Portage County Time Line 1850 thru 1874

Quick Jumps: 1827, 1850, 1875, 1900, 1925, 1950, 1975

1850 County population (including present-day Wood county): 1,250.

Marathon County is organized from the northern towns of Portage County.

Middletown changes its name to the town of “Stephens” Point.

At Springville at the mouth of the Little Plover River, John R. Mitchell builds the first grist and flourmill in the county.

The Almond post office opens for business.

1851 John DuBay establishes the first post office on the Upper Wisconsin at “Eau Pleine,” Albert G. Ellis makes his first visit to Portage County and Father Godhart conducts the first Catholic services on record in the county.

The Buena Vista Tavern opens for business in Section 30, town of Buena Vista.

Peter and Celia Long Graves begin settlement at the village of Amherst.

The county board creates the towns of Almond, named after a village in New York, and Amherst, after a town either in Nova Scotia or New York, George Stevens sells his sawmill at Wausau and moves to Illinois without ever having lived in the city that bears his name.

1852 The town of Eau Pleine, French for “full water” is organized.
1853 The federal land office for northern Wisconsin opens at Stevens Point; Albert Ellis is receiver, Abe Brawley, register; in its first three months, the office records $30,000 of land sales.

John Gill lays a plank road across three miles of wetland to the bank of the Wolf River near Weyauwega and “Gill’s Landing” welcomes its first steamboat carrying passengers and freight bound for Portage County.

Melancthon Wylie establishes a hotel and dance hall on the river just below Du Bay’s post.

At Stevens Point, 14 sawmills are operating, Albert Ellis starts the Wisconsin Pinery, the county’s first newspaper, Valentine Brown operates the first Wisconsin River ferry, and a home-made flag is flown from the new pole mounted in the Public Square on July Fourth.

The Town of Buena Vista is organized.

1854  Jacob Myer begins running a stagecoach line from Gill’s Landing to Plover.

The Northerner side-wheel steamboat is built and launched at Stevens Point and makes its first nine-hour voyage to Mosinee.

Jerome Nelson builds a dam on the Tomorrow River and Nelsonville is born.

1855 On one typical day in spring over three million board feet of lumber are rafted through the county.

St. Stephen’s, Stevens Point, is organized as the first Roman Catholic Church in the county.

The town of Stockton is organized.

1856 Wood County is organized out of the remaining western towns and Portage County settles into its final borders.

The towns of Linden, Lanark, New Hope, Pine Grove and Belmont are organized: Lanark derives from a village in Scotland, Belmont from a village in New York, New Hope from the aspirations of its pioneers, Linden from the tree and Pine Grove from a natural feature.

The Plover Herald publishes its first weekly issue; later known as the Stanton Republican and the Plover Times.

1857 John B. DuBay is tried for the murder of William S. Reynolds at Portage and is freed by a hung jury.

Albert Ellis publishes his Handbook of Stevens Point and the Upper Wisconsin, to encourage settlement in Portage County; it is the first "book" published by a county author.

At Stevens Point, the population approaches 2,000.

The New Hope Lutheran Church is organized as the county’s first Norwegian Lutheran congregation.

The village of Algenon is incorporated; it will later change its name to Stanton, after feminist leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton, then to Plover, then dissolve as a village.

The town of Linden changes its name to Linwood.

County farmers, especially in Plover and Buena Vista lose money in the “Horicon Railroad” swindle.

1858 The Milwaukee and Horicon Railroad reaches Berlin, which becomes a terminus for settlers headed for Portage County.

Marathon county taxpayers fund the construction of a plank road from Wausau to the Portage County line; Portage County taxpayers do not fund to meet it from Stevens Point.

At Amherst, Asa Bancroft and Peter Grover build the “four-story” mill on the Tomorrow that becomes the nucleus of the village and a crowd reported as 2,000 strong attends a revival meeting near Grover’s house.

The town of Hull is organized and the city of Stevens Point is incorporated with William W. Schofield the first mayor.

Volunteers in Stevens Point organize a hook and ladder brigade to fight fires.

1859  The steamer City of Stevens Point makes its first run to Mosinee.

The town of Sharon is organized and named after a fertile plain mentioned in the Old Testament.

1860 County population: 7,507; Stevens Point, 1,538.

Abraham Lincoln is elected President of the United States, carrying Portage County with 944 votes against 471 for Democrat Stephen Douglas; fellow Republican and Plover lumberman Luther Hanchett becomes the first county resident elected to the United States Congress.

At Stevens Point, the first county Teacher’s Institute is held at the White School and fire fighters acquire a hand-powered fire “engine;” it is a Fire King No. 1 model, purchased from the city of Chicago.

