Biography of Hon. William Thompson Price
Clark and Jackson Counties, WI Biographies

Clark and Jackson

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HONORABLE WILLIAM THOMPSON PRICE was born in Barre Township, Huntington County, Pennsylvania, June 17, 1824, and died at his home in Black River Falls, Wisconsin, December 6, 1886. Perhaps no man has been more prominently identified with the early and later history of the State of Wisconsin than he. His opportunities for acquiring an education in early life were extremely limited. His father, William Price, was a farmer by occupation, arid at one time Sheriff of Huntingdon County. He is said to have been a man of large and powerful body, possessing an indomitable will and great force of character. William T. Price was a man much smaller physically, but inherited the will power and integrity of character which had been his father's. His early life was spent on a farm, and he was for a time employed as clerk in a store in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. While he was thus occupied he spent his evenings in reading law books, and began fitting himself for the career of later years. In the spring of 1845 he emigrated to the growing West, going first to Mount Pleasant, Iowa, whero he intended to work into the law business. But not being fully satisfied with the prospect there, he came to Black River Falls the following autumn. The story that has come down in regard to his worldly possessions is that he owned an ax and twenty-five cents in money. Here he entered upon a path that led to the front rank of the business men of the county, and in fact of the State. It would be impossible within the limits of this article to give in detail an account of the business interests with which he was connected, but the following facts are taken from a biography of Judge Price, and will give the reader an idca of what he accoinplished, and his business capacity.

Soon after his arrival at the Falls he went into the pine woods, six miles north of the present site of Neillsville, and in company with two other men got out 700,000, feet of logs during the following winter, This success doubtless determined the cbaracter of the business in which he was engaged for many years, and on which be spent sufficient energy to have wrecked an ordinary man, In the summer of 1846 he accepted the position of book keeper and general manager of the business of Jacob Spaulding. In the winter of 1848-49 he was Jogging with Amos Elliott in Clark County; he continued logging with fair success until 1853, when be formed a partnership with F. M. Rublee, of La Crosse, Mr. Price having entire charge of the business; this firm existed about two years, and in 1852 purchased and platted the northwestern part of Black River Falls.

In 1854 he removed his family to La Crosse and there opened a livery stable and established a stage line between that place and Black River Fails. in 1854 he returned to tile Falls and formed a law partnership with C. R Johnson; it was the first law firm on Black River, and continued to exist until 1859, Judge Price retiring. He kept the La Crosse stage line in operation for a number of years. He also embarked in the mercan tile business on a large scale, with C. S. Crossett as a partner. The panic of 1857 found their business unsettled, and being unable to meet their paper they failed. After disposing of all their assets, they were still $25,000 in debt. Mr. Price returned to the logging business with renewed energy, but without capital, and within seven years had every dollar of the indebtedness paid, with ten per cent. interest. His creditors made him a present of a $300 gold watch and chain in token of their appreciation of his honesty in paying them what could not have been collected by law. In 1860, in company with D. J. Spaulding, be engaged in operating the Albion flour and lumber mills of this city. In 1864 be purchased the stage line from St. Paul to Sparta, but soon disposed of a portion of it. He enlarged this business, and conducted it successfully.

In 1871 he purchased a farm in the township of Hixton, and added to this from time to time until he had 3,000 acres in one body. He also owned much other valuable real estate, and during the latter years of his life his logging interests were more extensive. He averaged 60,000,000 feet of logs ann ually, involving the employment of 750 men. He is said to have been one of the most extensive single operators in the United States, and was the largest in the State of Wisconsin.

He began taking an active part in politics in 1850. In 1851 he was elected to the Assembly as a Democrat, but on the organization of the Republican party he joined that body. In 1853-'54 be was Judge of Jackson County; he was a member of the State Senate in 1858, 1870, 1878, 1879, 1880, and 1881. He was Collector of internal revenue from 1863 to 1865; for many years he was President of the Jackson County Bank. In 1882 be was elected to the Forty eighth Congress, from the Eighth Congressional District; was re-elected in 1884 to the Forty ninth, and in 1888, to the Fiftieth, He was attentive to the duties of every position he held, and discharged them with great ability and energy. He was a clearheaded business man, and possessed unusual power as a speaker. He was generous-hearted, stanch and true to his friends, and always ready to defend himself against his enemies. His death caused sincere and deep regret throughout the State and country. His death occurred before he entered upon his duties as a member of the Fiftieth Congress. He was one of the brightest men the State of Wisconsin has had; he labored constantly in the interests of law and order and morality. As a business man his ambition was satisfied with only the largest operations, which he conducted conscientiously and equitably. In his political career he was a reformer whose positions could never be misunderstood. In Congress he occupied the position of a leader, and always commanded attention when he spoke on any question.

Judge Price was united in marriage July 10, 1851, to Miss Julia Campbell, of Grant County, Wisconsin, a most estimable woman, who with her twochildren: Hugh H. and Margaret, resides in the home erected by the father and husband a few years ago.

Biographical History of
Clark and Jackson Counties Wisconsin
Lewis Publishing Company.
Chiago, 1891.