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Oconto County

Researched, written and revised by Gloria Olson
Reposted June 26, 2001

The first settler into the area which became a rural cross roads community was William W. Delano, a bachelor, who was in the area by June 1852, when he was elected the first surveyor for the newly established Oconto County.  With minimum necessities to maintain him, this single individual established his homestead in an area of virgin forest. 

 In the fall of 1854 five other families joined him, 3 of which were his brothers.  George W. Delano with wife Mary A. Rudd; M. D. Delano and M. C. Delano, both with families; it is apparent he was the advance scout for other family members.  With the additional Delanos were Joseph Weed and Joseph Broods also with families.  William, George Washington, Mortimer Churburg & Marcus Doty Delano were all sons of Leonard & Mersylvia Delano of Watertown, New York. Marcus & Mortimer lived the balance of their lives in the area and are buried in the Brookside Cemetery.  George Delano’s biography indicates he built the first log cabin at Brookside.  William’s property was south of what became the four-corners of Brookside.  This area was later referred to as Brookside Station.

In the spring of 1855 the Town of Pensaukee was formed.  By fall William Delano had built the first school in the town at Brookside.  The Richard Hall  “Centennial Book of Oconto County” tells us there were seven students.  This was a one-room school in which they eventually taught grades one through eighth.  By 1876 there were eight schools in Town of Pensaukee and they had 100 students.    The school was replaced in 1880 on the northeast corner of the intersection.  This one room school was destroyed by fire in 1896.  After the school was destroyed it was replaced with a two-room schoolhouse which is the structure that is currently there.   During the depression, one of the government projects in the area to get people jobs was to raise the schoolhouse and put a basement under it.  It was used as a school until consolidations in 1969, which started the busing of local students to the Oconto & Oconto Falls schools.  It then became the Town of Pensaukee Community Center. 

In 1856 Messrs. J.P. Davis and W. H. Sawtell purchased a small mill site on the south branch of the Pensaukee River.   This mill brought in a number of men who brought families with them or sent for them later.  Many of these early settlers where from the east, some researchers state they came from Lowell, Massachusetts others state Lowell, Maine.    The book “From the McCauslin to Jab Switch” written by Della Rucker, copyright 1999; tells us the mill closed one year later in the panic of 1857 when the price of lumber dropped. 

The 1860-census on page 269 shows James Bundy, (?) Bundy age 19, William Coleson  (Colson), Wm. Delano, Henry Delano, Ransom L Rice, Sanford  & William Hale, Joseph Dodds, and John Mctravers (Matravers) as being in Pensaukee; this sheet obviously is for the Brookside area.  Sheet 270 shows several other names associated with the area B. B. Barker, Isaac Bockock (Beaucock), Joseph Dodd, William Dutton, and Byron Redman.  Henry Delano, was a cousin of MC, MD, and George W. Delano. 

Starting in the late 1860’s and early 1870’s, there was an influx of Belgium settlers from Belgium and Door County into the area surrounding the original four-corner intersection.  Among them were the Gerard & Mathilda Fabry Laduron, Leopold and Josephine Namur LeFevre, Jean Joseph (Frank) and Josephine Laduron Noel, Boniface Laduron and Charles and Mary Longrie families.  There were also a number of families from Germany that settled in the area, including the Karl & Caroline (Franzke) Scholtz, Ferdinand August and Susan (Leopold) Bloom, John & Johanna (Broetzm) Erdman, Frederick Mittag and Herman & Lena (Revsin) Maede (Moede).  Some of the other families that were among the early settlers were Cyrus and Elizabeth (Gould) Isabell, Mathew and Louise C. Leonard, Frank and Laura (Kent) Moody and  George & Carrie Lince.

The book “From the McCauslin to Jab Switch” states that shoemaker Wellington did profit for a number of years in the Brookside area. It is also known that in circa 1910 there was a shoemaker by the name of Krallop in Brookside.  If he worked out of the same location as Mr. Wellington is not known.  The last shoemaker, I am told, was a Mr. Doberstein who was there in the 1920’s.

