Wisconsin Genealogy Trails
Vilas County, Wisconsin
History

Source:  The Wisconsin Municipality, Volume XIV, January to December, 1914, Madison, Wisconsin.

Transcribed by M. K. Krogman



The Town of Eagle River (Township and Village of Eagle River)
By N. M. Emmons, Chairman, Eagle River
One can search the entire state of Wisconsin without finding any community with a more attractive location than is possessed by Eagle River. It is the heart of the greatest lake region of America, it is the centre of what is designed to become the most popular summer resort region of the country, the playground of the great cities of the middle west.
In the territory tributary to Eagle River are over 1,000 lakes, all of them alive with fish, fed by innumerable springs and most attractive to the eye. Hundreds of summer homes from the log hut to the large mansion already can be seen on the banks of these lakes while scores of summer resort hotels are being successfully conducted. All of these summer homes and resorts so rapidly developing in number are in a greater or less degree dependent on their wants being supplied through Eagle River, the centre of the lake region and the county seat of Vilas county.

This is why Eagle River is a flourishing town of 1,200 people without a manufacturing plant of any kind in its borders. It is maintained and kept up largely through the development of great resources nature has so abundantly bestowed on this region and the village possesses within its borders all the best attractions and conditions demanded by the home seeker.
The schools of Eagle River are of high character. The high school is maintained so as to be on the accredited list of the state university and other higher educational institutions, and the schools are in a school building that would be a credit to cities two or three times as large.
Within the village there are provided all modern conveniences for the welfare of all residents. The city owns its own electric light and water plant which furnishes good service at very reasonable rates and a sewer system which connects with nearly all buildings in the town is well maintained. The business houses of Eagle River are well kept up, furnishing everything to satisfy the wants and needs of the community. Two newspapers are conducted in the city, churches of several denominations are maintained and with the good streets and cement walks Eagle River presents a spirit at all times of thrift and enterprise.
The county has its court house in Eagle River, a handsome, commodious building and the official county business is transacted in this place. Surrounding the village of Eagle River are not only many lakes with fine modern summer resorts but the agricultural development has started so successfully and to such an extent that now many farmers in this immediate region help to add to the wealth and progress of our town by the successful results they secure in working the fertile soil of this region.
With the railroad giving splendid connections through this town, bringing through trains direct from Chicago, this place is a centre for hundreds of tourists to reach summer homes and resorts.
Located only five miles from Eagle River is the famous Everett resort, a commodious summer resort hotel with all modern conveniences capable of accommodating, with the attractive array of cottages adjacent, 200 people. Nearby is the Hemlock, another fine resort well kept up at all times.
The Morey, two and a half miles from Eagle River between Otter Point and Catfish Lake is another high class resort that is very rapidly becoming into fine prominence. Tilden Brothers resort, only a short distance from Eagle River is known all over the country and each year attracts hundreds of people. The Shing-Guak En-Dot resort, owned by H. W. Morris is just four miles east of Eagle River and is conducted in a first class manner.
These various resorts just mentioned are very close to Eagle River and they attract large numbers of the most representative and prominent people of the middle west and other parts of the United States, who thoroughly enjoy the hospitality and the attractions afforded them.
Located on Catfish Lake is Camp Winnepe, a boys summer camp that has become noted all over the country. The camp contains about a hundred boys for ten weeks during the summer with tutors, physicians, instructors and other officials and attendants to afford the boys at the summer camp the very best of instruction, help and association. It is in charge of Professors Marriott and Kelly, of St. Louis and it has become one of the popular attractions and features of the Eagle River vicinity.
From Eagle River itself all kinds of attractive trips can be provided. One can enter a boat at Eagle River and travel fifty miles through the upper and lower chain of lakes passing lake after lake with ever changing scenery that makes a boat ride no other region in America can pass or equal. Eagle River extends open hands to any person or family seeking to help develop the matchless resorts of this section.

