Source: History of Marathon County Wisconsin and Representative Citizens (1913) written by Louis Marchetti, pages 293-341 (Transcribed by Marla Zwakman)
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Wausau Wisconsin - 1913 History
History of Northern Wisconsin 1881 - Marathon County (Wausau)


Up to the year 1878 the majority of voters in Wausau were attached to the Democratic party. Officers were nominated by political conventions, but while there was opposition in the election, the Democratic party succeeded in electing the head of the village or city government without interruption, and also most of the minor officers, and the village trustees or the city council. The government was honest though a party government, no charges of graft were ever made, much less discovered or sustained, nor did any defalcation of public funds occur.

But in the spring of 1878 there came a change. It was brought about by the organization and growth of the Greenback party, which had drawn its strength so much from the Democratic party that when the Greenback party nominated a city ticket in 1878 with D. L. Plumer, a prominent formed Democrat at the head, the Democrats put up no ticket in opposition, but left it to the Republican party alone to put up the opposition ticket. The Republican party thus challenged, nominated a straight party ticket, which was defeated, and Mr. D. L. Plumer and the whole Greenback ticket was elected by a big majority. Mr. R. E. Parcher was elected on the Greenback ticket for assessor.

D. L. Plumer was no novice in city government, and with a competent council he did all that could be done to steer the city clear of the bars and cliffs which threatened the municipality. It was a time when tax litigation was rampant. A few suits had already been commenced in the winter of 1877-78 to cancel taxes, and towards spring they multiplied. A decision of the highest court in the state seemed an inducement to fight taxes. In one day not less than twenty actions were served upon Mayor Plumer. The treasury was at low ebb, and the outlook for a betterment was not flattering. But in matters of litigation of this kind the mayor was of an unyielding disposition, and by his holding out against all settlements or compromises with litigants, and the city and county attorneys working together in harness and digging deep into old musty law books, they found a hole through which to escape, and at the end of the year the city had obtained favorable decisions in most cases, escaping with no more damage than a discolored eye. From that time on, too, there was more attention paid to assessments, and on the whole, taking into account the after effect, the tax litigation did no lasting harm to the city, though it crippled it for a while.

D. L. Plumer refused to be a candidate at the end of his term, but three years later was again chosen to head the city government.

Under those circumstances there was a little chance for great improvements of a municipal character, but it was glory enough to have passed safely between the Scylla and Charybdis of litigation and an empty treasury. When Mr. Plumer turned city affairs over to his successor at the expiration of his first term, the taxes were collected, and the treasury was relieved from its former prostrate condition.


J. E. Leahy was elected mayor in 1879 and re-elected in 1880 and 1881. His three years of service mark the beginning of a new era for Wausau. Times began to mend; the resumption of specie payment was an accomplished fact; the contraction of the currency had ceased, and the beginning of a period of expansion had set in. Business revived with advancing prices. These and other causes helped to mark the three years of Mayor Leahy's incumbency of office as a return of flush times of Wausau. In the summer of 1879 the Wisconsin Valley Railroad (now Chicago, Michigan & St. Paul) extended its line to Merrill, and the large crew of men engaged in that work were paid off at Wausau. In 1880, the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway (now the Chicago & Northwestern) reached the city, which gave it an impetus, such as it had never enjoyed before. The Clark, Johnson & Co. saw mill (now the Barker & Stewart mill) was built in 1880 and was in full operation in 1881, and in this year was also commenced the erection of the factory of Curtis Bros. & Co. (now Curtis & Yale) and the Dunbar & McDonald mill, which burned down in July, 1885. The Murray Foundry works made a large addition to its already great establishment, and everybody was busy.

The location of the depot of the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Railway in B. Williams' addition made it necessary to fill in the street down the hill to make it less steep and fit to haul freight over. It was an expensive work and left the road still deep enough to make hauling of freight very expensive and tiresome. The Northwestern railway felt the necessity of a different depot location, and when it extended its line west, it bought the property on which the freight depot is now located, and the city donated it a strip off the west side of Main street to make ample room for freight carriers and easy approach into the business part of the city. In these years was also begun the improvement of streets by planking the gutters to facilitate the surface drainage, and the putting down of street crossings. The steam fire engine was purchased in 1880, and that was the commencement of the transition from the voluntary fire department to the paid department which, however, was not completed for several years thereafter.

In 1880 and 1881 occurred the highest floods known to the earliest settlers. During the summer of 1880 the railroad traffic between Wausau and Stevens Point was interrupted by the flood for two weeks, and as the highway south was also overflowed, especially between Mosinee and Wausau, and at other places, too, and there being no other means of communication, there was for some days no communication at all with the outside world.

When the traffic was thus interrupted by the flood between Wausau and Stevens Point, it so happened that Mr. John Ringle was a delegate to the national Democratic convention at Cincinnati, Ohio, and had he waited for the flood to subside, he would have been too late for the opening of the convention and maybe too late altogether. Determined to be on time, he and W. C. Silverthorn, who accompanied him, put their suit cases in a skiff and made the journey from Wausau to Stevens Point on the high, roaring Wisconsin, stopping one night at Mosinee, portaging their boat over the falls, and arriving next day in Stevens Point where they took the railroad. It was not a very pleasant trip for two gentlemen not accustomed to that sort of travel, but it was a duty which the delegate would not shirk, and his friend was patriotic enough to stay with him and share the duty and the danger.

Another flood occurred in the fall of the same year, though without doing much damage. The highest flood known on the Wisconsin up to that time occurred in the last days of September, 1881, when the river rose to a height of 14 1/2 feet above low water mark. During this last flood the upper boom broke and sixty million feet of logs came rushing down in a heap against the big round piers on the lower divide. These piers stopped the first powerful rush, and then the logs formed an immense jam, which helped to relieve the mighty pressure and kept the logs confined in the boom. During the night hundreds of men and all available teams were hauling rock on the guardlock to weigh it down, but in the forenoon the water overflowed the embankment from the top, which also showed leakage below. To stop the leakage and the overflow of the bank became of the utmost necessity, for had a break occurred between the lock and the bank, the rush of the water would have swept the lock away in an instant, and the mills and mill yards full of lumber below would have been carried away.

J. M. Smith voluntarily directed the work of stopping the leakage and making the embankment from the guardlock to and over the railroad track. Under his intelligent and cool management it was accomplished successfully. His long and varied experience as a railroad builder was worth a great deal to the lumbermen below and to Wausau at that time. It was an exciting moment when, while a score of men were at work on the eastern portion of the lock, that work formed of timber squares and filled with rock, suddenly moved between three and four feet down stream, and while everybody was jumping for life to reach the bank expecting a breakage, it suddenly came to a stop again. The ground timbers had struck a solid rock which gave it the required force of resistance. A number of lives were saved by this timely stoppage.

The strengthening of the east wing of the guardlock by backing it against the pressure from above was undertaken by B. G. Plumer, who personally took the place of greatest danger and accomplished his purpose.

The outlet to drain the marsh had become clogged up so as to let no water flow through the culvert, and the creeks from the east side and the water from the east hill filled the low ground of the marsh to overflow, converting it into a lake, so that at Mr. Young's place on Grand avenue it overflowed the street and ran in the ravine south of the Columbia Park. It is said that some person wishing to prevent the water from rising in the marsh and overflowing the near buildings, dug a ditch across the road to facilitate the flow of water. If that was his purpose he succeeded admirably. As soon as the water began flowing it commenced to wash out and in a couple of hours it had made a tear in the street about forty feet wide and twenty-four feet deep through which the water rushed with a tremendous velocity. The house of P. B. McKellar stood on the east side of Grand avenue some few feet from the street. The water tore a great ravine washing away the land from underneath the house, part of which tumbled down in the ditch, and the house was substantially destroyed. The ditch so created by the washing away, served as a complete drainage of the marsh; the large quantity of sand and dirt swept into the river and created a bar, plugging the free course of the river, since which time the river changed its channel and the largest portion flows now in the two western channels of the river. Afterwards a brick sewer was laid in that ditch, intending to carry off the water to the river. The break in the street was spanned by a bridge, but afterwards sufficient ground was had nearby, mainly from macadamizing of Grand avenue, to fill the break in the road again when the bridge was taken up, and the street was again its original width.

There was more or less damage done to streets, but that was quickly repaired, and when Mr. Leahy turned the city over to his successor, the injurious effects of the flood had all disappeared. The city, too, had largely grown in population, but the growth was more marked on the west side of the river than on the east side.

Mr. Leahy was a student at the state university when the war broke out, but left school and entered the Thirty-fifth Wisconsin Infantry as a volunteer, advancing to the grade of captain of Company E before the war closed. He came to Wausau in 1866 and engaged in lumbering, operating mainly on Trappe river, until in company with M. P. Beebe he built the Leahy & Beebe saw mill in 1882 and operated it until 1890, when the partnership was dissolved, and the mill shortly afterwards sold. It is now owned and operated by the Jacob Mortenson Lumber Company.

J. E. Leahy was elected to the state assembly in 1882 and to the senate in 1886. While engaged in lumbering there was no man more popular with his employes. He was liberal in his views, fair in the treatment of his men and in business affairs, and clean in his private character, and these qualities, coupled with a fine education, enabled him to give the city an eminently successful administration. J. E. Leahy has always taken much interest in political affairs, and as late as 1896 was an effective campaign speaker in Marathon county, his support being eagerly sought by the contending parties. His views on the coinage question made him a supporter of William J. Bryan, and since that time he has been in sympathy with advanced progressive legislation without becoming a radical. Although retired from active business, he still resides here and takes great interest in everything that is of advantage to the city.

