In 1818 Solomon Juneau settled at the mouth of the Milwaukee River and opened a little trading post for the Indians. For seventeen years he was not only the only settler at what later became Milwaukee but he was also the only one on the entire Lake Michigan shore.
Chicago to Death's Door and south to Green
Bay the shore lay dark and mysterious, inhabited
by a single fisherman, farmer or fur trader.
Back from the shore the forest stretched
in unbroken majesty, haunted only by the
wild beasts and savage red men of the wilderness-a
country as little known then as some obscure
spot of Africa is now.
nearest point where Solomon Juneau could replenish
his small stock of supplies was Fort Howard
which was in more or less frequent communication
with Mackinac Island, "the emporium of the West." As there were no roads through the woods from Juneau's cabin to Fort Howard he therefore made frequent trips by water to the fort.
a time he laboriously pulled a rowboat up past
the vast sandy beaches of the Wisconsin, round
through Death's Door passage and down past the
imposing ramparts of precipitous Door County.
Towering high, its cliffs crowned by lofty forests
of pine and maple, it lay there an unexplored
land of mystery.
Until 1835 it lay unknown and unseen by all eyes except Solomon Juneau's and the occasional traveler from Mackinac to the wild West.
In this year-the same year that Solomon Juneau's cabin changed from a hermitage to the beginning of a village- Door County got its first permanent settler. This was Increase Claflin, a splendid representative of the hardy pioneer Yankees who had conquered New England.
Increase Claflin was the very first settler
of this splendid and populous community it is
of interest to learn all we can of him personally.
I have therefore been at pains to obtain all
the genealogical facts about him as possible.
Increase Claflin was born September 19, 1793,
at Windham, N.Y., the son of Increase Claflin
and Sarah Stimpson. His father, Increase
Claflin, was born at Hopkinton, Mass., November
13, 1757, the son of Cornelius Claflin and Deborah
was a member of the Hopkinton Company of minutemen
who responded to the Lexington alarm. On June
1, 1776, he enlisted in the Fifth Middlesex
Regiment and served with honor throughout the
His father, Cornelius Claflin, was born at Hopkinton, Mass., March 13, 1733, the son of Daniel Claflin and Rachel Pratt. He served in the French and Indian War and took part in the expedition against Crown Point in 1756. He also served throughout the Revolutionary War, being lieutenant in the same regiment in which his two sons served as privates.
father, Daniel Claflin, was born at Wenham,
Mass., February 19, 1702, the son of Daniel
Claflin and Sarah Edwards.
His father, Daniel Claflin, was born at Wenham, Mass., January 25, 1674, the son of Robert Mackclathlan and Joanna Warner. The house that he built in which many generations of Claflins were born is still standing in good preservation.
father, Robert Mackclathlan, the founder of
the large and distinguished Claflin family,
came to America some time before 1661. Here
his name was quickly simplified into Clafland,
later Claflin. He was born in Argyllshire, Scotland,
where, in Cowal, were the stronghold and large
possessions of the Mackclathlans for centuries.
The name is of Norse origin and it is supposed
that the first Mackclathlan was a Norse viking
who conquered that part of Scotland about the
Increase Claflin, the subject of this narrative, was also a soldier like his father and grandfather. Unlike his ancestors, he was of a roving disposition. After serving in the War of 1812 we find him at Cleveland, Ohio. Later he transferred himself and family across the unknown wilderness of the South and took up his home at New Orleans, where he was a hospital steward in the service of the United States Army.
his daughter, Adelia, later the wife of Robert
Stephenson, was born Ju1y 24, 1821. Some time
before 1830 he had found his way 1,000 miles
to the north and located at Kaukauna, Wis.,
as a fur trader, his business being to buy furs
for a New York house. There were only two or
three white families at that time at Kaukauna
which was the only settlement of white men between
De Pere and Prairie du Chien.
Mr. Claflin must at this time have had several men in his employ as the census of Brown County for 1830 gives the number of people in his household as thirteen.
There is also a tradition that he took part in the Black Hawk War of 1832 in Southwestern Wisconsin, but this report I am not able to either verify or deny. About this time Mr. Daniel Whitney, for many years the leading business man of Northeastern Wisconsin, located in Green Bay and started many enterprises. In 1830 he platted the Village of Navarino which later became the chief business part of Green Bay.
many of Mr. Whitney's undertakings Mr. Claflin
was employed by him as forman or overseer.
The first Government land office in Wisconsin was established in Green Bay. The first tract of land sold was to Increase Claflin and Darius Darnell July 30, 1835, being lot 1, section 8, town 22, range 20, lying just below the present village of Wrightstown in Brown County. Mr. Claflin did not settle here, however, but had by this time turned his steps in another direction.
That highlying peninsula lying to the northeast of Green Bay with its deep, curving shores which the Indians described as their original paradise, had long attracted him. Finally in the spring of 1835 he loaded all his possessions on a Mackinaw boat and with a fair wind and fulsom hopes set sail for Little Sturgeon Bay. Here on the point of land at the mouth of the bay, on the west side, on exactly the spot now occupied by Charles Gustafson's modern home, he built the first house in Door County.
