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Flash From The Past - 1934

Oconto County Reporter and Green Bay Pres Gazette
6 February 1934 
Researched and contributed by Ron Renquin

Early History of County Recalled by Death of Pioneer 

      The 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.

      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 school officer.

      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 entrance.

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 hotel.

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 house.

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 above the red arrow in Frenchtown.
To read more on the Hotel click here:
Richard House Hotel

The Oconto County Reporter –
Thursday, June 21, 1934

MOUNTAIN - The CCC Camp at Mountain will hold another of its dances. They will serve free donuts and coffee. The admission is 30 cents for men, 10 cents for ladies.

Photo contributed by:
 Bill Fonferek

Camp Mountain