News: Withee Centennial - 2001


Surnames: Withee, Doughner, Spaulding, Lauritzen, Thibert, Nielsen, Hansen, Petersen, Paulson, Tufts, Hamilton

---------Source: Withee Centennial (Owen, Clark County, Wis.) 2001

As the Village of Withee joyously celebrates its first 100 years in this year of 2001, we are reminded of the many people and events that have helped shape our past. It is said that the first 100 years are the hardest, then the next 100 years should be "easy sledding." The following information has been compiled from historical books, area newspapers, atlases, microfilm and other writings to give you a "blink" of the past 100 years.

Withee, Wisconsin as we know it today is a village in Northern Clark County just off State Highway 29 that runs from Green Bay to Chippewa Falls. The elevation plaque located in front of the former Withee High School shows the elevation to be 1,270.56 feet above sea level. We are located almost halfway between the north pole and the equator. The Black River divides Clark County almost in half. The above information about the village has not changed over the 100 years we are remembering and celebrating.

Let's start at the beginning when the country was covered with virgin timber. By 1870 ambitious lumbermen like D.J. Spaulding, and Niram H. and Hiram N. Withee from Maine bought as much pine acreage as possible, and especially along the rivers. Men were needed in the lumber camps and once the timber was harvested, the land was only valuable if it was sold and cleared of stumps so crops could be grown. By 1880 the railroad opened up the area and the village of Withee was platted in 1881. It was named for Niram H. Withee who had been very influential in county affairs by this time as its treasurer and in the timber business.

This was the beginning of a long and interesting history of determined pioneer settlers that developed our village and worked with a new sense of enthusiasm, due to their new found freedom and hope. The year 1890 found the population of Withee to be 69 people. Among these were W.S. Tufts, who owned the Hamilton Bros. Hotel and a general store in which the new post office was housed and to which the stage brought the mail and ended its route from Neillsville; Felix Douphner, who helped clear the stumps from the land that the village sits on; and Lucinda Moody, the first school teacher. Land agents were advertising "fertile farm land" in newspapers, large cities, and churches in the U.S. and Europe to encourage land sales. Some of the groups that responded were the French that settled in French Town - like Louis Thibert who farmed and built a store and saloon in Withee; Germans, Finns and also the Danes, encouraged by Rev. C.S. Nielsen in 1893, that settled closer to and in Withee.

By the year 1900 there were 400 residents, and hotels filled with lumberjacks, salesmen (referred to as "drummers") and prospective buyers brought in by the land agents. There were about eight businesses, three saloons, three hotels, one Danish church, two blacksmiths that had a steady trade of replacing horseshoes, and Mr. Lauritzen the tailor and barber. The streets were wide paths and with each rain became almost impassable due to the mud. With the many lumberjacks and saloons, the town was rowdy on weekends and Mr. Clifton was chosen as constable and a small "cold storage" jail was built by C.H. Hansen in 1901.

With the many immigrants coming to the Withee area, houses and services were in great demand. The Farmers Home and Land Co. of Withee sold over 5000 acres of land in the first two years it was in the area, including starting the new town of Maplehurst, twelve miles north of Withee. Within the first seven months of 1900, seven new homes were built, many from the bricks provided by the local kiln of P.K. Petersen east of Withee and good lumber was provided by Paul A. Paulson's mill south of town.
Albert Kristiansen was the new pharmacist and the town was fortunate to have Dr. C.S. Nielsen who made house calls, delivered babies and tended Smallpox and Diphtheria cases of lumberjacks and travelers in the "Pest House". A new post office was built and telephone service was established between Neillsville and the depot, where Gilbert Sturgeon was the drayman. All this made us an "Up-to-date" town that was incorporated in 1901.




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