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had been landowners or proprietors in Poland, and who made a
much better and easier living there than they did for years after
arriving in Portage County. To most, however, escape from the lot
of the Prussian farm laborer or the farm tenant, with his mere
subsistence wages and hard service, was a decided step in advance,
both morally and economically. The wages earned m the woods,
sawmill, or on the river during the winter and spring months of each
year formed a large part of the income of most of the settlers for a
considerable time, and most of the immigrants even of later date
have taken this means of supplementing their farm incomes.

As these newcomers came in they clustered about two points,
Polonia, still an inland town without a railroad, and Stevens Point;
but the country settlement made the more rapid growth. As in many
western settlements, there was no colonization in the strict sense.
The families came singly or in groups; there was no promoter, no
outside stimulus to bring about settlement at that point. The new-
comers drifted in or gravitated toward their countrymen, often learn-
ing of Stevens Point after they arrived in America. The civil war
checked immigration somewhat, and some are said to have removed
to Canada until the war was over.


Detailed inquiry was made concerning the history and the eco-
nomic and social • status of about 60 families not far from Stevens
Point; 47 of them were foreign born, and the salient facts concerning
these immigrant families are presented in what follows.

The 47 heads of farm families under consideration represent both
the early and the later immigration and all shades of economic con-
dition from the poorest farmer to those in most comfortable circum-
stances. Twenty have been farmers in Portage County twenty years
or more, 11 from fifteen to twenty years, 3 from ten to fifteen years,

166 The Immigration Commission.

6 from five to ten, and 7 are newcomers who have been farming less
than five years in the locahty. Of the heads of famiUes studied 43
were born in Germany and 4 in Russia.

Twelve came directly from abroad to Portage County, and 8 States
were represented among those who came from other parts of the
United States. Fourteen were from Illinois and 11 or these from
Chicago, while New York, Nebraska, Michigan, California, Pennsyl-
vania, Ohio, and other parts of Wisconsin were represented.

A variety of occupations were followed by these settlers both abroad
and in the United States before they came to Portage County. It is
significant that about one-half were farmere, farm laborers, or had
worked on their fathers' farms before coming to the United States.
Only eight were engaged in gainful occupations other than fanning
abroad, and there were teamsters, unskilled laborers, or carpenters,
while one woman, who is counted among the 47 heads of families
under consideration, was in domestic service.

In the United States the list of occupations followed is nearly as
long as the list of individuals represented : Farmers, farm hands, miners,
saloon keepers, iron-mill men, sawmill men, carpenters, firemen, a
tanner, hod carrier, railroad hand, and others are among the occupa-
tions given.

More than 60 per cent of those interviewed purchased land as soon
as they arrived or before arrival in the locality, but others worked at
various unskilled employments for ten years or more before acquiring

More than one-half of the newcomers were unable to make a hving
immediately from the new, uncleared farms, some could not make a
living for ten years, and some of those who arrived from 1880 to 1890
still work for wages part of the year. About one-half of those from
whom data were secured supplemented the farm income in this way for
three years or more. They were employed for the most part as saw-
mill hands, teamsters, farm hands, and general day laborers. The
majority are now independent and depend for an income on their
farms alone.


The easiest way to follow the growth of the settlement is by par-
ishes. Practically all the Poles in Portage County are Cathohcs, and
as soon as a sufficient number of famihes gathered at any point a
parish was formed, a church built, and a regular priest supported.
The first parish was the one mentioned at Polonia or Ellis and was
really established in the late fifties for the benefit of the Irish and
French Cathohcs who had previously settled there. A church was
built in 1862 or 1863 and has already been referred to. In this town-
ship, Sharon, in 1908 there were 375 Poles who paid taxes out of
a total of 408 taxpayers. In 1907 327 families were reported in the

It was not until after 1870 that the settlement of Stockton town-
ship by the Poles was begun. This township was early settled by a
considerable number of Irish-American and German farmers, who
stUI continue to hold some of the best farms in the western and south-

o Wiflconsin State Hiatorical Society, Proceedings, 1907.

