Wisconsin Counties
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Wisconsin Counties

There are seventy-two counties in the state of Wisconsin. Wisconsin became part of the Territory of Michigan and divided into two counties: Brown County in the northeast along Lake Michigan and Crawford County in the southwest along the Mississippi River. The state of Wisconsin was created from Wisconsin Territory on May 29, 1848, with 28 counties.

Polk County, Wisconsin

Polk County Education, Geography, and History

Polk County, Wisconsin Courthouse

Polk County is a county in the state of Wisconsin. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 44,205. Its county seat is Balsam Lake. The county was created in 1853.

Etymology - Origin of Polk County Name

Named in honor of President James K. Polk -

Hist. No. Wis., p. 722.

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


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

Polk County History

Polk County Historical Society

Located in the heart of Indianhead country in northwestern Wisconsin, Polk County offers a diversity of attractions to the visitor - as well as to its residents. The St. Croix Wild and Scenic Riverway forms its western boundary, and the river bluffs abruptly give way to rolling countryside. The land is dotted with lakes and flows with rivers that offer swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking and canoeing. Interstate State Park is Wisconsin's first state park at St. Croix Falls. It is a splendid testimonial to the era of volcanoes and glaciers that formed this place, the magnificent Dalles of the river presenting the terminus of Wisconsin's Ice Age Trail. The park headquarters presents an overview of the natural forces that formed this land. Also in the park is mute testimony to one of the dreams that brought early settlers to this place . . . . a failed attempt to mine copper in the latter 1800's. But it was logging and lumbering that were primary attractions in what became Polk County . . . . the lush pine forests upriver and the awesome power of the Falls of the St. Croix River bringing the first settlers as early as 1837, even while this land was still home to the Chippewa Indians.

Legal settlement started at St. Croix Falls in 1838, making this the oldest community in the St. Croix River Valley. A few miles south, Osceola Mills grew around grain milling and steamboat building enterprises. The lovely Cascade Falls graces the heart of downtown Osceola and today a historic train ride attraction offered to visitors, is reminiscent of the day when the first railroad reached across the river into Polk County in 1883. Eventually, trails and roads led to fledgling farming and dairying communities to the east, and to placid lakeside resorts.

Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut (Duluth) and his four French-Canadian companions are recognized as the first white persons to traverse the St. Croix River in 1680, to visit what would eventually, in 1787 become part of the Northwest Territory, then the "Territory of Wiskonsan,) in 1836, and the State of Wisconsin in 1848. In 1853, Polk County was carved out of what had previously been known as St. Croix County. It was named in honor of James K. Polk, the eleventh president of the United States. At that time it included far more territory than its present 700,000 acres with new counties being formed to the north and east.

Copyright © 2004 Polk County Historical Society. Portions copyright © 2004 Ron Hedberg.

John W. Hunt's 1853 Wisconsin Gazetteer

 "POLK, County. By an act of the legislature approved March 14, 1853, all that portion of St. Croix county lying north of the line between township 31 and 32, was set off into a separate county, to be called and known as the county of Polk. It is therefore bounded on the north by La Pointe, on the east by Chippewa, on the south by Chippewa and St. Croix, and on the west by the Territory of Minnesota, from which it is separated by the river St. Croix. It is mostly a lumber country, though the southern part contains a large area of excellent farming lands. The village of St. Croix Falls, the county seat, situated at the head of steamboat navigation on St. Croix river, is surrounded with excellent agricultural lands, and with the business naturally centreing there of the extensive pineries above, must be a town of considerable importance. This county is to be fully organized during the present year, and will form a part of the sixth judicial circuit. The representation will continue as before the division of St. Croix."

From: Handbook of Wisconsin by S. Silas, 1855
pg. 94-95

This County comprises the northern part of the old County of St. Croix, and embraces on area of territory of about 2,600 square miles. But a very small portion of the county has been settled, a large portion of good farming and timber lands being yet in possession of Government. The general characteristics of the southern part are about the same as the rest of the St. Croix Valley, there being however, more wood and pine lands than in Pierce or St. Croix Counties. There is not so much prairie, but the country is ore diversified having timber, prairie and openings all over the southern part.

The central portion of the County, for the space of about one hundred square miles is nearly covered with heavy timber, consisting mostly of maple, butternut, and oak, watered by countless numbers of small lakes, full of fish. The region affords ample scope for the lovers of angling, in the abundance of trout, and other fish.

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 956 square miles (2,477 km2), of which, 917 square miles (2,376 km2) of it is land and 39 square miles (101 km2) of it (4.08%) is water.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • Burnett County - north
  • Barron County - east
  • Dunn County - southeast
  • St. Croix County - south
  • Washington County, Minnesota - southwest
  • Chisago County, Minnesota - west


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