|For My Cousins
|Winnebago County, Wisconsin
Maps and Written History (as of 1878)
From: Illustrated Historical Atlas of Wisconsin
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History of Winnebago County
(as written in 1878)
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Algoma (12) -- includes Oshkosh and Big Butte Des Morts Lake
|The following transcription was taken verbatim from the above-referenced 1878 atlas (starting at page 248). I have broken the lengthy paragraphs into shorter paragraphs to make it easier to read, but otherwise have tried to be true to the spelling, text and punctuation of the original document. Although I've done my best to be accurate, there may be transcription errors that I failed to catch.
WINNEBAGO COUNTY (as of 1878):
INDIANS AND MISSIONARIES
When this region was visited by the first explorer, Jean Nicolet, in 1634, the Winnebagoes had possession of the country near the head of Green bay. Beyond them, on the southern shore of the Upper Fox river, was the nation of the Mascoutens; having the Miamis on the south, and the Foxes on the north, in the region of Wolfe river. These nations were at peace with each other.
In the year 1670, Father Claude Allouez started from his winter quarters, on the west side of Green bay, to visit the tribes living in the vicinity of Puan (Winnebago) lake. On the nineteenth of April he arrived at that lake, and on the twenty-fourth, by way of Wolf river, came into the village of the Foxes. Here he celebrated religious rites, and established the mission called "Saint Mark's." On the twenty-ninth, the Father, returning, entered the Fox river, and on the thirtieth reached the village of the Mascoutens. Here he tarried two days, and returned on the third of May to the place whence he had set out.
He continued these missions, extending his labors to the Miamis, Sacs and Winnebagoes, until 1676, when, on the sixth of April, he was joined by Father Anthony Silvy. They labored together or apart until October, when Allouez succeeded Marquette among the Illinois. About 1679, Silvey was recalled, and his place filled by Father Peter A. Bonneault, and Allouez, driven from the Illinois, soon after returned to the Mascoutens, and resumed his work there. He went again to the Illinois, in 1684, and at the end of three years returned to the Mascoutens. When these missions were discontinued is not known; but they probably terminated about the time of the death of Allouez, in 1690.
Shortly after this, about the first part of the eighteenth century, the tribes in this locality became very disagreeable to the French trades, on whom, at the rapids and portages, they levied constant and excessive tolls. This avarice soon called for vengeance on the part of France, which appears to have been directed more especially against the Foxes.
The first attempt to punish them was made in 1716, by an expedition numbering eight hundred, under the command of the Sieur de Louvigny, the king's lieutenant, of Quebec. He marched against them in the region of Fox river, as it enters Lake Winnebago, on the west. On arriving, he found the Indians to the number of five hundred warriors, and three thousand women, shut up in a sort of fort, and prepared to sell their lives as dearly as possible. Louvigny had two field pieces, and a grenade mortar. With these he began the siege.
On the third day, when he was preparing to undermine the fort, the Indians proposed terms of capitulation. Peace was concluded, and an agreement entered into, by which a treaty was to be ratified the following year. By this compact, Louvigny withdrew, and according to agreement returned the next spring to Mackinaw, to conclude the stipulated treaty. The Foxes failed to appear, but on the other hand, they became more troublesome and dangerous than before the French traders.
This continued for a few years, when the Governor of Canada became persuaded of the necessity of destroying the entire Fox nation. Accordingly, in 1728, an expedition for this object, composed of four hundred French, and eight hundred Indians, of several nations, all under command of Monsieur de Lignery, started from Quebec. He arrived at Green bay August 17. Every precaution had been taken to prevent the Indians from discovering the approach; notwithstanding this, the savages had received information of it, and had abandoned the village near the bay. On the twenty-fourth, having proceeded up the Fox river, they came upon a village of the Puans (Winnebagoes). The whites were disposed to destroy any inhabitants that might be found there, but the flight of the Indians had preceded the arrival of the French. The latter destroyed their corn-fields and burned their wigwams.
The next day they came upon the main village of the Foxes, but they likewise had deemed it advisable to depart, and the French found only a few women, and one old man, whom they put to death by a slow fire. From here they advanced upon the last stronghold of the enemy, which, on their arrival, they also found vacated. The expedition immediately returned to Quebec, having accomplished nothing.
Not long after this, the Mascoutens are entirely lost to history. Another expedition was undertaken against the unruly Foxes, in 1735, under the command of Sieur de Voyelle. The force numbered sixty men and a few Indians. The result was much the same as De Lignery's; and His Majesty, the French king, in a letter to the governor of Canada, rejoiced that it had been attended by no bad consequences. Two other expeditions are spoken of; one under Sieur de Villiers, and one under Captain Marin.
About the middle of the eighteenth century the Winnebagoes had settled farther to the southward, and occupied the region around Lake Winnebago, extending up Wolf river a considerable distance, and up the Fox as far as the portage.
The Foxes had, in the mean time, moved down toward the mouth of the Wisconsin river, their lands being separated from the Winnebagoes by the territory of the Sacs, with whom the Foxes were in intimate alliance. Again, toward the end of the eighteenth century, the Winnebagoes extended their possessions westward as far as the Mississippi; the Sacs and Foxes, having moved down that river, occupied territory on both the east and west sides, in the vicinity of Rock Island. As the Winnebagoes abandoned the region north of the Fox river, the Menomonees enlarged their boundaries from around Green bay, until they reached that river, and extended as far west as the Wisconsin.
