Organization and Government
It devolved upon the pioneers to organize the town government that
public interests might be promoted. There
was an immediate necessity for roads, bridges and schools.
Portland was then a part of Lowell.
The settler found it inconvenient to go such a long distance to look
after town business and as the settlements grew, it became necessary to
organize the Town of Portland. The
required preliminary steps were taken and a town meeting was called to meet in
the Village of Portland on the 7th day of April, 1846.
This date should not be forgotten for it marks the beginning of
Portland as a political organization.
town had already been given its name as required by law.
The public records of Portland were then begun and were recorded in the
handwriting of its first Town Clerk, E. Gilmore.
It may be assumed that the people of the town centered their attention
on that day in the village where the town meeting was held.
Of course, on this particular morning, the sun rose from the horizon in
a clear sky; its rays added cheer to a balmy April atmosphere, all conspiring
to make roseate and promising the future of the Town of Portland.
At the appointed hour, men came from all parts of the town.
Some, whose lumber wagons were drawn by oxen, kindly invited their
neighbors to join them. Probably,
only one or two horses were seen
on the street during the day which had brought their owners to the village,
while many walked. The candidates
for office were probably no earlier on the ground than others; it is certain
they sent no carriages after their friends.
It is safe to say there was not a vehicle of that character in the
town. The time arrived for the
meeting and the first business was that of effecting a temporary organization.
The pioneers assembled in the designated room and all was silent when
S. M. Cone arose and made the first motion which was given expression in the
government of the town. This
motion was to the effect that Charles Mayhew be named chairman of the meeting,
which carried without opposition.
Mr. Mayhew took his seat and called the meeting to order.
K. P. Clark made the second motion naming Edmund Gilmore as Clerk, who
immediately proclaimed the polls opened. It
was 9:30 a.m. when the chairman received the first vote.
The records do not reveal who cast the first ballot nor whether it was
printed or written. Both Cone and
Clark in later years were prominent citizens of Waterloo.
Both lived in this vicinity until their deaths and their remains were
buried in the Portland cemetery in the town whose organization they directed.
The business transacted included the fixing of the pay allowed town
officers. The Clerk recorded that
"it was unanimous by vote that the officers of the Town of Portland shall
receive for their services as such $.75 a day".
The Town Clerk was voted $5.00 per year for his services and "a
fund of $10.00 was raised for the support of common schools".
The polls closed at sunset and a canvass of the votes showed the
following officers elected: Justices
of the Peace, S. M. Cone, Charles Mayhew and John V. King; Supervisors,
Kindall P. Clark, Chairman, S. M. Cone, B. Hawes; Constables, Charles S.
Powers, Andrew Storer, Charles King; School Commissioners, E. Gilmore, George
Sheldon, A. G. Phelps; Road Commissioners, John V. King, Andrew Storer, George
Sheldon; Assessor, J. D. Sandborn; Treasurer, K. P. Clark; Collector, Charles
S. Powers; Sealer of Weights and Measures, S. H. Hains; Overseer of Highways,
Nathanial Hamilton; Fence Viewers, Noel Rew, A. B. Potter, Andrew Smith.
These officers qualified and by so doing completed the town
Portland was now ready to take up the work that concerned public
interests. There was little
inducement for the officers to make occasion for official action as the salary
was made so small that, from the standpoint of the farmhand today, it would
not pay. An inspection of the
results of the election would almost warrant an inference that office holding
was not agreeable to the ambition of the pioneers.
Several persons were selected for two offices.
On October 15, 1846, the Town Clerk records that the chairman of the
town presented the tax roll prepared by the County Clerk which called for the
levying of $49.92 for the State and County Tax.
The Clerk added to this $58.33 raised for the use of the town and
issued an order to the collector commanding him to collect the same.
This last sum included the taxes ordered to be levied at the first town
meeting. It included $15.00 for
incidental expenses, $10.00 for the poor, $5.00 for the Clerk's salary, and
the balance was raised to pay officer's salaries and support common schools.
