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Taylor County, Wisconsin

Taylor County History, Geography, and Demographics

County Seat: Medford
Year Organized: 1875
Square Miles: 975
Court House:

224 South 2nd Street
County Courthouse
Medford, WI 54451-1811

Etymology - Origin of County Name

Since it was erected in 1875, this county was probably named for the governor in office at that time, William E. Taylor. Born in Connecticut in 1818, he emigrated to Dane County in 1848, and lived upon a farm therein. He was, during his term (1874-76) known as the "farmer governor." He died in the spring of 1909 near Madison.

[Source: Kellogg, Louise Phelps. "Derivation of County Names" in Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin for 1909, pages 219-231.]

Demographics:

County QuickFacts: Census Bureau Quick Facts

County History

Taylor County, created in 1848 from Clark, Lincoln, Marathon and Chippewa Counties, is named after Wisconsin governor William Robert Taylor. Located in northwest Wisconsin, the county seat is Medford.


The following is an early history (1876) of Taylor County, Wisconsin, as found in the records of the Wisconsin Land Commission and was copied Nov. 5, 1937, by the Assistant Secretary of the Land Commission.

This county contains twenty-seven townships, of which sixty-five percent is covered with heavy timber, fifteen percent prairie and the balance marsh. From the center of the county numerous streams run in various directions. On the southern slope, they flow into the Black river; on the eastern into the Wisconsin; on the western, into the Chippewa river. The county has many excellent water-powers. The timber on the bottom lands is principally white pine, of excellent quality; that on the ridges is mainly sugar maple, butternut, oak, elm, and black birch. The soil of much of the pine land is poor, being mostly sand and gravel; that of the heavy timber land is a heavy black loam, with clay sub-soil. Much of the marsh land is well adapted to cranberry culture, and is well stocked with vines. There are numerous good streams, well suited to the driving of logs. The northwestern part of the county is well supplied with lakes, in which are found bass, pike, pickerel and muskellunge.

The amount of cultivated land is small, on account of the shortness of the time since the county was first settled, the principal settlements being homesteads located along each side of the Wisconsin Central Railroad. The principal exports are pine saw-logs, lumber and shingles.

All produce raised in this county finds a better market at home, then in Milwaukee and Chicago, on account of the large amount of pine timber lying in the northward, which regions must either get its supplies from this section or ship them here from the south, by way of the Wisconsin Central railroad. The principal manufactures are pine lumber and shingles. This is carried on to a large extent at each place along the railroad.

The first actual settler was A. E. HARDER on the North half of the North East quarter of section thirty-four, township 31 North, of range one East, the same being now the town of Medford. HARDER was formerly from the state of New York. He left the county in the spring of 1877, emigrating with his family to the Black Hills.

John TURNER built a hotel of bark on the Little Black, at about the same time; but it was transient and "went on" as the railroad progressed.

The first store built and occupied in the county was at Medford by J. A. KING, from Fond du Lac, formerly from Rhode Island. At the time KING moved his goods into the village of Medford, the only settlers were W. B. JEFFERS, station agent, and Silas BUSWELL. The depot being the only building, it was necessary for him to store his goods there.

The first hotel was built by Silas BUSWELL Jr., and kept by him, known as the "First National."

The first saw mill in the county was built by James SEMPLE of Medford.

The first physician was S. B. HUBBELL, son of the late Levi HUBBELL of Milwaukee.

The first child born was a daughter of W. B. JEFFERS. She only lived about four weeks. Her death was the first on in the county.

The first marriage was between George F. MATTESON and Mary E. CARR, both of the town of Medford, by E. R. PRINK, county judge, on the 3rd day of April, 1875.

The first school was a private one, in the village of Medford, taught by W. E. LOCKERBY.

The first sermon was preached by Mrs. PITCHER (Methodist) in the saw mill of James SEMPLE.

The first religious society formed was Methodist at the village of Medford.

