BY MARGO DRUMMOND
A squirrel, a muskrat, a deer head, a live wolf – so began the makings of Racine County’s first lawsuit. Racine’s first attorney, Marshall M. Strong and friends bet Racine’s first physician, Bushnell B. Carey and company over who could first secure all kinds of game “by any means, foul or fair.” Cary’s partner, Norman Clarke, rode a borrowed horse through snow drifts to Pleasant Prairie where a deer hunter shared his collection of heads. Meanwhile, Strong heard of a live wolf located in Chicago and sent a sleigh to fetch it.
On the way back at Will’s Tavern in Southport (now Kenosha) a sailor named Captain Smith killed the wolf with a gin bottle. A live wolf counted for 1,000 points in the hunt, a dead one, zero. Fortunately, Strong had procured a sleigh-load of muskrat noses which outnumbered everything. End of contest.
An award of $75 went to the owner of the damaged borrowed horse and Captain Smith was sued by Strong for killing the wolf, ending in a verdict of 6 cents damages and costs, all determined by a jury which included Strong’s opponent, Norman Clarke.
When Marshall M. Strong came to Racine in 1836, there was no legal work so he joined Stephen Ives in running a country store. Later he became editor of THE RACINE ADVOCATE, his second newspaper venture, THE ARGUS being his first. His civic duties included serving as village trustee, city attorney, delegate to the state’s first constitutional convention, and as a state legislator.
In 1846 Strong suffered personal tragedy when a house fire took the lives of his wife, Amanda, and their two small children. Alfred Knight, who was sent to bring Strong home from Madison, described the 2-3 day sleigh journey as one of near silence. Strong remarried in 1850 and with his second wife, Emilie, had three children.
Devoted to education, Strong served as a University of Wisconsin regent and as a teacher and board member at Racine College where his friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, spoke during visits. In an address before the Lawyers’ Club of Racine on May 7, 1901, Judge Charles E. Dyer delivered this tribute to Strong:
“As senior at the bar in age and residence stood Marshall M. Strong. I wish you could have known him. He was an ideal lawyer and none excelled him in the State of Wisconsin. He was tall, though somewhat stooping: slender and as clear-cut as a model in marble. His head and face were as purely intellectual as any I ever saw. His great eyes shining out of his pale face looked you though and told you that his mind was as clear and bright as a polished scimitar. When he made manifest his intellectual power, in argument or conversation, he made one think of the description on the old Spanish sword – ‘never draw me without reason, never sheathe me without honor.’”
Marshall M. Strong died in 1864 at the age of 50. He is buried in Mound Cemetery beside his first wife and four of his children.
Margo Drummond’s interest in local history began when she became involved with Preservation Racine, for which she wrote “A Walking Tour Guide of Mound Cemetery.” For 31 years, she taught high school courses on Racine History and Death and Dying, Issues of Living, and Life. She is also the author of two books, “Blessings of Being Mortal: How a Mature Understanding of Death Can Free Us to Live Wisely and Well” and “Here’s To Your Health,” the history of brothers William and James Horlick and their company, Horlick’s Malted Milk.