Forest County

County History & Profile

Before the Civil War, Forest County was primarily inhabited by the Chippewa and other Native Americans, and was visited by traveling fur traders and trappers, most of whom were of French descent or mixed French and Indian heritage. During the 1860s, the federal government started construction of what is known as the Military Road. This road connected Green Bay and Fort Wilkins at Copper Harbor on the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula. Previously, rivers had served as the highways to this section of northeastern Wisconsin.  Military Road made travel through Forest County easier, but marketing of its principal resource, hardwood timber, had to wait for improved markets and rail service to transport the lumber. Unlike the pine that was logged elsewhere, the heavier hardwood logs would not float in the rivers to sawmills downstate. The Soo Line Railroad bisected Forest County in 1887, and provided rail service to areas adjacent to Argonne, Cavour, and Armstrong Creek, but it was still not profitable to move logs by horse-drawn sleigh for any distance to a railhead. Eventually, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, lured by land holdings given to them by the government, pushed rail service into the county. It created a north-south line on the eastern side of the county in the 1890s with a spur into Crandon just after the turn of the century. Sawmills sprang up like mushrooms after a rain and lumber was shipped to build America’s cities. By the 1930s, the timber supply waned and the Great Depression shut down most of the big mills. It was then that residents of what came to be called the “cutover lands” realized the value of the many lakes and miles of streams located in Forest County. The tourist trade joined logging and saw milling as part of the economic mainstay of the North, and it remains so today.

Courthouse History

The original frame house used as the Forest County Courthouse was deemed inadequate and a building committee was formed. This committee was surrounded in controversy and was soon replaced by a new one. (A painting of the original frame house can be seen today on the inside of the courthouse dome.) This new committee was said to be very involved in the project, watching it quite closely every step of the way. During the construction, which began in 1909, a building located just off Lake Avenue on Madison Street served as a temporary courthouse and jail.  The committee hired a man from Rhinelander as overseer of the project, and the agreement was that he got paid only if the project came in on budget and on time. It was said there were some difficulties with the architect, and that there were many, many committee meetings. Minutes from one of these meetings referred to the redoing of the southeast wall due to substandard workmanship. There were squabbles over the expensive marble flooring, and one over the cost of the half window on the second floor of the north side, which cost $3.95 at that time. Some rooms still have the wide wooden blinds, which were ordered from Matt Ross’ furniture store. Ross was married to Grace Shaw, daughter of Samuel Shaw, the founding father of the City of Crandon. The building was finally completed and was dedicated in 1911. Some people in the county did not even know of the new building until it was completed, and many scoffed at the $55,000 cost. The current first floor was the basement and the second floor was the entrance to the courthouse.

There was a series of circular stairways to get to the basement floor, which served as the vault at the time. The vault area was later opened up and converted to much needed office space. Construction of the jail began in 1910, and the south addition, Annex 1, was built in 1966. The north addition, Annex 2, was built in 1978. The new jail was constructed in 1997.

SIZE: 1,014.1 square miles

  • Public lands – 59%
  • Private lands – 84% forested, 5% agricultural usage
  • 824 lakes, sixth highest number of lakes in the state


MEDIAN AGE: 44.1 years


  • Forest County Potawatomi Community, 500-999 Employees
  • School District of Crandon, 100-249 Employees
  • County of Forest, 100-249 Employees
  • Sokaogon Gaming Enterprises Corp., 100-249 Employees
  • WD Flooring, 100-249 Employees
  • J. Schaefer Ent., 50-99 Employees
  • Arizconsin Group, Inc., 50-99 Employees
  • School District of Wabeno Area, 50-99 Employees
  • USDA Forest Service, 50-99 Employees
  • Nu-Roc Community Healthcare, Inc., 50-99 Employees


  • Percent for seasonal, recreational or occasional use: 53%
  • Median value owner-occupied housing, (2011-2015 ACS est.) $126,500.00

LARGEST ECONOMIC SECTORS: Forestry, tourism, government and Native American enterprises

EDUCATIONAL FACILITIES: Enrollment as of 2015-2016 school year

  • K-12 (public)

– Crandon School District, approx. 893

– Goodman-Armstrong Creek School District, approx. 105

– Laona School District, approx. 222

– Wabeno School District, approx. 437

  • University of Wisconsin – Extension Office, Courthouse, Crandon
  • Nicolet Area Technical College, Rhinelander


  • Ascension St. Mary’s at Crandon, Crandon Office
  • Mole Lake Clinic, Mole Lake
  • Laona Family Health Center, Laona
  • Forest County Potawatomi Health & Wellness Center
  • Crandon Chiropractic, Crandon
  • Chiropractic & Rehabilitation Center, Crandon
  • Connor Human Restoration, Crandon
  • Newcap-Community Action, Crandon


  • Forest County Potawatomi Health & Wellness Center, Crandon
  • Klockow Dental Clinic, Wabeno


  • Arizconsin Group, Inc., Crandon
  • Nu-Roc Nursing Home, Laona


  • Post Offices – Argonne, Crandon, Laona, Wabeno, Armstrong Creek
  • Newspaper – The Forest Republican, weekly; and Potawatomi Traveling Times, twice monthly
  • Shopper – The Pioneer Express, weekly
  • Public Libraries – Crandon, Laona, Wabeno

• Airport – 2 miles south of Crandon, 3500-ft. year round lit runway and, 25 miles west of Crandon, Rhinelander Airport