(Reprinted from an article in the Stevens Point Journal, May 19, 1992)
Since its inception, the town of Hull's boundaries have been as fluid as the waters of Jordan Pond, which forms a permanent border on the east end of the town. The city of Stevens Point and surrounding municipalities have mercilessly taken pieces and chunks of the town for the more than 130 years of Hull's existence. Choice town of Hull land still is coveted by Stevens Point.
On Nov. 12, 1858, organization of the town of Hull was approved and was to include several sections in towns 24 and 25 in ranges 8 and 9. Before an election was held, though, the Portage County Board of Supervisors changed its mind and gave Hull three more sections in town 23, range 8, according to Malcolm Rosholt's book Our County Our Story.
A year later, those three sections were given to Plover. A large portion of Hull also was taken that year to form the town of Sharon.
Hull residents drew up a petition in 1860, urging the county to rescind this action, Rosholt's book states. The petition lost two separate votes on the matter.
“Hull, by this time an odd-shaped township, narrow in the middle and seemingly perched on one leg, continued agitation for more territory. In November 1860, a number of sections to the north and east of the city of Stevens Point were taken from the city and attached to Hull,” according to Our County Our Story .
It was almost four decades before several sections in town 25, range 9 were detached from Hull and given to Sharon. Two other towns were taken to form the town of Dewey in 1899. Hull was compensated by annexing several sections in town 24, range 7 east of the Wisconsin River, which formerly had been part of the town of Stevens Point, Rosholt tells in his book.
Almost a century later, Hull is still a prime target for annexation. Stevens Point Journal articles from the late 1980's to today tell of the continued fight for land there.
Two parcels of land in the town of Hull were annexed by the city despite opposition by one landowner during 1988. Opposition again reared its head when Stevens Point petitioned in early 1989 to annex almost 700 acres near the Stevens Point Municipal Airport. That action led to an unsuccessful two-year court battle over the constitutionality of annexing land without the approval of landowners.
“The reason the city is trying to annex from Hull is that it is one of the few ways the city can grow,” says John Holdridge, chairman of the Hull Town Board. “There is no village in the way or unsuitable soils, so that they can actually build.”
Several businesses have asked to be detached from Hull and attached to the city for water quality reasons. Poor water and septic systems are the common reasons given for annexation to Stevens Point from Hull.
During 1989, Hull's legal costs to fight annexation topped $13,500, more than double what was budgeted. In the past, legal costs have been budgeted between $5,000 and $8,000.
During 1991 elections for town chairman, annexation was the key running platform. Holdridge maintained that more consideration should be given to homeowners in the annexation process.
Paring away at Hull's circumference hasn't stopped the town's growth or development, though, Holdridge says.
“If before it was rural agriculture, now it is urbanized,” he said. “There is a growth of subdivisions as opposed to rural living.” Previous growth was spread along major roadways, he said. Now people are clustering in subdivisions, he said.
Hull's makeup also has changed. Probably named after Hull, England, the town originally was settled by Englishmen. Polish settlers have since replaced them.
The following is reprinted from the book Our County Our Story by Malcolm Rosholt. For a .pdf version of this history click here.
On Nov. 11, 1858 the committee on town organization, (the first time this committee is mentioned in the proceedings of the County Board), approved the organization of the town of Hull which was to include all that part of the county formerly under the town of Stevens Point in Towns 24 & 25 in Range 9 (part of future Sharon) and the east one-half of Towns 24 & 25 in Range 8. The board recommended that the first town meeting be held at the house of Hugh McGreer on the first Tuesday in April 1859, (later changed to read “March” instead of April). There were nine ‘yeas’ and one ‘nay’ on this motion.
Before the election was held the County Board amended its earlier action and gave Hull three more sections, 1, 2 and 3 in Town 23, Range 8. Apparently this was done following the incorporation of the city of Stevens Point in 1858 which left three sections to the east of the city more or less in a corner between Hull and the town of Plover. It would have been equally as logical, if not more so, to include these three sections in Plover as they lie in the same constitutional township, i.e., Town 23, and apparently Plover felt the same way, for in 1859 the board reversed itself and gave these three sections to Plover.
In 1859 a big part of Hull was set off to constitute the new town of Sharon. This led to a petition from the citizens of Hull in February 1860 urging the County Board to rescind this action and “the matter was taken up and debated at some length...”1 In fact, Hull requested that the whole town of Sharon be handed back to it. A vote was taken and the petition lost by a vote of six to eight. At a meeting held the following day, the matter came up again and this time it lost nine to six.