The lines between these two tribes was not definite, hunted freely on the territory of the other. In the year 1836, the Menomonees, in a treaty concluded at Cedar Point, ceded to the United States a large tract north of the Fox river. In 1832, the Winnebagoes had, in a treaty at Rock Island, Illinois, disposed of their lands south of the Fox, thus bringing, by these two cessions, all of what is now Winnebago county under the jurisdiction of the United States; it being, at that time, a part of Brown county, in the territory of Michigan.
LOCATION AND PHYSICAL FEATURES
Winnebago county is fortunate in its location, lying, as it does, on the western short of Winnebago lake, and directly on the highway between the great lakes and the Mississippi river. It embraces sixteen congressional townships, of which 270,000 acres is land, while the balance is covered with water.
Originally, about thirty-five percent of the land area was covered with timber, mostly of the hard-wood kinds, such as the maple, oak, linden, elm, hickory, and poplar, with a rank undergrowth of hazel, ironwood, plum, and crab-apple. The wooded portion was mostly on the north side of the Fox. Of the rest, there was about twenty-five per cent, each of oak openings and marsh, with fifteen of prairie. These regions were mostly located on the south side of the Fox river. This condition of things has been changed, so that now probably three-fourths are under cultivation. Much of the remaining marsh can easily be drained and made the best of tillable land. The surface is moderately rolling. At places the undulations become slight ridges and hills, which, with intertwining rivers and inset lakes, give to the surface of the county a variety and beauty that are of rare occurrence.
It contains a great diversity of soil, varying from the black vegetable mold to a clay or sandy loam. The sub-soil in the dry regions is clay, largely enriched by the decomposition of lime rock, which gives it great strength and fertility. Considerable of the wet, marshy region is underlaid with a deposit of shell marl, of a very pure quality, and valuable as a fertilizer.
This county presents three distinct geological formations, on the southeast, including all from the northeast corner to the southwest, the outcrop is the blue or buff limestone; following this, to the northwest, is the lower magnesian limestone; this in turns runs out toward the northwest corner, where the Potsdam sandstone formation is superficial. To the latter is due the sand-beds that are found in this part of the county.
No other county in the state has such complete water communication; bounded, as it is, on the east by Lake Winnebago, and traversed by two navigable rivers. The upper Fox enters near the southwest corner, and flowing to the northeast, at a point not far from the center of the county, is joined by the Wolf, coming from the northwest corner. From this point of confluence, the stream continues at the Fox. It runs toward the southeast a distance of ten miles, where it empties into Lake Winnebago, having passed through Butte des Morts lake and the center of the city of Oshkosh.
The Lower Fox is the outlet of Winnebago lake. It is formed at the north end of the lake by two streams that escape on either side of Doty's island. After running about a mile, these streams unite, and form Little Butte des Morts lake, from which it escapes to Green bay, in a northeasterly direction. About six miles of the Lower Fox is in Winnebago county. A reference to the map of the county discloses the fact that it is divided into three triangles, each of which is bounded on two sides by navigable waters; one to the north, bounded by Wolf river and Lake Winnebago; one to the south, by the Upper Fox and the lake; and one to the west, described by the convergence of the Fox and Wolf rivers.
Besides these larger streams, there are numerous creeks and spring-fed rivulets that flow into them from all directions. The currents are generally rapid, both in river and branch, and afford many admirable mill-sites and water-powers. As a proof of the value of these water advantages, Winnebago county stands second in the state in the value of her manufacturing interests.
There are within the limits of this county three lakes of considerable size, aside from the beautiful sheet of water that washes almost the entire eastern shore. The largest of these three is Paygan, on Wolf river, toward the northwest corner of the county. This lake is ten miles long, from east to west, and between three and four miles wide. The next in size is Le Grand Butte des Morts, on the Fox, near the center of the county, which is about five miles long by three wide. Rush lake, in the southwest part, is a beautiful body of water, about four miles long by two wide, its outlet being into Fox river, six miles distant, by Rush river. The shores of these lakes present much pleasing and picturesque scenery, a constant delight to the riparian dwellers.
INDUSTRIES AND PRODUCTS
The county has a population of 45,000, of which number 30,000 are Americans, the balance being of various European countries. Many are engaged in agriculture, and the county is generally in a high state of cultivation, presenting one continuous expanse of beautiful farms, with handsome dwelling houses and spacious barns. In 1876, there were reaped in Winnebago, 42,000 acres of wheat, 13,000 acres of corn, 12,000 of oats, and considerable quantities of barley and rye. In connection with many of these farms are found fine orchards of the apple and pear, with attractive vineyards, all of which do well in this region. In the northern part of the county are found extensive hay-marshes, some of which occupy one or two thousand acres.
Stock raising is on the increase, both in the size and character of the herds. There are several fine collections of short-horns and other pure blooded stock in the county. The dairy is becoming quite an item, and is steadily on the increase. The milk of fifteen hundred cows is at present converted into butter and cheese, and the admirable facilities for grazing make this a pleasant and profitable business. The great wealth of the county, however, is her manufactures. The easy access to the pine lands in the north, by Wolf river, the hard woods in the adjacent region, and the admirable water resources combine to make this the great interest of the county. Large manufacturing establishments are found at Oshkosh, Neenah, Menasha, Omro, Winneconne and other places.
