Bio: Babcock, John R. (Commemorative Bio - 1895)

Poster: Crystal Wendt


John R. Babcock

John R. Babcock.  There are few men more worthy of representation in a work of this kind than the subject of this biography, who for several years had been prominently connected with the business interests of Merrill, Lincoln County, of which fine city he is the present mayor. He is a native of New York State, having been born at Albany May 19, 1885, a son of James H. Babcock, who was born, in 1826, in Otsego County, N. Y. The paternal grandfather, Richardson Babcock, was a native of Connecticut, born there in 1798, and was a carpenter by trade, building many of the best residences and business blocks in Otsego County, N. Y. He married a Miss Robinson, who came to this country from the Emerald Isle, and they became the parents of five children—Adela, Sarah, James H., Samuel and Mary. His wife died in New York in 1864, and he departed this life in 1875, at the age of seventy-seven. He had followed contracting until within a few years of his death, when he retired to a small piece of land he owned near Schenevus, Otsego County.

James H. Babcock, father of our subject, was educated in the common schools, remaining under the paternal roof until his marriage in 1848, at which time he had attained his twenty-fourth year. The lady of his choice was Mary A. Herdman, who was born in Westford, Otsego Co., N. Y., in 1832, a daughter of John and Clarissa (Smith) Herdman, who were the parents of six children-Mary A., Martha, Georgiana, Julia, Louisa and David. Her father was a harness maker by trade, which he followed in early life, but later took up farming. His first wife died in 1844, and subsequently he married a Miss Wright, by whom he had four sons—Eugene, Charles, John and Everett. The father died in New York State about the year 1874. Mr. Babcock had five children: Frank M., John R., Clara L., Mary and Georgiana.

After his marriage James H. Babcock removed to Albany, N. Y., where he remained until 1855, serving as bookkeeper for a commercial house. In that year he came west, locating in Wausau, Wis., and then formed a partnership with one Fletcher in the lumber business which continued until 1858, when he kept a hotel, or station house, at Knowlton until fall of 1859, at which time he was elected register of deeds of Marathon County. After his election to that office he removed this family to the city of Wausau, and held the office for six years, being elected by the Democratic Party, of which he was a stanch supporter, tacking an active part in politics. He died in Wausau in 1867. The mother of our subject still makes that place her home; she is now the wife of Henry French.

The primary education of John R. Babcock was obtained in the common schools, after which he attended the high school of Wausau, later taking a course at Lawrence University, Appleton, Wis., where for six months he paid his own tuition with money he had earned at the age of twelve years by clerking for Mr. Champagne, and later for James McCrossen, where he remained two years. After his return from school he served as bookkeeper in a private bank two years, and for the same length of time kept books in a store; then at the age of nineteen, with the money he had saved, he purchased some land from which he cut the timber. This was in the winter of 1874 - 75. In the spring of 1877 he went to Kansas for the benefit of his health, and there carried on agricultural pursuits until 1880. On his return to Wisconsin he located at Merrill, where he engaged in clerking in Mr. Champagne’s store, when the same company built a sawmill in which he became bookkeeper and timekeeper, serving thus for one year. In the fall of 1882, Mr. Babcock embarked in the lumber business, acting part of the time as expert lumberman, and the remainder as expert accountant until 1889, when he began the insurance and real-estate business. Selling out in 1894, he in company with Mr. Norway purchased the plant of the Wolf River Lumber Co., and established the Norway Box & Lumber Co., which now has a fine trade and is one of the leading enterprises of Merrill.

In September, 1882, Mr. Babcock was married to Josephine O’Neil, who was born in Wood County, Wis., and by her marriage has become the mother of two interesting sons—West O. and John R., Jr. Mr. Babcock take great interest in the welfare of Merrill and the surrounding country, and is now serving as secretary of the Business Men’s Association. He is enterprising and progressive in his ideas, and aids in every object of the good of the community. Politically he identifies himself with the Democratic Party, being one of its stalwart supporters. He served as member of the city council from the Second Ward; has also been city comptroller, and in 1889 and 1890 was city assessor, in which offices he served faithfully and well. In April, 1895, he was elected mayor of Merrill, having been nominated by both the democratic party and the Republican Party, his opponent being a Populist, Mr. Babcock receiving a majority of nearly 500 votes.

---Source: Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Wisconsin Counties of Waupaca, Portage, Wood, Marathon, Lincoln, Oneida, Vilas, Langlade and Shawano. publ. 1895 by J. H. Beers & Co., Chicago 1110 pages, illustrated; Page 38-39



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