By the census of 1880 the population of Wausau was 4,272, as against 2,820 in 1875.


D. L. Plumer was again elected mayor in 1882, re-elected in 1883, and much progress was made in these two years. School houses were built and enlarged, the first steel bridge built across the Wisconsin river over the falls at an expense of nearly $20,000, also the pile bridge constructed at the north end (both built in 1882), cisterns dug for fire protection, and all that without going into debt. The two sections which were added to the city on the north had become largely settled, as well as Dunbar's and Marquardt's additions on the west side, and those were years of great municipal activity.

Mr. Plumer was always a strong believer in the permanency of Wausau and at all times diligent in advancing its interest. With Mr. W. H. Knox and James McCrossen he founded the Wausau Lumber Company in 1879, which company erected and kept in operation its mill located at the mouth of Stinchfield creek until it burned in May, 1889.

For many years he was county surveyor of Marathon county, and as county surveyor he more than any other man became familiar with the lands and resources of Marathon county.

As early as 1866 he entered into partnership with W. C. Silverthorn, doing a brokerage business with the well known Milwaukee banking house of Marshall & Isley as correspondent, and in 1868, with George Silverthorn as another co-partner, started out in a regular banking business under the firm name of Silverthorn & Plumer. From a small beginning it grew to quite large dimensions, and at the request of many of the business men of Wausau, who desired to take an interest in the bank, it organized as the First National Bank of Wausau in 1880, electing D. L. Plumer as president of the bank which office he has since continuously occupied.

He is one of the pioneers, coming from his native state, New Hampshire, to Wausau in 1857, and being a civil engineer and surveyor, he soon became thoroughly familiar with the resources of the middle and northern part of Wisconsin.

As a surveyor his services were much in demand in former years, and it was he who made the first preliminary survey for the Wisconsin Central Railroad at their urgent request, from Unity to Bayfield.

His business capacity and sound financial management as president of the bank stood the crucial test, when, by his foresight, prudence, and business tact he brought the First National Bank of Wausau successfully over the financial storms of 1893 when bank after bank tumbled down, and people pale with anxiety asked themselves day after day the question: "What next?" In these times the president, D. L. Plumer, was behind the counter day after day, meeting every caller with a pleasant smile, paying out cheerfully the time deposits called for by anxious depositors, before they were due mostly working men and farmers - but keeping on fortifying the cash reserve, and in less than one month the panicky feeling of this class of depositors was changed to a feeling of utmost confidence, while other large banks outside of Wausau were still going down or still battling for months on the brink of destruction.

D. L. Plumer is one of Wausau's most liberal minded citizens, not only in ideas or words, but also when it comes to show liberality by deeds. While chief stockholder of the Wausau Gas Light and Coke Company and its president, he has twice enlarged the plant to satisfy the demand for gas for illuminating as well as for heating purposes, and erected a fine tasty office building for the use of the company. He sold the gas works in 1905 and has since given his entire time to the business of the First National bank. He is also president of the Northern Chief Iron Company, the mines being located on the Gogebic Range, Wisconsin.

For a period of over a quarter of a century, D. L. Plumer has served the people of Marathon county and of Wausau in many capacities, as county surveyor, supervisor in the county board, and as its chairman, and as member of assembly for the county, and four years as mayor of Wausau, and in every position he has conducted himself so as to reflect credit upon his constituency and honor upon himself.

He has been a consistent Democrat all his life, even while training a short time with the Greenback party. He was a regent of the University of Wisconsin from 1891 to 1895, and was elected delegate at large to the national Democratic convention at Kansas City in 1900. His residence is the finest in Wausau; the First National bank building is the largest and finest business block in Wausau, and the Gas Light and Coke Company building, erected by D. L. Plumer is another solid and tasty business building, which all give evidence of D. L. Plumer's perseverance in upbuilding the city of Wausau.

Wausau was now growing rapidly, and with the increase of building and population arose the question of water supply for domestic purposes and for fire protection. Prior to 1884 the granting of a franchise to a private corporation was voted down, and in 1884 the people decided by a large affirmative vote in favor of the municipal ownership of a system of waterworks, and Mr. John Ringle was elected mayor.


The construction of such a system was no small undertaking. The project was new, and opinions as to the kind of power and the source of supply were as varied as the hues of the rainbow. Nor was the council a unit on the question of city ownership. But under the instigation of the mayor the project was taken up, was thoroughly investigated and, after careful planning and reviewing fairly accurate estimates of the probable costs, bids were invited, opened, read, and the meeting of the council adjourned for two weeks without action. It did not look very rosy for the success of the project at that time. When the first meeting was held, Mr. Ringle was in attendance in the senate, but he hurried home and a special meeting was called, at which he presided. He was in favor of the construction and his influence helped to carry the measure through, which was done in the last days in the month of January, 1885. There were several bids, but finally the bid from the Holly Manufacturing Company at Lockport, New York, was accepted, their price being $110,500, and the contract for the construction awarded to them finally by a nearly unanimous vote.

To Mr. John Ringle's administration belongs the credit of having inaugurated this greatest public improvement, which is still the pride of the city. Many cities, as, for instance, Oshkosh, Appleton, Ashland, and others, gave a franchise for the construction of water works to a private corporation at about the same time that Wausau constructed its municipal works, and every one of the cities regretted ever to have allowed the sale of water to pass out of its control. If Mr. J. Ringle had done nothing else than to secure the people of Wausau the absolute control of its municipal water works, he would be entitled for that alone to the grateful remembrance of the people. The works were to be paid in bonds to the amount of $90,000 and cash $20,000. These works have proved a blessing to Wausau, although at this time and for some years last past, the supply has deteriorated, but the remedy has been found, a new supply provided, which will bring it back to its original purity, tastiness, and crystal clearness. This matter will be treated later under the title "water works." Not only are the rates here lower than in any other city, not excluding those who also have municipal plants, but they have brought a net surplus to the city for a number of years, which last year was $10,000 over and above operating expenses, besides giving ample fire protection.

The administration also contracted for the building of the first city hall at the foot of Washington street, for $10,200, but in this price was not included the cost of the tower, which was an extra contract, after Mr. B. G. Plumer and August Kickbusch had made a gift to the city of the tower clock. There was also the contract let for lighting the city with gas in the place of kerosene lamps, at the annual cost of $25 per light.

The proceedings of the council also show that in the same year a saloon license was revoked by an unanimous vote of the council because of gambling, having been carried on on the premises by card sharps, who made it their business to fleece unwary visitors.

J. Ringle declined a re-nomination, and during the summer of 1885, accompanied by his wife, made a trip to his father's old home in Germany, visiting places of interest, and the baths at Carlsbad.


It fell to the lot of R. P. Manson, who was elected mayor in 1885 and re-elected in 1886, to see that the work contracted for by the previous administration was faithfully executed, and while Mr. Ringle is entitled to praise for planning and contracting, to Mr. R. P. Manson belongs the credit of accomplishing it. The contract for the construction of the water works system did not include the sinking of the supply well, and that additional work added another expense of $4,500 to the entire first cost. The work of laying the mains, building of the pumping station, etc., was completed in the fall of 1885, and after a thorough test, the works were accepted. It kept the administration busy during that summer, and between the ordinary work and the extra work thrown on the mayor in this uncommonly busy season, in which not only the water works, but the first city hall was built and completed, the mayor had his head and hands occupied with city affairs. The money had to be provided, too, for payment, which was not one of the least troubles which the administration had to meet and conquer. But all difficulties were met and overcome, and at the end of his term of office, Mr. Manson has the satisfaction of seeing the city advanced as it had never advanced before in two short years. And he was hampered, too, by partisan politics creeping into the city council of a very unpleasant character. It happened that the city council in the first year of his administration was exactly equally divided, one-half belonging to one, and the other half to the other national party, with the mayor having the casting vote.

It was well for the city that he was a man too old and too wise to let little politics disturb the even tenor of his way. He mapped out a line of policy for the interests of the city, as shown by results, and he was able to carry all his measures through because he commanded the undivided support of his party friends at least, even though he was nearly always opposed by the other party until towards the latter part of the year, when the petty opposition and sparring for some supposed political or personal advantage ceased.

He was glad to relinquish the cares of the office at the end of the second term, carrying with him into private life the highest regard and esteem of the people of Wausau, irrespective of party.

R. P. Manson also belonged to the group of pioneers, coming to Wausau in the spring of 1851, being then twenty years of age, from his native state, New Hampshire. He was elected county clerk and held the office from 1858 to 1864. The court house was then a small one-story frame building (no court was ever held, only the county offices were located therein), which was moved down on Maine street, opposite the August Kickbusch second store, when the second court house building was completed, where it burned down late in the seventies, being then used as a saloon. Mr. Manson not only was county clerk, but most of the time also acted for the treasurer and sometimes for the clerk of court in those days.

