History of the Town of Osceola
Written by longtime resident and Town Board member Eugene Lindholm
The first recorded inhabitants of this area were the American Indians. Sioux Indians lived in small bands, staying in one place for only a couple weeks. The Chippewa Indians moved into the area and chased the Sioux south and west. Also, there were explorers and trappers that moved through the area about that time.
In April of 1836, the federal government established the Territory of Wiskonsin. It included lands that are now Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and parts of the Dakotas. The next year, 1837, the federal government signed a treaty with the Sioux and Chippewa Indians. They were given about $9,000 and the rights to hunt, fish, trap and collect maple sap. The treaty was not honored very well, but did allow the movement of European people into the region. The territorial headquarters were in Prairie du Chien. Wisconsin became a state in 1848 by an act of the United States Congress. They established St. Croix County that included lands that later became Pierce County, St. Croix County, Polk County and part of Burnet County. This large territory was divided by the territorial legislature into those counties and Polk County was established in 1853. The Wisconsin Constitution was written at statehood and established the basis for the formation of the towns and villages.
The Town was first named LeRoy. The area included all of the land from Cedar Bend south of the present Village of Osceola, north to the City of St. Croix Falls and east to what is now the Town of Lincoln. A town meeting was held April 21, 1853 to organize the town government. The name LeRoy was used to honor LeRoy Hubbard, the first white man in the area who was killed cutting timber to be used in the construction of a saw mill. It included the small settlements of Osceola, Dresser and Nye. There were only two qualified members at the meeting, Samuel Thompson and Christian Weble who became the supervisors. A few days latter they appointed Stephen Rowclif Clerk and Joseph Richmond Treasurer. The early concerns of this board were boundaries, roads and assessments for tax purposes. The terms of office were for one year. This meeting was held in the school house in Osceola.
At a Town Board meeting on March 30, 1859 the name Town of Osceola was first used. No explanation for the name change to Osceola given. The name Osceola was used to honor a Seminole Indian Chief by that name. Chief Osceola had been wronged by the army, which irritated many local people. Meetings in the early days were held in schools, homes of free holders and the Polk County Court House in Osceola.
Polk County was organized in 1853 and named after President Polk. The settlement of Osceola was selected as the county seat even though it was not incorporated at the time. An election held in the fall of 1898 moved the county seat to Balsam Lake, the geographical center of Polk County.
The Village of Osceola was incorporated on July 13, 1886. The Town of LeRoy owned a town hall in the village and both the village and town used this building. The town sold the building to the village on July 15, 1889 for $200. .
There were no highway systems in Wisconsin before an act of the legislature established the office of County Highway Commissioner in 1907. Local roads in the town were assigned to districts. The Town of Osceola had five districts. Road maintenance was assigned to local residents of the town who were called Path Masters or Overseers of Highways. These men were paid $1.50 per day for working on the road. $1.25 a day was paid for a team of oxen and $2.00 per day for a team of horses. Our present road system evolved from there.
Some early historical highlights:
- The first reference to the Town of Osceola from the Town of Leroy was on Feb2, 1860. No explanation for the change was made.
- In August and September 1860, the Board had problems with swine running at large.
- At the Board meeting on April 2, 1861 the Board voted to raise $150 for Town expenses, $300 for school expenses, 7 mils levied for highway purposes.
- On March 22, 1864 the Board agreed to pay $50 bounty to each person who volunteered for civil war duty.
- It appears from the old minutes that Town Officers were elected for a term of one year.
- At the April 1868 annual meeting they raised $600 for town debt, $300 for Town expenses, 2 mils was levied for schools, 2 mils was levied for a poor fund, $25 was authorized for board and care and $25 for medical care of a female pauper, retained a Dr. Marshall as Town physician for $35 per year and authorized another $100 for boarding and care of a second pauper.
- The Town of Osceola built a Town Hall in 1892. It served both the Town and the Village of Dresser.
- On November 7, 1978 the Town Board by Ordinance (33A) adopted the State Uniform Building Code with all of its amendments.
- The pocket gopher bounty was fifty cents in 1960. Over the years it has been raised several times, presently (2010), it is $3.00
- The Town of Osceola had been a “dry” Town. By referendum vote at the spring election of 1965 the town was voted “wet” by 155 yes vote and 92 no votes. There had been several attempts to vote the Town “wet prior to 1965.
- The classical portrait of George Washington that hangs in the meeting room was donated by Isadore Lundberg. It came from the East Lake grade school, probably about 1970 when the schools were consolidated. Long time Clerk, Joyce Dehmer offered this history.
- Our present Town office and shop was built in 1995-96 and was occupied May 1, 1996
More recent historical highlights:
- The Plan Commission was established by ordinance (1-01) December 7, 1997. The first Comprehensive Plan was adopted on March 9, 1998. The most recent Comprehensive Plan was adopted on October 5th, 2009.
- Chapter 18 of the code of ordinance was adopted on March 8, 1999, and revised in 2001. This ordinance regulated subdivisions and the platting of land. It was in place before the big housing developments started and was very instrumental in keeping those developments orderly.
- Ordinance (01-01-01) adopted on January 8, 2001 included several things. It provided for a Town Building Inspector. It outlined a contract describing the duties and responsibilities of the Building Inspector. It made provisions for issuing building permits and the fees to be collected. And finally, it adopted the Wisconsin Uniform Dwelling Code with all of it amendments.
- Again on January 8, 2001 the Town Board passed an Ordinance (01-02-02) that adopted the Wisconsin Commercial Building Code.
- The first Building Inspector hired was Clifford Manwiller, also on January 8, 2001.
- The annual meeting of April 16, 1994 combined the offices of Clerk and Treasurer. It was an elected position at this time. The Town Board by ordinance changed it to an appointed position effective April 7, 2003.
The Town of Osceola has a history of cooperation with other municipalities.
- At the April 7, 1959 annual meeting a motion was made, seconded and carried that the Town join with the Town of Garfield and The Village of Dresser to form an organization for fire protection. This process was completed April 1, 1960 and The Osceola, Garfield, Dresser Fire Association was established.
- A second joint cooperative venture occurred in May 1976 when the contract was signed to establish an ambulance service. The Village of Osceola, Town of Farmington, Town of Alden and the Town of Osceola have joint ownership in the ambulance service.
- A third joint cooperative venture occurred August 13, 2007 when the Town joined the municipal court system with the Village of Osceola, Village of Dresser and the Town of Farmington. In December 2009 the Village of Osceola chose to abolish the municipal court.
The ordinance numbers and dates were included in the writing of this history so that it would be easier for any one to do research if more detailed information was needed.
Last updated May 25th, 2010