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Flash From The Past - 1868


Green Bay Gazette
June, 1868
Special Correspondant

OCONTO, WISCONSIN.

A   Flourishing Village — Large Lumbering Interests -- Early Settlement -- 
Schools and Churches - Business Houses and Building -
Extensive Lumber Mills & c.

From Our Own Correspondent
Early Settlement,
  The streams of population that commenced in 1830, in small rivulets, to flow along the
shores of Lake Erie and cross quietly around its head into Michigan during the succeeding
years, had in 1834 become torrents that swept over and occupied the new counties in Michigan, and commenced to eddy around to the then ontpost of Green Bay.  The title to the Indian lands was extinguished for a small consideration, and even this came back into the hands of speculating Indian Agents and the traders, in exchange for whisky. The United States Bank had been destroyed about that time by Gen. Jackson, and an inflated currency thrust upon the country, which fed the   flame  of speculation and people became wild under the influence, and purchased  Government  lands, layed out imaginary villages and towns and made imaginary fortunes ; all of which culminated in 1837 in bankruptsy and ruin, spreading dcsolation along the highway of Western settlements. 

But a few persons had ventured as far north and  west as Oconto.   In 1837, Robert Jones passed through here, finding nothing but rough and savage wilderness, but returned, and settled here in 1846 — tbe first settler.  He located about two miles from tho mouth of the Oconto river, the present site of Oconto where he found a water-power, and erected saw-mill ; about the same time another mill was erected sixteen miles further up the stream on another water-power— at the falls.  These mills manufactured lumber and shipped it to
Chicago;  running down to the mouth of the river on scows and In rafts, thence by sail vessel  down the lake—the Iinitiatory stcp to what has come to be the vast lumber business on theOconto River.

The first  residence was erected by David Carr engaged In fishing. Thomas Lindsey came in 1843, and erected the second building on what is now the site or this village. In 1852, Edward Hart came and purchased of Robert Jones, who owned most of the land on the river in this vicinity - the doackage, which he now owns and occupies, as will appear hereafter. At this time there were but 415 inhabitanta in Oconto county, which then included trerritory of almost unknown extent; but four or five families were on the river where the village now is, and all supplies were obtained from Green Bay in sil boats. Mr. Hart started the first store. William Brunquest and Thomas Milledge  put up the first store and engaged in trade on a larger scale. The chief attraction at the time was the lumber interest - the vast pine forests had a charm that nothing else possessed. Col. David Jones, sutler at Mackinaw and Fort Howard, with his brother, before mentioned, and Col. Leavenworth, built mills on the Peshtigo, a few miles from here, in 1836 - the first in this section, and if we are correctly informed, the first on the west shore of the Bay. In addition to those already mentioned as first settlers, Paul McDonnel, S.B. Guilkey, Joseph Hall, Geroge Smith, and two or three others came, and most of them are still here.  The place grew gradually, though the principal improvements have all been made within the last eight years. A large amount of Chicago capital is invested in the lumber business here.  The first steam mill on the Bay was put up in 1850 - the engines are still in use.

On the Pensaukee and Peshtigo rivers, and some points on the Oconto, excellent farmlands are found, and much of it are under a high state of cultivation — many New England farmers among the number of farmers.   There are extensive tracts of maple, beech, and other hard wood; swamps and meadow lands.   On the latter, an excellent article of blue-jolnt-grass is cut in abundance for use in feeding stock and in the logging Camps. Hundreds of tons could be cut if it was needed.  When cultivated they produce the best tame grasses.  The hardwood timber will some day be valuable for manufacturing purposes — when the country  is opened up by railroads and more fully settled; which is not far in the future.   Lands may now be had very cheap — either under the Homestead act, or by direct purchase, and invite the emigrant to the occupancy of its thousands of acres. 

LUMBER BUSINESS
The chief business at the present time here, is the manufacture of lumber, which engages a large amount of capital — mainly from Chicago, though a portion of it belongs here, and comes from other points where lumber is handled in large amounts. The total amount ot logs got out last winter is about 80000,000 feet — obtained, on the Oconto river and its tributaries, for a distance of over one hundred miles up the river, and mainly manufactured, at this point.

The largest single manufactory is that of the Oconto Company — George Farnsworth of this place, and Meyers, Bates & Co., of Chicago who operate two steam mills, with a  capacity of 140.000 feet of lumber per day of 24 hours. They have about 40,000 acres of pline lands. In their large mill are two gang saws - one slabbing and one stock; one circular, two gang edgers, one splitter; a lath mill that will cut 40,000 per day, one picket mill with capacity lor cutting 30,000 per day ; machine shops, etc. Engine 125 horse power, and all the modern improvements and most perfect machinery that can be obtained. They have, including 3,000,000 left over from last season, about 28,000,000 feet of logs, and purpose to cut the entire amount before closing the mills. The second mill is of small capacity—about 5,000.000 annually. Foreman in mill, Peter Shufolb ; outside superintendent, Moses Thompson. Employ 375 men in summer, and about 450 in winter. This mill (as are all of the better class) is lighted by gas manufactured in the mill.

