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The Centennial
Oconto County

Published in 1876
Oconto County Reporter


It became apparent early that the Pine timber of this region would be valuable, and the manufacture of lumber was eagerly engaged in. Indeed, the business of building mills and making lumber has always seemed to have a fascination for those who have "made up figures" as to what could be done. Perhaps there is no business which is more enticing, as shown by estimates, and certainly there can be few investments which prove more hazardous, or require more experience and ability to prove successful. The subject is well worthy of better treatment than can be given here, when little more than the merest outline can be given. The rude character of the early mills and appliances for lumbering, the improvements, failures, renewed trials, and all the costly experience which has resulted in the magnificent mill of to-day, would altogether make a most interesting and instructive history.

There is some question as to where and when the first mill was built in Oconto Co.-- It is asserted by some that the mill built by FARNSWORTH & BUSH, or afterwards owned by them was the first, and this may be true. But as from the data before me, I believe this mill not to have been built earlier than 1881. I shall give some account of a mill built in Pensaukee about the year 1826 or 1827.

It seems that Lumbering was commenced with the sanction of both the Indians and Government. In the records of real estate of Oconto County, I find the following curious document:

"Whereas our Great Father, the President of the United States, has for the benefit of his Red Children of the Menominee Nation, directed that a Grist and Saw Mill be erected in our neighborhood, and has given permission to John P. ARNDT to do the same, upon conditions hereinafter mentioned, and of which we do highly approve, now therefore, know all men by these Presents, that we, Oshkosh, alias "The Claw," OK-KO-ME-NE-CHUN, alias "Great Wave"," STHAI-KE-TOK, alias "Scare All," Chief of the Menominee Nation of Indians, residing in the vicinity of Green Bay, Territory of Michigan, in order to facilitate the object of erecting a Grist and Saw Mill, as aforesaid, do give permission to the said John P. ARNDT, his heirs and assigns to erect, occupy and improve said Grist and Saw Mills, and to cut and use any timber necessary either for building or sawing in to lumber upon and adjacent to a Creek or stream of water called Paissacue, situated about twenty miles from Fort Howard and on the West side of Green Bay. To have and to hold the said mills, millseat, and all necessary privileges to carry on and to keep in operation the same, subject to the pleasure of the United States Government, with free access and egress without let or hindrance from the Menominee Nation, so long as it shall be agreeable to our Great Father, President, for the said John P. ARNDT, his heirs or assigns to occupy them as such.--To all which we do well and truly agree, upon the following conditions, viz:

I. That the said John P. ARNDT, his heirs and assigns shall yield immediate and quiet possession of said mills, with all their privileges to the United States Government when it may be required, and that he will also saw any timber which may be required for the Public Services upon reasonable terms. 

II. That the said John P. ARNDT, his heirs and assigns, shall commit no unnecessary waste of timber. 

III. That the said John P. ARNDT, his heirs and assigns, shall furnish the Menominee Nation with all the lumber they may want for their own proper use, and grind and grain they may want at the said mills--gratis.

IV. That the said John P. ARNDT, his heirs and assigns shall pay annually to the Menominee Nation, on the first day of June the sum of fifteen dollars.

In testimony whereof, we have hereunto act our hands and seal this twenty-fifth day of August one thousand eight hundred and twenty six. Hy B. BREVOOT, Indian Ag¹t, Oshkosh - his X mark Alias the Claw, OK-KO-ME-NE-CHUN - his X mark Great Wave. STHAI-KU-TOK, alias Scare All. In the presence of N.G. BEAN, A.Q.ELLIS, witness to the signature of the Great Wave.

Received for Record March 7th, and Recorded April 19th 1827." Harry S. BAIRD, Notary Public

That the mill was soon built will appear from the following recollections of William W. DeLANO and of Mr. Isaiah POWELL, the oldest settler now living upon the Pensaukee:

"The first settlement of Pensaukee commenced as far back as 1827, when John P. ARNDT, and Ebnezer CHILDS of Green Bay built a mill on the site of the water mill, which at that time was Indian territory.--They manufactured lumber for the Green Bay, Mackinaw, Chicago and Milwaukee markets.

