Bio: Alexander, Hon. Walter (1849 - 1926)


Surnames: Alexander, McKinley, Taft, La Follette, McIndoe, Plumer, Clarke, Stewart, Sheridan, Dana, Strobridge, Law

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

Alexander, Hon. Walter (14 June 1849 - 18 Mar 1926)


Hon. Walter Alexander

The public life and fame of a citizen is the property of the people of the community in which he lives; they esteem the man whose achievements in life are the result of honest efforts, intelligently and perseveringly pursued.

The man of capacity, of integrity and probity of character is the man whom the people delight to honor and in whom they bestow their confidence. In all the qualities of mind and heart which compel esteem and the respect of the people generally, none stands higher in the good opinion of the people of Marathon County than Hon. Walter Alexander, who has proven himself a leader in affairs affecting to a high degree the welfare and prosperity of Wausau and Marathon County.

The political arena did not attract him to any considerable extent, he being content to serve his home city one or two terms as alderman, and discharging his duty as a citizen in quietly casting his vote, only going out of his usual course when in his judgment the interest of the whole country demanded more than usual activity from every man. But as a leader in business affairs he had no superior, and he proved himself as faithful in this field as in all other walks of life. The same integrity of purpose characterized him when chosen by his party to represent it in the arena of politics.

He was elected as a delegate to the national Republican convention in 1900 and chosen as one of the committee to deliver to President William McKinley the notification of his re-nomination to the presidency. But higher honors awaited him which were, however, not willingly granted, which were gained only by the force of his character, and in the reliance of the people of his (the tenth) congressional district in the rectitude of his own intentions, which made him the choice of his party as a delegate to the national Republican convention of 1908 for William H. Taft in opposition to the ambition of Sen. Robert M. La Follette, who contended with William H. Taft for the same place. When Mr. Alexander assumed this duty which was rather averse to his natural inclinations, submitting only to the urgent demands of friends whose friendship he valued highly, and agreeing with them in political sentiment, he was opposed by the whole strength of the political machinery of the state which the senator held in the hollow of his hand, but his election in spite of this handicap was the expression of the people in his personal honor and integrity, and their confidence in him. He was elected as the only Taft delegate in Wisconsin, which was an election by popular choice at open primaries, not in an indirect way picked in caucus by other delegates.

While the administration of William H. Taft has already passed into history, it is too early at this date to pass upon the merits or demerits of the same: but history written in coming years, free from the passions and the excitement of the recent contest, may give approval to some of the measures which came under the most hostile criticism of the present day, and met with the strongest opposition of contemporaries.

Among the men who are developing the dominant forces of this valley which will make it in not far distant time, the center of industry in the state, Walter Alexander stands in the front rank. His life has been one of unremitting activity, his early years full of toil, devoted to honorable pursuits, and guided by intelligence and experience; he was remarkably successful.

When fortune had bestowed her favors upon him, he remained the same unassuming, modest man he had been while still battling for success, simple in his manners and tastes, and did not use the means so earned for the gratification of idle desires or in pursuit of hollow pleasures, but employed them in founding, and assisted in founding useful enterprises which at the same time ensure generally to the welfare of the people of the Wisconsin Valley.

He had his training under his uncle, \\'alter D. Mclndoe, where he learned from personally taking part therein, the lumber business from the cutting down of the tree through all its stages to the putting the manufactured product on the market. There is one authentic incident in his life, which shows the metal there was in the boy when not yet of age. It occurred in the year 1870, when the Wausau boom had very little storage capacity. In that year there was an unusual large quantity of logs to be sawed at the three mills at Wausau, owned by Mclndoe, Plumer, and Clarke. The freshet came early, and logs were coming down fast, quicker than expected, filling up the boom and being pushed and pocked by the boom crew even up stream to fill every available nook and comer of the same. Millions were still above, which unless stopped from coming down and arriving, were liable to break the boom and pass by, to the great detriment of log owners and manufacturers, or because being mingled with logs destined for points below, Stevens Point and Grand Rapids, could not be held here in a jam, but must be passed on below, taking with them the logs intended to be manufactured at Wausau. In this emergency it became necessary to stop the drive at once. Stopping a drive means to call off the men who are keeping the logs afloat; they will not float many miles in a swift river like the Wisconsin with its many shoals and rapids, because the current in the center will wash them ashore, or onto the islands and bars where they ground, or into dead water sloughs. The largest drive, belonging to Walter D. Mclndoe and one belonging to John and Alexander Stewart, were still behind in the neighborhood of Grandfather Falls. This drive had to be stopped and quickly, too. There was no time for hesitation or vacillation; it was not the time to send an untried man with this important message; the trip could only be made on horseback, over soft sticky roads, over a territory nearly uninhabited, there being then not over a dozen farm clearings between Wausau and Merrill, and an unbroken wilderness from there to Grandfather Falls.

