Some Settlements Faded With The Passage
extracted from the Ozaukee New Graphic Piolot
July 16, 1986
(There is at least one reliable source who has documentation that refutes some of the information contained in this article.)
By Steven Benter
Ozaukee County -- Not all communities which have popped up in Ozaukee County over the years have withstood the passage of time.
Places like Port Ulao, Voelker's Mills, Decker's Corners and St. Finbar's have slipped into oblivion, with only a trace of their existence remaining.
Some settlements were little more than crosroads, railroad junctions, post offices or identifying landmarks. Nonetheless, many have intriguing histories and played significant roles in shaping local history.
The most notable of the lost settlements is Port Ulao. Although long abandoned, it holds a notorious place in American history.
Charles Guiteau, the assassin of President James Garfield, was born and raised there. (Another source: He was NOT born there - His father and uncle were surveyors hired by Gifford in 1847 to 'build' a lake port). In 1881, Guiteau was hanged for the murder.
Guiteau was the grandson of General John R. Howe and the son of Luther Guiteau. His father and uncle were surveyors hired by James T. Gifford in 1847 to build a lake port on the site of what had been an Indian village.
A 1,000-foot pier was built for loading cordwood onto Lake Michigan vessels. For many years, Port Ulao reportedly had a monopoly on the firewood shipping buisiness on the lake. The wood came from the surrounding countryside.
A fishing station was later added to the pier, where fishing boats docked to clean and smoke their fish.
The port declined in the early 1850s as ships stopped using wood for fuel. Eventually, the lake eroded the cliffs and shoreline, erasing the once-thriving enterprise.
In its heyday, Port Ulao was the object of some grand development plans. Luther Guiteau and his brother, J. Wilson, platted 50 acres at the site into streets and lots. The nation's first macadam road (made from a mixture of charcoal and clay) was built in Port Ulao.
The town consisted of Ulao Station on the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad line, the Ghost Town Tavern and a feed mill.
The community's name is thought to have been adopted from an American General Ulao, who landed at the port sometime in the 1850s. Local folklore says that the abandoned Ulao Station was given its name because the train's whistle sounded like "You Lay-Oh."
Voelker's Mill, once located four miles north of Saukville, is another lost town.
Ernest Schmidt built a dam and erected a saw mill along the Milwaukee River in 1860. V. Voelker became his partner and added a grist mill in 1875.
A major setback occurred when the flood of 1881 swept away both the sawmill and dam. After both were rebuilt, the hamlet became Voelker's Mills.
St. Finbar's was an Irish farming community settled in the early 1840's. It soon grew large enough to suppot a church and school.
In 1877, St. Finbar's Total Abstinence and Literary Society was organized under the direction of John B. McGinley of Saukville. A year later, Temperance Hall was erected. Activities continued there until 1903, when a drop-off in attendance forced the clean-living citizen's group to disband.
All that remains of St. Finbar's is an old cemetery on St. Finbar's Road.
Both St. Finbar's and Voelker's Mills along with two obscure settlements -- Schmit's Mill and Mechanicsville -- were later incorported into the Town of Saukville.
Three small "corner" burgs were once scattered along Hwy. 143 in what now is the town of Cedarburg.
Five Corners remains a busy intersection where Hwy. 60 crosses Hwy. 143. The fifth corner is made by Covered Bridge Road. The settlement was formerly known at Kennedy's Corners, after John Kennedy, who ran the saloon there.
The landmark identifying the family community of Decker's Corners is a tavern, built in 1873 and still standing at the junction of Hwy. 143 and Pleasant Valley Road. (The latter road was once called Decker's Corners Road).
Horn's Corners, located at Hwy. 143 and Horn's Corners Road, was named for Frederick Horn, one of Cedarburtg's earliest settlers. It contained a post office, hotel and a stage coach stop.
A resort and park was built by Frederick Hilgen in nearby Cedarburg in 1852. Hilgen Spring Park contained two hotels, a band stand and bath house, along with such eye-catching features as bubbling springs, flower beds and gravel walks throughout the 70-acre site.
South of Grafton was Bartelt Station - a stop on the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad line. The site was named after a local family.
A similar railroad junction was Signa, located just south of Port Washington. The name reportedly came from a signal point on a side track.
From 1901 until the mid-1920s, Harrington Beach State Park near Belgium was the site of the Lake Shore Stone Company Town. The community provided an industrial camp for the nearby stone quarry operation, complete with living quarters for 150 workers, a company store and access routes for automotive travel.
Then, there was something called Lion's Den.
The den has been described as a secret ravine along the bluffs of Lake Michigan, about three miles north of Grafton. Two stone-carved lions greeted visitors at the entrance to the site.
Prohibiition bootleggers reportedly hid their booze in a cavern at the ravine.