The county is freely supplied with means of egress and ingress, both by water and land. By water, the Upper Fox connects, to the southwest, with the Wisconsin, which leads into the Mississippi; the Lower Fox leads northeast to Green bay, and the Wolf communicates to the northwest, while, by the lake itself, the various cities along its banks are easily reached. By the land intimate connections are maintained in all directions by five lines of railroad.
There are one hundred school-houses in the county, the majority of which are in good condition, being well ventilated and surrounded with pleasant grounds. There are 15,500 children in the county of the age to avail themselves of these facilities.
In addition to the public schools, there are five parochial schools. One of the state normal schools is also located here, being within the corporate limits of the city of Oshkosh.
By the act of the territorial legislature approved January 6, 1840, the district of country circumscribed by a line beginning at the northeast corner of township twenty, north of range seventeen east, running thence due south through Lake Winnebago, until it intersects the north line of township sixteen; then west on that line to the southwest corner of township seventeen, north of range fourteen east; thence north on the range line to the northwest corner of township twenty north; and thence east on the township line to the place of beginning, was set apart from Brown and made a separate county, called Winnebago, and embraced a tract of land twenty-four miles square.
By the same act Nathaniel Perry, Robert Grignon and Morgan L. Martin were made commissioners to locate the county seat. They designated the village of Oshkosh as the seat of justice. By an act of February 18, 1842, Winnebago was organized and attached to Brown for judicial purposes. The first election of county officers occurred on the first Monday of April following, returns being made to the clerk of Fond du Lac county, who was authorized to issue certificates of election. No record of this election is extant.
In 1843, by an act of April 1, the name of the town Butte des Morts was changed to Winnebago, and made to embrace the whole county. The same act designated Webster Stanley's as the place for all elections and town meetings, until otherwise indicated by law.
An election occurred during the year, at which time W. C. Isbel was chosen register of deeds; George F. Wright, clerk of the board of supervisors; W. W. Wright, treasurer; Ira F. Aiken, coroner, and S. W. Brooks, surveyor. The board of supervisors met at Stanley's, May 1, 1843, and accepted the bond of the treasurer, C. J. Coon and E. E. Brenan being sureties.
The legislature of 1845 enacted that the voters of Winnebago county should select three commissioners to permanently locate the county-seat. The election on the first Tuesday of April decided on Clark Dickinson and Robert Grignon; Joseph Jackson and Harrison Reed being a tie at twenty votes each. On the 24th of the same month voting occurred to decide between Jackson and Reed. This resulted in the choice of Reed. These commissioners, after several meetings, located the capital at Butte des Morts, on land donated by Augustin Grignon. When this result was proclaimed, the east end of the county boiled with intensest indignation, ascribing the most sinister and mercenary motives to the three honest men who had decided for the Le Grand Butte.
In 1847 an act was approved organizing Winnebago for judicial purposes from and after January 1, 1848. The same act also located the county-seat on section twenty-four of township eighteen, in range sixteen east -- the village of Oshkosh -- provided suitable building should be furnished free of cost to the county. This was eagerly embraced by the citizens of Oshkosh, and they rolled the county-seat as a "sweet morsel under their tongue." By this act, it was to remain here three years, after which time the people should decide what should be done.
At the expiration of this time, on February 9, 1850, an act was approved submitting the question of removal of the county-seat from Oshkosh to Butte des Morts. The effort was a failure, and the people have sine been pleased to retain Oshkosh as the capital of the county. A large and beautiful building, combining in one the court-house and jail, has been built, and the prospect is that Oshkosh will long continue to be the county-seat of Winnebago.
As early as the year 1818, a trading--post was established at the "Butte" by Jacques Polier and Augustin Grignon. The buildings were located on the stream flowing into the upper end of Lake Butte des Morts, now called Overton's creek. The business was conducted by agents, neither one of the firm living at the post. In 1826, Robert Grignon opened a post a few miles above, where Oshkosh city now stands. He also cultivated a small plot of ground.
In the same year a mail route was opened between Forts Winnebago and Howard, the trail crossing the Wolf at Polier and Grignon's post, where the company kept a ferry for transportation of the carrier and such other passengers as passed that way. The mail was carried by Joseph Crele [TRANSCRIPTION NOTE: There was an accent mark over the final e.]. In 1827, Peter Powell, an Englishman, built a log cabin on the short of Lake Butte des Morts, which he used as a family residence. In 1833, the trail for the mail route was changed, the new path crossing at what is now called Coon's point, in the city of Oshkosh.
George Johnson, desiring to take advantage of this opening, built two log houses at this place and began operations as ferry-man and tavern-keeper. He soon sold out to Robert Grignon and William Powell. Augustin Grignon, son of the old trader, was employed to manage the business. In 1835, John Knaggs, a Pottawattamie half-breed, bought the improvements and added a trading-post. About the same time, Archibald Caldwell settled at the present site of Neenah.
In 1835, the United States government undertook to teach the Menomonees agriculture, mechanics, morals and science. William Dickinson was the first contractor, and was afterward succeeded by Daniel Whitney. The scheme embraced the instruction of the Indians in theory and practice. Two brothers, by the name of Gregory, the one an Episcopal clergyman, the other an experienced teacher, were at the head of the department of science and religion. Religious meetings were regularly held on the Sabbath.
