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Colby, Wisconsin centennial
(1873-1973)

[Foreword] Foreword,   p. 4


Page 4

___             ~-~-- -
J, -'-I -~
FOREWORD ...
We have seen a tiny hamlet in the wilderness grow into a
substantial Midget City, and a heavy almost unending forest
give way under the hands of hardy pioneers, and develop into
a fine farming community.
There was money in the lumber business - saw mills were
being planned along the rivers and streams, and the lumber
boom was on its way. But there was a serious need for more
reliable transportation to service the saw mills. The first white
men to come did so because of a rumored promise that the
Wisconsin Central Railroad would build a line from Menasha
to Lake Superior.
After the Civil War ended, the Federal Government deter-
mined to establish better military protection on our Canadian
border. Since the existing military roads were mere trails, in-
adequate for fast troop movement, Congress issued a land
grant, one of the largest in the state, which took in every
alternate section of public land (640 acres each) to be taken
out by odd numbers within ten miles on each side of the
track. In case such a number of sections of odd numbers of
public land could not be found within the 10 mile limit (be-
cause of previous sales) the grant was enlarged so as to apply
within 20 miles of the railway line on either side to make up
the full amount. The Central was awarded about 850,000
acres valued at $1.50 to $5.00 per acre. After the Wisconsin
Central was completed from Menasha to Ashland, no more
grants were awarded the road.
Judge George Reed of Manitowac and Menasha, with his
associates, brother Curtis Reed, of Menasha and Matt. Waleigh
of Stevens Point, formed the Land Grant Co.
Reed succeeded in getting the help of Gardiner Colby, a
Boston financier and president of the Phillips and Colby Con-
struction Co. to put $9 million into the line. The agreement
stated that the Land Grant group raise enough money to buy
the right-of-way, do the work of clearing, grubbing and build-
ing the grade, provide culverts and bridges, and furnish the
the cross ties in place on the grade ready to receive the rails.
In 1871 the Phillips and Colby Const. Co. accepted the
contract to build the railroad from Menasha to Ashland, a
distance of 250 miles. They were to have complete control of
every operation until the line was completed.
Phillips and Colby gave a sub-contract to Rueben M. Scott
to build the first division of the road from Menasha to Stevens
Point, a distance of 63 miles. The first dirt was turned in
Menasha on June 1, 1871 and the first train rolled into
Stevens Point on November 15, 1871.
Early in 1872 Phillips and Colby awarded a contract to
the Hooper, Boyle and Seymour Const. Co. specifying
the building of 140 miles of railroad from Stevens Point west
and north to Lake Superior.
By September, 1872, Hooper, Boyle and Seymour Const.
Co. had reached section 53, with 51 miles of "ready track".
Section 53 was located at the present site of Colby where the
main construction camp remained for two years. On April 15,
1873, rail was completed and started northward. This end of
the track was named colby in honor of Charles L. Colby,
son of the president, also a partner in the company.


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