Price Co WI

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Town of Brannan


The Town of Brannan no longer exists but in the late 1800's it was a center of activity and growth. The Town of Brannan was one of the first Townships formed when the Act of 1879 created Price County from Chippewa and Lincoln counties.


It was 108 square miles, bounded on the north by the Town of Prentice; south by Taylor County; east by Lincoln County and west by the Town of Ogema.


It had numerous small streams that ran throughout the Town with the most prominent waterway being the Jump River. It also had several small lakes.


In 1879 it was mainly dense forest with sparse agricultural areas that had been cleared by the first settlers. Major Isaac Stone was the first settler in the County establishing himself on the Spirit River in the autumn of 1860 as a logger. In 1872 several families from the Oshkosh area migrated to the area settling in the area of Major Stone's home. This was the beginning of the Spirit River Settlement.



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 following 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: joyce.bant@gmail.com. A special thanks to Ms. Bant for sharing some of her extensive research!


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.” [pg 17]


 “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.” [pg 13]


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.” [pg 18]


“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.” [pg 13]


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.” [pg 14]


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.” [pg 13]


“…the population of the Town of Brannan had increased from 278 people in 1880 to 587 (minus Ogema) in 1885.” [pg 21].



As the area became more populated with the logging industry and later with the influx of immigrants in search of inexpensive farm lands, the Town of Brannan slowly disappeared.


On 15 July 1882 the far southwestern part of the Town of Brannan was incorporated into the new Town of Ogema.


A few short years later, on 27 Jan 1886 the northwest corner of the Town of Brannan was incorporated into the newly formed Town of Prentice.


On 17 Nov 1892 the southwest corner of the Town of Brannan, again, was incorporated into the newly formed Town of Hill.


On 18 Nov 1895 the Town of Brannan’s northeast corner was formed into the Town of Knox; and twenty-six years later the last southeast corner of the Town of Brannan was renamed the Town of Spirit on 23 Nov 1921.





If you are researching ancestors in the years prior to the formation of the new Towns in this area, you may find them listed under the U.S. Census for Brannan.


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

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last edited

03 Jan 2010 

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