Then: A century ago, Green County was the wealthiest per capita in the country
Since returning to Monroe, I have been impressed by the generosity of residents in our community whenever an organization requests funds to renovate, construct an addition to an existing building, erect a new structure, or simply help others. . in the community. The county’s generous residents and businesses always seem to show up and help each organization achieve its goal; luckily, there are enough in the community who have the financial means to help.
Monroe currently supports five Edward Jones offices as well as several other financial advisers, so I was not shocked when I came across an article in the May 2, 1916, issue of the Monroe Evening Times whose headline read: “Green County Wealthiest in United States.” He reported that the county’s total wealth was $52,219,962.78, with the per capita average being $2,425.83. Real and personal property totaled $50,248,169 and the latest bank statement at the time showed $7,961,793.78 on deposit.
Frank E. Corson of the Deeds Registry had written to all state and national banks in Green County requesting a statement of their resources and debts at the last bank call in March. He also demanded the same statement from neighboring county banks as to what portion of their deposits properly belonged to Green County. The object of Corson’s request was to determine the excess wealth of the county at the busiest time of the year – the season when farmers were most actively buying and selling property. There were more specific numbers compiled by Corson included in this article.
The population of the county at that time was about 24,000, this is how they determined the average wealth of each inhabitant. The article concluded: “Without question Green County is the wealthiest county in the State of Wisconsin per capita and it is authoritatively stated that a recent government publication declared Green County to be the wealthiest county in the United States as a proportion of population.
More than a dozen years earlier, the newspaper had reported on April 3, 1903: “The sound financial position of Green County is evidenced by the statements of the deposits and resources of the county banks as recently published in their statements financial requested by the state bank examiner. There are ten banks in the county with total deposits of $1,796,254.85 and resources of $2,470,108.89. The article compared this to their figures for April 2, 1897 – six years earlier. The increase in deposits over those six years was 1,204%, compared to just 135% for Wisconsin banks. The First National Bank had more money in 1903 than all ten banks had in 1897.
A July 28, 1915 headline read, “Monroe Wealth Shows Large Gain During Year,” but this time it referred to Monroe Township. Appraiser OH Atherton said the township’s property assessment had increased by $38,142 the previous year. This happened despite the fact that horses and cattle had received a lower valuation than the previous year and that two commodity stocks and a large manufacturing company had been sold or moved.
An indication of increased wealth and the fact that residents benefited more from it was indicated by the fact that the number of automobiles increased from 137 to 213. The value of automobiles increased from $51,150 to $69,985 . The greater number of automobiles in 1915 meant that there were fewer horse-drawn vehicles. That number jumped from 260 to 232, with valuations dropping from $7,485 to $6,285.
The article concluded: “Assessor Atherton’s charts also show that there were 35 new houses completed in the town in the past year or in the process of being completed as he made his rounds.”
People in other parts of the country must have known how successful the people of Green County were doing. In an article titled “Green County’s Golden Opportunity”, it was announced that a delegation of 100 to 150 bankers from southern Illinois was to visit here on Wednesday, September 26, 1917. The purpose of their visit was to obtain first-hand information. of the “largest dairy county in the United States”. They came on a special train over Illinois Central, arriving at 6:30 a.m., and were guests here all day.
Many of these bankers had already advanced money to buy Holstein cattle here; others were potential buyers. Since the previous November, members of the Southern Illinois Bankers Association had purchased 2,714 head of Holstein calves and cows through their field representative, George B. Brown. The trip was planned so that they might “verify to their own satisfaction the great stories of prosperity which have emerged from Green County regarding the dairy industry.” They want to know how it all happened and how it happened. And it’s up to every person here, farmers and townspeople alike, to give these men a warm welcome and hearty entertainment while they’re in Green County. These bankers had a serious mission: to take note of the practical example that their farmers could benefit from.
Despite how farming has changed over the past century, Green County continues to be an industrious and hardworking community that continues to thrive. May they continue to do so and take care of each other for generations to come.
— Matt Figi is a Monroe resident and local historian. His column will appear periodically on Saturdays in The Times. He can be reached at [email protected] or 608-325-6503.