Valentine Phillip Rath, 1938

Elected to the Wisconsin State Legislature as an Assemblyman

1860-1941, A summary of his life

As researched and related by

Raymond Rath




Valentine P. was the second child of Valentin and Anna Marie Fesser Rath, born in Sheboygan on 15 February, 1860. We do not know for sure where the Rath family was living at that time, but it is presumed they built and moved into the present homestead on 1633 N.13th street sometime in 1861 or 1862 at the latest, as the property at that address was purchased on November 8, 1960.

From Lithograph of Sheboygan, 1885

1633 N. 13th St, the left house

Valentine went to the Holy Name Parochial school not too far from where they lived until he was twelve years old. At that time he started working at various jobs finally learning the cooper's trade(barrel making). He worked at that trade for two years or more before entering the employment of a Henry Rath, no known relationship. He was packing lime for Henry Rath.

Valentine leaves Sheboygan

When Valentine was eighteen years old, he and his older brother John, went to Clintonville, Wisconsin, having learned that the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western Ry was being extended northward. There they went to work with the construction gang at Tigerton, Wisc. When the railroad reached the area now known as Langlade County, then a part of Oconto County, he and John went to the Menasha land office and filed on a homestead in what was then Polar Township, an extremely large township.

The first settler to file for a homestead in that township was a Sam Price who settled on 160 acres in Section 19. The next settlers were, "youthful and energetic immigrants from the City of Sheboygan, John and Valentine Rath". According to the Deeds, Vol. 9, page 227, #7182 John settled on the "N1/2 NW1/4, SE1/4 NW1/4, SW1/4 Nw1/4 Section 21, T32N R12E", having filed and recorded on 1 May, 1880 under the Sec. No. 2290 Revised Statutes of U.S(recorded Feb. 11th, 1887). That piece of land was 160 acres, all of the NW 1/4 of Section 21.

It didn't say what he paid for it, but a subsequent recording in Vol. 9, pg. 348, #7848 showed that he paid the balance owed of $4.00 or $14, I am not sure which. Since Valentine was not old enough to file for a homestead at that time, he stayed with John and they built a log cabin in the fall of 1880 to spend the first winter there.

Valentine files for Homestead and gets involved in politics

In Vol. 2, pg 480(patents) #12519, it showed that Valentine Rath was issued a Homestead Certificate #1266, application 2126, for"SE1/4 of sec.7, T32N, R12E of the 4th principal Meridian in Wisc, containing 160 acres". I did not find a date of filing in that record. However other records indicated he filed on the homestead in 1881 and since he turned 21 in February of 1881 that is probably correct.

A description of what the surveyor said that land looked like at that time, states: " ..the township contains but few swamps and no streams." It further goes on to say that the north half of and eastern part of(what is now Price) are hilly and rolling and broken regions while the southwest quarter is level. Elm, maple, birch, pine and fir were the principal forest products. Lawrence Lake lies in the northwestern part of section 15.

On November 13, 1883, a petition was signed by numerous settlers that asked that several of the townships be detached from Polar Township and be organized into a new township. On December 13, 1883 a committee recommended the creation of a new township, the resolution passed and Price Township, containing 115,200 acres came into existence.

The first annual town meeting was held on 1 April, 1884 at the home of John Rath. V.P. Rath was in attendance. Twenty nine voters cast their ballots for or against the "mill ticket" or the "homesteaders' ticket". George H.Davis, mill owner at Bryant led the "mill ticket" while the settlers, principally homesteaders, rallied around V.P. Rath, who headed the "homesteaders ticket."

Many of the remote homesteaders were unable to attend to vote at that time because of the distance from the polls and lack of roads. Oxen and horses were not plentiful and the Indian trail was the best road. Davis received 17 votes to 12 for Mr. Rath and was elected chairman. At the first special meeting of the Town board on 24 May, 1884, the first act passed was to raise $620 for teacher's salaries for the year 1884-85. They also appropriated $1,600 for school purposes. The first crude log school was built in 1884 followed by a frame school a few years later.

The huge Price Township, as initially formed, was split again in 1885 and again in 1905, leaving only Township 32 , containing the village of Bryant. Valentine was constable 1887-88, elected chairman of the town board 1890-91, then was the assessor for one term,1896-97, and Justice of the Peace 1901-02. In addition to those elected offices he possibly also was appointed town clerk about1890 which position he held for 12 years. He was also active in county affairs. In the Antigo Daily Journal, dtd. Nov.13, 1902 the adjacent ad at left appeared.

Valentine gets married and starts a family

Sometime around the first of May, 1890, Valentine returned to Sheboygan and married Magdalena Mary Friedricks on 15 May, 1890. Magdalena's name began appearing on recordings of deeds and contracts by April 1, 1891. Her name is recorded as Magdalena and sometimes as Lena. Magdalena was born 16 January, 1864, in Sheboygan.

They apparently started a family at the homestead in Price Township immediately as George was born in 1891, and Joe was born 3 February, 1892 and Bill 7 October, 1893. The children were all recorded as being born in Bryant as it was the only village in the township. Life must have been pretty rough, homesteading in those days, having one child right after the other, as anecdotal evidence has her at one time disappearing from home and was finally found in Chicago living with friends. This might have happened more than once.

Their homestead in Sec. 7 was about 4 miles due north of the village of Bryant. The records show they did mortgage the homestead on 15 Aug., 1893 and that mortgage was paid off on 16 September, 1899.

Valentine worked in every phase of the logging industry as well as a timber estimator and land looker. He also operated a hotel in Bryant for a time while that village was a busy lumbering town.

