Florence County, Wisconsin
Florence County, Wisconsin
Homestead in the News
Homestead in Pictures
No. 268 A. Published April 10, 1895
AN ACT legalizing the acts of the county board of Florence county, and an ordinance passed by them relating to the division of the town of Commonwealth, and creating the town of Homestead.
The people of the state of Wisconsin, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:
Section 1. The acts of the county board of supervisors of the county of Florence, state of Wisconsin, in passing an ordinance on the twenty-fourth day of February, 1904, dividing the town of Commonwealth and creating the town of Homestead therein, are hereby legalized and made valid.
Section 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage and publication.
Approved April 9, 1894
--Stevens Point Daily Journal, Stevens Point, WI., May 11, 1895
Town of Homestead History
In the beginning, the Town of Homestead was part of the Town of Commonwealth. There were only two towns in the county in the early days. The area that is now the Town of Homestead was first called Little Popple, names after the Little Popply River that flows through the the towns.
There was evidently some form of local goverment at that time, as they had a chairman by the name of Pat Byrnes who did not approve of the area being called Little Popple and changed the name to Byrnesville. We know this to be true because there is some mail that had been preserved that had been mailed to the Byrnesville address. It has been said that at a later date a man by the name of Charlie Brown became chairman and changed the name of the area to Brownsville. This, however can not be documented, and we do that the area went back to being known as Little Popple.
In 1894, the residents of the area decided that they should form their own Township and to separate from the Town of Commonwealth. The State Legistlature approved the petition in 1895 and the area became the Town of Homestead. The area included what would become the Town of Aurora and a part of what is now the Town of Fence.
The town as inhabited by almost 100 percent Swedish immigrants who took up resident after obtaining homesteading rights from the government. They proved to be hard working and industrious group of people. The largest influx of these immigrants took place in 1884 and they came to their homesteads in this totally wild area by way of the old Military Road, sometimes referred to as the Pike River Road. This road was built by the government during the Civili War ran from Green Bay to L'Anse, Michigan. It crossed the Pine River where the dam is today. Most of them came from either Florence or Commonwealth, where they worked in the Iron mines for a time before moving to their homesteads. Mining, Farming, and logging were all familiar occupations to them and served them well in their new lives. By 1920, an amazing amount of work had been accomplished. Roads had been built, farmland had been cleared, homes and barn constructed, schools and churches built, and a local government was performing at a very acceptable level. All of this development occurred within a thirty-five year period of time.
In 1917, the town became considerably smaller when the residents of Aurora area decided to separate from the Town of Homestead and formed their own Town of Aurora. In the process, the ownership of the Town Hall went to Aurora, and the two town boards decided to share the cemetery, which is located in what is now the Town of Aurora. In 1896, the purchase of land for this cemetery was a priority for the first Homestead town board because they realized the dire need for families to dispose of deceased family members. In 1950, the Homestead-Aurora Cemetery Association was formed to govern the administration of the cemetery and is overseen by members of the two boards. This arrangement has worked out well.
In the early 20's the town became a little smaller again when the new Town of Fence was formed. A small amount of land on the west end of Homestead was given to Fence during the creation process.
Overall, the dedicated efforts of the town's ancestors put forth into the formation and building of the Town of Homestead have proven it to be a great place to live and raise citizens of the future.
--"The Town of Homestead, From Things I Have Heard and Things I Remembered", Ralph Hoagland, 1994
In the early 1880's the United States Government offered land for homesteading in Florence County, Wisconsin.
The first families to settle in Homestead were John Larson, Andrew Ekquist, and Lars Petersons. These three families came together and were followed shortly by the August Andersons, Andrew Johnsons, and the Andrew Sjoquists.
The men were employed at the mines in Commonwealth and Florence.
The Hoaglunds and Bensons homesteaded in what is now known as Section 25.
Many families followed in a few years time, coming mostly from Iron Mountain, Michigan, having worked there at the mines.
