Here’s a little history about our township:
A lumber mill is built and a Village incorporated.
Our community has a long and rich history. In 1874, B.F. and Charles V. McMillan decided to locate in the wilderness of Central Wisconsin. They were attracted by the rich stands of timber that stood in this area. In the spring of 1874 they built a sawmill in what was to become McMillan, Wisconsin, about 5 miles north of the settlement of Marshfield. The whole countryside was one unbroken wilderness of timber — pine and hard woods. By 1891 the lumber industry in what is the Town of McMillan was booming. The surrounding area was chartered as a township in 1888. The village of McMillan was incorporated . This village was unique. It was the only incorporated village in the United States, at the time, with neither a saloon nor a church within its limits. The village of McMillan rivaled in size the nearby community of Marshfield. It had an established post office for the next 24 years. The village of McMillan and the original saw mill were located where the current subdivision known as Sugarbush lies (west of County Highway E at the Little Eau Pleine River.) The village spread southwest along the Wisconsin Central Railway ( Soo Line right-of-way.)
The large home on Sugarbush Lane, currently owned by Clyde and Nancy Wynia, is the original B.F. McMillan mansion. In the late 1800’s, it was said that this home housed one of the finest libraries in Central Wisconsin. At one point during Mr. McMillan’s stay at McMillan, he maintained a stable of over 100 of the finest trotting horses in the state. He also developed a 40 to 50 head herd of registered Holstein milk cows. (The area’s dairy industry was born.) The McMillans owned over 1000 acres of land surrounding the village. Over the years the land was sold to employees who developed farmsteads in the area. They were the early settlers of the Town of McMillan, who established many area farms.
The population of the village shortly after incorporation was over 200 residents. (It was larger than the community of Marshfield at the time.) This number gradually declined and in 1911 the mill was closed. As the population decreased the dwellings were sold and moved to many surrounding farms in the area.
In 1875 there was a Native American village of about 400 Potawatomis in the Town of Day east of McMillan. After being forced out by settlers, some moved to the area along the Little Eau Pleine River in McMillan at Riverside. (This is the area south of the current intersection of Highway 97 and County Highway T.) For a time white setters coming to the area were outnumbered by the Native Americans, but as more and more settlers arrived, the Native Americans were again crowded out and migrated south to join the tribe at the Powers Bluff area near Arpin, Wisconsin.
The Beginnings of Health Insurance
During the logging era many of the loggers in the area would enter into a fee agreement with the sisters at Saint Joseph’s Hospital. They would pay a small annual fee to the nuns. In exchange, should they become sick or injured, they would receive any necessary care. In 1898, it was recorded that the Town of McMillan paid Saint Joseph Hospital $7.00 for the board and medicine for the care of one of its residents. Further details were not available.
The Township of McMillan Is Chartered
The Town of McMillan was chartered as a township in 1888. The first assessment roll from the town in 1889 showed a total valuation of $63,716.00. Forty acre parcels were assessed at between $120 and $340, horses at $10 to $40, and cows from $10 to $17.50.
Over the years as the timber was cleared and the area known as the Town of McMillan turned to farming and dairy operations. Most of the vast forests that occupied these lands disappeared. Roads were developed on the mile. Farms, most of them 40 to 80 acres, were established. Today we have about ten operational dairy farms left. Some of the remaining centennial farms in the area originate from these early settlers.
School Districts Established
The first public school district in McMillan was established in 1881. The first school tax levy of $535.55 was paid in 1892. Between 1892 and 1957 five country school houses were established at various locations throughout the township. They were located in sections 1,7,16,24, and section 32. In most cases these were one room schools providing education for grades 1 through 8. These schools were located so the area children only had to walk a few miles to attend. The rural schools were dissolved and the area annexed to the Marshfield, Stratford and Spencer school districts between 1953 and 1957.
Cows and Cheese Become a Major Mainstay of the Area
During the early 1900’s the population of McMillan township continued to grow. Dairy farming became a major part of the community. Cheese factories appeared in many locations throughout the area. They were established in locations so farmers could haul their milk by wagon. With the invention of the automobile and the truck, on-the-farm pickup started. This was a major boost to the economy of the area. As the farm tractors came on the scene and farm work began to become more manageable, farm size began to grow. Many of the individuals with small farms of 40-80 acres sought employment in the factories of Marshfield while still milking a herd. As time progressed more and more small farms were sold and incorporated into larger operations. Soon the 40 acre farm disappeared.
The Community of Riverside
During the early to mid 1900’s a small community known as Riverside developed in the Town of McMillan. This small settlement was located just east of the Little Eau Pleine River along what is now Highway 97 near the intersection with County Highway T. It had a saloon, grocery store, feed mill, blacksmith shop, grist mill, a number of homes and a nearby school. The businesses disappeared over the years leaving only the homes along Highway 97 at the site.