Walter Alexander was ordered by his uncle to go up there and stop the drive. It was late in the afternoon when he was told to go. He asked no questions; there was no time for parley. He lost no time in getting ready, but was ready. Saddling a horse he started immediately, riding on through the night in darkness to reach the driving crew at Grandfather Falls or thereabouts. He reached the crew in the morning before breakfast and stopped the drive. This may now seem to have been an easy performance. Let some one try to ride over such a rough road in the darkness of night only five or six miles, and he will change his mind, especially when it is remembered that the distance to be covered by Mr. Alexander between late in the afternoon and daylight next morning was thirty-six miles, made in the spring with the frost just out of the ground and every creek high, and to be forded. His experience with laboring men made him their friend; no employer of labor was ever held in higher esteem in the Wisconsin Valley because he always took an interest in his men.

His gift to the city of Wausau of "McIndoe Park" in memory of his uncle has been referred to and he has generously assisted philanthropic institutions: he has seen the city grow from a hamlet of less than 500 to a city of over 18.000, much of the growth of which is due to his public spirit and enterprise. He is at present officially connected with, or financially interested in more than twenty industrial concerns, in this state, in the south and west. Ever since the organization of the A. Stewart Lumber Company, for many years the largest lumber manufacturing concern in the Wisconsin valley, he has acted as secretary and treasurer for the same, but his business is not confined to the lumber industry alone.

He is president of the Wausau Paper Mill Company, vice president of the Marathon Paper Mills Company; president of the Marathon County Bank; vice president of the National German American Bank, and a director in the First National Bank of Milwaukee.

Mr. Alexander comes of good Scotch ancestry, being born in Glasgow, Scotland, on the 14th day of June, 1849; his parents were John Alexander and his wife Jane, a sister of W. D. Mclndoe. They immigrated to America in 1858 and settled in Portage County where the father, a farmer, engaged in agriculture, and died in Wisconsin in 1900 at the age of seventy-three years, surviving his wife by three years, she having died in 1897 at the age of seventy-two years. They were the parents of five sons and four daughters, of whom seven are still living. Of these children Catherine died unmarried; Anna, now deceased, was the wife of Thomas Blair Sheridan of Waupaca county; Walter was born next; Hugh, a son, lives at Wausau, Wis. ; Margaret, a daughter, is unmarried; Mclndoe Alexander, a son, resides in Owatonna, Minn., where he is engaged in lumber business; Taylor, a son, is a resident of Wausau, Wis.; John Alexander, a son, is in lumber business in Aurora, Ill., and Jean, a daughter, is the wife of F. G. Dana, of Milwaukee, Wis.

After the death of Walter D. Mclndoe in 1872, the business was continued by John and Alexander Stewart, Mr. Alexander becoming a partner three years afterwards.

Walter Alexander was but nine years of age when he came to this country with his parents and passed his early boyhood days at home with his parents at Buena Vista, Portage County, and with his uncle at Wausau, his home being really at the latter place, where he went to school. After finishing the course at Wausau which was then rather elementary, he spent some time at Ripon College from which institution he returned to Wausau to take a course of training in his uncle's saw mill and lumber business which gave him the education which made him what he became in after years.

He was married to Miss Sarah, a daughter of Cyrus C. Strobridge and Lydia, his wife, in 1874, which nuptials were the social event at the time, the groom being one of Wausau's most popular young men and the bride the most charming of the many handsome young ladies, distinguished alike for her personal attractions as for the goodness of heart and culture and refinement, and the many wishes for their future happiness were fully realized. The father of the bride, C. C. Strobridge, was one of the pioneers of Wausau and most respected citizens as a man of sterling integrity; he was for years engaged in the commercial and lumber business at Merrill and Wausau.

The union of Mr. and Mrs. Alexander is blessed with four children, namely: Walter D., who was married to Miss Esther Law, and who is engaged in lumber business in Bloomington, Ill; Judd a son, unmarried, who is associated with his father; Ruth, an unmarried daughter, at home and another son at home, Ben. Mrs. Walter Alexander is a very prominent member of several societies, and universally beloved for her benevolence and affiliations with charitable institutions and the unpretentiousness of her aid rendered in cases where it is needed. In her endeavors in this respect, she has the co-operation of her husband as in all her other charitable work. The members of the family are affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal Church.



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