The city of Wausau is practically in the center of Marathon county,
as the county is in the center of the state. It covers an area of 6
½ square miles, being three miles from north to south, two miles
from east to west, with an additional half section of land on the
southeast side of the parallelogram. The Wisconsin river traverses
it from north to south, dividing it into two nearly equal parts.
From the southeast corner of McIndoe park, the width of the city is
exactly one mile east and one mile west. The city is finely located
in the valley of the river; there are few, if any, cities which have
so nice or picturesque a location. The river banks are high, keeping
the stream within its shores, even at high floods. It spreads out
for nearly a mile on each side of the river over a plateau, then
gradually rising hills encircle it like a garland on the east and
Many elegant residence and buildings are scattered over the
hillsides; the eye rests with pleasure on these elevations with
their beautiful soft verdure in the summer, with swelling fields of
golden grain, mixed with green fields of corn in the distance, with
the placid sheet of water of Lake Wausau in the center, while the
dark green of the needle trees which crown the crest of the
hillsides when the ground is covered with snow make it a beautiful
landscape in the winter.
To the southwest, only two miles from the city limits. Rib Mountain,
covered with dark green foliage during the whole year, rises
gradually from the shores of the Rib and Wisconsin rivers to a
height of 1,811 feet above the level of the sea, the highest
elevation in the state.
Standing on the top of the eastern hills at the end of Franklin or
McIntosh street, or on the town line road, or on the end of Callon
or Elm street on the west, the landscape presents an admirable view,
and in the early fall when the leaves begin to turn, the beauty of
the scenery must be seen and felt, because the pen fails to do
justice to its magnificence.
The dam at the Rothschild paper mill creates a very large reservoir,
called Lake Wausau, which when cleaned out of the unsightly flood
trash, which will be done in a short time, gives a fine chance for
water sports, boating, yachting, and fishing, allowing steam or
gasoline boats to run up to and land on the shores of the river at
The city is built up in compact from the center. The original plat
as laid out by the founder, W. D. McIndoe, is still the center in
every direction, with the court house as the heart, with fine
substantial business blocks fronting it on every side: the banks,
Hotel Bellis, McCrossen Block, the Federal Building with the post
and United States land offices, the Wisconsin Valley Trust Company,
and offices of the gas company. Other substantial and fairly
fireproof buildings stretch in every direction, from the court house
north to the spacious and elegant quarters of the Young Men’s
Christian Association building and the Methodist church and the
majestic St. James church, and south to the city hall, interspersed
with the Nicolls, Livingston, Gensman, Kickbusch, Ruder, the Paff,
Baumann, and Mueller buildings, and west to the the Widmer College
and the McIndoe park and public library, covering almost the entire
original plat from Main to Fifth and from Forest to Franklin street,
which territory is rightly included in the fire limits of Wausau. In
good substantial buildings which have a claim to architectural
beauty this city compares favorably with any of its size, and many
much larger ones.
Three bridges span the river, the so-called Leahy and Beebe bridge,
in the north, the Falls bridge in the center, and Stroller’s bridge
on the south, so called presumably because of the picrturesque walk
to and from the same, which invites promenading in the cool river
breeze after a hot summer day.
The growth of Wausau has been slow, very slow, indeed, comparing it
with the mushroom-like growth of some railroad towns, but unlike
many others, it has been permanent.
It owes it growth not to railroads, nor to the speculative spirit of
foreign capitalists, but to its natural advantages and its pioneers,
foremost of all to Walter D. McIndoe, who better than anyone else
foresaw its great feature, but whose life was cut short by fate,
before its high, but reasonable, expectations could be realized.
This city and county is only 200 miles from Milwaukee and less than
300 miles from Chicago, soon the center of the population of the
United States; the next generation will see the whole county
occupied by prosperous farmers and hear the hum of industry
throughout the River valley with electricity as the motive power,
and who can fail to foresee a still greater future for Wausau? The
city is easily accessible from all parts of the country, with it
40,000 people who live outside of its borders now, on the thousands
of profitable farms and in industrial villages, and who all have
more or less business to transact at the county seat.
It has large, comfortable hotels and a hospitable people, who take
pride in entertaining visitors and visiting societies, and Wausau
has become the convention city of this state next to Milwaukee.
From the time that the first railroad struck Wausau in 1874, the
city has entertained guests by the hundreds, and as early as 1887,
the state turn “fest” was held here, where over 1,000 visitors were
cared for for three days. The next year brought here the grand lodge
of the I.O.O.F., and since that time not a year has passed but when
some association or society held the annual session of its grand
body or annual picnic in this place. Mercantile travelers make it a
point to so regulate their trips to spend the Sunday at Wausau in
preference to any other place except home, because of hotel
accommodations and sociability.
The business men of Wausau, its manufacturers and merchants, live
here, which makes them equally interested in the welfare of the city
with the workingmen. By far the largest majority of our laboring men
own their homes; many of their residences are models of family
dwellings, combining comfort with sanitation, having water service,
electric or gas light and bath room. A reasonably low street car
service brings them to the mill or factory, giving quick and restful
transportation from and to their homes where the distance is too far
to be traveled comfortably afoot.
With good schools, play grounds, with parks and a good water supply
and lighting system, with street cars to places of amusement, Wausau
has all the advantages of a modern city without the drawbacks of a
congested population in overcrowded tenement houses and districts. A
modern hospital, excellently conducted by the Sisters of the Divine
Savior, with a staff of eminent physicians and surgeons and
carefully trained and educated nurses, provides home treatment at
low rates for the unfortunate sick. The men who conduct large
business enterprises in Wausau have learned the lesson that there is
virtue in co-operation, in working together for each other. The
large capital invested in mills and undertakings is nearly all
furnished by people who live here, not by any one man or by a few
men, but by the association of many, which brings not only the means
together for conducting the enterprise, but also the business
capacity, the mental energy, and the combined wisdom flowing from
the experience of them all, which leads to success, divides the gain
among many, and distributes the losses to lighten the burden.
Business men in Wausau have ceased to quarrel, have ceased to look
upon a rival as an enemy, and have adopted as their motto: “In union
there is strength.” Only on that hypothesis can be explained the
erection of the Brokaw, the Rothschild, and the Mosinee paper mills,
the growth of other industrial concerns which started with a small
capital a few years ago, the alteration of the immense water power
of the fall at Wausau, much of which passed down stream unused, into
an immense volume of an electric current which furnishes power and
light to factories and the household.
Social amenities are not neglected, intellectual life is fostered,
recreation is furnished for the mind as well as for the body. For
more than a score of years, the Ladies’ Literary Society has
provided a winter lecture course entertaining as well as
instructive. The university extension lecture courses on American
history, on popular astronomy, and on literature have been heard,
and the excellent travelogues of Colonel Sanford; two of the
foremost women of America, Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, have
appeared on the rostrum, and lectures by Will Carlton, Theo. Tilton,
Colonel Watterson, Rev. Nugent, and William J. Bryan (the last one
under the auspices of the Young Men’s Christian Association) were
provided for our people. The best of music has been brought here to
entrance our music loving population. The first opera house, a jewel
of its kind, unfortunately destroyed by fire, was opened by the Emma
Abbott Company with two evening performances and a matinee, and in
the same house was heard Camilla Urso, the unparalleled mistress of
the violin of her time and the great masters of the bow, Remeniy and
Jacob Reuter. Lula Jane Abercrombie, the renowned American prima
donna, sang here often in the high school quartet and her first
operatic role as Arline in the “Bohemian Girl,” which opened the way
to her to the operatic stage, upon which she has a triumphant
career, and F. W. Kickbusch winning laurels as the national American
baritone. The German singing societies, notably the “Liederkranz,”
has brought here twice the “Sangerfest” of the northern district of
Wisconsin with its choir of hundreds of male voices and Gust.
Mueller of Wausau acting as conductor of the combined choirs.
Christoph Bach, the master conductor and composer of the West, has
been heard here with his symphony orchestra.
It was always the pride of Wausau to have good schools; its temples
of learning are supplied with proper apparatus and improved
furniture; its staff of teachers is competent, and Supt. Silas B.
Tobey and his predecessor, Carl Mathie, a Wausau man born and bred,
have worked in season and out of season to raise the standard of
education, and in this labor were supported by the board of
education, which in its personnel is with no other change in the
last ten years except such as death has brought, and which has aided
superintendent, teachers, pupils and parents to the best of their
The different men’s clubs and societies, the Merchant Association,
the Ladies’ Literary Club, Tuesday Musical Club and Singing
Societies, notably the “Liederkranz,” not to forget two orchestras
and brass bands, all combine to make Wausau a city of commercial
importance where the industrious man can make a living, and where it
can be made attractive and pleasant, removing as much as possible
the dullness caused by a life of labor without intellectual
refreshment and recreation.
A great number of edifices with lofty spires pointing to the sky,
some grand in appearance, are evidence that the people here believe
in the doctrines of Christianity and endeavor to practice its
But it was not always thus. The present appearance of Wausau is the
growth of over sixty years, counting only from the organization of
Marathon county as a political entity in 1850, remembering, however,
that the pinery here was invaded in 1839 and saw mills existed and
had their beginning in 1840. The slowness of the growth of Wausau in
the first twenty years from 1840 to 1860 is apparent from the vote
cast for president in the last year mentioned, which was only 247 in
the whole town of Wausau, which included the village, the Little Rib
mill settlement, and the farmers in the present town of Wausau.
From the time of organization as a village in 1861 up to 1867, there
was some growth, of course, but the old original buildings were then
still standing, only a few new ones, mainly little houses or
shanties, were added.
