THE HISTORY OF CLARK COUNTY
Chapter VI, 8 July 1909 -- Thorp Courier, Clark County, Wisconsin
Written by R. J. MacBride and transcribed by Crystal Wendt.
EDITOR TOMPKINS TROUBLES AND THE
TREASURERíS TRIBULATIONS IN THE EARLY SIXTIES.
"Affliction may one day smile again,
And till then, sit-thee down sorrow."
Clark county in 1860 according to the United States census of that year, had a population of seven hundred and eighty-nine.
It contained an area of fifteen hundred and eighty-four square miles, something over a million acres of land.
Shortly prior to the taking of the census, the number of the acres of land subject to assessment and liable to taxation in the county was sixteen thousand eight hundred and forty-two, or only about one and one-half per cent, of the total area. The value of these lands, as determined by the county board of equalization was $60, 239 or a little over $3.50 per acre; including buildings and improvements; and the value of all personal property in the county was $4, 865, being a total of $65,104.00 as the equalized assessed value of all the property in the county, both real and personal.
These figures contrast sharply with the assessed values of lands and personal property at this day.
The returns of the assessors of Clark County for the year 1908, show that the total value of all property assessed that year was over twenty million dollars, a wonderful increase from $65,000. The values of horse alone in the county in 1908 was almost sixty-five thousand dollars, equal to the assessed value of all property in the county in 1859.
In 1908, the number of acres of land assessed for taxation was 773,052 acres, the assessed value of the same including village and city lots was $17,186,926.00.
Comparing these figures is must be borne in mind that in 1908 the total area of the county was ten congressional townships less than it was in 1859, the area of the county at the present day being 1224 square miles or 783,360 acres.
So it will be seen that there is only about 10,000 acres that were not assessed in the year of 1908, while in 1850 there was nearly a million acres not assessed.
The members of the board of supervisors for 1860 were B. F. French of Levis, chairman, and S. N. Dickinson of Pine Valley, and Charles Renne of Weston.
There were two factions in the county, contending for supremacy in county politics and patronage, and neither side gave quarter nor received it. One faction was headed by B. F. French, John S. Dore, and S. N. Dickinson, the other by Chauncey Blakeslee, Charles Renne, W. C. Tompkins, publisher of the Clark County Advocate, and others.
Tax listed were important and there was no competition in printing, with only one paper in the county. Dore and Dickinson afterwards established and published a paper at Neillsville called the "Union Flag" that retained its existence for some few years, its publication being discontinued about the year 1864.
The treasurer of the county was Chauncey Blakeslee, and in 1860 a majority of the county board were anti-Blakeslee men. They endeavored to make it interesting for the treasurer who gave his tax lists for publication and other county patronage to the Advocate. In addition to that the new paper was in contemplation and it was necessary to get into action as early as possible so that the future organ could obtain some of the county "pap" that in those days consisted mainly of county orders and tax sale certificates.
Tax sale certificates were in fact a species of legal tender, by manes -of which debts were paid, and contracts were entered into by their terms payable in that specles of currency.
A special meeting of the county board was held on the 5th day of July 1860; after a few preliminary matters were disposed of - one being on order to insure the court house against fire in some insurance company, provided it was taken out in either the Hartford or Aetna -(the chairman being agent for both companies.) Another appropriating ten thousand dollars in tax sale certificates for building roads, $5000 to the town of Weston, $4,000 to the town of Pine Valley, and $1,000 to the town of Levis, they proceeded to the real business of the session, that is to say, to make matters interesting for the county treasurer.
First they passed an order directing the treasurer to deliver all tax sale certificates in his hands to the clerk of the board of supervisors, (Geo. W. King) and that the order should be complied with by July 11th, or within six days.
Adjournment was then taken to August 2nd following, at which adjourned session the clerk of the board reported that he duly demanded the certificates from the treasurer, and that he not only refused to given them up but would not even permit the clerk to make a list of them.
Thereupon and on the same day, it was ordered by the boar, that the county treasurer hereafter hold his office in the front room, on the south side of the hall in the court house. At the same meeting on the 4th of the month, it was moved by B. F. French, that the board appoint a committee to wait upon the district attorney (B. F. Chase) to present the matter of the official bond, charging therewith:
1. Selling lands for taxes contrary to law.
2. Refusing to deliver the tax and certificates to the clerk of the board.
3. Refusing to allow the clerk to list the certificates.
4. Neglecting to present his books for examination when requested.
5. Refusing to pay over money when required according to the law.
And the district attorney, was ordered to bring suit on the bond.