Recent Immigrants in Agriculture: Poles. 167

ern sections of the township. The Kubisiak family came with the
first families to the vicinity of Fancher in 1872. Since then the
cheap land having been taken up, the incoming Poles have been
buying improved farms from the original owners. One old Irish
settler coimted the names of a dozen prominent Irish farmers who
have sold their land and departed within the last ten years, leaving
PoUsh farmers in possession.

The land in that part of the township is a heavier loam than that
nearer the Wisconsm River. Farmers are very prosperous, land is
productive and valuable, and large crops of potatoes are raised.
Few of the farmers are in debt except for recent purchases of land,
and the farm homes — many of them of brick — and out buildings
bear testimony to the assessor's assurance that "Everyone is doing
well and laying up money."

In Stockton township more than 300 of the 400 voters are Poles
or of Polish descent. In 1908, 306 persons paid taxes on both per-
sonal property and real estate, as shown by the town treasurer's
books — 211 of these were Polish.

Just north of Stevens Point, bounded on the west side by the
Wisconsin River and lying almost wholly within the soil area known
as the Wisconsin River sand, is the township of Hull. It is not by
nature a fertile area, and is popularly known as the poorest township
in the county, although there are those who maintam that Belmont,
another township with an increasing Polish population, is no less
infertile. As early as 1858 a settlement of Poles was begun at Casimir,
now included in Hull township, a few miles north of Stevens Point.
The first settlers came from other points in the United States and by
1871 the parish of Casimir was established. This whole region is
very level, and while the soil is light, it is not difficult to clear and
subdue, and practically all of it is now owned and inclosed. Of 110
farms, taken in order from the 1909 tax roll, more than one-half
contained less than 80 acres each and only seven were larger than 160
acres, including both the improved and the unimproved areas; 60 per
cent of the land may be classed as unimproved. This means that
few more settlers can find a place in the township, since an acreage
of 80 or 100 acres of the thin soil is not much more than adequate to
support a large family in comfort. The town clerk reports that
for some time very few new settlers have been added. There are,
in 1909, a few more than 200 farms enumerated by the assessor in
the township. Polish farmers own and operate about 160 of these;
some of the farms, too, are owned by nonresident Poles. The parish
of Casimir has a congregation of more than 160 families, but the
parish Umits are not coincident with those of the township.

Before 1880 there was formed the nucleus of a Polish settlement
west of the Wisconsin River, called Mill Creek, in what is now the
township of Carson. This was originally a heavily timbered section.
The soil is much heavier there and most of it is of the type known as
Marathon loam, perhaps the most fertile and durable soil in north
central Wisconsin. The original forest growth was white pine,
hemlock, and hard wood, and the first Polish settlers, doubtless, were
employed in the sawmills set up on Mill Creek to convert this timber
into lumber. After the timber had been cut off, these men bought
the cut-over lands very cheaply and made homes for themselves.

168 The Immigration Commission.

About the same time a settlement was made a few miles north of the
original one at a place called Junction City, also on cut-over lands.
This settlement spread out northward into Eau Pleine township and
now covers about one-third of the area in the central and southern
parts of Eau Pleine. The northwestern third of Eau Pleine and the
southwestern one-third of Carson township, both in the heavy clay
loam area, are settled mainly by Germans, Bohemians, and Austrians.
The eastern portions of these townships along the Wisconsin River,
where there is a considerable area of Hght sandy loam, are well popu-
lated with Poles. There are also a small number of Russian farmers
in this section.

Two parishes are located west of the river — Junction City, founded
in 1881, and Mill Creek in 1833. In both there are about 200 Polish
families at the present time.

