The History of Lincoln Co., Wis. History 1881 Transcribed from pages 438-450 "History of Northern Wisconsin" by: Crystal Wendt


This young, enterprising and growing village is the county seat of Lincoln County, and its court-house, which is a model in its way, entirely unlike in its external appearance, the conventional court-house, so familiar to the travelled eye.

The place as yet, has no city or even village pretentions, in a governmental way, the town organization, meeting all the requirements in this respect.

It was formerly a backwoods clearing, satisfied with the name of “Jenny Bull Fall,” but finally dropping the last two thirds of its name, it became simple “Jenny,” a dashing young candidate for outside attention and favor. The suitors for the lily white hand of Jenny are numerous, and finally to cut short quite a romantic story, an act of the Legislature, in 1881, enabled S. S. Merrill, the general manager of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, to bestow his name upon this blushing bride to the Upper Wisconsin pineries. And so it is Jenny no more, except as a remembrance of its rollicking youth.

At this important epoch in is history, touched by the magic wand of capital, it began to exhibit a remarkable development into commercial and manufacturing importance. For more than twenty years the “Jenny Bull” had been a sort of supplementary stopping place for the lumbermen and log drivers on the rivers, and to piece out the outfits obtained below by the logging camps. The place kept up a healthy and quiet growth until after the railroad arrived, in the winter of 1881, when S. S. Merrill, Alexander Mitchell, J. W. Carey, T. B. Scott, C. K. Pier and M. H. McCord, well known business men, obtained a charter for a boom, which was to be on a comprehensive scale, under the name of the Merrill Boom Company.

From that time, new life was inspired into the place, and in addition to the mills now running, and which will be mentioned under the appropriate head, at least five new establishments are projected, and their erection assured the coming season, to be ready for next year’s business.

The town is very pleasantly located on an undulating slope, gradually rising from the river, which here runs only a little south of east. It is on the left bank of the river, with the falls opposite the upper part of the present site of the settlement, which, however, will rapidly extend up the river with the growth of the place.

It is regularly laid out, with an elbow in the streets up and down the river, to confirm to the contour of the river-bank, and this brings the upper part of the town on a “bias,” as the dressmakers say, with the cardinal points of the compass.

The streets are a little wider than usual, and there is plenty of material to make good roadways, and there are good plank sidewalks. The business portion is on the street next to the river, and there are already some good business blocks, notably, the bank building, which is the cream-colored brick, and has modern architectural pretensions, built in 1881. The court-house cost $8,000, and the schoolhouse, which has a whole large square for a yard, is large, and, it is said, cost a like amount.

There are two good large hotels, with several boarding houses and restaurants, nine, or more, general stores, carrying enormous stocks of goods for the mill and logging trade, three hardware houses, three drug stores, two jewelry stores, with bakeries, butcher shops, and other requisites for a village of 1,600 inhabitants, as it now has according to a careful estimate. Since the United States census was taken, nearly 200 buildings have been erected.

There are two church edifices, the Methodist and Lutheran, and other denominations will soon build. Two printing offices print two papers and do good job work. The hum of the saws of the mill at the dam is heard night and day during the season. It is, indeed, a busy place, although except for brief seasons –Spring and Fall – there is an absence of that standing around the corners it is so agreeable to notice.

There seems to be no necessity for any jealousy between the town of the Upper Wisconsin – there is room for them all; and, as the land is brought under cultivation, there little cities will become compact and be well supported. Merrill is now the upper town on the Wisconsin River, but who shall say how soon another will spring up at the junction of the Somo and Tomahawk with the Wisconsin? To be followed by another at Pelican Station? And then still further up the river, as the county is opened or new resources discovered.

The new mills are to be built at the upper end of the town, about where Prairie River joins the Wisconsin as it comes down from the north, and opposite Devil Creek, from the south of west.

The streets of Merrill are named, beginning at the river, Main, First, Second, etc., to Ninth Street. The streets at right angles with the river, are, beginning at the east, German, Prairie, Corning, Park, Court House, Cedar, Pine and Poplar. Near the depot, in the east part of the town, there are two streets below Main. Other streets, but partially occupied, east and west, are yet unnamed. In the river, opposite the upper and lower part of the city, are some islands, the upper one called Hay Island, and the lower one, Potato Island.

The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad track skirts the river, and extends to the mills in the upper part of the town, and will go up indefinitely as business offers.