In order to obtain the government offer for four forties of land, they had to choose a site and live on this parcel of land for four years before the government gave them ownership. In order to comply with this requirement the men built log houses and moved their wives and small children out into the wilderness. The men continued to work in the mines, walking through the dense forests on weekends to bring their families supplies, which they carried on their backs, crossing the Pine River on a log. They had a special harness for this purpose and could carry a 100 pound sack of flour. On the weekends they gradually cleared patches of land. It is said that the first few summers the families existed mostly on potatoes and wild leeks.
The transportation of foodstuff and equipment was easier after a trail had been blazed to the Menominee River, near the site of the Sacred Heart Church in Aurora, where the farmers had a raft tied and could go back and forth across the river. They would transport their belongings to the river and pole them across on the raft. This route was considerably shorter than going to Florence. The trail from Florence came out by the Charlie Brown place. The settlers worked hard to build roads and acquire bridges over the Pine and Popple Rivers.
Mrs. Eli Grimord and Mrs. Andrew Johnson assisted the women in childbirth and delivered most of the babies born in that era. The first child born in Homestead was Evelyn Larson Fandrem. The first death was taht of Carl Johnson, son of Andrew Johnson. Carl was the first to be buried in the Homestead Cemetery.
The early settlers were Swedish immigrants with the exception of the Grimords, who were French. German immigrants settled in what later became Aurora.
Eventually the homesteaders were given deeds to the land and they set about in earnest erecting log barns and acquiring livestock.
Homestead was first called Little Popple, then Burnsville, and finally in honor of the homesteaders it was named Homestead.
At one time Homestead included all of Aurora but the two townships separated in 1916. A meeting was held in the Homestead Town Hall (now the Aurora Town Hall) to determine whether they should separate into two townships. Feelings ran high but Aurora received the majority vote. At that time Homestead was the largest township in Florence County. Pete Hoving was the leader for the separation movement. The first chairman of Homestead (including the Aurora area) was Pat Burns. The first Chairman of Homestead, as we now know it, was Charles Brown.
--Heritage of Iron & Timber, 1880-1980, Published for Florence County, Wisconsin, under the direction of The Florence County Centennial Committee, 1980.
Like its name implies, a goverment homesteading program for Florence County in the ealy 1880s brought people to the Town of Homestead.
The Larsons, Ekquists and Petersons came first, and the men worked in the mines in Florence and Commonwealth. Others soon followed as timber and mining jobs flourished.
In one account, men of early Homestead walked through thick forests to get supplies from Florence and Commonwealth. They'd walk back to Homestead with up to 100 pounds of provisions strapped to their backs.
From the grit and determination showed by the early settlers arose the name Homestead--a name that supplanted Little Popple and then Burnsville--as an honor to the hard-working homesteaders.
At one time, the Town of Homestead was much larger than today. Up to 1916, Homestead also encompassed the land in today's Town of Aurora. Amid a charged political time, the town held a referendum on whether the area to today's Aurora could separate from Homestead. The results of that election are clear today.
Historical accounts suggests that Homestead was a far more temperate and quite place than its more rambunctious neighbors of Commonwealth and Florence. In 1895, the First Baptist Church of Homestead was established, and Fischer Land Company donated the lant for a church building, the first services were held at the new church in August of 1897. The church still stands today, after being moved from its present day location in 1929.
As it in its early years, Homestead remains a quiet place. Much of the township of 336 people is covered by county forest. Homestead contains a cluster of lakes excellent for recreating--W. Bass Lake, Mirror Lake, Bass Lake, Scout Lake and Bush Lake. Beautiful Sand Lake is just a short way southeast of the gouping. Not all, but most of the lakes have a public boat landing. The Little Popple River, which runs through the heart of Homestead, is a good place to catch trout.
And for those looking to sharpen their shooting eye, Hometead boasts an excellent rifle range along a main county highway.
--Florence County Chamber of Commerce, 2013 Visitor Guide
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