After 1880 there was a steady flow of PoUsh immigrants into the
county, but, as previously stated, they differed somewhat in char-
acter from the earlier settlers. Whereas the initial immigration
came directly from abroad, mainly from Prussian Poland, an
increasing percentage of the immigrants who arrived after 1880 came
from primary points in the United States — Chicago, Milwaukee,
Buffalo, the coal mines of Pennsylvania or Illinois, or some other
point where the prospective landowner worked a few years in order
to accumulate a small sum before buying a farm.

The period of most rapid influx was over by 1885, possibly by
1882. Since 1885 there have been fewer arrivals per year and at
the present time there are very few newcomers to Portage County.
Several men, who should be able to speak inteUigently on this point,
notably; the editors of the Polish newspaper, real-estate dealers, and
township assessors, agree that about 50 persons per year may be
fixed as the limit of Polish immigrants from the outside. There is a
movement of significant proportions from country to city, chiefly of
retiring farmers. Some farmers' sons are taking up the farms of
older settlers, but this is the extent of the movement in any large
way; it is a shift in population rather than an introduction of new
elements. Real estate transfers show that some new lands in the
county are bought every year by Polish non residents, and that very
few Polish nonresidents or resident Polish farmers sell out to buyers
of any other nationality ; but the immigration to this county directly
from abroad or from other States is now practically at a standstill.

The several settlements toward which Polish immigration was
directed after 1880 were in Plover Township, south of Stevens Point,
along the Wisconsin River; in the township of Dewey, just north of
HuU; in Alban Township, in the extreme northeastern part of the
county; and at Heffron, m the township of Belmont, along the south-
em boundary between Waushara and Portage counties.

The parish of Plover was not created until 1896, but there has been
a settlement south of the Wisconsin River in Plover Township since
early jn the eighties. The land is level and sandy and contains but
Httle humus. The original growth of iackpine was cut off and burned
for charcoal and the cheap cut-over lands were rapidly taken up by
Polish settlers, some from the outside and some from other parts of
the county. These lands had little to recommend them except cheap-
ness and ease of clearing and cultivating. The county treasurer

Recent Immigrants in Agriculture: Poles. 169

states that much of this land and that in the township of Dewey was
sold for 25 cents an acre by the county, it having been taken over for
delinquent taxes. After the timber had been removed the owners
did not consider it of sufficient value to pay taxes on and hundreds of
acres in this and other parts of the county were "sold for taxes" at
the rate of SIO, or perhaps a little more, per 40 acres. None of these
lands are weU adapted to general farming, but frequently good crops
of potatoes are raised. Somewhat more than 100 persons of Polish
descent now own and operate in this township. Very few Poles are
now buying land there, but the Polish farmers represent more than
two-fifths of the farming community. The Poles are settled on the
poorest lands in the township, but the schedules taken by agents
of the Commission show that most of them are making fair livings,
some of them on farms which American farmers years ago gave up
as hopelessly barren.

The township of Dewey was settled by the Poles before 1890.
Many came from the neighboring townships. A separate parish,
including a part of Sharon Township, was set apart in 1897. But
little more than 26 per cent of the land is improved and nearly all of
the 125 farms are owned by Polish farmers. The contour of the
region is level, a great deal of the land is Wisconsin River sand, but
there is some stony, sandy loam, some clay, and large areas of muck.
Many acres of delinquent-tax land in tUs township, which is now
being cleared and improved by the Poles, sought purchasers for years,
although the county was wOling practically to give it away to anyone
who would engage to pay taxes on it.

The township of Alban had enough Poles to establish a parish in
1894. The land there is sandy in places, but a great variety of topog-
raphy and soils appear. Some excellent clay -loam lands have been
settled by Polish farmers, but there is much rough, stony ground
suitable only for grazing. In general, it is a very prosperous settle-
ment. There are nearly 180 families, partly from Polonia and partly
from the later Polish immigration from abroad and from cities m the
United States.