 

The Town of Conover (Township)
By Peter Sandbeck, Chairman, Conover
The town of Conover lays claim to being the farthest advanced agriculturally of any town in Vilas county in proportion to its size. It is a township and one-half in size and throughout the entire town can be seen farmers who are rapidly making splendid success in tilling the soil. The Northwestern railroad’s main line passes through the town from one end to the other thus giving the condition that no farmer or settler in the town is more than three or four miles from the railroad. Good roads run all through the town giving farmers good chance to get their products to the market.
It was only a few years ago that farming was started in Conover. Today scores of men have opened up farms and are producing with splendid results, hay, corn, potatoes, oats, garden truck, etc. The soil in Conover is most fertile and without fertilizers of any kind it is producing splendid crops and yield.
Dairying is becoming a successful industry in our town. Several pure bred Guernsey sires are now in our towns and many farmers have four or five cows and are shipping cream to outside points with much profit. There is plenty of good land at very reasonable prices in Conover and with the success made by so many the lands of this town will undoubtedly be developed far more rapidly in the next few years than in the past.
Four schools throughout the town afford good educational advantages for the children. The residents of Conover are thrifty, energetic workers, satisfied with their prospects and confident that the town of Conover can be made one of the banner towns of the county.

 

The Town of Farmington (Township whose name was changed to St. Germain)
By Edward Gabe, Chairman, Sayner
Midway between the St. Paul railroad on the west and the Northwestern railroad on the east, thus giving easy access to these two great railroad systems, is the town of Farmington.
There is no portion of Wisconsin where nature has been more bountiful in bestowing its resources and attractions than in the town of Farmington. The beautiful drives through the town lead one past lake after lake, each one beautiful in its individual shape and natural attractions and in size from those just ideal for an individual summer home to others whose shore line for miles provide most artistic settings for numerous resorts. Clean sparkling streams can be seen on every side while the Wisconsin river flows in its ruggedness along the southern boundary of the town all affording opportunity for boat trips that gives chance to cover miles of ever changing scenery that makes one lost in admiration of the beauty of nature’s handiwork.
Besides all this natural beauty scattered throughout the town of Farmington can be seen ‘rapidly developing farms raising all kinds of products, showing that the soil of the town is most fertile and capable of being utilized for successful farming and dairying.
The summer resorts of Farmington are many. Nearly every lake of any particular size contains summer resort hotels and convenient and comfortable cottages that are filled with tourists all during the season, to whom the wonderful fishing affords endless enjoyment and excitement while the seclusion gives a freedom to tourists eagerly accepted. .
A dozen summer resorts all of prominence can be found in different parts of the town of Farmington. The Gabe Resort on Lost Lake is only three miles from Sayner and with the hotel and six cottages makes an ideal place for an outing.
On big St. Germaine are erected the hotel and cottages of A. Chaberson, of Bob MacGregor and the log cabin resort of J. H. Hunter, all of whom are very popular. The Greenwood ranch and Penio resort and Jack Sessons Hotel are all located on the Little St. Germaine and attract much attention to that region. George Jackson has a hotel and cottages nine miles from Eagle River on Alma Lake and there are other small resorts throughout the town. These various lakes in Farmington are connected by good roads and all of the roads in the town are being very rapidly improved.

 

The Town of Phelps (Township and Village of Phelps)
By L. Metz, Chairman, Phelps
The town of Phelps combines three of the most important features of Vilas county in probably the most advanced stage of any town in the county. 

First. - Its industrial activities with two extensive lines of manufacturing and a third now being taken up, all located in the thriving settlement of Phelps on North Twin Lake. 

Second. - Its agricultural development has been remarkably advanced in a short space of time and the transformation of cut over lands into successful farms makes the town rank with the most rapidly developing agricultural sections of Northern Wisconsin. 