It is evident that the teachers employed that year worked for wages per
day that were much less in amount than was voted to be paid town officers.
The next annual town meeting was held April 6, 1847, and was called to
order by S. M. Smith. James
Sheldon moved for a "pound for impounding hogs under fifty pounds weight
between the first of May and November".
Noel Rew was selected first "pound master".
The appropriation for incidental expenses was limited to $15.00.
J. Kimball's motion to pay officers $.37-1/2
per day was carried. The
next meeting was voted to be held at the house of Alexander Campbell.
The noteworthy feature of this meeting seems to be general reduction of
running expenses. A different
spirit prevailed in the meeeting of 1848 which voted that town officers
receive $1.00 per day and the Town Clerk $10.00 per year.
Each succeeding town meeting found some new men willing to serve the
town in one office or another. A.
G. Phelps became Town Clerk in 1848, and in 1849, Moses C. Kenyon succeeded
him. R. P. Loveland, George Walrod,
John S. Perry, R. S. Hart, Nelson C. Hyer, Dearborn Clark, Schuyler Hyer,
David Hurd, James Sheldon, Jacob Graft and Aaron C. Fisher are among those
also elected in 1848.
At the time the town was organized, there was neither town nor county
superintendents of schools but each town elected three school commissioners.
The records show that in March 1848, William F. Bond and William O.
Manter, Commissioners of Portland, met with John Douglass and O. W. Thorton,
Commissioners of Sun Prairie. They
formed a joint school district out of parts of Sections 30 & 31 of
Portland and Sections 26 & 36 of Sun Prairie, naming it Joint District No.
1. At the same time, they formed
Joint District No. 2 immediately north of No. 1.
The former is now known as the Andrews District.
Their first teacher was Effie Johnson, a daughter of Silas Johnson who
settled in Portland in 1847. The
present teacher is Laura McCormick, a granddaughter of B. McCormick who also
settled in Portland in 1846, The
former was paid $1.50 per week and the latter receives $1.65 per day.
The first general election for State officers was held May 8, 1848.
Portland participated in it and its voters had thus a chance to line up
on a partisan basis. There were
two tickets in the field, the Democratic and the Whig.
Nelson Dewey led the Democratic ticket for Governor and John H. Tweedy
the Whig. Dewey received 31 votes
and Tweedy received 20 votes. The
voting took place in the store of S. M. Smith.
These statistics furnish a basis upon which to estimate the number of
people in the town, approximately 150.
Many of the voters were young and were just starting in life, hence the
average family was small in number compared with what it was a decade later.
This election foreshadowed the political complexion of the Town of
Portland to the present.
The Democratic ticket then as now received the support of a majority of
the voters. Owing to the date on
which this state election was held, it is probable that a full vote was not
polled. It appears that partisan
politics cut some figure in the town elections as such prominent democrats as
K. P. Clark, S. M. Cone, Moses C. Kenyon amd Dearborn Clark were left in
office from year to year. The town
meeting of 1849 found the town in debt to the amount of $57.10.
It was reported at the beginning of 1848 there was $41.36 in the
treasury belonging to the school fund, of which District No. 1 received $9.34,
District No. 3 received $11.56. It
was further reported that the $10.00 raised for the poor "was paid out
for the support of a boy by the name of William Robinson in the northeast
corner of the town".
A motion of Wm. F. Bond directed the supervisors to inquire whether the
boy Robinson was a "proper subject to receive assistance from the town as
and also to ascertain if Mr. Robinson is liable for his support, and if
so, to proceed against said Robinson without delay".
Among the pathmasters appointed are:
Ruel Packer, G. Cone and Moses T. Austin. At
this election, W. F. Bond, Moses T. Austin, S. M. Cone and A. C. Fischer were
elected Justices; James Sheldon, Chairman, with Cyrus Perry and Ruel Packer as
associates. Mr. Kenyon, having no
opposition, received 65 votes for clerk. This
seems to be the whole number of votes cast.
