Vilas County, Wisconsin

  • Article

    On April 12, 1993, Vilas County celebrated its 100th birthday. It was named after William F. Vilas of Madison, who came to Wisconsin from Vermont when he was 11 and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1858. Vilas attained the rank of lieutenant colonel during the Civil War, was Postmaster General of the United States from 1885-1888, was Secretary of the Interior (1888-1891) and a U.S. Senator (1891- 1897).

    Before 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, then being set off as Vilas County April 12, 1893.

    When Vilas was set off it contained the two towns of Eagle River and Minocqua, with Arbor Vitae being the third added about 1899. Minocqua would later become a part of Oneida. They built the courthouse at Eagle River in 1894. In 1900, Lac du Flambeau was created and in 1905 Hackley (now Phelps). In 1905, they made the present boundaries of Oneida and Vilas 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. Farmington (now St. Germain) and Presque Isle were also created. On December 8, 1910, Plum Lake was created from territory detached from the town of Arbor Vitae. Two towns were created, Lincoln and Washington, from territory detached from the town of Eagle River on May 12, 1914. On May 11, 1921, the towns of Winchester and Cloverland were created, the former from territory in Presque Isle and the latter from Conover, Lincoln and Farmington. Boulder Junction once a part of Arbor Vitae has its first recorded meeting in 1928. The town of Spider Lake was changed to Manitowish Waters in 1937. Presque Isle was formerly called Fosterville, Winegar then changed to Presque Isle in 1955.

    In 1899, the property valuations in the three towns totaled $2.9 million. Today, the equalized property valuations in the 14 towns and one city that comprise Vilas County total $2,599,022,000.

    The county is approximately 652,067 acres in size, with 555,374 acres of land and 93,923 acres of water. The county harbors 1,320 lakes, 563 named and 757 unnamed. It is located in northern Wisconsin against the Upper Michigan border.

    The county population in 1890 was 1,706. The county grew to 3,801 in 1895 and 4,929 in 1900. The population was 5,649 in 1920. In 2001, Vilas's population was 21,188.

    The written word has always been a part of life here. The Eagle River Vindicator was established in 1886, the Eagle River Review in 1890 and the Vilas County News in 1892. The Minocqua Times began publishing in 1891. It was renamed to the Lakeland Times in 1939. The Lakeland Times remained a weekly newspaper until 1982. The biweekly newspaper is published on Tuesdays and Fridays.

    Vilas County is governed by 21 supervisors representing 21 districts. The county board's job is to oversee county departments, establish policies and ordinances, and assess a property tax levy in accordance with an annual budget to run all operations. The 2005 county budget was set at $22,568,879.78 of which the local property tax will pay $11,720,173.51. The rest of the money comes from state and federal sources. The county portion tax rate for property owners was $2.14 per $1,000 of equalized property value. Vilas County has a 1/2% county sales tax that generated about $1,700,000 in revenue.

    This information was obtained with permission from the Vilas County News Review, the Lakeland Times and the Vilas County Advertising Agency, and appears on the county web page.

    Official State of Wisconsin Historical Markers in Vilas County:

    Subject/Location (List Current as of January, 2012)

    First Forest Patrol Flight / Hwy M, 6 mi. S of Boulder Jct.

    Forest Restoration--The Beginning / Trout Lake Nursery, Hwy M

    Lac du Flambeau / Hwy 47, Flambeau Lake

    Lac Vieux Desert / Lac Vieux Desert Park, West Shore Dr. near Land O' Lakes

    32nd Division Memorial Highway / Hwy 32 and 45, 0.5 mi S of Land O'Lakes

    Wisconsin River Headwaters / Hwy 45, 1.5 mi. S of Land O'Lakes

    Snowmobile / Sayner Park, Sayner

    Charles P. Forbes
    July 1, 2008
    Revised: January 16, 2012
  • Bibliography

