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OCONTO COUNTY PIONEERS
series of biographic information
found on this page was published
the Oconto County Reporter
starting in 1895.
It was then picked up and carried
in the Milwaukee Journal later that year,
contain short sketches about successful citizens from all walks of life.
Researched and prepared for
posting by - Cathe
"The Oconto County
Reporter is printing short sketches of Pioneers of the county that will
be valuable to future generations, as well as interesting to the
Milwaukee Journal Sep/1895
A Pioneer Fisherman
Beginning and Present Status of the Fish Industry in Oconto
John D. Olsen John D. Olsen came into Oconto county twenty-five years
ago from New Denmark, 18 miles south of Green Bay. He is living on what
is known as the old Lindsay place, on the bay shore, one mile north of
the Oconto city piers, and follows the vocation of a fisherman. He says
that this season promises to be the most profitable in three or four
years in this line of business. The catch has been plentiful, but the
price low. Herring is the principle catch. They spawn in deeper water
and later in the season and multiply more rapidly because not so easily
caught. Other species that inhabit these waters, such as perch, pike
and pickerel, spawn in the spring, and nearer shore, and the supply is
diminishing at a more rapid rate than herring.
"When I first began to fish along the bay shore" he said, "there was no
market for these fish, but half a cent per pound being offered, and
sturgeon were so plentiful that profanity entered largely into our
conversation whenever we hauled up boat ;loads of the latter kind of
fish, and we were obliged to throw them back into the water. Six cents
per pound is the ruling price now. We are lucky if we get two or three
a week into our nets nowadays."
Mr. Olsen says that he salted 700 packages of fish last year and sold
between $600 and $700 worth fresh, in outside markets.
Charles Longrie is a native of Belgium, but has resided in this country
nearly all his life, his parents having come to America when he was but
a mere child and located at Pensaukee. With the exception of three
years, during which time he was employed by the lumber companies in
various capacities, he has resided in the town of Pensaukee. For
thirteen years he drove ox teams for F. B. Gardner, once an extensive
logger and lumberman. Twenty-four years ago Mr. Longrie and Miss Mary
Pelkin of Green Bay were married and twelve children have blessed their
union, ten of whom are living. A son, three years ago, married Miss
Aggie Shanke of Brookside, and they also reside in Pensaukee. Mr.
Longrie was 44 years of age January 29, last. He is a stalwart
Dell Barker was "born and brought up" at Stiles, and when in his teens
moved with his parents to West Pensaukee, where his father had
homesteaded 160 acres of land, and where the latter died. Eighty acres
were afterward sold. He married Miss Lettie Chase six years ago and
they have one 3 year old boy.
Fred Bartz Fred Bartz arrived in Oconto County from Canton, Ohio, Oct.
16, 1883, and settled in the town of How, where a brother had proceeded
him, and for several years he worked for him in the woods; also for
Joseph Suring, for whom a station on the new line of railroad was
named. Eleven years ago he purchased, near Mountain, forty acres of
land from the state, at $1.25 an acre, one-half of which is now under
cultivation. Pulcifer, 32 miles away, being the nearest point where
there is a grist mill, the raising of wheat is unprofitable. Other
grains and vegetables are produced. Mr. Bartz has a wife and eight
children- four boys and four girls. "Two of my boys," said he, "are old
enough to fight and are eager for a brush with the Spaniards."
Frank LaPage, sr., of the town of Oconto, near the Little River church,
came to New Hampshire from Canada in 1860. He was born in Canada in
1835. He worked for Holt & Balcom till 1865, living in a little
house near where the city hotel now stands. Oconto wasn’t
much of a city in those days. He then moved to the farm, which he has
since made one of the brightest spots in the county by clearing up
eighty acres and putting up comfortable buildings. Miss Celestine
Hanron became his wife, in Oconto, in 1860, and nine children born to
them are yet living, the youngest 14 years of age. Four children are
married – two daughters and two sons: the daughters, Mrs.
