|For My Cousins
|Early History of Marquette County
Written by Laura B. Tagatz (dated 1920)
Go to Fred Tagatz' web page for details about Laura Tagatz. Laura was Fred's daughter.
|Click for a PDF file of the paper written by Laura B. Tagatz or read its text below
Laura clearly relied heavily on information in the 1878 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Wisconsin. Below is a transcription of her paper entitled "Early History of Marquette County" (signed L.B.T. '20). This paper was found in the archives saved by my grandmother Evaline Tagatz. Laura was Evaline's sister.
Early History of Marquette County
Among the early explorers who first visited this region were Jean Nicolet in 1634, followed about twenty-five years later by Sieur Radisson and Sieur des Groseilliers. In 1669 Father Allouez and in 1673 Louise Joliet and Jacques Marquette made voyages up the Fox River and descended to the Mississippi. Several other brave explorers at different times visited the wilds of this country and although they have left very meager records to our interests, we at least know that some of these venturesome pathfinders via the Fox came near and others actually did discover that river which is now the most important in the world, the Mississippi.
When the French first discovered this country the Indians of this vicinity were the Winnebagoes and Menominees. They were usually always at war with each other and other tribes wondered at their strength and bravery. Considerable jealousy existed between the two tribes and a rivalry sprang up as to which should hold the highest place in the esteem of the whites. When the white people began to settle here, the government made treaties with the Indians who became very friendly and carried on trade with settlers. Most of Waushara County, much of Marquette County and some of the Green Lake County have long been known as "Indian Lands" because they were the last places in Wisconsin which the Indians inhabited.
The Indians fashioned their war implements from the copper mines of Lake Superior and many of these have been found in this county, especially near Buffalo Lake where they had their habitations. Here also are found mounds fashioned in the shape of birds, lizards, turtle and others of every description, some being long lines of embankments which seem to have been erected for defense. The largest and richest group of these mounds is found on the J. Kratz farm about three miles from Montello.
A mound thirty feet in diameter which was a typical burial ground was opened July 1886. The skeleton together with the bit of pottery found with it was sent to the State Historical Society.
On every stream or lake may be found arrowheads, spears, hatchets and other flint implements as well as stone mortars for grinding corn, and occasionally copper ornaments and weapons. On account of the great number of arrowheads found it is thought that this section was often the battleground of the Indians. In one case a skull was exhumed in which was imbedded an arrowhead of flint.
This tract belonged at first to France until the French and Indian Wars when by a treaty it was ceded to England in whose possession it remained until after the Revolutionary War. It was included in the Indian Territory later in the Illinois Territory and when Illinois was admitted to the Union it was attached to the Michigan Territory. In 1836 Wisconsin was organized as a Territory and on February 4, 1848 admitted to the Union as a state.
Marquette County was at first included in Brown County. It embraced twenty-one townships including a portion of some of the present limits of the county. The county seat was established at Marquette and the county attached to Brown County for judicial purposes. January 1884 Marquette County was organized for county purposes and in 1848 for judicial purposes and made a part of the third district.
The boundaries of the county were enlarged in 1849 by the addition of thirty-five townships including most of the present Marquette, Waushara and a small part of Green Lake counties. As at this time constituted this county contained twelve full and two fractional townships embracing two hundred sixty-six thousand, four hundred and forty-two acres. In 1851 Waushara County was detached from Marquette county and in 1858 Green Lake County was detached.
As at present constituted this county contains four hundred fifty-one square miles. It is bounded on the north by Waushara County; on the east by Green Lake County; on the south by Columbia County and on the West by Adams County.
When the territory first emerged from the ocean, it is reported that this region was a vast plain having a slight inclination to the east and southeast. The present condition is due to three classes of agents acting under different conditions at different times.
During the pre-glacial period the streams cut their beds deeper and deeper into the rocks, especially the softer ones, making the surface very irregular and uneven. It was the tendency of the streams to follow the slopes and especially the softer rocks as far as possible, thus the main streams flowed in a northerly and southerly direction.
During the glacial period the agency, which consisted of the great ice-cake was two-fold, first, in leveling the surface by planing down the hills and filing up the valleys; second, creating a new uneven surface by heaping up the clay, sand, gravel and boulders. In many places parallel ridges were formed, sometimes miles in length, rounded hills, mounds of drift, oval domes of rock, sharp gravel ridges of add shapes, peculiar depressions known as "kettles", half submerged rock gorges known as "fiords", besides many other quaint features. The meeting of the ice gave rise to many swollen lakes and looded rivers which modified the surface even more.
