Town of Amherst

It is not exactly recorded when the Town of Amherst was established, but that was probably in 1852, making it one of the earliest towns in the county. At the time it included the present Town of Lanark which in 1856 was annexed to the Town of Belmont and soon after became independent.

It lies entirely in the glaciated area and is divided by the Tomorrow River, which has its source in the Town of Sharon, then passes through Amherst, the corner of Lanark, to flow into Waupaca County. The name of Tomorrow is the translation of an Indian name transcribed as Waupaca, a name that it takes after passing the village of Amherst.

The town is hilly with traces of recessional moraines and some flats representing outwash plains formed when the glacier receded. There are a few lakes, the largest being Lake Emily on which is a public park. It is a favorite lake for boating, fishing and swimming, and on its shores are a number of cottages.

The first settlers were Yankees and English speaking Canadians one of whom suggested the name of the town after his native town of Amherst, Nova Scotia. After 1860 Norwegians arrived in large numbers expanding the colonies in Waupaca County and became the largest foreign ethnic group. As the area was largely wooded, sawmills were built along the Tomorrow River and the Village of Amherst started by 1860 near one of the mills, with shops, taverns and a hotel. It further developed when in 1871 the Wisconsin Central Railroad was built and had a depot close to the town. The following year the Green Bay and Lake Pepin line was established. It passed north of town and westwards crossed the Wisconsin Central Rwy. at a place which became a Village named Amherst Junction. North of it on the Tomorrow a dam was built by an Englishman named Nelson, probably at the site of a beaver dam. The waterpower was used for a sawmill; later a gristmill was also built there and the Village of Nelsonville started in the vicinity. All three places were incorporated as villages.

Amherst remained the largest with its mills, stores, hotel, bank, telephone exchange, which attracted people other than Yankees and Norwegians, so that it has now five different churches: Lutheran (one American Lutheran, the other of the Missouri Synod, originally started by the Germans), one Methodist, one Episcopal and one Catholic. Nelsonville can be called the Florida of Portage County as Norwegian farmers retire there. As they wanted a peaceful town, a Lutheran church was built. Later, when the village was incorporated, one of the first ordinances banned anyone from bringing any device for gambling and up to the present the village is dry; no tavern and no liquor in the stores.


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