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Oconto County


From the Shawano County Journal:
November 13, 1875


"We understand that the proposition to set off township 29 & 30, Range 17 into a new town (township), to be called HOW, will be brought before the Board of Supervisors next week, and meet with success, as all of the inhabitants of that part of the county and most of the members of the Board are in favor of it. The new town is named after our enterprising young real estate agent, C.F. HOW Jr., and is a merited compliment to his liberal efforts to settle the northern portion of our county." (Town of How was originally in Shawano County, but in Oconto County by the 1880 US Census)

January 1, 1875

"There is yet considerable land subject to entry as homesteads, or at $1.25 an acre. It can be contracted by actual settlers by paying a small percentage down and the balance in ten years, with annual interest."

Town of How was divided from the Town of Shawano in 1872. Chairman Fred Yakel and clerk Alexander Grignon were the first office holders. It became part of Oconto County in 1878. A. Grignon settled on Grignon Lake in 1878 and became the first school teacher. He had come from an old and prominent Green Bay family that pioneered education in early Wisconsin, having established the first school in that city as well. The building presently known as the community hall was "Hayes Graded School", the first built in the township. Next built and referred to as Grignon School also still stands on the corner of Elm Road and Highway M, although no longer used as a school.

Mr. Brownwell made a home near Suring on the Oconto River and became the first paid teacher. As the population quickly swelled with young families, the school system was divided into 5 districts. Miss Catherine Holl (later Mrs. "Kitty" Kaye of Green Bay) was the first teacher in the second school building,1881, and taught grades 1 through 12 in a single room. She also was responsible for discipline, cleaning the building, keeping the wood fire going, shoveling the snow, minor repairs, cleaning the outhouses, ordering, keeping proper budget records, storing and maintaining supplies such as chalk, slate boards, books, expensive paper sheets, ink and pens, and providing a hot midday meal with the vegetables, sausage, and smoked or dried meat that the students brought each morning. This usually took the form of a soup or stew that slow-cooked on the potbelly stove during morning classes and recitation. The Lutheran Church was built in 1887 with Reverand R.H. Dicke as Pastor (click HERE for more about this church and cemetery). Directly across the road was the Evangelical Church in 1888 with Reverand Schower as pastor. Area Catholics had attended church at Shawano, then St Michael in Keshena or Little Oconto (now South Branch) on the Menominee Indian Reservation. They buried their dead at the Regional St. Mary's (now St. Michael's) Catholic Cemetery on Highway M west of Hayes. In 1907 the Suring congregation of St. Michael was formed and late in 1908 the present church building was begun. The Hayes store of John Holl became the post office and he was the postmaster for many years, receiving the mail by stage from Lena. When the railroad came to nearby Suring in the 1896, the mail and post office were moved there. Prominent names of early families included Holl, Philippi, Grignon, Yakel, Hankowitz, Schuttpeltz, Brownell, Yakel, Meade, Wilton, Weinholdt, Johnson, Suering, Schewe, Heine, Prickett, Kruse, Houle, Ellinger, Lyons, Schroeder, Bartz, Winquist, Simmons, Knight, Delany, Mc Allen, Mathison and Wau Be Kenay. Information gathered in part by Marion Berger.

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