Third. - Its lakes are in size among the largest to be found in Northern Wisconsin, the great Wisconsin river has its headquarters in this town and the varied lakes and streams form a most inviting section for the summer tourist, fisherman and hunter.
With these three prominent features the town of Phelps presents to any intending home builder a most encouraging location for assured success.
The village of Phelps is located very prettily on the western end of North Twin, a most beautiful body of water six miles long. The Northwestern railroad runs direct to the village giving good railway connections with the outside world for mail, freight and passengers. The village now contains two splendid industries in full operation, a saw mill and chemical plant. The Hackley Phelps-Bonnell Company operates the saw mill which is a most modern plant, well equipped for its work, giving steady employment for a large force of men and turning out an unusually high grade product. The mill has a fine quality of timber of such extent that without any more purchases the saw mill has fifteen years of sawing before it. The Chemical plant is owned by the Wisconsin Chemical Company. It is a modern resort chemical plant converting cordwood into charcoal, and securing as by-products large quantities of wood alcohol, acetate of lime of qualities that makes them much in demand. At the present time the company is building a smelter to make pig iron. The smelter will utilize the charcoal from the chemical plant in converting iron ore into pig iron and with this completed the village of Phelps, now a thriving community with fine schools, homes, stores, etc., will have three splendid flourishing industries that will mean constant growth and advancement for the community.
This constant permanent employment of so much labor in the village of Phelps has been one of the means of stimulating the agricultural development of the town which, with the aggressive and liberal policy of the Hackley-Phelps Bonnell Company, in inducing the tilling of the soil, has resulted during the last five years in fully 300 new farms being opened up in the town. These farmers in the few years of time they have been here, have demonstrated beyond any question that the cut over land in the town of Phelps is equal to any land in Wisconsin for agriculture. All kinds of products are being successfully raised. Farmers are raising grain of all kinds, potatoes make a fine profitable crop, corn is a success and cabbages, turnips, onions or any other vegetable are helping materially to give the farmers splendid success. Agriculture is no longer an experiment in this section. With the success now made by scores of farmers the time is not far distant when the entire town of Phelps will be dotted with well conducted and successful agriculturists While the opportunities for dairying will induce many others to follow this line most profitably.
A line of railroad running into the town makes available for summer resort purposes any of the many and beautiful lakes in this town. Already the lakes are the attraction for hundreds of summer resorters and sportsmen and with the good roads that now lead to the various points of interest in the town makes this locality very popular. Among the summer resorts in this town, many of which afford cottages in connection, ample accommodations for tourists are provided. Charles Hazen’s resort, three miles from Phelps, accommodates 200 people. The resorts of William Adams on Big Twin and Pioneer lakes will accommodate 250. Harry Frank’s resort on Las Dieux Desert Lake accommodates 150 people and E. L. Thomas on the same lake has accommodations for from sixty to seventy-five. Hanson’s resort on Little Twin can take care of seventy people while Aksel Oberg with his resort on Big Twin can take care of twenty people or more. There are many other smaller resorts and in our town is also the Eagle River Fish and Hunting Club, a private resort on Sand Lake.
Our fertile soil invites the farmer, the industrial plants afford opportunity for the laborer, while our lakes and streams provide attractions unexcelled for the pleasure seeker.

 

The Town of Presque lsle (Township)
By Chas. Backstrom, Chairman, Winchester
The town of Presque Isle contains two of the most thriving industries of the county and two villages, Wineger and Winchester, that are peopled with industrious energetic people who are making the northern end of the county of Vilas hum with industry.
The efforts of the people of Presque Isle is not turned entirely to manufacturing for within the borders of Presque Isle are to be found a number of successful farmers. The soil in the town is especially adapted for various kinds of farming. Corn is being splendidly matured and all kinds of vegetables are grown readily and satisfactorily. There are many openings for farms in the town of Presque Isle to supply the demand for dairy products and vegetables in the two towns.
The town of Wineger, formerly Fosterville is located on the end of the branch Northwestern line that was built expressly to lead into the town. In this village is the mill plant of the Vilas County Lumber Company. It is a fine mill, well equipped and is operating most successfully.
Further west a few miles is the town of Winchester. Here is an up to date saw mill plant owned by the Turtle Lake Lumber Company, that turns out large quantities of lumber each year. These two lumber companies afford employment to many men in the sawing plants and hundreds of additional men are employed in the logging season.
Good schools in these villages, with churches, stores, and public halls keep up a spirit of enterprise and progress among the citizens.