Valentine runs for County Clerk of Langlade County

He ran for the office of Langlade County Clerk in the election of Nov. 4, 1902 and won with 1297 votes to 1074 for his opponent. He held that position for 22 years before being defeated by 125 votes,in an upset, during the general election of 1924. During that 22 years he was also elected to be treasurer of the Wisconsin County Clerks Association for a number of terms. He was reelected to be county clerk eight years later in 1932, 5357 votes to 2973 for his opponent. He served three more two year terms when he was then elected to the state legislature as an assemblyman in the election of 1938, at the age of 78 years. He garnered 3149 votes to 2372 and 2503 for his two opponents.

Subsequent to Valentine's election as County Clerk in 1902, he purchased, on 2 Jan. 1903, a parcel of land south of the corner lot at the junction of Lincoln St and 9th Ave.( the SW corner of the intersection) in Antigo, the county seat. Apparently there was a house on the property as the land contract had a stipulation to keep the house insured for $500 among other things. The house in the picture below could be that house.

Valentine P. Rath and Family, circa 1908

From L-R, standing: Bill, John, George, Tom, Lena, Clara, Valentine, Anna Marie(?), Joe. Others are unknown.

The Lincoln Street Homestead

This parcel of land with a house that was purchased at that time would be south of, or a part of, the parcel on which Valentine eventually built the old Rath homestead at that corner of Lincoln and 9th Avenue.

130 Lincoln St. Homestead

That homestead is the house of which I have so many fond memories, my very earliest recollections are in and around that home. The large front porch, the big foyer, the large living room with the walls lined with bookcases, with their glass doors that raised up and slid back to access the books. It had a large dining room, a huge winding staircase going upstairs with an upstairs hallway, part of which overlooked the huge area between the living room and the dining room. The kitchen, pantry and back porch were in the SW corner of the house.

One of the biggest attractions for me in that house, which I discovered after our family had moved out and we were living in the first ward in the NE part of Antigo(the house was in the 4th ward in the SW part of Antigo), was the huge attic in which a young boy could spend hours going through magazines, books, dressers with drawers full of all kinds of mementos. All the baseball cards and magazines that the Rath boys had collected(some of them were baseball fanatics), old bats and balls, war souveniers, hundreds of envelopes with stamps on them, Saturday Evening Posts, Colliers, Esquires, National Geographics, and many, many more magazines and papers.

After collecting on my paper route on Saturday, the route being nearby, I would go into the attic(grandpa was very seldom there) and get lost for the rest of the day until it got too dark to read up there, then race home, across town, on my bike and get bawled out by my mom. I did that for years, even into highschool years.

Valentine P. Rath family, circa 1910

From L-R, back:George P.,Joseph F.,William M., John H.;front:Thomas E., Valentine P., Clara, Magdaline M.

Valentine lived all by himself in that house, I guess, from the time Joe got married,(Sept. 1927), until grandpa died in Feb.1941. He never locked the doors and I don't ever recall it ever being broken into. When he took sick, they moved him to our home for Mom to take care of him. He died in our bed (Lucien's and mine). At the time we lived on 2nd avenue in NE Antigo.

Pelican Lake memories

At some time in the late teens or early twenties, I would guess, Valentine purchased a cottage and lot on Antigo Island in Pelican Lake in Oneida County, about 28 miles north of Antigo. The cottage was situated up high overlooking the east coast of the island, facing the village of Pelican Lake about 3 or 4 miles away to the east. It was quite steep from the steps down to the dock.

Antigo Island Cottage(1918)

Just a short distance(maybe 3 or 400 hundred yards to the south of the island) was the south shore of the lake and Zimrows resort which also provided boating services on that part of the lake. The boat houses were situated on the islands low shoreline facing south, accessed by wooden walkways and docks.

Lu and I used to spend a lot of time in the summers at the cottage with Aunt Clara and her boyfriends. Mom mentioned that she used to go to the lake quite often before we were born and then also after we were born. A whole chapter could be written of stories just about our adventures at Pelican Lake.

Aunt Clara with V.P.
in a boat(1921)

In the late twenties or early thirties, Valentine either sold or lost the cottage on the island. I haven't had time to research that yet. I would guess it may have been caused by him losing his job as County Clerk and/or the depression. In any case I remember he bought a lot on the south shore to the west of Zimrows, in a large bay. On it he built a good size garage and a small cabin. The cabin was for cooking and eating meals and the garage was for storage and sleeping.

Lu and I used to go and stay with grandpa for weeks at a time during the summers. I seem to recollect that I was between 5 and 10 or 11 years old. He taught us how to fish for yellow perch and muskies, let us shoot red squirrels with a .22, which he would cook for us. On the wall of his cabin, over the table, he had a sign, "Fish and guests thrown out after three days".

Valentine had to be in his seventies at that time but I don't recall ever thinking of him as an old man. He was very active, would row the boat all over the lake in all kinds of weather and was a great pal to Lu and me. He was one fine gentleman!!

Grandma Magdalena

One last comment is needed here about Grandma Magdalena. I have no recollection of her at all. I have seen pictures with us children and her in the same picture but I was probably less than four years old in those pictures. She did spend many years in the state hospital near Oshkosh and if she did come home for visits after I was older, I have no recollection of these.

Whether she suffered from the same depression that plagued my dad(Bill) I do not know. I do know that Grandpa Valentine was a lonely man in those years Lu and I had such enjoyment from visiting him. I am sure he enjoyed our company as much as we did his.

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Last Update:3 May,1999