Taylor County, Wisconsin History
The Board of Supervisors of Taylor County authorized the building of a courthouse in 1875. There was a bitter and uncompromising fight over the location of this courthouse. The question was whether the courthouse should be on the west side, where the mill owners owned the land or on the east side on the hill, where the railroad company owned the land. The County Board felt the west side location was unsuitable because it was basically river bottom. They accepted a bid for $5,200 for construction on the east side (the present location). Advocates of the west side location erected a building, had it enclosed and roofed in. Meanwhile, the County Board had the subject referred to a vote of the county in October of 1875. Electors of the four towns of the county voted 264-80 in favor of the west side location. At its meeting in November, the board rescinded all of its previous actions and accepted a bid of $5,200 for construction on the east side. An injunction to prevent the work was obtained by opponents, but was later dissolved. The courthouse was completed in July of 1876. The battle over location resulted in deep resentments and many of the newly elected officers would not move into it for more than a year. In December of 1877, the County Board instructed these officers to move into the proper offices in the new building.
No historical evidence has been fund for the building of a second courthouse. It is believed that the building in the 2nd picture was a combination of the first courthouse, a jail and sheriff's residence, or possibly a teacher training school.
In May 1912, the County Board of Supervisors took the first step toward the construction of a new courthouse by approval of a resolution calling for plans for a new building at a cost not to exceed $60,000. The building committee favored a building of stone and brick, with a copper roof, with office and vault room "for the next hundred years." It was completed in November of 1914. This 105x65 foot three-story courthouse stands 45 feet tall. The Roman Dome caps the otherwise rectangular Greek Style of the courthouse and rises over the roof another 35 feet. A bell perches in the cupola of this dome. The courthouse sits proudly on the topmost elevation in the city.
Medford, Taylor Co., Wisconsin, 1875
Henry Corwith of Chicago made the first entry of government land in the territory now embraced by Taylor County on June 1, 1867. A. E. Harder is recognized as the first permanent settler of the county, establishing himself in December 1872 in what is now the City of Medford. Pat Mullaloy and C. W. Norton came to the Taylor County region in 1873 for the purpose of furnishing ties for the Wisconsin Central Railroad Company, whose depot was the first frame building erected in what later became Medford. King and McIntyro opened the first store in this region in 1874.
Boundaries: On March 4, 1875, Taylor County was set off from parts of Clark, Marathon, Chippewa, and Lincoln counties. The present boundaries of the county are the same as those established in 1875. The county is 42 miles long and 24 miles wide. It has an area of 979 square miles with a total acreage of 628,480 acres.
Origin of Name: Sources differ as to the derivation of the name ATaylor@. Some say the county was named after William R. Taylor, Governor of the State at the time the county was organized. Others say it was named for David Taylor of Sheboygan, prominent jurist at the time of the organization of Taylor County and later a State Supreme Court Justice.
Early County Elections: Taylor County was created by an Act which provided it to be established with all the rights, powers and privileges granted by law to the counties of the State. It is subject to the General Laws established for county governments. The Act directed the Governor to appoint county officers before March 25, 1875, such officers to qualify and take office on March 25. They were to serve until January 1, following General Election in November 1875.
The Act creating the county further provided that Taylor County was to constitute one town to be known as the Town of Medford. The first election in the Town of Medford was to be held at the store owned by Roberts and Whelen, mill owners, on the first Tuesday in April 1875. The elected Town Board was to act as the Board of Supervisors. The first General Election following creation of Taylor County was held on November 2, 1875.
County Seat: By a provision of the Act creating Taylor County, the county seat was located in the Village of Medford. Medford, now an incorporated city, continues to be the county seat. Taylor County was organized for judicial purposes by the 1875 Act of Organization, and it was assigned to the Seventh Judicial Circuit, the first term to be held at the county seat on the second Monday of November 1875. In accordance with this Act, the first term of Circuit Court was held in the hall of La Clair's (and Fry's) Hotel at Medford on November 8, 1875, with Judge G. L. Park presiding. From 1879 to 1882, Price County was attached to Taylor County for judicial purposes.
Towns, Villages, and Cities: The 22 towns in Taylor County with their dates of organizations are: Medford, organized by the Act organizing the County, 1875; Chelsea, Little Black, and Westboro, 1875; Deer Creek, 1880; Browning, Greenwood, Grover, Pine Lake (Changed to Holway), 1895; Rib Lake, 1885; Molitor, 1886; Cleveland, 1896; Aurora (vacated, 1898 and recreated 1899); Hammel, 1897; McKinley, 1902; Goodrich, 1903; Maplehurst and Roosevelt, 1905; Taft, 1909; Ford, 1917; Pershing, 1919; and Jump River, 1923.