 

The Town of State Line (Township whose name was changed to Land O’Lakes)
By Chas Bent, Chairman, Donaldson
On the boundary line between Michigan and Wisconsin in the northern end of Vilas county is a town fittingly called State Line. This town was organized about eight years ago. It contains two and one-half townships of land covered largely with virgin timber of such quality and size that shows the most fertile of soil, while here and there throughout the town the forests are broken by many streams and large numbers of beautiful lakes.
Lake Mamie, Island Lake, Goose Lake, Mill Lake, Black Oak Lake, are some of the larger bodies of water that today are known and patronized by thousands of sportsmen from all over the United States who find in the town of State Line, the rest and recreation they seek, with fishing and hunting that makes anyone’s trip to this region memorable and most pleasurable.
The lakes of this town are alive with the gamiest fish that swim, the Woods in hunting season furnish hunting opportunities of most unusual character and the lakes connected as they are with each other, provide trips with the canoe or motor boat that cannot be appreciated unless once taken.
Through this paradise for the sportsmen and summer resorter can be found various resorts that afford rest, good food and comforts. Bent’s resort has long been established in the town and attracts tourists and sportsmen from many parts of the United States. It is located on Lake Mamie, one of the Cisco chain of lakes that the Northwestern railroad runs its Pullman trains to direct from Chicago. Dairying and gardening has been carried on successfully by the resort for many years. In the town is located the Black Oak resort owned by George St. Clair and also the White Birch resort owned by Fred Goeltz.
On Black Oak Lake there are a number of summer homes being built by Chicago people and one of them is starting fruit raising on a good sized scale.
Located across the state line in Michigan from the town of State Line are some of the most noted private rustic resorts in the United States including those of the head officials of the United States Steel Company and also of officials of the Northwestern railroad, and as various trips that can be made by boat afford opportunity to witness these show places in the midst of the forests the various resorts in the town of State Line are able to provide ample attractions for the visitor.

 

The Town of Plum Lake (Township)
By Fred Meloy, Chairman, Sayner
There is probably no other town in the entire state of Wisconsin that contains so many lakes with well established resorts as can be shown by the town of Plum Lake in the heart of Vilas county lake region. Not only are there numerous summer resorts that provide entertainment and hospitality for thousands of people who visit the town each year but in addition the town of Plum Lake contains more private summer homes of successful and wealthy business men than probably any other town in this section can show.
The four leading summer resorts in the town are located on Star Lake, Ballard Lake and Plum Lake. The Plum Lake House, owned by O. W. Sayner has long been known as one of the successful and popular resorts in the pine woods of Northern Wisconsin, there being numerous picturesque bungalows, and cottages in connection with the main building.
The Forest Lake summer resort on Plum Lake, owned by Herbert Warner, is well maintained and includes a number of cottages each having a sitting room with fire place.
The Waldheim Resort on Star Lake is one of the best known and largest in the entire county and the one at Ballard Lake conducted by Ole Rissman attracts lots of interest each year.
The famous Gillett summer camp for boys is located in this town. It is now owned by Dr. Monalaw, of Chicago and has a most attractive location on Plum Lake.
Located on the southern shore of Plum Lake is the Wausau Colony of summer homes, there being many people from Wausau having homes in this section. Besides these summer homes there are other locations where there are attractive summer homes owned by Judge Hood, of Leavenworth, Kansas, C. A. Goodyear, Tomah, F. S. James, Chicago, L. N. Anson, Merrill and Walter Alexander, lVausau, all prominent in the business and professional world.

The town of Plum Lake is also the centre of much of the active work being carried on by the State Forestry Reserve and there are many interesting Located on Plum Lake are the well and instructive features in connection known grounds of the Plum Lake Club with this work that are appreciated by which include golf courses, tennis tourists courts and other attractions.

