Town of Grant
Grant: Town is one of largest in state
By MATT KALINA
of the Journal
Boundaries of the town of Grant have moved back and forth, but the town is the largest town in Portage County and one of the largest in Wisconsin.
The town of Grant was formed from the southern half of the town of Linwood on April 1,1864, by a resolution of the Portage County Board of Supervisors. Four days later, Wales R. Lamberton became the first town chairman when he was elected in the town’s first annual meeting.
The town of Grant was made up of many pine forests, but it also has swamp land.
The state Legislature formed the Portage County Drainage District in 1890, and in 1905, the Drainage District constructed ditches to drain the swamps for farmland.
According to Malcolm Rosholt, author of “Our County Our Story,” the town was probably named after Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the northern commander during the Civil War.
The town of Grant is not as sparsely populated today as it was in 1864 when only 11 men paid personal property tax, according to Rosholt. About 1,700 people live in the town of Grant today.
The Grant Town Hall, Highway WW, east of Kellner, was constructed in 1904 and refurbished in 1988.
Kellner is the only community to develop within the town of Grant. The unincorporated community grew because a passenger depot and freight car siding were constructed In 1901 when the Chicago & Northwestern Railway extended railroad tracks through the town. The tracks are now abandoned.
Kellner’s well-known St. John Lutheran Church is 127 years old this year. Formed on Dec. 6, 1865, the original name of the church was Evangelical Lutheran St. John’s Church of the town of Grant. Nineteen families organized their own church, one year after the town of Grant officially became a town. Today the church has about 650 members.
Traveling missionaries provided some church services before the church was formed. Philip Samuel Estel was installed as the church’s first permanent pastor on May 31, 1886. The first parsonage was constructed across the road from the site of the St. John Lutheran Church Cemetery, but it was several more years before the church was built. The church, which was located just north of the church that stands today, was dedicated on Nov. 23, 1873.
A Lutheran school was built next to the church, but it burned down. It was rebuilt immediately and relocated in 1952. Today it is part of the Lions Club building, Highway 54. A new parsonage was built in 1915 just east of the old church building.
A new church, which faces Highway W, was dedicated Sept. 28, 1952, and the old church was torn down. The services were conducted exclusively in German up to 1925. German services were discontinued in 1951.
Members of the church helped victims of a large fire in 1977. The fire moved through southeastern Wood County and the town of Grant, leaving several families without homes and destroying more than 7,000 acres of forestland. Fortunately, no one was killed or injured. An arson allegedly started the fire in the town of Saratoga.
Today, Kellner is known for the Kellner Little Britches Rodeo, which celebrates its 27th anniversary this year. Walter Schultz of Port Edwards founded the rodeo. He held the first rodeo at his farm west of Port Edwards and rodeo performances are held yearly in Kellner.
More than 100 contestants compete in 10 categories to win the all-around cowboy and cowgirl titles in the event at the Lazy B ranch, which is one mile south of Kellner. Young people compete in events such as goat tying, breakaway roping and tying, bareback riding, barrel racing, pole bending, tie down roping, bull riding, steer wrestling and team roping.
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