It would appear the area lost one of its earliest settlers when Joseph Weed died on May 15, 1864 evidently while fighting in the Civil War.  His gravestone at the Brookside cemetery, though not entirely legible, indicates he died as a solider.  Many in the area served in the Civil War and later collected pensions because of their injuries.

George Delano’s biography in “History of Northeastern Wisconsin – 1881” indicates in 1869 he started a mercantile business at Brookside and continued to operate it until 1873.  It appears he was the first merchant in Brookside and it was located on the southwest corner of the intersection.  In 1873 because of ill health he sold his mercantile business to John I. Bovee an employee.

John Bovee’s biography states he came to Brookside in 1868 from Waukesha, WI.  He taught school for one year before going to work as a clerk for F. B. Gardner and then George Delano whom he purchased the business from.  In 1881 he formed a partnership with his brother Eugene and changed the name to Bovee Bros.
Charles Windross was the next operator of the store at Brookside, which he purchased from John Bovee, in 1891.   Charles was a descendent of Charles Windross & Mary Barlament of Oak Orchard.  In his sixth year of operation he suffered a major loss, based on an article in the Oconto Reporter on Dec 31. 1897.   It states that on Sunday he had a fire. (December 27 1897)  They saved $500 of merchandise with the remainder of $6,000 going up in smoke.  He survived the tragedy and operated the store for another 29 years according to his obit.   On July 18, 1899 he married Addie Smith and they operated it together until his death. The Post Office was located at the back of the store till it closed in 1914 and the mailing address for Brookside became Abrams. 

Charles also maintained an icehouse, which was located across the highway in the area of his warehouse.  This was west of the town hall. They would harvest ice from the river during the winter and pack it with saw dust they got from the mills still operating after the 1857 panic or from farmers who were having lumber sawed.  They stored their meat and sausage in a large metal box surrounded by the ice to keep it cool.  If someone wanted meat or sausage, they had to go to the icehouse to get it.  They also sold ice to people in the area.  There was no electricity in the area at this time.  The people who lived along the highway could have electricity in the 1930’s; those off the highway did not have it till the 1940’s under the rural electrification program.

Addie Windross sold the store to Frank and Delbert Moody after Charles died May 22,1926 and moved to Oconto. Frank and his son Delbert operated the store as Moody and Son Mercantile.   For Frank Moody this was returning home from Michigan as he was born in Town of Pensaukee the son of Frank and Laura Kent Moody. 

 Dell and his wife Mae Wixon operated the store until Dell’s death on January 23, 1945.  Mae then sold the store to the Belanger family, who were originally from Green Bay.  The Belanger family, were not liked in the area, and when Tom Moody, the son of Dell  & Mae, returned home from military service they sold the store to him.  Tom Moody and his wife Rachel Rein sold it to his cousin Gary Moody in 1974.  He operated the store until the late 1980’s or early 1990’s when he sold it.  In the year 2000 it is known as Melotles Meat Market. 

At the time Mae sold the store she sold the warehouse for feed and seed to Gerald Krueger and this became the feed mill.  Gerald tore down the icehouse when he took over the property. The feed mill also was a receiving station for the Bond Pickle Co. in the 1950’s.   The feed mill in1976 was called the Brookside Cooperative Feed Mill and managed by Lavern Bloom Ristow.  The mill has since been torn down.

There also was a blacksmith shop, which was operated by Eli Vlies in the early 1900’s.  His father Emil Vlies, married to Victoria Ducat may have originally established it.  This was located on County Trunk J south of the intersection between LaFave’s bar and the cheese factory.  It was located there in 1916 and at this time it is not know when it closed. The children in the area liked to watch Eli work and how the horses reacted to being shod. Behind Mr. Vlies shop there was a barn.  The barn was probably used at one time as a stable, which was a business blacksmiths frequently ran along with their shops.

