THE HISTORY OF CLARK COUNTY
Chapter II, 10 June 1909 -- Thorp Courier, Clark County, Wisconsin
Written by R. J. MacBride and transcribed by Crystal Wendt.
THE NAME OF THE COUNTY.
"What is a name? That which we call a rose
By another name would smell as sweet."
The act creating the County of Clarke was approved by Gov. Farwell on the 6th day of July, 1853. The original act deposited with and in the office of the Secretary of State, is as follows:
"An act of divide the county of Jackson and create the counties of Buffalo and Clarke.
The people of the State of Wisconsin, represented in Senate and Assembly to enact as follows:
Section 1. All that portion of the county of Jackson lying west of the range line, between ranges seven and eight (7 and 8) west of the fourth principal meridian, be and the same hereby is organized into a separate county, to be called the county of Buffalo, and all that portion of the said county of Jackson lying north of the township line between township twenty-two and twenty-three (22 and 23) and east of the range line between ranges three and four (3 and 4) west of the said fourth principal meridian, be and the same is hereby organized into a separate county, to be called and known by the name of Clarke.
Section 2. One the first Monday in September next the electors of the said counties of Buffalo and Clarke, shall each elect a County Judge, and the counties from and after the first day of January, 1854, shall be organized for judicial purposes.
Section 3. The electors in the said Counties of Buffalo and Clarke, shall at the general election in November next, elect all officers necessary for a complete county organization in each county, and it shall be the duty of the county treasurers, and clerk of the board of Supervisors, thus elected in each of said counties, at least four weeks previous to the spring election in 1854, to divide their respective counties, into as many towns as they shall deem expedient for the convenience of the inhabitants; and until the said division be made the county of Buffalo shall remain as one town, and the county of Clarke, shall also remain as one town.
Section 4. The polls necessary to be opened for the election provided for in this Act, shall be opened in Buffalo County at Holmes Landing, and in Clarke County at O’Neill’s Mill: and the returns of the said election shall be left with the inspectors of said election, and the said inspectors shall, within ten days from the holding of any election, issue certificates of election to the persons elected to the respective offices.
Section 5. The county seat for the county of Buffalo is hereby located on Section one (1), in township number nineteen (19) north, range number twelve (12) west of the fourth principal meridian.
Section 6. The county seat for the county of Clarke is hereby located on section two (2), township twenty-four (24), range two (2) west of the fourth principal meridian.
Section 7. The circuit court shall be held in the counties of Buffalo and Clarke, at such times as shall be appointed by the circuit judge."
Approved July 6th, 1853.
This Act is quoted entire, for the reason that it is well worthy of reproduction and preservation, at this late day it is extremely difficult to obtain a copy of the session laws containing it. In addition to that there are numerous things in law itself that are both striking and interesting. By its provisions, the County Treasurer, and the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors (corresponding to what is now our County Clerk) were empowered after their election to organize towns, a questionable authority - in effect conferring upon county officers legislative powers which under the Constitution could only be exercised by the Legislature itself, or delegated to the Board of County Supervisors, by virtue of the provisions of Section 22 of Article 4 of the State Constitution, providing ---
"The legislature may confer upon the Boards of Supervisors of the several counties of the State, such powers of local, legislative, and administrative character, as they shall from time to time prescribe."
It will be noticed that throughout the whole act, the name of the county is spelled with a finale -- Clarke County and an interesting questions arises for or after whom was the county named?
It seems to be practically the unanimous opinions of the early settlers now living in the county that it takes its name from Moses Clark, a brother of the late A. W. Clark, who lived for many years on Black River at the mouth of Cunningham Creek, two miles south of Neillsville. The only official position that Moses Clark ever occupied was Justice of the Peace, and County Surveyor after the county was organized. On the other hand it is stated by a few of those now living, who were early settlers, not however of Clark County, but of other and different portions of the State, that the county was named for Satterlee Clark, a very prominent politician who served as a Member of Legislature in 1849, in the Assembly, and who subsequently served some twelve years in the Senate and Assembly of Wisconsin.
Another group of old settlers living without the county, and perhaps the more numerous than the ones just previously referred to insist that the county was named in honor of the soldier and explorer, Capt. William Clarke, who jointly with Capt. Mariwether Lewis commanded the expedition of exploration, in Jefferson’s administration, known as the Lewis and Clarke Expedition that in 1803 to 1806, crossed the continent, over the Rocky Mountains, and through an unknown country to the mouth of Columbia River.
