ANTIGO, LANGLADE COUNTY, WISCONSIN

Langlade County, Wisconsin, 1990's

Antigo is the county seat of Langlade County, Wisconsin. Valentine Phillip Rath homesteaded in Langlade County in 1881 in Price Township, about 4 miles due north of the village of Bryant, which is NE of Antigo about 12 miles as the crow flies. He and Magdalena Mary raised a family there and then moved to Antigo about 1902 when Valentine was elected to be County Clerk of Langlade County. My father(William Michael), my aunt and uncles were raised there, went to school there and my father and his brother Joseph raised families in Antigo.

I was born and raised in Antigo, graduated from High School there in 1942 and lived there until I went into the army during World War II in 1943. Therefore I think it important that the history of Antigo be a part of the record made available for the descendants of Valentine Phillip and Magdalena Mary Rath.

By co-incidence, a couple months ago(February, 1999), while going though numerous boxes of mementos, our kid`s stuff, other mementos from when I was in the service that my mother kept, that I found (where else but in an attic!!) a copy of an old newspaper, The Clipper, the Langlade County Newspaper for servicemen, published by the Antigo Journal during WW II. It had an intriguing story about an older newspaper--- well just read the story!!!

Article in the August 1, 1944 issue of The Clipper, the Langlade County newspaper for servicemen.

1891 Chicago Newspaper Tells Early Antigo History

July 13, 1944

The Antigo Journal today publishes a reprint of a story which appeared in the old Chicago Herald on Nov. 14, 1891, concerning the early history of Antigo.

The copy of the newspaper, a 16 page Saturday edition, was obtained by Mayor Hjalmer Olsen from T. J. Kelley of Beloit.

The newspaper was hand set and recalled early days in the publishing business before the invention of the linotype machines. The linotype machine cut down the amount of work by about one-fourth, so that it would take about 20 men to do the work on the Antigo Journal now done by five printers working on linotype machines.

The following letter from Mr. Belley to Mr. Olsen explains the circumstances of receiving the paper here:

"Going through an old house that was about to be razed here in Beloit, I came across a copy of an old Chicago Herald of Saturday, Nov. 14, 1891. It contains a story of Antigo that I thought you might he interested in or maybe your historical society would like to have in their files. It is an interesting story of your city of a good many years ago."

The complete story follows:

ANTIGO, Wis., Nov. 10_Only ten years ago and the pioneer settlers of this sturdy little city of 5,000 people were snaking stumps from the main business street of the town, in the middle of which ran a wagon trail through a trackless sea of black mud. A few log shanties faced each other across this interior Hellespont, but those who attempted its passage did so at great personal risk, if not of life, certainly of imminent danger to their wearing apparel. To north, south, east and west of them was an almost virgin forest, covered with thick underbrush and habited only by deer, black bear and other wild game native to the country. A few homesteaders had settled in the eastern portion of the county, where Uncle Sam at small expense maintained a post office, but the western half was as yet unoccupied save by these hardy town-site projectors, whose audacity was only equalled by their dogged pertinacity.

Here on the borders of Spring Brook, which the Indians called Nequi-Antego-Seabeh or balsam evergreen, for the creek never freezes in the coldest winters, came a sturdy civil engineer, whose birthplace was in sunny Alsatia, and with a faith that was stupendous and a courage that is unquestioned, mentally laid out a town site, made a few preliminary surveys and then went back to civilization to buy the land he coveted from the State Agricultural College at $1.25 an acre.

In 1877 Franz Deleglise returned to his possessions, cut some timber, built a log cabin and began planning for his future city. His was a dreary existence until 1880, when he felt far enough advanced to plat his town site and christen it Antigo thus retaining part of the old Indian name. About this time some homesteaders took up land adjacent so that his wife and daughters occasionally saw some fellow exiles.

