The Town of Grant was formed on December 26, 1866, when it separated from the Town of Red Cedar. The 1871 school census for the township showed a population of 73. The territories in the original Town of Grant included the present day towns of Grant, Sand Creek, Wilson, and Otter Creek. When these territories became independent towns in 1876-77, the territory comprising the present day Town of Grant was formed. At this time the Town of Grant was designated as Township 30, Range 11 in Dunn Country, Wisconsin.
With the Red Cedar River flowing south through the center of the township, the first town hall was built along its banks where 22 Mile Ford Park is now located. It was a small log cabin. At that time timber was being harvested in northern Wisconsin and the resulting logs were floated down the river to lumber mills in Menomonie. Knapp, Stout, and Company, a large lumber company from Menomonie, had their holding pen for logs at the ford and a hotel was built nearby for the lumbermen to rest. Since the distance from the ford to Menomonie was 22 miles by river, this area became known as 22 Mile Ford. During these early years the town's log cabin was used not only for township governmental affairs, but also as the township school. Due to flooding at this site, the town decided to build a new town hall on higher ground and the original log cabin structure was sold to a farmer and moved around 1892. However, part of its foundation still remains at the original site. In 1892 construction began on the new town hall at its current location. This town hall was half the size of the present town hall. Knapp, Stout, and Company supplied the lumber and the town hall was completed around 1894. In 1935, the W.P.A. enlarged the town hall to the back, doubling its size. This addition completed the structure of what is our present day Grant Town Hall.
The school census of 1871 showed 39 children residing in the town of Grant . A teacher's salary in 1871 was $153.00 per year. By 1927, five country schools had been built to serve the increasing population. These were the schools of Popple Creek, Riverview, Twin Valley, Valley Glen, and Trout Creek. These rural schools were built on land donated by individual farmers. They were one room schools with a single teacher for grades 1-8. In the early years, teachers at these schools received room and board with nearby families. For many years a woman could no longer teach after she married. Due to increasing expenses and greater opportunities in an urban school, these country schools started voting to consolidate into the Colfax School District in the 1950s. While some of these rural school buildings were torn down for lumber or moved, others were remodeled and used as family homes. Popple Creek, the last country school to close in 1961, was sold to the local 4-H club for its meeting place.
Two churches are located within the Town of Grant, Holden Lutheran and St. John's Evangelical Lutheran. Having been organized in 1864, the Holden parish built their church in 1876. Prior to the building of St. John's in 1914, church members held services in private homes. Both churches continue today and are a testament of the faith that exists among our rural people.
In 1867, taxes apportioned to the Town of Grant totaled $388.67. Of this figure, 31 percent went for state taxes, 61 percent for county taxes, five percent for school tax and three percent for a superintendent tax. In 2007, the population of Grant was 426 and the taxes apportioned to the township totaled $556,932.68 with 37 percent going to Dunn County, 37 percent to the Colfax Schools, 16 percent to the Town of Grant, nine percent to Chippewa Valley Technical College, and less than one percent to the State of Wisconsin and the Bloomer School District.
The Town of Grant contains 36.9 square miles of land for a total of 23,955 acres. In 1933, there were 11,298 acres under plow with 136 barns. By 1983, the number of acres under plow had increased to 16,329 while the number of barns remained the same. At this time there were also 5,807 acres of forest, 682 acres of swamp, and 65 residential acres. As of 2005, there were 13,611 agricultural acres, 8541 acres of forest, 1314 acres of swamp and 269 residential acres.
While alfalfa hay is the main agricultural crop in the township today, various crops have been planted here over the years. In the mid-1940s farmers grew peas. The peas were trucked to the Friday Canning Company of New Richmond, and the vines were used by farmers to feed their cattle. In the 1940s and 50s the government allotted three to five acres for farmers to grow tobacco. The tobacco was then baled and hauled by truck to Westby and Sparta.
In 1975 there were 75 farms with dairy cattle, 12 farms with swine, and seven farms with sheep. By 1980, these numbers had decreased to 61 dairy cattle farms, nine swine farms, and two sheep farms. In 2002, there were 17 dairy farms. As of 2008, the agricultural statistics of 2002 are the most recent ones compiled.
Land Use and Zoning
Land use and zoning were not much of an issue for the town of Grant for most of its existence, since virtually everyone who lived here farmed. However, a number of factors came together in the latter part of the twentieth century to change this dynamic. During this time, farms were starting to consolidate into larger operations and people began to migrate from municipalities to the outlying rural areas. In 1981, in an effort to preserve its rural landscape, the Town of Grant voted to adopt Exclusive Agricultural Zoning, or AG 1 zoning. This placed a restriction on the minimum lot size for a housing start in the township. It also protected the Red Cedar River from development. Exclusive Agricultural Zoning has prevented the wholesale development of the township, and thus allows Grant to maintain its rural character.
Smart Growth Initiative
In 2002, in response to the Smart Growth Initiative from the State of Wisconsin, the Grant Land Use Planning Commission was formed. It gathered information about land use issues from the landowners of the township. The Comprehensive Land Use Plan for the Town of Grant was completed in May of 2005. Long-term goals developed for the future of Grant include preserving the Red Cedar River from development, protecting the township's rural character, keeping farms viable and preserving productive farmland for continued agricultural use. Copies of this plan are available for residents to view at the Grant Town Hall.
The history of agriculture in the Town of Grant is proudly shown through the many family farms that are 100 years or older. These farms have been passed down from one generation to the next and are still maintained by family members. In preserving the agricultural base of the Town of Grant, may many more of our farms become century farms in the years to come.