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Biography of Isaac Stephenson

This biography appears on pages 76-78 in
"Men of Progress. Wisconsin. A selected list of biographical sketches and portraits of the leaders in business, professional and official life. Together with short notes on the history and character of Wisconsin."

STEPHENSON, Isaac, a resident of Marinette. Wisconsin, known far and wide in business and political circles as one of the most sagacious, enterprising and successful men in the state, is a native of York county, New Brunswick, where he was born on the 18th of June, 1829. His father, Isaac Stephenson, was of Scotch-Irish extraction, and his mother, nee Watson, was a native of London. The boy attended the public school for a short time, but began work at an early age, helping his father, who was a farmer and lumberman, in the heavy work of those occupations. When sixteen years of age he accompanied Jefferson Sinclair and his family to Milwaukee, arriving in the city in November, 1845. He attended school the following winter, but in the spring went with Mr. Sinclair to an unimproved farm five miles south of Janesville. Here the boy was engaged in breaking prairie and other farm work for two summers, but the crops sowed failed; and, Mrs. Sinclair, about that time becoming interested with Daniel Wells, Jr., in pine lands in northern Michigan, sent young Stephenson to that region to look after his interests in the lumbering operations which were begun there. The young man was not afraid of work, no matter under what guise it came. He engaged in getting out timber and hauling it to the lake for shipment. The he was placed in charge of lumber camps, and much of his work was of the hardest and attended with great exposure and danger, but he was not one to quail, and so he advanced in the confidence of his employers, until he began operations for himself. During the summer he sailed the lake between Escanaba and Milwaukee and Chicago, carrying freight between those points, and before he was twenty-one years old he owned the controlling interest in the schooler Cleopatra, which unfortunately was wrecked in 1853. As showing that he was born a "man of progress," he abandoned work during one summer, and attended school in Milwaukee, that he might be the better fitted for the large things before him.

His familiarity with lumbering and with the pine regions made him a good judge of pine lands, and, in 1848, he accompanied Daniel Wells, Jr., to the Sault Ste. Marie land office and assisted in purchasing large tracts of valuable timber land. The enterprises and activities of this man from that time on are too numerous, varied and extensive to be adequately enumerated here; suffice it to say that his business rapidly advanced and extended until he became one of the leading lumbermen of that region. He acquired a quarter interest in the property of N. Ludington & Co., including the great mill, and when, in 1868, that firm gave place to the N. Ludington Stock company. Mr. Stephenson owned a controlling interest in the property, and since 1883 he has been president of the company. He was one of the large stockholders in the Peshtigo company, whose factory, together with the village of Peshtigo, was destroyed by the great fire of 1871, involving a loss of nearly $2,000,000; but the mills and village were immediately rebuilt. In 1892 he bought the Peshtigo company, and reorganized it under the name of the Peshtigo Lumber company, with Daniel Wells, Jr., and Chas. Ray of Milwaukee, equal owners with himself. He is the president and was the organizer and promoter of the Menominee River Boom company, which handles more logs than any company in the world, and which is capitalized for $1,250,000. He is president of the Stephenson National bank at Marinette, and is interested in a half dozen companies relating to the lumber industry, which represent millions of capital. He is owner or part owner of thousands of acres of timber in Michigan, Wisconsin and Louisiana. In addition to these vast interests be owns a farm of nine hundred acres in Kenosha county, which is fully stocked and equipped. In connection with this farm is a creamery that makes three hundred pounds of butter daily. He also owns another farm at Marinette, which is principally devoted to the raising of trotting horses. Mr. Stephenson may be properly termed the industrial pioneer of northeaster. Wisconsin and northern Michigan, because of his promotion of so many enterprises that have proved of vital importance to that region.

Mr. Stephenson has been a Republican since the organization of that party; and notwithstanding his vast business interests he has always found time to labor for the promotion of the party principles and interests, because he fully believes in them. He was twice a member of the state legislature; and, in 1882, he was elected to congress, and twice re-elected. He declined further re-election for business reasons. He was a popular and influential influential member, and did his country good service, as might have been expected from one of so much energy and such wide and varied experience in business affairs. He was on terms of intimacy with many of the political leaders, and his retiring from public life was generally regretted.

Mr. Stephenson has been thrice married--first to Margaret Stephenson, in 1852. From this union there are four children living. In 1873 he married Augusta Anderson, who bore him three children, who survive their mother. His third marriage was to Elizabeth Burns, in 1884, and one son is the issue of this marriage.

Though a man of regret wealth he is free from ostentation, and is justly proud of what he has accomplished, because it came to him as the result of unremitting industry, enterprise and the sagacity born of a study of his opportunities and their possibilities.

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