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Submitted by Gloria A. Olson


Jacob Whiting Couillard was born 5/27/1826 Corinna, Maine, according to his marriage and death certificate in Oconto county.  He was the son of Thomas Howard Couillard and Mary Whiting.

In 1849 Jacob & Susan, along with other family members traveled by wilderness trails from Maine to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The 1850 Milwaukee Census show him & his wife, Thomas Howard Couillard, Sr. & family, Thomas Howard Jr. & family along with an aunt, Alvina Couillard Woodsman & family living in Milwaukee. They must have left Maine after 7/15/1849 when Jacob & Susan were married. We also know Thomas Howard Couillard, Jr. had a son recorded as being born in Maine on 5/28/1849 and Thomas Howard Sr., had a daughter in Maine the same year. James Couillard a cousin of Thomas Howard Sr., was listed in the 1850 census in Dane County. It should also be noted, that 2 aunts of Jacob migrated further west from Maine. Susan Couillard married to David Spooner Couillard, homesteaded in Jasper County, South Dakota. Nancy Jarvis Couillard married to Cornelius Couillard were among the early settlers of Richfield Count, Minnesota.

In 1850-51 City of Milwaukee Directory it lists Jacob, his father Thomas Howard Sr., and Thomas Howard, Jr. as making and selling shingles on the corner of Milwaukee and Chicago Streets. We know Jacob & Susan left the Milwaukee area by Indian trails in 1851 in a covered wagon headed for Oconto County. This trip would have taken at a minimum, between 2 & 3 weeks, based on a distance of 150 miles. Since travel by covered wagon, supposedly, averaged 11 miles a day; a good day being 15 miles. This trail, as close as possible on current roads, is now the Ethnic Trail going through the eastern part of the state to Green Bay. Family stories say they went by way of the Green Bay trail.

The last definitive place we can be sure of them traveling through , after leaving Milwaukee, would have been Saukville, Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. At this point in the trip they would have had to make the decision to follow the Green Bay trail or the Dekora trail. The Dekora trail went west at this point to the western side of the state. From this trail another trail branched off and went to Fond du Lac & then Green Bay.

By looking at the history of Saukville we have a good idea of what they encountered at this location. In 1851 Saukville was a growing community an industrial site. The community had a church, school, sawmill, gristmill, and small wood working mills. When they reached there they would have had the option of staying at the Pulaski House, built 1846 or Joseph Feschbein Inn which was built in 1849. They were built on opposite sides of the road, just to the west of the river. It would have been a safe place to rest because the community had a police force of 5 men formed in 1849. The community still had a large Indian village south of the road, on the river. There was a bridge over the Milwaukee River at "Sauk Village" which had been built in 1844 for a cost of $470.

To reach this point they already would have been traveling for a minimum of 3 to 4 days figuring on a distance of 35 to 40 miles to the center of what is now Milwaukee. .

After reaching Green Bay they traveled the Indian trails to Oconto. George Hall's book on "A History of Oconto" tells us the Indian trails followed the high ground between Green Bay and Oconto. This route in 1855 was surveyed for a road between Fort Howard and Menomonee, and later became Highway 41. With the modernization of this road the portion that follows it the closest is now called the Old Highway from just north of Abrams to where it meets the new highway north of Pensaukee.

It would appear they made this trip with out the other family members. Thomas Howard, Sr.'s wife Mary Whiting, Jacob's mother, died in Milwaukee in 1851, along with Alvina Woodman and her husband Benjamin. Milwaukee history tells us there was a major cholera epidemic in 1850 & 1851 in the Milwaukee area, this may have been the cause of all the deaths. We know Thomas Howard Jr. was still in Milwaukee in 1852 when his son Samuel James Couillard was born. Eventually the remaining family members also left Milwaukee, and settled in the area by then knew as Couillardville.

After reaching Oconto, Jacob & Susan traveled 7 miles up the Oconto River by canoe. Family stories say the first night they spent in the middle of the river in the canoe to avoid the Indians. The next day they put up a structure on land and stayed in it. Supposedly, the Indians peered in at them, through the spaces left for windows. They had to have accomplished this trip prior to 7/25/1851 when their daughter Alphia Sophia Ann Couillard, Effie, was born, as she is recorded as the first white child born along the Oconto River. Jacob later built a store with living quarters behind it, which he ran as a general store in the area. Some books and articles credit him with putting up the first permanent structure on the Oconto River outside of Oconto.

