The creation of the zoo
By Kris Leonhardt
As the White City Park/Wildwood Park was finding its beginnings in the Upham Woods just south of Marshfield, the nearby water and electric employees were befriending two orphaned black bear cubs.
The utility workers began a caring and feeding regiment that became a routine responsibility.
By 1910 the activities of the workers came under question, resulting in a declaration by the Marshfield City Council to make the seated mayor personally accountable for the bears.
Taking control, Mayor Robert Connor built an enclosure for the bears using his own funds.
The bears took up a permanent residence in the park, and in 1928 they were joined by a pair of raccoons.
In 1929 the city began planning for an official zoo, appropriating $3,000 for its creation.
As talk started on establishing a more structured facility, F.M. Follendorf, manager of J.C. Penney at the time, began obtaining a variety of birds that he sheltered at his residence.
By the time Mayor T.D. Hefko announced official plans for a city zoo in May 1930, Follendorf had acquired four Mongolian pheasants, three pairs of white king pigeons, and was in negotiations for a peacock, a pea hen, and a more diverse array of pheasants.
Also in May 1930, the city acquired two deer and made plans to welcome a pair of gray squirrels.
Work began immediately on a shelter and aviary for the animals.
On July 27, 1930, the zoo was officially dedicated by the city of Marshfield. Nearly 5,000 people attended the christening of the Wildwood Park & Zoo. By that time the black bear population at the zoo totaled four.
Three months later city officials ordered a pair of buffalos from the government. The bison came from the Dakotas and again were financed by local residents, city council members, and other officials.
The first baby bison was born four years later, and a second was introduced the following year.
Though the city had plans for a much larger and diverse zoo, the progression of the facilities developed slowly over the years. As funds for the city-owned facility were limited, it would take the assistance of the community to help cultivate and provide for the popular city attraction.
(Next week: Part III – The zoo gains community support)
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail at P.O. Box 51, Marshfield, WI 54449 or email at email@example.com.