Clark Dickinson, Nathaniel Perry, Robert Irwin and Ira Baird, were employed as farmers on the four farms opened in the vicinity of the Little Butte. David Johnson was miller, the mill being located on the present site of Neenah, and Jourdon and Hunter had charge of the blacksmith shops. In 1832 the operations began. In 1835 twenty-five or thirty white laborers were employed in the various departments. The enterprise continued till 1838, when the small-pox made its appearance among the Indians, and swept off the members of about twenty families. For some reason, the government, after this date, abandoned the undertaking, the effort having proved a complete failure.
Yet the move was not without some beneficial results. The enterprise had drawn hither workmen of various kinds, and when the agency was abandoned quite a settlement of whites had formed, some conducting trading-posts, as Samuel Irwin; others farming, as Richard Pritchett and Alexander La Bourd. The first commercial saw-logs in this county, were by men in the employ of Daniel Whitney, of Green Bay, during this year (1835). They were cut upon Rat river, in the northwest corner of this county. This same region was frequently visited in subsequent years by the lumbermen. In 1842 Sam Farnsworth ran the first raft of lumber down the Wolf, Oshkosh being the objective point. The three cribs tied up at Stanley's docks for several weeks, sales being very slow at five dollars a thousand feet.
OSHKOSH, THE INDIAN CHIEF
Oshkosh, the last chief of the Menomonees, and whose name is given to Wisconsin's second city, was born at Point Bausse (Bass), now in Wood county, in 1795. While yet only a lad, on account of his sagacity and bravery he gained the plaudit "oshkosh," or "brave," from which fact his name is derived.
In 1826, the reigning chief, Cha-kau-cho-ka-ma, died, without male issue, leaving the nation without a ruler. Governor Cass, of Michigan territory, fearing that the anarchy that prevailed in the tribe might result in harm to the white settlements, called, in company with Colonel T. L. McKenny, a meeting of the tribe, for the purpose of selecting a ruler. After due inquiry, the medal of distinction was hung around the neck of Oshkosh. This was pleasing to the nation, and respect was promised on all hands.
After a reign of thirty-two years he died, as the result of a drunken brawl, at Keshena, on the Wolf river reservation, in Shawano county, on the 29th of August, 1858. He was held in high esteem by his people. His great weakness was that he frequently gave way to extreme excesses of drunkenness, with renewed desperation. During these times he was entirely beyond control, yet he was a faithful chief to his people, and a strong friend to the whites. He took great pride in the rapidly increasing growth of the place named in his honor, and, on his last visit, shortly before his death, while being driven around by Mayor Jackson, he could not suppress outward expression of pleasure and satisfaction.
CITY OF OSHKOSH
In 1834, David C. Butterfield, a run-away youth, who had joined the army to escape the troubles of civil life, was a soldier at Fort Howard. In time he repented of the act, and, wearied of military life, he solicited release, and, on the plea of minority, it was granted. On his return to Medina, Ohio, he took with him a Stockbridge squaw as wife. Though a dusky maiden and reared in the pineries of Wisconsin, she was withal a woman of considerable beauty, of good education, and vivacious temperament. She recounted with great ardor the beauties of the Fox river valley, and the Winnebago lake basin, to interested listeners in the Buckeye state.
One of those who heard her story was Webster Stanley, and so won was he that immediate preparations were made to visit this region. He arrived at Green Bay in October, 1834. In September, the following year, he moved to the Indian agency, and worked a shingle machine for Dickinson, the contractor. In July, 1836, he, with his son Henry, nine years old, started in a boat to explore the shores of Lake Winnebago, in search of a place to locate permanently. He finally decided on the point south of the Fox, as it enters the lake, the place now occupied by the city of Oshkosh.
He bought the ferry of Knaggs, and commenced keeping it himself. In August he was joined by Chester Gallup, his father-in-law, also from Ohio, who brought with him his three sons, Henry A., Amos and John P. The land on the north side of the Fox was still property of the Indians, but was ceded to the United States in September, 1836, by a treaty concluded at Cedar Point, between Henry Dodge, as commissioner of the general government, and the chiefs of the Menomonees. The results of the council were communicated to Stanley and the Gallups by the commissioner on his return, and at the earliest moment they took possession of lands on the north side of the Fox, including all that portion of the city now lying between Main street and Lake Winnebago, and Fox river and Merrit street. The Gallup farm embraced the eastern half of this section, the western boundary being what is now Mill street, and included 170 acres.
Stanley immediately removed his shanty from Coon's point to his new claim, which included 117 acres, and both families again took possession of it, as they had done in the previous location. They began farming on a small scale, and in the fall of 1837, the first acre of winter wheat was planted at this point. In the spring of 1837, George Wright and family located a claim of 154 acres, west of the Stanley-Gallup claim. He moved into Gallup's shanty, which had been erected in the meantime, and went to work building one of his own, on the site of the present elegant residence of Deacon A. B. Knapp, on Algoma street.
A man by the name of Webster had at the same time entered a tract on the north side, comprising the Sawyer and Paine property of to-day. He never located upon his claim, but sold it to C. J. Coon, on the latter's arrival in 1839. David Evans, from Ohio, was the next settler in this region. He entered ninety acres on the lake shore, in the vicinity of the fair grounds and Mr. Evans' present residence. His brother Thomas arrived a few months later, and both kept bachelor's hall in their lake-shore house.