Alfred Greenwood in Florence, and Mrs. Martha Jeffer in Waushara
county, and the sons, Frank and Gilbert, in Little River, have
contributed fifteen grandchildren to the family tree. Another daughter,
Sarah, lives in Menominee. Mr. LaPage has been supervisor of his town
and is now school district clerk and treasurer of the local creamery
company. Before deciding between the political parties of this country,
he made a study of the issues between them, and in 1860 cast his first
ballot for Abraham Lincoln and has been a zealous and influential
republican ever since. He is elder of the Little River Presbyterian
church. OCR 2/1896
B.B. Barker of the town of Pensaukee, born in New Hampshire in 1829,
came west in 1857, first settling at Stiles, where he worked three
years for the Eldred company. He then moved upon the farm in Pensaukee
which has since been his home. He has been twice married, first in
1857, in New Hampshire. After the death of his first wife he married
Charolette A. Whitcomb, a native of Boston. Mr. Barker has but
one child, a daughter, who lives in Superior. He was a member
of the 12th Wisconsin infantry and was three times wounded at
the battle of Atlanta; he also participated, with his regiment, in the
battles of Ezra church and Bentonville. He has been a member of the
Pensaukee board of supervisor’s 14 years, chairman
5 years of the time. He is republican "of good cloth and full yard
wide." OCR 2/1896
S. F. Everhart
Northern Michigan was once the home of S. F. Everhart, which he left in
1874 and came to Oconto county, locating in the town of Pensaukee, one
half mile south of Brookside station. The first three years he labored
in the woods – a portion of the time for E. S. McKenny, who
manufactured charcoal for the A. B. Meacher company in Menominee.
In July, 1876, he was married to Miss Ella West by Rev. B. J. Minnick,
the Methodist clergy man at Brookside, nine children – four
boys and five girls all living at the parental home, blessing their
He has 127 acres of land, 70 of which is under cultivation, is in
prosperous circumstances, and an enthusiastic republican. OCR 2/1896
H. F. Ohswaldt
Next to the oldest in years and experience in the county as a
practicing physician is H. F. Ohswaldt of Stiles. He was born in New
York City in 1857, and after graduation from medical college, and two
years practice he came west; was stranded in Green Bay, by reason of a
great snow storm, during winter of ’80 –
’81, and located in Stiles in May, ’81, where three
children have since been added to his household and an extensive
practice and acquaintance acquired. He is an active member of the K. P.
and M. W. A. lodges of Stiles. OCR 2/1896
Erwin Cleveland of the town of chase, born in New York in 1841, came to
Kewaunee county, this state, in 1870, and thence to Chase in 1880. Was
a member of the 1st independent battery of New York artillery. Isa
farmer, with wife (Catherine St. Peter) and six children at home. As he
expressed it, Mr. Cleveland "is a terrible distant" relative of Grover
C., but unlike Grover, votes the republican ticket every time he gets a
chance to do so. OCR 2/1896
Frank Cheffings of Lincolnshire, Eng., was attracted to Oconto in 1875
by the fact that a cousin, Mrs. Hardin Gilkey, now of Maple Valley, had
preceded him and written encouragingly of the new country. After a
visit of a few weeks, Mr. Cheffings engaged to work for Isaiah Post, in
Maple Valley, and remained with him and L. Lord a couple of years, when
he took up a homestead, to which he has since made additions and
improvements, among other things building a handsome dwelling house a
couple of years ago. His farm consists of 160 acres, fifty acres under
cultivation. Miss Minnie Cooley, united her fortunes with his
in 1857, and a son and daughter have been added unto them. Mr.
Cheffings is not politically ambitious, has never held an office, and
is not a candidate for one. He is an active member of the Disciple
church. OCR 2/1896
Nels Hougaard, until long after he had arrived at man’s
estate, was a resident of Denmark, but like many other of his
countrymen who had learned of the country across the waters –
America – he bade adieu to the home of his childhood, and
twelve years ago landed in New York, and later became an employee in
the Blatz brewery in Milwaukee. Six months afterward he came into
Oconto county and for about a year and a half worked for Anson Eldred.
He took up a homestead and after he had proved up sold it to John
Carlson and bought a quarter section of land of Banker Mittelstedt of
Seymour, and later an eighty adjoining, and in the past five years he
and his boys have cleared forty five acres out of the heaviest kind of
timber. He is a resident of Maple Valley. OCR 2/1896
A.C. Lovell of Abrams, when a lad of 14, left the parental home in the
state of Maine and entered upon the life of a sailor, which he followed
for several years. Returning to the scenes of this youth he was
importuned by his father to remain upon the farm, but western fever had
settled upon him and in 1856 he became an employee in the water mill of
Jones and Whitcomb in Oconto, and for three years had charge of their
log boom. When the war cry was sounded and men dropped their plowshares
and answered the call to arms, he became a member of the "Oconto River
Log Drivers," which afterward became so well known, and fought for
Uncle Sam for a period of three years and six months and received
numerous scars of honor upon the fields of battle.
