Source: History of Door County, Wisconsin, The County Beautiful
by Hjalmar R. Holand (1917)
Transcribed for Genealogy Trails by Mary Saggio
Liberty Grove, the largest town in Door County, may be divided into three parts. In the southern part of the town is the large and compact "German settlement," lying between the villages of Ephraim, Sister Bay and Baileys Harbor. In the center, east and northeast of Sister Bay, is a large Swedish settlement with a few Norwegians mixed in. In the northern part, extending to the very tip of the peninsula, is a large Norwegian settlement with some Swedes and Germans mixed in. Representatives of other nationalities are few and far between.
THE GERMAN SETTLEMENT
The present settlements of Liberty Grove are largely outgrowths of the early Norwegian colony at Ephraim. The first settlers were originally members of this colony. Among them was John Thoreson, a Norwegian who settled at Little Sister Bay in 1854. He was for many years a prominent man in the town, was a political boss and had a pier over which he shipped much cordwood and other timber products. Another well known early Norwegian was Zacharias Morbek. He was a member of the original Norwegian Moravian colony which settled in Ephraim, was a man of some education and for some time held most of the town offices in the Town of Gibraltar. Later other candidates for political honors began to usurp what he considered his prerogatives. In disgust he complained that liberty was dying out in Gibraltar and in order that he might again have matters under his own hand he got a portion of Gibraltar set off in 1859 as a separate town. This he called Liberty Grove, meaning by that that liberty (the Morbek brand) had there found a home. For many years he was very successful and had the office of clerk, treasurer, assessor and justice of the peace.
Byron (Bjorn) Aslagson was another very early Norwegian settler, settling there in 1858. He lived two miles east of Ephraim. Like his neighbors and countrymeny Morbek and Thoreson, he was also a very prominent figure in early town politics and was a very competent man.
In the first company of Moravians who settled at Ephraim in 1853 was one German. His name was Gottfried Matthe, from Bavaria. In 1857, while on a trip to Green Bay, he met some German emigrants looking for land and persuaded them to accompany him to Ephraim. These were Wilhelm Dorn and Christian Hempel. They were from Pomerania, or Hinter Pommern, in East Prussia. Dorn and Hempel took land in Liberty Grove back of Ephraim and became the founders of the large German settlement of whom nearly all are from Hinter Pommern. Among the earliest were Carl Stoever and Wilhelm Sturm who came in 1865, August Stoever, and Fritz, Frantz and Ferdinand Schmidt, who came in 1866; August Rowe, Ludwig Heling, Carl Mogenburg, and Herman, Ferdinand, Fritz and Johan Mueller, who came in 1867. Albert Schmidt came in 1872, Henrik Strege in 1873 and Carl Schultz in 1874.
All these people were from Pomerania in Eastern Prussia, where the people were kept in conditions of great servility and poverty due to the all powerful domination of the Grafs, or landlords, who owned all the land. The bulk of the population had no chance to acquire farms but were compelled to spend their time as humble laborers or tenants on the estates of the proud junkers.1 [For a further account of the conditions of life in Pommerania see the chapter on the German Settlement in Forestville and Nasewaupee.]
When, therefore, Wilhelm Dorn wrote to his friends in Hinter Pommern that here in America all men were equal; that fertile land in large areas could be had for nothing; that laboring men received as much per month here as they received per year in Prussia—the news seemed too good to be true. "Surely," thought some, ''Wilhelmi Dorn has become the unscrupulous agent of some greedy concern or power that wishes to entrap us!" But little by little the more venturesome followed his advice and emigrated. And here in Liberty Grove they settled around him and converted a very stony tract of timber into a beautiful farming community. They now maintain two churches in their midst and have one of the best graded schools in the county.
Among the early German settlers was also Carl Seller, a son-in-law of Gottfried Matthe. He settled on the present Seiler farm, one of the best in Liberty Grove, in 1860. This farm lies high up on the ridge about a mile and a half from the Ephraim bay. Carl Seiler, Jr., who now lives in Gibraltar, tells how he made a rough wooden wheelbarrow on which he placed a half-barrel. This half-barrel he trundled every day through the woods to the bay for water. On washdays he made two trips.