He was prompt in the discharge of his duties and very affable in his treatment of the many farmers who came to the court house for advice in town matters or private affairs, and the old settlers with most of whom he came in contact in his position, always held him in the highest regard for the patience and attention with which he listened to their tales, with their limited knowledge of the English language, until he understood what they wanted and then made them understand him in reply. He was twice elected sheriff and once member of the assembly. He, too, took to logging and lumbering soon after he came to Wausau, and for a number of years operated a steam mill on Rib river, and in 1883 built a saw mill in the city which burned down in 1902. Mr. R. P. Manson died on the 19th day of February, 1897, being sixty-seven years of age.

He was a man of strict integrity in his business as well as private affairs; no man stood higher in the estimation of the people of Marathon county for his amiable characteristics, his candor, and goodness of heart.

Politically he adhered to the Democratic party, and to his influence was due in a large measure the united front which that party preserved decade after decade, until 1896, when new issues made a break, and led to new alignments.

R. P. Mason belonged to the Masonic order, being a member of Forest Lodge F. and A. M., and Wausau Chapter 31, R. A. M., and St. Omer Commandery 19, K. T.

The census of 1885 showed the population of Wausau to be 8,810, a gain of over 4,277 over 1880, a gain of over one hundred per cent in five years.

Anton Mehl was elected to succeed Mr. R. P. Manson in 1887. With the exception of one year's service as alderman during the Leahy administration, this was the first office which he held, and as a public man he was nearly an unknown quantity, outside of the circle of his intimate friends. Until elected to this office, he had strictly attended to his business as a dealer in boots and shoes, beginning in a small way, and working up a large trade by clean, honorable business methods. Occasionally he had assisted some particular personal friend politically, but rather in a quiet, unostentatious way. He had come to Wausau from Germany in 1872, and did not belong to the pioneer class. His acquaintance was not very large, but all his acquaintances were also his friends. There was much speculation after his election as to whether he would turn out to be a competent chief executive, and not a few persons expressed their fears that he would prove a failure. All these doubting Thomases were happily disappointed. Mr. Mehl took hold of city affairs with a strong hand and justified not only the high opinions of his friends, but by his open and straightforward course disarmed all adverse criticism. In the discharge of his duties he displayed that rugged common sense without which no success is possible.

In the last three years prior to his election, large enterprises were carried out, which had taxed the resources of the city to a more than ordinary degree, and economy in public expenditure became a public virtue. Considering the time when Mr. Mehl was elected, after such great expenses had been incurred, which had to be in part settled for during his one year's incumbency, it was a great accomplishment to clean up the floating indebtedness without neglecting the usual work of keeping the city clean and streets and bridges in repair, as well as providing for tuition of the ever-increasing young Wausau. It became necessary at times for the mayor to check aldermanic extravagance, which he did without fear or favor. An ordinance was passed granting an exclusive franchise for an electric power and lighting plant, which he vetoed, and in which he was sustained on reconsideration of the ordinance.

About that time the city had begun to attract the attention of the state and the state turner festival was held here, which brought five hundred active turners and their friends to Wausau. This was the first of the large gatherings of societies, of which Wausau has had a good many since, and which have given the city a reputation throughout the state as a convention city second to none except Milwaukee.

Mr. Mehl was elected county treasurer of Marathon county in 1898 and reelected in 1900, and at the end of his term of office the county board unanimously passed a resolution, recommending his bookkeeping as a model of neatness and accuracy. After his retirement from office he made a trip to his old home in Germany for his health and returned restored in strength and with a greater love for Wausau, if such a thing were possible, than ever before.

When the National German Alliance was organized a few years ago throughout the United States as a means to keep alive the knowledge of the German language in the native born Americans of German descent, and also to guard against legislation to enforce virtues upon the individual which hecan have or acquire only by force of character, he was elected as president of the Wausau branch of the society. He has always been in sympathy with every move which has for its object liberality in thought and action and advancement in education. Broad minded, claiming for himself the right to think and act independently in political as well as social affairs, he is fair and candid enough to freely concede the same right to everybody else.

Formerly adhering to the Republican party, he has acted in later years entirely independent in political affairs, following only the dictates of his conscience, and throwing his influence to that side which in his judgment best promotes the interest of the great masses. He is well read in history and familiar with the works of the great German authors. He is a native of Rhenish Prussia and barely of age when the German-Franco war broke out; he served with his regiment throughout the whole of that epoch making war, emigrating to the United States the year after peace was declared.


E. C. Zimmermann succeeded Anton Mehl as mayor, having been elected in 1888 and reelected in 1889, and while economy was still the watchword, this administration already began to look to a greater Wausau. The market square and site for a fire engine house was purchased at a very reasonable price; the engine house was built, the fire alarm system established and the Washington school house built for high school use at a cost of $11,400, not including the furnishing. The unsatisfactory condition of the streets received attention and the question of sewerage was taken up, a plan adopted and a contract let for laying sewers on Second and Third streets from Forest street to Franklin; on Fourth street from Forest to McIndoe street; on Franklin street from Seventh street west to the Wisconsin river; on Warren and McIndoe streets from Sixth to Fourth street, and on Grant street from Seventh street to Fourth street. The work of constructing the sewer system was left to the incoming administration, but the outgoing one had taken care to provide the means. The city was financially on the high road of prosperity, there being but $8,000 debts outside the water works bonds, which debt of $8,000 was payable in four years at the rate of $2,000 each year. That debt was contracted to obtain the money for the building of the Washington high school, and the new administration was not hampered for funds when it took charge after Mr. Zimmermann's terms had expired.

The two years of his administration were prosperous years for Wausau. The saw mills and factories were in full operation, and a larger number of men were employed than ever before. Many new business houses were erected in these two years, notably on Third street.

The city steadily increased in population and a large number of residences were built, mainly on the north and west side. This increase in business and population was the effect of the extension of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad to Wausau, which opened a larger market for the products of the northern forests, gave better railroad connections and facilities, and consequently increased the manufacture of lumber and other products. Another measure which was a large factor in the increase of business in Wausau was the enlargement and extension of the boom northward for six miles. The dam at Brokaw was built by the Boom Company for the purpose of creating slack water above for the dividing of the logs, so as to be able to supply the steam mills on the banks of the river above the falls, which had been erected since 1879. The booming capacity after the year last mentioned was 150 million feet, which amount was sawed with little variations annually after 1881 up to and including 1890, after which the lumber output gradually decreased, while other manufactured products increased.

After 1880 there were the following large saw mills running, naming them in the order of their location above the falls: The Dunbar mill, the Leahy & Beebe mill, the R. P. Manson mill, the L. S. Cohn mill, later Stewart & Parcher mill, on the west shore, and the Wausau Lumber Company mill below the mouth of Stiensfield creek.

Mr. Zimmermann's administration was remarkable also for the good order prevailing during his term of office, no crime of any magnitude having been committed during his two terms and the city otherwise enjoying peace, comfort, and security in spite of the strong floating population.

E. C. Zimmermann came from Eau Claire City in 1878, a very young man, and opened a fire insurance office, which business he had followed in Eau Claire. Soon after his coming here he formed a partnership for carrying on the same business with H. L. Wheeler, who was in the same line. Before he was elected mayor he served two years as supervisor in the administration of R. P. Manson, under whose guidance he proved an apt pupil, and his nomination and election were a fit recognition of his excellent services rendered to both city and county government. While serving as supervisor he was made chairman of the county board, and in that position had occasion to show his capacity for presiding over a large deliberate body of men and dispatching public business. Unlike his predecessors he was not a businessman engaging a large number of workingmen, nor a merchant doing business on a large capital, and his election was due to his merits as a public man only. Like all his predecessors, he was glad when his term expired, giving his whole time to his insurance business, when, knowing his capacity for business and integrity, as well as his large and favorable acquaintance in city and county, the Marathon County Bank, successor to the Bank of the Interior, the oldest banking institution in Wausau, offered him the place of cashier of the bank, which offer he accepted and which place he still holds. Having retired from public life for fourteen years, he was again called upon to take the reins as mayor of Wausau, in 1904.


Previous to his election as mayor in 1890, Mr. Gustav Mueller held no public office whatever. While he took interest enough in politics to cast his vote regularly at every recurring election and sometimes even at a caucus, he was rather averse to office holding and preferred the freedom of private life. His nomination was a surprise to him, and it took some persuasion to make him stand as a candidate. Nevertheless municipal affairs were no sealed book to him, because he was a studious reader and close observer as well, though he preferred the reading of the "Scientific American" to the congressional record or political speeches. He applied himself to his task as executive with the enthusiastic vigor which the constantly growing demands of the city demanded, and took good care to secure for the city a fair return for all money expended.

The water works system was largely extended, and the work of laying a sewer system, contracted for by the outgoing administration, was accomplished. This was the first main sewer, running from the foot of Third street to Franklin street and emptying in the river at the foot of that street. This was no small drain on the finances of the city, but it was done without borrowing. The city was kept uncommonly clean, which was much to the credit of the mayor, considering that there was not a single paved or macadamized block in existence, and all drainage was surface drainage over muddy or sandy streets. The steel bridge spanning the slough to the Chicago & Northwestern Railway depot was contracted, and the money for its payment was in the treasury before the construction work was begun. The administration of Mr. Mueller left no debts nor unpaid bills to its successor, but a well filled treasury, having over $12,000 in cash in the general fund.