Hull, by this time an odd-shaped township, narrow in the middle and seemingly perched on one leg, continued agitation for more territory and in November 1860 a number of sections to the north and east of the city of Stevens Point were taken from the town of Stevens Point and attached to Hull. A few days later Hull was also given the north one-half of Sec 1, Town 23, Range 8, east of Plover River which was detached from the town of Plover. This half section is still retained by Hull.
Effective April 1, 1899 the board ordered sections 6, 7, 18, 19 and the west half of 30 and 31 in Town 25, Range 9, detached from Hull and attached to Sharon. In the same motion it detached Town 25, Range 8, from Hull and all that portion of Town 25, Range 7, which lay east of the Wisconsin River, formerly part of Eau P1eine, to form the new town of Dewey. However, Hull was compensated by annexing sections 2, 3, 10, 14, 23, and 25, east of the Wisconsin River in Town 24, Range 7, formerly part of the town of Stevens Point which had been vacated.
The subdivision of the town of Hull in Town 24, Range 8, not included in the Indian Survey of 1839-40, was begun March 22 and completed March 29, 1853.
The first election in Hull was “held agreeable to the law” at School House No. 9 which stood about a quarter of a mile northwest of Jordan bridge. Elected were Samuel Brown, chairman; Joseph Oesterly and Michael Dawson, supervisors; Alexander Jack, clerk; Timothy Leary, treasurer; James Moore, town superintendent of schools; James Delany, assessor; James Moore, Michael Sweeney, Samuel Brown and Alonzo Streeter, justices of the peace; Michael Finneran, Archy Sievwright and William Carver, constables; and Richard Keaff, sealer of weights and measures.
School House No.9 was the scene of many town meetings in the first years of Hull. It was later moved to where Pulaski School is located in 1958. Modern H-66 cuts through the southeast corner of the forty on which the earlier school house stood. In the very southeast corner of this forty, that is, on the south side of H-66, there once stood a grocery store operated by Frank W. Muzzy who was also the first postmaster here in 1864 of a post office called Hull. The township may have been named after Hull, England, probably to favor the Englishmen, not the Irish. On the other hand a D. B. Hull voted in the 3rd Ward of Stevens Point in 1860. The post office was discontinued in 1903 and the last postmaster was Chryst Marchel whose son, Severen, still lives on this forty.
A direct road between Jordan, (pronounced “Jerdan” by the early settlers) and the village of Stevens Point developed in the early 1850s. Previous to this, Hugh McGreer had been using a road developed along the left (east) bank of the Plover River all the way into Plover village. By 1857 the village of New Jordan had been laid out on the left bank of the Plover near McGreer's saw mill. It may have been known as “McGreer’s Rapids” before this time. The fact that it was platted as “New Jordan” suggests that it was named after another community of the same name, probably Jordan, New York, where Robert Maine, an Englishman, stopped for a time before coming to work in the mills on the Plover. A plat of four village blocks was laid out with streets called Main, Wells, Clinton, Mason and St. Louis, with 12 lots in each of the four blocks. [Map] Here someone risked a dollar and probably lost it, for it proved to be a boom town founded on one economic fact — the timber business, and when the timber ran out, the boom went out with the timber. It happened all over northern Wisconsin.
Meanwhile the village of New Jordan was moving ahead. In 1860 Sunday School classes were being conducted by Ansolm Vaughn and Alonzo Streeter.2 In 1862 a “war meeting”3 was held here with Wilson Muzzy not only presiding but delivering the main address. A year later, despite the war, someone in Jordan found time to arrange a prize fight between F. L. Floyd, better known as “Buffalo Pete,” and Joseph Griffith of Berlin, both employees of Thurston, Bowden & Co., lumbermen on the Plover. Interest in the fight must have been fairly keen as the editor of the Pinery covered the match for his newspaper. The event lasted 54 minutes and was said to be the “best fight we have ever witnessed.” While this early-day sports writer goes on
to explain that Floyd succeeded in closing Griffith's “two shutters” with a “beautiful righthander,” the battle ended in a TKO, as the writer explains that Griffith’s second and friends “in spite of his earnest entreaties, forced him from the fight.”4 These were the days when men fought without gloves and the number of rounds was practically unlimited. A fight lasting only 54 minutes was short compared to some of the later classics of John L. Sullivan.
Meanwhile, tragedy had struck one of the pioneer families of Hull. Michael Finneran, one of the first of three constables elected to the new town board in 1859, had been in Stevens Point where he was “kicked by an ox, directly in front of Grant’s store last week, by which internal injuries were received so that he died in two or three days.”5 The Pinery account identifies him as “an Irishman,” which reflects the ethnic consciousness of the pioneers and which Americans are not entirely over yet.
