Eugene F. Prince
Eugene F. Prince

EUGENE F. PRINCE, who is now living in practical retirement in Ashland, is one of the pioneer settlers of that growing city. He was born at Bangor, Maine, Oct. 17, 1832, son of John R. and Eliza (Weston) Prince, natives of that state.

John R. Prince was born April 3, 1809, and died in Erie County, N.Y., June 16, 1870. In the spring of 1834 he removed to Buffalo, N.Y., becoming secretary of the Buffalo Ship Yard & Dry Dock Company, with which he was connected for a number of years. He then retired to a farm in Erie County, where he passed the balance of his life. He was a man of much business ability. The political questions of the day interested him, and while living in Buffalo he exerted considerable interest in behalf of the Republican Party.

Eugene F. Prince attended the public schools of Buffalo, and at the age of thirteen years began his commercial career as an assistant in the office of his father, whom he afterward succeeded as bookkeeper and secretary of the concern. During the panic of 1857 the firm became financially involved, and, resigning his position he came to Ashland, Wis., bringing with him the sash, doors and other finishings for a house. Arriving upon the site of the future city he purchased a lot, and cut therefrom sufficient timber for the frame of his dwelling, which was soon ready for occupancy. This was the first frame house eerected in the village, and though it has since been remodeled and enlarged it is still his home. He also brought a stock of goods, and at once engaged in the Indian furtrade in conjunction with his brother-in-law, CApt. John G. Parker, of Ontonagon, Mich., a well know pioneer in Lake Superior navigation. Mr. Prince continued to be interested in this enterprise until 1870, trading posts being maintained at several different points on the lake, though the business languished for a time owing to the general business depression, which was not felt in the Upper Lake Region until two years after his arrival. About this time he was called to Buffalo to assist in settling the affairs of his former employers, after which he became purser of the steamer, "City of Cleveland," which was owned by the same parties, and which plied between Milwaukee, Grand Haven and Chicago. In the fall of 1859 he entered the employ of another company--which operated the steamers "Illinois," "Mineral Rock," and "General Taylor"--as purser of the last named vessel, plying between between Detroit and Ontonagon. About Dec. 1, of that year, navigation having closed for the season, he walked through three feet of sonow from the last named port to his home in Ashland, where he spent the winter with a few neighbors including Martin Beaser, Asaph Whittlesey, Conrad Goeltz, Austin and Nathan Courser, and their families. A few other families spent the winter at Bay City, now a part of Ashland. The following April he returned on foot to Ontonagon, where he took stage to Houghton, thence to Green Bay, from which place he was able to proceed by rail, reaching Detroit in time for the opening of navigation on the lakes. He spent several more seasons on the lakes as purser of the "Mineral Rock" and other vessels, including the ill fated "Pewabic," which sank soon after he had severed his connection with it, owing to a collision with the "Meteor," a disaster in which one hundred lives were lost. In the fall of 1860 he removed his family to Ontonagan, and made his home there for the next ten years, during a part of which period he was engaged in mercantile business at that place. For two years more he was agent for the United States Express Company at Duluth, after which he organized the Lake Superior Express Company, with headquarters at Ashland, which has been his home continuously since 1872. Upon the completion of the Wisconsin Central Railroad to that place he became the agent of the American Express Company, so continuing for eight years. He subsequently started a brickyard and manufactured the first brick ever made in Ashland, and he also dealt in furniture for several years. For a score of years past he has been a member of the board of education, and for a good part of that period has served as secretary of the board. He is entitled to no inconsiderable credit for the development of the excellent school system which is the pride of Ashland. In the summer of 1901 he took a thorough school census, visiting every house in the city in person, and thereby adding considerably to the income from the State school fund. In 1873 he was elected clerk of the circuit court and served two terms in that capacity. While living at Ontonagon he served several years as deputy customs collector of that port. Whatever official duties he has undertaken have been faithfully and capably discharged. He has always been an enthusiastic disciple of Izaak Walton, and spends most of his leisure time upon the trout streams adjacent to his home. He has given much time to horticulture, and has demonstrated the practicability of producing in abundance many varities of fruit and vegetables in a climate formerly supposed to be too severe for their successful culture.

Mr. Prince was married in 1852, to Matilda O. Beebe, daughter of Ephriam and Elizabeth (Taylor) Beebe, of Cattaraugus county, N.Y. Mr. Beebe was a farmer in New York but passed his later life at Ontonagon. Of five children born to Mr. and Mrs. Prince four survive: Eugenia De F. (wife of W.R. Durfee, a well known lumberman of Ashland), John R., Roy B., and Faith Winifred. All have been carefully educated, and the sons are filling responsible places in business. Mr. and Mrs. Prince celebrated their golden wedding Feb. 11, 1902, all the family being present.

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