Susan not Effie
An original copy of this photograph enclosed within the letter, in the original envelope was found in the center of the Thomas Edwin & Mary Ann Matravers Couillard family bible, along with other obituaries of relatives.  The letter written to Thomas Edwin Couillard, brother of Effie; by daughter of Susan Amina Couillard Main, sister of Effie; identifies this picture as Susan not Effie Couillard.  Susan died 7 Feb. 1932 in Santa Cruz, California. The original letter & photograph along with the obituary for Susan, are in the possession of a gr. granddaughter of Thomas Edwin. Effie is recognized as the first white child born in the newly formed Oconto County on July 15,  1851.

Jacob and Susan had 3 other children before she died, 11/16/1861. The children were, Jacob Jackson born Jan. 1855, Susan Amina born circa 1857 and Thomas Edwin born 4/20/1859. The cemetary records at Evergreen Cemetary indicate Susam May Couillard, age one month 20 days, died March 15, 1853, Oconto, Wisconsin. This evidently is a child of Jacob & Susan since she is buried with them. Susan is buried at the Evergreen Cemetery in Oconto.

He also established a farm, which consisted of 185 acres and worked at logging.   In  1864 Jacob deed access to the river to Balcom when he deeded 4-1/3 acre plus access rights to Lot 2, for 10 feet from the river to Jane E. Balcom, D. R. Holt and S. C. Calkins.  This was used for a booming operation by the companies.

After the death of Susan, Jacob married Laura A. Johnson, on 3/1/1863. Jacob & Laura had 4 children. They were Emerson, born 1863, Etta, born 1869, Mark, born circa 1872. Only Mark & Etta lived to be adults. Laura had many problems and spent many years in a sanitarium at Weyauwega , Wisconsin. Laura died on 2/21/1923 at the Weyauwega sanitarium and is buried at Evergreen Cemetary in Oconto.

We know Jacob was doing well financially on October 17, 1872 when he secured the services of Thomas Duffy to take charge of this store at Couillardville. This would have freed him up to pursue his other business activities.

Jacob suffered a financial loss when there was a fire at his general store. Jacob, we know, was still logging in 1878 because he went to the woods with his son Thomas Edwin when he first started logging along the Waupee River when Thomas Edwin was 13 years old. A newspaper article on Thomas Edwin's 50th wedding anniversary, indicates, the original farm home was vacated by Jacob and his family in 1877, when they built what they referred to as the big house. The original farmhouse and land was later sold to George Flynn, and was known as the Flynn farm. The portion of the farm where the big house was, was sold to Edwin Matravers, who was a brother to Mary Ann Matravers who married Jacob's son Thomas Edwin. This property is still owned by descendents of Edwin Matravers.

Family stories have it; he was a very disillusioned man at the time of his death. They say he did not have the wealth he expected to accumulate in his lifetime. Some of that maybe the expenses incurred because of having a wife in a sanitarium. We do know that a year after his death there was land still deeded in his name in the Town of Pensaukee, so his estate was not probated. Hopefully, with more research or information we will learn more about his later years.

Jacob died January 24, 1895, Vol. 3 page 114 Oconto County, at the home of his brother John Couillard. His funeral was held from the home of his daughter Mrs. Joseph Leigh, at Stiles, on January 26, 1895 with Rev S. E. Very officiating. C. F. Whiting signed his death certificate. Jacob is buried at the Evergreen Cemetery, Oconto, Wisconsin.

Sources not named.

Numerous newspaper articles and obituaries from the Oconto Reporter. Couillard sheets on file at Wisconsin Historical Society, done by Mrs. Sarah Wheeler Burdges; at "the Crossroads" The Saukville Wisconsin Area, by John Boatman; Helen Jelinski's books on file at the Oconto Historical Society. Lavina Woodman letter dated 6/6/1872

This biography prepared by Gloria A. Olson a great-great granddaughter of Jacob.