One of the things noted is the election of Dearborn Clark as Town
Superintendent of Schools. He was
the first man to fill that office in the town.
In May 1849, he met with Ambrose Jones, Town Superintendent of Schools
for Waterloo to form a joint district. Ambrose
Jones was the first Town Superintendent in Waterloo.
The town meeting of April 1850 was held in the house of William Larabee.
This was a hotel. At this
meeting, on the motion of G. H. P. Cone, a tax of $100.00 was levied to build
a bridge "across the Crawfish River near Van Deldan Bridge".
Steve Linderman appeared in opposition to this enterprise.
Among the new men elected are the names of:
F. C. Baker, J. Burnham, James Brookins, Alban Carter, W. A. Higley, D.
C. Shepard, John Ramsey and E. C. Picket.
At the meeting of 1851, a motion was carried "that the supervisors
select a burying ground and to pay nothing for said ground".
This probably resulted in the selection of the cemetery north of the
village which contains the remains of many of the early settlers, some of whom
attended this town meeting. Among
the new names are: D. V. Knowlton,
who was elected Town Clerk, Linus Johnson, Superintendent, H. P. Smith, A.
Witt and James P. Lawton. The last
two names are suggestive of foreign blood--one German and the other Irish, but
this is not certain. A special
town meeting was held in July 1851 to raise $1000.00 to improve the roads of
At the regular meeting, Stephen Linderman made a motion to raise
$500.00 for this purpose. This was
defeated, hence it may inferred that Mr. Linderman, who was probably the first
to build a house in the town, was the first to advocate road improvement.
The proposition to build the roads was defeated by a vote of
82 to 20. The number voting
at this special meeting was 102. Wm. Larabee was the proprietor of a hotel and
applied for a liquor license in 1851. He
was required to give a bond from which the following is taken; THE
SPELLING IS AS FOUND IN THE BOND; "I William Larabee do Solemnly
Swear that I am keeping a House of Publick entertainment for travelers
Commonly Known as a tavern or hotel and I desire Licence only for the Reason
that I am Keeping Such House".
John V. King and Wm. Higly were his sureties and were held "in the
penal Sum of five Hundred Dollars Which we jointly and Severally agree and
Promise well and truly to Pay, etc.", and the condition was that Larabee
"was to Keep and Maintain an orderly and well regulated House and that he
will permit no gambling with cards or dice or any other device or implement
within his tavern or buildings of any name whatsoever Kept by him or within
outhouses, yards, or Sheds appertaining to the ".
Thus, more that half a century ago, the morals of Portland were
protected by a $500.00 bond. The
supervisors who approved this bond were Oscar King and Alphonse Whipple.
This is the first appearance of the name of Mr. Whipple whose grandson
in the proprietor of "The Waterloo Democrat".
The town meeting of 1852, held in the Cone House resulted in electing
Alphonse Whipple chairman and a Geo. F. Weber a mamber of the board.
He was undoubtedly a German, or was born of German parents, but the
Irish talent for government was also recognized by the election of Martin
Welch as Justice of the Peace.
There is no doubt as to his nationality.
He was a man of strong character and it appears that he leads all his
race in the distinction of being the first of them to hold office in Portland.
He remained in office finishing his term while Mr. Weber resigned in
less than two months. In 1853, the
election brought new men into prominence among whom were Robert Chalmers,
Thomas Van Court, Solomon Johnson, D. W. Rosencrans, Albert Hagarman and
Anthony Harmon. Mr. Rosencrans
might have been a Hebrew. His son
is now a prominent jeweler in Milwaukee. Hagarman
looks German-like and Harmon
pretty much of a Hibernian character. Van
Court could probably trace his ancestory back to the Netherlands and make
claim that they were the leading engineers in the construction of the dikes.
This fellow was a blacksmith. Later
on an election day, he took a hasty leave of Portland to escape what would
have been a disagreeable experience with a rope in the hands of infuriated
citizens because of his dastardly attack with a knife upon Oscar L. Ray who
still resides at Lake Mills. By
this time, it may be said that the
Irish and Germans began to buy out the Americans and from now on their names
as officers will occur with a growing frequency.