The county has 573 farms, with 23,255 “improved” acres; and all county farmland is valued at $689,125; largest crop is summer wheat with 94,125 acres harvested.

1861  The Civil War begins.

The three-member county board votes to provide support of $2 per month to the children of county men volunteering early for service in the war.

The Wisconsin legislature changes the form of county government from townships and supervisors to three districts and commissioners.

1862  Colonel James P. Alban, commander of the 18th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, is slain at the battle of Shiloh.

George W. Hulce is elected as the first county school superintendent to over-see education in rural school districts. Abraham Lincoln signs the Homestead Act, granting low cost federal land to citizens and immigrants.

1863 Portage County soldiers in the 16th Wisconsin Infantry take part in the siege and victory at Vicksburg.

Frank Stout and D.L. Conery begin publication of the Wisconsin Lumberman trade newspaper.

A tornado, remembered as “the big blow” flattens the Buena Vista Tavern, kills three people, injures many more and begins the demise of Buena Vista village.

1864 The town of Grant is organized and named to honor General U. S. Grant. 

Jeweler and gunsmith James Lee leaves Stevens Point to market his newly-invented, bolt-action, breech-loading rifle mechanism; Lee’s invention becomes standard issue for military rifles and is still in use in firearms today.

1865 The Civil War ends.

German settlers organize St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Kellner.

1866 The county’s first Methodist Episcopal church is organized at Plover.
1867 The first bridge across the Wisconsin at Stevens Point is built; it is 500 x 16 feet and costs $16,000.
1868 A slim majority of county voters cast ballots in favor of moving the county seat from Plover to Stevens Point, prompting the city to give $10,000 to the county for the construction of a court house and jail, the first stone buildings of size in the county.

While returning home on the stage from Gill’s Landing Stevens Point cabinet maker Roswell C. Blanchard is mysteriously murdered and his body dumped in the river above Bloomer’s Rapids and not found until spring.

1869 Two of the three county commissioners, Benjamin Burr of Stevens Point and Henry Warriner of Linwood, outvote Isador Samuelson of Almond, and move the county seat from Plover to Stevens Point.

The first county “fair” is held at Amherst


At Stevens Point, Henry Welty and Martin Perkins install a 121-foot tall “Liberty Pole” on the Public Square and fire fighters acquire a steam-powered, horse-drawn fire engine.

1870 County population: 10,634.

County government reverts to the supervisor system with each town and ward sending one member to the board.

The new county board signs a contract for $28,560 and work begins on the new county court house at Stevens Point.

The county board also establishes the committee system and creates six committees to oversee specific county functions.

E. B. Northrop prints the first issue of the Stevens Point Journal.

Irish settlers construct the first St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, Lanark.

1871  The Winnebago and Lake Superior and Portage and Superior Railroads merge to form the Wisconsin Central Railroad, which starts laying track west from Menasha to Amherst, Stevens Point and Junction City.

The Portage County Agricultural Society is chartered by the state legislature.

The county board votes to raise $10,000 if a state normal school is located in the county.

Now in use as a Masonic hall, the first county court house at Plover is destroyed by fire.

1872 Unpaid railroad workers occupy the Wisconsin Central bridge, coat it with tar and threaten to ignite it unless they are paid immiediately; the Central pays and the bridge is saved.

The Stevens Point Boom Co. builds a holding area for logs upstream of the city capable of sorting up to 100 million board feet of logs.

The Green Bay and Western crosses the county via Amherst Junction and Plover.

Millowner and Republican Alexander McDill is elected to the United States Congress.

1873  Thomas and Alexander McDill plat the village bearing their name at the mouth of Big Plover River.

Edward McGlachlin publishes his first weekly issue of the Stevens Point Journal.

A team of School Sisters of Notre Dame open the county’s first Roman Catholic school at Holy Redeemer Mission at Stevens Point.

The Western Union telegraph office opens at Stevens Point.

1874 The Wisconsin Valley Railroad lays track through the towns of Carson and Eau Pleine, bypassing Stevens Point on its way to Wausau.

Trinity Lutheran Church is organized at Stevens Point; German Lutherans hold services on Sunday mornings, Norwegian Lutherans on afternoons; an arrangement that lasts for 24 years.

Nearly 80 million board feet of lumber are manufactured in the county and county farmers raise 135,659 pounds of hops.

Running on the Reform Party ticket, George Cate, is elected to the U. S. Congress.

A total of 19 businesses are destroyed by fire in Stevens Point; the city purchases a new steam-powered fire engine for $4,500.

Quick Jumps: 1827, 1850, 1875, 1900, 1925, 1950, 1975


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