The year following came the railroad, bringing an influx of settlers and some town lot purchasers. The acquisition of this railroad, the Lake Shore & Western, was due to the wonderful pertinacity of the man from Alsace. It was originally planned to run several miles west of Antigo, but by offering liberal inducements to the company in the way of blocks of real estate and by assiduous lobbying the route was diverted and a new survey ordered made that embraces the Deleglise plat. But even with the railroad in sight town lots on the main business street went begging at $5 each, for there were few who believed Antigo would ever be much more than a water station.

What prophet among them was to know that in less than a decade these same lots would be held at $50 a front foot, with few sellers at that price? People kept dropping in, however-what brought them the Lord only knows-until by 1885 the town of Antigo actually had a population of 1,500, and then its founder decided to have it incorporated as a city, which was accordingly done. Meantime several small industries had been induced to locate, enticed by the abundance of hardwood in the county, and even the scoffers began to think that perhaps Antigo might amount to something after all. Whatever doubts on the subject that may have remained were speedily set at rest when the Lake Shore people decided to make Antigo a divisional point between Milwaukee and Chicago(sic).

This action was a sheet anchor to the town. It strengthened the faithful, encouraged the flagging ones and rendered the doubters meek. In the four years that have elapsed since the repair shops were built Antigo has more than doubled its population and now has fully 5,000 people living within the corporation limits. Local improvements during this period have been most marked.

A fine system of waterworks has been introduced, streets, stores and residences are lighted by incandescent lamps, the plant of which is owned by a local corporation; half a dozen well built churches have been erected; the public schools have received careful attention, the erection of a magnificent $20,000 high school last year being the crowning act of the board of education. And reference to the schools reminds me that there are more school children to the square foot than in any other square-footed town of its size in the state.

This, I suppose, is due to the fact that a majority of the citizens of Antigo are young men, under forty, with real estate holdings, cold winters and a love of the fireside still warm in their breasts. With a healthy climate, dutiful spouses and the knowledge that they will have to pay the school tax in any event, it is not surprising that the youngsters are numerous in Antigo.

Chicagoans Getting Interested

Three sawmills take care of all the pine that is left in this section, but it is the basswood, maple, birch, rock elm, oak, ash, cherry, and butternut that form the main resources of "Deleglise's Dream." It is these prime hardwoods that have attracted the sash and door factory, wagon and carriage shops, chair factory, head and stave shops, and broom handle factory.

The latest acquisition is a big veneer company, which has recently bought a block of ground on which to erect shops for the manufacture of the fine veneer work used in railroad coaches, Pullman cars and high grades of chairs. Some Chicago furniture manufacturers who visited Antigo this summer expressed themselves as being delighted with the big stock of hardwoods in the country and intimated that if they ever moved from their present location it would be in this direction. The curly birchwood when given a mahogany finish is said to excel in beauty the natural mahogany wood, and it was the abundance of this variety that especially pleased the visitors from Chicago.

The mills and factories now established in Antigo give steady employment to nearly five hundred hands the year round, while the Lake Shore & Western Railroad has some two hundred men on its payroll that make Antigo their headquarters. Of these some forty odd are passenger and freight conductors, who own their own homes and reside there with their families; the rest are mechanics and laboring men also, for the most part householders, who manage to distribute among the tradesmen nearly all of the $15,000 the company's pay car leaves monthly at this point.

The town, however, does not depend wholly on the factory hands and railroad men for its support. Langlade county, of which Antigo is the seat of justice, is proving to be rich in agricultural resources, and there are many fine farms in the county, the number of which is annually increasing. Winter wheat, oats, rye, and barley are grown easily, while potatoes are said to be larger and of finer quality than the Waupaca article of spud. In the winter the farmers earn good wages by hauling logs to town, where they get a fair cash price for the timber.

The Prohibitionists of Piety Flat.

The recent- establishment of a brewery in Antigo will make a good market for all the barley raised in Langlade county, but its introduction recalls the fact that when the town was first started and lots placed on the market a liquor restriction went with all the title deeds, for Papa Deleglise was a strong temperance man and was determined that intoxicating drinks should never be sold in his pet city. After its charter was received, however, the people voted at the first election to grant license, greatly to the chagrin of the founder of the city.

