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Oconto County


 Information provided by Gloria Olson

Located on the bay between Little Suamico and Pensaukee on county highway S, three miles south of community of Pensaukee and sometimes referred to as Southern Pensaukee in early history.  The first settlers were John Windross and his wife Jemina Skelton who arrived in circa 1847.  John with his family originally emigrated from England and settled in New York State.  John’s family established a stopping off place for the early settlers and travelers through the area and greeted many of the early settlers as they arrived.  Their sons John, William and Charles spent the majority of their adult lives in the area, William and Charles becoming commercial fisherman while John farmed.

 A large oak tree on their property became know as the Indian Treaty Tree. It supposedly is where the settlers negotiated with the Indians.  It was also where the Indians would watch during the winter for people who ran into trouble crossing the bay on the ice and rescue them. Not only was it dangerous crossing the bay, but also it was cold, as described by several individuals who made the trip.

They are shown on the 1850 census along with the John Cusick(?) family.  The other proven settlers in Oak Orchard, prior to the county being formed, was Mortimer Delano with his wife, Sylvia Birmingham, along with his brother, William, from Jefferson County, N.Y. William became the first county surveyor when the county elections was held.  The trail through Oak Orchard was known as the Green Bay Trail and later Green Bay Road and now County S.

In the early 1850’s, the Michael Barlament family joined them in Oak Orchard.  The Barlament family emigrated from France to New York State before relocating in the Wisconsin territory.  The family, like the Windross’s, started with a fish operation while they established a produce farm.   Michael’s daughter, Mary Ann, married Charles Windross and stayed in the area as did her parents.  By 1860 they had welcomed Henry Plucker to the area, who had first sailed on ships in 1846 for the Jones Mill and in 1852 on the Mary for Gardner.  Henry along with the Windross brothers are considered pioneer fisherman at Oak Orchard.

 This small settlement grew to have a school and the Oak Orchard Presbyterian Church, as referred to in newspaper articles, both located on the intersection County S and Oak Orchard Road and a large fishing fleet.  The school was located on the eastside of S and the church on the west, both on the south side of Oak Orchard Road.  The church burned down in the 1940’s and the school in the mid 1960’s.  When the school was destroyed the children from the area were bussed to Brookside, as the unification of schools was already in progress.

Oak Orchard had Johnson’s Resort, which existed by 1940, owned and operated by Ralph Johnson, son of John Martin Johnson and Olea Olson, married to Ruth Bartz.  Ralph had a bar and served food, allowed the launching of boats and rented boats to people, who wanted to fish on the bay, plus was a commercial fisherman.  Ralph sold to Robert and Karen (Dechamps)  Swaer in 1971, who ran it for nine years  as "Bob & Karen's" Pensaukee Resort till 2 Jan 1981, when Robert died of lung cancer.  Karen continued operating it and later married James Duffy, and the name was changed to Duffy’s.  The bar was open until approximately 1994.   The location is now a private residence, located at 3596 County Road S.

Dutton’s bar, located at 3554 County Road S, was two doors south of Johnson’s Resort along the shore. The exact date this was opened is not proven, but the current structure was built in 1949.   From the time of this structure, Wesley and Rose Dutton operated it, until his death after which she ran it with the help of her son Earl.  Rose died in 1974, and her death certificate indicates she operated a business out of her home.  Her son took over, but shortly after it was rented out as private residence, until the current owners David and Jeanne Nelson purchased it in 1982.

Oak Orchard never reached the commercial size of its surrounding unincorporated communities of Pensaukee or Brookside, but contributed a great deal to the township of Pensaukee and an area still referred to my local residence and in newspapers.

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