On all these matters the votes were taken by ayes and noes, the votes standing:
Ayes - Dickinson and French, 2.
Noes - Charles Berne, 1.
Suit was brought upon the bond and a suit had previously been brought by Blakeslee against the county, but neither of the cases were ever brought to trail, but all matters in differences were settled to the satisfaction of all parties, a year or so later, when the board had a different membership.
S. C. Boardman also came under the band of the boardís displeasure. He filed a bill for office rent for the years 1857 and 1858, at three dollars per month, or $72 for the two years.
This bill was promptly disallowed for the reason as stated, that the bill does not specify for what purpose the office was used.
In view of the fact that Boardman had been their own clerk, and that every member of the board knew that he furnished a room for conducting the business of the clerk, the reasoned for disallowing the bill were extremely technical.
Nothing daunted however, at the next session of the board a few weeks after, Boardman again presented his bill, this time with greater confidence for his new bill did specify what the office was used for.
Once more the board disallowed it, because as the record reads a bill of like character had been previously presented and disallowed, that no appeal had been taken from their determination, and that they were without jurisdiction to allow it.
The editor of the Advocate was the most badly treated of them all. He had been elected county superintendent of schools, and thereupon the board fixed his salary at the sum of $25 per year.
He had several bills before the county board aggregating about two thousand dollars, for printing clerks tax deed list and for publishing the county treasurer tax sale.
The bill for the tax deed list was laid upon the table for investigation, and his account for publishing the county treasurerís list was sent back to him for correction.
Subsequently the board disallowed the bill for publishing the clerkís list stating they did so, "For the reason that the clerk never employed the editor of the Clark County Advocate to advertise the lands sold for taxes, that the publication is incomplete, and further that it is not verified."
The bill for publishing the county treasurerís list was also disallowed because not verified.
By Chap. 129 of the laws of 1861, supervisor districts were created, and the chairman of the several towns, thence ceased to constitute the board. Three supervisors were elected in each county and the several counties of the state were required to divide their counties into supervisor districts.
The result of the first election in Clark County under the new system was a county board composed of the following members: George M. Arnold, S. N. Dickinson and Samuel Cawley.
For some reason the members of this board failed to qualify, possibly they omitted to take the oath required by the new law and deposit it with the proper officer, but whatever the reason in February following special election was held and the following persons were elected supervisors: Geo. M. Arnold, Dist. No. 1, Richard Dewhurst, Dist. No. 2, and Samuel Cawley, Dist. No. 3.
Then it was that Tompkins and Blakeslee came into their own.
Tompkinsí printing bills were all allowed in full by the new board. His salary as county superintendent of schools was made $300 per year instead of $25, and some months after the Blakeslee suits were all settled, and all matters of differences adjusted.
It was but a few years after that a different alignment was had in the county politics. French, Blakeslee and Dore became united in county matters and remained identified together during their lives, while Dewhurst, Hutchinson and Boardman worked together politically for many years, thus exemplifying the saying of Bacon that --"When the factions is extinguished, the remaining subdivided."
Judge Dewhurst remained a member of the county board for several months when he resigned and James Sturdevant was elected in his place. Mr. Sturdevant served as much member for several consecutive years thereafter.
In April, 1861, S. N. Dickinson was elected county judge of the county. Daniel Gates was sheriff in 1858 and 1859. Miles H. Murray, who had been elected sheriff in November of 1860 died while in office, and a special election was held on may 17 1861, to elect a successor to fill the vacancy. At the election the entire vote cast in the county was thirty-one, of which number Geo. W. King received twenty-four votes and was duly elected.
What a great difference between that election, and the election for sheriff in November, 1908.
During the first year of James OíNeillís administration as county treasurer of the county (elected in November 1860) he was imposed upon by some person who raised the figures on county orders, which while no increasing their actual value, increased their apparent values to a sum $143,- 90 more then the same for which they were originally drawn, and the apparent value of the raised orders were paid by the treasurer.
The alterations were so skillfully made, that they were well calculated to deceive, and the county board very properly allowed OíNeill the full amount he had overpaid.
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