Chapter X, 5 August 1909 -- Thorp Courier, Clark County, Wisconsin

Written by R. J. MacBride and transcribed by Crystal Wendt.



"Nor land nor star has made us stray

From our determined line of way."


So much has been written of towns and townships, that a very natural inquiry has been made, regarding the time of the early subdivision of Clark county into townships and sections.

Application having been made to the Commissioner of the General Land Office at Washington to supple the information, that official not only furnished the same, but in his letter of transmittal, took occasion to use the following kindly words:

"It gives great pleasure to comply with a request which shows that the present inhabitants of the region desire to perpetuate the facts of the original survey of the wildness, and to honor those who bore the labors of the pioneers."

Many readers are doubtless familiar with the manner of the making the surveys, still others are not, and it is deemed best for the benefit of the later, to state in a general way how the government made and makes its surveys.

The land of the government were generally divided into bodies of land, six miles square called townships, containing as near as may be 23040 acres.

The townships are subdivided into thirty-six tracts called sections of a mile square, each containing as near as may be six hundred and forty acres. Any number or series of contiguous townships, situate north and south, constitutes a range.

It is provided by act of congress that the line of the public survey shall be governed by the true meridian, and also that the townships shall be six miles square, which is a mathematical impossibility, for by conforming to the true meridian, it necessarily throws the township out of square, by reason of the convergency of meridians, so by reason of this an act of congress passed in Washington’s days on May 18, 1796, it was provided that the sections should contain the quantity of six hundred and forty acres, as near as may be, and by the act of congress of may 10, 1800, it was further provided, that in all cases where the exterior lines of the township to be subdivided into sections shall exceed, or shall not extend six miles, the excess of the deficiency, as the case may be shall be added to, or deducted from the western or northern ranges of sections in such township, according as the error may be in running the line from east to west, or from the north to south.

The section lines are surveyed from south to north, and from east to west, in order to throw the excesses or deficiencies in measurement on the north and west side of the township.

The townships in Wisconsin are numbered from the southern boundary line of the state separating it from Illinois.

Township No., one being the township, immediately north, of the south boundary line of the state.

The United States government established a principal meridian, that runs from the south line of the state, north through Wisconsin, known as the 4th principal meridian, on the east side of it, it ranged one east, and on the west side, ranged one west; these ranges with their appropriate number, continued through the state, to the east and to the west of the 4th principal meridian.

A great proportion of Clark county (through it then had not that name) was surveyed in 1846 and 1847, when Wisconsin was Territory. The first line ran in the county, was in 1846, when James F. Freeman, surveyed on the meridian line a distance of eighteen miles, from the southwest corner of town 23, ranged 1 east, the lint that separates, the present towns of Fremont, Lynn and Sherwood from York, Grant and Washburn. The remainder of this ranged line north to the north line of the county was surveyed by Henry A. Wiltse in 1847. The range line on the west side of the county was surveyed in 1847 and 1848, from the southwest corner of the county, town 24, ranged 4 west, north for six miles by James E. Freeman, and for eighteen miles by George O Harrick, and next 12 miles ending at the northwest corner of town 29, range 4 by John M. Smith.

The exterior lines of the county were all run in 1846, 1847 and 1848, except the range line east of the 4th principal meridian, which was run by John D. Evans in 1851, and who also the same year ran the other exterior lines of all the townships in the county, that are comprised in ranged 1 east. The townships in the county were subdivided into sections, in various years. The present towns of York and Loyal, (25 and 26 R. 1 W. ) and the present towns of Weston, Eaton and Warner (towns 25, 26 and 27, 2 W.) were all subdivided in the year 1847, by James E. Freeman.

The town of Pine Valley, Dewhurst, Seif and Hewett as now composed were subdivided by Joseph Latshaw in the year 1848.

That same year L. P. Drake subdivided towns 26, 27, 28, range 3 west, also towns 27, R. 1 west 9Beaver) and town 28, range 2 west (Hixon.)

The town of Thorp as now constituted (29 R. 4W.) was subdivided by Henry B. Welsh in the year 1849, and this seems to be the only town in which he did such work.

Townships 23 and 24, R. 1 E. (Sherwood and Lynn) were subdivided into sections in 1851 by L. B. Davis, and town 25, R. 1 E., the town of Fremont by Oscar J. Wright in the year 1853.

Col. John G. Clark made the submissions of townships 26, 27 and 28, 4 W. in the year 1853. He is still living at Lancaster, Grant county, Wisconsin, and he will be referred to more fully later on.

Townships 28 and 29, range 1 west, and townships No. 29 2 west and 29 range 3 west, were surveyed in 1853 by Chas. G. and H. K. Rodolf, and during the same year townships 23 and 24 range 1 west, township 23, R. 2 west, and townships Nos. 24 and 25, range 4 west were surveyed by Edgar Sears.