The whole population was still depending on work for the four mills,
the cutting, hauling and driving of logs to the mills, running the
lumber to market, and the few workers in the original trades, the
blacksmiths, wagon and sleigh makers and shoemakers, without which
business could not exist.
The following is a fairly accurate pen picture of Wausau in 1867, as
it appeared to an observer:
On Clarke’s Island was situated J. C. Clarke’s saw mill and boarding
house, a very primitive building, occupied also by Clarke’s family;
on the north side of the road coming up the hill from the slough
bridge, was the blacksmith shop and residence of Charles Klein, one
of the original Pittsburg settlers; he sold his shop to Otto
Schochow in the fall of that year, and moved back to Marathon City;
next to him was the house and shoemaker shop of Charles Wiskow, next
a grocery and saloon kept by a Braun; further north lived the widow
of Gottlieb Gritzmacher with her family, and still further north was
the farmers’ boarding house and stable, kept by Christlieb Berwald,
an excellent stopping place, where farmers could eat their lunch and
get a cup of coffee for five cents, paying ten cents for stable
money. A very light cheap bridge connected Clarke’s Island with
McIndoe Island. At the end of the dam was the flour mill of Thayer &
Corey and on the little island above the dam was the residence of N.
Thayer; this house was broken up and washed away by the flood of
1881 with all the top ground, leaving the bare rock exposed, on
which stands now the cooper shop of the McEachron Mill Company. At
the road (it was not a street) from Main street to the slough
bridge, which was down a very steep hill, there was on the north
side of the road the blacksmith shop of Frank Mathie, next the wagon
shop of August Lemke, then the blacksmith shop of John Schneider. On
the south side of the road was a barn and stable owned by W. D.
McIndoe and the wagon shop of Louis Storch. On the east side of
Shingle street were two houses, both owned by John Schneider, one
occupied by him, and one by a Norwegian by the name of Andrew
Iverson, and on the west side of the street were the three houses
occupied by Louis Storch, William Berwald, and Fred Berwald.
On Plumer’s Island were the two mills owned by B. G. Plumer, one
supplied by water power from the mill pond by a conductor, which
mill was operated by Brown & Fellows until 1869; the other mill was
operated by B. G. Plumer until his death in 1886. Each mill had its
boarding house for the mill hands, and the Plumer boarding house was
in charge of Mrs. Aug. Gotchy, a kind, good soul, whose culinary
skill was high above par, who set a table for the men unexcelled
even at the Forest House. The property line between the Plumer and
McIndoe was marked by a tight board fence; close to the fence and in
close proximity to the Plumer boarding house was the boarding house
for the McIndoe mill hands, in charge of Augustus Gotchy, with a
gate between them.
The fence extended down to the river and was used as a backing to
the rafting shanties of the two mills, which were of the simplest
kind, where rivermen slept while rafting the lumber. Of course,
people having homes at Wausau slept at home.
On Plumer’s Island sloping down from the boarding house to the
river, was a vegetable garden in fine cultivation with two shanties,
one occupied by John Miller, the other by Fred Schultz, both for
years employees in Plumer’s mill. A little to the north where now
the St. Paul railroad track strikes Plumer’s Island, was a log house
with a little space of ground surrounding it and fenced with slabs,
the home of the widow Philbrick, mother of W. B. Philbrick. This
house was unceremoniously torn down in 1874 when the big high rock
which blocked the track was blasted out of the way to make room for
the railroad track.
Main street was then the principal street and remained so for
several years more; it was called the Jenny road, being at that time
the only road leading out from Wausau to the north and the supply
road for Jenny and the camps above. On the south end was the McIndoe
mill, still in operation by the Heineman Lumber Company now, and a
road from there down to the flat where there were two houses, one
occupied by J. Meuret and his family, and the other by the parents
of August Kickbusch and their daughter Caroline, dec. Radant. North
from the mill was the large store building of W. D. McIndoe. The
road was four rods wide and as high on the west as on the east, the
biggest part of it used as a piling ground for oar stems, spring
poles, and grubs.
Crossing Washington street (or road rather), there was the Lake
Superior House (John Le Messurier), the biggest hotel at that time
in town, then came the residences of W. D. McIndoe, and Hugh McIndoe.
On the next corner was the B. Whitacre house, and further up on the
same side lived John Peters, William Gowan, August Hett, and then a
house owned by Judge Ringle and one by C. A. Single. Beginning on
the other side south, there was the Riverside Hotel, the Jolly
saloon across the street on the corner (office building now), next
was the saloon building then owned by William Ziemer and his half
brother Ziebell, who were also loggers, next was the R. E. Parcher
store, next the little hardware store and warehouse of Kickbusch
Brothers, the upper story being occupied by F. W. Kickbusch and
family; next was the store building of Aug. Kickbusch. All these
buildings from Riverside Hotel up were in existence for some years
and are still standing, and with the mills in close proximity the
principal shops and stores on this, the only road north to the
camps, it is easy to see that the business was concentrated on Main
street between Washington and Jackson streets.
The corner of Main and Washington streets opposite the Kickbusch
store was unoccupied, but north towards Jefferson street were two
little houses still standing owned by the Stackhouse estate, one
occupied by the heirs and one by Charles Clarke, and a house on the
corner, occupied by H. L. Wheeler; across Jefferson street was the
home of M. Stafford, next the house of Dr. George E. Clark, then a
vacant space, and the further corner of Scott street was the house
of Fred Tyler on the lots now occupied by the Anderes Hotel and
other buildings. Further north lived the widow of Thomas Single,
then two other small houses, one of the occupied by Alexander
Stewart and wife beyond McClellan street; then a house owned by Dan
Sullivan, next the house of Fred Neu and across from him the house
of Dr. Wylie; still further north a house or shanty occupied by
William Homrig. That was as far north as Franklin street, and there
were no more buildings on either side; the road then slanted down to
Stiensfield creek, crossed it and ran to Merrill, Grandfather, and
incidentally as far as Eagle river.
At Stienfield creek vacated Indian tepees were quite numerous. There
were also two Indian graves, marked by poles indicating that Wausau
was a sort of regular camping ground for the Chippewa tribe.
On the south side of Forest street, beginning at the west end were
the houses of James Single, E. B. Stoddard, and Thomas Youles, the
city hall ground was vacant, then the house of Mrs. Lyman Thayer on
corner of Fourth street; across Fourth street was the house of Cyrus
Strobridge (owned by the Schultz estate now), who was in business at
that time in Merrill; next was the house occupied by Dallmann and
one by Charles Cramer; the road then turned diagonally through the
last block and connected with Grand avenue more than one block
further south than at present. On corner of Grand avenue was the
house of Mich. Lemere, and on the next lot east, lived Peter
Crochier, a river man and pilot.
There were two small buildings on the alley running south of Forest
street from Second up to Fourth street; on the end of Fourth street
lived Carl Hoeflinger, and across from him was the house of D. W.
Fellows, still standing. Fourth street was not open further than to
the alley just mentioned.
On the end of Fifth street was the little building put up in the
same spring by C. H. Mueller and next to him in the alley another
little one owned and occupied by Julius Quade.
On the north side of Forest street beginning on the west was a
blacksmith shop of Hinton, then crossing Second street, there was
the home now occupied by Charles Wagner. This house is one of the
oldest with the exception of the Stackhouse buildings, probably the
oldest now standing in Wausau, and was quite pretentious at the time
it was built, about 1852. It was erected By Kraft & Wilson for
Taylor, the brother of Mrs. W. D. McIndoe, but it seems he did not
occupy, at least, but a very short time if he did. Going east
passing the Forest House there was vacant ground, until one came to
the home of Conrad Bernhard on corner of Fourth, next the little
house of Heppner, then the Seim boarding house, then the houses of
Mrs. Haase and Levy Gennett, on corner of Fifth; on the other corner
were the houses of F. H. Morman, next that of Tuttle and a house
occupied by J. W. Chubbuck; further east were some small buildings,
one of them occupied by old man Ziebell who had abandoned his farm
in township 30, range 4 east, after making quite an improvement
thereon. On the south side of Jackson street was the house of Mrs.
Thomas Hinton, the Mich. Duffy grocery store, the Winkley House and
Forest Hall, then across the street was the little tinner's shop of
John Egeler, then the residence and hall of Judge Ringle (now
occupied by O. C. Callies), further east the house of A. Lee; and
some shanties further east towards the edge of the marsh. In Fifth
street, nearly opposite the Northern Hotel, was the cabinet shop of
On the north side of Jackson street beginning on the west, was the
saloon of Joseph Noiseaux, on the next block the house and barber
shop of Ch. Poor, next the Winkley House barn, next the house and
store of Jacob Paff on corner of Third and Jackson; on the next
block was the Althen store, the butcher shop of John Merklein, next
the Henry Dern saloon, next the B. William saloon on corner of
Fourth; on the next block east was the
house of Aug. Lemke, and next the house of Mrs. Adam and her son
John Adam, which was the last one on this side.
On south side of Washington street was the barn of August Kickbusch,
on corner of Second the one-story store of William Barteld, next the
Frank Wartman building, next one of John Dern, next Charles
Woessner's clothing store and tailor shop, and on the corner the
office building of George W. Casterline, fronting Third street.
Across on the corner was a one-story store occupied by August Engel
as a watch repair and gunsmith shop, and on the other corner was the
house of Gerry Judson, part of it now attached to the Washington
Hotel. Further east were some shanties, but Christian Osswald
commenced the erection of his bakery shop the following year.
