Monday, January 24, 2011

Amanuensis Monday: Death of James B. McPherson Recalls Dane Political History (of James P. McPherson)

The Capitol Times
Sunday Morning, March 20, 1932
Death of James B. McPherson Recalls Dane Political History
Father  Was Prominent in Public Life for Many Years

Interesting Dane county political history is recalled in the recent death in Minnesota of James B. McPherson, 87, former resident of Springdale and Mt. Vernon.

For a half century the McPherson family, living on the Verona-Mt.Vernon road, was well known in western Dane county, the father, James P. McPherson, being a prominent in public life.

James P. McPherson, a native of Scotland, settled in the town of Springdale in 1850 and soon was active in politics.  From 1853 until 1859 he was chairman of the town and also served as county superintendent of poor in 1854-55 and again in 1857-58.

In 1858 he was elected county clerk, serving until 1861, when he was elected chairman of the county board.  During the Civil War the county was under the commission form of government but when it returned to the supervisor system in 1870 he was again elected chairman of the county board.  He was also among the organizers of the Dane County Agricultural society and served as a trustee.

Being a democrat, he was never able to win election to the legislature though aspiring to that honor.

Was Postmaster
In his home locality he was for years postmaster of the Springdale postoffice, which was kept at his house.  He also served as school board officer, the school of the district was early named the "McPherson school."

It was as justice of the peace in his later years, however, that he won a wide local renown.  Petty litigation from many neighboring towns as well as his own came to his "court" for adjudication.  It is said that even John C. Spooner, later U.S.senator, once tried a case before him.

Mr. McPherson also wrote an excellent short history of the town of Springdale.

Mr. McPherson was a pioneer in the movement for the ad valorem taxation of railroads.  While a member of the county board in 1858 he introduced the followint resolution:
"Resolved that a committee of three be appointed to draft a petition or memorial to the legislature for the repeal of Chapter 74, session laws of 1854, and for the taxation of railroad and plankroad property equally with other property in the state."

Named to Committee
The resolution was adopted and the chair appointed as such committee Mr. McPherson, W. R. Taylor of Cottage Grove, later governor, and O. B. Hazeltine of the town of Ray (later the towns of Mazomanie and Black Earth).

This committee drew up the following memorial to the legislature, which was presented by Mr. Taylor and adopted by the board:
"The memorial of the board of supervisors of the county of Dane, state of Wisconsin, respectfully shewith:
"That your memorialist believe that Section 183, Chap.18, R. S. which enact that railroad and plakroad companies shall pay a tax of 1 per cent on their gross receipts to the state, in lieu of all other taxes whatever is a direct violation of article 8 of the consitution of this state, which said article provides that taxation shall be uniform.
"That while your memorialst conced the utility and benefits of railroads to the community at large, we also believe that they ought to be equally assessed with other property for state and county purposes.
"Your memorials therefore respectully request your honorable bodies to repeal Sec. 183, chapter 18, revised statues, and allow and require all property to be taxed in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.
"Resolved, that the chairman and clerk of the board of supervisors of the county of Dane, be and they are hereby authorized and required to sign the foregoing memorial, in our behalf, and forward a copy to each of our representatives in the legislature."

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