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History of Price County

Price County was created on March 3rd, 1879, when Wisconsin Governor William E. Smith signed Chapter 103, Laws of 1879. Mr. W. T. Price, for whom Price County was named, was President of Wisconsin Senate and an early logger in Price County. The original boundaries, a near perfect rectangle, 31 miles wide and 42 miles long, still remain.

Price County is the 5th largest land area among the State's 72 counties. Translated, the 31 mile by 42 mile area contains 806,840 acres or 1,268 square miles. Of these 800,000 plus acres, approximately 18,000 acres are covered by water. Vast areas of the total are public lands, with the Chequamegon National Forest accounting for 151,626 acres, State owned property at approximately 28,500 acres, and County owned lands totaling 90,000 acres. In addition, Managed Forest and Forest Crop lands owned by private entities account for more than 128,733 acres. This totals in excess of 400,000 acres open to the public.

The lands which became Price County were a part of the vast pine covered area of Northern Wisconsin. This valuable timber was attracting attention in the 1870's because lumber was in great demand. Our numerous rivers (part of the Chippewa and Wisconsin River network), the steady northward advancement of the Wisconsin Central Railroad, the sawmills and tanneries soon made Price County the center of logging and lumbering operations. The supposedly inexhaustible forests did not last long. In 25 years, most of the pine was gone and with it the romantic era of logging. The trees that had stood for centuries provided necessary materials for the expansion of the western frontier and growth for our nation.

Now a new era began. Logging turned to hardwoods and hemlock. Nearly all of this was cut into lumber in local mills, some being put to use for special finished products. Our population changed too, and was growing. The transient lumberjack was replaced by home seeking settlers. Lands were homesteaded or purchased from timber companies and families appeared. Cut over lands became small farms and permanent homes. Rural communities grew, many with the predominant nationality groups. Villages were incorporated, larger villages became small cities. Township governments increased in number and schools and churches dotted the county.

Logging and millwork continued, but were no longer dependent of a single economy. Agriculture was the hope of the future. Farming has been the largest single occupation in Price County for sixty-odd years. Everything that climate and growing season would permit has been tried. Many have been successful, some have failed. Dairy farming, with some other specialized farming has proven to be best for the use of our lands.

Today, new industry has replaced the traditional sawmills. Some still exist, along with a paper mill, hardboard planed and specialized wood industries, to use the raw materials from our forest. A variety of factories using the latest equipment. Manufactures have found Price County a good place to produce and distribute a variety of products. Industries and the number of people they employ are on the increase.

Our forests, cut over, burned over, mistreated, are again furnishing timber and raw materials. Thanks to fire prevention and protection, and good management programs, this resource again is available. National, state, county and private forests, all with long-term planning will provide future timber. Price County is still a predominately forest county. The value and beauty of a growing forest is appreciated by all. It is unlikely that our lands will be depleted again.

Price County has now taken its place as one of Northern Wisconsin's most popular recreation counties. Woods and water combine to make it attractive. A fine system of roads, and abundance of public lands, a variety of recreational facilities - such as public boat launching sites, snowmobile trails and cross-country ski trails, bring visitors and summer residents in increasing numbers.

Price County, during its 126 years, has experienced its great years and made the most of its lean years. It has contributed its share to state and national efforts. Today with its diversified economy and its energetic citizens, it ranks as one of the leaders in Northern Wisconsin.

 


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