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SURING SCHOOL DISTRICT LOCAL
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One of the older communities
in Oconto County is the little place of Hickory, located near Kelly
Established over 100 years ago, Hickory is nothing more than quiet farm
country now, but was once a busy little lumbering community with
sawmills operating in the area.
The first settler in what became
Hickory was the famed Irishman, Patrick Kelly, who arrived in 1855. In
the forbidding wilderness of that time, Kelly had to go as far as
to find his closest neighbor. And when he needed supplies, it meant a
to Oconto by ox team.
A great many stories have been
handed down about Pat Kelly, and as time went on. the stories grew to
proportions that they became comparable to the Paul Bunyan legends.
Lake and Kelly Brook are both named for this colorful pioneer.
In 1870 Joe McMahon arrived
from Canada and purchased 160 acres of farm land in Hickory. He was
followed by the Lord and Trecartin families. Trecartin built a home on
a hill with a large number of hickory trees around it. As he was the
postmaster in the settlement, he submitted "Hickory Hill" to Washington
as the name of the post office. However, another post office had
been established using that name, so Trecartin's suggestion was
By 1876 the community was becoming
more heavily populated. Among these early settlers Al Johnson, Darius
the Cooleys, Ways, Posts, Clapps, Mathewsons, Sylvesters, McKenney's,
and the Davis and Saunders families to name but a few.
While many of these pioneering
people were trying to make a home out of the forest wilderness,
Chicago residents were basking in the luxurious rooms and parlors of
Kelly Lake Hotel. Thomas Trecartin opened the resort in the 1880's at
still popular lake near Hickory. An advertisement of November 18,1891,
reads in part:
"Kelly Lake, the famous summer
resort of northern Wisconsin, now offers unbounded attractions for the
sportsman. The adjoining forests are teeming with game of all kinds,
the lake and nearby streams in the neighborhood afford the best of
Conveyances will meet passengers at all trains if notified by mail" (In
1891, the nearest railroad station was at Lena.)
The Mills family owned and operated
the first sawmill in Hickory. It was destroyed by fire and rebuilt and
operated by Jay Dunham.
In 1887 the store in Hickory
was built by L.S. Lord. The building later became the community's post
office and housed the first telephone exchange in the area. The store
later sold to Fred and Nellie Butler. This store was destroyed by fire
in May, 1978. But Butler opened a hardware store and Pete Buchburger
a blacksmith shop.
The first schoolhouse, erected
in 1871, was a small scoop-roofed building where a few children were
their three R's by Mrs. L.S. Lord. A Miss Hawthorne was another early
It was from this schoolhouse
that Calvin Sanford preached the tirst religious services in the
Services were held here until 1894 when the Methodist and Christian
In 1885 a new schoolhouse was
built at Hickory, replacing the log cabin structure. H.W. Gilkey was
first teacher in this school. When the third and present school
was built in 1914, the old school was sold to the Modern Woodmen of
who used it as a hall. It was a popular gathering place for residents
the community and was used for parties and dances as well as for the
Farmers Institute that was a popular event of bygone days.
One of the most well known people
to come out of Hickory was the late "Smiley" Burnette of the motion
and television fame. "Smiley" was the son of the Rev. G.W. Burnette,
served as minister at the Hickory Church of Christ.
Gene Autry fans will remember
Burnette as Autry's side-kick "Frog". The nickname came from
habit of imitating a frog during sermons preached by his father. More
and up until the time of his death a few years ago, "Smiley" was the
in the popular television series, "Petticoat Junction".
The principal means of livelihood
in Hickory today is farming and stock raising. The schoolhouse is now
by the Hickory chapter of the Oconto County Historical Society as one
the few remaining one-room country schools in the area and is used for
their meetings as well as by 4-H groups.
And as for Patrick Kelly, the
founder of the town, little is left to memorialize him but the name he
gave to surrounding areas. His mortal remains are buried northeast of
Hickory Methodist church, but the stones marking his grave and those of
his family have disappeared. They were removed by a farmer clearing
after surviving members of Pat Kelly's family moved awav.
Hickory Church of Christ and
Parsonage built in 1894.