Price Co WI

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Price County


Price County was created from parts of Chippewa and Lincoln counties   on March 3rd, 1879. The county was named after W. T. Price, President of the Wisconsin Senate and one of the first loggers in the county.


Price County is the fifth largest county in Wisconsin measuring thirty-one miles east to west and forty-two miles north to south. It has a land area of 1,253 square miles of which 28,500 acres are state-owned; 90,000 acres are county owned; and 147,000 acres make up the Chequamegon National Forest. It has a water area of 25.9 square miles. Prior to the 1860’s, the area that would become Price County was a pristine wilderness rich in pine and hardwoods.


The area was originally homelands to the Santee Dakota (Sioux) and later to the Anishinabe (Ojibwe). Between 1842 and 1854, after pushing the Santee Dakota westward, the Ojibwe ceded millions of acres of the land (including the area of present day Price County) in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota to the federal government but retained exclusive hunting and fishing rights.


In 1864 the voices of government surveyors broke the silence in the forests as they began to platte the area. Lumber was in great demand at the time and by the 1870’s lumber companies had moved into the area. As the land was stripped of its valuable timber, immigrant settlers began to move into the area purchasing the cut-over lands that had become tax burdens to the lumber companies. The first settlements were the Town of Brannan located in the southern third of the County and the Spirit River Settlement along the Spirit River.




The community of Elk Lake formed in 1876 as shanties were erected around the passenger depot built by the Wisconsin Central Railroad Company. As the community grew, it was platted by the railroad company and on 23 September 1876 Elk Lake was renamed Phillips in honor of Elijah B. Phillips who was one of the town’s builders. Phillips later became the county seat.


During the winter of 1883-1884, surveyors for the Minneapolis, Sault Ste. Marie and Atlantic Railroad plotted a right-of-way through Wisconsin with the intent to connect Minneapolis, MN with Sault Ste. Marie, MI and thus reduce transportation costs of Minneapolis merchant goods. The railroad line was plotted to intersect with the Wisconsin Central Railroad in Prentice cutting through Price County. The first train to run between Minneapolis and Sault Ste Marie was in January 1888. In later railroad mergers, the railroad became better known as the Soo Line.


As more and more settlers moved into the area, the need for schools and roads increased along with an increase in taxes. Disputes over tax assessments led to changes in the boundaries of the settlements resulting in the formation of new townships.


Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish immigrants from Iowa and Minnesota were lured to the area by ads published by the railroad agents and lumber companies advertising rich farm land at reasonable prices.


Once the land had been depleted of timber, farming became a predominant livelihood along with logging and millwork. Many of the early settlements grew into villages, towns and cities while others disappeared with the lumberjacks.


In 1933, three Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps were established in the county. The men employed in these camps played a big role in the recovery of the land.


Today, Price County’s major industries are wood & paper products, tourism and manufacturing in addition to farming, transportation and health care. According to the 2000 U. S. Census the County’s population was 15,822. There were a reported 7,949 males and 7,873 females. By 2005, the population was estimated at 15,220. Between 2000 and 2005 there were an estimated 630 births and 983 deaths. For more information on the county’s demographics, visit City-Data.com.


Price County Census Counts: 1880 - 2000


Data from New York Times Immigration Explorer


Price County has a rich history! For more information on the various historical sites, people and places visit the Price County Historical Society located in Fifield.


Additional links to Price County:


Price County Government: http://www.co.price.wi.us/

Price County Tourism Board: http://www.pricecountywi.net/

Price County at Wisconsin On-line: http://www.wisconline.com/counties/price/


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If you have any information you would like to contribute, please contact the County Coordinator.

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last edited

19 Jan 2014 

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