Whiting

Includes articles about Whiting and McDillville and a photo of Plover-Whiting Band


Whiting

From the Stevens Point Journal May 19, 1992
By BRENDA REGETH
of the Journal

The way Ray Hager tells it, the story of Whiting’s incorporation begins with dusty, dirt roads. “Whiting proper didn’t get much attention,” Hager said. “The roads were dust for about ito 6 inches.” To get to the highway (today’s Post Road), a person had to trudge through the dirt or shovel himself out, Hager recalled in a taped interview chronicling the history of the village of Whiting.

Carved out of the town of Plover, Whiting was incorporated as a village in 1947 after voters approved the move in a special vote held at McDill School. It’s said that of 300 eligible voters, 248 voted in favor of creating the village of Whiting.

The area’s three biggest mills - the Stevens Point Pulp and Paper Co., the Wisconsin River Division of Consolidated Water Power and Paper Co., and the Whiting-Plover Paper Co. - were all located in what became Whiting.

Prior to Whiting’s incorporation, tax dollars from the mills funded improvements in the town of Plover. However, those improvements were confined to areas in the southern portion of Plover.  The very area that generated tax dollars was the last to receive services from the town, Tepp said.

Those who had settled in Whiting, once made up of the Conant Rapids plat and the former town of McDill, had had enough of inequality. “It was formed by some people who used to go to Coopers Corner tavern,” Hager said. “(Eugene) Cooper himself, Mr. (Henry) Glenzer, Barney Omernick and Ben Redfield” were among them.

“We got together and somebody said we should break away and have a village of our own,” Hager said. “The people in Plover were not happy about this. It brought a lot of gold out of their pockets.”

Forty-four people cast votes against the move because, Hager said, they didn’t want to share tax dollars that would go toward improvements in Whiting.

Cletus Tepp, a long-time village trustee, remembers when he cast his ballot in favor of incorporation. His story sounds a lot like Hager’s. “I lived on Sherman Avenue,” Tepp said. “If we had a snowstorm, it was two or three days before the snowplow came through.”

And the town of Plover fire trucks that would serve Whiting proper were always stationed south in the Plover marshes. It took a while to respond to a fire farther north, Tepp said.

Just prior to Whiting’s incorporation, town of Plover crews had heaped blacktop in the middle of Sherman Road with the intent of paving it, Tepp said. But once voters approved incorporation, the town crews hauled the blacktop away.

As a new village, Whiting provided for itself in paving roads, establishing a fire department, setting up water services and developing a parks system. For a short time, Whiting even had its own airport located on the current site of McDill Cemetery.

Growth has occurred largely in the village’s northeast corner, which was annexed sometime after incorporation. That area grew residentially in a new subdivision. Homes on McDill Pond began popping up, too, with most of the newer houses going up on the Stevens Point side of the pond.

For the most part, however, Whiting’s neighborhoods had already been platted when the area was settled in the late 1800's as Conant Rapids and the town of McDill. “The village had chances to expand, but they turned it down,” Tepp said, adding villagers wanted Whiting to maintain its size.

Although it hasn’t grown much from its original one and one-half square miles, the village has nearly tripled its population since it incorporated.

Almost 700 people lived in the village in 1947. Census figures show Whiting’s population at 1,838 today.


From the Stevens Point Journal May 19, 1992

By BRENDA REGETH
of the Journal

If the wind blew just the right way, the clothes that your morn hung out on the line to dry would reek of rotten eggs. Cletus Tepp and anyone else who lived downwind of the “stink” mill got more than a nose full of fumes emanating out of the John Strange Paper Co. mill when the winds were high. “If you hung your clothes on the line, you had to redo the clothes,” said Tepp, who has lived in Whiting all his life. Although the 100 year old mill caused some nasal irritation, it is fondly remembered by those who valued its historical significance.

Today, Whiting Park and its baseball diamond stand where the mill was first built as a sawmill in the 1850's. When the mill was demolished in the late 1950s, the village bought the site and laid it out as one of its newest municipal improvements. Whiting Park became a pride and joy.

“In the 10 years which Whiting village has been in existence, most of the hopes of the original incorporators have been realized,” wrote Malcolm Rosholt in “Our County Our Story.” “...a park system has been established along the Plover River.” It’s along the Plover River where the mills and later the park have become part of a long history.