In the year 1890 Wausau harbored more people for three or four days than it ever did before or since. In that year the opening of the water reserve lands, so-called, for entry at the United States land office at Wausau, which was to take place on December 20th, at 9 o'clock A. M., and which event was heralded throughout the United States, brought many thousand people here, willing to secure a good quarter section of land under the homestead law for $14.00. There were men from the East, South, and North, and some even from the West as far as the Missouri river. For this particular occasion the land office was held in the northwest corner of the old court house, and applicants had to stand outside and hand their applications in, one after another through the window. In the afternoon of the 18th day of December a long line of applicants had formed from the window clear to Fourth street, and thousands of others wanted their places. It was an exciting time. The hotels and boarding houses were unable to provide room or beds for the multitude and the saloons were kept open and people slept on benches and chairs and on the floor. But these strangers behaved admirably, in spite of highly colored sensational dispatches sent to Chicago dailies predicting all sorts of riot and even bloodshed. There were only a few uniformed police officers, and about a score of special officers were appointed. These officers were selected with care, for their good sense and cool temper, and they preserved excellent order. No intoxicated persons were seen on the streets, no fights or altercations occurred, and not a single arrest was-made. For the sake of security, however, and at the request of the citizens, the mayor called on the militia to do police duty on the morning of the 20th; the militia promptly responded, and the day so much dreaded by some timid people passed off as if nothing unusual was transpiring. When the thousands who found no place in the line saw that at best not more than sixty applications could be received and disposed of on the first day, and many less in the days to come, and when they learned that about one thousand applications would take all the land, and that only a small part had desirable timber on it and was nearly entirely unsuitable for farming purposes, they took the trains and left faster than they had come, and on Sunday, the 21st of December, the largest part of them had left; only those remained here who had been in the line.

Gustav Mueller came to Wausau in 1867, without any friends or relatives here, a young man of twenty years of age. He was educated for the profession of teaching at home, which in the old country includes instruction in music, to which art he is still greatly devoted.

Coming to Wausau, he was employed in the store of August Kickbusch, and later in the store of Otto Sigrist, successor to Herman Miller. While in the employ of August Kickbusch he and another clerk in that store, Charles Quandt, became fast friends, and in 1870 they formed a partnership and opened a shoe store in Wausau on Third street, which at that time had become the principal business street. This partnership existed until the death of his partner, who was succeeded in the business by his widow.

In his official position as mayor Gustav Mueller was wholly unselfish and patriotic, having no axes to grind, no portion of the city to favor at the expense of the other.

Soon after his coming to Wausau, he became a leader in German circles, taking a prominent part in their social affairs, and has been repeatedly and justly honored by being put at the head of the best and longest established German societies.

The United States census of 1890 gives the population of Wausau as 9,253, a gain of over 100 per cent since 1880.


With the election of Mr. R. E. Parcher as mayor in 1891, and his reelection in 1892 and 1893, there was inaugurated a new era, a new municipal policy in Wausau. The establishment of water works and sewers had brought many people to Wausau, who remained here after these works were in the main completed, but the mills and factories did not keep pace with the increased supply of men willing to work and depending upon their labor for their support. More factories, even with municipal aid, became the war cry. Mr. Parcher had been for a generation in business as merchant, lumberman, real estate man, manager of the Wausau boom, and he was heart and soul in this new movement. Some factories were established with slight municipal aid, which are doing a large business still, employing hundreds of men. Only one, and that the one in which the city took a large amount of stock, voting aid directly, and which started up as a chair factory, proved a failure. But the loss which the city suffered by the depreciation of its stock was largely compensated for by the factory going into private hands and being operated and known as Curtis' factory No. 2, which employs more men and pays out more money in wages than was ever thought the chair factory would.

During the three years of Mr. Parcher's mayoralty, there were established besides the chair factory, the Wausau Novelty Works, the Wausau Box Factory, two excelsior mills, one quartz mill, and one veneer mill, the latter being one of the largest of its kind in the United States, all of which are in operation, and others have come since. Some of those first established received small aid in cash, others by a grant of the factory site, and as these works prospered, new ones came without any aid. The building of residences followed the activity of the mills and factories, and the city opened up new streets in all directions. The high bridge (so called because it crosses over the railroad track), connecting the island directly with Scott street, was erected, which induced the building of business blocks on Scott and north of Scott on Third street; water mains and the sewer system were extended, and the last work done was the letting of a contract for paving Third street with cedar blocks, which was the first pavement in Wausau, but this work
itself was commenced under a new administration. It was the standing complaint of Wausau people that mill sites along the Wisconsin river, which were in demand soon after the St. Paul railroad reached Wausau, were held at exorbitant prices by the non-resident owner, Andrew Warren, and that his grossly exacting demands prevented capitalists from locating here, who located and built establishments in Merrill. There is no doubt but that some very desirable establishments were lost to Wausau because of unreasonable high prices for sites, to the detriment of the city as well as to the land owner himself. When Mr. Parcher was mayor a chance presented itself to the city to buy lot 1, sections 24, 29, 7, containing 57 .acres, and lot 1, sections 23, 29, 7, containing about 20 acres, for the price of $1,200, and with the keen foresight which was ever characteristic of him, he urged the city to make the purchase and keep the land for factory sites, to be given away to bona fide industrial establishments. Some of it was given away while Mr. Parcher was mayor, and some since, but the city still owns about 55 acres and its value has increased tenfold. These lots offer a splendid location for anchoring of a natatorium in the Wisconsin river.

R. E. Parcher was a native of the Green Mountain state; he came to Wausau in 1858, and, like all pioneers, worked his way up from the bottom, beginning life at Wausau as a clerk in a drug store, buying the stock of his principal the following year and adding a stock of general merchandise, soon becoming one of the leading merchants in Wausau. Like all other business men, he engaged in logging and lumbering. When the Wausau Boom Company was organized in 1874, he became the president of the corporation, and the extension and enlargement of the Wausau Boom upon which so much depended for the future growth of this city was carried out successfully under his supervision.

At a public meeting held at the public library the 14th day of November, 1911, addresses were made as to his worth as a citizen, as a friend and public officer by his old friends; one of them, Judge Marchetti, said, in part: "His name and means were connected with nearly every business venture since that time (1874); they either had what was often the case, his financial assistance, or at least his friendly support. Wherever you look you will find evidences of his activity in nearly every branch of industry. His influence in business extended far beyond the limits of Wausau and Marathon county. Like all pioneers he commenced with meager means; but his integrity brought him credit which he never misused, but he was not afraid to lend to men starting in business when their industry, ability, and honesty merited his confidence.

"He was charitable, but when he gave, he gave as a gentleman in silence, without ostentation; he was neighborly and accommodating, never jealous of the success of others, too broad minded to permit the spirit of envy to darken his soul.

"I have said that he was charitable and intended to honor his memory by confining myself to the simple statement of fact in accordance with his well known aversion of having his own acts on this field talked about; but he made one gift which came so unexpectedly in aid of a very deserving institution at a most opportune time, that it once became a matter of general but grateful notoriety, and not to mention it would seem like a studied effort on my part to belittle its importance from more than one point of view.

"I refer to his gift of $5,000 to the St. Mary's hospital of this city. What institution could be more worthy of his liberality? Conducted by the Sisters of Mercy who have voluntarily taken upon themselves the vow of poverty, whose life is devoted to the service of those upon whom sickness has laid its paralyzing hand, where is there a place more worthy of human and sympathy?

"He well knew that the sisterhood derives no personal benefit from his gift; that they in their self-chosen poverty have no personal needs; that they perform their unremitting toil in obedience to Him, who said, 'Whatever ye do unto the humblest or lowest among ye, ye have done unto me;' he knew that the gift so made to them in name, was made to suffering humanity, and so it was intended.

"I feel at liberty to mention it, too, because I know that the sisters are barred from their presence here by the rules of their order, as otherwise they would be glad to express here in some form their pious remembrance of R. E. Parcher in behalf of the poor and friendless whose trustees they are, but they with a grateful heart will never forget his kindness and timely help, which enabled them without limiting their field of labor, to continue in their mission of ministering to the sick and afflicted, and failing to restore health, with tender hands comfort the dying in their physical suffering and bring hope and consolation to the despairing in spirit in their last hours on earth.

"The making of this gift is convincing proof of Mr. Parcher's consciousness of, and performance of the obligation which rests upon wealth to make good and proper use of the opportunities which wealth carries in its train. Wealth brings noble opportunities, and competence is a proper object of pursuit; but wealth and competence may be bought at too high a price. Wealth has no moral attribute. It is not money, but the love of money, which is the root of all evil. It is the relation between wealth and the mind and the character of the possessor, which is the essential thing, and to R. E. Parcher's honor it must be said that he understood and acted in accordance with this great truth in life."

After the expiration of his last term as mayor, R. E. Parcher held no other office; in fact, his whole official life was limited to one year as post-master of Wausau from April, 1868, to June, 1869, a one-year term as assessor, and three years as mayor, after which time he kept busy in his various occupations as director in the First National Bank of Wausau, and other corporations, and spent most of his leisure hours attending to his farms on the north boundary line of the city, one on each side of the river bank. He died December 4, 1907.