The next to follow were Chester Ford and family, also from Ohio, who located on the south side of Fox river, and were the first settlers between that river and Fond du Lac creek. Joseph Jackson, from Ireland, in 1812, after stopping for a short time in New Jersey, Michigan and Ohio, successively, "hauled up" at this new settlement in 1837. In March of the following year, armed with a minister, Rev. Stephen Peet, of Green Bay, and an outfit of clothing and wine, he appeared at the Stanley mansion, and on the 8th of March the first wedding in Winnebago county was celebrated, occurring between Joseph Jackson and Miss Emeline Wright. An announcement of this event was published in the Wisconsin Democrat, of Green Bay, in which article the new settlement was named "Athens;" previous to this it had been known as "Stanley's Tavern."
Jackson located a claim of eighty-two acres, and built a substantial log house, on what is now upper Algoma street. Jason Wilkins arrived in 1838, and located on the lake shore, below Miller's point. His family consisted of his wife and child, and his wife's sister, Miss Emeline Cook, afterward the first school teacher in the county, and now Mrs. H. A. Gallup.
George Washington Stanley was the next arrival. He came at four o'clock in the morning of the 26th of August, 1838, and was the first white child born in the county. In this year the south side lands came into market. In the fall of the same year Ira Aikens, with his mother and two sisters, arrived and built a log house, near the present insane asylum dock. He was following, a year later, by the Brooks family.
In the winter of 1838-9, George Wright was appointed justice of the peace, by Governor Dodge, for that part of Brown county lying west of Winnebago lake. The first suit occurred, between James Knaggs and Francis LaRoy, on the 15th of November, 1839. During this year, Joseph L. Shooley and C. J. Coon joined the settlement.
The fourth of July, 1840, was the first time that the natal day of the republic was celebrated on these shores. John P. Gallup read the Declaration of Independence, William Dennison pronounced the oration, and then ladies called "dinner." On this occasion the first wheeled carriage, drawn by oxen, driven by C. J. Coon, and occupied by Mrs. Coon, appeared in the village. It was made entirely of wood, by Coon himself, and as the new barouche rolled down the streets it squeaked a glorious anthem of delight. It was a grand occasion.
In 1840, a meeting was held to decide on the name by which the place should be known. Various names had their supporters. The Gallups contended for "Athens;" the Evanses for "Galeopolis;" the Wrights were unanimous for "Osceola;" only Robert Grignon spoke of "Oshkosh," and the people thought him crazy to think of it; besides these, "Sauk-eer," "Fairview," "Standford," and other names were spoken of. At that meeting, however, with 'Squire Wright in the chair, the present world-renowned name was selected. The result of this meeting has done more for the city than any thing that ever happened to the place.
In 1840, a post-master was opened at Oshkosh, and John P. Gallup became the first post-master in the county. Chester Ford had the contract for carrying the mails between Fond du Lac and Oshkosh and Wrightstown, a distance of sixty miles, making bi-weekly trips. In 1840, Rev. Jesse Halstead, a methodist circuit rider, visited Oshkosh, and preached the first sermon in Stanley's bar-room. Previous to this, however, Clark Dickinson, from the government farm at Neenah, did occasionally visit this settlement, and exhort the people on Sunday. His first sermon in Oshkosh was preached in 1838, in Stanley's tavern. John P. Gallup, about 1843, having been regularly ordained, became the first resident divine in the county. In the same year, the first death of a white civilian in Winnebago occurred; it was the person of Rachael Aiken, sister of Ira Aiken. In the following year, a daughter to Jefferson Eaton was the first white girl born in this region.
In 1841, Miss Emeline Cook induced Stanley to build an addition to his tavern for school purposes. It was rather a breezy addition, six feet by ten, but despite the wintry winds, Miss Cook opened a school, and instructed six or eight of the "young hopefuls" of Oshkosh. The enterprise was suddenly arrested at the suggestion of H. A. Gallup, and she engaged in the more poetical role of wife and housekeeper for his lordship.
At this time, in addition to the persons already named, there were in the settlement Samuel Brooks and family, S. Quartermass, W. C. Isbel, Shooley [TRANSCRIPTION NOTE: only one word given in this name], C. Dickenson, Thomas Evans, C. R. Luce, W. A. Boyd, and probably a few others whose names do not appear. Such was the population of Oshkosh in 1840, the village itself being formed of a few rude log and frame shanties.
Passing from this little settlement in the woods, in 1840, to the city of Oshkosh of to-day, the vivacity of her life and rapidity of her growth may be the better observed and appreciated. Oshkosh, the county seat of Winnebago county, has a population of about eighteen thousand, and is the second largest city in the state. It is built about equally on each side of the Fox river, and extends from Lake Winnebago to Lake Butte des Morts, a distance of about four miles. Its business streets are compactly built with substantial buildings of brick and stone; while numerous elegant residences, surrounded with handsome grounds and luxuriant shade-trees, beautify the outskirts and residence streets.
The enterprise and energy of the men of Oshkosh is more fully appreciated when it is remembered that on three occasions large portions of the city have been laid in ashes. In 1859, a fire occurred that destroyed the whole business part. In 1874 the flames again laid bare a tract nearly a mile in extend, out of the best built portion. The last and greatest was that of 1875, when over one-half of the business part of the city and several residence streets for the distance of an half mile or more was swept bare. Phoenix-like, it rose again from the ashes. The rapidity of its revival and the elegance of its re-construction was a surprise to every one; some four hundred fine edifices were built in the short space of six months, and Oshkosh presented to the world the same smile and business energy as before the calamity.