Merrill, not without reason, is in an expectant attitude. Contemplating its brief history, its greatest glory it not in pointing with pride to the past, although in this regard it has nothing of which to be ashamed. But if confidently looks to the near future for a vindication of the confidence which has been reposed in its growth and permanent prosperity. And it is quite certain that in the coming years a retrospective view of the town, as here presented, will be contemplated with great satisfaction, and that the contrast will be sufficiently striking for the most progressive and enthusiastic.

An account of the early settlement of Lincoln County is co-incident with the history of Merrill, or Jenny Bull Falls, as it was first called, in deference to the lady love of one of the early adventures who retained the surname first bestowed, but which was finally dropped for simple, artless “Jenny,” who did not even spell her name with the usual affectionate terminal letters “ie.”

The permanent settlement made, was in September, 1847, by Andrew Warren, Jr. Mr. Warren was an energetic and persevering man, who began operations by throwing a very substantial dam across the river, which was five hundred feet across, and nine feet high. By this means most of the rapids were obliterated, and the water thrown into a single fall, which gave a most valuable water-power, which was utilized by the erection of one of the most extensive lumbering establishments at that time on the river. Mr. Warren made other extensive improvements, and he must be regarded as the father of the town.

The site was selected with great judgment, for aside from its obvious advantages of water-power, it must become the center of a farming and industrial community.

It was originally a logging station; the heavy growth of pine was consigned to the river here, for the mills below. The settlers here at first, were the mill hands employed by Mr. Warren.

During the winter, however, it became an active logging camp, and in the winter of 1855, there were seventeen board shanties here, filled with hardy backwoodsmen. In the spring, after the river opened, they were put on lumber rafts and floated down below, to be used at the various mills while sawing up the logs.

Those who came at first were loggers and lumbermen, and it was only after several seasons that most of the early settlers concluded to remain.

As to the mill in 1855, O. B. Smith and Benjamin Cooper owned one-half and Mr. Warren the other half.

George Trowbridge was one of the first to locate, which he did, below where the depot now is. Orson Russell was an early logger. George Goodrich located his claim in three miles north, and Henry Goodrich, seven miles north, at Hay Meadow.

Capt. Space and his wife, who was Margaret A. Shankle, came at the same time, to keep the boarding-house for Cooper & Smith. They afterward kept a hotel, which has only just been discontinued.

H. Streeter belongs to the list of early settlers, as does T. P. Mathews, and other still here.

In the time of the fur companies, M. Bollier had a trading-post about one and a half miles below Jenny, on the west side of the river. It was a huge log cabin, the chimney and cellar remained long afterward.

A. C. Norway, Henry Goodrich, Orville Jones, O. B. Smith, George Strowbridge, Joseph Newcomb and William Averill and family were here as early as 1851.

The place up to that time and for several years afterwards, was little more than a mill and its boarding-house.

The advent of the railroad, and the organization of the Boom Company, mark the era of commencing prosperity and growth of Merrill. There were those who, locating in Jenny, had an abiding faith in its future, and from present appearances their faith will be rewarded by the works now building.

Railroad – The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, formerly of Wisconsin Valley road, has its present terminus here, and the track is extending, and a bridge building above the town, to accommodate the new saw and other mills going up there. At present, the service is once a day each way, both for passengers and freight. The station agent is F. A. Hanover. The receipts are: For passengers, $500 a month; in-freight, $2,000; out-freight, $5,876.88, and rapidly increasing.

Churches – There was only occasional and scattering services by the Methodists up to February 15, 1875, when the Presiding Elder, Rev. George Fellows, organized a church here. Rev. T. O. Patridge, Ole Gilbert, F. M. Andrews, Payson Patridge, John McInnis, Van R. Willard and J. P. Haben.

After this, Rev. W. C. Waldron, Rev. Mr. Nelson and Rev. Mr. Royce were here.

In May, 1881, Rev. F. L. Wharton was stationed here, and he began the erection of a nice little church, which cost upwards of $3,000, and will seat 300 people, and is arranged for a vestry. The society had service in the schoolhouse until the church was completed, in the fall of 1881. The Church seems to be entering upon a career of prosperity.

After various vicissitudes, attending a few efforts of the struggling members of the Presbyterian sect, in 1879, on October 19, and organization was effected. Rev. J. S. Weston, who is now County Superintendent of Schools, was the first pastor, having been here before. In July, 1881, Rev. Howard S. Talbot came here from New York City.

A pastor’s residence has just been built near the courthouse, and the money raided to build a church, on the plans presented by a leading New York architect. The design is unlike any thing seen in the west; will cost $3,500, and its construction will be an abrupt stepping aside from the conventional path so uniformly trod by our church builders. It is quaint, unique and will adapt to its purpose.

