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The Centennial
History
of
Oconto County

Written by RICHARD HALL
Published in 1876
Oconto County Reporter

November 5, 1876

Peshtigo 

In October 1842 David JONES and Erastus BAILEY entered lots 3 and 7 Section 19, township 30 Range 23, embracing both sides of the river,
where the mill dam was built and being nearly the same as the present mill site. About the same time, viz: in October 1842 JONES & BAILEY deeded one third interest to Jesse H. LEAVENWORTH for $4,000.

For some reason, the entries by JONES & BAILEY were canceled in June 1844. In Sept. of the same year, PLACE re-entered the west side of the river, that is lot 3. The east side was not re-entered until 1848 by Alex STOWE. At this time the property was about the same as above described. Lumber was then and for years afterward, rafted and run down the river and out to vessels upon the anchorage, a distance then rated at sixteen miles.

Supplies were loaded in scows or boats at the mouth of the river and drawn in wagons or sleighs to the mill a distance called eight miles. There was no road from Peshtigo mills to either of the other principal rivers. The only road between the Peshtigo and Menomonee was from PLACE¹s to CHAPPEN¹s trading post and then down the Menominee about four miles to the mills. This was a pretty good road in the winter; by careful driving a cutter could get through without more than two upsets. The young people maintained that it was a good road.

A foot trail through the cranberry marshes from the Peshtigo to the Menomoniee mills and another from Peshtigo to the JONE¹s, or water mill on the Oconto, were the only means of communication by land, prior to the opening of the State Road in 1856. Cattle and horses for Peshtigo or Marinette were brought in vessels or driven along the Bay shore fording and swimming the streams.

In Nov. 1846 BAILEY sold to Festus CLARK of Sackett Harbor, N.Y., and father-in-law of J.H. LEAVENWORTH, the interest for $7,000.

Between that time and 1849 CLARK had purchased and acquired by foreclosure, all the different interests, for which he seems to have paid about $10,000. In November 1849 CLARK quit claimed to LEAVENSWORTH for $10,300. The property then embraced the two mill lots heretofore spoken of and several other lots above and below the mill, entered as important points along the river, and two lots entered to cover the mouth of the Peshtigo river; in all about between five and six hundred acres.

It is believed that few or no entries for pine had been made. During the year 1850 a small amount of land was entered by Festus CLARK. From that time until 1864, J.H. LEAVENWORTH purchased considerable valuable pine land, principally in 1852. In 1854 Newcomb CLEVELAND and others in interest began to purchase large tracts of pine land. At this time the mill had been much enlarged and improved. A fine and commodious boarding house and store were built, also substantial buildings. The roads were improved and under the supervision of Mr. Henry BENTLY manager for J.H. LEAVENWORTH the establishment assumed a more thrifty and prosperous appearance. A large and well cultivated farm, about three miles west of the mill, and cleared from the splendid hard wood timber, which covered the land that has since become the Peshtigo farming district, was by no means the least feature of the establishment. Very little was then done in the way of farming upon any of the rivers. The soil around the mills was generally sandy and poor. Timothy hay and clover were things unknown, therefore the products of the Peshtigo farm, in those days were looked upon as more than ordinary.

In November 1855, Mr. LEVENWORTH sold to Thomas H. BEEBE and Isaac L. LYON, an undivided half of all his interest. The consideration was $50,000.

The property embraced a large body of lands, and this was the largest sale ever made in the county at that time. Prior to 1856 some complicating interests had been quited by purchase, and in April of that year William B. OGDEN bought LEVENWORTHS interest and one third of BEEBE¹s interest.--The property thus conveyed embraced 13,542 acres of land and OGDEN paid $69,166.

Under the direction of Mr. OGDEN a mammoth and comprehensive work of improvement was at once inaugurated. The mills were remodeled, and their cut increased many times. The purchase of pine and even farming lands upon a scale unknown before was begun and continued.

A charter was approved October 11th 1856 incorporating the "Peshtigo Lumbering and Manufacturing Company" (afterwards changed to the "Peshtigo Company") and giving them extensive powers. In due time a railroad was built, for transporting lumber from the mills to the mouth of the river.--Improvement of the mouth of the river was continued until a good harbor was made, where now vessels and lumber barges load directly from docks. An immense wooden factory was built. The varied and increasing industries of Peshtigo, gave a new impetus to farming and the liberal policy of Company, went far to induce immigration and settlement of the farming districts.

The deed to the Peshtigo Manufacturing Co. was made in March 1857. The consideration was $203,800, and the deed describes 27,700 acres of land. This did not by any means embrace the whole property, many other deeds to the company were made subsequently. Entries continued and now the first purchase of the Company, large as it was is seen to have been but the nucleus of their acquisitions.

Mr. William A. ELLIS soon became prominent in the Peshtigo management and has long been Superintendent. His name, with that of Mr. Temple EMERY, who has dissected the construction and operation of the mills, are insuperably connected with the growth and prosperity of Peshtigo, and with its reverses too, for there is a terrible page of disaster to record.

The improvements of the mouth of the river, or harbor were pushed on until 1871. A mammoth steam mill had been erected with boarding house and other buildings, in the thorough and finished style everywhere adopted by the Company. Their vigorous spirit of improvement was imparted to the town and shared by the society of Peshtigo, Good house and  school houses were made. In the village a beautiful school house and Congregational church were built. The Roman Catholics also built a neat and pleasant church. The village was regularly laid out with broad and in most cases well improved streets. Foundry and machine shops, planing mills and grist mills, and a great variety of machinery were constantly employed and their steady hum and roll and regular stokes, added to the song of living industry, were heard in a busy manufacturing town.

At the harbor, the constant crash and thunder of the great mill, the arrival and departure of the train, the busy ship yard, ;loading barges and vessels, steamboats coming and going and everywhere busy men, pleasant buildings and strong enduring structures, made you rub your eyes and wonder if this could be the same place where a little while since you came to hunt ducks, where only were seen marsh and woods beyond, where you only heard the wash of the waves, the scream of the gull, or the whistle of the duck's rapid wing.


Village of Peshtigo - September 1871
Destroyed by fire night of October 8, 1871


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