In 1917, the town of Carson’s wealth was determined by the value of its horses and cattle. Were it still gauged solely by that measure, Carson would be a rich town indeed. One of the county’s premier agricultural lands, Carson’s farmers are devoted chiefly to dairy, with a smattering of potato growers.
Back when the value of cows and horses was of prime importance, Carson ranked highest in the county for number of cattle, according to “A Standard History of Portage County, Wisconsin Vol. II.” Almost 3,340 cattle valued at about $80,900 grazed the newly cutover land that year. Carson also laid claim to 801 horses valued at almost $107,000, according to “A Standard History.”
The town ranked fifth in the county for real estate and just below Stevens Point and the town of Plover in terms of personal property in 1917. That year, almost 40 years into Carson’s existence, 11 schools reigned in the town. Only the town of Stockton ranked higher, with 13 schools. Carson was third in enrollment, just below Stockton and the town of Sharon, “A Standard History” states.
Timber still was being cut after 1900 in the town of Carson by loggers and farmers who needed a second income, according to “Our County Our Story,” by Malcolm Rosholt. After the big logging companies moved out and the farmers began moving in, they earned extra cash to carry them through the winter months by cutting cord wood for pulp mills in Wisconsin Rapids and as kiln wood for other markets, “Our County Our Story” states.
What remains of the forestland is mainly poplar. Agriculture consumes 75 percent of Carson now, according to Wally Zywicki, town chair.
Small farmers dominated Carson’s land for decades, but many have had to make way for an unforgiving economy, he says. Bigger farms now lay claim to the land, he says. “In the last few years, a lot of them (small farms) have had to fold. They were lost to the federal land bank,” Zywicki says.
For a time it appeared that southwest Carson was going to develop into a cranberry growing center, states “Our County Our Story.” This never panned out. A large yield was harvested in 1854 in or just outside Stevens Point’s limits, and berries were selling at $1.25 a bushel.
Carson probably was named after Samuel Carson, an Irish pioneer who entered the U.S. at Portland, Maine, in 1865 and applied for naturalization in Stevens Point in 1872. The town formerly was part of the town of Scott, but when Wood County was set off from Portage County, Carson was formed.
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