 

The Town of Flambeau (Township)
By W. Pinch, Chairman, Lac du Flambeau
The town of Flambeau is made up of towns 40 R. 4; 40 R. 5; 41 R. 5; 42 R. 5 and the south half of 43 R. 5. East two and one-half towns being a part of the Lac du Flambeau Indian reservations. Fully twenty per cent of this area is water. This town has upwards of sixty lakes within its borders.
The land as a rule is comparatively level and differs little to land in other parts of the county, varying from a sandy loam to quiet heavy clay. This section was originally covered with a heavy growth of pine and hardwood. Although there has been a large saw mill in operation for twenty years there still remains probably twenty million feet of standing timber. We believe our real wealth lies in the agricultural possibilities. While farming has not been carried on to any great extent it has long since passed the experimental stage. All kinds of farm crops are now being successfully grown.
Potato growing and dairying will no doubt be the most remunerative. Several patches of alfalfa have been planted and all are doing fine. We do not boast of having a better section of country than any other part of the state but we feel justified in saying our home is just as good.
Today many things are being successfully grown that was not considered possible a few years ago, for instance alfalfa, melons, tomatoes, soy beans and cow peas. The Indians have grown corn from their own land for generations. The state owns considerable land in this town and if the present policy of the Forestry Department is continued it will unjustly do much to retard the development of this section.
As a summer resort region it is not surpassed by any. Many of these beautiful lakes are connected by channels of water enabling boats to pass unobstructed from one lake to another. These lakes are stocked mostly with muskalunge, pike and bass.
The Government Indian school located here is a little city by itself. It is located on a strip of land between two lakes, a part of the building facing each lake. It is equipped with a central heating plant, electric light and a water works system, steam laundry, hospital and everything that goes to make up a modern up to date little city.
Everything in the way of general improvement is only in its infancy. It is only a few years since the first summer resort was established in this whole region and now there are many excellent resorts with new ones going up each year. This section of Vilas county has much in its favor to be taken into consideration. Accessibility, timber, a lake region second to none, excellent farm lands to be had at a very low price.
The Gauthier Resort at Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin is situated on the shores of Long Lake, one of a chain of seven large spring-fed lakes. These lakes abound with pike, bass and muskellunge. The cottages of this resort are located on the high banks of the lake, are substantial summer homes, something out of the ordinary in cottage construction, with large bright living rooms and bed chambers. All doors, windows, back and front porches are screened in. Each cottage is comfortably and neatly furnished.
The fall of 1913 saw the old hotel torn down, and a new modern hotel erected in its place. The new hotel is on the bungalow order, with large lobby and dining rooms, and a twelve foot screened-in porch running around three sides of it. It has been completely furnished throughout with a view of giving the greatest comfort and homelike surroundings and is ranked as one of the best in Northern Wisconsin.

 

Vilas County’s Indian Reservation
By W. N. Nickels, Indian Agent, Lac du Flambeau
The Lac du Flambeau band of Chippewa Indians occupy a reservation about twelve miles square, the greater part of which is located in Vilas county. There are approximately six hundred of these people living on the reservation. They are under the supervision of a government agent, and the government maintains a good boarding school for the education of their children. This school is located near the town of Lac du Flambeau. All Indian children of school age and sound health are required to attend. The supervision of these Indians by the government includes the handling of their timber funds; a physician is employed to look after their health and enforce sanitary living; an expert farmer is employed to assist them in their farming; and a field-matron is employed to instruct the women along domestic lines. Many of these Indians have good sized banking accounts which were derived from the sale of timber on their allotments. These funds aggregate over $225,000. These moneys are expended by them under the supervision of the government agent for improvements on their allotments, such as building of homes, clearing of lands, etc. Able—bodied Indians are not permitted to use their timber funds for support purposes—consequently all must rustle for their living. Their reservation is very rich in natural resources, and the greater part of it is fine farming land. There is not a family on the reservation that does not raise a good garden, and many of them are extending their clearings into fair sized farms. They do not, however, depend entirely upon agriculture. Many of them make a business guiding tourists during the summer months—their reservation containing a generous supply of the prettiest and best fishing lakes to be found in Wisconsin; all of them do more or less hunting and trapping during the fall and winter; large quantities of blueberries, raspberries and greens are gathered and sold during the summer months; many of the women are experts in the manufacture of bead and buckskin work, birch bark baskets, etc., which find a ready sale amongst the tourists; fish and game at all seasons of the year are available for those whose rustle; and many of the men work in the woods during the winter months—so it will be seen that these people have many ways of supporting themselves.
Tourists are encouraged to visit the reservation and several good resorts have been established for their accommodation. A boys’ summer camp is also located on one of the lakes. Pike, muskellunge, and bass fishing is of the finest, but in order to maintain and increase the supply of fish, the government has established a fish hatchery of fifty million fry capacity, which is in successful operation this season. The entire output of this hatchery is to be planted in the reservation lakes.
It is the present policy of the government to encourage the sale and leasing of some of the Indian land, which admits of the location of summer resorts, summer homes, and white farmers, etc. Several pieces of land have been sold and it is expected that an increasing number of allotments will be placed on the market each season.
These Indians have the reputation of being very peaceable, quiet, and law abiding, and intending settlers will not find them bad neighbors. The government exercises police control over the reservation, and maintains good order.

