This township was first established on June 6, 1864, though several changes were subsequently made in its boundaries
and it was reduced to its present dimensions in April, 1881. It now embraces congressional township 99, range 23,
and has an area of thirty six square miles, nearly all of which is capable of being cultivated. It is bounded on
the north by Norway Township; on the east by Worth County; on the south by Mount Valley Township, and on the west
by the Township of Newton. Lime Creek flows in a southerly direction through the northwestern part and the southeastern
portion has been drained by ditching. The soil is fertile and some of the best farms in the county are in this
township. The greater part of the township is prairie, though there are some groves of timber in the eastern and
The first settler in Center was George Thomas, who came to the county in the spring of 1855 and made a claim about
half way between the present town of Lake Mills and Rice Lake, where he lived until his death about three years
later. His son, George W. Thomas, came at the same time and lived on the farm with his father until the latter's
death, when he went to Colorado. In 1860 he returned to Winnebago County and the following year built a residence
in Section 11 and became a permanent citizen.
John Anderson and a man named Taugue settled in the township in 1856 and the next year came the three Porter brothers
and Joseph Burns. Charles D. Smith settled in the township in 1858 and purchased the claim of Joseph Burns. He
served several terms as county supervisor and in 1866, in partnership with S. D. Wadsworth, built the steam flour
mill and sawmill from which the town of Lake Mills derived its name. Later a shingle machine and a carding mill
were added. He was the first mayor of Lake Mills when the town was incorporated in 1881 and is still living in
Another settler of 1858 was John B. Aulman, a native of France, who came to America in 1843, landing at New Orleans,
but soon afterward went to Philadelphia, where he lived until he settled in Winnebago County. When he first came
to the county in 1858 he selected 320 acres of land in sections 8 and 9, Center Township, and then returned to
Philadelphia for his family. He raised the first crop on his farm in 1860.
Between the years 1860 and 1866 quite a number of people settled in Center. Among them were Patrick Malone, John
Johnson, J. J. Eleven, Elef Elefson, Charles Ruby, Thomas Thompson and E. D. Hinman. The descendants of some of
these men still live in the township.
The first schoolhouse was built on section 2 late in the year 1859, and the first school was taught by E. D. Hinman
in 1860. There are now six public schools in the township, not including the school in the town of Lake Mills.
The first sermon was preached in 1862 by a minister named Saxby.
Two lines of railroad traverse the northern half of the township. The Chicago & Northwestern enters Winnebago
County from the east, about two miles south of the northeast corner of Center Township and runs northwest through
the town of Lake Mills, where it crosses the Minneapolis & St. Louis, which runs in a southwesterly direction
to Forest City and north to Albert Lea, Minnesota.
According to the state census of 1915, the population of Center Township was then 2,194, including the town of
Lake Mills, showing it to be the second township of the county in the number of inhabitants. The property of the
township, including that of Lake Mills, was assessed for taxation in 1916 at $606,583.