Bio: McIndoe, Hon. Walter D. (1819 - 1872)


Surnames: McIndoe, Stevens, Moore, Shuter, Welsh, Durkee, Holton, Randall, Hanchett, Swope, Lord, Cooper, Tracey, Poor, Millard, Alexander

----Source: History of Marathon County Wisconsin and Representative Citizens, by Louis Marchetti, 1913.

McIndoe, Hon. Walter D. (30 March 1819 - 22 August 1872)


Walter D. McIndoe

Among the pioneers of Marathon county who deserve to be held in grateful remembrance, Hon. Walter D. McIndoe holds easily first rank. Others like George Stevens and James L. Moore had come a few years earlier, but with no intention to stay; they were lured to the county by the sight of the pine, from which in their estimation, they would gather a fortune, after which they would seek a more congenial climate and country. Their work was only temporary and left no impression and was not intended to leave an impression on the future growth of the country.

It was different with Walter D. McIndoe. He looked to the future and came here with the intention to make Wausau his permanent home. He was married but a short time when he came to Wausau in 1847, and brought with him his young wife and established her in a household and home which she graced during his long and busy life and where she closed his eyes on the 22d day of August, 1872.

W. D. McIndoe was born in Scotland on the 30th day of March, 1819; he received a good common school education, came to the United States when only fifteen years old, engaging as a clerk in a mercantile house in the city of New York, later in Charleston, S. C, and lastly in St. Louis, Mo., where he eventually commenced business on his own account. Hon. John C. Clark mentioned a loan made to James L. Moore of $500 in 1845 as the cause of his first visit to Wausau in 1846 and how he accepted lumber in payment, which was his first venture in the lumber business. But there were others too who had advanced money and took lumber in pay without giving a thought to the possibilities of the new county, which only needed the means of communication with the outside world to make it grow and become a manufacturing and agricultural region, making homes for thousands of men. The absence of all reasonable comforts at the time, the hardships unavoidable with pioneer life in the pine forests had no terror for the soul of W. D. McIndoe, but with reliance in his own strength and making the best use of his intellectual endowments, he undertook the great work of laying the foundation for the future growth and prosperity of the city and county. He had hardly started in the manufacture of lumber in the small way in which it was then carried on, when the question of the adoption of the state constitution agitated the people and he at once threw himself as a leader, life and soul on the side in favor of statehood. The constitution having been adopted and Wisconsin admitted as a state, he offered himself as a candidate for member of assembly for Portage county, knowing that there was work for him cut out in the Legislature, without which this territory would continue to languish and its future growth be retarded an indefinite time.

He was a Whig and the majority of voters in Portage County adhered to the Democratic Party: but that was not the worst handicap in the contest. The assembly district included Portage City, Grand Rapids, Plover, then the county seat of Portage County, and Stevens Point, all the numerous mills south of the present territory of Marathon county, with all the influence of local pride and jealousy against him. In this unequal contest, his own splendid personality was his strongest support. Physically he was a man who would attract favorable attention anywhere. Nearly six feet tall, broad shouldered and well-proportioned, with a massive head covered with bushy brown hair and wide forehead, clear and sparkling eyes and kindly face, he was the very picture of strong rugged health and manhood. He would be easily selected out of a hundred or more, as a leader of men. He was elected and although a Whig in the minority party in he assembly, his general sound views, his practical information as to the needs of the new state, his tact and natural courtesy made him a prominent member. He knew that there was no hope for better prospect or improvements for his home people, so long as they were attached politically to Portage County, and he therefore urged the creation of a new county called Marathon, to the end that the interest of the up-river settlements could be united in one county where no conflicting interest hampered their progress. He was successful, and by this act gave the people of Marathon County the opportunity of working out their own salvation. Having named Wausau as the county seat, he, with his partner, Charles Shuter, planned and platted the village of Wausau, and helped to organize the county and town government. He was then already carrying on a large business and although a member of the assembly and business man, he did not think it below his dignity to help out the officers wherever he could with advice, and by accepting the office of deputy town and county clerk at a mere nominal compensation.