The first regular preacher was Rev. Mr. WOODLY.

The first church edifice was Catholic, built in the village of Medford.

The first law firm was that of OGDEN and ADAMS, followed immediately by J. K. PARISH and C. W. Cleveland.

The first newspaper was the Taylor County News, edited and published by John A. OGDEN, located at Medford and issued March 31, 1875. The next was the Taylor County Star by George A. LOOPE, first issued March 18, 1876 and sold to E. R. PRINK, May 23, 1876, and now published by him.

The first entry of land was made at the Eau Claire Land Office by Henry CORWITH of Chicago, June 1, 1867, at which time he made large purchases. Every odd section not taken at the time the land was taken out of market from cash entries, ten miles each side of the Wisconsin Central Railroad, was given to that road, which is now completed to Lake Superior.

The first election in the county was held at Medford in April, 1875, for town officers. The inspectors were E. R. PRINK, Miles SEMPLE and C. C. PALMER and Isaac BISCORNET, supervisors; and A. E. HARDER, town clerk. The number of votes cast was 197. There being but one town organization, its town board was also county board.

The first election under the county organization was held in November, 1875, there being four precincts, Medford, Little Black, Chelsea and Westboro. The county board of canvassers rejected the votes of all except Medford precinct on account of the other precincts not being legally set off. The whole number of votes cast in the county, at this time, was 403. The officers elected were, F. A. HEALY, county treasurer, Alfred DODGE, county clerk; W. B. JEFFERS, register of deeds, T. G. JEFFERS, clerk of circuit court; J. K. Parish, district attorney; Henry Grant, sheriff; O. N. LEE, superintendent of schools; H. RIPLEY, surveyor, and R. PETERSON, coroner.

The first officers were appointed by Governor W. R. TAYLOR and were: E. R. PRINK, county judge; F. A. HEALY treasurer; Alfred DODGE, county clerk; W. B. JEFFERS, register; W. E. LOCKERBY, clerk circuit court; J. K. PARISH, district attorney; E. C. Thomas, sheriff; O. N. LEE, school superintendent; A. D. LUNT, surveyor.

The county seat was located at Medford by the same act of the legislature that organized the county, which was approved March 4, 1875. The county board of supervisors held their first meeting in LECLAIR's hall in the village of Medford. The territory of which the county is composed was taken from Chippewa, Clark, Lincoln and Marathon counties.

The site for the courthouse was a long contested case between T. C. WHELEN, the owner of the SEMPLE Mill (also the person to whom was due all credit for the organization of the county and the location of the county seat at Medford), and the county board of supervisors. WHELEN and a majority of the citizens, as shown by a vote at a special election held for that purpose, wanted the courthouse located on the West side of Black River on Block 3 MCCARTNEY and WHELEN's Addition, for which Whelen agreed to give the land. The board of supervisors wanted it located on the East side. The latter succeeded and the building now stands on Block 5 of the original plat, the land being given to the county by the railroad company. The cost of the courthouse was $6000. There is also located on the same ground a good substantial jail.

The first court was held in LECLAIR's hall, in the village of Medford, November 8, 1875, G. L PARK, Judge.

The debts incurred in the county were bonds issued to the amount of $6000.00 for building the courthouse.

The villages of Westboro and Chelsea, both on the Wisconsin Central Railroad, are thriving places, with the usual number of hotels, and stores to accommodate settlers.

The number of votes polled in November 1876 was 486. The county now has a population of about 1000 of which number fully three fourths are natives of this country. The foreigners are mostly Germans and Norwegians.


Geography

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 984 square miles (2,550 kmē), of which, 975 square miles (2,525 kmē) of it is land and 10 square miles (25 kmē) of it (0.98%) is water.

Neighboring Counties:

  • Price County - north
  • Lincoln County - east
  • Marathon County - southeast
  • Clark County - south
  • Chippewa County - west
  • Rusk County - northwest
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