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John Pepper Family Page

Descendant contact: Dolores

This page is based on census findings from state and federal remuneration beginning in 1850. Census records are government surveys and not legal documents. Although accuracy is stressed, it is not mandatory. Census takers sometimes received answers from  young children, elderly with questionable memories, people with little understanding of English, landlord of the residence, and neighbors when the family was not present at that moment.

The census records are an excellent beginning to reconstruction of family generations. The use of county vital records and other data such as citizenship papers, church records and cemetery records will be necessary to verify the connections found below.

The Pepper family came to North America from Ireland before 1840. E. Pepper and his wife M. Pepper first settled in Vermont where their oldest two surviving children were born; sons Matthew Pepper in 1839/40 and John James Pepper two years later (1841/42). Shortly after John James' birth in Vermont, the family moved to Wisconsin where daughters Mary, Sarah and Jane were born, beginning in 1842/43. They worked a farm in the Irish settlement of Erin, Washington County, Wisconsin by 1850. At the time family head of household, E. Pepper was age 36 and his wife M. Pepper was age 39. James was age 8 when the census was taken on July 31, 1850.

On July 1, 1860 Ellen (also Helen/Hellen) Malone, age 15 on the Federal Census, was living on a farm in town of Oconomowoc, Waukesha County, Wisconsin, also in an Irish settlement. The household head was her widowed mother Ann Malone, age 50, and included Daniel Malone age 18, Edward Malone age 16, Michael Malone age 10, Frank and John Malone both age 6. Mother Ann had been born in Ireland. Daniel was born in New York, with the rest of the children born in Wisconsin.

John J. Pepper and Ellen Malone were married in the late 1860's. By 1870 the couple was living  with the oldest surviving child, Edward Pepper, born in 1867/68, and daughter Annie then age 6 months in Oconomowoc, Waukesha County, Wisconsin.  John was a farm laborer for his mother-in-law, Ann Malone. Ellen's youngest twin brothers Frank and John were also in residence and working the farm.

In 1873 John Pepper was listed as an employee of the Oconto Company (logging and lumbering). His name is found on the company register for that year. The company was based at the Mill complex in city of Oconto, Oconto County, Wisconsin.

The pre-1907 Wisconsin State Death Index lists a Joseph Pepper as having passed away 21 June, 1879 in Oconto County, Wisconsin. He is the only Pepper listed for that county.

John Pepper was listed on the 1880 city of Oconto Federal Census as "Works on the River".  This would indicate he was employed by the mill to pull harvested logs into the company booms in preparation for milling into lumber products and to bring the logs into the mill from the river as needed during the year.

A Little Oconto River Logging History

Logs were cut upstream on the Oconto River and it's tributaries in winter and rolled onto the frozen waters.  Each company used a hot metal "branding iron" to mark the ends their logs for later identification at the lumber mills.  In Spring the dammed waters were let loose and the great log drives moved the harvested trees downstream to the various company mills. As the the softwood pine logs floated passed, mill employees would be on the river to pull out the properly branded logs for their mill and push them into a chained off "boom" area that used floats to keep the logs separated and stable until taken into the mill. Logs branded for other companies were allowed to pass down stream.

As with any 'herding" process, there was some money to be made by the less than ethical who would cut the ends of the logs clean and re-brand them with another mill's mark. This was usually done in more isolated areas of the river as the logs floated along. Also, the occasional log was accidentally pulled into the wrong mill boom (sometimes more often than others) and became part of that company's profits. It was a hard and often dangerous life that had much in common with western cattle raising of the same era. An old saying comparing the two was "cowboys don't drown and river rats don't die of thirst." River Rats was the nickname for men who worked on the water with the harvested logs during drives and at the mills.

The 1880 city of Oconto, Federal Census has John and Ellen Malone Pepper living with children Edward age 12, Annie age 9, Mary age 7, Ellen age 5, Frank age 3 and Thomas age 2.

By the 1900 Federal Census the John Pepper family was living in Marinette, Wisconsin along the Marinette River, the county north of Oconto. Marinette had been a part of Oconto County until it was divided in 1879. John Pepper was employed as a "Boom Man", a dangerous and strenuous job at age 53 years. Living with him was wife Ellen; son Frank age 21 (June 1989) and daughter Nellie age 21 (August 1878) .  Added to the family in the 20 years between Federal census records was son Michael age 19 (August 1880); daughter Maggie age 18 (December 1881) and son Willie age 17 (March 1883). John and Ellen Pepper had been married 33 years as of June 2, 1900. Ellen had given birth to 10 infants and 8 of them were living in 1900.

Son Edward Pepper was a "shingle weaver" in 1900, living with wife Mollie and

On the 1905 Wisconsin state census for Marinette, Wisconsin, the John Pepper residence was made up of John and Ellen Pepper, their youngest son William (single) and two grandsons; George Pepper age 3, and Robert Star age 13. John and William were listed as day laborers.

John and Ellen Pepper continued to reside in Marinette, Wisconsin on Terrace Avenue on the 1910 Federal Census. The had been married 46 years.  In the household were single sons Frank, Michael and William Pepper; grandsons George Pepper age 8 in school, brothers Robert age 19 and Frank Star age 17, who were both laborers. George Pepper was born in Michigan as was his father. Robert and Frank Star were born in Wisconsin, their father was born in Michigan.

In 1920 Ellen Pepper was widowed and head of the household living in Ward 5 of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Sons Frank and William, both single, and grandson George Pepper, also single, were in residence there. The sons and grandson "machinist in machine shop."

Grandson Robert Star was married to Elsie and had  daughter Eileen age 6 and son Francis age 13 months. They lived in the 4th War of Milwaukee on 10th Street. Robert was listed as a  "machinist in machine shop."