Brookside had a cheese factory located on the eastside of Hwy. J south of the intersection by the creek.  This was operated by a number of individuals including Henry & Caroline (Praus) Bartz, the Hoppe family and Grant Pagel married to Marcella Bartz, daughter of Henry & Caroline Bartz.  The last operators were Harvey Bloom and his wife, Dolores Bartels.

There was in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s a meat market on the highway, on the same side & east of the school.   Alex Laduron and his brother Desire (Pete) Laduron ran the meat market and made their own sausage.  They made scheduled runs through the area to deliver meat and sausage.   The length of their delivery route could only be as long as the ice could keep the meat cool. They delivered in a horse drawn buggy carrying a metal box filled with meat packed in ice. They also harvested ice during the winter to cool their meat and pack it in for delivery.

When discussing Brookside businesses, we cannot forget Zima’s garage that operated for years, starting in 1945 by John Zima, who had his brother Casey working for him.  John Zima purchased the garage from Isadore Thome who had run it for a number of years.  A 1976 Green Bay Press Gazette story tells us he celebrated 30 years in business in 1975. They repaired cars, sold & repaired farm equipment and always a good place to have something welded and to find conversation.  Second probably to the grocery store for catching up on local gossip and activities.

The only other business in the area, which I have seen a reference to, is a cooper. A cooper made and repaired barrel shaped casks & tubs.  Laura Mittag referred to it in her book of memories.  She did not know the exact location or when it was closed.  She stated that Fred Mittag purchased the lumber they had left and then built the wood shed on the Mittag farm on County Trunk J.

Brookside had two churches by the early 1900’s.  One was the St. Mary’s Lutheran church, also referred to as German Lutheran, located on the northwest corner of the intersection.  The church had a social hall to the west of it and its neighbor was the town hall.  The other church, Brookside Methodist, was located north of the highway on Country Trunk J on the east side of the road.    The Methodist church was moved to Sumaico or Little Suamico in the late 1930’s early 1940’s.  It was still there in the spring of 1936 when I was baptized.  The fellowship hall was moved to St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Oconto to be used as a fellowship hall.

Brookside also has a cemetery, which was established by 1862, at this point I do not know exactly when it was established.  Lila Mittag Tippet states it was started either 1860/1861.  She bases this estimate on statements made by her father who maintained the records, for a while. It does contain the graves of a lot of the early settlers of both Brookside and Pensaukee.  The people from the area were either buried at Brookside or at the two cemeteries in Oconto.

No community is complete without entertainment & places to socialize.  The first bar in the community was on the southeast corner of the crossroad.  The first known operator was Joseph LeFave and later operated by his son-in-law Harold (Boots) Matravers.  George Lince, another earlier settler of the area, owned this location in 1896. Boots built Danceland, which was a large dance hall used for dances, traveling shows and big parties.  In the mid 1930’s it cost 25 cents to get into the dance hall, 10 cents for a hamburger, and 5 cents for a bottle of soda. 

Boots also ran summer outdoor picnics for Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day on the Wells farm south of Brookside on the west side of the road.  He would bring in games & mechanical rides, served food and held a dance at the hall at night.  He also ran a baseball tournament  during these festivities. These ended with the start of the Pensaukee Park in 1939.  In the 1940’s he also was one of the sources for gasoline in the community and the only place to get an ice cream cone. Boots sold the bar & dance hall to Bob Holtz who operated it for a number of years.   The dance hall is now torn down and the bar is a private home on the southeast corner of the intersection.

In circa 1925 William, Willy, Laduron opened a bar along side of Boot’s dance hall.  The structure for this bar has an interesting history because it contains the original Kralopp shoe shop that will be explained later.

By the 1940’s, these establishments had been joined in the area by the Hilltop Bar, one mile east of county Trunk J, on the highway toward Oconto. These three were located along the east side of a one-mile stretch of the highway.   Of the three establishments only one remains as a bar in the year 2000, the original Hilltop Top, which has gone through a few name changes.   In the year 2000 it is named Dale & Jane’s.

