Government of Star Lake, Wisconsin, USA
Star Lake is not incorporated and it never was, even though it was a thriving village at the turn of the century. Local government is the Town of Plum Lake, in Vilas County. [In Wisconsin, "Town" means the same as "Township" is neighboring Northwest Territory states.] Also in Plum Lake is the community of Sayner, which since the closing of the mill in Star Lake about 1909, has been the larger community.
The only governmental facilities in Star Lake are the U.S. Post Office, which has been there since 1894, the Star Lake Cemetery which is owned and managed by the Town of Plum Lake, and the various DNR facilities associated with the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest--two campgrounds and the nature trail. At one time the Forest maintained a house for a forest ranger in the town--now the house is gone and its site is the parking lot for the Star Lake Nature Trail on the peninsula. At one time there was a public school in Star Lake as well. All other governmental activity is undertaken from outside of the town: law enforcement; zoning; public education; roads; forest, wildlife and fish management; libraries; etc.
It is interesting to follow the trail of sovereignty, and later U.S. authority, of the area that we now call Star Lake. The following listing completely ignores the fact that Native Americans occupied the area for millennia before the Europeans begand to contest its ownership!
Norse explorers, led by Lief Erickson, were the first Europeans to reach North America, but they laid no claim to the continent–they were just visitors. Columbus reached the islands of the Carribean, but never made it to North America.
Spain was the first European claimant of North America staking its claim in 1512 on the basis of Ponce de Leon’s discovery of Florida as he searched for the Fountain of Youth. Burnham, p. 63-64.
France was the next claimant, but establishing the date is more complex. Beginning with the exploration of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence by Jacques Cartier in 1534, New France could lay claim to the lands to the west; certainly they had a better claim than Spain. Burnham, in The Lake Superior Country in History and Story, p. 64 uses the date 1627 which is the date that Richelieu, holding the office of grand master of navigation and commerce, “provided for the growth of New France by revoking, in 1627, all previous concessions and privileges of trade, and concentrating the economic fortures of the colony in the hands of the Company of New France, usually known as the Company of One Hundred Associates.” The French Regime in Wisconsin and the Northwest, p. 60-61
Next came Great Britain 1n 1763. By the Treaty of Paris, which ended the French and Indian Way, France conceded it’s claims to the North American mainland to Great Britain.
In 1783 the United States acquired the land that is now Wisconsin by the Treat of 1783 which ended the Revolutional War.
Beginning in 1783 claim to this area lay with Virginia, on the basis of their original claim of everthing to the west and northwest of the Virginia Colony.
In 1787 the United States resolved the issue of the western claims with the passage of the Northwest Ordinancy, making the future Wisconsin a part of the Northwest Territory.
In 1800 the future Wisconsin became part of the newly created Territory of Indiana. Knox County was the first established in the Northwest Territory. In inclluded some of Wisconsin but not the area of Vilas County. Wayne County was established in the Indiana and Michigan territories, but it did not include Vilas County–its western boundary being a north-south line that passed through the westernmost point of Lake Michigan.
In 1805 this area became part of the Territory of Michigan. There continued to be no county organization in the area of Vilas County.
In 1809 the area became part of the Territory of Illinois. The territory was divided into two counties, St. Clair and Randolph. St. Clair was to the north and so included Wisconsin.
In 1818 Illinois became a state and the areas of the Territory of Illinois that were not to be part of the State of Illinois were returned to the Territory of Michigan; this included the Vilas County area. Michigan divided Wisconsin into three counties: Michilimackinac, Crawford, and Brown. Michilimackinac ran along Lake Superior and included the land to the headwards of the rivers flowing into Lake Superior. The waters around Star Lake flow to the Mississippi, so we were excluded. The southern portion of the state was divided east from west, and Star Lake lay to the west–Crawford County.
In 1836 the Territory of Wisconsin was created. This area evidently remained in Crawford County. History of Wisconsin, Vol. 1, p. 208; map p. 250 In 1836 Portage County was created. Territory of Crawford was transferred to Portage County at its creation and again in 1838. It is not clear (with more extensive research than I was able to do with the Internet or books available) on which of these dates (1836 or 1838) the Vilas County area was transferred.
Regardless, by 1838 this area was part of Portage County.
In 1850 Marathon County was created and this area became part of the new county.
In 1875 Lincoln County was created and this area became part of the new county.
In 1887 Oneida County was created and this area became part of the new county.
On April 15, 1893 Vilas County was created from the northern portion of Oneida County.
On April 11, 1911, the Town of Plum Lake was created out of territory detached from the Town of Arbor Vitae.
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