Town of Day, 101 years
Down through history, pp. 6-10
And the public was the loser. During the years before 1870, travel to Marathon County was in two forms. The first was the stage lines, serviced by prairie schooner type wagons, from the settlements in the south and east. The second was the occasional river steamer, or the private boats and canoes that traveled the streams. The stage lines made regular runs from Milwaukee, through the Fox river Valley to Plover, Grand Rapids, (Wisconsin Rapids) New Lisbon, Mosinee, and finally Wausau. In 1850 a post office was established in Wausau. These stage lines brought freight, passengers and mail. In 1858 a regular daily stage traveled between Stevens Point and Wausau, as the city was named when Marathon became a county. There were, however, entire sections of Marathon County that were uninhabited by permanent settlers, principally in the areas away from the Wisconsin River. Mostly, the land was unsurveyed and it was not until 1862 when the Homestead Act was passed, that the federal government made provisions to pass the lands in their domain to the public. Most of the settlers in this land were Americans, people from the east, veterans weary of the Civil War, and southern Wisconsinites who felt they needed a new start, and more room. Unfortunately, especially for people from outside the state, they had little experience in buying farm land in Wisconsin. Seeing an ad in an eastern newspaper that showed a platt map of a town with a navigable river, stores, churches, and a school, people bought land, spending their entire savings, often, leaving only enough for the fare to get to Mosinee. Imagine their feelings as they arrived at the end of the stage line. A few inquiries made it clear that there were no roads to get to the land. The town they had seen on paper was just that, a paper town, existing only in dreams of the people who had bought the land to sell. The navigable stream was only navigable by canoe, if they could find an Indian willing to take them. Often, those who could, gave up in disgust and went back. Others had little choice but to hire a canoe, or walk, cutting out a trail for themselves in the wilderness. One poor fellow, a tailor by trade, decided that he wanted to keep a few cows, and that he would need some land outside of town for that. So he decided to buy land eight miles east of "town". Nor did they have the experience to know what was needed to survive in the wilderness they found in Wisconsin. The land was covered with dense forest, and farming could only be done when the trees were cleared. Another family arriving at Mosinee found that the only way to get from there to the land they had purchased was to walk, no easy task for the women and children. Luckily, they found a shanty on their property, probably the work of a logger. With their last cash, the settler, then returned to what he expected was a town. He found a settler who was willing to sell him nine bushels of dried peas. And this they lived on for the entire winter. Although game was plentiful, they did not have the money to buy a gun. Clearing the land was painfully slow, because the farmer had to work out for part of the time in order to earn a small amount of cash or perhaps a cow, in order to survive. In 1871 the Wisconsin Central Railroad was organized. They consolidated several earlier lines, and constructed the first railway to cross from Menasha, through Stevens 10 Point to Ashland. This qualified the company for 837,000 acres of government land in alternate sections along the railbed. Gardner Colby, a Boston capitalist, put $9,000,000 into the construction, while its first president was Edwin H. Abbot. Later this became part of the Soo Line. It was these same lines that caused some towns to grow. Landowners, realizing that the value of their lands would increase with the railroads, bribed, tricked and cheated to get the railroads to locate in their settlements. When the railroad came to Wausau, businessmen, remembering the plank road that was unfinished, said they would put up $25,000 to finance the railroad, but only if the track did not go through Stevens Point. Thus, the railroad was built from Junction City. Towns in Marathon County that were built as a direct result of the location of the railroad in 1871 and 1872 were Spencer, Brighton, Hull, and Holeton. As soon as the trail was cut, and the line surveyed, the railroad invited settlers to buy the land, but still settlement was slow. Under the Homestead Act, settlers were required to live on the land they obtained from the government, and few were willing to risk that. Those that did settle, took up land right along the right of way. Even with the railroad, freight costs were high, and provisions that could be purchased were expensive. The lands owned by the railroads were extensive, and the budding communities hoped to obtain some revenue from taxes. But the railroads obtained exemptions from the state, and the money did not come in, so the settlers had to pay heavy taxes to obtain the services they needed. But eventually, all the land along the railroads were purchased by private individuals. And people had to move away from the railroads, building roads, so that eventually the entire area was settled. It was a slow process, the settling of Marathon County. Sources: Austin, Russell H., The Wisconsin Story, The Building of the Vanguard State Journal Company, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.,c1943 Marchetti, Louis., History of Marathon County, WI and Representative Citizens. Richmond-Arnold Publishing Co., Chicago, Illinois c1913 Rosholt, Malcolm, Our County, Our Story, Portage County, Wisconsin. Worzella Publishing Co., Stevens Point, Wisconsin c1957 Straub, A. G., The History of Marathon, Wisconsin, 1858-1957, Marathon Times, Marathon, Wisconsin 1957. June 28, 1918, SJ: C.N. Hansen and Mrs. F.I. Nelsen of Altia, Iowa who were called to Rozellville by the death of their brother P.H. Hansen, returned to their homes Monday. Aug. 20 1953 SJ: Jerry Nikolay, member of the Willing Worker's 4-H club received several ribbons for his exhibits at the Wausau fair.
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