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The Centennial
Oconto County

Published in 1876
Oconto County Reporter

November 19, 1876

Oconto Village & City

I have not succeeded in eliciting anything of interest, prior to the time of the Public Survey.

The surveys along the West shore were made during the year 1840: The site of the present City of Oconto was surveyed in July & August of that year.

The first entry of land was made by Geo. Lurwick who entered both sides of the river where the Brunquest Water Mill now stands Dec. 21, 1842. It seems that a dam was built at that point and went out. Lurwick was succeeded by Chas. Hirie and Orville J. Soper in 1843, by Geo. I. Wallace the same year, by H. E. Eastman and Sam'l S. Eaton in 1844, and in Aug. 1844 David Jones & Tarleton Jones became the owners of the property.

I now had the recollection of Mr. John Volk of Oconto Falls.

The Water Mill seems to have been built in 1846 and perhaps finished in 1847 as Mrs. Lindsey relates that the first lumber sawed was used in building their house. Mr. Thos. Lindsey arrived here June 16, 1846. Lived with his family in a tent about 10 days. He built upon the  spot where Mrs. Lindsey's home now stands. Mrs. Lindsey an esteemable lady still lives in the city, and enjoys some compensations for her early hardships in seeing her children Messrs. Levi & Jeff Lindsey, Mrs. Thos. Millidge, Mrs. Pendleton, Mrs. Chas. Hall and others in easy circumstances respected and able to smooth her declining years and surround her with comforts.

The lower steam mill was built in 1849 by David Jones & Sons. An Indian Village then occupied the present site of Holt & Balcom's establishment.
Mr. Richard Berry was the next settler and built a little below where Holt & Balcom's mill now stands.

Then came Mr. Brunquest and afterward Mr. Peter Pecor.

Mr. Edwin Hart arrived here in May 1852 and found the following families living here besides employees at the mill and some transient persons viz: Jones, Lindsey, Brunquest, S.B. Gilkey and Mr. Barnard.

The first store was established by Mr. Hart in the building now occupied as a warehouse.

The first school was taught in the same building.

Mr. Hart took the census of Oconto County in June 1852. The number of inhabitants was 415. A second census in June 1855 fixed the population at 1230.
Some reference to the state of society in those early days will be appropriate here.

There being but one mill on each of the rivers at first, their owners were men of much authority. Also each mill owner became the host and entertainer of all who came his way. The best and without stint was provided and no charge was made. A hearty welcome awaited each newcomer.

Each family was closely intimate with the others and a constant round of dinners, tea parties and society gatherings brought all nearby  together. The loss of one by death was felt to be the loss of all.

Occasional preaching was had, which brought all who had any interest in religious matters together and no denominational differences were known.

At first mails came once in each month and was generally carried in packs and also upon dog sledges. The route lay along the bay shore  to Menominee and then up that river and through the woods to Lakel Superior, where copper mining was then carried on.

The first steamboat the "Pioneer" came to Oconto in 1854.

The first celebration of the fourth of July seems to have been in 1853 and principally by and for the little folk assisted by the elders  at the old residence of Mr. E. Hart.

Christmas and New Year were not forgotten but brought returning gladness to old and young for, as Mrs. McDonald narrates they were very sociable in those days.