At present there were twenty-odd fine church edifices. The court-house, state normal school, Oshkosh high school, and several of the ward school buildings are very fine, imposing structures, and add largely to the architectural elegancies of the city. The state asylum for the insane is an immense pile of buildings, with a frontage of some several hundred feet. It is situated on the lake shore, about three miles north of the city.
The place possesses the best of educational facilities in its well-conducted public schools, employing about sixty teachers. There are also denominational academies and a commercial college.
The railroad facilities are found on the lines of the C. & N. W. and O. & M. roads. There are some fifty-odd manufacturing establishments, run by steam-power, embracing saw and shingle-mills; sash and door factories; a match factory, which employes three hundred hands; a threshing-machine manufactory; foundries and machine shops; flouring-mills and other branches. In good lumbering seasons the mills of this city have loaded 15,000 railroad cars per year. The sash and door factories have a yearly capacity of 260,000 doors, 600,000 windows, and 140,000 pair of blinds.
There are two steamboat lines; one plying between this place and New London, on Wolf river; the other from here to Berlin, on the Fox. Transient steamers and sail-craft also ply between the city and various other points on the rivers and lake.
Four newspapers are published here, the Daily and Weekly Northwestern, Oshkosh Times, Telegraph (German), and Early Dawn.
NEENAH AND MENASHA
At the northern end of Winnebago lake the waters find outlet through two channels, about a mile distant from each other, as already explained. The south branch passes through Neenah, and the north through Menasha. These unite about two miles below, in an expansion called Little Butte des Morts lake. Between the two streams is an island about one by two miles in extent, near the middle of which is the line that separates the cities. This tract of land is known by the name of Doty's Island, from the fact that Governor Doty made it his home as early as 1845. It is certainly a beautiful piece of ground, and justly celebrated for position and fertility of soil. On either side flows a majestic stream of never failing water, with a current sufficiently rapid to drive a continuous line of machinery on either bank their whole length. The lake above forms so capacious a reservoir as to forbid flood or freshet. The current is so active that it does not freeze during the winter season, but throughout the year will drive the mill-wheels.
The initial settlement here grew out of the government Indian farm at this point in 1831-8. When this enterprise was abandoned, several individuals had erected cabins, and began slight improvements. Here was the site of the government mill that did the work for an extensive region. Here were the blacksmith shops that induced both the whites and reds to visit this place, from far and near. This was all of a temporary character, however, and not until the sale of the government farm land, in the winter of 1842-3, was a permanent settlement made. At this sale, Harrison Reed, of Milwaukee, bought part of the farm. In 1844 he took possession, and began selling portions to pay running expenses, but failing to meet the stipulations of that sale, the government threatened to sell the property over his head. To avert this, he formed a partnership with L. D. and Harvey Jones, the brothers buying the entire area, and giving Reed a certain reserve. Soon after, Harvey Jones platted his claim, and called the village Neenah. Reed also platted a piece of ground and called it Neenah, but his speculation never ripened.
The latter afterward started a newspaper, the Conservative, which he ran for a few years, and eventually, in 1861, "carpet-bagged" to Florida, and became governor of that state. He has since remained there, and been intimately connected with its political career. In 1845, Governor Doty, with his family, arrived, and made permanent settlement on the island. In this year, the principal arrivals were George H. Manser, from Vermont, who began farming; Gorham P. Vining, of Massachusetts, Stephen Hartwell and George Harlow, and Curtis Reed, brother of Harrison.
In the following year the little community grew rapidly. Rev. O. P. Clinton settled on the island, on 160 acres of land given him by Governor Doty. The Brien family, Ira Baird, S. F. Holbrook, A. Jenkins, A. Murray, Deacon Samuel Mitchell, Henry C. Finch and family came. Finch's daughter and Mr. Johnson, now of Milwaukee, celebrated the first marriage in Neenah, in this year. The ceremony was performed by Elder O. P. Clinton. The first store was opened by Jones & Yale, in a small shanty on Main street. In the winter of 1846-7, the town of Neenah was set off from Winnebago, the "mill-house" of L. D. Jones being made the town hall.
On the first of September, of this year (1846), the first church meeting was held in Neenah, by a Methodist circuit rider from Fond du Lac; seven white people were in attendance, there being also about fifty Indians and half-breeds. In 1847, Miss Caroline Boynton opened a school, the first in this part of the county. She "boarded round," and received $1.50 a week from the treasurer.
During this year James Ladd built the "Winnebago" hotel, the first in the place. The same building afterward became the "Exchange" hotel. In 1848, the first flouring-mill was built by J. & H. Kimberly; it still remains, under the title of Neenah mills. The first death that occurred in the settlement was that of Stephen Hartwell, on the 4th of September, 1846. The next day a Dane named Jonsen died -- both from severe attacks of fever and ague. The funeral was held with but little ceremony, G. P. Vining being the manager, and Governor Doty the speaker of the occasion. The place now had so increased in business and numbers, that the advent of new comers was no longer noticed.