On the north side of Washington street was the barn of the Lake
Superior house, on the corner of Second was the house of John
Cramer, next the residence and shop of Ernst Felling, next the
little toy store and house of Jacob Kolter and parents, and on the
two lots up to Third street stood the house of Frank Mathie. Across
from him was the house of Dr. Smith, now on Fourth street, and the
rest of the block on this street was vacant, and so was the next
block, until near Fifth street, where there was the house of Mrs.
Henry Paff, who furnished the yeast for the housewives, and next was
the St. Paul church.
Only a few shanties were east from the church towards the marsh.
On Jefferson street, coming from Main street, was the house of J.
Burns (now Fingerhut), the house of Bradford on corner of Third
street, Corey's house on Third and Jefferson and the Slosson house
on corner of Fourth and Jefferson, with some shanties further east,
occupied by the brothers George and Jacob Stelz, who had removed to
Wausau from a farm in the town of Stettin a few years before.
On the north side of Jefferson street beginning west, was the house
of George G. Green and another small building near the corner of
Third; the court house block was unfenced, and Herman Miller's house
occupied the place where the gas company building and opera house
On Scott street were no buildings at all until Third street was
reached, where George Lawrence had a building on the site of the
Bellis House, and where the McCrossen store now stands, was a
building owned by Slosson; well towards Fourth street was the home
of Ely R. Chase and the postoffice. This postoffice building was
later removed to Main street and served as an office for W. D.
Mclndoe and the Stewart Lumber Company and was later moved to Second
street near Forest street.
Where the Federal building now stands, was the house of W. Wilson,
occupied by him until the site was chosen for the present postoffice.
On McClellan street lived J. Dobbly, Louis Lenneville, and next to
him was the St. John's Episcopal church, and opposite the church the
residence of R. P. Manson, one of the most prominent buildings at
On. Second street from the south, was the house of Ernst Schultz,
next one belonging to Luedke, both shoemakers, and further north
passing Scott street, lived Mich. Rouseau; also Shaughnessy which
place is now owned by P. O. Means; further north was the house of
On Third street was the Forest House, the Paff store already
mentioned, the hardware store, and the tin shop of Richard Baumann,
the Casterline and Bradford buildings already referred to, and
opposite the court house was a one and one-half story building, "the
Bank of the Interior," owned by J. A. Farnham. On the east side of
Third street was the Forest House barn, in the next block north the
grocery and lumbermen's supply store of E. M. Mott and Herman
Miller, the J. Gensman's residence and shoe shop, which is now on
Second street; on the corner Was the August Engle watchmaker's shop
already referred to, and on the corner of McClellan street was the
home of Babcock. No buildings at all were on Fifth street.
There were other small houses and shanties scattered through this
territory here and there; the streets were not graded, and only in
the business portion of the village had the stumps been removed;
very few and narrow sidewalks existed. The end of Washington street
at the Kickbusch store and Main street were much higher than at
present, the slough bridge was much lower than now, and consequently
so steep a descent down as to make it impossible for one team to
haul up a heavy load. On Washington street was a well near the
sidewalk at Kolter's toy store, which was well patronized by the
neighborhood. This is mentioned only to show the rural character of
the streets at that time.
In the northern end of the town as far north as Grant street lived
John Haines, Benjamin Thomas, and Lawyer J. P. West.
W. C. Silverthorn, district attorney, occupied the second story of
the Strobridge building on Fourth and Forest streets. On Grand
avenue was the house of Mich. Le Mere, one block further south the
house of Lamereaux (Edee estate), and still further south the house
of M. Walrad; then came the property of Plumer and Walton, unplatted,
and cultivated by B. G. Plumer as a farm.
The Ruder brewery was the only building on the west side of Grand
avenue and a saloon with a small dance hall was standing in Columbia
Park with the residence of Edw. Kretlow, father of Ed. C. Kretlow,
who had come from Milwaukee to take charge of the newly organized
Wausau concert band and teach and conduct its practices. That park
was and remained for thirty years and upwards, the recreation ground
of the working population of Wausau.
Opposite the Brewery park was the house of Adam Young, whose
business was to haul freight from points below.
The marsh stretched out from a little south of McIntosh street to
somewhere up to Franklin street and extended west to Seventh, and in
the spring even to Sixth street. The roads leading out from Wausau
were the Jenny road, the road to Little Rib, Stettin, and Marathon,
the road on the west side through the town of Main to Berlin, the
Whiskey road, so-called, branching off from the Jenny road at the
three-mile boom, a corderoy road across the marsh at the head of
Jackson street and slanting up east hill to the settlement in Wausau
and Easton; the town line road to Eau Clair and Hogarthy, the south
line road to Mosinee, and a road branching off at Scholfield to the
Kelly mills. No other streets except on the original plat had been
platted, and only half of them were worked; for instance, Fourth
street east of the court house had only a wagon track winding around
On the west side of the river were two or three shanties close to
the river bank, and further down was a house on the Kennedy farm
(now Chellis), then occupied by the widow of Judge Kennedy who had
married Peter Gifford, a saw filer, and the place became known as
the Gifford place; the forty acres owned by the Aug. Kickbusch
estate, was in a good state of cultivation, owned at the time by
John Kopplin and sold to Aug. Kickbusch in this year, and Anton
Schuetz had commenced clearing on his farm on the
hill joining the Kickbusch place.
On the road leading north in the settlement, there was the H.
Daniel's shingle mill, the house of Mrs. Poor, and a farmer by the
name of Hoffmann, father of William Hoffmann, who with his sons
engaged some in logging. Up towards the north, on the west side of
the road, the land where now are located the fields of John Egeler,
the fields enclosing the
George Jung slaughter house, the S. M. Quaw and Herman Hartel farm,
and other well cultivated smaller tracts, was termed the "Brand,"
meaning burned district. The timber had been cut, then a high wind
threw down the remaining trees, the fire ran through and gave it a
desolate appearance; the whole tract was supposed to be sterile and
To summarize: There were in Wausau in 1867 - The original four saw
mills, seven general merchandise stores, one hardware store, one toy
store, four blacksmith shops, three wagonmaker shops, four shoemaker
shops, three hotels, and one boarding house, and seven saloons.
The hotels and boarding houses were crowded except in midwinter and
The lumbermen in business at Wausau were: First the mill owners W.
D. McIndoe, B. G. Plumer, John C. Clark, and Brown & Fellows, J. and
A. Stewart, R. P. Manson, Kickbusch Brothers, R. E. Parcher,
Lawrence & Peters, Mich. Stafford, Jacob Paff, and Herman Miller.
Of the men who operated portable mills D. B. Wylie and Gerry Judson
only lived in Wausau. J. D. Gray lived at Scholfield, and so did
William Callon, and the brothers William P. and N. T. Kelly operated
two mills on Eau Clair river and resided there.
The Trappe mill was operated by M. D. Courcey, the Pine river mill
by Ed. Armstrong, and the mill in Jenny by Combs and Andrews.
William McIntosh had a mill on Sandy creek. The mill on Little Rib
owned by B. Single sawed a large amount of lumber annually for years
yet to come.
The Scholfield mill probably cut the largest amount of lumber about
that time, doing a large amount of custom sawing under the
management of D. B. Willard. Nearly all the trade from these mills
came from Wausau. J. E. Leahy had come to Wausau in 1866 and
commenced logging operations in 1867 and lived at the Forest House
until his marriage in 1872 to Miss M. D. McCrossen.
The question may arise in the minds of some readers: Where did the
hundreds of river men stop or sleep until the lumber was rafted and
was on its way down stream? Many of these young men came after the
ice had gone out and rafting had commenced; they slept in the
rafting shanties at each mill in bunks until the fleet started down,
when they made room for others. Wausau was the place where they
congregated, and from here they went to the mills at other points,
to Scholfield, to Kelly, to Little Rib, Big Rib and Trapp, Pine, and
Jenny, and to the points in the Wisconsin where the lumber sawed at
the portable mills was piled or stacked.
The capacity of the mills after the introduction of circular saws
had immensely increased, still it was small when compared to the
output of a modern mill.
In 1867 the largest output on record in one day's run of twelve
hours less the time consumed for dinner, was a little over 30,000
feet, and was made in Plumer's mill, but it was only made by
selecting the best of logs from the crop of good, fine logs at hand,
and much of it was sawed into 1 1/2 and 2 inch stuff.
The small capacity of early mills accounts for the holding out of
the pine supply as long as if did; and only the best of logs were
taken; such as showed some ring rot, and punk knot were left in the
woods on the ground to rot. And it cannot be said that it was
willfully wasted. Such were left in the woods simply because to cut,
haul, drive, and saw them would have entailed actual loss to the
lumbermen. No such loss occurred later with better prices for lumber
and cheaper and better transportation facilities, but in early years
this loss was unavoidable. With the great number of young men,
especially in the spring, street brawls were not uncommon, but had
no serious consequences; such crimes as shooting and stabbing did
not occur. Indeed the carrying of a pistol was very uncommon. Women
and girls were safe from molestation as much and more so than now,
the dude or
masher was an unknown being.
Mail arrived daily, but the roads left much to be desired. It often
happened that passengers had to walk a distance where the horses
could only get through with the empty stage, or over a hill, or lift
it out of the mire.