One of the bitterest memories of pioneer days that these settlers recall is the cruel fleecing they suffered at the hands of a pair of unscrupulous horse traders. In the '80s, when they were just emerging from their first struggle with the forest, two smooth-tongued Jews by the names of Henry Hamill and Leopold Jacobs appeared among them. They had horses to sell and as the pioneers needed horses to haul their cordwood and do their farming a rushing business in horses was soon made. The price of the horses was not unreasonable and was paid for in notes secured by real estate or chattel mortgages. Soon, however, a serious defect developed in one or both the animals. They were badly mated, balky, or suffered from some disease or other. At intervals the Jews came around, sympathizing and helpful and soon a trade was arranged with a large amount of money to boot. The new animals, however, quickly developed new defects. The Jews again came around, telling of a splendid lot of horses just received and a new trade was arranged. In this way the pioneer was lured on adding note to note until he discovered that his third rate team of horses had cost him from a thousand to fifteen hundred dollars. A great many were unable to pay these notes when due and were ruthlessly sold out, farm, stock and implements, to pay for a pair of indifferent nags which were also swept away in the deluge. On the state road north of Baileys Harbor there were in 1890 no less than thirteen deserted farms in one neighborhood whose owners had been sold out on mortgages given to these unscrupulous horse traders for their worthless animals.
It is estimated that these crafty rascals despoiled the unsuspecting, trusting farmers of Liberty Grove of almost a hundred thousand dollars. The bitter agony of seeing the fruits of their best years of toil swept away to pay for a fraud will never be forgotten.
SISTER BAY AND APPLEPORT
The Swedish settlement lying between Sister Bay and Appleport is one of the prettiest farming sections in Door County. The land is gently rolling, comparatively free from stone and apparently very fertile. The improvements are substantial and neat. Altogether this little part of the county will compare favorably with any part of the state.
When viewing this beautiful section of the county it is hard to believe that practically all of it was a timbered wilderness as late as 1880. Yet such is the fact. The first settlers came there about ten years earlier with no thought of farming. They came to make a temporary living as woodchoppers, believing that when the timber was cut the value of the land was exhausted.
The history of the Swedish settlement begins with Gustav Carlson who in the fall of 1867 with a dozen other Swedes came to Ephraim to cut wood for John Anderson, a member of the Norwegian community at Ephraim. He lived within a mile of Sister Bay but at that time there was no business of any kind at Sister Bay. These thirteen Swedes the following winter all bunked in a shanty which stood on the land now owned by Charles Magnet. Gustav Carlson was far-sighted and bought a tract of land north of Sister Bay. However, he and the other twelve woodchoppers left Door County in spring and did not return for many years.
In 1868 came another contingent of woodchoppers. Several of these bought land and became permanent settlers. Among these was Andrew Seaquist whose descendants are still living in the settlement. Andrew Seaquist was therefore in one sense the father of the settlement. He was a quiet, deeply religious man, unlike most of his woodchopping, countrymen, who, under the conditions then existing, were a boisterous, carefree class of people.
In 1870 Sister Bay was opened up as a shipping point. A firm known as Henderson, Coon & Dimond built a pier at the head of Sister Bay. Thomas Dimond was the leading man in this business. A large sawmill and grist mill was built and two or three stores and a hotel were opened up. The company also owned much land. About 1878 Andrew Roeser, who came from Belgium, became the owner of the property. His son Adolph Roeser still owns and runs the mills and the pier. Due chiefly to the business brought in by Roeser's grist mill and sawmill Sister Bay became a place of great importance in the county and much business centered there. Being ambitious to magnify itself the village was incorporated in 1912. Since then, however, the village has rather gone backward than forward.
Across the bay on the east side, at the place still known as Wiltse's pier, Judson and Archibald Wiltse built another pier about 1870. These brothers were from England and Judson Wiltse was one of the first to clear a farm near Sister Bay. It is still in the possession of his son. Patrick Dimond had the farm now owned by John Lagerquist and built the house which is still in use and is the oldest house in this part of Liberty Grove.
With the opening of shipping facilities at Sister Bay there was a great demand for woodchoppers in the forests of Liberty Grove. A great many Swedes came over from Marinette to fill this want. As land was very cheap many of them bought land and stayed to become substantial farmers. Among these were Charles Apple, Sr., with his sons. Axel, Charles and Sander, August Kellstrom, Fred Dahlstrom, Sven Hilander, Henry Larson, Louis Peterson and John Evenson. There were, however, scores of others who came only to cut wood and having no faith in farming, faded away to other slashings. They were big, strapping fellows, chopping wood from fall to fall, often making four cords per day, drinking, fighting and eating what they liked. Among them was in particular a Swedish giant by the name of John A. Johnson, but commonly known as Long John. He is famous as the champion woodchopper of the region but is equally famous for his tremendous appetite. James Hanson, a storekeeper of Sister Bay, had a case containing five dozen eggs standing on his counter. To test Long John's appetite he wagered $5 that Long John could not eat them up in one meal. Long John accepted the wager on condition that he be allowed a pint of whiskey. This was granted. Long John consumed the entire sixty eggs, drank his whiskey and then went home and ate a loaf of bread and a pan of milk.