After the glacial period we have the post-glacial period which is really a continuation of the action as in the pre-glacial period. The wearing action of the streams was resumed. In addition there occured [SIC] a depression of the land toward the north and the volume of water so greatly increased in the lakes that nearly one half of the district was submerged. This leveled down many of the irregularities and deposited red clay on the surface. After the land arose again from the water, the streams resumed their cutting in the soft clay which rapidly eroded deep wide gorges, leaving abrupt terraces on either side.
Several acres in the northwest corner of the county are elevated, in some places as high as eighty feet. The sides are rugged walls of sandstone and on its summit grow Norway Pines which are not found elsehwere in the county. This elevation is called Liberty Bluff. Another bluff is located in the town of Buffalo, and rises two hundred fifty feet above the general level. The rocks are very dark in appearance, having a grayish to black compact matrix thickly dotted with large brownish to pink facets of feldspar. This is known as Observatory Hill. A bluff of Pottsdam sandstone is found on the southwest quarter of the same section, being about one hundred feet lower than Observatory Hill.
On the edge of the Fox River Marsh at the head of Buffalo Lake in Moundville are three low rounded outcrops of quartz porphyry. These are five miles in length and are a little northwest from Observatory Hill. The rock has a dark brown matrix thickly scattered with large brownish feldspar surfaces.
In Montello is an ellipitical shaped, rounded mound of pink granite about forty feet high and a third of a mile in length. The color of the granite varies somewhat in different parts but is very valuable, handsome and durable. A large quarry has been started here and many men are employed both winter and summer at this work. The granite is much sought for as monuments, paving blocks, gravel of different grades, building stones and in various other forms.
The surface of the county is undulating, the soil being of sandy loam which becomes clear sand in some localities. Many marshes are found near streams which produce hay in abundance. These can be made even more profitable by the introduction of cranberry culture. Of the land which was densely forest covered much is now under cultivation. The region is well-supplied with water-power and in many places as Westfield, Oxford, Douglas Center, Briggsville, Montello, Lawrence, Harrisville, Germania, Neshkoro and other places make excellent use of this power. Nevertheless the power furnished by the different streams is but partially employed in a profitable manner and as much water is wasted that if used would turn the wheels of an immense number of factors.
The chief exports of the county are wheat, corn, rye, pork, butter and cranberries, including the products of the various factories. A large amount of fish area caught annually in the lakes of this region, especially pickeral and bass and the region about Montello is one of the best hunting grounds in this part of the county.
Morgan L. Martin has the credit of originating the scheme of the improvement of the Fox-Wisconsin Rivers. In 1846 Congress approved of improving the Fox River. A committee was appointed to carry out this work and the expenditures were confined to the proceeds of land sales. The board was running deeply into debt, because of some unfair deal connected with their work, as it was put over to Mr. Martin alone who toiled hard, hiring such men as were needed to help carry out his plans. He did excellent work but on account of the disputes and jealousies at Madison was cheated out of much of his rightfully earned money. The country was now much sought for and became quickly settled. The first steam propelled to navigate the Fox was the "Black Hawk" after which many others came into prominence.
Two important railways have branches in the county, the Wisconsin Central, now called the Soo Line, and the other the Chicago and Northwestern.
The first settlement in Marquette County was in the town of Buffalo by H. F. Owen [or possibly H.T. Owen -- it's hard to read] and J. I. O'Blainis. Shortly aftward a school house was built, and taught by a man named Birdsall. The first religious services were conducted by a Catholic priest in Spring Lake, in the town of Shields. The first protestant clergyman was Isaac Smith. S.A. Pease was the first practicing physician. The first entry of government land was made by John Noyes in the town of Packwaukee.
An "Old Settlers Club" was formed in the county and the first meeting was held at Montello in 1876. The following year the meeting was held at Westfield and the next year again at Montello. The old settlers appreciated this opportunity of meeting each other and talking over the by-gone days as well as partaking of and enjoying the programs rendered, followed by other amusements and entertainments.
Marquette County contains many villages, including four incorporated villages which are Westfield, Montello, Neshkoro and Oxford. Montello is the county seat and is connected with the Soo Line and indirectly with the Northwestern since busses meet the trains at Glen Oak which is six miles from Marquette.
L.B.T. '20 [Laura Bertha Tagatz]
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Last update of this page - Feb. 20, 2012