The village marshal kept, or attempted to keep order. Indians were
still numerous, but inoffensive. No gambling or sporting house
existed, and the community was a peaceable one. Mills stopped
running during the day on Sundays, but not rafting, when the freshet
was on. The churches having regular services on Sunday were the
Methodist church, the St. John's Episcopal, and the St. Paul's
Business conditions in the year 1867 were exceptionally good. Lumber
brought good prices and cash pay. Mills prepared for a greater
output, and the mill owners for an enlargement of the boom to hold
the greater quantity of logs, which was expected to be manufactured
next season. B. G. Plumer, with the keen foresight which was
characteristic of him, had obtained the Baetz Island, and the land
adjoining the river for the boomage of his logs, and in the coming
winter he put in the piers and the Baetz Island boom, which while
put in for his own use, nevertheless were of immense advantage to
the other mill owners, in that it at least doubled the capacity of
the boom, besides making a safe boom, able to withstand high
freshets easily. Another event occurring in that year, needs
Mr. August Kickbusch, the senior member of the firm of Kickbusch
Brothers, was another one of the business men who saw the advantage
which this county offered to the industrious poor man, who was
willing to undertake the cultivation of the land, in other words, go
farming. In the spring of that year, he made a trip to his old home
in Pommerania, a province in the kingdom of Prussia. He had left his
home just about ten years before, a comparatively poor man, and when
he returned, a wealthy man, his coming created a mild sensation. In
speaking of this country, he had to tell only the truth without
exaggeration, to induce many people to emigrate and cast their lot
with the new country. He was able to assure them that they could
find employment at paying wages, and could with their earnings
purchase good land and become independent men, and being willing to
work, a great many took his advice and came to Marathon county.
He did not spend much time in Germany, having to hurry home to give
his attention to the firm's business, and returned about the end of
June. A number of families came with him, among them, John Marquart
and wife, August Laabs and wife, Carl Goetsch, John Grochow, John
Bartz, Henry Hintz, Ludwig Marth, Otto Schochow, Ferdinand Kickbusch
and family, Ferdinand Laabs, August Buss and wife, and August
Borchardt and sister, and some young unmarried men and women.
They made their home first in Wausau, but most of them took up land
after one or two years and became prosperous farmers. But they were
only the first ones of the large emigration of low Germans which
followed them year after year until about 1880, and which built up
the towns of Main, Berlin, Stettin, Wausau, Easton, and Hamburg.
The first settlement in Wausau, which was the first settlement in
Marathon county when it was part of Portage county, has already been
referred to, and how the growth of the village made it necessary to
organize a village government, which was effected in the spring of
the year 1861.
The principal village officers were:
1861 - F. A. Hoffmann, president of board of trustees; Thomas
Single, village clerk.
1862 - B. Ringle, president of board of trustees; Thomas Single,
1863 - B. Ringle, president of board of trustees; M. H. Barnum,
1864 - R. P. Manson, president of board of trustees; M. H. Barnum,
1865 - Aug. Kickbusch, president of board of trustees; William
Wilson, village clerk.
1866 - Aug. Kickbusch, president of board of trustees; R. P. Manson,
1i867 - Jacob Paff, president of board of trustees; J. W. Chubbuck,
1868 - -Jacob Paff, president of board of trustees; J. W. Chubbuck,
1869 -Jacob Paff, president of board of trustees; J. W.
Chubbuck, village clerk.
1870 - C. Hoeflinger, president of board of trustees; J. W.
Chubbuck, village clerk.
1871 - C. Hoeflinger, president of board of trustees; J. W.
Chubbuck, village clerk.
All these names were familiar as the names of old residents at the
time, except F. A. Hoffmann, whose career was rather meteoric and
not lasting. The proceedings of the county board mentioned in a
former chapter show him as the power in that body for a space of
time at least. Thomas Single was one of the four brothers Single,
who were among the first comers into this county.
In the last years of the war and after its close, the lumber
business was profitable, mill owners made improvements to increase
the capacity of their mills, and there was a general good and secure
feeling as to the future. Lumber was in demand and advances on
lumber in piles could be procured before it was rafted. Nevertheless
some unforeseen events occurred from time to time which retarded any
sudden advance in prosperity.
In April, 1866, there was a high freshet which swept away the bridge
(at the falls), went over the guardlock, and people living on
Shingle street removed with their goods in time to escape
destruction. The east end of the guardlock was swept away, the wall
of water coming down washed out the street, tore away the pier under
the slough bridge and also the conductor between the Clarke and
Plumer's mill, a part of Clarke's mill, and some
lumber and logs. The carrying away of part of the dam of the mill
pond between the Clarke and Plumer mill delayed all mills in their
work until the damage was repaired and gave rise to some hard
feeling between the owners, it being claimed that repairing the
damage was unduly delayed.
During the summer and until the bridge at the falls was rebuilt, a
communication with the western settlements was established by
running a ferry boat from the eddy above the dam to McIndoe's
Island, which was connected with a light bridge with Clarke's
Island. To raise some cash, needed for the building of the bridge at
the falls, the county board ordered an issue of county orders,
sufficient to realize at a sale of them the sum of $1,000.00, the
orders not to be sold for less than seventy-five cents on the dollar
When the county board fixed that value on county orders, it could
not be expected they would bring more, and they did not.
The portable mills closed sawing in April, 1866, with an output
estimated at 16 million feet.
No calamity of any kind befell Wausau in 1867 and 1868; but in 1869
a fire consumed the built-up portion of the north side of Washington
street between Second and Third streets. It broke out in the night
time in the house of John Cramer on corner of Second street, and
with only water pails to fight, it spread to the next, the residence
and harness shop of Ernst Felling, then to the residence and toy
store of Jacob Kolter, then to Kolter's music hall, the finest hall
then in Wausau, completed in the fall of 1868, and threatened to
fire the house of Frank Mathie, which was saved by tearing down the
addition nearest the burning music hall and keeping wet blankets on
the roof of the main building. The buildings on the south side of
the street, the residence of F. Wartman, the house of John Dern, and
the house and store of Charles Woessner were saved by the same
methods, nearly the whole population being in line from the river up
to handle water in pails to the fire.
All these buildings were substantially new buildings, especially
music hall, which was quite a pretentious one for the time, and as
the insurance companies in which they were insured turned out wholly
or partly insolvent, the loss was severely felt by the owners; but
with pioneer grit they all went at once to work to rebuild.
The fire was an object lesson to the people, which the village board
was not slow to comprehend. The night of the fire was still, hardly
any air stirring, else had there been only a moderate wind,
increased by the heat of the flames, all the portion of the village
within the sweep of the wind would have been swept clear by the
fire. A hand engine was promptly purchased, which arrived on the 22d
day of July, 1869, which was named "W. D. Mc-Indoe" by the village
board. No holiday was proclaimed on the day of its arrival, but
there was an impromptu celebration nevertheless.
Wausau Fire Company No. 1 was already organized, and this company
with that hand engine, for nearly twenty years worked voluntarily,
that is, without any pay, attending meetings, fire practices and
working at fires, protecting the property of the citizens from heavy
losses, and on more than one occasion saved the village from
destruction. It proved its efficiency in the same year when on
October 8th, the Clarke mill caught fire in the night time, and in
spite of the immense inflammable material in and all around it,
through the efforts of the fire company, aided, of course, by the
citizens, the conflagration was confined to the mill proper, no
other building or lumber piles being consumed. B. G. Plumer, whose
property was in greatest danger, gave to the Wausau company a silver
speaking tube as a memorial of good service. Another instance was
the burning down of the large Forest Hotel, a three-story building,
standing close to Forest Hall and the Winkley House, on the 2d day
of August, 1878. In spite of heat and falling sparks, the fire was
limited to the Forest House, and the adjoining buildings escaped
destruction, although not more than twenty feet distant from the
burning one. The streets from Main up to Fourth between Forest and
Washington streets had then been built up very compact with only two
or three exceptions, all light frame buildings, and more than one
had caught fire and burned down, and in each instance the fire was
confined to the burning building, a record of which any regularly
paid company might justly be proud.
The engine house with an alarm bell stood first on the southeast
corner of the Court House square; in 1880 it was removed on the
corner one block further east. When fire broke out somebody ran to
the engine house, rang the bell, the firemen dropping everything in
hand, ran to the engine house, pulled out the engine and two hose
carts, each with five hundred feet of hose and hurried to the fire.
In most cases the fire could be reached with hose from the shore of
the slough or from platforms erected on convenient places on those
shores; later cisterns were built at the intersection of streets to
furnish water. No time was lost waiting for horses, the fire company
always responding promptly. This engine house is now the property of
Mr. Charles Burke on Scott street and used by him as a barn and
The following named gentlemen were foremen at different times of
this fire company, but it is barely possible that one or two names
may have been overlooked, the names being cited from memory, the
records of the company having been lost. The first foreman was
George Werheim; others were: B. G. Plumer, W. C. Silverthorn, Jacob
Paff, F. W. Kickbusch, Valentine Ringle, C. H. Mueller, Henry
Miller, and Louis Marchetti.
During the whole of its existence, excepting only the first two
years, Mr. August Lemke was hose captain, and no man ever rendered
more efficient and patriotic service than he. When he died in
February, 1901, the survivors of the extinct company, feeling that
such a mark of respect was due to his memory, assembled, and under
the lead of Louis Marchetti, the last foreman of the company,
escorted his remains to the grave.
Before the casket was lowered Judge Marchetti said: "We stand at the
bier of a dear friend, whom we have known long and well. With him is
gone from our midst another of those generous, daring and whole
souled pioneers, who have opened up a wilderness for thousands of
people to follow them, who profiting by their toil, have found homes
comfort, and happiness, and many of them even wealth. Few men are
living yet, who, like the deceased, have seen Wausau grow from a
mere trading post to its present proud position among the sisterhood
of cities of our proud state. Nearly his whole life was spent here,
from early youth to his ripe old age. His life was an open book that
everybody could read.
"At his bier the injunction to speak only good of the dead becomes
useless for there is nothing else to say. No man could ever say that
August Lemke did him wrong, not even in thought, much less in deed.