Neenah had a population of 1,074 in 1856; its business being represented in one dock, one bank, two printing offices, two furniture factories, four flouring-mills, twenty-four stores, three saw-mills, and all the appurtenances of a first-class village of healthy growth. The enterprise and energy that characterized her in early days have never ceased to be a prominent feature. In 1877, Neenah is adorned with many costly residences, fine churches and schools, but the striking feature is its magnificent water-powers, and the long lines of mills that stand on either bank of the channel.
Within this place, of about four thousand inhabitants, there are seven flouring-mills, with a capacity of one thousand barrels a day, and four paper-mills, that make ten tons of print and book paper daily. One of these, the Winnebago paper mill, owned by J. R. Davis & Company, occupies the site of the old government grist-mill of 1831. Besides the mills, there are sash and door factories, a stove foundry, and other establishments engaged in making furniture, and the like. Neenah is, without doubt, one of the busiest places in the Fox river valley; a manufacturing center, and a city of large and rapidly increasing influence.
Two newspapers, the Neenah Gazette, by G. A. Cunningham, and the Times, are published here; both are zealous advocates of local interests. Two railroad lines, the Chicago & Northwestern and the Wisconsin Central, together with the lake and Lower Fox, furnish good connections with the outer world in all directions.
Menasha was started in 1847 by Curtis Reed. Its growth and life has been the same as that of Neenah; situated on the same kind of a channel, with similar water-power. The two cities have grown up like twins, and to-day they differ but little in population, business, importance, or beauty. Taken together, they are called "The Industrial city of the North." Like Neenah, Menasha is the scene of great manufacturing activity; saw-mills, shingle and lath mills, woolen, paper, and flouring mills, pail, tub, kanakin, and furniture factories, stove, stave, and tub manufactories, a mammoth wagon and carriage manufactory, and a tannery are situated up and down the channel, and do a constant and extensive business.
One newspaper, the Menasha Press, is published here by Thomas Reed. The means of communication are the same as those of Neenah.
This is a prosperous village on the banks of Wolf river, between Lakes Paygan and Le Grand Butte des Morts, about twelve miles from Oshkosh. At this part of the river the stream widens, forming what is called Winneconne lake. This is a very beautiful sheet of water, surrounded with much pleasing and attractive scenery. The village is also partly built upon its banks. Among the early settlers in this town, the most prominent were George Bell and family.
The first settler in the present village of Winneconne was J. Pritchet, who was the only settler here in 1848, when Ira Avery arrived. In 1849, R. Hamlin came, and found but two log cabins and an old government hotel, which is still standing. For many years the village was all upon the east bank, but, as years advanced, Captain Mapes, with a few others, concluded that the west side might profitably be added to the place, and purchased the land on that side. Through the influence of this firm, the Milwaukee & St. Paul railway was extended to this point. This event gave a great impetus to the place, and it is now quite a business and manufacturing center, having two large saw-mills and three shingle mills, also one flouring mill that does an extensive business. The building of boats is also a prominent feature of Winneconne. There are good high and ward schools, commodious and tasty churches, good hotels, and substantial business blocks.
One weekly newspaper -- The Winneconne Item -- is published here, by Frank S. Verbeck.
This is a pleasant village of twenty-five hundred inhabitants, situated on the southern bank of the Fox, toward the southwest corner of the county. It is surrounded by a good agricultural district, of which it is the business center. A large amount of manufacturing is also done here, making it one of the liveliest business village in the state.
The first white settler in this vicinity was Edward West, now of Appleton, who came to this point in 1845. Before him, however, Charles Corro, a half-breed, had built a cabin and established a sort of trading-post near where the Compound company's building now stands. West, on his arrival, bought five hundred acres of land on section twenty-three and adjoining; built two log cabins, one of which is still standing, and occupied by Thomas Cheney; and began vigorously to make other improvements. The influx of new settlers was rapid after this beginning. Among the earliest were Myron Howe, H. Gifford, Isaac Jermain, A. Beals, George Stokes, Al. Pease, M. C. Bushnell, A. Quick[,] George Beckwith, J. Whitehead, Leuman Scott, John Monroe, J. H. Perry[,] N. J. Forbes, Hayward, Richard Reed, and a few others, all coming about 1846-8.
In 1857 the village was incorporated, and since that time its advance has been constant and substantial. On all hands are mills of the various kinds -- saw-mills, single mills[,] flouring mills, sash and blind factories, wagon manufactories, machine shops, foundries, and the like, steam being the motive power of all, as there is no available water-power at this point. The Great Western Compound company, engaged in putting up patent medicine, is located here, and does a good business, having annual sales to about $50,000 worth of goods.
Her churches and school buildings are above the average, the latter being institutions of special excellence.
The buildings of the place are mostly of wood, there being only a few brick structures. These are built of cream-colored brick, manufactured at Calumet, on the eastern side of Lake Winnebago.
The Omro Weekly Journal is published here by Kainie and Wright. It is now in the twelfth volume, and is a well-edited, lively sheet.
The northern branch of the Milwaukee & St. Paul railway passes through this village, and crosses the Fox by a bridge at this point, on its way north to Winneconne, its present terminus.
BUTTE DES MORTS
This title, meaning the Hill of the Dead, is derived from the fact that from a time very remote, it was the great burial place for the dead of the various tribes who annually resorted hither during the rice harvest. As has been stated, this was the scene of the first settlement in Winnebago county. In early days its position was very advantageous for the location of a trading post, and was therefore seized upon by Porlier and Grignon as the site for their business in 1818. But, as civilization advanced and the Indian receded, its position faded into slight importance, and to-day this settlement is one of very little influence in the county, being made up mainly of descendants of the old French traders.
