William Stevens Irvine, 1851

stan@wiclarkcountyhistory.org on Tue, 13 Feb 2001

Surname: IRVINE, JOHNSON, LOOMIS, FINCH, ROSCOE, FLETCHER, GRAVES, ROMAINE

Source: 1918 History of Clark Co., WI, by Franklyn, Curtiss-Wedge
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Mr. & Mrs. William Irvine

WILLIAM STEVENS IRVINE, an early settler in Clark County, and in former years one of its leading public men, holding various offices, and representing his district in the State Assembly, who is now living retired in the village of Loyal, was born in Lona Cona, Md., March 18, 1851, youngest son of John and Katherine (Johnson) Irvine, natives of Scotland, who were there married, and upon coming to America, located first in Nova Scotia, and then in Lona Cona, Md., coming to Trempealeau County in 1852. There were twelve children in the family--Isabella, John, Walter, Margaret, Ellen, Anna, Francis, William S. and four who died in infancy.

At the age of 14. William S. started work on the Mississippi River, running rafts down to Muscatine, Iowa. In the winters he continued to go to school. When 16, he crossed the plains and went through the Rocky Mountains to Salt Lake City looking for gold. The Indians were so bad that the-party turned back and returned home. Then, after a year in Iowa, and a short time in school, he again resumed his river rafting. In 1870, being then a strong, healthy young man of 19, he came to Clark County when the lumber industry was in full swing, in the employ of W. W. Crosby & Co., as logger and lumberman.

After his marriage, in 1873, he settled on his wife's homestead in Beaver Township, their first dwelling on the place being a log cabin. From that time on Mr. Irvine worked on the farm in summer and in the woods during the winter, following the latter occupation as long as the lumber industry was flourishing, and Afterwards giving his whole attention to the old farm, which he cleared, erecting on it good, substantial buildings. His career as a farmer was successful and lasted until 1914, in which year he retired, taking up his residence in Loyal, where he and his wife are now living in the enjoyment of an ample competency. Mr. Irvine's force of character and reliable qualities as a man and citizen brought him into public notice at an early date, and he naturally became identified with the affairs of local government. He was a member of the school board of his district for twenty years, and chairman of the town board for sixteen or eighteen years.

In 1901 he was appointed by Judge James O'Neill to a position on the board of reassessment of taxes of Eau Claire County. In these various offices he made an excellent record. In 1902, being known and respected all over the county, he was elected on the Republican ticket to the State Assembly, and was reelected in 1904. In 1907, 1909 and 1911, 1913 and 1915, he was sergeant-at-arms in the same body. Mr. Irvine was married Aug. 17, 1873, to Eliza Roscoe, widow of Morris Loomis. Mr. and Mrs. Irvine have had four children--Bertram, David, John J. and Caspar. Bertram and Caspar are dead. David lives,in Milwaukee and John J. is county treasurer of Clark County. Eliza Roscoe, later Mrs. William S. Irvine, was born in West Bend Township, Washington County, this state, Dec. 4, 1848, daughter of James and Eliza (Finch) Roscoe. James Roscoe was born in Oswego County, N. Y., of Mohawk Valley-Holland ancestry, and was married in Ohio to Eliza Finch, of Irish descent. In 1848 they came to this state and located on a piece of wild land in West Bend Township, Washington County, moving from there to Farmington, Fond du Lac County, where they died. Their children were James, Celia, Johanna, Fletcher, Martha, Rhoda, Eliza and Rosa. Of his experience as a youthful Wisconsin pioneer, Mr. Irvine has said: "We traveled by rail to Chicago, and from there by team to Galena, Ill., where we took a boat down Fever River and up the Mississippi River to La Crosse, and from there by fast freight overland to Trempealeau County, locating on Decorah Prairie. Father bought a farm and ox team and breaking. In the fall of 1870 1 went into the woods for W. W. & Co., on the East Fork of the Black River.

"In 1871 I came to clear land for the same company. I started from La Crosse April, with a team and gang of men. We got stuck in the swamp in of Loyal, but with ropes the men pulled the team out, and we came the woods and stayed all night with John Graves, who had a small sawmill. Next morning we shouldered our tent and tools, traveled all day at night reached a point six miles northeast of Loyal and stayed all night with Ed Romaine. We had to ford Rock Creek, which was over its banks. Next morning, Romaine, with a four-ox team, started with us for camp. At noon we had traveled just two miles and took dinner at Mr. Loomis.  After dinner we went one mile into the town of Unity, pitched our tent and commenced clearing. We cleared sixty acres that summer. In the fall we built a log house and during the winter followed logging. In the spring of 1873 I left the Crosby company and started clearing a farm for myself in Beaver Township. I followed logging till 1890, farming in the summer. I used to walk seventeen miles from camp after supper, Saturday night, to get home. All supplies were freighted in by wagon from Black River Falls, until the railroad reached Unity in 1873."

Mrs. Irvine was the first white woman to arrive at Unity by railroad. She says: "In 1870 George Barker lived six miles northeast of Loyal in the town of Beaver. He had a log house with a lean-to, where we used to gather by the fifties and dance to music furnished by Frank Cummins and Frank Romaine; and in those days, while there were many hardships, we had good times. On July 4, 1870, we went to George Peterson's homestead in the town of Colby to celebrate the Fourth. We danced at night, and our fiddler walked all the way from Neillsville. Ed. Romaine took us up with his ox team, and his, as well as Frank Romaine's cow, followed the oxen to the picnic. We milked the cows in the morning, had breakfast and started back home." Mrs. Irvine adds that although in those early days she had to endure many hardships, she never suffered from lack of food.

 

 


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