It remains to speak of a small settlement in the southern part
of the county in the town of Belmont. About 1890, or a little
earlier, a real-estate dealer began to sell some poor lands, of which
he owned large tracts along me Portage-Waushara county line, to
Polish newcomers from Chicago and Milwaukee. Many were mill
hands. Soon he made a specialty of selling to these people, and by
means of Polish agents in Chicago, who accompanied parties of pros-

f)ective buyers to Stevens Point, he was able to sell every parcel of
and he owned in that locality to Polish buyers. Most of these men
had a little money, some very little; in instances farmers were sold
land on a cash payment of $200, and horses and stock valued at more
than that amount were advanced to them. In aU his dealings with
these newcomers, the seller has never had to make a foreclosure. He
has been lenient and patient, but has not been a dispenser of charity.
The land was sold at high market prices; frequently instruction was
given in clearing land and cultivating it; houses were planned for the
prospective farmers and stock and tools advanced on hberal terms.
At present the same real estate dealer is engaged in establishing a
similar colony on lands owned by him in Marathon County, about 14


The Immigration Commission.

miles north of Stevens Point. The settlement at Heffron, according
to its founder, includes about 125 farmers. This settlement was
partly the result of liberal advertising in Polish papers and solicita-
tion on the part of the Polish agents in Chicago, but some immigrants
seem to have come because others came before them. Chicago and
the coal fields of the East are responsible for most of these settlers.


From the above statements it will be noted that there was a
steady influx of Poles into Portage County from civil-war days up
to close to the end of the century. By 1875 there was a strong
Polish contingent, especially in the rural districts north and east of
Stevens Point. In 1890 the federal census reported 2,070 Polish
inhabitants of foreign birth in the county; in 1900, 2,750 were enu-
merated; and the state census of 1905 shows a total of 2,961, of whom
2,469 are accredited to Germany, 169 to Russia, and 323 to Austria.
There seems to be good reason for discrediting the Austrian and Rus-
sian estimates, however, as very much too large. On the other hand,
there is no question that manj' persons of Polish descent were enu-
merated as Germans because they gave their birthplace as Germany;
indeed it is probable that fully one-half were so enumerated.

The distribution of the Polish families, by parishes, appears below.
The figures are taken from Professor Sanford's estimates made in

Table 4. — Estimated number of families of Polish origin in Portage County, Wisconsin,

in 1907, by parishes.

























$70,000 church.



Mill Creek

. .do



Dewey . .


Some In Waushara County.
Many retired larmers.

Stevens Point

City . . .





The tax roUs of the townships for 1908 and 1909 give a list of Polish
taxpayers based on an enumeration of the Polish names recorded some-
what exceeding the numbers given above. Both the tax-roll enu-
meration and the count of families by parishes are liable to error,
but both are more useful for the present purpose than the census
returns, for in this count the children born of Polish parents in the
United States are included. These form a very substantial part of
the Polish community. It is safe to assume, conservatively, that
Portage County has within its boundaries approximately 10,000
persons of Polish origin.

o WiflcoMin Historical Society, Proceedings, 1907.

Recent Immigrants in Agriculture: Poles.



The climate of Portage County is said to be salubrious, although
the winters are long and somewhat severe and the extremes of tem-
perature are widely separated. In the winter temperatures below 30
degrees Fahrenheit have been recorded, and the summer heat is
sometimes 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The monthly averages of tem-
perature as recorded by the Weather Bureau for the twelve years
preceding 1906 vary from 14.1 degrees in February to 69.6 degrees
in July, with a yearly mean average of 43.6 degrees at Stevens Point.
At Amherst, in the eastern part of the county, the corresponding
figures are 13.9 degrees in January to 70.8 in July, the average of the
annual means being 42.8 degrees.

