Marshfield, January 1907: Stuck in the middle
Area towns propose forming new county
By Kris Leonhardt
In January 1907 a small undertaking was brewing in the townships of Clark, Wood, and Marathon counties. Towns in the northern portion of Wood County, northeastern Clark County, and southwestern Marathon County banded together to call for the creation of a new county.
In a new county, these areas would have a more accessible county seat, a larger voice in county affairs, and improved service by the county.
The movement’s leaders thought Marathon County, the largest county in the state, could surely part with some of its territory to accommodate the western townships. With little railway connection to Wausau, the area felt cut off from its county seat. Likewise, the north and east portions of Clark County felt limited in their accessibility to Neillsville, their county seat.
Wood County officials believed that a separation between Grand Rapids (Wisconsin Rapids) and Marshfield would be agreeable as relations had been less than amicable between the two municipalities and that the northern five or six townships could easily break away.
While no organized planning had begun in Marshfield, local officials were supportive of the movement if it could be accomplished by peaceful means.
Colby, Abbotsford, Owen, and Marshfield were being entertained as possible seats for the new county. As Marshfield was the largest town in the state that was not a county seat, it was favored for the designation.
J.C. Marsh, E.M. Deming, and R.L. Kraus formed an informal committee, and an official movement began within the confines of Marshfield’s city hall.
During an early February mass meeting, local officials told of their visits with the surrounding county seats in Wisconsin Rapids, Neillsville, and Wausau. While sentiment was favorable, the city of Wausau seemed apprehensive to part with its western townships due to their high Republican population, which would be needed to retain its current presence in county and state administration.
A formal committee was organized, and it was determined that a bill would be drafted asking the state legislature to form a new county.
When local officials next returned to the surrounding county seats, they were met with strong opposition. Rather than push forward, the group decided to drop the matter to retain the existing neighborly relations.