He has a farm of 160 acres, near the village of Abrams, and is one of
the most prosperous residents of the county. OCR 2/1896
Edward Cota was a subject of Great Britain, twenty-five years ago, and
when he first came to Oconto county he assisted his brother Joseph in
logging woods and upon the farm. He resides upon a farm three miles
from the city. "I have been married twenty-two years and have a family
of fourteen children, all living at home, the oldest twenty years and
the youngest five months," said he, with a feeling of pride, "and I am
a republican till I die." OCR 2/1896
E. S. McKenny E. S. McKenny settled near Pensaukee in 1857, when there
were but four houses in the village, and became a farmer, although he
had worked at the trade of stone-cutting many years in the city of
Lowell, Mass., previous to immigrating to Oconto county. He has two
children one daughter, the wife of William Beauock of Pensaukee.
D. E. Whiting D. E. Whiting has been a resident of Oconto county since
Nov. 5, 1856, "Hailing" from the state of Maine. A cousin - Jacob
Couillard - proceeded him to Wisconsin, and it was chiefly upon his
solicitation that he sold his farm in the east and removed and moved
with his family to the new west. With him came his brother-in-law and
wife - Mr. and Mrs. George Williams.
Mr. Whiting, like all pioneers, suffered early deprivations, but with
characteristic persistency he finally made for himself and family a
comfortable home in the wilderness.
When he had been in the county two years he was elected justice of the
peace, and he has retained the office ever since. He was chairman of
the town of Oconto three years - '64 '65 '66 -appointed by the board
town treasurer, and in 1871 was chosen deputy town clerk, continuing in
that office twenty years - relinquishing his claim three years ago.
Besides, he was assessor three years. For seventeen years he followed
logging -jobbing for the lumber companies.
He has been married twice - five children living - all grown to man's
estate and residents of this county. He was 65 years of age ast
Lemuel J. Bovee Lemuel J. Bovee, when but a youth, removed with his
parents from the state of New York to Eagle, Waukesha county., where
his father engaged in farming and for four years held the office of
register of deeds. This was twenty-eight years ago. In 1866 the subject
of this sketch entered the ranks of the benedicts and one year later
came to Oconto county and purchased 161 acres of wild land of B. B.
Barker, later exchanging it with E. C. Whitney for the farm on which he
Jacob Blomers Jacob Blomers came from Holland in '55. A acquaintance
had been to America - residing at Green Bay - and going back to his
land of birth, had interested many neighbors in the new country which
he had adopted as a home, but of 55 who had expressed a determination
to return with him, Mr. Blomers was his only companion. He was then
twenty years of age. Coming to Oconto, and his search for work
unavailing, he went to Green Bay, secured employment and was swindled
out of his pay for eight months labor.
Two years latter he came again to Oconto and worked one day in Norton's
lumber yard, of which George Farnsworth was foreman. Later he was
employed on a farm near Stiles by Mel Smith.
When he had been in this country seven years he had $2,000 in cash and
owned considerable land, situated about three miles east of Green Bay.
He earned $1000 one season loading vessels, receiving $1.50 an hour for
the last work he did of that nature.
Returning to the old country he remained one year and while there took
unto himself a wife - sister of Frank Bitters, of this city. Two years
in loading vessels followed, when he bought eighteen acres of land in
Oconto -six acres of which he donated to the Chicago &
Northwestern Railroad Company for depot grounds. This was in '71. He
now resides two miles and a half from the city, in the town of Oconto,
on a farm of 120 acres.
W. A. McKinley W. A. McKinley came into Oconto county from Lapeer,
Mich. in '78, and began life in the new surroundings by teaching school
at Oconto Falls. He labored and farmed and taught, was elected
superintendent of schools, and is now serving his second term. He says
he never saw the schools of Oconto county in better condition, and that
he is trying to work the standard upward, which is being accomplished,
as there are more applicants for positions than can be employed,
enabling him to select those best qualified for this important work.
Mr. McKinley owns a home in the village of Abrams, is comfortably
situated; and genial to everybody. OCR
Cornelius Lince Cornelius Lince and his nephew James, along in '67,
lived in the woods near the spot now known as Brookside, and upon
assurances that this was a grand section of the universe for a young
man to adopt a home, George Lince, of Jefferson county, New York, came
to Oconto county and joined his relatives. His first summer's work was
in the saw mill of Beyer & Balcom at $35 per month, and for ten
winters he received the same pay for working in the woods, and in those
times wages upon the roads or in the hay fields were $2 per day, and
hay sold readily at $25 and $30 a ton. He has forty acres of land split
in twain by the Pensaukee river, from 20 of which he raises good crops.