The Krallop shoe shop & home was purchased by Desire & Zora Couillard Laduron circa 1915.  At which time they moved the shoe shop from in front of the house to the east of their home and added to it.  Shortly thereafter Zora established a typical 1900 ice cream parlor.  The ice cream parlor was open on Saturday & Sunday.  On Sunday it was open until they ran out of ice cream or until it melted.  In circa 1923 she operated a receiving station for the new Bond Pickle Company from this same building. 

When Willy Laduron established his bar in about 1925 it consisted of the expanded Krallop shoe shop onto to the back of which, he moved & connected the Krallop house.  This became his bar with living quarters attached. One of the reasons for moving the house may have been the closeness of Boots Danceland.   The dance hall had been built within 15 feet of the house, on land that had previously been used for Joseph LaFave’s garden.  This structure is now a private home.

The entertainment for the children was swimming in the creek in summer, ice skating on it in winter and sliding down the big hill on to the ice in the winter.  To look at the creek today it’s hard to understand them doing these things considering the size of the creek.

Other forms of entertainment were box lunch social  & dinners held by the churches and 4H.  These were designed to raise funds for the organizations as well as entertainment.   In the 1800’s and early 1900’s they also had hayrides and picnics in summer plus sleigh rides in winter.  Their lives were centered in the immediate area. 

Until the invention of the automobile a trip to Oconto was an all day event.   In the 1920’s some children from the area attending high school in Oconto stayed in town during the week and came home on weekends.  This was to avoid the long, time consuming twenty-mile round trip to school and back each day. 

There were not a lot of freestanding homes in the area of the intersection.  The grocery store, cheese factory and Joseph LeFave’s bar had living quarters attached to the business.  The Lutheran church had its parsonage located on County Trunk J north of the highway on the west side of the road.  Next to it was the house of Eli Vlies the blacksmith.  When Dell Moody bought the store there was a small house across the highway west of the warehouse which was occupied by his father Frank Moody.  This was later the residence of Bo Matravers. 

By 1940 there was a home on the cheese factory property.  Grant & Marcella Pagel built this house.  Boots Matravers had a home next to the school, on what had originally been the property of Alex Laduron. The meat market, which was located to the east of it, was torn down.

There was one other freestanding house I can recall that was located to the west of the grocery store on the same side of the highway.  I suspect this house was originally the second floor, residence portion of the Greenwood cheese factory.   When the factory was closed the top portion, the residence part, was sawed off, moved to Brookside and put on a foundation. 

In the history of any community we can not forget the natural disaster it survived.  The Brookside area was not missed in the devastation of the fires in the fall of 1871. The fire that raged the night of October 8, 1871 through Oconto, Brown and Door Counties seem to be considered all part of the Peshtigo Fire, which is where the most lives were lost.

A special edition of the Oconto Lumberman in late September 1871 confirms the existence of the fires in the area telling how the stage from Stiles had difficulty reaching Oconto because of fallen timber and smoke.  It goes on to say, George Hart trying to reach Green Bay from Oconto with a team of horses, when several miles south of Pensaukee the roads were impassable because of fire.  In his attempt to return to Oconto, a tree had fallen across the road; his horses bolted through the fire breaking lose from the carriage & throwing him into the fire.  He hung on to the reins and was dragged clear, but severely burned.

Frank Tiltons  book “the Great Fires of Wisconsin”  states that prior to the great fire, in October 1971 those all-available individuals were fighting the fires in the area.  In describing the Peshtigo fire, October 8, 1871, he indicates a large number of buildings burned along the Oconto River, some burned on the lower Pensaukee and a considerable settlement between them was nearly completely destroyed.  South of the Oconto river he names J. Dodge, W. O. Dodge and Henry Delano as having deserted their farms and given up the battle.  Since their properties were located on or just off County trunk J, north of the four-corners it indicates the extent of the fires in the area in the fall of 1871.