The Plover River at what was once known as the McDill plat was first dammed in the 1850s by Amos Courtwright, who was one of two men lynched for the murder of Portage County Sheriff Joseph H. Baker.

Courtwright and his partner, Luther Hanchett, built a sawmill there in 1852. After Courtwright bought out his partner in 1856, he was charged with defaulting in his payments, and through a court order, his farm in the town of Buena Vista was seized.

After pressure by then sheriff Joseph H. Baker, Courtwright and his brother, Isaiah killed Baker. An angry mob broke into the county jail where the Courtwrights were being held for the murder, and the two men were hanged on the site of today’s Portage County Health Care Center.

Later, Thomas H. and Alexander McDill bought the Courtwright interest in 1864 and, as pioneer lumbermen operated the mill in what was then called McDillville. The plat named in their honor was shortened to McDill and became a part of the village of Whiting when it incorporated in 1947.

George E. McDill, the son of Thomas, started a gristmill at the site in 1885. However, the gristmill was destroyed by fire. The sawmill remained, and was later operated by the Wisconsin Graphite Co. in the early 1900s.

About 30 years later, the John Strange Paper Co. of Menasha bought the mill for the production of kraft pulp and operated under the name of Stevens Point Pulp and Paper. It was a pulp manufacturing process using sulfate that caused the “stink” mill to give off a bad odor.

“We lived two miles south of Plover, and if the wind was just right we got a whiff of it,” said Harold “Bud” Taylor, one of the village founders.

But the John Strange company couldn’t keep up with international competition and leased the mill to the Jay Pulp and Paper Co. Jay Pulp and Paper operated periodically through-out the year, but never gained firm footing in the industry. Mill operations stopped for good in 1954.

Controversy arose when it came time to name the park. Up until 1974, village residents differed over the park name. Some people, namely Whiting Village Clerk Ben Redfield, wanted to name the park in honor of the Courtwrights. Other village residents suggested the park be named after the deceased sheriff Baker. As the park continued to be developed, it was known as simply Whiting Park. And the name has stuck.


What’s in a name.

It was a close call on Whiting over McDill

From the Stevens Point Journal May 19, 1992

By BRENDA REGETH
of the Journal

Getting enough votes to incorporate the village of Whiting was the easy part. Agreeing on a name for the newly created village was a little more difficult. In fact, there was a lot of kicking and scratching among residents who were torn between the names McDill and Whiting for their new municipality.

The McDill name, residents maintained, would be a tribute to the area’s founding fathers, Thomas H. and Alexander McDill and Thomas’s son, George. The McDills, pioneer lumbermen, operated a sawmill at the current site of Whiting Park.

Back then, the area was named McDillville in their honor. That name later was shortened to McDill, one of the original plats that became part of the village of Whiting. Until then, the area had always been referred to as McDill.

George McDill, a prominent businessman and education advocate, inherited his father’s sawmill and built a gristmill on the same site.

But by the time the village was incorporated by voters in 1947, most of the McDill family members had died or moved away, said Ray Hager, in a taped interview at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point archives. “The Whiting people were here to stay,” he said.

The Whiting name recognized George A. Whiting, a Neenah industrialist who was a local pioneer in the paper industry. In 1891, he organized the Wisconsin River Pulp and Paper Co. that became the Wisconsin River Division of Consolidated Papers. He later built the Whiting-Plover Paper Co. mill, which is now the Kimberly-Clark’s Neenah Division paper mill.

His name was given to the former Whiting Hotel in Stevens Point and to the Stevens Point Country Club, which was the Whiting Country Club when it was organized.

When the name controversy arose, a school, the pond and a street had long been named in honor of the McDills, village trustee Cletus Tepp said. But, Whiting himself had never lived in the village, he added.

Despite dozens of arguments in support of the McDill name, a majority voted overwhelmingly to incorporate the village under the name of Whiting. For some, the village will always be remembered as McDill.

“You can lead a horse to the watering trough, but sometimes you cannot make him drink,” wrote Alex Wallace in a letter to the editor in the Stevens Point Journal in 1947. “You can change the name of a village or city but it is another matter to make the new name stick. I, for one, should never think of calling your village by any other name even though its name be changed. To me your village would still be McDill..”


(Return to top)