Volunteer Fire Services Existed Throughout McMillan’s History.
It is unclear when a volunteer fire brigade was first established in McMillan. It was certain one existed in the early days to protect the saw mill and village of McMillan. However, in those days the bucket brigade was probably the extent of the protection given. When a fire occurred, every able bodied man responded. The goal was to protect neighboring structures and prevent the fire from spreading. Stories of the Chicago fire, Peshtigo fire and the Marshfield fire weighed on the minds of the early settlers.
Most structures were heated by wood. There is no accurate record of how many homes and structures were lost to fire over the years. It is certain it was considerable. Once a fire started, little could be done to save the structure.
One major problem was getting the call out for help. With the wide spread use of the telephone, this was improved. In the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s a fire call would come in to the Marshfield fire station. They would in turn call the local bar (Riverside Bar and later Mummy and Kay’s) who would then call each volunteer fire fighter’s home. In the 1950’s a contract was made with the Marshfield Rural Fire Association. Marshfield firefighters brought a pumper fire truck and in later years also a tanker to fires. Fires were fought by the McMillan volunteers. For major fires like barn structures, semi tanker loads of whey were brought in to put out the fire. Their success was usually in saving adjacent buildings. Even in the 1950’s and 1960’s the fire brigade’s success was described as “saving the basement!” Today with our rapid communications, modern equipment and advanced technology our well trained volunteers are as good as any full time professional force.
McMillan Is Thrust into the Realities of the 20th Century
The Township of McMillan was thrust into the trials and tribulations of modern growth and development. A modern fire department was developed and roads were maintained year round and civic government was adapted to the changing nature of the town.
In 1927 the McMillan board directed that roads be kept open at the first snow during the winter. However, it was only in the1950s that all the roads of the town were built so that they could be kept passable during the spring thaw. Prior to this time, from the first thaw until it dried up, many of the town’s roads were not passable.
In 1950 the town entered into an agreement with the Marshfield Rural Fire Association and the Marshfield Fire Department to provide fire fighting equipment. In the late 1960’s the township contracted for ambulance services from the city of Marshfield. Zoning Commission members were first appointed and the town first placed chloride on its roads. During the late 1970’s a new town hall and town garage were constructed. In the mid 1980’s a plan commission was developed to plan for orderly development of the township. Blacktopping of roads was studied but rejected and it was not until the late 1990s that such a program was started.
During the period between 1990-2004 much was accomplished. The population of the Town of McMillan grew significantly. A fire station was built and outdated fire equipment was replaced with state-of-the-art equipment. The town hall was remodeled and highway equipment was updated. A full time clerk / treasurer position was established. During this period the township was able to exceed its goal that most of its residents live within one mile of a blacktopped road.
Record Rains Threaten Township
June 22, 2002 was one of the most devastating days in the Town of McMillan’s history. Ten to twelve inches of rain fell in four hours during the night. This was recorded as a hundred year event.
Roads, culverts and bridges were washed out. It was estimated that 50% of the homes in McMillan had at least some water damage. Some residents had four and one-half feet of water in their homes. The most significant destruction appeared to be concentrated within one and one-half miles of the Little Eau Pleine River. The quick response of our volunteer fire department, highway department and many other volunteers who helped with the sandbagging saved significant personal property and prevented serious injuries.
Around 3 a.m. on Saturday, June 22, while it was still raining, town officials and our highway department employees checked roadways. A serious situation was occurring. The fire department was called out. They inspected the roads and by 6:30 a.m. many roads were impassable. There were between 20 and 30 locations where the roads had washed out. Bridges on County C, County T, County E and Highway 153 were out. An Incident Command Center was set up. This center was critical in coordinating the assessment of damage, directing repairs and keeping a handle on the constantly changing conditions. Over 75 signs were obtained from the city of Marshfield’s street department. The highway department, with the coordination of the Incident Command Center, started the task of opening as many roads as possible. Three backhoes, three graders, three end loaders, and eight to ten trucks were brought in to supplement our equipment during this emergency. Most of the roads in the town had a temporary fix and were at least passable by late Saturday afternoon. There were more than 30 culverts washed out. Roadways were gone for hundreds of feet in many locations and more that 25 miles of shoulders were washed away. Significant undermining of roadbeds occurred throughout the area. Estimates were that our infrastructure sustained upwards of $500,000 in damage.
