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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Vilas, Levi Baker 1811 - 1879


lawyer, businessman, politician, b. Sterling, Vt. Already a prosperous lawyer and Democratic politician in his native state, Vilas brought his family and his fortune to Wisconsin in 1851, settling in Madison where he established a law practice and invested heavily in Madison real estate. He became the owner of the Vilas House, built in 1853, and was first president of the Dane County Bank (1854), which in 1863 became the First National Bank. Vilas also continued his political career, was mayor of Madison (1861), state assemblyman (1855, 1868, 1873), and during the Civil War served as Dane County draft commissioner (1862). He was a regent of the Univ. of Wisconsin (1853-1865), and was the father of U.S. Senator William F. Vilas (q.v.). H. S. Merrill, W. F. Vilas (Madison, 1954); Madison Wis. State Journal, Feb. 6, 1879; WPA MS.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the Levi Baker Vilas Papers for details.

View a biographical sketch of Vilas at Wisconsin Historical Collections.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]
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