In his prime of life, his body was that of a giant, yet his soul was
that of a child, harmless, guileless, innocent. He never harbored
malice, never knew what it was. Like all human beings, he had his
joys and his sorrows, but he was never boastful in his success,
never bitter in his grief.
"He was an intensely loyal and patriotic citizen. He loved his
family and brought up his children to be honest, useful citizens,
not drones in society. Next to his family he loved this city, and
gave his best thoughts and many months and even years of his life to
the service of this community without pecuniary compensation. Who is
there that has done more than that; how many are there that have
done as much as that?
"For twenty years or more he was an active fireman in the voluntary
fire department and second in command during the whole time, his
modesty preventing him from taking first place, which he would have
filled with credit to himself and benefit to the community.
"Often have we seen him surrounded by smoke and flame drenched
through and through in the cold of a winter night, and never flinch.
He never sent a man to a place of danger where he would not go
himself. He served his city and county well in other places, but he
was one of those silent, modest men, who would rather shun than seek
publicity. It all the more becomes the duty of those who knew him
well to speak of his many merits at his grave and point out to the
younger generation that they might well emulate the example of our
honored friend. August Lemke was a thorough disciple of Christ. His
life was regulated by the rule 'As you would that others should do
unto you, do you even so unto them.'
"Like most other pioneers he did not accumulate great wealth; he
does not leave riches to his children, but something of more value
than that; he leaves behind him a name honored and beloved for good
acts and deeds done in life, for his civic virtues, for his spotless
character, for his unflinching integrity, and a name which will be
remembered in the history of Wausau along with those other good and
noble men who have gone before him, and with those who will soon
follow him, as the founders of our city.
"Let us now reverently and tenderly return his earthly remains to
mother earth, and may he rest and sleep sweetly in her bosom, like a
child in its mother's arm, until the day of resurrection."
Of the many saw mills erected between 1840 and 1850 the B. Single
mill on Little Rib was the first to quit operations. It burned down
in 1871 and was not rebuilt.
In the winter of 1871 there was established the first public
library. A number of gentlemen contributing to the purchase of
books, adopting a constitution by which the society was named "Pine
Knot Literary Club." The books were kept for some years in the
office of the "Wisconsin River Pilot," and later given in charge of
the "Ladies' Literary Club" and became the nucleus around which grew
up the Wausau Public Library. The founders of this club were W. C.
Silverthorn, John Ringle, Valentine Ringle, D. L. Plumer, Orson
Phelps, John Patzer, and a few more.
In 1871 a lumber pile on J. C. Clarke's yard, standing close to the
river, caught fire, communicating it to another pile, but by the
prompt arrival of the fire company aided by the mill crew, the fire
was put out without doing much damage.
Jacob Kolter had now erected and completed a building on the corner
of Washington and Third street called music hall, a large two-story
building covering the entire lot, 120x60 feet. On the first floor
were two stores, fronting Washington street, the corner store
occupied as a drug store, the next one was occupied as the banking
house of Silverthorn & Plumer. On the north side of the building was
a saloon, and above the saloon was a dining room, the saloon and
dining room being separated from the stores and the hall on the
second floor above the stores, by the stairway, landing, and ticket
That hall was the scene of many festivities and celebrations.
Theatricals, lectures, concerts, political meetings, and society
dances were held in that hall for a score of years, reflecting the
social, intellectual, and political life of Wausau. The hall was
hardly completed with stage and some scenery, when an amateur
theatrical club gave some performances, with Mrs. Dr. Wylie as
leading lady, Miss Mary Jane Coulthurst as ingenue and other ladies,
and W. H. Barnum, Charles W. Nutter and George Lenneville as the
main support of the venture. The leading lady had all the
qualifications of a great actress, but the club was short lived;
after a few good performances it broke up.
A little later the German Dramatic Club began its career and for
many years entertained the German-speaking population with its
performances in melodrama, tragedy, and farce, and it may be
truthfully said that their acting was often superior to the
performances of some of the wandering troups that come with great
pretensions and big advertisements. In the German club, Mrs. H. J.
Lohmar was the leading lady; she had the mimic, the verve, the
correct pronunciation and appearance of a great actress. Her "Jane
Eyre" was a piece of great acting, both as the poor, oppressed
orphan and the great lady.
Mrs. P. A. Riebe acted the parts of the ingenue, supported by the
Misses Caroline and Louise Ringle, and others. Dr. P. A. Riebe was
equally at home in comedy as in tragedy, while J. W. Miller played
the villain to perfection. When Riebe sang his song, in the "Songs
of the Musician," and J. W. Miller acted the part of the respectable
innkeeper, who, caught as a poacher, treacherously kills the game
warden and is tortured by his conscience into his grave, when at
last he confesses, a hush fell over the assemblage and many eyes
H. J. Lohmar, as the loving young man, would have been perfection
had he better memorized his lines and relied less on his
extemporizing. Many others assisted, but they cannot all be named.
In later years B. Riebe took the place of P. A. Riebe, but the void
left by the removal of Mrs. Lohmar was never filled.
There was a Choral Society, too, in the seventies, and they gave the
oratorio "Esther" in costume, with Miss Alice Bradford in the title
role, which she sang in fine voice and good effect.
Will Carleton recited his poems in that hall, and lectures on
popular astronomy followed. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B.
Anthony both lectured in Music Hall, and a few words on the
appearance and lecture of these, probably the most noted American
women on the lecture platform, may not be inappropriate.
The name of Cady Stanton was not unknown even in the pinery, and
attracted a full house, more probably from curiosity to see her,
than from any sympathy with her work. It was on a Saturday evening
and the hall fairly well filled. As she walked up to the stage, an
elderly, grandmotherly looking woman, simple and very becomingly
dressed, all eyes were fixed on her. Without much of an exordium,
she started on her subject, "Women's Rights," in a clear,
conversational tone that could plainly be heard everywhere, her
pronunciation being slow and very distinct, and in a very short time
the audience gave her their closest attention. Speaking of the
advance made by the movement, she spoke a little reprovingly of the
young reporters, "Hardly dry behind their ears," who in former years
referred to her and her co-workers as the cackling geese; she did
not fail to weave into her lecture some humorous episodes, even when
the joke was on her; as, for instance, when she told of how she and
other ladies of her inclination had made up a purse to enable a
bright boy to make his way through college, to become a minister,
and after having graduated with honors, having received his degree
and having been ordained, was invited by the ladies to preach his
first sermon in their church; how the church was filled by a pious
assemblage to listen to the words of the new minister; how after the
introductory hymn was sung, the young minister mounted the pulpit,
opened the good book and read from the epistle of St. Paul: "Let the
women be silent in the congregation," and made that the text for his
sermon in the spirit of St. Paul. "And," said Mrs. Stanton, with a
sly twinkle in her eyes, "we women made up our mind right then and
there, never to pay for the education of another boy to the ministry
in that denomination." Speaking of her experience before legislative
committees and political conventions, she told how she appeared in
behalf of her co-workers before the committee on resolutions of the
national Republican convention in 1864, which gave Abraham Lincoln
his second nomination, and asked for the incorporation of a woman's
suffrage plank; how the committee graciously permitted her to
address them, and after having spoken but a short time, was
impatiently interrupted by the chairman, Horace Greeley, with the
tart remark, "Madam, the ballot goes with the bayonet," and her
instant reply: "Very well, Mr. Greeley, I have furnished two
substitutes to fight for me, my two sons; how many have you ?" which
was rather a little unkind on Greeley, he having no son. At the end
of her lecture she announced that on Sunday afternoon she would
speak at a church (Universalist) and in the evening again in this
hall on another subject. Sunday night Music Hall was crowded to its
full capacity, even all available standing room was taken up.
Mrs. Stanton took up for her subject, "Domestic relations; husband
and wife; parent and child," and treated it in a masterful way. And
she could speak with authority on these subjects, for hers was a
most happy household, and she was in position to give advise; and
the whole large audience was in complete sympathy with her
discourse, she having so enraptured it, that not one was seen to
leave the hall during the whole lecture of full two hours' duration.
The following winter Susan B. Anthony delivered her great lecture,
"Woman wants bread, not the ballot," to a large appreciative
audience; the idea carried out, of course was, the ballot is a means
to earn the bread, having particular reference to the army of women
working in industrial pursuits and factories. Like Cady Stanton, she
appeared plain and simply dressed, though in good taste; and she,
too, was eagerly listened to by the assemblage.
When she feelingly mentioned the oppression that women were
frequently subjected to in factories, and the starvation wages
received by them, her face lit up and gave her a commanding
appearance. She laid bare existing wrongs; and no doubt it is
through the labor of these two women that many abuses have been
corrected in later years, though it was done without resorting to
woman suffrage. Susan B. Anthony was a really eloquent woman, and
some of her utterances will not suffer in comparison to be placed
side by side with the best of American oratory.
There were also the travelogues of Colonel Sanford, unrivaled as a
word painter. Leaving the port of New York, he took his audience
over the old continent, showing and explaining the great historical
sights there to be seen, and never failed to close with a peroration
of the grandeur, political and geographical, of our own country, the
east, and of his own home, the beautiful Mississippi valley.
There were other lectures, concerts, Abby Carrington and others of
her and of a higher class, and there were. the political meetings
with good speakers.
It was in Music Hall that H. S. Alban made his first political
speech here in reply to a speech made by Gen. E. S. Bragg, and his
appearance on the rostrum was a most pleasing surprise to his
friends, because he showed himself not only as an able speaker, but
as one who was a student of political affairs. And there was the
joint debate between Thomas W. Nichols and Robert Schilling on the
Many of the entertainments given in Music Hall came up in excellence
to any given in the opera house at later dates. That hall was, of
course, the scene of all society dances, concerts by the singing
societies, the Harmony and later the Liederkranz, and lastly the
meeting place of the social German society, "Frohsinn," the best
interpretation of which would be "good cheer."