The next mill in extent is that of Holt & Balcom—Chicago men—which is one of the most complete in all of its appointments of any we have ever seen. Its capacity is about 13,000,000 of lumber annually—100,000 feet per day. The machinery is about the came as the above mentioned mill—manufacturing lumber, lath, and pickets. The engine is 200 horse power, one of Gates', Chicago, and the machinery run entirely by friction — `with less noise than the belt process. The arrangement for handling logs, carrying off sawdust, and the entire mill, in short, is complete; the mill in neat in appearance, and has every convenience to save the labor of men — everything done by machinery, where it can be brought to bear. Employ about 200 men in mill and on the river. Superintendent. N. Emery, one of the oldest and most successful lumbermen on the Bay. Outside superintendent, A. Cole ; financial manager, T, Goodrich; book-keeper, O. A. Ellis.

Mix & Holt's mill has a capacity of about 12,000.000 annually. 

McDonnel & Brunquest, a water power mill about two miles up the river, a capacity of 9,000,000 per year.

Eigbmy & Fisher, a steam mill of about 7.000.000 capacity.  In this mill it is claimed, tho most rapidly cutting circular sawing section, is found. 

Bosworth & Comstock's mill, about four miles up the river, cuts about 5,000,000. 

The mill known as Eldred's, about nine miles from Oconto, at the village of Stiles, has a capaclty of 15,000,000. This is run by water power, and is one of the largest mills on the river. Who now manages it we were unable to ascertain; it has changed hands often recently.

John Lee has a mill on one of the tributarics of the Oconto river, with a capacity of over 15,000,000; about six miles from here.

We have given the full capacity of each mill in the above enumeration, though some of the mills have not the amount of logs to this season indicated by this capacity. The transportation of this lumber to market is a large interest on the bay and lake. The lumber is rafted from the mills to the mouth of the river, thence by vessel to market.  As many as twenty-eight sailing craft are seen al a time anchored at the mouth of the river—all befog loaded with lumber. Formerly thew vessels run up the river as far as Oconto, but the entrance has been filled up with saw dust the channel obstructed. The people are alive to the necessity of clearing the channel and opening it to unobstructed navigation. The Government should make an appropriation for that purpose, and no doubt will.

WATER POWER
There are a number of  water-powers at different points on the river, which will some day be more valuable than they now are, as the manufactor of woods of various kinds may be profitably conducted here, and the powers will be in demand for this and various other purposes. The power at Oconto Falls, a few miles above Oconto, is an extensive one. The fall in the river is ocer twenty feet - the entire back being available for use as a power.

Wheat & Flour - A considerable amount of first quality of wheat is grown in the section of country of -which this place is the center and market.  A steam flouring mill, with three run of stone, is being erected here, which is to have a capacity for storing 25,000 bushels of wheat. This is an institution which has long been needed here. Now most of the floor is imported, and the wheat sent out to other markets.

C. S. Hart & Co., have a flour and feed store which supplies these articles to the community and country hereabouts.

FISHERIES
The fishing business on the bay at and near Oconto has grown into considerable importance ; mainly whitefish — some herring.  Thousands of barrels are sent out from this shore annually to the Southern markets. About 1,000 barrels are shipped from this point above.  The streams about here are resorted to for brook trout. which are very plenty. Several in Chicago and St. Louis, fond of this sports, have been in the habit of coming here during the season to engage to it.
Imports —The total value of the imports to this place during the last season was over $500,000, including merchandise of all kinds. Between four and five hundred vessels arrive and depart annually, bringing and carrying away freight.
Exports.—The exports consist principally, of lumber, of which the following amount was sent out last year: Of lumber, eighty-three millions feet; Timber, two millions ; cedar posts, two millions ; shingles, eleven millions; lath and pickets, twenty millions. All of which is no inconsiderable showing of business to a place of about 3,500 inhabitants.
Government,—Oconto is an incorporated village, the municipal affairs conducted by a President and Board of Trustees. Wm. Brunquest. Esq., is the President, Joseph Hall, Esq.. Clerk, and Wm. B. High, Marshal. Mr. Hail is an old citizen, has been, connected with the village and county government a number of years, being a faithful and trustworthy official. The village is out of debt, and its affairs administered with that care and economy that is always followed by light taxes.
County Officers.—This is the seat of government of the county, and the Court-House and county records are here, of course. The following are the officers: Judges R, W. Hubbell ; Shcriff, P. W. Gilkle; Clerk of Court, Joseph Hall; Register of Deeds and Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, B. G. Gunnert; Treasurer, B. L. Hall; Supervisors. I. Stevenson, Augustus Cole, and Geo. W. DeLano ; Attorney, John, B. Fairchild. This county contains about 6,500 square miles—166 townships.
Incomes.—There are some quite large incomes reported to the Revenue Department.  I. Stevenson returns about $23,000; George Farnsworth over $17,000. The increase of revenue tax to 1867 over that of 1868 was about one hundred percent, or double.  Edwin Hart is the Deputy United States Assessor. 