The year following the temperance men rallied and downed the ungodly, but their victory was short lived, for the debts incurred under a no license administration touched the people in a tender spot and they hastened to repudiate their policy; high license has prevailed ever since. The advent of a brewery into Antigo is like the proverbial last straw on the camel's back to the temperance zealots on Piety Flat, but their remonstrances are of no avail and the armorial bearings on an Antigo shield showing a bock beer glass pendant and goat rampant will soon adorn the saloons tributary to the city and help to spread the story of its debasement.

The first mayor of Antigo was Thomas Lynch, the same Tom Lynch that captured the congressional plum last fall right under the nose of Myron H. McCord, of Merrill, who fully counted on being re-elected. It was Editor Millard, of the Antigo News Item, that was partially responsible for this lucky choice. At the Wausau convention, when W. C. Silvertorn, Judge Cate, Neil Brown and other noted Democratic leaders had peremptorily refused the nomination, convinced that it was a losing game to tackle McCord's 2,900 majority in the district, the editor of the News Item went to Lynch and urged him to enter the lists.

But Tom Lynch was just as diffident as the others and had no relish for what he considered would be certain defeat. Millard refused to take a negative answer and boldly sprung Lynch's name on the convention. It met with a hearty reception, the candidate's democracy was unquestioned and Tom Lynch, of Antigo, became the unanimous choice of the convention. His election by the tremendous majority of 5,300 votes is a matter of history.

Sketch of a New Congressman

I found the rising statesman in his office devouring a stirring romance from the last Northwestern report, a stack of Wisconsin blue books within easy reach in case the reader wanted a change of venue. He said he had heard of The Herald and the merry twinkle in his blue eyes indicated the possession of some portion of that mother wit for which every true Irishman is noted. A somewhat placid face, clean shaved, framed in flowing locks of iron gray hair, quickly prepossesses one in favor of its owner, a feeling that is ratified when the priestly lawyer gives voice to words of welcome.

I predict that the Democrats of the ninth congressional district, by far the largest district in the state, will have no cause to regret their choice of a representative. Tom Lynch may not electrify his colleagues at Washington, but he will ever be found serving faithfully his constituents at home, and everybody knows that a hard working servant is of infinite more value than a brilliant one. In regard to the world's fair loan to be asked of congress Mr. Lynch said he was disposed to be liberal, especially as he thought this country was in duty bound to show the foreign visitors its great resources in the most approved manner.

As to his running for speaker, he declined for this session. He had read Springer's Iowa speech, and was surprised to find him a man of far greater caliber than he had given him credit for being. He thought Crisp was an able man, but was supicious of the way in which the Republicans indorsed him. He thought Mills deserved well of his party, and that he would make a good speaker, but as the Wisconsin delegation had been pledged to secrecy he had no desire to voice an opinion.

He expects to greet his fellow workers in the Washington vineyard at Milwaukee right after Thanksgiving, when they will move on to the capital via Chicago in unbroken ranks. His Antigo neighbors set a heap of store by Tom, in whose success they keenly delight. He is not a rich man, but is in comfortable circumstances, and can afford to spend a few hours at Washington with his interesting family if his constituents are so minded. The latest projected improvement in Antigo is the building of an air line(sic) railroad from Merril to Marinette to be known as the Merrill, Antigo & Marinette Short Line. Local capitalists in the three cities are pushing the project, but it is hoped after a charter and right of way are secured that the Wisconsin Central may be induced to father the scheme. Should this plan be carried through to completion and one or two more healthy factories be secured to Antigo this remarkable city will quickly double its present population. In its business blocks, public buildings and schools it is far ahead of many cities of similar size and seems to have an elasticity about it that shows no signs of wearing out. Its founder has seen it exceed his most sanguine expectations and is naturally proud of its success. Just now he is seeking for other worlds to conquer, and as president of the new electric road that is contemplated between Milwaukee and Chicago will shortly astonish the traveling public by his audacious I feats. But after Antigo no one need be surprised at what Papa Deleglise may accomplish.


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Last Update:16 April,1999