On June 1, 1863 John Ryan handed the town clerk of Hull a petition with 16 names which respectfully requested a special town meeting “for the purpose of taking into consideration the subject of allowing cattle and hogs to run at large in said town.” It was signed by Ryan, Patrick Leary, Joseph Roberts, James Barry, Edward Langenburg, Wm. Walters, Wm. Lynch, Patrick Mirau, John Leahey, Jeremiah Banker, August Schulteze, Geo. Miller, Solomon O. Andrews, Mich Carmody, John Welsch and John Quin. The petitioners lost. It is doubtful whether many of these were farmers, or they would have known that building a rail fence around a quarter section was beyond the capability of the average free-holder, and, if a cow strayed through the woods to a neighbor’s farm or garden, the owner took evasive action, logically, by building a rail fence around the garden, not the quarter section. Barbed wire did not come to Portage County much before 1900. In the 1880s and ‘90s, fencing was done, when necessary, by felling trees in a line and filling in the holes with brush, or by building a row of stumps, or by cutting cedar rails, or by tacking up cheap lumber culls to posts. Here and there stone fences were built up from nearby fields.
The town of Hull was sparsely settled in the first three decades of its incorporation. In the 1866 tax roll nearly 700 forties or portions thereof are listed as unknown. While the first tax roll is missing, the town treasurer's book is available which gives the taxpayers beginning Dec. 24, 1860 through Jan. 29, 1861, presumably the final day for payment. The biggest taxpayer was a B. Vanstyle (by S. Campbell) who on Jan. 19, 1861 paid $154.11 and the smallest was “Jos Plato” (probably Platta) who paid 23 cents. Platta’s is also the only Polish name in this book. Others who paid taxes were Hugh McGreer ($34.47), Matthew Wadleigh ($56.83), Barney Cassidy, Murt Burns, Patrick Moore, Am (?) Hirst, Archibald Sievwright (by S. Campbell), Adam Welch (by S. Campbell), Anslem Vaughan, William Reading, Charles Van Order, E. D. Brown, Alonzo Streeter, George Wilson, George Senger (?), Isaac Vanseter, Peter Fisher, Henry Pool, Richard Nugent, Lawrence Nugent, John Quim, John White, W. E. Cole, Andre Otis, A. B. Redfield, Patrick Griffith, Michael Freel, B. Bender, Francis Bender, N. F. Bliss, A. B. Crosy, John Cinsoll (?), James Delaney, Mary Flyn, Michael Flyn, Patrick Gallagher, James Hollingsworth, Wilson P. Muzzy, William Walton (on estate of Masterson), John Murphy, Daniel (?), Los Schlegel, Thomas Venner (?), Thomas Welsh, John Patterson, Francis Shelly, Chas. Treebou (?), John Welsh, Eliza Wilas, Nathan Corniff, A. J. Aldrich, W. G. Campbell, Timothy Sweeny, P. H. Buckley, and Smith & Henry Rogers.
The village of Jordan began to peter out in the mid1880s. While there is no evidence of a village in Jordan today, the view of the Jordan pond from H-66, the rapids below the bridge, the race and power dam are all fascinating, and a new beauty has replaced the old. But who can guess at the manner of men who tamed the river and cleared the forest around?
Aside from the Wisconsin and Plover Rivers, which both drain the town of Hull on the left and right banks, one river runs into the township which originates in Marathon County and flows through the town of Dewey into Hull and on to the Wisconsin above Stevens Point known as Hay Meadow Creek. This appears to have been known as Willow Creek before 1844, but in a division of road districts made by the county that year it is referred to in parenthesis as “Sheritts Hay Meadow Creek...6 There are no natural lakes in the township but the flowages formed by the three dams on the Plover at the Jordan, Van Order, and Bentley mills have partially filled this need.
Serving the town of Hull, with a population of 1,524, in 1957-58, were Joseph Wojcik, chairman; Ray Bernas and August Firkus, supervisors; Joseph Bonowski, clerk; Joseph Daczyk, treasurer; Joseph Brillowski, assessor; Lawrence Miller, justice of the peace; Robert S. Coats, constable, and Joseph Bonowski, health officer.
1 Proceedings, Board of Supervisors, Vol. I, p. 58.
2 Pinery, Aug. 31, 1860.
3 Ibid., Aug. 30, 1862.
4 Pinery, March 20, 1863.
5 Ibid., Jan. 24, 1860.
6 Proceedings, County Commissioners Sessions, Vol. I, p. 54.