With regard to the local calm, it may be fairly said in opposition that the name of the county was Clarke, not Clark, and further that up to the time of the organization of Clark County, and indeed during the whole history of the State and until the present day (with one exception in recent years to be referred to presently) no county in the state was ever named after an individual who had not occupied some executive, legislative or judicial position, or who had not become prominent either in the nation or state, by virtue of his military or civil services or who was not an early missionary. In 1853 we find many of the counties bearing Indian names, they readily suggest themselves. Among the names of individuals are Washington, Jefferson, LaFayette and Dodge. The first two named in honor of Presidents of the United Sates, the third honor of the Marquis De LaFayette, our French ally and Washington’s friend and companion, during the revolution, and the last in honor of General Henry Dodge, the Indian fighter, who was Governor of the Territory of Wisconsin, and the first United States senator in congress from the state of Wisconsin.
The exception referred to above occurred at the time of the division of Chippewa County.
In that case the new county was name for an individual who had held no official position in the state, either military or civil, but even in that case a few years afterwards, the name of the county in question was changed and renamed Rusk in honor of General Jeremiah M. Rusk, a gallant solider and for a number of years Governor of the State.
So far as the claim as the Saterlee Clark is concerned, he has the advantage of having been a man of much prominence in his day, having an exceptionally long legislative experience, but he labors under the same disadvantage already referred to, that he too spelled his name Clark and not Clarke; and in his case it would surely seem, that the fact of his being so prominent would lead us to suppose that the members of the legislature, who presumably knew his name was spelled correctly in the act creating the county.
The claim for Capt. Clarke, the explorer, stands upon a more solid foundations. After his return from his explorations, he was appointed by Congress, Brigadier General of the Territroy of Louisiana. In 1813 he was appointed Governor of the Territory of Missouri, and held that office continuously until the admission of Missouri as a state, eight years there after. The work and labors of the Lewis and Clarke Expedition was of great service, in the settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute between Great Britain and the United States during the fifty-four, forty, of fight controversy affecting the boundary of the north west corner of the United States. It will be borne in mind also, that while his colleague Capt. Lewis died shortly after the return of the expedition, that Clarke lived until about fourteen years before our county was organized. He was a national character.
It is said that the nine counties in the United States called Clarke, that each and all of them were named in his honor. These are situated in the States of Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Virginia, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas and Washington. There is also a county in Montana called Lewis and Clarke County. Columbia is names in his honor. But as previously stated, the local residents, who lived near to the time insist that county took its name from one of the residents of the county, at the time of its creation --viz: Moses Clark.
It will be observed that by the provisions of Section 1 of the act creating the county, that the west line of the county was the range line between ranges three and four west, that is that nothing in range four west was included. So that the territory in range four now comprised in the towns of Thorp, Worden, Mead and Mentor was not a part or portion of Clark County in 1853, under the original act creating the county.
Take a map of Clark County today and lay it down upon the table, and it will be observed that at the southwestern extremity of the county, there is missing just one township of land. It looks like a missing block from a child’s block alphabet. It came about in this way. Under the original act of 1853, our county was compact in form and was in the shape of a paralegal. Subsequently all of range four west of the then new county line, was detached from the county of Jackson, and attached to the county of Clark, with the exception of Township No. 23, Range No. 4 west, which was retained by Jackson County, and in which is now situated the village of Merrillan thus accounting for the jog we see there today. Although the act of 1853 provided that on the first Monday of September, 1853, the electors of the county should elect a County Judge, there can be found no record of any such election. Neither did the county treasurer, and clerk of the board of supervisors, at least four weeks prior to the spring election of 1854, divide the county into towns, on the contrary, there was no division of the county into towns until Nov. 20th, 1856, nearly two and a half years after the county was created.
By the act creating the county it provided that it should consist of one town, until other towns should be organized. The ONE town was the town of Pine Valley. And in November, 1856, the board of county supervisors (not the clerk and treasurer) created the towns of Levis and Weston. The town of Levis was called No. 1, and was to be named Levis. No. 2 was the town of Pine Valley, and No. 3 was the town of Weston, and until a number of years subsequent these three towns were all the local subdivisions of government existing in the county.
The town of Levis was named after an individual of that name. Pine Valley took its name from the valleys and pine trees in and surrounding it, and Weston was named for Samuel F. Weston, who resided at what was then known as Weston Rapids, or Weston's Bridge, on the banks of Black River, about two miles north of Neillsville, and upon Sec. 5, Twp. No. 24, Range 2 west, the point where the county seat of Clark County was establish by the terms of the act creating the county. Weston was familiarly known as "Old Stock Weston."
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