TRANSPORTATION.
The principal means of transportation between here and Green Bay, are facilities furnished by the Oconto and Green Bay Transit Company, which has been recently organised, with the following officers: President, Wm. Brunguest; Secretary, H. M. Royce; Treasurer, C. B. Hart; Superintendent. Edwin Hart. These officers, with Thomas Milledge, constitute the Board of Directors;  all solid business men of Oconto. They are now  running the steamer May Queen daily, between here and Green Bay, and doing a general business. They will soon purchase other boats and tugs and extend their facilities. This boat was formerly owned by C. S. Hart & Co. This is a home institution and will eventually do the principal transportation between these points. 

The Green Bay & MenommeeTransportation Company's line connect here by tugs for all points on the Bay. The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad is projected through here to Menominee on too Bay shore, and, it is expected, will soon be built. It has been surveyed, and Congress has given a valuable grant of land towards its construction. Last winter, the counties on the line were authorized by legislative act to vote aid to the road. When opened, it will encourage settlement and smaller manufacturers of various kinds on its line.

 BUSINESS HOUSES.
The principal business, as we have said, is the manufacture of lumber; yet there is a general trade of considerable extent. In connection with each of the larger mills is a store of general merchandise, from which the employes of each are supplied. The total amount of this business at the Oconto Company's store is about $275,000 annually. The amount of supplies consumed by the men (and their families) in the employ of this company is an item that may interest many. We give the figures as received from Mr. H. L. Barlow, who is in charge of the store: 650 barrels of flour, 200 of pork, 300 of beef, 10,000 bushels of grain (for teams), 40 barrels of sugar, 30 of dried apples, 3O caddies of tobacco, 20 barrels of smoking and 14 of fine-cut chewing tobacco, 35 chests of tea, 25 barrels of syrups; and this amount for the employes of but one mill. The stores of Holt & Balcom and McDonnel & Bruuguest are not as extensive in the amount of business done, but nearly as large. The other stores in connection with the mills are, in extent, in proportion to the extent of the latter.

There are a number of stores which do the general business of the place and the county of which this village is the center. The larger of these do an annual business of from $25000 to $30,000. Thomas Milledge, who keeps a good general assortment, commenced business here twenty years ago—the oldest merchant in the place.  H. M. Royce has a business in the same line of about the same extent; both, do something in the line of jobbing.  W. L. Newton, M. W. Patterson, and Charles Hancomb are doing business of a considerable extent. There are nine stores of the above description.
Drug Stores.—J. M. Adams and B. A. Coleman — both neat establishments — with an assortment of goods in this line; both practicing physicians. 
Hardware.—Two stores; Charles Hall & Co., who have recently completed a new two story block, occupying one of the stores themselves; and W. B. Smith, who has recently commenced business. The trade to these stores include little more than the trade in this locality and surrounding country to ordinary hardware, exclusive of the vast amount of mill supplies, which are obtained direct from manufacturers. Hall & Co. sold two hundred and fifty stovels last season.
Boots and Shoes.—George Davis and Dunlevy & Hagerson are the only exclusive dealers in this line of trade.
Clothing.—Hoffman & Lewin, of Green Bay, have a branch of their extensive clothing business at this point, in charge of M. Rosenbaum; a first-class assortment of goods. S. Norton is also engaged exclusively to this line of business; most of the dry goods stores also keep clothing.
Porter & Lord have a neat little establishment known as the Oconto oyster and fruit store, where the luxuries always coveted may be had in the season of each, as well as a general variety of confectionery, &c.  There are numerous other places of business which we will not enumerate in detail.
Brewery.—This seems to be an indispensable institution where there are any considerable number of Germans; and Americans, as well as nearly every nationality, are inclined to patronize them. Louis P. Paul has quite an extensive one near the village, built by A, Links; the latter has just erected & spacious billiard hall and restaurant.
Hotels.—Empire House is the largest hotel in the place, though Mr. N. Richards, the present proprietor, is building a new hotel of about the same capacity, and will complcte and occupy it soon.  Funk's Hotel is popular with the traveling public, and liberally patronized. There are six to all. 

It is worthy of note that there has been but one failure in business - that but for a small amount.
Attorneys - Three attorneys-at-law - R. W. Hubbell, A. Reinhart, and J.B. Fairfield. The first named is County Judge; the last, County Attorney.

SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES
The village is well provided for in the matter of school and church privileges. The schools are conducted on the graded system, and the people are satisfied with none but first class teachers, and appreciate talent in the university ; all of which indicates well for the intelligence and morality of the general community. There are three churches, all apparently well sustained ; other societies worship in halls or such rooms as can be temporarily obtained. Liberal taxes for sustaining schools are cheerfully voted by the people, and as cheerfully paid. We noticed that school statistics demonstrate the fact that a larger proportion of scholars attend the schools that is usual in towns of this size.
There is one paper published here, a Republican weekly paper, by J. W. Hall— Oconto County Lumberman.

Building -  Considerable building is in progress and contemplated this season; Roste Brothers are about erecting a tannery and several others putting up dwellings andvarious other structures, indicating prosperity, enterprise and thrift.

The order of the Good Templars has a flourishing lodge here, of about one hundred and twenty-five. members; H. W. Gllkey, worth Chief, and E. Tibbets, secretary.             L.W.P.
 

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