The four townships that were last subdivided were townships 26, 27, 28 and 29, range 1 east. They were surveyed in the year 1855 By James McBride.

All of these men were known as Deputy U. S. Surveyors, with the exception of Henry A. Wiltse, who at one time and for one or more terms, was Surveyor General at Dubuque.

There deputy government surveyors usually had a half a dozen men under then in their party, consisting of chainmen, ax men with an ox team, and teamster, and much of the work was done on contract.

James E. Freeman was at one time a resident of Grant County, Wisconsin; he was a bachelor; highly respected, but was a constant stammered; about 1862 or 1863 he removed to California, where he executed many contract surveys, and where he afterwards died.

James McBride was from Dubuque. He died about 1894.

Charles G. Rodolf became afterward a knee lawyer and at one time lived in the village of Muscoda, Wis. He removed to Wichita, Kansas, in his later years, where he lived as a retired owner of considerable real estate. He was living there in 1893, but he probably died a number of years ago.

One W. E. Doughy a surveyor did a great deal of work in towns 30 and 31, that at one time belonged to Clark county but now a part of Taylor county. He afterward became a captain in the regular army, and was stationed at Fort Randall, Dakota, in the late seventies.

Out of all the men who participated in making these surveys, there is but one lying, John G. Clark, aged about 84 years, and now a retired lawyer at Lancaster, Grant county, Wis.

He had a varied career. He surveyed the state line between Iowa and Missouri. As early as 1849, sixty years ago, he assisted in surveying a large contract of town lines in northern Wisconsin , closing on township No. 40. In 1851, he surveyed, township lines along the Wisconsin river in the neighborhood of the Dells and embracing Mauston.

After his return from his surveying in Clark county in range four west, he was elected clerk of the circuit court of Grant county, and was twice reelected.

In November 1860, he was elected to the assembly from Grant county, and served one term. At the breaking out of the war he was commissioned Captain of Co. G. 5th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry and served with that regiment in the army of the Potomac. He was afterwards made Colonel of the 50th Wisconsin Regiment. This later regiment was organized early in 1865, shortly before the surrender of Lee’s army. They proceeded to St. Louis, from there to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and from thence they were ordered to Fort Rice, in the then Territory of Dakota. They were in service about one year, and were mustered out about March, 1866.

In a recent statement in writing made by Col. Clark (July, 1909) he takes occasion to state that the pine lands and the hardwood land through Clark county were about the best that he surveyed in the state.

He narrates an incident that occurred while he was surveying in township No. 28, range 4 west, now the town of Worden. It appears that on one day his ox team ran away with the cart and provisions. It was recover afterwards, some twelve miles away from where they started. In the meantime they were out of provisions.

A bear with two cubs of good size, met the Colonel, the old bear ran away in the wood, but the cubs ran up two trees, one of them up a pine, and the other up a large elm. A young man connect with the surveying party, by the name of Augustus H. Barber took a club tied to the end of a large limb where the cub took refuge, some forty feet from the ground. The cub (about a year old) showed fight and the Colonel ordered him to hit the bear on the nose, and he would fall. Young Barber accordingly did so, and the bear fell, and when he struck the ground the ax-man buried his ax in the cub’s head, and they had bear meat for several days.

Barber was anxious to climb the pine tree after the other animal, but Clark would not permit it, and they proceeded to cut that tree down.

The party arranged themselves in such manner that when the tree fell the bear would have to pass some of them when he got to the ground.

On his arrival at Terra Firma the young bear made directly for Colonel Clark, he struck at him, the bear dodged, ran between Clark’s legs, overturning him, and bruin made his escape.

If any one in the town of Worden finds a black bear, about sixty years old, prowling around that vicinity kindly return him to Col. Clark, as he claims him by right of discovery.

Col. Clark, like Washington, was both a soldier, and a surveyor, and also like Washington, cut down a tree, (a pine, not a cherry) and again like Washington he would scorn to tell a falsehood.

A number of years after the war, Col. Clark was appointed by the President of the United States Judge in the then territory of Oklahoma, where he served with great credit. After leaving the bench, he returned to his home at Lancaster, resumed his law practice, and now at his advanced age, is living in retirement enjoying the esteem and respect of all that know him.

Augustus H. Barber, the young man referred to, lost his life in 1856, by drowning in Lake Superior, while surveying for the government.

A brother of his, Amherst W. Barber, also became a surveyor, and a soldier. He is living at Washington, D. C., and is connected with the General Land Office. In the early winter of 1907 he surveyed fifty-five islands in the lake of Vilas county for the government that had been previously omitted from survey.

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