Michael Torpey was named a pathmaster in 1854.
In the same year, a tavern license was granted to Surdam and Carr; a
saloon license to John Walls, for which $10.00 was paid.
A like license for the same sum was granted to Robert Chalmers while
Frederick Court was charged $20.00 for his license.
These grants of license indicate that Portland had suddenly risen to
greater importance. The Watertown
Plank Road was completed connecting Portland with Milwaukee, hence the boom in
the sale in Whiskey.
Among the officers elected in 1854 are found the names of:
Thomas Williams, Hezekiah Burt, G. A. Mead, Walter Simons, Ambrose
Rose, Samuel Austin, E. A. Perry, R. McGuire, W. H. Foxwell and H. Kimball.
At the 1854 town meeting, L. P. Knowlton, still a resident of the town,
manufested an interest in public affairs.
G. A. Mead as Town Clerk recorded that "L. P. Knowlton made motion
that Hogs shall not be free commoners the ensuing year.
Carried". This was the
beginning of a war on the hog whereby this useful animal was curtailed of its
liberty to do as it pleased and visit its neighbors as and when its appetite
so directed. Before the close of
the year, G. A. Mead resigned and B. B. Chadwick took his place.
In 1857, the town meeting
was held in the American House. Among
the new names are: Hosea Prentiss,
G. R. Frary, W. A. Pierce, James Murphy, Mark Leaver, James McCormick, John
Chalmers, I. W. Allen, Wm. Geise, Miles Burns, John
Prentice, Michael Bolger, Moses
Valeau and H. Chapin. Mr. Geise
was chosen a pathmaster, but like Caeser who was once an overseer of the
Appain Way, he too became prominent in politics representing his district as a
Democrat in the State Legislature. It
is evident that the Irish now began to develop political influence.
Murphy, McCormick, Burns, Gingles and Bolger had all picked the
shamrock on Irish soil. G. R.
Frary was elected Town Clerk and left a record that he posted "the
by-laws of the town at the American House, one copy at the store of David
Chalmers and one copy at the store of S. M. Cone".
During the year, Oscar L. Ray and W. W. Patrick were appointed
Constables. Mr. Frary also gave
notice of a special town meeting to vote on the question of bonding the town
in aid of the construction of the Wisconsin Central Railroad Co.
It was called to be held "at the Williams House on Friday, June 5,
1857", to vote on issuing bonds "for the sum of $2500.00 in payment
for 250 shares of full paid stock of said Company.
Said bonds to run ten years
and bear interest at the rate of ten percent, the proceeds to be expended on
the line of said road between Lake Mills and Portland".
The notice and records of this meeting and the oaths of inspectors
place Portland in Jefferson County as the notice of the election reads.
"Notice is hereby given to the legal voters of the Town of
Portland, Jefferson County, State of Wisconsin, etc.", and the Clerk
states in his record "the special election held at the Williams House in
the Village of Portland, Town of Portland, County of Jefferson, etc.".
189 votes were cast of which 112 were in favor of the bonds.
The act of the Clerk in locating Portland in Jefferson County in all
records pertaining to this town meeting, including the venue in the oaths of
the inspectors, gives rise to a suspicion that the mistake might be of use, if
necessary, to nullify the effect of an affirmative vote for the bond issue.
Such may not have been the fact. It
may have been that dependence was placed on the bad luck of a Friday town
meeting for such a fate. The bonds
were printed on a good quality of paper. A
blank copy of one of the bonds is now in the writer's possession.
The required number was signed but never delivered.
L. P. Knowlton was Town Chairman and his assistants were W. A. Pierce
and J. Burnham.
It is now an open secret that Mr. Knowlton's determined opposition
frustrated the consumate fraud of this proposed bonding of the town.
He refused to deliver the bonds. The
officers of the company were wild with rage.
