The Town of Townsend was built along a Military road in 1864. It was originally named Johnson Siding and later, along with Lakewood, became known as the Town of Wheeler. The Town was named Townsend in honor of the man who drove the first spike in the railroad here.
The first settler in Townsend was James Ward. The Wheeler Hotel, one of the oldest buildings in Townsend, was built by Charles Peterson around 1898. The hotel now stands on the banks of the Townsend Flowage and is known as ”Markuby's." Another old building is the Old Town Hall, purchased by Alex and Lea Pinter. The building was relocated on HWY 32 and turned into the “Old Town Hall” restaurant.
Besides Johnson Siding, there were two smaller communities in the Townsend area, Coleville and Unity Center. Coleville was located in the area of Surprise Lake and was so named because many of the Cole family settled there and several are still living in that area today.
Unity Center was located along the McCaslin Brook in the area of what are now Unity Drive, Cassler Drive and Sawyer Lake Road. Unity Drive was part of Old County T, later called McCaslin Drive and changed in 1998 to Unity Drive. Old County T was the main road in the early days of the Town. Unity Center had it own School, Church and Cheese Factory. The Cheese factory was located on the corner of E. Burnt Dam Road and Cassler Drive.
In 1916 the Town of Wheeler was split into what is now Lakewood and Townsend. The first Town meeting was held on April 4th, 1916, at 9:00 a.m. and began at D.W. Fuller's Store. Allen McDonald was appointed Chairman of the meeting. The committee appointed Walter Cole and D.W. Fuller Inspectors of the Election. W.S. Boland was named Clerk of the Election and Guy Cole was appointed to notify voters where the election was to be held. Ebert Ewer and Alex Cole were appointed ballot clerks. After all appointments were made the meeting adjourned to the Schoolhouse. Chairman McDonald announced that the Town would commence business at 1:30 P.M. The first order of business was to decide what monies the Town needed to raise. The people decided on a contingency fund, poor fund, State aid for roads, bridge fund and a fire fund.
The people also set the salaries for the Board members to be elected and reimbursement for those who participated in setting up the Town. After completing this task, elections were held. Fifty-nine people cast votes for the position of Chairman. John Flynn was elected by a vote of 32 to 27. The first Supervisors were A.S. Cole and Fred Gloeke. M.S. Boland was elected Clerk and John P. Schmitt was elected Treasurer. Ora Fuller, Assessor, F.A. McDonald, Justice of the Peace and A.S. Cole,Constable were also elected that day.
Today, Townsend has 95 plus miles of Town Roads, a volunteer fire department and community ambulance. The old railroad right-o-way is now part of the Oconto County Recreation Trail. Thousands of summer residents enjoy the more than twenty lakes in the Town of Townsend as well as the McCaslin Brook. Several area clubs and organizations provide year round activities in our Town.