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Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
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Oconto County


An Indian Trail was the only route from what is now the city of Oconto, through the center of today's Lena and into Kelly Brook, which was named after an interesting early resident, Pat Kelly.

It was a long, hard trip to Oconto for supplies or medical help and the first settlers used Pack-straps to carry their provisions back home. Later there was also a "corduroy" River Road running southeast from Oconto Falls, through Stiles and then into Oconto. Letters and memoirs by earliest Kelly Brook settlers tell that in 1873 there were only very small log cabins at the settlement, no school and no church.

The original family names were Bartlett, Peterson, Martineau, Carrol, Valley, and Tessier. With only one team of horses in the entire area, much of the hauling work was done by oxen team. Milk oxen were particularly valuable since they not only provided strong labor, but food as well. Night travel was preferred in the summer to avoid the hot sun, and dew settled the thick dust on roads. William Carrol was the first postmaster and the mail was carried by mule through Lena (named Maple Valley Station at that time) , then Hayes, then Frostville, to Oconto.

Bands of Potawatomi Indians came in Spring and Fall by pony to trade beautifully woven baskets and blankets, as well as intricately done beadwork. They were interested in food supplies such as flour, pork, dried apples and pears, potatoes, beef jerky, corn meal, eggs, sausage, and smoked meats. In the winter, most men and many of the boys went to the woods to work for the logging companies. The money they made would buy spring seed for crops and, with luck, an acre or two more land to clear for working.

Trees cut on the farms were hauled to Kessler's Mill to be cut into lumber used to build and improve buildings (always the barns before the house). Making Maple Syrup and sugaring were early spring labors that needed a large amount of cut wood, which was done over late fall and winter.The small dry brook bed of today is only a shadow of the deep, fast flowing and dangerous Kelly Brook of the settlers' time. It was partially dammed each fall and allowed to rise so the winter's cutting of logs could be floated down the brook each spring.

The first log schoolhouse was located near the brook and it was a constant worry of teacher Miss Woodmanse that a child would fall in and be swept away forever. Wild animals such as wolves and bear were numerous, and on at least one occasion, entered a farm yard and carried off small stock at night. Fawns were sometimes caught by children and taken home to become pets. Nearby Kelly Lake, also named after Pat Kelly, was originally called Christy Lake.

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