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Curtiss-Wedge, F.; Jones, Geo. O. (ed.) / History of Dunn County, Wisconsin

Chapter VI: Dunn County in the Barstow-Bashford election,   pp. 38-42

Page 38

The Barstow-Bashford election took place in 1885. At this early date, Dunn
County became connected with a state wide political scandal. The situation was
not made in the county and came about by no criminality of its electors nor through
any iniquity of its citizens. The accidental association of the county with this
unsavory episode has generally been attributed to an attempt on the part of certain
Eau Claire democratic politicians to exploit the Dunn County community in an
illegal endeavor to elect as governor the candidate of their party. The opposing
candidates for governor were William A. Barstow, democratic nominee, and Coles
Bashford, republican nominee. Dunn County had then been established but little
more than one year and was not fully organized by the election of a board of super-
visors and by the election of general county officers until 1857.
It appears that the records in the office of the secretary of state show, that at
the election of 1855, Dunn County was apparently divided into three voting pre-
cincts. It had in fact but two such precincts. The vote in these three supposed
precincts on governor was given in the returns made, as follows: Menomonie 44
for Barstow, democrat, and 1 for Bashford, republican; at O'Galla (Eau Galle),
respectively, 27 and 28, and at Gilbert's Mills 53 and 14. The return of this vote
at Gilbert's Mills was filed with the secretary of state on an application of Mr.
Bashford for a writ of quo warranto to oust Mr. Barstow as governor, into which
office it was alleged he had intruded. He was in fact inducted into that office on
these fradulent votes supposed to have been cast at Gilbert's Mills and other
similar votes cast in other parts of the state, counted for him by the state board of
canvassers. A similar conclusion as to the fraudulent character of these vote, at
Gilbert's Mills was reached by a legislative committee appointed to investi,,ate
charges made of corrupt practices at this election, so far as it concerned the office
of governor.
The whole story as to the entire state is interesting reading, but of especial
interest to Dunn County people is this vote at Gilbert's Mills. The return filed was
certified to by William Smith and Thomas Taylor, inspectors, and James Henry
and Henry Wilson, Jr., clerks.  John W. Hunt, assistant secretary of state,
testified before the committee that he received this return at the secretary's
office on Dec. 14, 1855. He thought he received it by mail. He also testified that
he received a similar return from Spring Creek, Polk County, on the morning of
December 15. This was the day set by law for the state canvassing board to can-
vass the state vote.
This return from Spring Creek was found by the court and by the committee of
investigation to be a forgery and fraudulent. The fact is, the evidence taken failed
to locate any such place as Spring Creek, Polk County, where an election was or
could have been held. As to Gilbert's Mills, it was found to be a geographical
entity, but it was also found that no election had been held there. J. Gillet Knapp,
assistant sergeant-at-arms of the senate, testified before the committee that he and
others went to Gilbert's Mills and there on Dec. 26, 1855, "saw and conversed with
Oliver Gilbert, the proprietor of the mills, and inquired of him and of others
whether an election was held at that place in November, 1855," and further says,
"we were assured that no election precinct had been established there, and no elec-
tion hadbeen held, nor attempted to be held." He also stated that Gilbert's Mills
is in the same township, and but two and a half miles from the Menomonie Mills,
where a precinct had been established and a poll opened. But Mr. Gilbert assured
this deponent that no one went there from Gilbert's to vote."
Mr. Knapp unhesitatingly asserted before the committee that in his opinion
the returns from Gilbert's Mills and from Spring Creek as well as another return

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