The Township of Saratoga, Wood County, Wisconsin
Term: Saratoga, Town of, Wood Co.
Definition: A civil town in Wood Co. at latitude 441733N and longitude 0894839W, created 9 Jan. 1857.1
Possible Origin of Name
Organized as a township on January 9, 1857 and reduced to its present size in 1875, it was named after the Saratoga settlement, originally called “Ten Mile Creek Settlement” for the nearby stream. Origin of the name Saratoga is unknown. It may have been named for another place in the United States named Saratoga.2
In the 1830s and 1840s, many English and Irish emigrants were arriving in central WI from the state of New York. As they settled here they named the towns after those they left in New York: Hancock, Almond and Plainfield among them. Many of these same emigrants then made their way into this immediate area, and quite possibly brought the name of Saratoga with them from New York as well. As you will see below, the name is very fitting for this township. Also note under the “First Settlers” section, that the surnames indicate almost all are of English and Irish descent.3
Saratoga, New York was a gateway for westward migration of local and New England settlers. The name Saratoga in New York came from the Native American Iroquois name for the place: Sarach-togue, meaning “hillside of a great river; place of swift water.”4
Establishment of the Township of Saratoga
Wood County was named after Joseph Wood, who came here from Illinois in 1848. The township of Saratoga was carved out of Wood County and set aside January 9, 1857. The description reads: “All that portion of the County of Wood lying east of the main channel of the Wisconsin River and south of the township line between Townships 21 and 22.”
Even though established as a town in 1857, the first town meeting was not held until the first Tuesday in April of 1858. That meeting was held at the tavern then kept by Henry Kennedy, within the limits of the new town.
The boundaries of the town as first established have remained the same except that from March 30, 1874, to March 20, 1875, the portion of Town 21, Range 5, lying west of the Wisconsin River was a part of Saratoga, having been detached from Port Edwards for that period of time, and then returned.5
Early History of Town Government
On April 23, 1863, the commissioner system of county government having been adopted in the previous year, the board divided the county into three districts, with District No. 1 to be composed of Grand Rapids and Saratoga.
For seven years this is how it was done and then in March, 1870, the supervisor system of county government was resumed by the state, with each township having its own representative on the board.6
The earliest records found in the town archives themselves only date back to 1880. Those records hold little information on how the meetings were conducted and the meetings seem to be held at a variety of places from the local school to homes of members.
The early board members were chosen by various methods also, but the same names appear over and over as chairman, clerk, treasurer and in other positions. Those names include, among others: Inart Einertson, Peter Johnson, John Chrystal, Peter McDonald, Edgar Elliot, Harman Ross, Andrew Marr, Peter Mullen, Charles W. Christianson (first-listed town clerk), John Finley, Francis Finley, Robert Turley, Peter Knudtson, Frank Ross, and Michael Matthews.7
Settlement of Saratoga – Early Settlers
According to the History of Wood County, published in 1923, Town 21, Range 6 (east portion of Saratoga) is shown as the first land taken up in this town, being filed on in 1852 by Joseph R. Patte (Pattee). This does not go along with the other records and documents found for that portion of land, and does not agree with Pattee’s actual land records, and it should be noted that Robert Wakely was living in the area long before this date anyway. (More can be found on the Wakely timeline further into this book.)
In 1853, Edward I. Scott took up land in Section 25, and in 1854 Joseph Wood, founder of the county, filed in Section 5, the area where the Five Mile Creek crosses what is now Highway 13 South.
