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Flash From The Past - 1969
August 21
Oconto County Reporter
August 21, 1969
contributed by Dave Cisler
transcribed by Diane Horn

A History of Oconto
By George Hall

At the Court House

Residents of Oconto County took great pride in the new Oconto County Court House.
OcontoCounty Court House as it appeared about 1912

Inscribed in gold lettering on an ornamental slab of white marble in the main corridor is the following:

County Board of Oconto County
Chas. Quirt, Chairman
  A.C. Frost  J.S. Harvey  R.Gillett
  J.M. Armstrong      H.D. Whitcomb
  W. Cooley   S. Fabry   D. Caldwell
  B.B.Barker  R.McIver   I.N. Heller
  O.W. Block  Wm Guthrie  L.W. Brazeau
Chas. Norton, Co. Clerk
J. Merline, Treasurer
  Wm Kasten       Rau and Kirsch
  Contractor         Architects
  Milwaukee, Wis.

The plaque was placed in the building with appropriate dedication ceremonies when the building was completed in 1891.

Above the front door on the outside of the building appears an oval terra cotta plaque with a molded log and beneath it a fish denoting two of the basic industries of Oconto at  that time.

Then, hardly a tree was growing in the court house square. High board sidewalks surrounded the square and led into the front and side doors.  Nevertheless, the new brick court house, complete with a clock and clock tower surmounted with a big gold-leafed statue of Justice with her sword and scales, rose high above every other building in Oconto.

For the first time County Court and Circuit Court chambers and all the county offices, with the exception of the Sheriff’s office, were under one roof.

On September 6, 1907, a fire of unknown origin broke out in the clock tower and destroyed the entire top of the building, including the statue of Justice and the clock.  They were replaced with a domed tower, tile roof, and clock and statue more impressive than the originals.

Before 1910 tram cars hauled in earth and topsoil to make the present lawn.  Cement walks were put in and large trees were taken from nearby woods and transplanted by Patrick Young and William Tennesen.

The county offices were housed on the first and second floors.  The ground floor was living quarters for Custodian John Noffz.  At that time, The Honorable Herbert F. Jones, County Judge; O.B. Parisey, Register of Deeds; Charles Norton, Clerk, and Joseph E. Keefe, Treasurer, had offices on the first floor.  Miss Ellen B. McDonald, County Superintendent of Schools, and L.E. Whiting, Clerk of Court, had offices on the second floor.  The Board of Supervisors room, pictured above, and the spacious and impressive, high-beamed ceiling Circuit Court room occupied the rest of the second floor.  All the offices now had telephones and electric lights.
 

A young lady, Ethelyn Haines, was the only woman deputy and secretary working in the Court House at the time, with the exception of Miss Kate Hill and Mrs. Mayme Berkley, abstractors, who had work in the building. 
 Seeking a career in the business world, Ethelyn (Haines) Beorgeon, who had graduated from the first shorthand and typing class in 1910, attended business college in Marquette, Michigan, taking legal dictation.  When Miss McDonald was elected County Superintendent of Schools, she asked Miss Haines to come to the Court House and work for her.  The salary was $6.00 a month.  Miss McDonald would help her get additional office work to supplement her salary.  Miss Haines got the extra work taking dictation for Attorney Frank Morrow, Joe Keefe and L.C. Harvey.

In August 1911, Judge Jones asked her to substitute for his secretary who had left on vacation.  His secretary never returned.  Miss Haines was asked to remain and was then appointed court stenographer and register in probate September 1, 1911.

Previous to this time, all county records were written in longhand.  Ethelyn operated the first typewriter in the Court House and began the typewritten records for all the different offices there.  The typewriter was kept in the office of Joseph Keefe, who was then County Treasurer, and all papers were typed in his office.
 



 Oconto County Reporter
August 21, 1969 

THE MIGRANT STORY
By Phil Haslanger
Migrant Ministry

(Third in a series of articles on the Spanish-American migrants who came to Oconto each summer to work in the fields, as told by a worker of the Migrant Ministry Program, Phil Haslanger.)

After four years of association with the migrant programs in Oconto County, I would like to make a few personal observations in this final column of the summer.

The problems faced by the migrant farm workers are not only local in scope, but are national.  As citizens of an area that relies on this type of labor as a vital part of its economy, we should be concerned about the total picture of migratory life.

This means that we of the area around Oconto have a responsibility to educate ourselves to understand the needs of the migrant.  It means that we as citizens in a democracy have a responsibility to inform our state and national representatives of our concern for the migrant.  It means that as Americans proud of our freedoms, we must seek ways to ensure that all citizens of our country can share in those freedoms.

However, even with efforts on a national level, as residents of an area dependent on migrant labor, there are things that we should be doing on a local level.

The Oconto-Marinette Interfaith Migrant Ministry has programs in the areas of literacy, recreation and friendship which enable volunteers to reach out and meet the migrant as a person. 

From Marinette to the north and Green Bay to the south there has been a good response.  From Oconto – the center of migrant life in this area – the response has been minimal.

Those who have responded have been truly wonderful people to work with.  Not only have they made a contribution toward another human being’s happiness, but they have become richer persons themselves.

Beyond such volunteer projects is the basic attitude which local citizens take toward the migrant.

During the Centennial the city of Oconto prided itself on its hospitality to its visitors.  Unfortunately, this same warm welcome is not always extended the migrant.  The people of this area certainly have the ability to be friendly.  Hopefully this friendship will include the migrant as well as the tourist.

Still, all the friendship and all the volunteer programs aren’t going to make a big difference in the economic and social structure where the migrant finds himself.

Migratory labor as a way of life as it now exists is bad.  This was clearly demonstrated within the last month as over 350 persons needed emergency assistance in some form because of the late crops and the lack of provisions made for them by the companies.

In a nation that is economically rich enough and technologically competent enough to stretch its horizons to the moon and beyond, such a situation should be considered outrageous.

As responsible Americans and concerned citizens of Oconto, I hope that we can meet the challenge of change that will allow the migrant to reach his full dignity as a human being.
 

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