by RICHARD HALL
Published in 1876
Oconto County Reporter
September 30, 1876
The first schools that I can learn of were as follows:
On the Menomonee, in 1850-51 by a Mr. And Mrs. PODULUPE. They were engaged at Chicago by Dr. HALL, and taught his children and as many others as came. At Oconto the first school was taught in 1853 in HART¹s building, now used as warehouse. At Pensaukee in 1855 as stated by Mr. DeLANO. At little Suamico in 1859 by Miss Anna DAWSON.
The first religious service (after the Missionaries already named) known to the writer were conducted by the Rev. Jeremiah PORTER, whose face well known on the different rivers, and who was much revered.
While the Co. was so sparsely settled there were few deaths; when a death occurred it was felt by all, and it is hard to understand now, how solemn and awful the presence of death was felt to be.
One class of the early pioneers must not be forgotten. I refer to the Indian traders. John G. KITSON and John B. JACOBS on the Menominee, Abram PLACE and wife on the Peshtigo, and others of less note were conspicuous characters. Their trade in fur and peltries was a large one, and they were reputed men of much means. Their trade with the lumbermen especially in the article of buckskin, moccasins and mittens was considerable, boot and shoe packs being unknown. In a few cases there was conflict of interest between the traders and lumbermen. The navigation of the rivers was obstructed by the dams and booms of the lumbermen. For years, at Menominee, Dr. HALL furnished oxen, men and apparatus to "portage" the large mackinaw boats used by Mr. KITSON, by the dam. At length a lock was built which stood for a few years and made transport easy; then as the Indian trade declined it was no longer necessary to pay this tribute.
We that can step into a market or get our day¹s groceries a few doors away from our own, cannot appreciate the financiering ability requisite for good housekeeping in those days. Venison and other game, fish and berries were constantly needed in their season, and a large proportion of these were to be had from the Indians. How to divert reliable purveyors of such supplies to her doors was the housekeeper¹s problem.
The Sku-ta-wa-boo or fire water of the trader made it easy for them to control the Indians as they wished. The housekeeper must manage well to buy from them what she needed with flour, pork, calico, ribbons &c., and yet not be imposed upon to pay more than others.
A reliable Squaw must be engaged to do washing, scrubbing &c. The young Indians must be hired to bring in wood and water for which they received a meal from the surplus of the table. To have these helpers when wanted and at no other times required good management. Also she must know how to "talk Indian". This was done when she knew the Indian names for bread, flour, pork, water, fire and a few other names substantive, and also the Indian words for pounds, yards, quarts, dollars and shillings. Not great acquirements you may say, but had you heard these long words, such as Po-kish-e-gun (bread) Kookoosh (pork) and many longer words, rattled off with an unruffled front, admiring you would ask "Why, can you talk Indian?" And the proud housekeeper would answer "a little".
For many years Oconto County had neither Lawyers, Doctors, or regular ministers. The county was attached to Brown county for judicial purposes, and all suitors must journey to Green Bay or farther. To Green Bay we sent for doctors in sickness, and from thence came all the "Gospel" we had. A strong likeness to some one we had seen in that pleasant town was also observable in the face of the tax collector. That reliable men were selected for this duty is inferred from the fact that they were sure to come. It is unpleasant to have to add that their visits were not considered well timed. This fact alone, as I have very often heard, actually made him unwelcome.
Little Suamico early attracted the lumberman. The pine growing near this stream was of a superior quality. In October 1837 Edward, John and Elisha BEESEN sold to Wyman W. MATHEWS for $1,000, a "tract of land at Lower Suamico, about one and three-quarter miles above the mouth, embracing both sides, and upon which a mill is now in operation."
From Mr. John GROSSE, new resident at Little Suamico, I have learned many of the following particulars. He states that this was a small water mill with a daily capacity of about three thousand feet of lumber.
MATHEWS, Ezra W. BANCROFT, Samuel SPOULDING, Henry F. LESSEY and Charles IHRIE became successively owners of this property. Charles IHRIE entered the w1/2 of se1/4, sec. 24, township 26, range 20, in March 1840. WALLACE succeeded IHRIE and sold to Philip FRANK in 1844 who remained the owner for some years. The property passed back to WALLACE by foreclosure.--George LANGTON was the next purchaser.--He entered the e1/2 of se1/4 section 24 township 26 range 20, in August 1851. Frank again became half owner of in 1851 was the only resident. During that year Gustaveus A. GROSSE, then George AUL and Jabez HAWKINS became residents.
There was no road other than an Indian trail either north or south. In 1852 the settlers joined forces and opened a winter road to Big Suamico to connect with the road thence to Green Bay. The same year FRANK & LANGTON built another water mill with one muley saw.
In June 1853 George A. SAYERS purchased the mill property and in the same year sold one half interest in it to John D. GARDNER who proved a far sighted and successful lumberman. SAYERS & GARDNER soon commenced a steam mill, which when completed was at first capable of cutting about twenty thousand feet of lumber daily.
In common with other lumbermen of that time this firm became involved. SAYERS interest was divested by foreclosure and GARDNER, after a long struggle became sole owner. In 1856 (as nearly as I can learn) Mr. A.C. CONN became a manager for GARDNER. In 1862 CONN became became a partner and the firm was long and favorably known as CONN & GARDNER. Mr. CONN resided at Little Suamico with his family, exercising a large and healthy influence. The firm steadily grew stronger and were among the first. Their mill was enlarged to a capacity of 70,000 per day.
Mr. GARDNER resided at Milwaukee. In Sept. 1874 CONN & GARDNER sold to OLESON, WINANS & CO., who are the present owners. This mill is now devoted mainly to shingle making, cutting about 150,000 shingles and 10,000 feet of lumber daily.