That mill consisted of one sash saw cutting about two thousand feet per day. In 1837, the mill being worn out, Mr. ARNDT bought the interest of is partner, built a new mill of about the same capacity, two men were all that was required to run the business, except in winter when the logs were cut, mostly by Oneida Indians. In 1839 Mr. Isaiah POWELL moved from Peshtigo, where he had been helping to build what was known as the Leavenworth mills and took charge of the business at Pensaukee, and is now the oldest resident of the Town. In 1845 he moved to Oconto and assisted in building the Jones water mill, but returned to Pensaukee in 1848; when H.B. HINSDALE of Kenosha bought the Pensaukee property of Mr. ARNDT. In the mean time the Indian title which was in the Menominee tribe, was extinguished and the lands surveyed.

In 1849 Mr. HINSDALE commenced getting out the timber for the present steam mill, about this time, H.B. KETCHAM, E.R. LIVERMORE, Moses HARDWICK and others moved to Pensaukee, but in 1850 Mr. F.B. GARDNER bought out Mr. HINSDALE before the mill was completed. About this time Mr. John WINDROSS settled at Oak Orchard. They are a family well known to the early Pioneer of Oconto County, for their genial hospitality. The same year M.C. DeLANO settled at Oak Orchard and was afterwards one of the first pioneer farmers of the town. During this year (1850) Mr. GARDNER finished the mill and in the winter of 1850-51 the first stock of logs was got out by J.S. and Levi HALE, on contract, the mill started in the spring of 1851, with two muley saws and an old fashioned siding machine.

The lumber and fishing interests were enlarged from year to year, but little interest taken in farming, while large tracts of rich farming lands lay undeveloped within four miles of the Bay shore, west.

In November 1853 the first permanent settlement was made by a single person, where now is Brookside and West Pensaukee, with pack, ax and dog, located where the present Post office of Brookside now stands, and for one year was "Monarch of all he surveyed," Wm W. DeLANO lived a bachelor, constituting a family of the whole.

In the fall of 1854, Geo. W. DeLANO with his wife, M.D. DeLANO, Joseph WEED, Jos BROODS and M.C. DeLANO, all with families, settled along what is now the road from Brookside to West Pensaukee. In the early settlement of this part of the country, many hardships and privations were endured, but as many say, were among the happiest days of their life.

In the spring of 1856 an addition of considerable numbers came from Lowell Mass. Through the the influence of Joshua CONVERSE, who had bought fine lands in the county and looked to the settlement of the county as the best means of making them valuable.--Messrs. J.P. DAVIS and W.H.SAWTELL purchased a mill site, and put in a small mill near Brookside, numbers of men came with them that afterwards brought their families from the east. J.S. HALE and O.W. FORLEY settled this year in what is now know as West Pensaukee. In the spring of 1855 Pensaukee was organized as a town, and in the fall of the same year the first school house was built at Brookside, the first school consisted of seven scholars; the same district today has about one hundred. This year and the following, other settlers came into the town from Lowell Mass, and Watertown N.Y. E.W. BARKER, M.K. WELLINGTON and Wm. KNOWLES were among those that came about that time.

The financial crash of 1857 came with the hard times, and those of to-day don¹t know what hard times are. When men depended on the lumbering or selling to lumbermen, and logs brought $2 and $2.50 per M, and most of the time in money. But that did not discourage farming, it gave it new life, and the country steadily settled with strong men, brave women and smart and healthy children. Time and space will not admit of to elaborate description and minute detail. At the commencement of the war there was about two hundred and fifty permanent inhabitants, the war retarded the development of the country, but at its close it took new life, and to-day Pensaukee stands in the front rank as a farming town in the county. There are 1000 inhabitants, 70 miles of opened roads, seven school Districts, with six school Houses, three hundred pupils, four Post offices and one saw mill; enough to supply the wants of the people. As the lumbering interest in this town decreases, the farming increases. And yet not over one quarter of the good land in the three townships between the Bay on the east and Shawano Co. on the west is settled there, there is room for three thousand more and still room to spare."