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From The Past - 1934
Oconto County Reporter and Green Bay Pres
6 February 1934
and contributed by
FUNERAL FOR H.D. WHITCOMB HELD MONDAY
funeral for Harry D. Whitcomb, Oconto County pioneer resident, was held
yesterday morning from St. Joseph's Catholic Church with the Rev. L. C.
Becker officiating. Interment was in the Brookside
cemetery. The pallbearers were six grandsons, Harold Bent,
Clintonville, Donald Bent, Land O' Lakes, Russell Whitcomb, Minocqua;
Crosby and John, Abrams, Lester Whitcomb, Jr., Milwaukee.
Attorney Arthur J. Whitcomb, Milwaukee, a son, left his sickbed in
Milwaukee to attend the funeral here.
Early History of County Recalled by Death of
The death of Mr. Whitcomb, a former
Oconto County Board Chairman, and county sheriff recalled earlier days
of Oconto County conditions and political history. Born in
Kenosha in 1850, then known as Southport, Wis., Mr. Whitcomb moved with
his parents to Elkhorn, Wis. at the age of Six.
Shingles Were Money
In 1861 he came with his parents to
Oconto county settling in the town of Little Suamico on what is still
the Whitcomb farm. This farm was originally homesteaded from the
government by his father, Edmund Whitcomb, who had walked to Oconto
county 200 miles from Elkhorn to locate the site. The move from Elkhorn
was made by ox team which required two months. Until 1871, when
the railroad was extended north of Green Bay, they carried their
provisions from Green Bay, 20 miles to the south, paying for their
provisions with pine shingles shaved by hand from timber on the
homestead and delivered by ox-team.
Mr. Whitcomb was united in marriage on
August 21, 1873 to Susan Porter, a union which lived for more than
sixty years. The widow and six children survive. Through
years of toil the homestead of virgin timber was converted into a
modern day farm with new lands acquired increasing the holding to 320
acres. In the early days, after the timber was gone, Mr. Whitcomb
went into the wholesale meat business with the lumber camps and
railroads which were being extended in northern Wisconsin and upper
Michigan as his markets. Refrigeration was unknown in those days
and he shipped carloads of livestock from Chicago to the Whitcomb farm
for slaughter, then in the cool of the night hauled it to Oconto
Held Public Office
Mr. Whitcomb was identified with the
political life of Oconto county for many years. From 1888 t0 1895
he served as chairman of the town of Little Suamico and as a member of
the county board. In 1894 he was elected sheriff of the county
and when he completed his term and returned to the farm, he was again
elected town chairman in 1897 from when he continued to sit on the
county board for many years. In 1892 he was elected chairman of
the county board. The present courthouse and county building was
then just being completed. It had been build in a swampy piece of
ground and Mr. Whitcomb was one of the county board committed charged
with the responsibility of having the frog pond surrounding the new
courthouse filled in. He showed great interest in the development
of churches and schools and served for several years as a district
In 1912 Mr. Whitcomb retired from active
farming and for five years lived in the village of Abrams. In
1917 he purchased a home in Oconto residing here until his death last
Friday. Mr. Whitcomb was the last surviving member of the county
board of supervisors of 1891 which provided for the construction of the
present courthouse. L. W. Brazeau, another pioneer county board
member of that early year, preceded him in death by a week. Mr.
Whitcomb was also one of the two remaining county officers of the time,
the other being John P. Merline who served as county treasurer from
1890 to 1894 and now conducts a grocery business on Oconto's Main st.
The Oconto County Reporter –
Thursday, April 19, 1934
researched and contributed by Catherine McTavish
$20,000 FIRE AT RICHARD HOUSE BURNS LANDMARK Three Story Structure Goes Fast in Blaze Early Thursday Night
Fire thought to have originated from a short circuit left a complete
loss to the McTavish hotel located at the corner of Main Street and
Brazeau Ave here Thursday night. Damage is estimated at $20,000, only
partially covered by insurance.
The fire had gained such headway before it was noticed that none of the
contents could be saved. A cash register was the only article
taken from the building before the intense heat and smoke blocked the
Starting in the attic directly over the kitchen of the hotel, no one
realized the building was on fire until the flames had eaten up the
siding and broke out in the third story attic over the main part of the
Jake Johnson, who works at the hotel and Frank Nerenhausen had retired
to their rooms on the third floor and it was only with difficulty they
were able to escape when the alarm was sounded.
Every foot of the hose was utilized by the department and their forces
swelled by 24 volunteers. Five streams were kept playing on the
flames for hours after the alarm was sounded at shortly after eight
Friday evening. It was five o’clock the following morning
before Fire Chief Bert Harris and his men returned to the station
The remains of the 67-year-old landmark will be torn down, and its
owner, Simon McTavish, intends to start rebuilding as soon as it is
possible. The new Hotel will be back away from the corner,
which has been the scene of several auto wrecks. Moving the
location of the new hotel will give drivers a better view of other cars
approaching the intersection.
Mr. McTavish has been proprietor of the hotel for 18 years. It was formerly known as the Richard House.
Of the estimated $20,000 loss, about $4,000 was on furniture and
fixtures, the balance on the building itself. A number of
improvements had been added recently to the building.
Original 5 year old
Richard House shown in part of
a drawing from the 1871 Atlas -City of Oconto is the large building
the red arrow in Frenchtown.
To read more on the Hotel click here:
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