With Mr. Parcher closes the list of the pioneer mayors of Wausau until 1912, when John Ringle was chosen again. Those that were chosen after him for that position belong to the second generation, and as the city was planned by broad minded, noble hearted pioneers, who blazed the path for the Wausau of the present and the future, so does Mr. Parcher worthily close the list of its mayors as one who has greatly advanced the city over the destiny of which he presided for three years, and as one who is entitled to and received the plaudits of its citizens for the integrity and fidelity with which he labored in the interest of the city.


John W. Miller was elected mayor in 1894, and for one year he gave the city an unstinted full measure of excellent service. The previous administration had made extensive municipal improvements in anticipation of as rapid a growth of the city as it enjoyed in the period from 1880 to 1890, when it doubled its population, anticipating its revenues accordingly, but these expectations were not fully realized.

When the new mayor assumed charge of city affairs, he deemed it to be his duty to take soundings and decide upon a safe and proper course. No man was better fitted by training and experience for this function. He had been city clerk for many years and knew as well as anybody the value of accurate information with reference to the finances of the city, with a view of meeting immediate demands upon the treasury, as well as the necessity of providing means for future contingencies. After a careful examination into the obligations which the city had assumed, it was found necessary to procure money to take up a floating debt of $30,000 and meet other liabilities incurred or to be incurred in the sum of $45,000, and a bond issue of $75,000 was determined upon as the best way of meeting all liabilities. These bonds were sold at par, bearing 5 per cent interest, and were payable in installments of $5,000, the last payment becoming due September 18, 1910.

On the day of his installation the work of paving Third street with cedar blocks was commenced, and after it was finished, was so satisfactory that upon the urgent request of the property owners, a similar pavement was laid on Washington street from the city hall to Fifth street, and on Scott street from Main to Fourth street; school houses were enlarged and a new one built; the water supply, which had become insufficient in case of a large demand, was increased by laying a tunnel in the ground and connecting it with the supply well. More water mains were laid and some attention given to street work, as well as to the sewer system which was extended. In consequence of the appearance of smallpox, a brick building was erected on the southeast northeast 34-29-7, owned by the city, for an isolation hospital, which was used and did very good service during the prevalence of smallpox in 1901 and 1902. The city was kept uncommonly clean and much attention was given to the enforcement of the regulations intended to preserve public health.

J. W. Miller came to Wausau in 1866, being then only sixteen years of age. He had received a good common school education in Germany; learned the shoemaker trade; then worked as clerk and bookkeeper, also as school teacher, until he was elected city clerk in 1878, which office he held for many years, and he served also as county clerk of Marathon county, and in every position he has acquitted himself with honor. In 1901 he was appointed by President McKinley to the office of register of the United States land office at Wausau, which position was made vacant by the resignation of Mr. Ed. Wheelock, and was reappointed in 1905 and 1909 - a deserved recognition of his ability and integrity. When he took charge of this office he found a large amount of unfinished business which awaited disposition. He was perfectly at home with the clerical work of the office, but unacquainted with the legal practice and the laws and their construction concerning United States land laws; but, with the determination and perseverance characteristic of him, he applied himself to the study of laws and the procedure, and in a short time all unfinished business was disposed of to the satisfaction of the department in Washington, which in nearly every instance confirmed the decision of the Wausau office, which was recognized as the model land office of Wisconsin.

It is now the only United States land office in this state, the offices formerly existing in Eau Claire and Ashland having been transferred and combined with the Wausau land office since his appointment to office.

In addition to the offices mentioned he has been deputy county clerk during the incumbency of this office by Henry Miller. He was born in Germany, and has always taken great interest in German societies and interested himself especially to assist the German emigrant with advice and instruction where the newcomer's ignorance of the knowledge of the language and laws of the country made such an advice much valuable.

In the discharge of official duties as well as in private life, he was always affable and courteous, freely giving all information requested of him, and the writer acknowledges his gratitude for courtesies extended to him in allowing examination of United States land office records and assistance rendered him in the gathering of information from the United States land office in the compilation of this book.


H. E. McEachron, who was elected in 1895 and again in 1897, was the first mayor of Wausau who had the benefit of a college and university education. At the state university he became intimately acquainted with the late Charles V. Bardeen, later a justice of the supreme court, and with Alva Adams, thrice elected governor of Colorado, who were, like him, university students at that time. He had served as chairman of the finance committee during Mayor Miller's administration and negotiated the bond sale of $75,000 previously referred to. Fully realizing the necessity of practicing economy, he followed in the footsteps of the previous administration, trying to keep city expenses down without allowing public utilities or public property to suffer or depreciate for want of repairs.

The abutments of the high bridge built in 1892 were found to be defective and were promptly repaired; inquiries were made as to the cost and manner of different kinds of pavement and much useful information was gathered. The Brodie tannery was encouraged to locate here by giving it a five-acre tract for a site, which tannery is now owned and operated by the United States Leather Company, and is one of the important industries of Wausau. A franchise was granted to the Wausau Telephone Company - a sort of cooperative society - and its organization encouraged so far as the city could give it aid legally. This company has reduced telephone rates in Wausau from $4.00 per month for business phones and $3.00 per month for residence phones theretofore charged by the Wisconsin Telephone Company, to $3.00 for business and $1.50 per month for residence phones.

Soon after his election in 1897, he urged the construction of the so-called Seventh street sewer, which was a new main sewer outlet, calculated not only to give sewerage to the middle and eastern portions of the city, but to effectually and permanently drain the low grounds which were formerly marsh, and a large part of which were subject to overflow at every spring freshet and after heavy rains. His recommendations were acted upon and the work accomplished, at a cost of over $14,000. This expenditure was met by a bond issue of $12,000, bearing 5 per cent interest and payable $1,000 semi-annually. The last of these bonds were paid in 1903. The drainage of these low grounds was demanded in the interest of public health, and the fevers which were of frequent occurrence in that territory have entirely disappeared. It was also successful from a pecuniary point of view, because that region is now dotted with good residences, the revenues from which swell the tax income of this city.

Mr. McEachron came to Wausau in 1882 and acquired an interest in the Herchenbach flour mill by purchase, but soon bought his partners out, became sole owner until he organized a corporation. The large increase in the business of this mill since Mr. McEachron acquired it speaks volumes for his ability and integrity as a business man, and as he is diligent and accommodating in his business affairs, so was he in his official capacity. A person of great intellect and fine address, he is nevertheless unassuming in his manner and enjoys great popularity. His fine residence on Franklin street is one of the salons of Wausau, where since the death of Mrs. McEachron, his daughter, Miss DeEtte, delights to do honors to a large circle of literary and music loving people of Wausau.

1896-The People's party, so called, which was in reality the reorganized Greenback party under a new name, with a somewhat changed political program, demanding the equal coinage of gold and silver as money, with government ownership of all public utilities added to the program, which under this new name and program achieved sudden success in Kansas and other western states in 1892 and the year immediately following, had its enthusiastic adherents in Wausau, more so probably than in any other city in Wisconsin.


It held a convention, nominated E. J. Anderson as its candidate for mayor, and after a short but enthusiastic canvass, he was elected. With commendable frankness the new mayor acknowledged in his inaugural that he had no previous experience as legislator or executive officer, having in fact held no office whatever up to this time, but that he was desirous of doing his full duty and coveted the aid and counsel of the older and more experienced public officers. Still, his message, which by the way, is the lengthiest document of the kind on record in Wausau, shows him to be well informed on city affairs, and reveals him as a man of original ideas. He pointed to the unpleasant fact that the city treasury was empty and that unpaid obligations to the tune of about $7,000 were to be met. As a remedy he urged spartan simplicity and economy, not failing to specify where, in his opinion, expenses could be reduced in order to relieve the tax payers and clear the way in the near future for the improvements of public streets, the establishment of a public library, and the purchase of land for a large public park. The vacuum in the treasury was so apparent, that the city council at its first meeting authorized a temporary loan of $6,000 to meet the demand, until the receipts from the water department on May 1st and for liquor licenses would become available.

The mayor made a strong effort of adhering to his policy of economizing and in that he was fairly successful. No great works were undertaken, but the city emerged with a greatly reduced indebtedness towards the end and the treasury recovered somewhat from the chronic depletion which characterized it on the beginning of his administration. A new bridge was ordered to be built at an expense of $2,400 and plans prepared for the drainage of the eastern and southern portions of the city, which work was carried out under the succeeding administration.

E. J. Anderson enlisted in the army when yet a boy and served his country in the great struggle for the integrity of the Union. He came to Wisconsin in 1873 from Michigan, arriving at Wausau and making this city his home, although he spent a large portion of his time working in Merrill or for Merrill parties. He took to cruising, timber hunting and estimating, and the reliability of his estimates caused the late Thomas B. Scott to take an interest in him, which was of great mutual benefit to both. Later on Anderson bought timber lands on his own account and has since been dealing in pine and farming lands, and has acquired an enviable reputation for fair dealing.


1898-John Manson, who took the office of mayor in 1898, has the distinction of being the first mayor born and educated in Wausau. His first message to the council was like the air in which he was brought up, breezy and pointed. The treasury was in the chronic state of exhaustion which had been its condition since 1892, excepting only the close of Mayor J. W. Miller's administration, and the new mayor's first business was to find a remedy for the disease. The streets, with the exception of a few blocks on which cedar pavement was laid, were more like country roads than city streets, and their improvement became the question of the hour.

This administration made the first step in that direction by purchasing a Kelly steam roller, which is still in service, for $3,300, payable one-half on January 15th, 1899, and the other half in June following.