About 5 p.m. the Marathon County Sheriff’s Department called the command center. More than three feet of water topped the dikes in the McMillan Marsh and they feared a significant rise in water level on the Little Eau Pleine River if the dikes failed. This set the stage for a potential need to evacuate. The water at the Highway E bridge reportedly came within 8 inches of the bridge but the dikes held. It was believed by many that the McMillan Marsh saved the day, by holding the excess water flow.
This synopsis of the history of the Township of McMillan was compiled by David L. McGivern from various sources (some of which contradict one another) but primarily from information in the publication Town of McMillan Centennial 1888 -1988. If you are interested in more information on the early years of McMillan or photos documenting the history, a copy of this book can be purchased at the town hall.
For more information outlining important dates in McMillan’s history review the following historical time table.
A Historical Timeline
Historical notes of dates and events significant in the development of the Town of McMillan are listed below. Much of the information is drawn from minutes of the township and area publications.
1871- The Peshtigo and Chicago fires occurred.
1872- Marshfield was first settled.
1874- The McMillan Brothers build their saw mill three miles north of Marshfield on the Little Eau Pleine River.
1879- Schooling became compulsory in Wisconsin for children 7 to 12 for a period of 12 weeks a year.
1882- The congregation that is now St. Peter’s Lutheran Church built its first log church.
1883- City of Marshfield was incorporated.
1887- The Marshfield fire occurred.
1888- The township of McMillan was chartered.
1889- The first township taxes were levied.
1891- School districts were formed.
1893- A town hall was built.
1893- The village of McMillan was incorporated. (Located in sec.17 and 20.)
1894- St. Peter’s Lutheran Church built a new frame building.
1904- An iron bridge was built over the Little Eau Pleine River. (Galvin Avenue) The cost was $995 and a loan was taken at 5%.
1916- The Marshfield Clinic was formed.
1919- The town board went on record against moving the clock ahead one hour ( Daylight Savings Time) as it was felt to be a detriment to all farmers.
1925- The village of McMillan was dissolved.
1927- A motion was made to open town roads at the first snow fall.
1929- The great depression began.
1936- The town built a tractor shed.
1941- Wages were set for the motor patrol grader operator at .35 an hour.
1944- Leonard McGivern was hired at .60 an hour to operate the cat plow and little tractor.
1950- The town board entered into an agreement with Marshfield Rural Fire Department for fire assistance.
1952- The town purchased a 1951 4WD Oshkosh plow truck with wing . (One of the largest pieces of snow removal equipment in the area.)
1954- Channel 7, the Wausau TV station, began broadcasting.
1960- The Town of McMillan adopted village powers.
1962- A new bridge was constructed over the Little Eau Pleine River (Galvin) for $26,290.
1967- The town entered into an agreement with Marshfield for ambulance services. The first zoning commission members were appointed.
1968- Fire numbers were assigned to all dwellings. The town first used liquid chloride on roads.
1972- The Township of McMillan adopted county zoning.
1974- The annual meeting time was moved to the evening hours.
1975- A new town hall was built for a cost of $22,014.
1976- The new town hall and ball park were dedicated.
1979- A new highway garage was built for a bid of $48,954.
1980- Richard Scheuer was elected town clerk.
1982- The McMillan Volunteer Fire Department under the command of David Larson was reorganized. A tanker truck was purchased for the McMillan department.
1984- A movement arose to plan orderly development of the township.
1985- A plan commission was established.
1986- A blacktop committee was established. McMillan’s first Comprehensive Plan was developed.
1987- The town board rejected plans to blacktop town roads.
1988- The Town of McMillan celebrated its centennial.
1989- The Town of McMillan fire department held its first fall festival.
The Town of McMillan residents voted to establish a 5 person board.
1990- Fire department purchases a new Chevy tanker truck.
1990- The fire department bought its first pumper fire truck, a 1964 La France.
1993- Computerized records were introduced in McMillan .
1994- McMillan started its blacktopping program with Saint Joseph’s Avenue.
1995- A new fire station was constructed for $350,000.
1995- Louise Greenlaw replaced Richard Scheuer as town clerk.
1997- The McMillan comprehensive plan was updated / revised.
1998- The fire department took delivery on a new Pierce Pumper fire truck. Residents of McMillan pass a referendum authorizing an appointed clerk / treasurer position.
1998- The McMillan Town Hall was remodeled and town office developed.
1999- Residents were able to get the state law changed authorizing McMillan to withdraw from the Marathon County Library System and join the Marshfield Library.
1999- The Town of McMillan and the City of Marshfield began the process of creating a boundary agreement.
2000- The Town of McMillan Volunteer Fire Department withdrew from the Marshfield Rural Fire Association.
