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Early History of Portage County


Before 1836, Dubay's trading post was the only house in the entire region. The entire population of what is now Portage county, at that date was about one hundred. Prominent among these were Mrs. Brawley, the only white woman in the county, Abraham Brawley, Horace Judd, John C. Hebard, Richard Veeder, Gilbert Conant, Peter Barnard, Daniel Campbell, and James Harper. The opening of the six mile strip was heralded far and near, and people began to pour in from various quarters. The eligible mill sites were rapidly taken and the building of mills began. The first saw-mill erected was upon Mill creek, built by Abraham Brawley in 1839. Perry and Veeder occupied a site on the same stream soon after. Campbell and Conant, also, in the same year, erected a mill on the Conant rapids of the Wisconsin. Bloomer and Harper built one the following year at McGeer's rapids on Big Plover. The lumbering interests made rapid advances during 1840-41. Mills went up at all the advantageous point on the Wisconsin and its tributaries. For several years the lumber manufactured found ready sale at Galena and Dubuque, to which points it was rafted by the Wisconsin and Mississippi. The first raft run over Shaurette rapids conducted by Hiram Stowe, in 1842. About this time, men began to cast about for means of obtaining supplies at a cost less than was incurred by wagoning them from southern Wisconsin, or northern Illinois. This brought about a trial of the soil. Some of the lumbermen began breaking the openings and planting some roots and grain. Such experiments proved successful, and eventually many of those who had come to the pineries with their teams, to engage in the logging business, changed their minds and settled down quietly to farming, and found a ready market for their produce among the lumbermen. The first entry of government land was made by Garland Harris, on the twelfth of January, 1841. It was located in the vicinity of Conant's rapids.

The first farms opened in the county were those of Hiram Hartwell and George W. Franklin, who located a little east of Plover. In 1842, Houghton and Batton built the first tavern in this section. It was situated at the present site of Plover.

In the following year, Mathias Mitchel built the first house in the vicinity of Stevens Point. Abraham Brawley also erected a building at the same place; both were used as taverns. In the latter, Mrs. Brawley was landlady. A son born to Abraham Brawley was the first white male child in the county. In the same year a daughter was born to Uriah Merwin. The Methodist missionary, J. S. Hurlbert, began work among the settlements this year, and took charge of a large circuit. The first lawyer in the county was James S. Alban, who arrived in 1843, and located at Plover, which was at that time the county seat. In the year 1844, Charles Maddy and Henry Mularky built a warehouse at the present site of Stevens Point. Immediately after, Richard Gardner followed, and erected a dwelling house. Other buildings were soon added, so that the village gave positive evidence of being the future city of Portage county. In 1846, the first stock of goods was brought into the county by Robert Bloomer. In the same year, the first day school was kept by Miss Amanda Hale, now Mrs. N. F. Bliss. It was held at Stevens Point, in a board shanty, which stood on the ground now occupied by the Mansion house. In 1848, Dr. Bristol arrived, and had an extensive ride from Point Bass to Bull Falls.

A Few Good Men of Wisconsin, ©1878, Wisconsin Historical Society Collections, (pgs 125-126).
People and Places of Portage County
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