St. Johannes Gemeinde was organized on the 24th of April, 1874. In 1881, a church edifice was commenced, to be completed before winter. The church will cost $1,500, or more. Rev. M. Rehwinkel has been the only pastor.

Notwithstanding there has been no distinctive place of worship in Merrill until the fall of 1881, the audiences assembled whenever preaching has been announced have been large, and always orderly.

Societies – Merrill is as yet not very extensively indurate with fraternal societies.

On the 15th of October, 1881, a lodge of the I. O. O. F. was instituted. The following, in part, are the officers: Herman Barsch, N. G.; A. Millspaugh, V. G.; Ed. Kluetz, R. S.; Ed. Patzer, treasurer. The institution starts out well.

Good Templars, North Star Lodge, instituted January 25, 1875. J. P. Haben, W. C. T.; Mrs. H. A. Ancott, W. V. T.; W. H. Swineheart, W. S.

Merrill Cemetery Association -- The property of the association has been deeded to the Town Board – so that the cemetery is public property.

Early in the history of Jenny, a dramatic club was formed and the efforts of the company were highly appreciated, and winter after winter the tedium of the long evenings was varied with the pleasing performances of a like company, which has been from time to time re-organized. The members of the winter of 1881-2 are: Harry Howe, J. W. West, C. F. Hanson, C. E. Hill, ---- Norway, Byron Dorn, G. Young, Frank Smith, Sadie Dorn, Mrs. C. F. Hanson, Lizzie Young, S. I. Robinson, and others.

Schools – The education of the children here has from the first been carefully attended to. Prof. J. P. Haben was one of the early Superintendents and teachers; Mr. F. Stevens, Clarence Hamilton and E. B. Smith were afterward in charge of the schools. There are five schools in three buildings, one of them belonging to the city, with three good rooms, supplied with all the modern appliances. M. C. Porter is the present principal and School Superintendent of the town. There are in town 360 children of school age, 78 males and 182 females, with an actual attendance of 225. The schools are graded into primary, intermediate and grammar. The other teachers are: Miss Alice Clear, Miss Alice Dee, Miss Josie O’Neill, Miss Kate Smith. The schools are well managed and well up, in an educational view.

The post-office is centrally located, and is well arranged, with a prompt distribution and delivery of the mail. The sales of stamps during the last quarter of 1880 were $228.29; the third quarter in 1881 disposed of $477.43, more than double in nine months, which ought to reveal the real growth of the place. Charles J. Osborne is Postmaster and Mrs. Nellie Osborne, assistant.

The Lumber Business Like every place on the Wisconsin River, the pine lumber was, as it still is here, the inspiration. Without the pine, this whole region, for aught we know would still be the howling wilderness the hardy pioneer penetrated forty years ago.

The first mill was that of Andrew Warren. He ran in for several years and sold an interest to Cooper & Smith. In 1857, Mr. Warren, realizing the necessity of a railroad, and having confidence in the plausible representations in regard to the Horicon Railroad company and mortgaged the other half in the same interest, when this expansive bubble burst. The owners of the mill succeeded in recovering the part sold, while the mortgaged part was lost to them. In 1870, John B. Scott, an enterprising citizen of Grand Rapids, down the river, bought the Smith interest in the mille, and a part of the Cooper interest. From this time, the property has been steadily improved in all respects, large piling yards have been prepared, drying sheds built, railway tracks laid, improved machinery introduced and the mill in all its appointments is first-class. The firm name is J. B. Scott & Co., and has a high reputation in business circles.

The Jenny Lumber Company - - M. H. McCord and H. E. Howe built a mill in the upper part of the village in the winter of 1879. This mill was operated with good success until July 19, 1881, when it was burned to ashes, entailing a loss of $30,000. Each of the partners of the firm will, in the winter of 1881, build a new mill on a large scale, one of them, Mr. McCord’s, on the old site, while Mr. Howe will build on the island opposite. They will severally associate themselves with new partners, and have strong firms. The one will be McCord & Wright, the other, H. E. Howe, H. H. Chandler and Ed. Whitlock; H. E. Howe & Co.

The Merrill Manufacturing Company is composed of capitalist from Fond du Lac, and the mill was built in the winter of 1880-1, at the upper end of the town. It is a first-class mill, and during its first season has done good work. The members of the firm are: Col. C. K. Pier, Charles Mihills, and Mr. Skinner, who is the manager. This was the initial mill after Jenny became Merrill, and infused new life into the young city.

Champagne & Woodlock are building a sawmill on what is called the Old Robinson place, above “Prospect Park,” the juvenile suburb of Merrill. It will have improved machinery and be of large capacity.