The business of the place now is done by two stores, three saloons, one hotel, and a few shops. The wealth of Butte des Morts, however, is her muskrat business. In 1864, the Benedict brothers purchased one thousand acres of marsh opposite the village, at the junction of the Fox and Wolf rivers, and began the systematic capture of muskrats. Bogk [SIC] brothers, having seven hundred acres, are also in the same line. Besides, there are a number of smaller firms. The annual crop of skins is about 7,000, for which is received about $2,000. The glory and commercial dignity of Butte des Morts will probably remain commensurate with the activity and importance of the muskrat business.
Dane City, by the indefatigable mental and physical efforts of its projectors, aided by artistic skill, in a few weeks became a great city. It had many well laid-out streets, public parks, fountains, churches, court-house square, and tower -- if not to the eye of the few residents, to the astonishment and admiration of investors abroad. Agents went out with elegant lithographs, on which all these places of interest were located. Lots were sold for cash. Prices varied as the location receded from the public parks and court-house square. The work went rapidly on, sales continued, and the money rolled in. But, alas! the investors came on to take possession of their property, dug-outs, with chimneys projecting through the sodded roof, told how awful was the joke, how immense the humbug. They in turn shifted the responsibility on another, and, by hook or crook, eventually Joseph Stringham secured possession of the entire tract, about four hundred acres. The site of Dane City was the present Third ward of the city of Oshkosh. Mr. Stringham has done much toward making that part of the city what it now is, and still holds a large part of the lots. This was the climax of "wild-cat" in Winnebago county.
On the ninth or [SIC] February, 1849, Densmore and Cooley issued the first number of the Oshkosh True Democrat, the first paper published in the county. At the end of the first volume, he sold to his partner, and went to Milwaukee. After three months he returned and purchased the entire concern, and continued its publication under the old name till 1852, when George Burnside bought an interest, and the name changed to the Oshkosh Democrat. This combination continued till April, 1853, when Jonathan Daughtery bought the establishment. May 9, 1856, Mitchell and Smith became proprietors, and published the paper till August 15, 1856. From this date until January 20, 1857, it was under the control of Markham and Felker. At this date, Finney became Felker's partner. This continued until April 13, 1858, when Finney and Davis became proprietors. They issued it until July 21, 1860, and sold out to George Gary. He, on October 4, 1860, sold to C. R. Nevitt, when the Democrat ceased to have a name, and was merged into the Weekly Northwestern.
On August 26, 1856, Markham and Felker started a Daily Democrat, which was continued through all the changes of the Weekly, until December, 1857, when, like the Courier, its light was quietly extinguished.
The Democrat, after a restless immortality of three years, in March, 1860, again assumed the habiliments of this sublunary sphere, revisited the scenes of its former sojourn, and was molded again into party form by George Gary. It continued "to be" until may of the same year, when in the eyes of the whole multitude it again expired.
D. C. Felton and company issued the first copy of the Northwestern in October of 1860. On November 10, 1864, George Gary and company became proprietors. In March, 1866, the firm had entirely changed, and the paper was issued by Finney and Davis. It is still issued, the name being changed to the Oshkosh Northwestern, and having undergone numerous changes, it is now owned by Allen and Hicks, being in its eighteenth volume.
The Winnebago Telegraph was started in the fall of 1849, by Doctor B. S. Henning, who issued a few numbers, and sold the concern to Morley and Edwards. Edwards succeeding to the sole management, continued its publication for two years, when he removed the materials to Appleton, where it was destroyed by fire before the issue of a single number.
The Oshkosh Delegate was established in August, 1850, by George M. Shipper. It was issued but a short time, when J. D. Hyman, with Hiram Morley, took charge, and changed the name to the Oshkosh Republican. After a few months, however, it suspended, and the materials were moved to Fond du Lac.
The Fox River Courier was first issued June 1, 1852, by J. H. McAvoy. He sold to Jeremiah Crawley shortly after, who continued its publication until August, 1853, when Read and Nevitt bought the establishment. They continued until August, 1857. During their control, they also issued the Daily Courier. The first number appeared July 10, 1854, and was the first daily paper in the county. This was discontinued in December, 1857. In August, the firm changed to Read & Strong. These men published the Courier till December, 1862, and were succeeded by Morley and Davis. They continued to issue it until August, 1864, when it ceased to be, and the proprietors united with George Gary in the publication of the Northwestern.
In March, 1852, the Anzeiger des Nordwestens was started by C. Kohlmann and Charles Rose. It was discontinued in August of the year following.
The Waechter am Winnebago was established in April, 1858, by C. Kohlmann and Henry Cordier, and continued until October, 1860. In the same year and month that the Waechter died, the first number of a monthly magazine, called the Deutsche Volkblaeter, was issued by Kohlmann, being edited by Charles Rose. Its existence was of short duration.
In October, 1866, the Wisconsin Telegraph (German) was started by C. Kohlmann, with Charles Rose editor. This paper was continued till the present date, and is now under the control of C. Kohlmann and brother. It is a first-class sheet and is in a flourishing condition. In addition to these, a weekly, the Oshkosh Times, is published at this point by Fernandez and Glaze. It is now in the eleventh volume, and is a very creditable sheet.
There is also a publication called the Early Dawn issued from this place.
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