There are 4 villages and 1 city in Taylor County. The villages with their dates of incorporation are: Rib Lake, 1902; Gilman, 1914; Lublin, 1915 and Stetsonville, 1949. Medford, a fourth class city was incorporated in 1889.
Population and Immigration
In 1875 the population of Taylor County was 1,849. It increased to 2,311 in 1880, to 11,262 in 1900 and to 18,045 in 1920. While the population of 17,685 in 1930 showed a small decrease, the succeeding decade witnessed an increase so that by 1940 the population was 20,105.
More than 44% of the population of Taylor County in 1880 was born in the state of Wisconsin. Of this foreign born population of 747, there were 238 from Germany and 214 from British America as well as immigrants from Sweden and Norway, England and Wales, Bohemia, Denmark, Ireland, Scotland, and France. In 1900 slightly more than one-third of the population was foreign born, mostly German. In 1920, there were 4,308 foreign born and in 1930 this population dropped to 3,092. In 1990 the foreign born population was 118, or less than 1% of the total population of 18,901.
Agricultural and Industrial Development
Agriculture: Taylor County belongs to the Colby Silt Loam group of the 10 major soil areas. The soil is a silty clay loam especially good for the production of clover and timothy hay. This area produces forage crops (alfalfa and clover/grass mixtures), small grains (oats, barley and rye), and corn harvested as silage or high moisture grain. The region is also characterized by steep rolling hills good for pasturage. The rural area, in contrast to that of other counties of the state, shows slight signs of declining. The highest level of rural population was reached in 1920 and this was due to the increased migration to the northern counties after the more desirable agricultural lands in southern Wisconsin had been acquired.
In 1880, there were 266 farms in Taylor County with farm acreage of 29,426 and a farm value of $200,050. Oats led in production, with Indian corn, wheat, rye, and barley ranking next in order. By the turn of the century, there were 1,168 farms in Taylor County having acreage of 103,565 and a farm value of $1,581,450. By 1910 the number of farms had increased to 1,582 having a farm acreage of 624,240 and a farm value of $5,409,620, of which amount 58.8% was the value of the land. In 1930 there were 2,464 farms in the county having a farm value of $13,844,133.
Taylor County had the highest ratio of farm population to the total population of any area in the state in 1933. In that year, the farm income was $1,781,256 of which 72.2% was supplied by livestock and livestock products--a little more than one-half coming from milk.
Manufacturing: In 1880, there were 7 manufacturing establishments having a capital investment of $152,000 and a production value of $287,700. The only product being manufactured was planed and sawed lumber. By 1900 there were 35 manufacturing establishments having a capital investment of $1,728,592, and an annual production value of $2,152,671. In 1930 the county had 39 manufacturing establishments having a capital investment of $2,639,927 and an annual production value of $5,069,701. In 1990, the county had 50 manufacturing establishments (7 of which employ 50 or more people). These establishments had an equalized valuation of $21,213,000 and an annual value added figure of $171,100,000 with a total shipment value of $375,300,000.
Opinions differ as to where the first school in Taylor County was located. Some believe it was a private school in Medford while others say it was a public school in Medford. The annual report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for 1875 indicated there were 3 school districts in the county at that time with 2 schoolhouses and an enrollment of 58. In 1885, this had increased to 40 schools with an enrollment of 1,008.
In 1905 there were 86 schools in Taylor County, including 2 high schools and an enrollment of 3,353. In 1915, this number had increased to 94 schools with an enrollment of 3,752. In 1936, the schools of Taylor County had an enrollment of 4,548 and a school cost of $248,954.17.
In 1914 the first University of Wisconsin Agricultural Agent was hired to bring agricultural research to local residents. The first Home Economist was added to the staff in 1944, followed by the first 4-H Agent in 1951. To complete the staff, a Community Resource Development Agent was added in 1966. As of 1997, the agents are the Family Living Agent, Family Nutrition Program Educator, 4-H/Youth Development Agent, Agricultural Agent, and Community Resource Development Agent.
In 1959, the Taylor County Teachers College was constructed. As of 1968, it was the University of Wisconsin Center-Medford and continued that way until June of 1981. After that date, the Taylor County Board of Supervisors approved a consortium agreement with North Central Technical College of Wausau to utilize the facility as a satellite site for providing adult education classes. Currently the facility is called the Northcentral Technical College (NTC)-West Campus or the Taylor County Community Education Center.
There was one weekly newspaper in Taylor County, The Taylor County News, established at Medford in March 1875. It became the Taylor County Star News in December 1877. At that time, it merged with the Taylor County Star and is known today as The Star News.