Vilas County's Agricultural Development
By Oscar Gunderson, County Agriculturist, Eagle River
Like other counties of northern Wisconsin Vilas county has seen its era of logging and attendant forest devastation with axe and fire. It is also an ideal place on account of its lakes, and streams for summer resort business. These industries have diverted attention from its agricultural possibilities and resulted in agitation which had for its object the withdrawal of most of its land from agricultural uses and using it for a forest reserve. Only a casual examination into its agricultural possibilities will make it plain that it can become one of the great counties of the state agriculturally. The soil is light, sandy and clay loams predominating. But this soil if rightly handled is wonderfully productive. These terms are used advisedly.

The soil cannot be continually cropped without returning organic matter as the supply of humus is limited and can easily be exhausted. But where in the state do clovers thrive with greater luxuriance than here? This should settle the humus and nitrogen question if properly handled. No finer potatoes can be raised in the state than here. Oats produce from sixty to eighty bushels to the acre and yields of potatoes as high as 400 bushel to the acre are common. Root crops and garden vegetables grow as nowhere else. There seems to be prevalent the idea that resorting and agriculture conflict. This is hardly borne out by the evidence of other localities similarly situated. The regions around Lake Geneva and Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, are noted as choice farming sections and have a resort business unrivalled in the United States.

Dairying while yet in its infancy in Vilas county must get to the front. Some think the land is too far north for corn. But crops of one hundred baskets of ripe corn to the acre are on record. This is as good as southern Wisconsin or even Illinois can do. Suppose an early frost should occasionally nip the corn. It is as good for silage as ever and a bushel of seed can easily he bought if it cannot be raised. Corn with root crops and clovers and alfalfa are the choicest feeds for cattle that can be produced anywhere and nowhere in the state can these crops be grown with greater certainty or in greater abundance than in Vilas county. With the cattle industry and its creameries and cheese factories, the hog industry can become an important side issue, and all these things can be made to fertilize the land and produce permanent agriculture and prosperity. Few localities have a more delightful climate during the summer months than northern Wisconsin. The cool, fresh air; the absence of excessive heat; the fragrant and healthful aroma of the balsam and the pine give to this country a climate that is one of the many delights of the man who is fortunate enough to seek his out-of-doors sports here. This temperate climate; the numberless beautiful lakes; its ease of access from such cities as Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis and Kansas City are all factors that are fast making this region the summer home of tourists from the middle and southwest. .Nor is this surprising to those who have lived among or often gazed upon the many fresh water lakes to be found here,—lakes whose deep-green wooded banks, contribute to the beauty of a scenery unrivalled for grandeur, and whose crystal waters abounding in fish, whose graveled beaches and sandy shores furnish attractions for the sportsman to be unexcelled elsewhere.

 


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