The rainfall is abundant and well distributed throughout the year,
but there are occasional droughts. The nature of the soil over large
areas is such that a great deal of rain may fall without injurious
effects, and long dry spells are not always fraught with disaster.
The potato crop needs frequent and well-distributed rains during the
summer. Occasional hailstorms and tornadoes are noted, and heavy
thunderstorms are rather frequent during the summer, especially in
July and August. According to reports of the United States Depart-
ment of Agriculture, the first killing frosts occur about September 24,
and the last in the spring, about May 25, leaving a growing season of
about four months. The following table, compiled from the records
of the Weather Bureau, is taken from the report of the United States
Department of Agriculture on the soil survey of Portage County :

Normal monthly and annual temperature and precipitation, Stevens Point and Amherst,


[United states Department of Agriculture. Field operations of the Bureau of Soils, survey of Portage


Stevens Point.






January. . .







October. . .










The report of the Bureau of Soils, from which the preceding table
is taken, comments on the physiographic aspect of Portage County
as follows:

Portage County is from 1,200 to 1,300 feet above sea level in its northern part,
slopes gently toward the south, and has an elevation of 900 to 1,100 feet at the
southern boundary. The country is from 500 to 600 feet above Lake Michigan.
North and south through the central part of Portage County the surface is quite

172 The Immigration Commission.

level or plainlike. In the southern part of the county this level area is approximately
18 miles in width and extends northward along the western border of the county
about as far nwrth is the Wisconsin River. As it extends northward it becomes
narrower, and on the northern boundary line is about 12 miles wide.

All of the country east of the plainlike area is part of a terminal moraine, and
includes fully one-third of the county. Here the surface is for the most part very
uneven; rounded or hummocky hills and bowlder ridges being prominent features of
the topography. The boundary between the moraine and the more level area to the
west is very distinct. The difference in elevation between the two areas is from 50
to 100 feet. The northwest portion of the county (west of the Wisconsin River) has
a level to rolling topography. The principal river of the county is the WiscouBin,
which flows from the north through the more level area of the central part of the

Plover River and several small streams in the central, western,
and southwestern portions flow into the Wisconsin and thence to the
Mississippi River. East of the divide, passing north and south
through the eastern part of the county, the Waupaca River and the
Little Wolf River, with their many smaUer tributaries, reaching
throughout almost the entire eastern part of the county, flow to the
southeast and finally reach Lake Michigan.

Many small lakes or old lake beds now filled with layers of peat or
muck are noticeable in the moraine area. There are some small
marshy areas among the moraine hills, and in the southwestern por-
tion of the county a swampy tract of 55,000 acres. Across the Wis-
consin River in the northwestern portion many marshy areas occur.

The eastern part of the county is a typical glacial area, its surface
for the most part being made up of rounded drift hills and ridges.
The materials forming these drift deposits are bowlders, gravel, sand,
and clay, sand being the most prominent material.

The soils in the northwestern section are much heavier than in
other parts of the county, being formed from older glacial drift.
The marks of erosion are much more plainly seen here than in the
eastern part. The swollen glacial streams from the melting ice car^
ried with them great quantities of material, and it was in this manner
that the greater part of the soils of the southern and southwestern
portions of the county seem to have been formed.

The Amherst sandy loam area. — Speaking generally, it may be
said that the two tiers of townships in the eastern part of the county
have sandy loam soils, intermixed with varying quantities of clay and

travel, the level contour broken more or less at mtervals by rounded
ills; there are considerable areas over which great quantities of
rounded stone and large bowlders are strewn. Toward the north,
to the uneven, broken contour are added many small lakes and
swamps. Most of the soil is strong and productive, although the
muck is more or less waste and the stony hills are fit for nothijag but
grazing. Some of the best land is in the vicinity of Ellis and south-
ward, where the first Pohsh settlement was made. Corn, oats, rye,
and potatoes are raised, and on the heavier soils where grass can be
grown_ easily, dairying is an important subindustry. Potatoes are
the chief commercial dependence, however. These sandy loams are
popularly known as the potato soils of the State.

Wisconsin River sand. — Lying along the Wisconsin River on the
west, and covering, together with a large marshy tract, two town-

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