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Wood County, Wisconsin History

The intent of this historical page is not to provide a complete history of Wood County, but to provide the researcher with historical information to assist in their research.

Before Wisconsin was a state, it was part of the Canadian Province of Quebec, the Territory Northwest of the Ohio River (1788-1800), Indiana Territory (1800-1809), Illinois Territory (1809-1818), Michigan Territory (1818-1836) and Wisconsin Territory (1836-1848).

If you are researching an ancestor who lived in 1850 in what is today Wood County, you would need to search in Portage County, because Wood County did not exist yet. In 1830 you would need to research Brown County in the Michigan census.

Wood County was set off from Portage County in 1856 and was named after Judge Joseph Wood who came here from Illinois in 1848. Judge Wood was an early resident of Grand Rapids and the state legislator who introduced a bill proposing that a new county be created from Portage County. He originally proposed the name Greenwood for the county, but his fellow legislators insisted that it be named Wood County in his honor. Initially there was only one township, the township of Grand Rapids, which was first established in 1850 as the Portage County township of Grand Rapids. The county seat is Wisconsin Rapids, formerly Grand Rapids and Centralia, located in Grand Rapids Township.

Picture of Judge Joseph Wood.

Judge
Joseph Wood

Wood County is surrounded by the following counties: Marathon County (north), Portage County (east), Adams and Juneau Counties (south), and Jackson and Clark Counties (west).

For more information on Wood County refer to the following books, available on-line from the McMillan Memorial Library: History of Wood County Wisconsin by George O Jones, Wood County Place Names by Robert S Rudolph and 100 Years of Pictorial & Descriptive History of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin by T A Taylor.

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Wood County Townships

 

The following section gives a brief history of every township in Wood County from Robert S Rudolph's Wood County Place Names, along with a list of the cites and villages in each township. See the book for more detailed information. Click on a township to go directly there.

These are not cities, villages or towns in the official sense, but a list of settlements, past and present. If a settlement has a former name or alternate spelling, it is contained in parentheses, for example: Port Edwards (Frenchtown). An asterisk (*) indicates the name is listed in multiple townships because it is right on the border. Post Offices without known settlements are not included.

 

Arpin | Auburndale | Cameron | Cary | Cranmoor | Dexter | Grand Rapids | Hansen | Hiles | Lincoln | Marshfield | Milladore | Port Edwards | Remington | Richfield | Rock | Rudolph | Saratoga | Seneca | Sherry | Sigel | Wood

 

Arpin

Arpin Township is named for the original village of Arpin, about 3/4 miles east of the current village. It was established by John and Antoine Arpin in the early 1890s around their sawmill. The present village began to develop shortly afterward around the railroad depot that was established to serve the Arpin's milling settlement. Arpin Township was organized on February 13, 1901 (effective April, 1901).

Cities & Villages: Arpin.

Vanished Settlements: Martin's Town.

 

Auburndale

Auburndale Township was first organized in 1874 and reduced to its present area in 1882. Named for the village of Auburndale, which was first settled in 1871 by Robert Conner.

Cities & Villages: Auburndale.

 

Cameron

Cameron Township was organized on November 18, 1903 and named in honor of James W Cameron, a prominent Vesper lumberman and banker who died in 1902. He was also president of the First National Bank in Grand Rapids and served two terms as chairman of the county board.

 

Cary

Cary Township was first organized on February 13, 1901 (effective April, 1901) and is named after Cary, a former shipping point on the Milwaukee, Dexterville and Northern railway (later the Milwaukee Road) established by George Hiles near his granite quarry. This shipping point was discontinued in 1933. Note that the name is spelled "Carey" in some resources.

Vanished Settlements: Amelia.

 

Cranmoor

Cranmoor Township was organized on November 10, 1903 (effective April, 1904). It was named after a former shipping point for cranberries on the Milwaukee Road, near the intersection of county trunks D and J. The original name, "Bearss Marsh" was officially changed to "Saranac" on July 8, 1897, and then to Cranmoor (from "cranberry" and "moor") on June 21, 1898.

 

Dexter

Dexter Township was first established on March 10, 1858 and included almost the entire western half of Wood County. The boundaries were changed in 1872, 1884, 1901 and finally in 1902. The township is named after Dexterville, settled in October 1950 by George Hiles and H Searles, who established a lumber mill there. There are several possible sources for the name, and according to tradition, Dexterville was named after George Hiles' white mule, Dexter.

Cities & Villages: Dexterville, Veedum (Vedum).

Vanished Settlements: Scranton.

 

Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids Township was first established in 1850 as one of the townships of Portage County, named after the village of Grand Rapids which it contained. When Wood County was created, it was the only township and included all the county's territory. Grand Rapids village was originally the part of Wisconsin Rapids on the east side of the Wisconsin River and named after the rapids along that part of the river. These rapids were known as the Grand Rapids as early as 1839. Since then, dams have eliminated the rapids.

Cities & Villages: Biron, Kellner, Wisconsin Rapids (Centralia, Grand Rapids and Hurleytown).

