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Vilas County History

Vilas County was created on April 12, 1893 by act of the Wisconsin Legislature and was named after William F. Vilas of Madison, Wisconsin. Born in 1840, Vilas moved from Vermont to Wisconsin in 1851, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1858, attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel during the Civil War and served as Postmaster General of the United States (1885-1888), Secretary of the Interior (1888-1891) and U.S. Senator from Wisconsin (1891- 1897).

The first officials of Vilas County were appointed by the governor and were as follows:
T. I. Loughlin, County Clerk
F. J. Deckert, Register of Deeds
N. A. Colman, District Attorney
T. B. Walsh, Treasurer
W. D. Neville, Clerk of Court
Max Sells, Sheriff
Daniel Graham, Surveyor
Alex Higgins, Superintendent of Schools
James Oberholzer, Coroner
E. C. Allen, County Judge (who served until 1895 when he resigned and
F. W. McIntyre was appointed by the Governor to fill the unexpired term)

Prior to January 1, 1875, Vilas County was part of Marathon County; from 1875 to 1885 part of Lincoln County; from 1885 to 1893 part of Oneida County and then set apart as Vilas County in 1893.

When Vilas County was first set off, it contained the two towns of Eagle River and Mincoqua. Aside from scattered lumbering or logging operations, the village of Eagle River was the chief place of activity in the County and was established as the county seat. Construction for the courthouse in Eagle River was started in 1893 and the courthouse opened in 1894. Eagle River has remained the county seat to this date. The second volume of the County Board shows that in 1899 the County was divided into Eagle River, Arbor Vitae and Minocqua. In 1900, Flambeau was created and in 1905 Hackley (now Phelps) was created and the present boundaries of Vilas and Oneida Counties were made final. On January 3, 1907, State Line (now Land O’Lakes) was set off from the town of Eagle River, as was the town of Conover.

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