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1900 Portage County Census (photos from the Portage County Historical Society Web Exhibit)

Introduction to the Tenth (1880) U.S. Census
Portage County, Wisconsin

Portage County, from an 1895 Rand McNally Atlas (click here for a larger view of the area (288KB)

Portage County, from an 1895 Rand McNally Atlas
 Click here or on the map for a larger view of the area (288KB)

Click Here to Search the Central WI Genealogy Index
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1850 | 1860 | 1870 | 1880 | 1900

The 1880 census, regarded by some as the first “modern” census of the United States, was taken during the month of June, 1880, and was the first to use a specially-appointed staff of more than 31,000 enumerators. Earlier censuses had been the responsibility of existing local officials, typically sheriffs and federal marshals. The enumerators went door to door, counting and compiling data on the 50 million inhabitants of the country, not including Native Americans not taxed, who were counted separately. The twenty-seven governmental units of Portage County (seventeen townships, six villages and four city wards) were enumerated by seventeen persons, with varying penmanship skills and spelling ability.

The data gathered in 1880 had been considerably expanded from earlier times. This census was the first to include the relationship of each person in the household to the head, and marital status of each.

The census taker was instructed to record:

  • Name of street, and house number (in cities)
  • For each person residing at that place on June 1:
  1. Name
  2. Color: White, black, mulatto, Chinese, Indian
  3. Sex
  4. Age at last birthday prior to June 1; if under 1 year, give as a fraction, together with month of birth
  5. Relationship to head of household
  6. Single, married, widowed
  7. Whether married during the past year
  8. Profession, occupation, or trade (not asked of children)
  9. Number of months unemployed during the past year
  10. Whether sick or temporarily disabled on the day of the visit, and if so, the complaint
  11. Whether blind, deaf & dumb, idiotic, insane, maimed/crippled/bedridden or otherwise disabled
  12. Whether attended school during the past year
  13. Cannot read; cannot write
  14. Place of birth
  15. Place of birth of father; place of birth of mother

Although the boundaries of Portage County had been fixed by 1856 as they are today, the township boundaries remained unsettled until 1899. Small areas were being traded back and forth among Plover, Grant, Buena Vista, and Pine Grove townships, the political reasons for which are interesting (see Our County Our Story by Malcolm Rosholt).  In 1880 the town of Carson was much smaller than today, comprising only the western part; most of the area west of the city of Stevens Point made up the town of Stevens Point, which existed until 1899, when its territory was divided between Carson and Linwood. The town of Dewey did not yet exist at all. At that time the town of Eau Pleine extended to the east of the Wisconsin River, and the town of Hull extended north to the Marathon County line. It should therefore be kept in mind that finding families in different townships in different censuses does not necessarily mean that they had moved.

The Stevens Point city limits were, on the west and south, the same as they are today, but present-day Maria Drive formed the northern boundary, and the approximate location of the future Frontenac Avenue was the eastern limit. North Division Street did not extend beyond Franklin Street, where it ended in undrained marsh lands. The city was partitioned into four wards, the first being the central city, the second the southwest quadrant, the third the southeast quadrant, and the fourth the northwest part. The northeast part, along “Jordan Road”, which later became Stanley Street, was unplatted.

In producing this index, considerable care and effort has gone into deciphering the penmanship, but as with all records of this type, large allowance should be made for variant spellings and misspellings. In some cases it is only possible to make a reasonable guess as to the enumerator’s intent.

Enumerators of the 1880 Census

Unit Census Pages Population Enumerator
Town of Alban 9B – 12D 310 Samuel Torgerson
Town of Almond 13A – 21B 872 Charles E. Webster
Town of Amherst 26A – 28A, 31D – 36A, 37C – 38A, 39D – 40B


970 A. Howen
Village of Amherst 28B – 31C 298 A. Howen
Village of Amherst Junction 36B 49 A. Howen
Town of Belmont 50A – 55B 535 S. H. Sawyer
Town of Buena Vista 41A – 49A 830 James Ward
Town of Carson 190B – 191D, 193A – 195A 387 George E. Oster, Frank F. Oster
Town of Eau Pleine 56A – 65D 608 James I. Ennis
 Town of Grant 66A – 69C 309 Adolph Panter
Town of Hull 70A, 71C – 80B 979 William Reading
Village of Jordan 70B – 71C 68 William Reading
Village of Junction City 190A 39 George E. Oster
Town of Lanark 81A – 89A 663 Ira Whipple
Town of Linwood 90A – 96B 406 Oscar F. Seamans
Village of Nelsonville 38B – 39C 59 A. Howen
Town of New Hope 1A – 9A 801 Samuel Torgerson
Town of Pine Grove 22C – 25B 339 Charles E. Webster
Town of Plover 97A – 100D, 105B – 110C 808 John W. Strope
Village of Plover 101A – 105A 412 John W. Strope
Town of Sharon 111A – 129A 1,639 John McGreer
Town of Stevens Point 192A, 195B – 200D 619 George E. Oster, Frank F. Oster
First Ward, Stevens Point 144A – 154A 1,020 George W. Green
Second Ward, Stevens Point 165A – 178D 1,377 Andrew F. Wyatt
Third Ward, Stevens Point 179A – 189B 1,063 Andrew F. Wyatt
Fourth Ward, Stevens Point 155A – 164D 988 George W. Green
Town of Stockton 130A – 143D 1,360 James Pollard
Total Population 17,731


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This page last modified: Monday, January 30, 2012