Florence County, Wisconsin

Florence County, Wisconsin

Fern Township


The assembly state affairs committee approved Assemblyman Grandine's bill to detach a portion of the town of Commonwealth, in Florence county, to create the town of Fence.--Oshkosh Daily Northwestern, February 3, 1921



The township of Florence agreed that for a price of $1,850 the residents of the area we now know as Fern could form their own township. In 1917 a meeting was held by the residents of that area and they voted to add that amount to the tax rolls and pay Florence the $1,850

The area had always been referred to as the Washburn Settlement, so they felt that it would be a good name for the new town. The Washburn family was one of the first families to settle in the area. A different name had to be selected when the people were informed that Wisconsin already had a Washburn Post Office. Their own Post Office had been given the name of Fern a number of years years before, so they decided to name the town Fern. It is believed that this name was used because of the abundance of Ferns in the area. The name Fern depicted one of the town's many benefits.

The officers of the township in 1917 were listed as: Chairman, Edward Parent; Supervisors, Niels Albinussen and E.J. Nichols; Clerk, J.C. Albinussen; Treasurer, Herb Washburn and Assessor, William Taft.

Some of the first settlers in the Fern area were the following men and their families: Charles Washburn, Herb Washburn, Niels Albinussen, J.C. Albinussen, Mr. Neilson, Mr. Watt, Frank Miller and John Halter. Many families followed into this farming and logging area. Some men worked at other occupations, but we find that basically a living was taken either from the earth or from the woods. It was a family oriented location and people were religious. In 1914 before the township was established, the people decided to build a Grange Hall. The Grange was built of lumber sawed by Frank Miller at his saw mill near Woods Creek. The residents donated the labor and the Grange was built. This building gave the people a meeting place, a temporary church, and a place for social gatherings. In 1921 it boasted one of the first area telephones. The Grange Hall is no longer there, but the many memories of all the good times spent there are still very much a part of life in Fern.

in 1933 the latest census gave the township of Fern a population of 83. In 1980 we find that it has grown to a population of 117. The local school has been closed and all the children are bussed into Florence to school. The school building was turned into a Town Hall. In the old days, children went to several rural schools in the Fern area. They almost always walked the distance to school, very seldom finding a ride by horse and buggy or car.

--Heritage of Iron & Timber, 1880-1980, Published for Florence County, Wisconsin, under the direction of The Florence County Centennial Committee, 1980.




In 1917, the people of Washburn Settlement decided to collectively tax themselves an extra $1,850 to break from the Town of Florence, which, for that sum, agreed to the partition.

Situated throughout much of Florence County's midsection were fewer than 90 people who decided to carve out the Town of Washburn, named after one of the first families to settle the area. But an issue arose. A post office in northwestern Wisconsin already carried the name Washburn.

It is believed the great proliferation of ferns of all varieties inspired the town's name.

The early movers and shakers in Fern were Industrious and religious people, according to early reports. Three years before the break with Florence, they built a Grange Hall from lumber sawed by Frank Miller at his mill near Wood's Creek. It gave the inhabitants a meeting place, temporary church and a hall for social gatherings and celebrations. A telephone was installed in 1921, one of the first in the area.

The Grange building is gone, but Fern's early schoolhouse is today's Town Hall, which recently underwest an extensive renovation that will serve the residents well into the future. The building is on the National Register of Historical Places.

Fern, still dotted with some oft he same small family farms of yesteryear, holds one of Florence County's most wild and romanticized places--a place designated Wild Rivers. The location's beauty inspired the poem Where the Popple Joins the Pine by Jas. M. Woodman, dedicated to his friend Oscar Frankenecht.

Like most townships in Florence County, Fern has opened its roads to ATVs and UTVs, linking to the region's near seamless system of trails.

Today, 159 people live in Fern, nearly twice as many as the 3 who populated it in 1933. As for the ferns, they still grow in amazing abundance.

--Florence County Chamber of Commerce, 2013 Visitor Guide


Fern in the News





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