The Lincoln Lumber Company, during the winter of 1881-2, will build across the river opposite the Island above the town, a mill with a capacity of 100,000 feet a day. It will have double rotaries and gangs of the latest form. The building will be 40x150 feet, with a machine shop attached. There will be six boilers, forty-two inches of twenty-four feet. Three steam engines with 18-inches cylinders, built by Th. R. Reeves, of Clinton, Iowa, who also constructs some of the other machinery. Planing, re-sawing, and other dressing machinery will be extensive, and the whole establishment will be a model in every respect, and a prominent factor in building up Merrill.  

Lincoln County flouring mill, built in 1877; was thoroughly remodeled in the summer of 1881. Charles E. Mayer was the millwright. It now has five sets of Steven’s rollers, a new bolt, a Eureka packer, and all the latest milling improvements. It is located at the south send of the dam, and is driven by water. It is owned by Rusch & Spiegelberg.

The Bar is well represented in Lincoln County.

E. L. Bump, of Wausau; H. Hetzel and W. H. Cannon are associated in a farm under the name of Bump, Hetzel & Cannon. They do a law, collection and insurance business.

D. W. McLeod and V. R. Willard, constitute the law firm of Willard & McLeod

Hoyt and Meadows are associated as Hoyt & Meadows; practice in all the courts.

Van R. Willard, attorney at law, real estate, tax-paying, etc.

George Gale, attorney at law.

The medical profession has as practitioners; Dr. L. B. La Count, Dr. John Wiley, Dr. J. F. Whiting, Dr. F. H. McNeel. Dentist, G. W. Stoan.

Ross, McCord & Co., owns the only bank in the place, and it has the full confidence of the community, and the ample facilities for transacting all business offered. The proprietors are John Ross, of Galena, Ill.; Th. B. Scott, Grand Rapids, Wis.; and M. H. McCord, Merrill, Wis. President, M. H. McCord; Cashier, H. C. Ross. The bank has a fine building, with a secure vault built up with the structure, and with all modern requirements.

Newspapers Merrill has two well-appointed newspapers; the first one in the field was the Lincoln County Advocate, making its first appearance February 6, 1875, with M. H. McCord, editor, and A. D. Gorham, publisher. It is a well made up paper.

The Northern Wisconsin News was the next candidate for public favor, and it was sent out the first time in 1878, by Finn & Vaughan. June 17, 1881, it was sold to the present proprietors. It is now published by W. H. Cannon, H. C. Hetzel and H. J. Hoffman, and is an enterprising sheet.

George H. Ripley is proprietor of a stage line running daily between Merrill and King’s Station via Rock Falls, connecting with the trains both ways.

Merrill and Grandfather, leaves Merrill, Tuesdays and Fridays at 1o’clock p.m. Leaves Grandfather same days at 6 a.m.

There is at the present time such a “boom” in Merrill, to use a current expression, that before this work gets to press there may be numerous changes and addition to its business; but this is a faithful photograph of this juvenile emporium of the lakelet county of Wisconsin, whose future must be in striking contrast with the inertia of its past. 


In the winter of 1875, Dan Scott began to run a daily line of stages of Wausau, having been tri-weekly before this.

In the spring of 1875, 6,000,000 feet of lumber was run down the river from Merrill.

Scott & Andrews’ mill started the 15th of March, 1875.

In June, 1875, two pianos were brought to town.

On the 1st of July, 1875, the first daily-mail service began.

Land sold in the county in the year ending September 1, 1875, 57,672 acres, valued at $175,155.

In the winter of 1876, hard wood was worth from $2 to $3 a cord.

On the 23rd of March, 1876, a Ladies’ Aid Society was organized. Mrs. D. A. Klein, president; Mrs. G. W. Strowbridge, secretary; Mrs. C. B. Donaldson, treasurer.
The centennial celebration of the 4th of July, 1876, was not neglected in Merrill. Dan A. Klein led an appropriate procession of fantastiques. A glee club sang patriotic songs. M. H. McCord was the orator of the day. E. B. Donaldson was the chaplain. Charles O’Niell read a centennial poem.

The lumber cut in 1876, was: Lumber, 4,175,135; shingles, 2,040,000; hard wood, 175,000; pickets, 131,000; lath, 100,000.

In the winter of 1877, a bill was introduced into the Wisconsin Legislature, to divide Lincoln County and organize from the northern part the county of Manitowoc.

Much excitement prevailed in northern Wisconsin, in 1876-7, in relation to taxing certain railroad lands. A land was finally passed, exempting them from taxation for a term of years.
In July, 1877, the section of the temperance cause, called the “Murphy movement,” struck Merrill, and had an ephemeral effect.

