Florence County, Wisconsin

Florence County

Charles S. Osborn

Chase S. Osborn, "Down At Possum Poke", a brief biography --Augusta Chronicle, Thursday Morning, Dec. 25, 1947

DOWN AT POSSUM POKE

Blind and Ailing At 87, Chase S. Osborn is Still Active in His Work As Crusader

Albany, GA., Dec. 24--Down at Possum Poke in Possum Lane in Poulan, GA., lives a rare old gentleman, a public official without office and self-appointed conscience of the people.

At 87, though blind and chair-ridden, Chase S. Osborn, former governor of Michigan, still is the hunter of iron ore, the scholar, newspaperman and free-wheeling graduate of the old school of politics.

Heís still the strong-handed man who was a lumberjack and dock walloper before he was 20, the man who cleaned up the rugged ore town of Florence, Wis., back in the days when right was packed in a six-shooter and bare knuckles.

Gave Away Fortune

Heís the man who knew nine Presidents, who gave away a huge fortune, who fought for prohibition in the days of brewery-owned saloons, the man who wrote one of the first workmenís compensation laws in the country.

He still views split infinitives with the same contempt he displayed when he turned down a $20,000 bride--cash under the carpet.

Even now he considers himself something of a public figure. His daily mail brings letters from such men as Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy and the street car conductor on the Mackinac run. His correspondence runs into hundreds of letter monthly.

Today the man who called on seven others governors to draft Teddy Roosevelt into the Bull Moose campaign is still fighting. He has a running feud with the Bureau census and heís plumping for federal aid to education, particularly for the South, and for the establishment of regionally supported graduate and professional school in the Southern states.

Would Limit Franchise

The governor also is advocating an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would limit the franchise. He proposes to bar those convicted of accepting or giving bribes for votes and placing limitations on the mentally unfit and educationally unprepared.

Most of the governors fights these days are carried on through the pen of his adopted daughter, Stellanova Osborn, whom the governor met in 1925 and whom he adopted in 1931 when she was 37.

She is his constant companion, biographer, nurse, secretary, and housekeeper. Since the governorís blindness and a fall in 1945 which fractured his hip, her duties have increase vastly.

Born in a Log Cabin

Osborn was born in Huntington County, Ind., Jan 22, 1860, in a one-room log cabin. His father was a physician and so was his mother. Both achieve their doctorsí shingles by the apprentice system

Though shy as a youngster, Osborn learn to fight early. When he was a newspaper carrier in LaFayette, Ind., a tough gang sought to bar him from delivering his papers. The next day the boy met his tormentors with a revolver. They let him alone after that.

As a boy he loved travel.. He ran away so often that at an age when most boys are just breaking away from apron strings, he had been from Canada to Texas.

At 17 Osborn was sent to Purdue University, but somewhat ruefully the governor says he didnít get to finish. He didnít have enough money.

After leaving school, Osborn has told how he beat his way to Milwaukee, Wis., via the Chicago Tribune, where he became circulation manager of a newspaper by the simply expedient of tossing a couple of rough characters out of the department.

Became Reporter

From circulation he moved up to become a reporter with a genius for trouble. Involved in a libel suit, which he won, he went scurrying about town with a hatchet tucked in his belt.

One day he spotted an ad which asked for a fearless man to run a newspaper in Florence, Wis. With $80 in his pocket he shoved off for the vice-ridden town on the outskirts of the Menominee iron range.

The owner asked how he was going to finance the purchase of the place. ďIím going to borrow the money--from you.Ē said Osborn.

He got the loan. At the start of his publishing career, the windows were shot out of his office.

Angered, Osborn set out to rid the town of the vice ring which also ran a brothel on the outskirts of Florence. The house was located in a stockade guarded by wild wolves.

Cleaned Up Town

The new editor formed a vigilante committee, cleaned up the town and burned the stockade. The ringís leader disappeared.

While in Florence, Osborn made his first money. He noticed that three or four big timber companies were working around a tract, each under the impression it was owned by someone else. Osborn bought the land for $1.25 an acre and sold it for 30 times that amount.

Eventually Osborn moved to Saulte Ste. Marie, Mich., after another stint as a newspaper man in Milwaukee. He started the Saulte News in partnership with two others. He became sole owner by throwing type quads--jefing itís called--to see who would leave town.

Meantime he found time to prospect for iron ore in Canada--ore which made him rich. He also went traipsing off in this period to cover the Boer war, the Russo-Japanese war and a couple of other fracases.

Earned Reputation

When Osborn returned from the wars he earned himself a reputation as a fighting editor and a good rough and tumble politician. He became Republican postmaster at Saulte, ten state game a fish warden and railroad commissioner.

As the latter he fought to end the practice of granting railroad passes to influential people, for a two-cent per mile fare and for elimination of grade crossings.

So bitter was his opposition to the crossing that only one was built and that by a special legislative act. When a group of railroad men placed $20,000 under the rug in his office Osborn just told them theyíd better retrieve it before the janitor came.

Governor in 1911

Osborn became governor of Michigan in 1911. When he took office the state was deep in dept. When he left two years later, there was a surplus.

As Michiganís chief executive he reduced the number of administrative posts, revised the penal system, introduced the preferential primary and re-assessed all properties for tax purposes--and made an enemy of Henry Ford. Osborn upped the valuation of Fordís properties from $2,500,000 to $30,000,000. He did likewise to other large firms.

During his tenure telephone companies were declared common carrier. A child labor law enacted, property rights of women recognized and an amendment made to the constitution providing for referendum and initiative.

But Osborn considers the workmenís compensation lay the monument to his administration. For the first time in Michiganís history he made companies financially liable for injuries to workmen and thus began the stateís first safety campaign.

Since then Osborn has beaten his way around the world, writing, studying and becoming and an excellent geographer.

Osborn first came to Possum Poke--so named became of the abundance of opossums--in the 1890ís to hunt. Recently he deeded the place to Georgia as a park upon his death and that of Stellanova.

Since 1931 he has been spending nine months of the year there and the other three months at his home on Duck Island in St. Mary, 20 miles below Saulte Ste. Marie.

The governor claims he is one of the few men to come full cycle in a life time--log cabin to cabin.

--Augusta Chronicle, Thursday Morning, Dec. 25, 1947

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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