Little Sturgeon Bay was then as now a most idyllic spot, abounding in all kinds of fish and game and a favorite resort for the Indians. On the opposite side of Little Sturgeon Bay, on what is called Squaw Point, there was a village of 500 Menominees. For a time Claflin got along very well with the latter as he treated them fairly and generously. Two or three years later serious trouble broke out between them brought on by Claflin's son-in-law, Robert Stephenson.
Mr. Stephenson, originally from Pennsylvania, came to Little Sturgeon in 1836 where he was employed by Mr. Claflin in various capacities. In 1837 he married Mr. Claflin's oldest daughter, Adelia, but continued for a time to make his home with the Claflins. Mr. Stephenson was an energetic, capable man but rather haughty in temperament.
despised the Indians for their slothful habits
and did not think it beneath him to take advantage
of the Indians when business opportunities were
open. His favorite procedure was to get the
Indians drunk, whereupon he would obtain their
peltries at prices ruinous to the poor redskins.
This displeased Mr. Claflin greatly as he was
as fair to the Indians when drunk as when sober.
One day when Mr. Claflin returned from a journey an alarming sight met his eyes. A band of redskins in war paint were scurrying around his cabin. Robert Stephenson was engaged in a hand to hand fight with several Indians and was felled to the ground with several knife stabs. Another white man in the employ of Claflin lay dead in the doorway, and a couple of Indians were just dragging out his daughter, Mrs. Stephenson.
his horse into their midst, Mr. Claflin scattered
the Indians who were dragging away his daughter
and hurried her into his log cabin where he
found the other members of his family safe but
trembling with fear. Turning to the Indians
he demanded the meaning of the attack. A stalwart
Indian, their chief, stepped up and spoke: "You
are our friend and we wish you no harm. You may
therefore take your squaw and your little ones and
go away in your boat. But we shall kill your son
(pointing to Stephenson) and burn your house and
let no white man stay here among us.
young men bring their furs and our daughters
their robes and blankets to your house and he
(Stephenson) makes them drunk with firewater
and gives them nothing of value in return. Therefore
we shall kill him and give his squaw to our
young men for our daughters to laugh at and
spit upon. Go therefore while we remember your
Vainly Claflin tried to reason with them but a hubbub of excited Indian outcries broke out, accompanied by threatening glances thrown at him. Claflin then said: "Well, seeing I have to go, let me at least treat you before I go. We have always been good friends and let us part in the same manner." The Indians grunted their approval of this. Entering his storehouse, Claflin returned with a keg and a tin cup.
carried it into their midst and poured a little
of the contents into the cup. To their amazement
the Indians saw not whiskey but gunpowder trickle
into the cup. Then he took his flint and fire
steel, ignited a piece of tinder and threw it
into the cup. There was a flash and a thunderous
crash and the cup was gone.
Trembling with apprehension the chief said, "'What is my white brother going to do with the keg of powder?""Do," returned Claflin, "I am going to blow you all to hell! Either you smoke the pipe of peace or not a man leaves this spot! I have always treated you Indians fairly and now you turn upon me like wolves to kill my children and drive me from my home. If my son Robert has misused you, you have punished him enough. Now let us be quits and smoke the pipe of peace."
with mixed feelings of admiration and apprehension
at Claflin's audacity, the Indians readily assented.
Claflin filled his pipe and lit it whereupon it was
passed from Indian to Indian with all proper solemnity.
Two gigantic elms near the shore at the mouth of Little
Sturgeon Bay now mark the spot where this eventful
meeting took place.
Indians made no further trouble to Claflin and
his household. The strain between Claglin and Stephenson
caused chiefly by their different view of dealing
with the Indians increased however. Finally, like
Abraham of old, Claflin decided to leave his son-in-law
in possession of the favored land and with his family
went elsewhere to seek a home.
1844 he went thirty miles north and settled
on a promontory one-half mile north of the present
site of Fish Creek This promontory now embraced
in the State Park, is still known as Claflin's
Point. He died March 2, 1868, and
he and several members of his famlily are buried
in a private cemetery on the point.
Increase Claflin was a splendid type of a pioneer, a most auspicious forerunner of Door County's men. He was sturdy, reliable, fearless, intelligent, loyal and self sacrificing. In the rare quality of his ancestors as well as in hs own noble manhood, Door County could ask for no truer type of American virtue. There is a familiar painting of fine conception typifying "the Spirit of Seventy Six."
Three figures of martial bearing are seen advancing at the head of a body of troops. In the middle is the grandfather, white locks flowing in the wind, blowing on a flute. On one side is his son, a drummer in the prime of life. On the other side is the grandson, not yet full grown but catching inspiration from his elders and keenly beating his drum. Advancing irresistibly onwardly they make a soul-stirring picture.
the history of the Claflin family there are events
that are just as soul-stirring as this famous painting.
As a parallel we see Increase Claflin’s grandfather,
the Revolutionary lieutenant, charging the breastworks
of Crown Point closely followed by his two sons. By
such was America freed!
as a climax we see old Increase Claflin, the
Door County pioneer, now old and weary of days
sitting in his Fish Creek cabin, sending his
three sons to war for the presentation of his
country. In the summer of 1862 when the President
sent out his call for troops to save the Union,
Increase Claflin sent his three sons as volunteers,
I had twenty more they should all go !"