Still he defied their threats and remained firm in his refusal to
deliver the bonds, which he wisely put under the sod thereby defeating the
effort to get them into the hands of innocent purchasers which would fasten
them as a binding obligation on the town.
There was no attempt made to build the road; not a shovel of earth was
turned in its construction. The
result would have been the same had the bonds, fully executed, been turned
over to the designing promoters. Among
Mr. Knowlton's strongest supporters were his Irish neighbors.
It was said at the time that Knowlton and his Irish were equal to any
emergency. During 1850, the name
of W. Marsh, Eli Griswold and Thomas McGovern were on the list of office
holders. It now became a customary
thing to vote the hog out of the association of "free commoners".
While they were commoners,
certain owners of the animal recorded with the Town Clerk a distinguishing
mark by means of which his strayed or stolen hog might be identified.
For illustration, Charles S. Power's mark was "crop off the left
ear and slit in the same"; the mark of Scuyler Hyer was "V, out of
the right ear".
The campaign against the hog was due to the want of fences.
Cattle as well as hogs often wandered for miles sway from their owners
requiring searches that frequently continued for two or three days.
These were the days of the cow bell.
About the close of the 50's, the farmers began raising sheep.
The rail fence by which they were protected was no barrier to the dog
of those days that asserted his right as a "free commoner" to call
on his neighbor's sheep and now and then convert some of them to his own use.
Hence, the dog received a good deal of attention at several meetings of
the supervisors. G. H. P. Cone and
A. C. Fischer made the first complaint on April 27, 1861 to Alphonse Whipple,
Dearborn Clark and John Vokes who were supervisors.
An oath was administered to Phillip Daum as a witness for Mr. Cone.
It is recorded that "he thought sheep average lot sheep".
Mr. Vokes said "lambs were worth $1.00 each".
Orders were drawn in favor of Cone and Fischer to pay for the sheep.
The supervisors rose in their might and "resolved that all persons
that do not license their dogs on or before the first day of May 1861, they
(the supervisors) will send the name of each and every person so refusing or
neglecting to license to the District Attorney and request of him an immediate
attendance thereon". But,
neither this warlike declaration nor the issued licenses seem to have
embarassed Portland dogs for at a meeting of the supervisors held Octobeer 1,
1861, more complaints against the bad dogs for killing lambs and sheep were
made by Charles Russell and S. E. Robinson and they too were reimbursed out of
the treasury of the town. In April 1862, the town meeting was held in the
Williams House, but an adjournment was taken to the house of D. C. Sheppard.
An appropriation of $25.00 was made to purchase "a desk for town
books and papers" and $100.00
was raised for school purposes. Among
the overseers of highways were: L.
P. Knowlton, W. D. Packard, O. H. Anderson, Michael Powers and Arthur Burnham.
The supervisors were: Hosea
Prentiss, Alphonse Whipple, W. L. Ward; Clerk, Louis Hunefeldt; Treasurer, K.
P. Clark; Assessor, E. P. Cole; Justices, Thomas Baker, Robert Chalmers, J. R.
Frary. Constables were: D. C.
Sheppard, John A. Wetmore and
Michael Joyce; Poundkeeper, J. R. Frary. The
result of this election indicates that the American element was still
preferred for office. Mr.
Hunefeldt was a German and followed the business of blacksmith.
On September 29, 1862, Hosea Prentiss, A. Whipple, C. Whipple, K. P.
Clark and G. W. Larabee signed a call for a special town meeting "to
raise a bounty of $100.00 to each volunteer from said town who has enlisted in
the service of the United States as soldiers under the two last calls of the
President for Volunteers".
This meeting was called to meet at the house of D. C. Sheppard but it
was adjourned to the schoolhouse and was the first town meeting held in a
public building in Portland. One
hundred twenty-six votes were polled of which ninety-two were recorded in
favor of the bounty, showing that Portland as a whole was decidedly patriotic.