    Comprehensive References

    Vilas County Fair Program, Eagle River, 1963. View Full Entry
    Wisconsin, Naturally: Day Lake State Natural Area., Wisconsin Natural Resources, October, 1999, Back Cover., Madison, 1999. View Full Entry
    Alexander, J. H. H., Vilas County Vacationland., Wis. Conservation Bulletin, Dec. '41, V6#12, p. 17., 1941. View Full Entry
    Brody, Polly, Discovering Wisconsin, Second Edition, Madison, 1973. View Full Entry
    Eagle River Historical Society, Eagle River, Wisconsin, Its History & People, Eagle River, 2007. View Full Entry
    Harrington, Cate, ed., Conservancy Protects Old-Growth and Wild Lakes in Northern Wisconsin, Newsletter of the Wisconsin Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Winter 2005-2006., Madison, 2005. View Full Entry
    Hooper, C. W., ed., There has been a rumor [regarding change of county boundaries]...., Minocqua Times, March 11, 1897, Minocqua, 1897. View Full Entry
    Jones, et al., History of Lincoln, Oneida, and Vilas Counties, Minneapolis, 1924. View Full Entry
    Knowles, Gary, Oneida, Iron and Vilas Counties., Wisconsin Trails, 43:5, Sep/Oct 2002, pp. 57-59, ff., Black Earth, WI, 2002. View Full Entry
    Marcon, John, Brush Cop, Rice Lake, WI, 1983. View Full Entry
    Radloff, Eugene, Vilas County Economic Indicators, 1986, Annual Publication, Eagle River, 1987. View Full Entry
    Radloff, Eugene, Vilas County Economic Indicators, 1990, Annual Publication, Eagle River, 1991. View Full Entry
    Vilas County Advertising, Vilas County, Autumn Harvest & Heritage Tour, Eagle River, 2007. View Full Entry
    Vilas County News-Review, Vilas County News-Review's 2009 Headwaters Area Guide, Published Annually, Eagle River, 2009. View Full Entry
    Vilas, Jack, My Life to My Children, Revised Edition, by Mary J. Schueller, Richfield, WI, 2007. View Full Entry
    Wisconsin, University of, Applied Population Laboratory, Wisconsin's Changing Population, 1990-2000, Supplement to the Wisconsin Blue Book, 2003-2004, Madison, 2003. View Full Entry

    Major References

    New Vilas county Aerial Photographic Images Available, Lakeland Times, August 5, 2011, p. 24, Minocqua, 2011. View Full Entry
    Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Wisconsin Counties of Waupaca, Portage, Wood, Marathon, Lincoln, Oneida, Vilas, Langlade and Shawano, Chicago, 1895. View Full Entry
    Attig, John, Pleistocene Geology of Vilas County, Information Circular 50, Madison, 1985. View Full Entry
    Currey, J. Seymour, Vilas County Notes, 1906, Manuscript Collection in the Archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society, Ashland, Call # Northland SC 28, Ashland, 1906. View Full Entry
    Forbes, Charles P., Vilas County, Wisconsin, Population Study, Term Paper at Knox College (Population and Migration Course), 1961. View Full Entry
    Lehmberg, Paul, County [Vilas] Where Everyone Wants to Live, The, Blair & Ketchum's Country Journal, V.11 #5 May 1984, Harrisburg, PA, 1984. View Full Entry
    Mayo, Walter, Brief History of the Beginning of the Vilas County Forest, Proceedings of the Forest History Association of Wisconsin, 17th Annual Meeting, 1992,, Eagle River., Wausau, 1992. View Full Entry
    Patterson, G. L., Water Resources of Vilas County, Wisconsin, Misc. Paper 89-1, 1989, Madison, 1989. View Full Entry
    Schmidt, Floyd, Switch Lamps in the Pines, Eagle River, 2009. View Full Entry
    Severt, Jane, Interview with Jane Severt - Value of Our County Forest, Partners News, February, 2016, p. 2., Conover, 2016. View Full Entry
    US, Federal Works Agency, Works Projects Administration, Workers of the Writers' Program in the State of Wisconsin, Wisconsin: A Guide to the Badger State, American Guide Series, New York, 1941. View Full Entry
    Vilas County Agricultural Society, Vilas County Fair, Vilas County Fair, August 13, 14, 15, 1999, Manual & Law for Exhibits and Entries, Eagle River, 1999. View Full Entry
    Vilas County Board of Supervisors, Land Atlas and Plat Book, Annual editions, Rockford, IL, 1982. View Full Entry
    Vilas County Fair, Manual and Rules for Exhibits & Entries, 4-H & Open Class Exhibits, August 12-15, 2010, Eagle River, 2010. View Full Entry
    Vilas County Soil and Water Conservation District, Vilas County Resource and Conservation Needs, Revised 1971, Eagle River, 1971. View Full Entry
    Ziefler, Art, Vilas County, Wisconsin, Cartographic Catalog, 1988, Madison, 1988. View Full Entry

    Minor References

    Dean, Jill, ed., Wisconsin, Madison, 1978. View Full Entry
    Merrill, Horace, William Freeman Vilas, Published for the William F. Vilas Trust Estate, Madison, 1991. View Full Entry
    Vilas County Advertising Department, Vilas County 2007 Visitor Guide, Eagle River, 2007. View Full Entry
    Wisconsin DNR, Vilas County Lakes Directory, From Wisconsin Lakes, Wis. DNR PUB-FH-800 2001, Eagle River, 2002. View Full Entry
  • Links
  • Images
  • Documents
  • Miscellany

    +++Arrival of Retirees

    From ##1390##: Vilas is one of "several counties which typify certain population trends within Wisconsin over the last decade [1990-2000]: Growth in Vilas Co. typifies the trend in several northern Wisconsin counties experiencing 'amenity migration,' particularly among retirees. 35% of growth in Vilas Co. is attributed to in-migration of persons 60 years and over."