In 1881 the village was
platted, the survey being made by J. A. Dupre.
The first school was held in the small building of one room, erected in 1883 at
the location of the present Woodrow Wall residence on Front Street. The present
residence consists of the original building, with improvements and slight
additions. The first teacher was Lucinda Âme. In 1890, the present brick
structure was built, on Division Street, the land having been donated by Mr. W.
S. Tufts. This structure contained four original rooms.
By 1890 the Tufts store was one of the largest in the county. Mr. W. C. Tufts,
son of W. S. Tufts was appointed the first postmaster, the post office being
located in the store. The Withee post office was the end of the stage line
running from Neillsville through Greenwood and Longwood to Withee. It was in the
sane year that another general store was built by Mr. Charles Funk,
approximately the present site of the Altenburg Auto Co. A blacksmith shop was
also constructed at the north side of the tracks which is now Division Street.
By this time the village also had a large lumber yard. Withee was the shipping
point for the D. J. Spaulding Mills located on the Popple River, the present
site of Owen.
In 1894 Mr. John W. Stockholm started a Sunday School here in Withee and also at
Owen’s Mill, now known as the City of Owen. The meetings were held at the School
or occasionally at the homes. Then, in 1897 Mr. Stockholm invited the Rev. John
William to preach, holding the meetings at the School House. This eventually led
to the organization of the Congregational Church, December 17, 1900. February
21, 1901, the first officers were elected and incorporation papers were signed.
May 17 and 18, 1902 the first Congregational Church building was dedicated. This
sane structure serves as the Methodist Church today.
Foresight on the part of a few of these pioneer settlers, under the leadership
of W. S Tufts, revealed to them that the timber would one day be gone, and that
the area had very fine agricultural land. Therefore, they were looking for some
way to get settlers to develop the cut-over lands into farms, and through
friends in Milwaukee, Wis., and Chicago, Ill., Mr. Tufts contracted an
immigration agent, who started the Danish people, then coming in from Europe, to
establish farms in the Withee area. By 1893 and 189k there was quite a movement
to the area by these Danish people. (See Dames in Withee)
In 1892 the J. S. Owen Lumber Co. bought the Spaulding Mill and moved it to
Owen. This started the development of the Owen community. From that period and
continuing to the turn of the Century and early 1900’s, employment in this area
consisted for the most part of the settlers working at the John S. Owen Lumber
Co., and the Paulson Saw Mill in Withee, one of the first saw-mills in the area.
With the growth of the agricultural area, Mr. Ben Krom came to Withee as one of
the first livestock dealers.
It was in 1894 that the first professional couple offered their services to this
area. They were Mr. and Mrs. T. H. Barber. Mrs. Barber became the first teacher
in Owen, and Mr. Barber was one of the early principals of the Withee School
system and also taught at Frenchtown, Curtiss and Longwood. Mrs. Barber retired
from teaching in 1911 and was awarded one of the first teacher’s pensions in the
State of Wisconsin. A few years after their arrival, they built a large house on
Second Street, one of the first permanent residences to be constructed in the
village which still remains in its original exterior structure and which is the
only residence in the Village which has always been occupied by descendants of
the original owner. The present occupants are Mrs. Herman Bartholomay (May
Barber) and her daughter, Flora.
As far as it can be determined, there are only two other residences remaining
from that period, the one mentioned previously, on Front Street, now occupied by
the W. Walls, and the residence on Division Street, now owned by Mr. John Blunk,
Jr., occupied presently by the Leahy family.
The turn of the Century found three hotels in town, the Douphner House, just
north of the Depot, the Commercial, south of the Depot and the Sturgeon Hotel
and livery barn, located on the present site of the State Bank of Withee. There
were in those days: a drug store on its present site; two barber shops; a shoe
store; five general stores; a bakers; two creamers; a cant hook stock and broom
handle factory; and two mills. Mr. Paul Paulson ran one mill just west of the
Owen corner, in which a light plant was in- stalled about 1906—07. Withee for
many years received its electric power from the John S. Owen Lumber Co., and in
the 1920’s the Northern States Power Co. Started to supply the power.
Early in 1901 steps were taken for the incorporation of the village, the survey
being made March 4th by C. S. Stockwell, and a census taken March 8th, showing a
population of 30k. The application made March 9th was signed by: John
Christensen, P. H. Hansen, Joe Krom, W. C Tufts, C. L. Westergaard, O. C.
Jensen, D. Conley, J. W. Davidson, W. T. Nielsen, Hans Frederiken, R. Johnson,
Chris Jensen, Alex LaBarge, Mrs. L. Moody, C. A. Brown, Louis Thibert, C. W.
Funk, Prime LaBarge, Charles Kuehl, Paul A. Paulson, C. H. Senn, T. H. Barber
and W. H. Smith. The petition was granted April 27th of the sane year, and the
vote of the inhabitants being in favor of the proposition, the village
incorporated shortly after. The first president was C. W. Funk and the first
clerk was W. F. Nielsen.
It was October 15, 1902 when the State Bank of Withee was incorporated, the
first officers being: A. R. Owen, president; C. S. Nielsen, Vice President; W.
C. Tufts, Cashier. In 1903-Ok the first brick bank building was erected, the
building on Division Street which is now used as a public library. The building
which now serves as the Bank was constructed in 1924. Following Mr. Tufts as
Cashier, was Mr.
C. H. Beilfuss, then Miss Natalie Scherf, and the present Cashier is Mr. Leon
Bruchert. Miss Scherf has