The town meeting of 1863 placed among others upon the roll of overseers
of roads the names of: John King,
William Gingles, Samuel Austin, Thomas. Dowd, A. G. Allen.
Mr. Dowd now resides at Madison with his daughter, Mrs. Eugene
Sheppard. This is the first
mention of John King and William Gingles.
The former became a prominent farmer on the "Plank" Road
whose children still reside near by. Mr.
Gingles is still leading a prosperous farm life near Hubbleton.
Samuel Austin is now retired, living at Waterloo after a successful
career as a Portland farmer. The
result of the election gave the town a board consisting of Anthony Harmon,
John Gingles, who was the father of William Gingles, and William Geise.
For the first time in the history of the town, the board did not
contain a so-called Yankee; the foreigners had secured a monopoly in the town
management. O. Prentiss was
elected Clerk; E. P. Cole, Assessor; Michael Joyce, Treasurer; Moses Wetmore,
W. L. Hoag and A. C. Fischer, Justices; John A. Knarr, Ephriam Gingles and
Edward Bolger, Constables; and James Carty, Sealer of Weights and Measures.
Of these officers, only six were Irish and two were Germans, which is
proof that office holding was becoming popular with the foreign element.
The town officers in March 1908 were:
John Goebel, Charles Weihert and August Huebner as Supervisors; Frank
Trapp, Clerk; William Beerbaum, Treasurer; and F. A. Yerges, Assessor.
These names suggest a complete monopoly of civic management by the
German element--a natural sequence to the almost complete ownership of the
town by the Teuton.
At a special election held January 14, 1864, eighty-one votes were cast
in favor and forty-nine against raising a bounty of $200.00 for each volunteer.
On the same day, another petition signed by O. R. White, A. Whipple, J.
E. Bolton, John Gingles, C. C. Ellis, G. H. P. Cone, James Brookins, William
Gingles, James Sheldon, B. C. Parker, A. Harman, J. A. Knarr, D. A. Snow, D.
Brookin and W. Warren for a special town meeting "to vote a tax of $200.00
each to those who have answered their county's call by draft or by enlistment
since September 1, 1863". One
hundred sixty votes were cast at this election of which one hundred thirty-seven
were against the proposed tax.
In February of the same year, another call was signed by Charles Betry,
M. A. Higley, James McCormick, A. Geise, A. Youker, H. Kimball, J. A. Youker,
William Dunn, John King, G. R. Frary, Gottfried Winter, John Horn and K. P.
Clark "to vote a tax of $200.00 for each person who may enlist and is
credited to said town", etc. This
meeting took place on February 27, 1864. It
was "resolved to hire volunteers as cheap as possible but not to exceed
$200.00 for each". Of one
hundred twenty-four votes polled, ninety-nine were for the tax.
An inspection of the names attached to the two preceding calls makes it
appear that for the most part those living in the western part of the town were
inclined to reward even those who had been drafted into the service.
Those signing the last call were largely from the eastern section and
were for the practice of economy and their expenditure looked to rewarding the
enlistments of the future. This
meeting was followed by another to raise "a tax of $200.00 for each
volunteer, etc.". This
proposition was carried by a vote of sixty-one out of sixty-eight votes.
The regular town election for
1864 placed upon the roll of officers the names of:
John Wolfgram, Harve Harger, Alfred Montgomery, Fred Nichels, Thomas
Baker, Jacob Johnson, M. M. Hurd, John Storer, James Ruane, Ira Hill, George
Plumb, G. B. Russel, John Miller. In
a meeting of the town board on April 16, 1864, a request was made by Phillip
Fuchs, William Dunn, M. Torpey, T. Torpey, James Byrne, James Bolger, John
Bolger and Edward Bolger that they be permitted to work out thie road tax in
their private roads. This is the
first appearance of the names of Messrs. Fuchs, Byrne, and Ed Bolger who later
were office holders of the town. Thomas
Dowd became constable. Four special
town meetings followed to vote taxes to procure volunteers.
These resulted favorable to the tax levy.
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