In 1855 John Snyder filed in Section 3; Stephen Snyder in Sections 4 and 5; John Hannan in Sections 5, 8, and 19; John McCamley in Section 6; Hugh Turley in Section 7; Patrick Mullen in Section 7; Henry Larsen in Section 7; Michael Flanagan in Section 7; Michael Craney in Section 7; Almanson Eaton in Sections 8 and 9; Parley Eaton in Section 8; Michael McDonald in Section 8; Robert Turley in Sections 8 and 19; Michael Mathews in Section 17; Miles McKew in Section 7; Patrick Crangle in Section 18; Robert Jones in Section 20; John Welsh in Section 20; Winefred Holland in Sections 21 and 29; Bishop Fuller in Section 29; John Douglass in Section 29; Samuel Lewis in Section 29; Freeman Durrell in Section 30; Andrew Warren Jr. in Section 32; John Rategan in Section 32; and Horace W. Coon in Section 32.8
As times changed, so did the names on the plat maps. Suddenly you noted Ross, Femling, Roberts, Conway, Richardson, Marr, Christianson, Chrystal, Johnson, Knudtson, Townsend and Einertson. It seems as if the Scandinavians, Germans, Scottish and others had arrived as well.
It was not until closer to the beginning of the 1900s that you started to see a more predominant shift to a heavier German population in the township. By then, Saratoga Township was well established and on its way to being an important part of Wood County.
If you check the phone book, you will still see a number of those same names in this area. The roots of Saratoga Township run deep and hold fast—something necessary when you live on the hillside of a great river, a place of swift water.
Extinction of Town Itself
Saratoga is an extinct village in southeastern Wood County, in a township of the same name. The early settlement was largely of Irish extraction, and the present population is entirely rural.
9 The town of Saratoga itself was located at the southern end of the township, on what is now known as Highway 13 South, near the Ten Mile Creek.
Lakes in the Township of Saratoga
There are several marshes in the area, most used for growing cranberries, but the only true lake is Ross Lake, which is just west of County Road Z in Section 27 of the township. Ross Lake was named for the first family who owned the land.
A very small section of NEPCO Lake extends into Saratoga, east of County Road Z and north of the Five Mile Creek. NEPCO stood for the Nekoosa (Port) Edwards Paper COmpany that made the lake.
Connection with the Native Americans
The Ross Lake Indian mounds near the east bank of the Wisconsin River are situated near Ross Lake about one mile east of the Wisconsin River, overlooking the lake on the original Frank Ross farm. More mounds exist further south along the east side of the river, all the way to Adams County, and north also, running near the original Wakely settlement. These mounds are indicative of a history of Native American settlement in this area.
Industry and Business in the Early Township
Although not called Saratoga then, Robert Wakely was the first white settler in the township, putting down roots in 1837. By 1846, Wakely already had at least a dozen buildings at his settlement, just south of Nekoosa on the Pinery Road. By 1852, Wakley was operating the lower ferry across the Wisconsin River from his tavern. All this was even before the township was created in 1857. It should be noted that Wakely’s settlement was at the northwest end of the township, while the actual Saratoga settlement would be closer to the southeast corner.
Early records indicate taverns kept by several individuals in the area, these being necessary for travelers who needed to stop.
There were also sawmills, blacksmith shops and a version of a general store.
The first post office was in a home at the original Saratoga Ten Mile Settlement.
A plat map from the early 1900s shows 160 acres owned by the Grand Rapids Brew Company, located on the south side of Mill Avenue, just east of Highway 13, and Mrs. M. Mathews’ 160-acre Grove View Stock Farm straddling Highway 13, on the south side of the intersection with Highway 73.
Pioneer Cemetery is located on the corner of 48th Street South and Townline Road in the northeast corner of the Township. According to Ray Hanson, caretaker at Pioneer Cemetery, burials started at Pioneer in 1888. Before that, the good folk of the area were buried either on the north bank of Little Creek on Plainfield Road or the north bank of Five Mile Creek on the Mosher farm. High water from spring flooding caused the move to the current location and sometime after 1888, the bodies buried at the other sites were moved to the Pioneer Cemetery.
Green Hill Cemetery is located in the southwest corner of Saratoga Township at the corner of Ten Mile Avenue and County Road Z. According to Jim Joslin, the president of Green Hill Cemetery Association, the first burial there was about 1857. No early burial records were kept and the most antiquated stones are worn smooth and cannot be read. The oldest readable tombstone is from 1867.