The decline of Music Hall began with the opening of the Opera House,
which was much larger and better equipped. During the last years of
its existence it was not improved; on the contrary, even repairs
were neglected, and when J. M. Smith and C. J. Winton became the
owners and existing leases expired, it was torn down, because the
realty on that corner would warrant the erection of a new and better
building. On its place now stands the Livingston block, the finest
commercial emporium in the city.
Nevertheless the satisfaction felt by the tearing down of this
building in the expectation of something worthier of the time and
place was not wholly without some regret. It was in this building
that the firm of Silverthorn and Plumer, although having done a
brokerage business before, started out as a full fledged banking
house; after this firm had put up a building of their own on the
land owned by the Millard estate, J. M. Smith occupied their former
quarters as a real-estate office, from which Marathon county was
populated as never before.
Around Music Hall clustered many of the most pleasing, humorous and
enjoyable memories of the past; it seemed as if with the
demolishment of Music Hall went down the good old Wausau of olden
times, to make room for the new. When built in 1870, and completed
in 1871, it was the best and largest public building, and in a
quarter of a century it was no longer good enough for the times. So
passes the glory of the world, and how many of the buildings which
are today the pride of Wausau may still be so in fifty years?
Why take so much space in writing about old Music Hall? Because
there was the focus of the social and intellectual and political
life from the beginning of the city, in distinction from the
village, and these references serve to give an illustration as to
what that life really was.
From 1861 to 1871 the village had enjoyed an unexampled, thereofore
unknown growth. Several additions had been platted and the village
stretched out south, east and north; more than two hundred buildings
had been added in a few years, and the time had come to organize a
A CITY CHARTER.
was obtained in 1872 and sections 36, 25, 26, and 35, in township
29, range 7 east, were set off as a city.
The territory is four square miles in extent, exactly one mile in
each direction from the northwest corner of Main and Washington
streets, yet the settled portion covered only a part. The marsh
still existed, one corduroy road at Jackson street crossed it, but
during the summer Henriette street was opened and a road cut out,
from the end of which a corderoy road was built to connect with
McIntosh street, which was also made passable.
No new buildings had been added on the west side to those already
mentioned, but good residence buildings were put up on Fourth and
Fifth streets as far north as Franklin, and south on Grand avenue as
far as the breweries.
At the presidential election in 1872, the total number of votes cast
in the city was 425.
The charter election was held on the first Tuesday in April and
resulted in the election of August Kickbusch as mayor.
With its organization as a city, the great work of improvements
began, which has been continued ever since, more prominent in some
years than in others, but never at a standstill.
Street grading was undertaken; a new bridge across the slough was
built much higher above the water than the old one, and the street
to the bridge from Main street west was filled in from three to five
feet in some places to reduce its steepness. About three thousand
dollars was spent in that year on street improvements alone, which
was a large sum at that time, but it was a paying investment.
The inauguration of Mr. Kickbusch was quite a solemn affair, and
evidenced the fact that the officers as well as the people were
conscious that a change had taken place in their political status,
which deserved special observance.
The outgoing village board was in session, presided over by Carl
Hoeflinger, its president, when the mayor and new city council
appeared in the meeting room of the engine house, which served as a
village and city hall for many years. Mr. Hoeflinger then made a
short address, referring to the changed condition, congratulated the
people upon the advancement and the mayor and aldermen upon their
election, and then the old village board vacated their chairs, and
the city council took their places.
The council was called to order, the mayor delivered his inaugural,
brimful of good common sense, and the new government was installed
and proceeded to business. The administration of August Kickbusch
was a great credit to the city, which took a decided step towards
municipal progress, and gracefully and successfully passed through
the metamorphose from village to city.
Two years afterwards he was again elected as mayor, and in 1889 was
appointed by President Harrison as receiver of the United States
land office at Wausau. The duties of this office were not congenial
to him and he voluntarily retired in 1891, for the following
reasons, which reflected credit upon his character:
On the 20th day of December, 1890, there were made subject to
homestead entry about 200,000 acres of land, situated in Lincoln,
Vilas and Oneida counties, which had theretofore been withdrawn for
entry and settlement, and much of it was valuable pine land. These
facts, and that the lands became subject to homestead entry on that
day, had been very widely advertised and described as worth
thousands of dollars each 80-acre tract, and consequently thousands
of people came to Wausau from all parts of the United States to take
up these lands under the homestead act. On the afternoon of the 18th
day of December some ten to twelve men were seen running to the
window in the courthouse, where according to advertisement publicly
made by the register and receiver of the United States land office,
the applications for homestead entry would be received on December
20, 1890, from 9 o'clock A. M.; and in less than an hour hundreds of
applicants were standing in a line from that window to the street
east, and across the sidewalk, with many hundreds of others on the
courthouse square, coming too late. It took three and part of the
fourth day to dispose of these applicants one after another, who
were waiting out there in the cold all during these days, standing
up or squatting on the snow and freezing, while hundreds of others
hastened to the lands to take possession of them by settlement, as
the legal phrase is, immediately after midnight of December 19,
1890, and thousands of others left the city, disgusted by being
fooled to come hundreds and some over one thousand miles for a
homestead, at great expense and with no certainty of being able to
The men who went to the land after midnight of December 19, 1890,
claimed a preference right over the men who filed their application
and paid for their entry at the land office, and contested the
rights of the filers (the men who filed for their land at the land
office) to the lands. Mr. Kickbusch was not a lawyer and not
familiar with land office practice, but he had a strongly developed
sense of what was right and what was wrong. There was a difference
of opinion even among lawyers as to who should have the preference
right, the men who filed or the men who settled after midnight.
These conflicting claims had to be settled first of the local land
office by suits, called contests. When hundreds of contests were
brought by the settlers who had no papers from the land office,
against the filers, who had the papers, and August Kickbusch was
given to understand by the register of the land office, who had been
in office for sixteen years and who was familiar with the United
States land laws, that all things being equal, the settler had the
best right to the land and the filer would lose it, Mr. Kickbusch
said: "No, that is not right. I have taken from these filers their
money and they have stood there in line for days and frozen, and now
I should decide against them? That I will not do, even if it is the
law; rather than do that I will resign," and he did resign before
the first contest was brought on for a hearing. He followed the
dictates of his conscience, preferring to resign the high office
than do that which he deemed a wrong.
His name has often been mentioned as one of the pioneer businessmen
in former chapters; many years his general store was the largest
commercial house in Wausau, and he also dealt in lumber. He was a
keen judge of human nature, but warm-hearted and accommodating.
Always ready to help his countrymen, not only with his counsel, but
with giving credit when others refused, he was deservedly popular
with all classes of people. For years he was one of the most
powerful political factors in Marathon county, first as a Democrat,
then as a member of the Greenback party; later still, as a
Republican until his death, in May, 1904, which caused widespread
mourning. He was the founder of the Aug. Kickbusch Wholesale Grocery
Company, and one of the directors of the First National Bank of
Wausau from its organization until his death, and also a director in
the Ruder Brewery Company.
In 1873 Jacob Paff was elected mayor, under whose administration
another important problem concerning the future development of the
city came up for solution. The annual agricultural products of
Marathon county were then far from supplying the home demand, and as
the farming industry at that time practically ended on the north
line of township 30 the deficiency had to be hauled up from the
nearest railroad station, which was still Stevens Point, while the
export of lumber depended on the caprices of the Wisconsin
The first railroad was secured in this year, though not finished
until 1874, and the mayor of Wausau, Jacob Paff, was an important
personage in inducing the Wisconsin Valley Railroad to enter Wausau.
In this year was also made the contract for the first large
schoolhouse, the first brick building in Wausau, heated by hot air,
the Humbolt Schoolhouse, slightly enlarged since that time. The
contract price was $18,000, and L. S. Hayne, a stranger, was the
contractor, but when it was completed it came to $24,000. To pay for
this building, Wausau bonded itself for the first time, issuing
$10,000 in bonds and paying 10 per cent interest thereon. The high
rate of interest paid on these bonds issued by a city who had no
other indebtedness at all at that time, shows another instance of
the prevailing scarcity of money at that time.
Buildings nevertheless increased; over one hundred houses were
erected that year.
Jacob Paff was one of the earliest German settlers in Wausau; he
came about 1851, and for seven years worked as a carpenter and
cabinetmaker, having a shop on Jackson street, later built a store
on Jackson and Third streets, where he carried on a general
merchandise business and also engaged in lumbering. He demonstrated
his belief in the permanency of Wausau by erected its first solid
brick building, where his first store building stood, and following
it up with the building of more brick stores on Third street, which
made it the principal business street in the city. He was one of the
founders of the First National Bank and its vice-president from the
time of its organization until his death, on the 6th day of May,
1895, often acting as president.
Much of the prosperity of this bank was due to the confidence which
the people of all classes of society had in his business capacity
and personal integrity, for he at all times enjoyed the respect and
esteem of the business world and the people generally.
He was county clerk of Marathon county, and for more than a decade
one of the principal merchants and lumbermen of Wausau.
In 1874 August Kickbusch was again called upon to preside over the
destinies of Wausau. The Wisconsin Valley Railroad was expected to
reach Wausau, and he having taken a prominent part in the
conferences which culminated in the contract for the building of
that road, it was thought proper that he should be the official head
to welcome the iron horse. The day of the arrival of the first train
was duly celebrated, as has already been related.
In this year were finished the fine residences of N. T. Kelly, Mrs.