An election, in October, 1878, to see whether the county would give the Wisconsin Valley Railroad Company $110,000, was carried in the affirmative, but it afterward came to naught.

Improvements in Merrill, in 1878, about $40,000.

September 22, 1879, a dramatic company was formed, with Tip Caul, R. F. Vaughn, M. W. Sweeney, Harry Howe, Nellie Day, and others, as members.

On Thursday, August 7, 1879, the county voted, nine to one, to exchange $55,000 in bonds for a like amount of railroad stock.

Dwellings erected in 1880, 35; business buildings, 6. 1881, dwellings, 102; business buildings, 30.

At the big freshet in June, 1880, there was an enormous jam of logs on the Grandfather, which was broken on the 16th.

There has been but little criminal violence in Merrill. In the summer of 1881, Owen Lloyd shot and killed a girl named Jessie Adams, at the house where she lived. He was subsequently tried, adjudged guilty of murder, and sentenced to State Prison for life.

February 6, 1881, near the depot, a meat market was burned.

The real estate transfers, in 1880, amounted to 167,000,000 acres.


The various floods on the Wisconsin, the most notable of which are mentioned in connection with the counties below through which the river runs, did comparatively little damage in Merrill up to the time of the great June freshet, in 1880. After a copious and long continued rain the river began to rise until it was higher than ever remembered here, and as the might waters went rushing onward, a great destruction of property was witnessed, the breaking of booms, mills torn from their foundations, bridges swept away, and millions of feet of logs hurried down the impetuous stream. The railroad sustained heavy damage by being submerged, having washouts, bridges dislocated, telegraph lines disabled and communication effectually cut off. John C. Scott’s dam was carried away. The Jenny Company’s logs were in imminent danger, but they stood the awful pressure. The bridges on the Trappe River took the occasion to make excursions down stream. The mill on the Pine was considerably damaged, and the bridge near its mouth conformed to the moving spirit and went with the current. Mr. Hazeltine had half a million feet of logs join their companions in the main river. John Callon’s boom, dam and logs, a valuable trio, joined in the chorus of “the march to the sea.” A temporary boom at McIndoe’s Island, containing about a million feet of logs, headed the procession for the region down below.

Jenny, or Merrill, as it now is, or Jenny Merrill (to retain for a dashing young city in her teens her Christian name), is so well up above the river, with sloping banks that greatly magnifies its carrying capacity as it rises, that the highest flood is enjoyed as a spectacle, the damage it may be going up and down the river exciting the same kind of sympathy given to the poor sailors by well housed people when the tempest is howling without.

The early fall of 1881 was an exceptionally rainy one, and while with the moving out of the ice in the spring with the melted accumulation of the snow of the winter is expected, this flood and the long continued stage of high water was entirely a new experience, and a like visitation unremembered by that widely located individual, the “oldest inhabitant.”


Dr. Dudley E. Blodgett. The doctor came here when Jenny was young, and when it was uncertain whether it would ever live to grow up. He had previously lived in Oshkosh, and he was well educated, and a man of extraordinary abilities, an extensive reader, familiar with the past and current literature. Originally, he had a vigorous constitution which became greatly undermined, although he rallied at times to evince a remarkable amount of activity. He used stimulants freely with periodical exacerbations, and step by step, he went down, and at the age of thirty-five, on the 31st of August, 1881, his earthly light went out. He was an honorable, free and kind hearted man, and left none but friends.

Miss May Poor was for several years, a resident of Merrill, as a successful music teacher. She died in the East, May 7, 1881, aged twenty-six years. She was a beloved sister of Mrs. G. W. Strobridge.

Joseph S. Snow. When sixty-eight years of age, on the 27th of August, 1881, Mr. Snow departed this life, at the residence of Thomas Maloney. He was one of the oldest inhabitants of this section, having arrived forty years before his death, when he settled on the east side of the river, but subsequently moved on to the west side, where for the past twenty years, he was engaged in farming, having been in early days a successful logger. He was a broad shouldered man who never recoiled from responsibility.

Teresa J. Andrews was born in Middlebury, Tioga Co., Pa., Aug. 11, 1846. She was married with Mr. F. M. Andrews, Aug. 10, 1868, and immediately came west. She was a most estimable woman, kind and considerate, and with a quiet dignity and simplicity that won all hearts. She was a much beloved wife and mother. Her departure was on the 22nd of February, 1879, leaving a husband and three children to keenly feel their great loss.  


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