 

Hansen

A township organized on February 13, 1901 as New Vesper Township after the village of Vesper. The name was changed to Hansen Township on May 9, 1901, apparently after the Hansen settlement which was was located at the junction that is today called Seneca Corners. It has also been known as Seneca, Forest City and Little Mill.

Cities & Villages: Vesper*.

Vanished Settlements: Seneca Corners* (Hansen, Seneca, Forest City, Little Mill).

 

Hiles

Organized on November 15, 1901 (effective April, 1902), Hiles Township is named in honor of George Hiles, a powerful lumberman and land speculator in Wood County.

 

Lincoln

Lincoln Township was organized on December 25, 1861 and was subsequently vacated. However, Johnson Township, organized on March 14, 1868, was renamed Lincoln Township on June 22, 1868 and reduced to its present size in 1878. Named after Abraham Lincoln.

Cities & Villages: Bakerville, Nasonville*.

 

Marshfield

Marshfield Township was organized on December 3, 1875. It was reduced in size in 1881 when Richfield Township was formed, in 1883 when Marshfield was incorporated as a city, and in 1903 when Cameron Township was formed. There are several possibilities for the source of the name. See the book listed above for a detailed review.

Cities & Villages: Hewitt (Section 28 or "Achtundzwanzig" in German, Kreuser, Hewitt's Station), Marshfield.

 

Milladore

Milladore Township was established on February 15, 1882 and reorganized in 1885 (effective April, 1886). Named for the village of Milladore, which was originally called Mill Creek after the nearby stream. It was renamed Milladore after the postal authorities rejected Mill Creek as the name of the village.

Cities & Villages: Blenker (Sherry Station), Milladore (Mill Creek).

 

Port Edwards

Port Edwards Township was organized on February 11, 1874 and reorganized in 1903. Named for the village of Port Edwards, originally called Frenchtown due to the number of French Canadians living there. The name Port Edwards evidently dates to 1864 and is named after John Edwards Sr., who with Henry Clinton is supposed to have established a sawmill in Frenchtown around 1840.

Cities & Villages: Nekoosa, Port Edwards (Frenchtown).

Vanished Settlements: Pointe Basse (Pointe Bas, Point Bass, Pointe Bausee).

 

Remington

Remington Township was first established on July 15, 1868. The boundaries were changed several times and have remained unchanged since May 9, 1901. The township is named after the former village of Remington which was named for H W Remington, a lawyer, lumberman and farmer who came to Wisconsin in 1848. The village is supposed to have been settled in 1860 and was later abandoned while the neighboring village of Babcock prospered due to the railroad division point established there.

Cities & Villages: Babcock.

Vanished Settlements: Remington.

 

Richfield

Richfield Township was organized on November 18, 1881 (effective April 1882). The origin of the name is uncertain, although one report is the name was chosen because the township had fertile soil.

Cities & Villages: Bethel.

 

Rock

Rock Township was organized on January 23, 1878 (effective April 1878) and, like Richfield Township, might have been named because of the rocky soil.

Cities & Villages: Lindsey (Lindsay), Nasonville*.

Vanished Settlements: Hogan (Hougan).

 

Rudolph

Rudolph Township was established on October 8, 1856 and had about 9 boundary changes before getting its present boundaries in 1885. Named in honor of Frederick Rudolph Hecox, the first white child to be born in the area of the original township.

Cities & Villages: Rudolph.

Vanished Settlements:  Worden (Doudville), Reed's Mill.

 

Saratoga

Organized as a township on January 9, 1857 and reduced to its present size in 1875. It was named after the Saratoga settlement, originally called Ten Mile Creek for the nearby stream. Origin of the name Saratoga is unknown. It may have been named for another place in the US named Saratoga.

Vanished Settlements: Saratoga (Ten Mile Creek).

 

Seneca

Hemlock Township, organized on June 19, 1857 was changed to Seneca Township on February 4, 1861. It underwent many boundary changes until 1861, and then again until  November 10, 1903 (effective April 1904). Apparently named for Seneca, which was within the original boundaries Seneca was a former settlement in Hansen and Sigel townships, around three lumber mills: Tuttle's Mill, Stearn's Mill and Scott's Mill. The settlement was also know at various times as Forest City, Little Mill and Hansen, and later as Seneca Corners.

Cities & Villages: Altdorf.

 

Sherry

Sherry Township was organized on November 10, 1885 (effective April 1886). Named for Sherry, a hamlet on County F at Mill Creek, which was named for Henry Sherry, part owner of a sawmill established there around 1880 by the firm of Sherry and Briggs.

Cities & Villages: Sherry.

 

Sigel

Organized on January 10, 1863 and reorganized in 1885, Sigel Township is named in honor of Franz Sigel, a brigadier-general for the Union Army in the Civil War. Other spellings of the township name are Seigel, Seagel and Siegel.

Cities & Villages: Vesper*.

Vanished Settlements: Seneca Corners* (Hansen, Seneca, Forest City, Little Mill).

 

Wood

Wood Township was organized on February 10, 1874 and was reorganized in 1901. A Wood Post Office had been established on the road between Dexterville and Pittsville, apparently named for Wood County or for Joseph Wood. The PO name was changed to Pittsville PO in 1875.

Cities & Villages: Pittsville (Pitt's Mill).

 

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