He was a fine penman and the minutes of the proceedings of the board kept by him are a model of accuracy and penmanship, when the town treasurer in 1851 had absconded with all the money collected by him for taxes (it was not much in those days, several hundred dollars) he was chosen town treasurer, and when later John R. Welsh was elected county treasurer and failed to qualify or resigned, the county board elected him county treasurer at a special meeting on January 3, 1852. He was again elected member of the assembly in 1854, the year the Republican Party was first organized in this state. There was a United States senator to be elected, and after a long struggle in caucus, Charles Durkee received the nomination as the candidate of the Republican Party. Walter D. McIndoe had made his canvass as a Whig as in the former contest, with which party he had associated since attaining his majority, and this choice was decidedly distasteful to him as well as to other members of the same party, because the election of Charles Durkee meant the extinction of the Whig party in the state of Wisconsin. After several days of worry and indecision between his own predilection and what seemed to be a duty to the state, Walter D. McIndoe finally yielded, and with his friends cast his vote for Charles Durkee, securing his election. From that time on he identified himself firmly with the Republican Party, and until his death was an active, influential and consistent member of that party. In 1857 he was a candidate for the nomination for governor but the contest between him and the Hon. E. D. Holton ended after a protracted struggle in the nomination of a new man, Hon. A. W. Randall.

On the death of Hon. Luther Hanchett, member of Congress, he was elected on the 30th day of December, 1862, to fill the unexpired term, and re-elected again twice, serving two and one-half terms in the House of Representatives at Washington. During his term he was chairman of the Committee on Revolutionary Pensions, and a member on the Committee on Indian Affairs. In 1856 he was chosen as an elector for his congressional district, and in 1860 he was an elector at large for the state of Wisconsin, which gave its electoral vote to Abraham Lincoln.

While in Congress, great grants of land were given away to contemplated railroads to open up the most western and northern parts of the United States, and Walter D. Mclndoe secured a grant of land for a railroad from Doty's Island, Fond du Lac, and Portage City to Ashland. He did not selfishly mention Wausau as a point to be touched on, for it was apparent to him as to every one else, that Wausau, being nearly on an air line between the starting and the culmination point, could not be missed, to say nothing of Wausau being the most central and one of the largest business places in the Wisconsin valley. This grant lay dormant for some years, during which time the population of Wausau and Marathon County and the business had grown immensely. When the railroad was being built, the Wisconsin Central, with an unbelievable blindness to its own interest, built the road west from Stevens Point in a wholly unsettled and wild country, leaving Wausau forty miles east of the road, instead of coming directly to Wausau. If the Central railroad had come to Wausau in 1872 as its own interest demanded, it would have secured the immense lumber freight which afterwards came to the Wisconsin Valley Railroad. In running the railroad west from Stevens Point, instead of following the valley of the river, it runs on the high ridge dividing the waters of the Wisconsin and Chippewa and Black rivers. Walter D. Mclndoe also secured a grant of land to Marathon County to build and open a wagon road from Wausau to Lake View Desert on the state boundary line. The grant of land was for each alternate section on each side of the road, which would have given the county about 200 sections of the best pine lands in the world. Furthermore at his urgency, the state donated some $1,500 to survey and locate the road. The county supervisors frittered away the money in survey and locations, and this magnificent grant was lost to the county through the inability of the county board or rather incapability to make proper use of their powers to get the money for opening the road, and because of the still existing distrust in the permanency and great future of this country.

Walter D. Mclndoe was a noble, large-hearted man; he loved his adopted country and devoted his best endeavors to its service. It was his greatest pride to cast his electoral vote for Abraham Lincoln, and to have supported his administration during the trying time of the Civil war to the best of his ability. After his return from Congress, he served as provost-marshal until the close of the war, an embarrassing office, often demanding energetic action under perplexing difficulties. During his long absence from home, giving his time to national affairs, his business missed his guiding hand, and on his return his own affairs had become deranged. Uncomplainingly and manfully he set to work to recoup his losses, but the times were not yet propitious and the seed so generously sown by him had not yet time to bear the golden fruit, and he was called away from his field of labor before the harvest was ripe. At his death he left his widow no more than a fairly moderate competency, but the memory of his kind and patriotic acts still lives in the heart of all his contemporaries. He was a patriotic union man proving it not only by words, but acts. He had lost his right hand at the hand edger in the mill which incapacitated him for field service, but he rendered the government other efficient service.

When Leander Swope with Prest. Lord came down from Pine River to enlist and was joined at Wausau by John Cooper, Charles Tracey, Alfonse Poor, and Burton Millard, all ready to enlist; he furnished all of them the means of transportation to Berlin by stage, where they enlisted in May, 1861, the first men to leave the pinery for southern battle fields.

His esteemed widow, a daughter of fair Virginia, was among the first white women that came to Wausau a fine type of true, noble, dignified American womanhood ; she shared the hardships of her husband and gloried in his successes. Time dealt gently with her, and she died on the 12th day of March, 1901, universally beloved and respected. A nephew, Hon. Walter Alexander, after the death of the widow purchased the homestead from the heirs and legatees, donating it to the city of Wausau, as "Mclndoe Park." It is located in the very center of the city, and gives a fine setting to the public library, which stands thereon.



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