M. B. Scholfield, William Callon and many others. The Marathon
County Bank erected its first solid brick building, (since torn down
and replaced with its present structure) and James McCrossen built
his big store on corner of Scott and Third streets.
Lincoln county, with one hundred townships, was set off from
Marathon county in the legislative session of 1874.
The total vote in the fall election for the highest office voted for
in that year, member of congress, in the city of Wausau, was 592.
The election of 1875 brought Mr. Carl Hoeflinger to the head of city
officers. Wausau's growth had been comparatively rapid during the
two previous years; streets had been laid out and graded, the new
school house completed and was used, but it was soon discovered that
instead of answering the needs of many years yet to come, it was
just comfortably answering present needs and no more.
The railroad had brought many people, among whom were those that
always follow railroad building and extensions; people whose
acquisitions is of doubtful value to any place, and sometimes even a
positive damage. The booms had been extended, lumber output largely
increased, and Wausau became the center of the lumber industry on
the Wisconsin river, which it has maintained to this day.
Merrill was then, and remained without a railroad until 1881. It had
no large boom to hold logs; the Scott & Andrews mill the only mill
there, boomed most of their logs in Prairie river. Only a few
boarding houses were in Merrill, and the many hundreds of men who
worked in the large number of camps in Lincoln county and all camps
above Wausau, all came down here to be paid off, many remained here
to go on the log drives after the river opened and returned again
after the driving, or with the drive to Wausau. Wausau was their
headquarters, as they called it, filling every hotel and boarding
house to overflowing during the spring and early summer months, and
had their earnings to spend. There were places willing to lighten
them of their burden, even watching out for them, having runners to
show them the sights, runners to show them to places where Dame
Fortune might smile upon them, and incidentally relieve them of
their hard-earned winter wages.
The police force consisted of a marshal and one night watchman,
re-enforced for a couple of months in the spring by a special
policeman. The fire department consisted of the unpaid voluntary
fire company, with the hand engine, assisted by the hook and ladder
company, also volunteers. There was enough for the mayor to do in
those days, especially if one was inclined to be more than mayor in
name only, or limit his official authority to the presidency over
the city council. Mr. Hoeflinger was conscious that, although there
was no salary attached to the office, still some duties were to be
performed, not of a pleasing nature, or in connection with the
merely administrative affairs of the city, but duties onerous and
unpleasant, but he did not shrink from performing them.
Wausau being then on the end of a railroad line, and the last place
of importance on the Wisconsin river, had a very large floating
population, sometimes as many as a thousand, who spent a large part
of their earnings here. It had assumed somewhat the airs and
complexion of a frontier town, which in fact it was, and shady
characters plied their trade almost everywhere. Livery rigs, whose
occupants delighted in gaudy colored and highly scented dresses,
paraded the streets, inviting the unsophisticated pinery boy to make
acquaintance with the world, rather demi-monde. Mayor Hoeflinger
undertook the heroic task of cleaning out the city. He made no
pompous declaration of what he was going to do, did not begin this
work by a bugle blast. He went at it in a most primitive way. One
night he called to his aid his faithful adlatus, the city marshal,
George Stelz, and - Harum al Raschid-like – they made a tour of the
suspected parlors of Dame Fortune. No arrests were made on the spot,
but next day it was said on the street that the mayor had delivered
himself of some forceful speeches in some places. Some arrests
followed and a number of business men in the wet goods line gave
bond for their appearance in circuit court. After some terms of
court these cases were forgotten, but the mayor's bold appearance as
a social reformer had a good effect for more than his own term of
office. Some of the professionals left the town, the bunco steerer
disappeared, and the olfactory nerves of the
pinery boys were no longer termpted on the streets by the odors of
musk or patchoulie with which the air seemingly had theretofore been
impregnated. Wausau assumed its normal condition; legitimate
enterprises prospered; the building of fine residences, especially
in the northeastern part, continued, mainly the work of a new
architect and builder, John Mercer, who had come to Wausau in 1872.
The N. T. Kelly residence was his first work here, which to this day
is one of the finest residence buildings in the city, and many
others are of his conception and plans.
At this time the city began to spread out across the river, but
nevertheless the hard times beginning with the fall of the banking
house of Jay Cook begun to be felt in Wausau. Its effect had been
retarded somewhat by the building of the railroad to Wausau in 1874,
but lumber had fallen in price, collections were slow, and the
municipality began to feel the downward trend of affairs about this
Mr. Hoeflinger did his best to keep city expenses down to a proper
limit, but he could not prevent a large return of unpaid taxes,
which in those days, at least so far as personal property tax was
concerned, was nearly a clear loss. He was glad to relinquish the
cares of office and devote himself to his private business as a real
estate and insurance man.
Carl Hoeflinger came to Wausau in 1860, and was county treasurer
from 1865 to 1873; he occupied the chair as editor of the Wausau
Wochenblatt when it was founded, and at different times thereafter,
being a fluent and racy writer in both the German and English
languages. Alone and unaided by any society or organization, he
organized and led the first procession on Memorial Day in honor of
the departed soldiers of the Civil war, furnishing with a lavish
hand, from his own garden, all the flowers for the occasion. The
ceremony fell in disuse after this first procession, to be revived
after many years by Cutler Post, G. A. R., at Wausau. C. Hoeflinger
was a man of attractive qualities of mind and heart, always popular,
generous almost to a fault. He died a victim to that dread disease,
consumption, on the 21st day of September, 1880, only forty-eight
years of age.
The office of mayor was purely an honorary one until lately, but
there never was a dearth of candidates, many citizens not only being
willing, but glad to serve their fellow citizens in that capacity,
though they had to go through the ordeal of an election and take the
chances of defeat at the polls. They considered it an honor to be
the candidate of a portion of the people, the candidate of their
party, and next to the honor of being elected, stood the honor of
being defeated; at least that was the view taken by people in
earlier days, and they brought forward good men in each instance,
the community being the gainer by it.
The choice for mayor in 1876 was B. Ringle, who was then and had
been for years, the county judge of this county. The election was
very animated, not only as to mayor, but for every office from mayor
down. The political parties were drawing the lines and marshaling
their forces preparatory for the presidential contest of 1876, and
each party put forward their best and most popular man.
Such men as D. L. Plumer and R. E. Parcher were contestants for the
office of supervisor of the Third ward, which included all the
territory north of Washington and east of Main street. Both of these
men were excellent citizens, their reputation for competency,
integrity and local patriotism as well established as now, but
curiously enough their nomination, instead of bringing forth
unanimous rejoicing, brought forth only bitter denunciations from
their respective partisans. It was Archbishop Whatley who said that
in a heated political contest it could easily be proven that Abel
had killed Cain, and the truth of this remark was proven by the
heated disputes of the partisans of these candidates.
The Republicans were bound to elect their candidate; the Democrats
felt they could not afford to have their candidate defeated, and
other wards took more interest in the election of the Third ward
than in their own. When on the night of the election, D. L. Plumer
emerged with a majority of three votes out of the contest there was
a sigh of relief among Democrats, and the Republicans were
satisfied, feeling that they had done their whole duty by their
The election in this year, including the presidential election of
1876, was the last one in which these two gentlemen were found in
opposite camps. The exigency of politics brought them together in
less than two years, and from that time on until the death of R. E.
Parcher, they trained together in business and pretty much in the
same political camp.
The administration of Mayor B. Ringle continued the established
policy of street improvements, and in general kept a watchful eye on
the interests of the city. But business was getting duller and
duller, prices were still falling, and as taxes were bearing hard on
the people the expenses of the city were curtailed as much as
possible. Still one work worth mentioning was undertaken. The city
had been spreading out and homes were erected all along and close up
to the edges of the marsh. The miasma arising from this stagnant
pool caused much sickness, especially among children, with an
appalling death rate.
The drainage of this marsh was undertaken by digging a ditch at the
southwest end of the marsh leading to a plank culvert, which ran
underground through the property of Adam Young and P. B. McKellar,
and underground across Grand avenue into the ravine which comes up
to Grand avenue at Columbia park, leading to the river. That ditch
and culvert served its purpose for a time, lowering the height of
the pond and narrowing its limits, but in the nature of things could
only be of a temporary character.
The pool on William's flat in the first ward, was also partially
trained and the sanitary condition was greatly improved, though the
cause was not wholly removed.
Few men, if any, filled the office of mayor who devoted more time to
its interests and had more executive ability, a more thorough
understanding and knowledge of municipal affairs. B. Ringle had been
county clerk of Marathon county for six years, had served it five
times as representative in the legislature and was county judge from
1864 until his death, on the 27th day of October, 1881. He was
familiar with the needs of the city as well as the county.
When he took the office of county clerk, and found the county owing
the state $20,000 for taxes, a very large sum in those days, when
money brought one and one-half or two per cent interest per month,
and lands were considered a burden, he was the originator and, with
the aid of his intimate friend, Senator E. L. Brawn of Waupaca,
succeeding in enacting a law by which the state accepted forty
thousand acres of tax title land in cancellation of this debt.