He has leased his uncle's place for next year and hope's for better
prices for products of the farm. said he "Has it not been for the
creamery I don't know what the farmers out our way would do this fall,
as there is no sale for anything we raise. Some perdict an advance in
the price of potatoes and oats and I think both may yet bring 25 cents
a bushel. There is one thing certain - times cannot be much worse then
R. E. Bowman R. E. Bowman first became a resident of Oconto county in
1870, and bought eighty acres from F. B. Gardner near Brookside for $3
per acre, which he converted into a farm, fully improved. He has been a
member of the school board, but says the best way to retain friends is
to keep out of office. Previous to coming to Oconto county he resided
for a time at Lowell, Dodge county, and came originally from Jefferson
county, New York.
George Birmingham George Birmingham helped to clear the first acre of
land at Pensaukee and his present home is near that locality. He came
into this county three years before the opening of the civil war and
has retained his present residence ever since. He has a farm of 110
acres, and a good sugar bush. He was 21 years of age when he arrived
from Watertown, New York, and entered the employment of F. B. Gardner.
He has been constable four years.
Michael Peterson In 1868, Michael Peterson and wife landed in
New York from Denmark. Mrs. Peterson had a brother and sister residing
at Oshkosh, and so eager were they that their relatives should become
residents of this country that the brother journeyed across the waters
and accompanied them to America. Mr. Peterson worked in a saw mill and
in the woods for a year and a half and came to Oconto county in 1870.
At Maple Valley he bought an eighty of land for $100, where he resided
up to six years ago, since which time he has conducted a hotel in the
town of Maple Valley.
Charles Butler Charles Butler dates his residence in Oconto county from
the fall of '61. He built a house in the South ward which he sold to J.
F. Meyers. During his sojourn in the city he had jobbing contracts with
Holt & Balcom, the Oconto Company and Mix & Orr, and he
and George D. Knapp, Thomas Simpson, Lyman Pierce and Sim Butler took
jobs of shoving lumber from rafts into vessels lying at anchor in the
bay. The going wages for this sort work was 50 cents per hour, but in
the latter part of the season, when the weather was cold and ice had
formed upon the boards, 75 cents and $1 per hour was the usual
compensation. They frequently put in eighteen hours a day, and one week
Mr. Butler made $65. Vessel freights to Chicago were $8 per thousand
feet of lumber and common flooring sold at $30.
Mr. Butler went to Hickory eighteen years ago, purchased eighty acres
of wild land of Benjamin Simpson, forty of which was clear. He's a good
republican and patiently awaiting the election of a republican
president in '96.
Charles Swear Charles Swear resides at Oak Orchard and by hard work and
the primitive methods of years ago has a farm cleared and producing
good crops. He served in the army with Company H., 4th Wisconsin, was
disabled , and as a result of tedious routine in the pension
department, his allowances were not regularly received and the first
payment amounted to $137. He and W. G. Links of this city married
Charles Schemehorn Rancor county, New York, was the home of Charles
Schemehorn in 1865, and that year he came to Oconto county and bought
forty-five acres of land near Abrams. For nineteen years he had charge
of the engine in Tremble's saw mill at Big Suamico, runt the engine in
Coleman & Esson's mill where now stands the Holt Shingle mill,
and when the Coleman & Esson mill was moved down to the city
pier he was employed in his former capacity by Esson & Noonan.
Mr. Schemehorn was 65 years of age on the 30th day of June, last.
Henry Plucker In 1846 Henry Plucker sailed from Oconto to Chicago with
ship-loads of lumber for Huff Jones' father, and on '52 went to
Pensaukee on the brig Mary, one of Gardner's boats. He entered a
homestead, cleared the land, and with duties of a farmer added
lumbering and fishing. A gunshot wound received while hunting prevented
his acceptance as a shoulder, and he is one of the very few pioneers of
Oconto county who were not allowed to enter the service of their
country in time of oppression. He married a young lady named Powell and
even children were born to them, eight of whom are now living.
W. T. Snyder W. T. Snyder came into this county twenty-five years ago,
married a daughter of John Windross and two children have blessed their
union. Previous to four years ago, at which time he settled down to
permanent farming, he was, for twelve years, captain on the lakes and
the smaller bodies of water. When Charles Hall of this city ran a saw
mill at Cavour, in Forest county, there were but three families
residing there and the entire vote of the town but thirty-four. At
their first election Mr. Snyder was made Justice of the peace. It was
the fall of Garfield's election to the presidency and thirty-four votes
were republican - the four democrats being section hands upon the
railroad. Mr. Snyder has a farm of 70 acres, is rugged and happy.