The land in the oldest part of Green Hill Cemetery was given by the Elliot family and so it was known first as the Elliot Cemetery, later being called the Saratoga Cemetery, and then Green Hill. Depending on the records you access, the name is also shown as Greenhill, all one word.
The Pattee family cemetery is in section 27, near the Wisconsin River, and other old farm cemeteries and single-grave sites also exist, including the Ensign and Durrell burial sites near the Ten Mile Creek settlement, and the Whitney burial grounds south of Swallow Rock.
Interesting Notes from the Early Town Records10
April 3, 1888 – exactly as written:
Moved and caried that the Town Boards Report by excepted.
Moved and caried that there by $250 dolards raised for town expences
Motioned and seconded that all cattle be let run at large.
Example of Early Town Road Building Process11
October 31, 1893 – Town of Saratoga – County of Wood, Wis
The Board of Supervisors of said Town of Saratoga met at N L Wakley’s according to notice and let the job of building a road commencing at Jos Berard’s barn on Section 23, T 21, Route 5, and running north on the section line one mile. And work to be done as follows. Commence at Jos Berard’s to put in pipe and grade 16 feet wide. Next, N L Wakely to build a bridge 5 ft abutment, 10 ft span, 16 ft planks. 3 in wide with railing 5 stringers and to be made of good sound and good size and solid timber. All peeled and grade level with the bridge and fill all holes and grade all side hills in good passable manner. All brush to be cut close to the ground. 3 Road wide as far north as the center line of section 14. Said work to be paid when money is collected and sold to Robert Wakely for $75. –T.C. Thompson, Clerk
Saratoga Sites on the National Historic Registry
Currently the Wakley House is the only building in the township of Saratoga on the National Historic Registry. The application for placement on the registry and the actual listing reads as follows:
Wakely’s Tavern (Added 1974 – Building – #74000146)12
Also known as Old Ferry Farm
West end of Wakely Rd., Nekoosa
Historic Significance: Event
Area of Significance: Transportation, Exploration/Settlement
Period of Significance: 1825-1849 Owner: Private
Historic Function: Commerce/Trade, Domestic
Historic Sub-function: Department Store, Hotel
Current Function: Domestic
Current Sub-function: Single Dwelling
Wakely Bridge is also listed on the National Historic Registry:
Wakely Road Bridge (Added 2001 – Structure – #01000345)13
Also known as Point Basse Bridge
Wakely Road over Wakely Creek, Saratoga
Historic Significance: Architecture/Engineering
Architectural Style: Other
Area of Significance: Engineering
Period of Significance: 1875-1899
Owner: Local Government
Historic Function: Transportation
Historic Sub-function: Road-Related
Current Function: Transportation
Current Sub-function: Road-Related
I compiled this brief town history as an overview of the town as it took shape and as a glimpse into our past for it is only by understanding our past that we can build for our future.
—Rhonda Whetstone Neibauer/ 2009
1. Harrsch, Patricia G. Civil Towns of Wisconsin (Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin Library, 1998), and U.S. Geographic Names Information Server
2. HOWGS webpage howgs.org/wood_county_history
3. Lakin Family History/©Rhonda Whetstone Neibauer
4. Saratoga County Heritage, Violet B. Dunn, Ed., 1974.
5. History of Wood County (1923) Chap. VIII County and Town Organization
7. Saratoga Town Clerk’s Record Book 1887-1893
8. History of Wood County (1923) page 73
9. Early Railroad Survey A Preliminary Railroad Survey in Wisconsin, 1857 (page 166) By Andrew McFarland Davis, A.M.
Vanished Settlements Saratoga (Ten Mile Creek).
Heart of Wisconsin Genealogical Society (HOWGS)
10. Saratoga Township Record Books
(Note: All spellings of names and incidents taken from other sources are exactly as shown in those sources.)