These lands were sold by the state for 75 cents an acre soon
afterwards, and thereby again returned to the assessment rolls,
increasing to that extent the taxable property of the county. For
this act Mr. B. Ringle received high praise from all parties at that
In his private life, as well as in his official capacity, he was a
man of unimpeachable integrity, plain-spoken in language, going
always directly to the point, never deceiving friend or foe with
phrases of doubtful import or double meaning. He was a powerful
factor in shaping the destinies of Marathon county and the city of
Wausau, and politically exerted more influence soon after his coming
to Wausau than any other man. He was a native of the Palatine,
Germany, where he was educated and worked in some minor official
capacity. He emigrated to this county in 1846, and came directly to
Wisconsin, settling first in Germantown, Washington county, but two
years later took up farm life in the town of Herman, Dodge county,
Wisconsin, where he remained until the spring of 1859, when he came
to Wausau. He was postmaster, chairman and justice of the peace in
Dodge county, and familiar with town, village and county government
when he came to Wausau. The numerous German settlers who came to
Marathon county about that time
and settled in the new towns, consulted him more than any one of the
lawyers then here on town organization and the like, because he
could speak their language, explain the meaning of the law and
instruct them in their duties. They found him a reliable and willing
advisor, and that in connection with his sturdy and honest character
accounted for the strong political influence which he exerted until
The census of 1875 and the presidential vote of 1876 showed a large
gain over the previous years. Nevertheless business was suffering
more and more, there was a disposition to find fault with the
government of nation, state and municipality, and whenever a mayor
had served his one-year term, he asked for no other, but was glad to
retire and leave the thankless job to some other person.
In 1877 J. C. Clarke became mayor and the council which was elected
with him was conspicuous in more than one sense, than any of its
predecessors. Not only was the mayor one of the largest businessmen
of the city, but so were most of the supervisors, who under the old
charter were also members of the city council. There were B. G.
Plumer, from the first ward; Jacob Paff, from the second; Carl
Hoeflinger, from the fourth, and Alex Stewart, from the newly
created fifth ward. They found an empty treasury, empty because a
large amount of taxes was returned as unpaid, and in those
days the county treasurer did not pay the delinquent taxes on the
return to him of the tax rolls. It took an order of the county board
requiring him to do so after the tax sale, at which the county was
usually the only bidder, and then county orders were issued to the
city or towns for unpaid taxes. In 1877 the city had no less than
$4,000 in county orders for unpaid taxes, but these county orders
were not par, but stood at a discount of from 20 to 25 per cent. Of
course the city kept these orders in the treasury expecting to pay
the county taxes for the ensuing year, and tried to get along with
the license money which was not to exceed $50 a year where it is now
$200 until the next tax paying time.
There was not much change for improvements, and the best that could
be done was to keep streets and bridges in some kind of repair.
There was then no money for such luxuries as street lights or street
Still the administration managed to run the city without going into
debt, and they had to exercise much wisdom in accomplishing it. The
hard times had struck Wausau with full force; many men were out of
employment, and wages were at low ebb. Yet one ray of hope
penetrated the dark outlook. The Wisconsin Valley Railroad opened a
real estate office at Wausau in Music Hall building, and put J. M.
Smith in charge of the business. He as principal contractor of the
building of the road had taken a large interest in that land in part
payment and was directly interested in the sale; it was said at the
time that he had a half interest. Certain it is that after a few
years he purchased the interest of the railroad in the land, and
owned it himself with his co-partner Thompson. In the spring of 1875
he made his first trip through the settled portion with a view of
examining the land as to fertility of the soil and its adaption for
farming. The season was unusually late that year, and he found the
growing crops decidedly backwards and felt rather blue over the
prospect of realizing much out of the land. About two months later
he made the same trip again, and was then surprised to see the
waving fields of grain and thick fields of timothy which greeted his
astonished gaze. He knew then that his interest in the lands would
turn out much better than expected, and he lost no time in
endeavoring to get actual settlers. He advertised liberally, but
judiciously, spending thousands of dollars in making known the
agricultural richness of Marathon county, establishing a number of
branch offices, and had hundreds of little frames made, boxes, in
which the grains produced in Marathon county were exhibited, which
were distributed at railroad stations and on all points liable to
attract the attention of prospective purchasers. His energetic work
began to tell in 1877; there was a large influx of strangers who
settled on these lands, and they had to purchase their home and farm
supplies at Wausau, as their nearest market. Their trade not only
enlivened the extremely dull season somewhat, but held out great
hopes for the future.
He was very successful in bringing settlers to this county, selling
lands at reasonably low rates, even for that time and by giving such
liberal terms as to payments that even the poorest was enabled to
obtain a home; provided he would be industrious and honest. Nearly
every one of these settlers became a well to do farmer, and to J. M.
Smith's push and energy, and his honorable and fair dealing with the
parties to whom he sold, was due much of the growth of agriculture
in this county, and a corresponding growth of Wausau as an
industrial and manufacturing center. This immigration helped Wausau
over the worst of the hard times in 1877, and the careful management
of city affairs saved it from running into debt.
The end of Mayor Clarke's administration was remarkable by the
beginning of suits against city and county with a view of the
cancellation of taxes which were sought to be declared illegal. This
controversy was hurtful to the city more than to the county, but
both passed out of it with no more damage than a black eye, for the
time being, figuratively speaking, but the after effect was rather
beneficial in that assessors were brought about to a better
understanding and realization of their duties.
J. C. Clarke had often been mentioned as pioneer lumberman who came
as a boy to Wausau in 1845. He was harder pressed than any other of
the mill owners at Wausau during the time from 1874 to 1879, but he
held up his head and succeeded in saving his property when other
lumbermen went down. Fortune began smiling on him after 1879, and he
was on the road to prosperity, when he sold out his mill property
and standing pine to the McDonald Brother Company, a corporation in
1882, retaining only a respectable minority of the shares. But being
used to the full and unrestricted control of his large business for
so many years, which he was no longer allowed to exercise after the
new corporation had taken possession, he sold his remaining interest
in the following year and looked around for a new field of labor. In
an evil hour he invested in a tobacco plantation in Virginia, and
what it was that could induce him, a Wisconsin pioneer lumberman, to
go down into old Virginia among the Southern planters with whom he
could not have anything in common, remained a mystery to his friends
until the end of his life. The venture turned out a complete failure
and so was his next venture of farming in the state of New Jersey.
He returned to Wausau after a few years, then took up a homestead
near Bradley on the Sault St. Mary Railroad, cleared the title to
some of his property at and near Tomahawk City, which was then being
founded by a Mr. Bradley, and succeeded in getting means enough to
build himself a decent and respectable home, the only property which
descended to his children. He was an energetic and hard worker all
his life; came as a boy of fourteen years into the pinery without
any acquaintances or friends; he understood the lumber business
thoroughly, and in his younger days was sought as a pilot,
particularly to run Big Bull. He was honest and warm hearted, but he
could not always read the signs of the times; his first error was in
selling out at a time when remaining a few more years in sole
control of his property would have brought him a little fortune; but
his greatest error was his venture in going into the plantation
country of Virginia which came nigh ruining him financially. When he
returned, however, he was the same John C. Clarke, undaunted by
reverses, beginning life anew, and to the end of his days had the
respect and good will of all his many old friends and acquaintances.
He was sheriff of Marathon county in 1859 and 1860, and many years a
very influential member of the county board. He was elected to the
assembly in 1881, and was a very creditable representative. While in
the legislature, it happened that the railroad construction company
which was building the railroad from the city of Eau Claire to
Superior City went into bankruptcy and the state was forced by sheer
humanity to send provisions up the line of the road to save the
working people of that road from starvation.
John C. Clarke with a few other honorable and far seeing members
desired the state to take the land grant given for the building of
the road and build and operate the railroad itself. That land grant
was worth more than it cost to build and equip the railroad, but for
the state to take the grant, as it had a perfect right to do, and
get the railroad substantially for nothing and still have valuable
land was, in the opinion of the great majority of the legislature at
that time, looking too much towards socialism, and the grant was
given to the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, which built the new
line and organized it as the Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis & Omaha
There was a sequel to that land grant. The Chicago, Milwaukee & St.
Paul Railroad also sought to get that grant, and the competition of
these railroads endangered the success of either and worked
indirectly in favor of the scheme of John C. Clarke and a few of his
friends, who wanted the state to take over the grant and build the
Under the circumstances the two railroads made common cause; the
Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Company withdrew, leaving the field
clear to Chicago & Northwestern Railroad under a secret agreement,
letting the last mentioned railroad take the grant, and build the
road, about 62 miles in length, in consideration of which the
Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad should have a one-fourth
interest in the lands granted, and be allowed to run their trains
over the newly built road on very favorable terms and other very
important and valuable concessions.
When the Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad had
obtained that grant, had built the road and operated it, it refused
to stand by the bargain made with the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul
Railroad, claiming that the contract was void as against public
policy. In the litigation which followed the breach of the contract,
the Omaha road made that their defense, and the supreme court could
not but adopt the same view. In the language of later days, this
agreement was "a gentleman's agreement" ("rogue" would be a better
term), which is binding on gentlemen without any aid of courts, just
as gambling debts are called "debts of honor" because no court in
the world will enforce them, and in this instance the Omaha road did
not play the part of the gentleman with the gentleman on the other
side. In strict course of justice, the successful railroad should
have been also deprived of the grant or the benefits derived from
it, because obtained under a corrupt bargain.
See 75 Wis. 225, and Sec. 4482 R. S., cited by court.
Such and similar agreements of and between railroads and favored
corporations and large shippers, and actions of this sort, have
brought about the hostile feeling against railroads which manifested
itself in unfriendly legislation in late years, under which
railroading is suffering to some extent at this time, but for which
they themselves are largely responsible.
Since his return to Wausau, John C. Clarke was elected justice of
the peace, re-elected from term to term, and he died at the age of
seventy-six years, after a comparatively short illness. The last
years of his life were spent fairly comfortably at his home on
Franklin street, a modest, unpretentious but neat little house. He
was a native of north Wales and came as boy with some emigrant
friends to Dane county in June, 1845, from where he wandered up in
the Wisconsin pinery in the same year, a poor, friendless boy, and
stayed here all his life, with the exception of the few years spent
in Virginia and New Jersey after he sold out in 1883 before his
return back home.