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Barber, Dr. Joseph L.

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Dr. J.L. Barber & his daughter Mildred Barber Abel
Dr. Joseph L. Barber
Barber, Dr. Joseph L.

Bill Hart


Joseph Barber was born at Hayton, Calumet City, Wisconsin on March 24, 1864, a son of Joseph and Frances (Demouth) Barber.  Joseph was the fifth born in a family of eight children.  After completing the public school course at Chilton, WI, Joseph spent one year in the University of Illinois and then entered the Kansas City Medical College, where he was graduated with the class of 1896.


Prior to coming to Marathon City on April 7, 1906, Dr. Barber practiced at Greenwood, in Clark County, and one year at Collins, was health officer at Greenwood and for two years county coroner of Clark County, and while in Clark County served as the first president of the Metallic Screen Company. When he entered into practice at Marathon City he succeeded Dr. Taughter. On June 1, 1910, he remodeled the old city hall and util­ized it as a drug store.

Dr. Barber was examiner for the Germania Lodge, E.F.U., for the K.O.T.M., and for a number of insurance organizations, while his private practice extended eighteen miles both north and south of the vil­lage, sixteen miles west and eight miles east. He was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Health and belonged to several county, state and na­tional medical bodies.

On September 1, 1899, Dr. Barber was married to Miss Ella Webb, of Galesville, WI, a daughter of George and Mary (Hammond) Webb.  Dr. and Ms. Barber had one daughter.  Dr. Barber belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church, was a member of the Madison branch of the Sons of Veterans of the Civil War, the Odd Fellows lodge and the Modern Woodmen of America, in addition to the E.F.U., the G.N.G., and held the Can­ton high degree of Odd Fellowship and was one of the committee of the Wisconsin Encampment.

Dr. Barber served as village president of Marathon and was instrumental in building the first unit of the Marathon High School, serving as chairman of the committee in securing the public school. He was a stockholder in the Marathon Telephone Company and in the Marathon Zigler Hamburg Company.  He was an organizer of the Hatley State Bank and was a director there until its closing in 1933.  For many years, Dr. Barber owned a large farm in the town of Marathon where he experimented with the raising of various fur animals, including beavers, silver foxes and others.

In 1922 Dr. Barber was elected to the state senate, where he served two terms.  He was elected to the state Assembly in 1925 and was re-elected in 1934, serving a total of four years.  While a member of the state legislature he was instrumental in securing legislation favorable to silver fox ranchers and introduced the bill which recognized the silver fox as a domesticated animal.  This bill signaled the beginning of the recognition of fox ranching as an agricultural industry in Wisconsin.  Dr. Barber and his 23-year old daughter, Mildred Barber, made history by being the first father/daughter combination to serve together as members of a state legislature in 1925.  Dr. Barber also served in the Assembly for the 1929 - 1930, and the 1935 - 1938 terms.  Dr. Barber served on the Marathon County Board of Supervisors in 1924, 1925, 1931 and 1932. 

Dr. Joseph Barber died on April 6, 1940.  He is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery in Wausau, WI.

Country Doctor & State Legislator

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Marathon County Historical Society
410 McIndoe Street
Wausau, WI 54403

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