New Glarus - Encyclopedia

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NEW GLARUS, a town and a village of Green county, Wisconsin, U.S.A., about 22 m. S.W. of Madison, on the Little Sugar river, a branch of the Rock river. Pop. of the town (1890) I 180; (1900) 1245; (1905 state census) 685; of the village, which was separated from the town in 1901 (1905 state census) 665. New Glarus is served by a branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St Paul railway. It has agricultural and dairying industries, but little or no manufacturing interests. It had its origin in a colonizing experiment made by the canton of Glarus, Switzerland in 1845. Agents sent by the canton chose the site of New Glarus largely because the rocky slopes of the valley suggested their Alpine home. The advance party then set about constructing houses and sent for the colonists; and some two hundred men, women and children started from Glarus in April 1845 under two leaders chosen by popular vote; misreading their directions the party got by mistake to St Louis, whence they proceeded up the Mississippi to Galena and thence overland to their new home. To all intents and purposes they were an independent people. They expected to be and were selfsustaining, and for a generation or more retained their exclusiveness to a remarkable degree. They brought with them a "form of government" drawn up by the Cantonal Council of Glarus and providing in great detail for a system of schools, for what was practically a state church (Reformed Lutheran) supported by tithes, for a system of poor relief, for a system of courts, and for a set of town officers elected on a limited property franchise. This "form" was to be amended and new laws were to be added, as circumstances should require, in a town-meeting in which the essential features of the referendum were observed. The original plan provided also for an equitable distribution of land so as to give to each head of a family pasture, timber and farm lands. With such adjustments as were found necessary for coordination with the town and county governments of Wisconsin, it remains practically the same to this day. The village and town still have an Old World aspect, and the architecture, customs, style of dress and language of the pioneers still persist to a great degree. A famous organization is the New Glarus William Tell Club of sharpshooters. The village owns its waterworks and its electric lighting plant.

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