 A newspaper article written in October 8, 1971 has an account of the events in the area as related by Ed Delano regarding the fire.  An undated transcript at the Oconto Historical Society, written by Delon Lininger relates information from Mr. Bert Delano, uncle to Ed Delano, who actually lived the experience.  The information varies in some minor details but both describe a night of terror in the area.  The following is based on the information from these sources. 

Bert describes how his parents had gone to bed and were awoken around two o’clock by a neighbor.   At which time the family harnessed  & hitched up teams of horses or oxen to flee to the river along with the neighbors.  They loaded the wagon with blankets and what belongings they could grab for the drive to the river.  Their destination was an area in Couillardville, where the people from the area had done a burn in September because of concerns for their safety.  The special edition of the Oconto Lumberman newspaper a lone, would certainly have stirred up concern for their safety, plus what they could see in the immediate area. 

The ride to the river was harrowing as they picked up women and children along the way who were trying to reach the river.  Some of the women fainted from the fear because they thought the world was ending.  As the drivers raced the teams to the river they ran the teams through fire which was surrounding them. 

Upon reaching the river they went to a shanty that had been erected by Tom Couillard.  The women and children stayed in the shanty while the men wet down the camp area. .  According to Bert Delano everyone from miles around was there.  Sam Keagon came riding into the area on horseback, nearly burned to death, and the women did what they could for him. He survived the ordeal badly scarred and with the loss of one eye. 

After the fire had passed the area the families returned to their homes.  In the one and half mile back to the Delano property only three structures were still standing and their property was destroyed.    The Weaver home was still standing and was used as the first aid station for both Brookside and Couillardville areas.  It was also the distribution point for relief items in the efforts to help the survivors; many of them having lost everything like the Edgar Delano family.  Donald Glynn, now owns this property.  Since John Matravers farm would have been before the Delano’s reached home and family stories state that his home did not burn this is probably one of the other structures standing.

Desire Laduron son of Gerard, AKA Jerry, Laduron related to his daughter Jean and a granddaughter that his parents fled to the river that night but suffered no property loss.  Jerry Laduron when he finished clearing the land on his homestead had burned the slashing.  Family stories say, the smoke from that fire attracted attentions from people in the Village of Pensaukee.  This may have been why his property was saved.  Since they lived  south of Brookside this would verify that people from miles around were at the river.

The four-corners of Brookside escaped the next natural disaster, the Pensaukee tornado of 1877.  But as the tornado approached Pensaukee the storm coming out of the southwest as a menacing cloud did damage to property and the forests to the northern portion of the Brookside area.    Among the people who suffered losses were James Glynn & John Matravers both located to the east of Highway J, each lost a barn.  The Weaver’s who were spared destruction in the 1871 fire lost both their house and barn, while the trees in the forest were shirred off and twisted like toothpicks as the storm raced towards Pensaukee and the massive damage it did there.

These homes and businesses immediately around the four-corners were the center of the rural unincorporated community of Brookside, Wisconsin through the years up to the 1950’s.  The businesses drew their customers from the few homes, the farms surrounding the intersection and the traffic from the highway.   The area for about a 2-mile radius of the four-corners was considered part of Brookside.

With the moving of the US Highway 41, originally state Highway 15 to the south of Brookside.  The highway referred to, is now Old Highway, county SS in the Pensaukee area east of the current highway; and Brookside Road through the four corners of Brookside.  In the 1940’s and the 50’s, this was considered a modern fast highway with bumper to bumper traffic on summer weekends.   The closing of the school, churches and garage, the dance hall gone and the closing of two bars; this has become a sleepy
rural intersection.

Besides the sources already named this is an accumulation of memories of Helen Laduron Jelinski, her sons Dean & Gail Janssen; Marion Laduron Ziesmer and her daughter, Gloria Olson.  The book of memories written by Laura Noel Mittag for her family, and conversations and correspondence with, Lila Mittag Tippett, Laura’s daughter were also used along with newspaper articles. 

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