Happy Anniversary, City of Princeton! No foolin’. Princeton is celebrating its centennial as a city this month. In 1920, when the census showed Princeton setting a new population record with 1,275 residents, community leaders decided it was time for the village, which was incorporated in 1865, to become a city.
Proponents said the city form of government would be better suited to deal with the issues of a growing community. Plus, they said a city had more appeal to potential manufacturers, employers and residents than a village. Opponents warned that taxes would increase.
A meeting was held in February involving elected officials, business owners and residents. The sentiment to become a city was nearly unanimous, according to the Princeton Republic, and officials began the work needed for a city charter.
When the state Legislature amended the statute regarding fourth-class cities in 1919, it set the population threshold at 1,200. To become a city, the village needed to conduct a census to verify population, pass an incorporation resolution supported by at least two-thirds of the trustees, and hold an election to select the new city officers.
Frank Mueller conducted the census. The resolution for incorporation was introduced by trustee Fritz Krueger at the village board’s meeting in March and approved unanimously. The resolution provided a legal description of the city limits, outlined boundaries for three wards and named election inspectors for each ward.
Each ward had its own voting precinct. First Ward residents would vote at the Opera House, Second Ward at the Village Hall and Third Ward at Mike Marshall’s shop near Second and Main streets. The new elected offices would be mayor, clerk, treasurer, assessor, two aldermen for each ward, three justices of the peace and one constable.
The election was held on April 6. Erich Mueller defeated William Jurgens 182-90 to become Princeton’s first mayor. The city’s other first elected officers were aldermen R.H. Miller and Edward Reetz, first ward; H.O. Giese and Fritz Krueger, second ward; Rudolph Manthey and Joe Shurpit, third ward; clerk, Albert H. Rimpler; treasurer, Gottlieb Dahlman; assessor, William Grahn; constable, Carl Worm; justices of the peace, Oscar Lichtenberg, Dr. T.A. Berwick and H.E. Megow.
The incorporation did not need the approval of state legislators and instead went directly to the secretary of state’s office. Rimpler mailed the paperwork to Madison on April 12. It was filed April 15, but the clerk failed to include a certified copy of the board’s actions at the March meeting. He sent in the missing paperwork on April 24, and the charter was recorded on April 29.
Another state document indicates papers were filed April 8 and the charter recorded April 25, which seems unlikely because the documents would have traveled by mail, and April 25 was a Sunday, not a workday for state employees.
But feel free to celebrate on either April 25 or April 29. Just stay at least six feet apart.