The erection of a larger high school building became necessary. Its cost was estimated at $50,000 - and the board of education, while strongly in favor of letting the contract, desired, however, the city council to express its judgment upon the need of erecting it without delay, which was done and the building was authorized on the assurance that the Wausau banks would advance the money at 6 per cent. The loan had to be made from the banks, because no bonds could be issued as the bonded debt had already reached the 5 per cent limitation on the assessed valuation. But, while the estimates for the schoolhouse called only for $50,000, the actual cost, including furniture, was $65,000. Messrs. Miller & Krause were given the contract for the building, and the council borrowed $8,000 to make the first payment.

A very good improvement made by this administration was the arching of the Stiensfield creek where the same crosses Third street, instead of building a bridge over it.

During the year the Spanish-American war broke out, and the part therein played by the city of Wausau and its mayor will be referred to in a separate chapter.

John Manson is in the insurance business and a gentleman whose word can be relied upon. Born a pinery boy, he is broad-gauged, fair-minded, charitable where charity is proper, and he is not only well schooled, but had that deeper, wider education which comes to a man who is brought in contact with people in all stations in life. This makes him at home with people in the cottage as well as with refined society. He has been elected for years as supervisor of the third ward; has been chairman of the county board, chairman of the committee on public, property, and in that capacity was instrumental in having the Marathon County Home and Hospital built, and the control of that institution put in the hands of the board of trustees of the insane asylum. He takes much interest in educational matters, has taken charge of a class of boy scouts and is deservedly popular generally. He is the oldest living son of R. P. Manson, one of the best remembered pioneers. It is safe to predict that his political career will not be closed with his term as


1899-Joseph Reiser was elected to succeed John Manson in 1899. In his first message he recommended among other things, drainage for the 7th, 8th and 9th wards, the funding of the debt created by the building of the high school house (which was to be ready for use at the commencement of the new term in September of this year) and economy in public expenditures.

Additional real estate to the existing school sites was purchased, on deferred payments, however, no money being available for that purpose. The Elm street sewer was built at an expense of $3,400 - a stone crusher purchased for $900. In this year a good road convention was held under the supervision of General Harrison of the United States army, and a short piece of Grand avenue from the railroad cut south was macadamized by way of example, the city aiding the movement, securing the material and machinery. It was pronounced a success, and permanent street improvement of this kind became now the slogan.

In conformity with this demand, Third street from Grant street north to the St. Paul Railroad crossing was macadamized, which pavement proved satisfactory and serviceable. Another contract was entered into for lighting the city by electric lamps at the price of $80 per arc light of 2,000 candle-power each, and 84 lights were installed, in consideration of which the city engine houses, pumping station and city hall were to be lit with incandescent lights without charge. This was precisely the same contract the city had previously made with the electric company.

The hard times had now passed away, business began to flourish, workingmen could find employment at living wages, the city looked prosperous, and new buildings sprang up. This necessitated the extension of water service and sewer facilities; but the cost of the high school forbade any other great municipal undertaking at the time.

Joseph Reiser was born in Michigan on a farm. As a boy of fourteen he learned the carpenter trade at Detroit, shifting for himself. In 1882 he entered the Ferris Institute at Detroit and graduated after a four years' course. He came into the Wisconsin valley in 1866, where he was put in charge of logging operations in Grand Rapids and Merrill. He came to Wausau in 1891, when he became a partner, or rather stockholder, in the Werheim Manufacturing Company, which at that time was one of the leading industries of the city. After some years he sold his stock in the concern and became salesman for some large lumber concerns, and at present is now engaged in that capacity by the B. Heinemann Lumber Company, with headquarters at Madison. He served four years as alderman and supervisor before his election as mayor, and for one term as trustee of the Marathon County Asylum.


V. A. Alderson was elected as mayor in 1900. He had been in public service before, having been a member of the city council for several terms, member of the county board and also of the police and fire commission. He was known to be an expert accountant, and in his inaugural he gave a detailed and exhaustive treatment of the finances of the municipality, itemizing the public debt, and also an estimate of the probable expenses for the ensuing year. The treasury was in the same anemic condition it had been, already referred to, with the debt piling up higher from year to year. The mayor struggled to the best of his ability to change this condition of things, and it was with that end in view that he gave the city council a resume of its financial obligations. The total net debt had now reached the sum of $195,000, of which $50,000 was drawing interest at 6 per cent. Under his direction and after earnest solicitation, steps were taken which resulted in making a loan from the state of $45,000 at 32 per cent, payable in annual installments of $2,500, with which the notes held by the banks for money advanced on the high school house building were taken up. The debt had reached the highest figure, and it was time to think of paying up.

A contract was let for macadamizing Grand avenue from the railroad cut on the south to the intersection of Forest street on the north at a price of somewhat over $3,000 for a 20-foot macadam. On account of the unusual wet autumn season of that year, it was not finished until the following spring. It proved unsatisfactory after being finished, and people lost confidence in having such work done by contract. A bridge was built to McIndoe Island, to Barker & Stewart's mill, at a cost of $1,030, and Seventh street opened from Franklin to Grant street at a cost of $2,200. The extension of this street became necessary to enable children attending the high school to reach it without going six blocks out of their way. This measure had been pending in the council for over a year, and its accomplishment was much to the credit of the administration.

Mr. Alderson was born near Toronto, Canada; he came to Wausau in 1869; his first engagement was as bookkeeper in the bank of Silverthorn & Plumer, in which capacity he remained for several years. In 1877 he acquired an interest in the Thayer & Corey flour mill, which property later came in the ownership of H. E. McEachron, Mr. Alderson selling his interest therein in 1880. Since that time he has made insurance and real estate a specialty, doing some lumbering at times. By strict attention to all matters entrusted to him and reliability, he has built up a large business in that line and a high reputation. He has organized the V. A. Alderson Investment Company, and is secretary of the Wausau Street Railroad Company. He was married to. Miss Jesse Corey, whose father was one of the pioneers, coming to Wausau in 1846, and who was one of the original owners of the first flour mill in Wausau.

According to the United States census, the population of Wausau was 12,354 in 1900, a gain of 3,101 over 1890, not near as much as from 1880 to 1890.


1901-1904 - Louis Marchetti was elected mayor in 1901. Up to this time the city was governed by a special charter which was subject to amendment by every state legislature, and which was amended from time to time, making its government an experimental one from year to year, without any stability.

Under the special charter, all city officers from the mayor down were elected annually, with the accompanying frequent changes of officers. Under this practice it was practically impossible for one administration to map out a program extending over one year and adhere to it. To take future needs in consideration was out of question in providing for the present., To remedy this evil, the general charter was adopted under which the city is governed now, which makes the terms of all officers two years under a charter which can be understood, and which is not liable to the changing whims of legislators, because a change affects every city governed by it, which is a guarantee that no changes can lightly be made, or made without a full and due consideration of the desirability and need for the change. To govern a city of ten thousand and more, is a large business, because it includes in its operation not only its own municipal property, but affects more or less every private business, and as no private business would possibly prosper with an annual change of its manager, no more can a public business prosper under such conditions. The general charter went into effect in the spring of 1902, when the mayor was reelected, this time for two years, and so were all other officers elected at this time.

His predecessor had given more attention to the fiscal affairs of the city than most of former mayors and administrations, and insisted that the sum of $5,000 annually levied as a sinking fund to be applied in payment of the bonds issued for the payment of the water works, was to be kept intact for the purposes for which it was levied.

That tax had been raised ever since the bonds were issued and would have been sufficient to pay the whole bond issue had it been preserved, but it was not, and was used for other purposes, because it could' not be directly applied in payment from year to year. When the bonds became due, only the sum of $35,000 was in the fund instead of $90,000 - all of which had been accumulated in the last three administrations of Alderson, Marchetti and Zimmermann.

When the new administration went into office in 1901, there was more than the usual amount of work to do.

The chief of police tendered voluntarily his resignation, but at the request of the mayor remained in service until his place could be filled. After a careful review of all available timber, he selected for this important position Mr. Thomas Malone, an ex-sheriff of Marathon county, who had made an enviable record while in that office. He has been chief of police ever since, and is universally respected as an efficient, painstaking, clear-headed officer, prompt in the discharge of his duties, firm but quiet, and the smell of corruption never touched his garments.

The heavy late rains in the previous fall immediately before the ground froze, had washed out the roads, especially those leading over the east hills in the city, and north out from Wausau, making them impassable for heavy traffic. Immediate repairs had to be made, and they were made with a view of making them permanent if the word permanency can be applied to highways. The condition of the city is summed up in the last message of the
mayor to the council, from which is quoted in part:

"On the 1st day of April, 1901, the regular funded interest-bearing debt of the city was $190,000, and $10,000 assumed for school purposes, making a gross total debt of $200,000, from which must be deducted the sum of $22,500 cash in the treasury applicable to the payment of this debt, leaving a net debt of $177,500. On the first day of April, 1904, the debt of the city was, and now is $181,200, from which must be deducted the sum of $35,000 cash on hand applicable to the payment of this debt, leaving a net indebtedness of $146,200, showing a reduction of the liabilities of the city in the amount of $31,500 since April 1, 1901. Aside from this amount of $35,000 in the sinking fund and bond fund, there is in the treasury the sum of $10,000, as a special bridge fund to apply in part payment of the contract for the new bridge across the Wisconsin river.

