. Prink; District Attorney, J. K. Parish; Sheriff, E. C. Thomas; Clerk Circuit Court, W. E. Lockerby; County Clerk, Alfred Dodge; Register of Deeds, W. B. Jeffers; Treasurer, F. A. Healy; Coroner. Enoch Honeywell; School Superintendent, 0. N. Lee. The first town organization was that of Medford, which is supposed to have been named in honor of a thriving town in Massachusetts, near Boston, noted for a specific manufacture. The first election was held on the 6th day of April, 1875, with the following result: Board of Supervisors—G. W. Adams, Chairman; Isaac Biscornet, C. C. Palmer. Treasurer, W. W. Fry; Clerk, A. E. Harder. Assessors—M. B. Peterson, Samuel Barry, Peter Liberty. Justices—G. S. Phelps, 0. N. Lee. Under the provisions of the law, the Town Board of Supervisors of Medford constituted the County Board, with full power until the election on the 3d of April, 187H. At the general election, on the 2d of November, 1875, the following persons were duly chosen as officers for Taylor County: District Attorney, J. K. Parish; Sheriff, Henry Grant; Clerk Circuit Court, T. G. Jeffers; Treasurer, F. A. Healy; Coroner, Rasmus Peterson; Superintendent of Schools. 0. N. Lee.
The acting County Board, on the 3d of September, 1875, by resolution, provided for the organization of three additional towns—Chelsea, Little Black and Westboro.
On the 3d day of April, 187t), at the regular town meeting, the following officers were duly elected: Supervisors—A. E. Harder, Chairman; Joseph Norton, William Seeger. County Judge, G. S. Phelps. Assessor or, Dennis Needhani. Justices—William Smith, Ch. W. Cleveland. Constables—Patrick Dolan, John Danielson, P. H. Mulalley.
The very first actual settler in the county was Alvin E. Harder, who located a homestead in Milford on the 5th of December, 1872, so that Mr. Harder is the pioneer of Taylor County.
The first lawyer was C. W. Cleveland, and S. B Hubbell the first physician.
The first frame building was the railroad depot, erected in September, 1873, by the Wisconsin Central Railroad Company. The next frame was by Silas Buswell, who built a hotel, and, having been appointed Postmaster, the place was also used as a post office.
When the county was organized, there was a large amount of Government land unsold in the county.
The first marriage in the county was that of Mr. George Matteson with Miss Mary Carr, on the 3d of April. 1875. Joseph Norton cast the first vote in Medford. He also was the first to pay a tax; was on the first jury, and it may be added that when the bank was established, he made the first deposit, and he is the first man in town in point of avoirdupois, and in all respects a leading citizen. At the first election in the county, there was but one polling-place, which was at Medford, and there were 197 votes cast.
Lots in Medford in 1875 were laid out 50x150, and sold by the railroad company and the mill company, who were owners, for $25 each.
William Seeger, it is said, was the first man to set an example of neatness, and clean up the rubbish about his house.
Legal business at first was not very brisk. Here is a justice's court record: Town of Medford, Taylor County.
A. vs. B., April 3, 1876. Summons duly served, and parties notified to appear at 10 o'clock, April, 9th.
At 11 o'clock neither parties appearing, whereupon the court went about its own business.
Attest: A. F. F. Jensen was the first settler in what is now Little Black, in 1873, and he lived in two different counties and in four different towns in four consecutive years on the same spot. At first it was Beaver, Clark County. In 1874, it was changed to Mayville, in 1875 to Taylor County, Medford, in 1876, to Little Black.
In 1875, the people of Medford donated the work of putting in a turn-table for the railroad company, to make this a terminus of a freight division, the company supplying the material.
The lumber shipped from Medford in 1875, was as follows:
Lumber 1,549,588 Shingles 11,071 Number of oars used 291 Amount paid for freight $12,130.36
In 1876, Charles McNaughton, C. H. Gearhart and C. Sidel were engaged in building town roads.
The first station agent was W. B. Jeffers, in 1873. In the fall of 1874, T. G. Jeffers came here, and went into the real estate and abstract business.
Joseph Norton came early and opened a place two miles east of the village, erected a cabin and did his own housework. When the County Board went out to lay out the road, he gave them a specimen of his New England cooking, which was eaten from the head of a barrel.
The Wisconsin Central Railroad runs through the county from south to north east of the center of the State, and all the villages are on the railroad, which is the point d'appui upon which the county was organized, and its business is supported. The company owned nearly every alternate section in eighteen townships in the county, and they are now rapidly selling, and the time is not very far distant when these lands will be in the hands of actual settlers, and Taylor County will be supporting a large population.
The villages, as you enter the county from the south, are Stetsonville, where there is a mill, owned by E. K. Buttrick, with a capacity of 30,000 lumber and the same of shingles per day. Then comes Medford, seven miles from the county line; six miles above this is Whittlesey, a simple side track, and a gravel pit, with a single resident, with homesteaders about there. Chelsea comes next, six miles from the northern boundary of the county, and Westboro two miles from the county line. Eight miles east of Medford is Mink Creek settlement, made in 1879. There are now fifteen families, mostly Bohemians. There is a good school, etc.
There are no large rivers in the county, but it is well supplied with small streams, many of them with a log-driving capacity and with mill privileges. There is no prairie in the whole county; it is solid forest, with pine, maple, elm, ash, oak, bass, butternut, cedar, hemlock, spruce, tamarack, balsam birch—white and yellow, etc. In the town of Chelsea, iron ore has been found, and is reported to be valuable.
Kaolin is also reported in a workable bed, several miles from Medford. It is said to be remarkably fine and free from grit.
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