Price Co WI

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Spirit River Settlement



“The first white settler in the territory now in the county of Price, was Major Isaac Stone, who located on the Spirit River, in the present town of Brannan in the Fall of 1860, and engaged in lumbering. Here he lived for about fifteen years before he had a white neighbor nearer than forty miles. In this wilderness, where, for fifteen years, “there was not heard the sound of ax, hammer, or any tool of iron,” excepting the sound of the employ of the major, he has built himself a comfortable home, and reared an intelligent, hardy and interesting family.”


“In 1873 the Wisconsin Central Railroad reached Price County, and brought with it several families from Oshkosh, who located on the Spirit River in the vicinity of Major Stone’s, starting what is now know as the Spirit River Settlement.”


“On the first day of April, 1879, the town of Brannon was created, composed of the south ten townships of the county. A. Adams was chosen Chairman of the Town Board.”


The above quotes are from History of Northern Wisconsin, p. 764 - 765; The Western Historical Company, Chicago, 1881.



Joyce I. Bant, a native of Knox Mills, conducted extensive research on Knox Mills and the surrounding area that resulted in a manuscript in June 1985 documenting the settlement and history entitled, Culture and Continuity of Knox Mills, Wisconsin (1864 – 1931). Joyce has graciously given permission to share excerpts from her research project in this Price County GenWeb site.


Although Joyce’s manuscript is specific to Knox Mills, some information was about the Town of Brannan and has been included on this page. All of the quotes are directly from her manuscript and may not be reproduced in any form or by any means without her written permission. For more information on her complete manuscript, please contact her at: [email protected]


“The first settlers that arrived in the Town of Brannan came up along Military Road from Jenny (Merrill) to Spirit, which is located in the extreme southeastern part of Price County. Several families located there, along the Spirit River, in the vicinity of Major Isaac Stone, the first white settler in the territory. Here they formed what was known as the Spirit River Settlement.”


“This is how the Spirit River community looked [when] Knox bought the land: In 1878 there were 3 settlers (Price County wasn’t formed until March 1, 1879). On March 8, 1879, a Phillips newspaper reported. “K. A. Ostergren, the leading representative of the Swedish colony in the Town of Brannan, the settlement of which he is the founder, is increasing in numbers and wealth and in a few more years will be a place of no little consequence.” It should also be noted that K. A. Ostergren was the agent for the railroad lands and most likely did much of his advertising in Sweden.”


“The Swedes had immigrated to the area because of the promise of a chance to make a living for themselves whereby they could build a home and farm and join the larger community and educate their children.”


The July 6 and 13, 1881, issues of the Phillips Badger, in the “Ogema-Brannan” column, noted that “settlers are coming in almost daily…nearly all of them direct from Sweden. Many of them bring considerable sums of money, and are thus able to make themselves comfortable for a short time. The most of them at present are settling in Towns 34 and 35, 1 and 2 east…Brannan. The government land in these towns is nearly all taken up, and last week Mr. K. A. Ostergren, sold nine forties. Thirty-two forties of government land (homestead) were pre-empted by A. P. Morner for new settlers during last week. “Mrs. A. Andrae has 6 acres this spring making a total clearing of 24 acres and is building a new house and is going to put up a new barn 30 x 50. F. Marheine has cleared 6 acres this spring making a total clearing of 20 acres; John Peterson has cleared 3 acres, a total of 18; John Freund has cleared 6; E. Andrews – 6; H. John – 4; A. Adams is building a new house and Fred Anderson a new barn. About 20 acres of wheat and 10 acres of corn have been planted. There are between 80 and 100 head of cattle in the settlement. D. Kline has 40 men at work building a dam on the south branch of the Spirit River.”


Types and quantities of crops raised by the above mentioned settlers in 1881 are also noted in the manuscript. Crops noted were winter wheat, potatoes, turnips, rye, oats and corn.


“In 1881 contracts were let for three new schools in the Town of Brannan. The price of these three schools was $299. The schools measured 18 feet by 28 feet, with a 10-foot clearing around the building. M. M. Byrnes was the successful bidder for the one in the Herman John District, John Norlan for the other two. Until then there were only two schools operating in the Town of Brannan. The first school had been held in the Village of Ogema in a frame shanty. A schoolhouse was built there in 1877. The following summer of 1878 a school was built ten miles east of Ogema in the Peterson district, which was located on the present Sprit Town Hall site.”


“By the summer of 1885 The Phillips Times reported in the Brannan Items section that John Peterson had completed “a splendid” residence costing about $1,000.00. John Pierson had a house in course of construction and when completed would be a “commodious and comfortable” residence. Fred Marheine, Senator of the N. Y. Zouaves moved into a new house he had completed lately costing $700. Thus one by one the pioneer houses were removed to make room for more larger and better structures.”


“…the population of the Town of Brannan had increased from 278 people in 1880 to 587 (minus Ogema) in 1885.”


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last edited

03 Jan 2010 

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