"On the 1st day of April, 1901, there was in the general fund the sum of $5,602.86, against which orders had been issued to the amount of $5,164.76, leaving a balance of $438.10 in the treasury to the incoming administration. There became due during the summer of 1901 the sum of $1,100 and the sum of $191 on the unfinished contract of Bellis & Co. for the macadamizing done by this company on Grand avenue and Forest street, the completion of which contract having been delayed because of the wet fall season of 1900. The general fund is in a satisfactory condition at the present time. After allowing and paying all current expenses of the city up to April 15, 1904, including salaries of officers, and including the payment of labor for street cleaning up to April 9th, 1904, the general fund was overdrawn to the amount of $1,586.87, which, however, is more than offset by the amount of $3,000 paid out during the winter for rock to be used for macadam purposes, which can and will be used during the working season of 1904. There are no unpaid bills against the city, except the salaries of officers since April 15th and a small amount for street cleaning since April 9th, 1904. On the first day of next May there becomes due to the city the sum of $10,000, or a little more, for water rentals, and on July 1st next the sum of $12,500, or a little more for licenses, and on the 1st of November there will be due again from water rentals the sum of $10,000, all of which belongs to the general fund.

"While the city debt has been decreased at about the rate of $10,000 per annum on an average, needed improvements were not neglected, as is shown by the amount of money expended in improvements during the same term, to wit: On Lincoln School, $30,000; on bridges, $3,000; on machinery for rock crusher, $2,800; for city hall site, $4,500. Besides this, 32 miles of streets were macadamized and more than the usual work of grading and
opening of streets was done. The water works were extended so that the income from the same was $19,913.54 for the year ending May1ist, 1904, an increase of $4,247.42 over 190l; the sewer system was increased by about 3 1/2 miles of pipes, with three new outlets to the river."

A ten-acre lot was given to the Marathon County Granite Company, which located its works thereon, removing the same from Heights, in this county, which has since become one of the leading industries of Wausau.

With a view of raising the efficiency of the police department, the mayor soon after coming into office, drew up "Rules for the Government of the Police Force," printed and had them bound in neat book form with leather cover to be carried by each police officer. Besides the rules, it contained a statement of "Advice to Young Policemen," and also such ordinances the enforcement of which depends more particularly upon the police department, and the police and fire commission notified the police force that they, the commissioners, would be governed by these rules and expected every police officer to yield prompt obedience to them. These rules have been in force ever since without change and have accomplished the purpose for which they were made.

The condition of the waterworks was investigated for the first time and the cause discovered for the unsatisfactory supply, but as a remedy could not be immediately agreed upon, the mayor undertook to cleanse the pipe system of the plants growing therein, by a thorough and energetic flushing of the whole system, continuously kept up under his own personal direction, supervision and observation, which while it could not remove the cause, diminished the growth of, and effect of it, the Xenotrix, the only plant which can grow in water without some light. All this was accomplished without raising taxes, if anything rather reducing them.


1904 - The last three years had been prosperous ones for business as well as for the municipality. The street work done in the last three years had given the city a fine, clean appearance. The macadamizing was done directly by the city, not by contractors; the costs were divided between city and property holders, the city paying one-half, the property holder on each side of the street one-quarter. This sort of pavement became very popular because under a good management, the costs were low, and there were petitions from freeholders for that sort of pavement, to keep up the work from year to year.

As much and more in the line of improvements was expected from the next administration, and as much of the success of the city government depends upon the mayor as its executive head, E. C. Zimmermann was urged to become a candidate, and after much hesitation, only yielding to the importunities of his many friends, he consented to comply with their wishes, and was elected mayor.

Under his administration the work of improvements begun was faithfully continued. Nearly four miles of streets were macadamized, the steel bridge connecting first and seventh wards, costing $20,000, was completed, and a roadway built from the bridge to Grand avenue. A system of municipal street sprinkling was inaugurated; Stiensfield creek was put under ground, the Leahy & Beebe bridge repaired, the waterworks system extended where it was needed, a schoolhouse site purchased in the southwestern part for $2,000 and a municipal wiring system for lighting the streets installed.

The successful carrying on of municipal work directly by the municipality in street work, sprinkling, cleaning and ownership of the waterworks, created a desire for a municipal street lighting plant, and as the city was in a healthy financial condition the matter was carefully investigated. A distinguished electrical engineer, Mr. Jacob Klos, of Milwaukee, worked out a complete plan for the installation of the plant, to be operated in connection with the pumping station of the waterworks and cost of lines and costs of operation, complete and reliable in estimates in every particular. The Electric Light Company then submitted two propositions, namely:
I. To light the city at a certain fixed price per lamp.
2. In case the city should prefer to erect its system of poles, wires and lamps, the company to furnish the electrical current for 2 3/10 cents per K. W. After a careful examination of the price submitted and an accurate estimate of the costs of generating the current, Mr. Jacob Klos gave it as his opinion, based upon his experience and knowledge, that the electric current could not be generated at so low a cost by the city, from engines operated by fuel under the most favorable circumstances. The city then accepted the second proposition, erected its pole and wire line at a cost of $12,000, including 125 lamps of the newest and best pattern. The costs of the lights averaged somewhat less than $35.00 per light.

The erection of this pole line for municipal lighting was an excellent move. It secured to the city cheap lighting. If the corporation engaged in lighting would not be willing to sell the current to the city at reasonable rates after the expiration of a contract, it would take but a short time to set up the machinery for generating the current. The city-owned pole and wire line is a standing notice and warning to the Electric Lighting Company to furnish the current at a fair price. It has done so and will continue to do so, as it if in its interest, being able to generate the electric current by its water power cheaper than the city can by using fuel, even though the municipal plant should be operated with the same economy and intelligence, having due regard to the continual advancements made in electric lighting, which it must be confessed, however, is not always the case.

At the beginning of the year 1904 the city had $35,000 in the sinking fund applicable to the payment of the debt of $90,000 for waterworks. It was thought advisable, and very properly so, to make a new loan of $125,000 to take up the water bonds, and keep the balance, together with the $35,000 in the sinking fund to pay for the expenses of putting Stiensfield's creek under ground, to provide the northeast part of the city with sewerage, an extensive undertaking, and set aside a balance of $40,000 for the building of a new city hall, and an ordinance was passed to this effect, providing that this fund of $40,000 could not be used for any other purpose.

New bonds to that amount were issued and sold at a price making the net interest payable thereon 3.85 per cent, the lowest interest on bonds ever issued before or after. At the close of the administration of Mayor Zimmermann the debt of the city was $194,000, but that included the sum of $40,000 borrowed for a city hall, which was on hand in the treasury, and no unpaid bills were outstanding to be settled by the incoming administration.

The administration of Mayor Zimmermann was very creditable to him and his refusal to stand for reelection was much regretted. The city had made great strides forward in the last five years, had in fact become a modern city and presented an attractive appearance. It had spread out, new factories employing high-priced labor had come in, and Wausau merited the title of "The Pearl of the Wisconsin." The tax levy for the year 1904 for city purposes was $112,205.07; for the year 1905, $106,793.76.


1906-1908 - M. H. Duncan was elected mayor in 1906. He had been in business for a good many years, conducting a harness shop; he was also engaged in farming in the town of Texas, interesting himself in the raising of blooded cattle, and some of his stock had been awarded first prizes. He was one of the most active members of the Marathon County Agricultural Society, and in cooperation with other stockraisers and farmers made the Marathon County Fair a great success in later years. Before his election as mayor, he was one of the executive officers of the Marathon County Agricultural Society, and its secretary for some years. At the time of his election as mayor it was a time of general prosperity and demands for civic improvements made themselves felt more and more. Under his administration there was laid a sewer on Grand avenue from the railroad cut south to the Sturgeon Eddy road, and west on this road to the Wisconsin river, making a new sewer outlet, which was badly needed. The laying of that sewer necessitated the remacadamizing of that portion of Grand avenue where the pavement had been torn up by the digging of the sewer. Franklin School was enlarged for which purpose bonds to the amount of $48,000 were issued; the water tower on East Hill was built and halfway up the hill a building was put up for the housing of an electrical engine to force the water from the main system up into the tower. A better water supply than the water from the tunnel made in 1895 was sought to be obtained by sinking thirty 6-inch drive wells in the ground near and around the pumping station, to the depth of one hundred and thirty-five feet. These wells furnished excellent water, but the supply was found to be wholly insufficient and the water from the tunnel dug in 1895 was still used, so that the sought for relief was not obtained.

These drive wells, together with the erection of the water tower, which was built for the purpose of supplying people living on the hill with drinking water from the waterworks, and also for fire protection, and the further extension of the water mains were expensive works, and the $40,000 set aside for the building of a city hall was drawn upon and used for general purposes. Nearly four miles of street were macadamized, and these streets looking better than the first streets on which cedar pavement was laid, which by this time had become quite rotten, caused a demand for a better pavement on the main business streets, without, however, settling upon any particular pavement.

With the close of the administration in the spring of 1908, the net debt of the city had risen to $220,000, and the city hall fund which had been expended for other purposes, was levied again by taxes. The tax levy for all city purposes for the year 1906 was $136,467.15; for the year 1907, $161,070.06.