Sam Hunter During the days of bondage among the colored
people of the south, slave-owners occasionally granted their "boys" the
pleasure of a hunt to bring down the wily 'possum. One day Sam Hunter,
accompanied by four companions, strolled into a thicket ostensibly for
game, but they did not tarry until they had reached a camp of Union
soldiers, then in the neighborhood. When the master came, the next day,
in quest of his runaways, he was driven from camp at the point of the
bayonet, and the Negroes afterward joined in the struggle for the
emancipation of their people. Sam was wounded twice and badly crippled.
After his release from the hospital he worked his way north and today
is living upon a farm of thirty seven acres, five miles south of the
village of Pensaukee, along the bay front. A widow, grateful for his
service as a man-of-all-work, gave him her farm and during one of his
pilgrimages to Green Bay he met the colored lady who afterward became
his wife. Sam is entitled for a pension, but owing to the entanglement
of names similar to his own the delay has been prolonged through all
these years, but there is a prospect that may yet come.
William Windross William Windross of Pensaukee was born in
the state of New York, seventy years ago last month, and eleven days
after the arrival of his parents from England. When eighteen years of
age he accompanied the family to Oconto County and settled near what is
now known as Oak Orchard. Farming and fishing were their avocations,
but when the war broke out, William entered the permanent guard, with
other strapping six-footer, and for fourteen months served his country
in escorting renegade soldiers to points to which they were assigned.
There were three sons and one daughter - Charles is 79 years of age,
and daughter - now Mrs. Levi Hale of Peshtigo - is 77, and John 75.
After their fathers death the farm was divided and in their advanced
years the "boys" continue to till the soil, seemingly unmindful that
the touch of time had silvered their locks; furrowed their features and
robbed their step partially of it's old-time elasticity. William is a
walking encyclopedia- thoroughly conversant with both ancient and
modern historical events and gifted with a style of expression
decidedly entertaining. He resides with his brother Charles and wife,
and has never married. "When I was in the mood for marring," he said, "
there were no girls, near by, to wed."
Charles McAllister Charles McAllister, sixteen years ago, was a
resident of Manitowoc county. Coming to Oconto county he "pitched his
tent" at Maple Valley, cut a hole out of the Wilderness and has
sixty-five acres of hi 160 clear for farming purposes. He has four
children - all boys - and was a solider with Co. K.
J. S. Harvey J. S. Harvey came to Oconto county at the close of the
war, and settled in the town of Case, where he assisted in building the
Chase & Dickey mill. He has since pursued lumbering and
farming. Of his children, one son and a daughter reside at home, and
Leslie is present register of deed of this county.
Issac Elliot Issac Elliot has been a resident of Little river
twenty-one years, but went out as a soldier with a New York regiment.
From a wilderness of 120 acres he has cleared a farm of sixty and
became a farmer. Of his children, William married Miss Lillian Babbitt
of Marinette; William E. (now janitor at the court house) married
Charlie Quirt's daughter; one daughter became Mrs. John Hoyt of Little
River; another, Mrs. Charles Yeaton (now dead); and another, Mrs. Alex
Sharpley of Oconto, and still another Mrs. Cyruss Sharpley of Little
River. Nathaniel, the youngest, resides at home. OCR 8/1895
Eugene Fitzpatrick Eugene Fitzpatrick came to Oconto county from
Watertown, N. Y., in the spring of 1858, worked among the pines until
'61 and went to the war. Four years later he began to superintended
logging camps by F. B. Gardner scaling and sawing. Later he made for
himself a farm where he has since resided. He was deputy for R. H.
Hall, county surveyor, four years, was himself elected surveyor two
terms, and the last election placed him again in that position. His
wife was Miss Grace Leadd of Chase and her parents now reside upon the
F. W. John F. W. John has been a sojourner in the town of Gillett
thirty-nine years. The first winter he helped build a mill for Morrill
& St. Ores, which was afterward sold to George Farnsworth. It
burned down and the present mill of the Oconto Company was erected upon
the spot. When the carpenters were at work upon the structure his wife
kept a boarding house for the men. Mr. John soon afterward purchased an
acre of land near where the present State bridge crosses the river and
built himself a home.