"Early History of Amherst, Wisconsin and its Schools "
"Early History of Amherst, Wisconsin and its Schools " issued by The Red and White School Association. ©1912. Revised 1922. Contains the following biographical sketches. This book circulates and is available through inter-library loan. Check with your local library for details.
"In the year of 1853, Judge Gilbert L. Park of Stevens Point, in speaking with Adam Uline, chairman of the town board of Lanark, suggested that our town be named Amherst in honor of General Amherst of Revolutionary fame. Since Mr. Uline was a native of Amherst, Nova Scotia, he readily fell in with the idea, and the town was formally named Amherst by the above named gentlemen. These are the facts so far as the records give them to us".
A. J. Smith
A. J. Smith was born April 20th, 1841, at Spafford, Onandaga County, New York. He attended the common school until the age of 14, when he started out for himself. At the age of 17 he was employed in the quartermaster's department of the United States army as teamster. In '59 and '60 he was in Texas and New Mexico. He made a forced march to San Antonio with a part of the Third U.S. Infantry and was almost immediately made first sergeant of the company. Mr. Smith was in the War Department drawing second lieutenant pay until October 1864, when he took his final discharge and came to Amherst in August 1865, where he resided until his death. In 1880 he was admitted to the bar; in 1898 he was elected the first president of the village of Amherst, and also served the people faithfully in other positions. His wife survived him but a few years. His three children reside within the state, E.W., a druggist at Tomahawk; Mrs. Edna McCorkle at Richmond Center and Lloyd D., a lawyer at Waupaca, in partnership with Edward E. Browne. Mr. Smith is remembered for many things and in many ways, but perhaps the thing which will last longest and has its foundation the most secure, was his interest in the young people of the village which was his home for so many years. His work among, and for young people, was original and unique and many years ahead of his time. He was a boy with the boys and a counselor and guide for us all. He took time to erect a toboggan slide from his barn loft, where we spent many pleasant evenings and the memory of funny happenings brings a happy smile to the faces of the now middle aged boys and girls. The little parties given in his home, with the able assistance of Mrs. Smith; the amazed face of the "teacher'', in the spelling class in one of the Social Evenings of the Social Temple, when A. J. had put the big boys up to mischief; his unselfish work for the cause of temperance; these and other things too numerous to mention, are all solid blocks in the foundation which he built and which shall last as long as life itself. All honor to the memory of A. J. Smith.
Isaac Simcox was the first hardware dealer in town, coming at an early date. He served for a number of years in the Civil War, and was a prisoner in Libby Prison. The suffering he bore in that prison left marks which he bore to the end of life. His faithful wife went there and brought him home, more dead than alive. Both have since passed away leaving two sons, Hiram of Marinette and William of Eau Claire, both active members of this organization [The Red and White School Association].
P. N. Peterson
P. N. Peterson is the oldest potato shipper in Wisconsin, having been in the business since 1875. Mr. Peterson kept a general store in the building now occupied by C. P. Sommers. The farmers of that time raised small patches of potatoes for family use. What surplus they had they brought to Mr. Peterson in exchange for groceries. He stored the potatoes in a shed back of his store until he had a carload, which he sold to a man in Green Bay. They were hauled by wagon to Amherst Junction and shipped from there. Here was the first car load of potatoes shipped from this section of the state. The general freight agent of the old Wisconsin Central R. R., hearing of this shipment, offered Mr. Peterson a small reward if he would ship fifty cars from this station in one season. Mr. Peterson worked among the farmers, encouraging them to increase their acreage. He succeeded in shipping forty-five cars and laughingly says that while he didn't get much reward, his efforts earned him the foundation of a successful business. Mr. Peterson is still, at this writing, 1922, in the potato business and the small beginning has grown to, on an average, of 700 cars by all our dealers, from the local station.
James J. Nelson
James J. Nelson has been a prominent citizen of our village for many years and is at present one of the young-old men of the community. He was born April 8th, 1846, in Porsgund, Bratsbergs, Amt. Norway. The family came to this country in 1857, coming to Wisconsin by way of Buffalo and Milwaukee, up to Oshkosh, up the Wolf river to Northport and then on foot to Scandinavia. Mr. Nelson received his early educational training in the common schools of Scandinavia and assisted his father on the farm in the summers. When he was 16 years of age he left the old homestead and found employment at Waupaca. When the Civil War broke out Mr. Nelson enlisted in Company A, Forty-second Wis. Volunteers and the regiment was soon afterward ordered to Madison, where the companies were drilled for about ten weeks and then sent to Cairo, Ill., where the colonel of the regiment soon promoted Private Nelson to the position of his Orderly. After a few months he was taken sick and remained in the hospital for about three months and later received his discharge. In 1866 he and his brother, Andrew M., now of Stevens Point, embarked in the merchandise business at Amherst - later Mr. Nelson conducted the business on his own account in the building now occupied by S. C. Swendson, and where he still has his office. On October 14, 1867, Mr. Nelson was married to Miss Juniata Patton Andrews, who passed away Jan. 5, 1920. Mr. Nelson has three children, Herbert S. of Chicago; George B., a lawyer of Stevens Point, and Mrs. Laura Nelson Kellogg of Milwaukee. Mr. Nelson is one of the most hospitable of men. He has always taken a great delight in entertaining at his beautiful home, friends from far and near, and all parts of the world. He has traveled extensively, both in this and in other countries and in telling of incidents connected with his travels, he makes his listeners enjoy them with him. Mr. Nelson has had some very sick spells, but at present is, to use his own words, "100 per cent perfect in health." May he long continue so, and may his life of usefulness in Amherst extend for many years to come. His deeds of kindness have been many and still continue. Long live Mr. Nelson.