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Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
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Oconto County

Fishing nets and poultry
Late 1800's
Photographs of the many fisherman, their homes and their families who settled along the Town of Oconto Lake Michigan shoreline are rare. Fishing was an important industry early in the county's history. In this old photo of a very proud fisherman and his three children, the nets are hanging to dry in the background. Writng on the back of the photo says 
"Our little farm near Green Bay shore. Chickens and fishing nets."

Fisherman's Farmhouse
Late 1800's
The same hard working fisherman is seen from a different direction in this photograph, which includes a view of his fine garden area and spacious comfortable home. Look closely at the front porch of the farmhouse and you will see the wife posing for the photo. Writng on the back of the photo says 
"See our house and the fishing nets storing on the fence." Both photos are engraved with "Oconto Wis". The family name is not known.

Oconto River empties into the Green Bay of Lake Michigan
The mouth of the Oconto River is two miles downstream of the city of Oconto. Marshland and wild rice plants made up most of this area. A "jacknife" trading post, so named because it "closed up" in winter, was built during fur trading times at the mouth. The first permanent settlers in the 1840's could not enter the river because of the thick mats of waste sawdust from the sawmills that were dumped into the river upstream. Mrs. Lindsey wrote that it was so thick in places a man could walk on it. It was hard work and costly to haul everything up stream and the mills eventually began burning the waste.

Coney Island
Seen from off shore.Town of Oconto had it's own "Coney Island", complete with fishing boats and rowboats, fish shanties where the catch was processed and curious visitors.  Commercial fishing at first brought in White Fish, Herring and Trout in the 1860's, which were salted and packed in barrels for shipping to Eastern commerical centers. Later fishermen from Norway settled with their families; Anderson, Benson, Gabrielson, Hagsfors, Johnson, Laxfors Lundemo, Skog and Valryg. There was one Swedish family, Wickenberg. Fish shanties were hauled out on the ice for winter. Sail sleighs were used to bring the catch to shore and sometimes attained speeds of 40 miles per hour. If the wind failed before you got to shore, you had to pull the heavy fish loaded sleigh the rest of the way.

Coney Island 1915
The island seen from on land. Commercial fishing was a very early industry in Oconto County. The fisherman and their families lived along the shore in homestead farms cut into the thick pine forests. Pioneer fisherman who settled on the north shore of the natural harbor had the surnames of Thomas, Rohrlock, Christiansen, Wilhelm and Conrad. South of the river along the bay shore were Reed, Zippel, Bostedt and Gumanch to name a few. Later, the fisherman cut bay ice in winter to store in sawdust for summer shipments of fish. Wood frame Ice Houses were used for cut ice block storage. 

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