William D. Connor
In 1872 he moved with his parents from Canada to a farm in Auburndale, Wisconsin. He attended the State Normal School (now the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin for two years. He moved to Marshfield, Wisconsin in 1895. He was a successful lumberman and real estate investor in Wisconsin and the Pacific Northwest, among other achievements he established the towns of Laona, Wisconsin, Stratford, Wisconsin, and Connorville, Michigan (originally company towns) in the course of growing his lumber business.
He was also very involved in politics and public service.
He served for twenty years as a member of the Wood County Board of Supervisors, and was twice elected chairman.
In 1892, 1894, 1896, 1902 and 1904 he was elected a delegate to the Republican State Convention and in 1904 he was also elected one of the four (progressive) delegates-at-large to the National Republican Convention, by the regular Republican State Convention. This was the controversial 'gymansium convention' that looms large in the history of the progressive movement in Wisconsin.
According to the 'Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography':
He was at first identified with the Robert M. La Follette wing of the party. In the 1904 progressive-stalwart split, Connor was chosen by the "gymnasium convention" as one of the progressive delegates to the Republican national convention. Although the national convention refused to accept the credentials of the Progressive delegation, the La Follette forces were recognized as the legal Republican ticket by the state supreme court (1904) and Connor became chairman of the Republican state central committee. (1904-1908).
He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1906, receiving 174,750 votes against 104,398 for Michael F. Blenski (Democratic), 25,036 for William Kaufmann (Social Democrats), 8,724 for August F. Fehlandt (Progressive) and 510 for John Veirthaler (Socialist Labor).
Falling-Out With La Follette
Later, Connor was to have a significant falling-out with Robert La Follette. He, along with Marinette lumberman Isaac Stephenson, were La Follette's two main political backers from the business community. Both of these millionaire lumbermen were at the financial mercy of the railroad interests in the state, which then had monopolies on industrial transportation.
"Fighting Bob" La Follette's strong stand against the railroads was very appealing to the lumber industry. Equally important to Connor and Stephenson; each man believed La Follette had promised to help them become a U.S. Senator when La Follette became Governor. Instead, and to their chagrin, at the first opportunity (January 1905) La Follette famously nominated himself to the U.S. Senate and arranged State Senate confirmation. Neither ever forgave La Follette.
La Follette kept serving as Governor and left Wisconsin's U.S. Senate seat unfilled until January 1, 1906, when he resigned to join the U.S. Senate. He publicly proclaimed this unusual action was done to ensure that his 1904 platform was enacted in Wisconsin.
After serving as Lt. Governor, W.D. withdrew from state-wide elective politics, although he remained active at the local and county level. He was to serve for twenty years on the Wood County Board.
Mr. Connor was president of the Marshfield library board from its organization in 1901 until his death, he was also a trustee of Carroll College (Wisconsin).
- Wisconsin Blue Book, 1907, biographical sketch of Lieutenant Governor William D. Connor.
- Laird, Helen L, A Mind of Her Own Helen Connor Laird and Family 1888 - 1982, The University of Wisconsin Press, 2006.
- A History of Wood County, George O. Jones, etc., Minneapolis: 1923 Information about William D. Connor and the lumber industry in Wood County, Wisconsin.
- "State of Wisconsin: Office of the Lt. Governor"
- "Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography (at the Wisconsin Historical Society)"
James O. Davidson
|Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin