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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Vilas, Joseph, Jr. 1832 - 1905

Definition: merchant, railroad promoter, businessman, politician, b. Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County, N.Y. He attended Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., for two years, and, in 1852 moved to Wisconsin settling in Manitowoc where he taught school briefly, but soon turned to mercantile pursuits. During the 1870's, Vilas became the principal promoter of the Milwaukee, Lake Shore and Western R.R., persuaded Manitowoc County to vote a bond issue for its construction, and for a number of years served as trustee for the bond holders and president of the railroad company. He was instrumental in constructing the line between Milwaukee and Appleton, and was a director of the railroad until it was acquired by the Chicago and North Western in 1892. Vilas was also instrumental in organizing the Kaukauna Water Power Co., served as its president for several years, and in later years was interested in mining and processing companies in New York, Ohio, Michigan, and Arizona. A Democrat, he was state senator (1863-1864), and mayor of Manitowoc (1893-1895). After 1895 he traveled extensively, but continued to make his home in Manitowoc until his death. Columbian Biog. Dict.... Wis. (Chicago, 1895); Milwaukee Sentinel, June 20, 1890; Manitowoc Daily Herald, Jan. 7, 1905.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]
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