1908-1912 - John F. Lamont was elected mayor in 1908 and reelected in 1910. He had been county superintendent of schools of Marathon county from January 1, 1895, to July 1, 1905, having served for ten years and six months, when he declined to be a candidate for the office.

At the time of his election to the office of county superintendent, he was a resident of the town of Hull, where his father had been one of the pioneers, having operated one of the first saw mills on the Wisconsin Central line, almost simultaneously with the building of the railroad to Colby, which he operated for many years. John F. Lamont took up his residence in Wausau after his election as superintendent, holding his office in the courthouse, and at the close of his term formed a copartnership with E. C. Kretlow in the real-estate and insurance business.

The work of his administration in its main features may be summed up as follows: The purchase of another steam fire engine, giving the city two steam engines, besides the pressure from the waterworks to combat fire; the erection of two fire stations, one on the northeast and one on the southwest end of the city, and a corresponding increase in the number of firemen and teams; the building of the Grant School in the 6th ward at a cost of $65,000; the laying of a sewer from Franklin street on Seventh street into the Stiensfield creek sewer, and another sewer to drain Maple and Spruce streets and contiguous territory into Elm street sewer. A large concrete sewer was ordered to be built to drain the northwest side and put a creek under ground, having an outlet at the Leahy & Beebe bridge. The waterworks system was greatly enlarged by the sinking of ten 10-inch drive wells 135 feet deep for an additional water supply at the pumping station, which were connected with the existing thirty 6-inch drive wells, but the good effect from them is not yet realized, because the separate strong pump which was planned to be used to draw the water from these wells was not obtained, and the old pumps were used instead, which proved insufficient for that purpose, and because the pipes were not cleaned of the obnoxious growth of the Xenotrix, the plant growing in the pipes. Third street from Forest to Grant streets was paved with creosoted wood blocks, and Washington from Third to Fourth streets with brick. A 14-inch water main was laid through Canal street as far south as the railroad cut on Grand avenue and across the river, and as far west as Fifth avenue, the object being to obtain a complete circulation of the water in the mains and increase the volume for fire protection. With this extension of water mains, the system can now supply a city of twenty-five thousand people.

No steps were taken for the building of a city hall, except a plan was procured from Ryan & Gellecke, Milwaukee architects, and the money set aside for that purpose was drawn upon for other purposes.

The market square on which the building was contemplated to be erected, was first sold to the city for a nominal sum upon condition that it should be used as a market square, but in 1903, when the adjoining property was bought for a city hall site, the former grantors of the market square gave their permission to such a change of the use of the place. The additional property was purchased for a very reasonable sum upon condition that a city hall should be erected on the market square within ten years, and if not so erected, the grantors reserved the right to demand a reconveyance to them upon payment to the city of the purchase pride. There were two houses on this property, which were sold by the city and removed a few years afterwards, and the real estate had meanwhile greatly increased in value. It was a certainty that unless the city hall was built within the ten years stipulated, the original grantors or their representatives would demand a reconveyance, in which case the city would have to pay for the two houses sold, leaving but very little of any part of the purchase price due to the city. The ten year term was nearing its end, and instead of creating a larger fund by small levies which would be little felt if at all, as was the original plan, this fund had been used for other purposes. There was danger that the site would be lost to the city, and no other could be obtained except at an exorbitant price, or in an out of the way place, if a city hall would be built at all.

To bring this matter to an issue, one Hans Weik, in his own behalf and for other taxpayers, brought suit against the city and obtained a temporary injunction restraining it from again using the fund except for the purpose for which it was levied. The city defended on the ground it might use it as it saw fit, but the supreme court of the state sustained the contention of the plaintiff, and from that time on the fund was kept intact.

This judgment was rendered at the close of the year 1910, after the tax levy was made for that year. Nevertheless the city took no step towards building, but submitted the question whether or not to build, to a vote of the people in the spring election of 1912.

The only ground ever urged against beginning building was, that there was not sufficient money on hand, yet there was no compunction against using it for other purposes, nor was that fund increased by one cent since the levy was first made, leaving a suspicion in the minds of many that there must be another motive for this procrastination.

The cost of the drive wells together was somewhere near $60,000, much more than estimated by the engineer in charge, but in order to receive the full benefit of that system a new, stronger pump was planned at the same time, which was to be lowered about twelve feet below the old pumps, to obtain better suction. This engine was not set up, however, until the winter of 1913, when the unsatisfactory condition of the water service peremptorily demanded its installation.

The question of installing a municipal lighting plant turned up again when, in 1911, the contract for furnishing the current to the city by the street railway expired. Mr. W. F. Lusk, a waterworks engineer, who was then supervising the sinking of the deep water wells, was requested to make an estimate of the costs of a plant, and gave it as his opinion that a plant could be installed and the current generated at the station for 1 cent per k. w., which was 1 3/10 cent less than what the city paid for the current furnished by the Electric Light Company.

In the full confidence of this report the city desired to install their plant, but before it could do so, it had to make application to the State Commission of Public Utilities for a permit to do so, under Section 1797, M-74 Revised Statutes of Wisconsin, and prove to the satisfaction of that commission that public convenience and necessity required the installation of the plant. A hearing before the commission was had, the city relied on the evidence of their engineer, W. F. Lusk, to prove his contention that electricity could be generated by a plant owned by the city for a lesser price than the price it was paying. It is enough here to say, that the contention of the city or the statement of the costs as estimated by its consulting engineer, W. F. Lusk, was not proven, that the estimates were unreliable, and that the current was furnished to the city at a reasonable price. The state commission then refused to permit the city to engage in the lighting business.

After the hearing the city did not make a new contract for lighting, but received the current, and the Street Railroad Company which furnished the same, reduced the price charged, so that it now charges a fixed price of $2.10 for each arch light, and a corresponding rate for ornamental lights. A comparison of the cost of lighting the city with electricity with the cost in other cities, is much in favor of Wausau.

With the close of the administration in the spring of 1912, the city's net interest-bearing debt in bonds and state debts was $255,000, and there was a large floating debt, which was taken up in 1913 by issuing $35,000 school bonds, and a debt created for the water system improvement, which with other expenses for the same purpose, mainly for the pump, was covered by the issue of $40,000 water bonds in October, 1912.

The total tax levy for all city purposes for the year 1908 was $204,456.90, for the year 1909 it was $130,353.79, for 1910 it was $154,262.44, and for the year 1911 it was $168,823.50.

Towards the latter part of the year 1911 there was much talk about the advantages of the commission form of governing cities. It had been first tried out in the city of Galveston after the great flood in that city in the year 1900 and had proved a blessing for that city, and some other cities, notably Des Moines, Iowa, followed that example. A law was enacted by the Legislature of Wisconsin in 1909, for the government of a city by a mayor and two commissioners, and amended by Chapter 387, Laws of 1911, providing that upon petition duly filed the question, whether a city would prefer this form to the charter government, should be submitted to a vote of the people, the majority of the electors to decide the question which should then be binding as a law. A petition was duly filed in time and the question submitted to a vote prior in time to the annual charter election, to elect officers under the commission form, in case it should be adopted. It is an undeniable fact that many people favored the commission form, but there was also opposition, and no doubt some good grounds could be urged against it as well as for it. To be governed entirely by three men, who were the legislative as well as the executive power in their own person, is something new in this country, to which people were not yet accustomed. Under the circumstances under which it was inaugurated in Galveston, there was everything in its favor. That city was ruined by the sea which swept over the city, carrying desolation and destruction in its wake. The city was nearly destroyed, and there was no time for hesitation, procrastination or even deliberation. Something had to be done, an almost absolute power had to be entrusted by the people to a centralized government, and the people were willing to submit without murmur to such a government in order to save themselves from ruination, which stared them in the face. An enlightened, just and absolute government can accomplish many things in short time, which a deliberative body cannot do - at least not in that short time. But history also teaches that an absolute government may become oppressive, or incompetent as well as imbecile, and many people were afraid to take suddenly a plunge in this sea of uncertainty. The German Alliance, an organization representing some German societies, having taken a stand against the change, was invited to a public discussion of the merits and demerits of the commission form, and they chose John Ringle and Anton Mehl as their representatives. The other side was represented by W. H. Wilcox of Eau Claire, and A. C. Schmidt of Wausau. The debate was held in the Opera House, which was filled to its utmost capacity, and during the debate it became apparent that the opponents were in a large majority.

At the election the people voted against commission form, as already indicated in the meeting at the Opera House, and John Ringle, who was one of the spokesmen against it, was chosen and prevailed upon to offer himself for mayor, his aid, Anton Mehl, having absolutely refused to be considered as a candidate.

In the following election he was elected, receiving within three hundred votes as many as both the socialistic and independent candidates together. The other question which was submitted to the people was "Shall a new city hall be built?"

As has already been mentioned, this question has been before the city council for the last six years, and to avoid any responsibility the outgoing administration left the matter to be decided by the people directly. When this was done in the council it was surmised that the proposition would be defeated, because it was made by an outspoken opponent of the project. A few courageous men, who saw the need for the building and the danger of losing the splendid site, signed and published an address, recommending the project to a favorable vote of the people, unless the opponents could show a better site for its location. No one replied to that address, for it was patent that no better location could be secured. The election was a surprise to the faint-hearted and the prejudiced ones. Every ward without exception voted in favor, and the proposition to build was carried by a majority of 800.


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