2002- The township was hit with record flooding. On June 22, 10-12 inches of rain fell in the area doing over ½ million dollars in road damage alone. The township began the comprehensive planning process using consultants hired by Marathon County to meet requirements of 66.1001, State Comprehensive Planning legislation (AKA “ Smart Growth”)
2003- The town exceeded the five year blacktopping plan. Final approval was given by the Department of Administration for the boundary agreement between the town and the City of Marshfield..
2004- The town board developed a new 10 year plan for the township.
2005- The town of McMillan launched a website. The fire department took delivery of a new state-of-the-art tanker truck.
Modern Marathon County and the Town of McMillan
Facts About Marathon County
Marathon County is in the exact center of the northern ½ of the western hemisphere. Marathon County was established in 1850. Wisconsin had become the 30th state in the union in 1848. At the time it was mostly forested and most of its 500 inhabitants made a living from the rich timber resources. It is the largest of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, covering 1,584 square miles with a population of 128,823 on the 2000 census .There are 42 townships in Marathon County. The county seat is in the city of Wausau. (The name Wausau is from the Chippewa meaning “Far away”)
If you call the Marathon County courthouse switchboard at 715-261-1000, they are capable of connecting you to any county department or agency. Office hours are 8:00 A.M. to 5 P.M. (closed weekends). Visit the Marathon County web site at www.co.marathon.wi.us.
Marathon County is one of the top ranked dairy producing counties in the state. Wisconsin is traditionally first in milk and cheese production in the nation. Over 1/3 of the land mass in Marathon County is still forest land. Most woodland is in 30 to 40 acre tracts attached to individual farms. Approximately 20,000 acres in the county has been permanently set aside in county forest land for forestry, wildlife habitat, and recreation purposes.
Recreational opportunities include 16 county parks with many picnic and recreational areas. The closest parks to McMillan are Big Rapids Park north of Stratford off Highway 97 and Cherokee ark east of the intersection of County Highways F and N (west of Colby.) The largest county park is Big Eau Pleine Park east of Stratford on Highway 153 (Just east of the intersection with County Highway 107, then south). There are 48 miles of county funded cross country ski trails, the best known are at the 9 Mile County Recreational Area which has 17 miles of trails with a warming house. There are nearly 800 miles of groomed snowmobile trails in Marathon County funded and maintained (without tax dollars) from snowmobile registration fees and through the efforts of snowmobile club volunteers.
Marathon County has a total of 3,189 miles of highways of which 275 miles are state trunks, 616 miles are county highways and 2,298 miles are town roads .
Facts About the Township of McMillan
The town of McMillan is in District 27 for the Marathon County Board of Supervisors. The township’s location designation is T 26 N – R3 E. McMillan is almost six miles square, stretching north from the city limits of Marshfield and McMillan Street to within one mile of the village of Stratford at Eau Pleine Road. McMillan extends east from Lincoln Avenue to Day Road in the southern half of McMillan and to Highway 97 north of Rendezvous Corners. ( ½ mile south of eastbound Highway C toward Rozellville.)
Townships were established with 36 sections ( 640 acres per section.) or 23,040 acres. We have lost 140 acres to the City of Marshfield by annexation. Sections are numbered starting from the northeast corner of McMillan at the intersection of Highway 97 and Eau Pleine Road, one mile south of Stratford. The numbers progress to the west and then back to the east. Sections 31,32,33, are the sections next to the city of Marshfield. These section identifications are used when describing the locations of property.
The McMillan Wildlife Area is made up of 2,224.8 acres, covering parts of sections 7, 18, 19 and 30. There are hiking and biking trails located throughout the marsh. The public may access the area at parking lots off of Mann Road and Marsh Road. (See more information under Frequently Asked Questions.)
The Town of McMillan has a playground and park adjacent to the town hall. A ball diamond and recreational facilities are available. This area is open daylight to dark. Residents may reserve the pavilion for private functions by contacting the town clerk.
Population of McMillan:
1970 - 1255 1980 - 1433 1990 - 1694 2000 - 1860 2004 - 1889
Since 1970 the population of the town has grown rapidly. We are the second largest community in Marathon County, west of the metropolitan area of Wausau. (We are second only to the Village of Spencer.)
The Town of McMillan had an assessed valuation in 2004 of $126,208,500. The township has one full time and one part time highway department employee. It also has a full time clerk/treasure. The town board, comprised of a chairman and four supervisors, is elected by the voters and serves two year terms. The town is served by a volunteer fire department.
McMillan has over 53 miles of town roads of which about 13 miles have been blacktopped. In addition chip sealing has been used on other roads mostly in subdivisions. (Chip seal is a mixture of crushed blacktop, small stones, and a sealer.) State Highway 97 traverses the town progressing northeast from Marshfield and then north through the town to Stratford. County Highways T and E run north and south through the town and County Highway C crosses east and west through the northern part of McMillan.