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Oconto County


The Town of Morgan was originally a part of the town of Pensaukee. It is located along both sides of the north and south branches of the Pensaukee River and inland of The Bay, 15 miles. This was a rich, dense forested area.

In the years following the 1877 Pensaukee Tornado, families began migrating to the rich and fertile land on the upper branches of the Pensaukee River. Log homes began to appear in the dense forest, and clearings were made for farming the land. Early surnames included McEwing; Rev. Banta and sons John and Samuel;  Mayer; Gardner; Charles, August, Frank, John and Herman Birr (from Stettin, Germany in 1870); John George; Hammill; Levi, Erwin, Richard, George and David John;  Yarwood; David; John Rymer and sons John and Thomas along with son-in-law Edward Martindale and Oliver Powell;  Hugh, John and Daniel McDermid; Martin  Wahl; John Dinise; Charles Collier;  John Judd; Otto; Thomas Carroll;  Louis Prue; John Gonion; Joseph Harteau;  Levi, Richard, David and Erwin John; Cleveland; John, Charles and August Schroeder; Murphy; Felix Belongia; Scharf;  William Murphy; Fred Westphall; John Wellnitz; John Pellow; Charles Meyer; and Thomas Tracy.
Logging had given way to farming, with long days of cutting timber with ax and crosscut saw, followed by hand digging stumps that were drug to the edge of clearings and used as fences. The early community rallied to help each other through the form of "bees". These gatherings were to raise barns and homes, harvest crops, and haul logs and stumps; whatever was needed to help families survive and prosper. They were also important opprtunities for creating social bonds that lasted for generations.

The mail was carried once a week from the new post office in Morgan to St. Nathans (now Chase) by August Schroeder for $25 a year; rain, snow, sleet, or sun. Later it came from the train station in Abrams to the store of Samuel Banta; then to the store of Richard Birr.

Spring arrived with the first crow and Sugarbushes (Sugar Maple trees) were tapped and hung with buckets. This was the chief occupation of March and April. Soon afterward, the forest became a carpet of wildflowers. After crops were planted it was time to gather wild red and black cap raspberries. Cranberries were harvested in the marsh owned by Jake Severn, west of John Rymer's farm.  Nearly 100 people at a time would pick cranberries and the whole crop was divided at  the Charles Birr barn, with the appropriate amount going to the owner of the marsh. Wild strawberries and gooseberries grew in farm woodlots. Hops that grew in long vines along the river were gathered and stored for yeast making.

Primitive log cabins and barns gave way to milled lumber homes and in 1878 school was taught by Mary Harteau. She was the first area teacher and walked the three miles to school each day, carrying her shoes, so as not to wear them out. The log schoolhouse was built across the road from the John Schroeder farm with home made desks, a huge box stoveset in a box of sand in the center of the room. The smallest and youngest pupils roasted near the stove while the older and larger ones, sitting farther away, baked on one side and froze on the other. There were few books, and the students buried their ink wells in the sand to keep the ink from freezing. The library consisted entirely of one huge Webster's Dictionary. It was primative at best. Other teachers followed her with sunames familiar to town history; George Sargent , Sophia Good, Rose Hamilton, Violetta Vole, Fred Deering, Frances McClure, Etta Knowles, and William McKinley, who became County Superintendent of schools.

In 1881, August 20, George and David Cleveland were digging a pit well for water. At about 30 feet down, they found water and were then suddenly covered with quicksand as the side walls collapsed. Scores of people using shovels, hands, kettles, hats, pans, boots, buckets and anything else within reach, worked feverishly to rescue them. But their efforts took too long and the men had smothered. They were both found still standing on their feet.

Major events of the area included Fourth of July vcelebrations, the Lyceum 
(a hall where lectures, concerts and other presentations were made), corn husking bees, and revival meetings. At such gatherings people talked about important national news, local crops and weather predictions, debated political views, and participated in all manner of information passing. They met in each other's homes to share meals and dance the intricate movements of the Qualdrille and Virginia Reel, or Schottische and Hop Waltz. Organ and fiddle music was the most common, and singing together completed the evening's activities.

Information gathered in part by Rose Cleveland Waldron. 

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