Those rough and ready days, however, in due time came to an end. In 1877 a few Swedish families organized a Baptist congregation which little by little grew until it supplanted all other interests in the community. This congregation is now one of the most energetic churches in the county. Largely through its influence saloons have been banished from Liberty Grove and Sister Bay. Under its efficient leadership the young and old for miles around gather in church for moral uplift and new ideas. The healthy atmosphere of the church and the splendid singing, characteristic of Swedish voices, make it one of the most interesting places in the county to visit. Besides the Baptist Church there is also in the same vicinity a Lutheran Church and a Moravian Church, chiefly made up of Swedish membership. In the Village of Sister Bay there is a Catholic Church. The history of these churches is given elsewhere.
North of Sister Bay about a mile, at a place now known as Liberty Park, quite a summer resort colony has sprung up. The founder of this was Abraham Carlson, a son of Gustav Carlson, who opened a hotel about 1900. For many years it was considered a foolish venture to open a summer hotel so far from any village center. However, while the Village of Sister Bay is still waiting for its first summer resorter, there are now at Liberty Park three large summer hotels and a number of cottages.
ELLISON BAY AND BEYOND
Far back in 1854 there was one day in the spring great activity on Door Bluff. A party of Green Bay promoters had visited the place the year before and believing they had discovered evidence of a rich marble deposit they had now returned with many men to open a marble quarry. A large pier was built, a village was laid out on top of the bluff and soon was heard the lively blasts of powder used in quarrying the stone. The marble proved, however, to be in too thin layers to make quarrying profitable and after a couple of years the quarry was abandoned. Before the place was entirely deserted, however, something occurred which for a long time made Door Bluff famous among mariners and in newspapers.
About a hundred years ago there was on the face of this or Table Bluff an Indian painting, undoubtedly made to commemorate the disaster which gave rise to the name of Death's Door. Samuel C. Stambaugh mentions it in 1831. He writes, "On the face of the rocks fifteen or twenty feet above the surface of the water, there are figures of Indians and canoes painted Indian fashion, which must have been done with much difficulty, and by the help of scaling ladders, during a dead calm on the lake."2 [See his Report on Wisconsin Territory, printed Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XV, page 424.]
It is probable that in 1856 these tracings were still partly visible or at least remembered. At any rate there was a man by the name of Charles Schulten who at that time lived in one of the houses on top of the bluff. He had a small vessel which he used in trading among the fishermen and in which he carried a few supplies needed by them. Having on hand some red paint and having some ability in wielding the brush he determined to do what he could to preserve an ancient tradition. Accordingly he devoted part of his idle hours in painting a thrilling scene of considerable magnitude. It represented a violent storm on the water. In the midst of it was a fleet of canoes filled with men whose costume indicated that they were Indians. Some of the canoes had capsized and left their occupants struggling in the water. Others had reached a rocky shore up which they were clambering only to be killed by other Indians evidently a hostile force, who clinging to the rocks and bushes with their tomahawks, dispatched the Indians in the water as fast as they reached the shore. Roughly executed but with bold strokes and a free fancy it soon attracted the attention of the seafarers. Having some resemblance to the famous pictured rock of Lake Superior it was supposed to have had the same origin and for many years the pictured rocks of Door Bluff were viewed and described with great interest.
The Sturgeon Bay Advocate as late as May 20, 1886, states that there were still some traces of the painting left at that time.
The waters of "the Door" bordering on the northern part of Liberty Grove have from time immemorial been a favorite fishing place. Many early fishermen have therefore, no doubt, had their homes in this part of Liberty Grove. The earliest of which we have any record is Allen Bradley, who in the early '50s had a home at Gills Rock. It is very likely he was the first permanent settler in the town. An account of him is given in a separate chapter. The next one of whom there is any knowledge was a Norwegian who at the time of the Civil war lived on top of the hill east of Gills Rock. His name was Avle Simonson and he had previously been a member of the early stone quarry colony that had a village on Door Bluff. He is remembered by few, however, as he came to a tragic end in 1877, when the town was still sparsely settled.
One morning in February, 1877, Avle Simonson and his son, Alfred, sailed from Ellison Bay in their fishing boat with a passenger for Detroit Harbor. The passenger was Miss Dora Higgins (later Mrs. Albert Kalmbach) who was going to Washington Island to teach school. They arrived at Detroit Harbor about noon and as the wind was fair they started immediately for their home. They had not gone far, however, before a blinding snowstorm out of the northwest descended upon them, shutting out all vision except immediately around the boat. Huge ice floes were encountered barring their progress, making it necessary for them to lower the sail and by help of the bars to make detours to the right and left. Sometimes open lanes of water were found, promising an exit, only to prove a blind pocket in which their boat was in danger of being crushed.
So often had they turned and twisted in the blinding snow storm that they no longer knew in which direction they were going. They became dizzy and the storm seemed to buffet them from every quarter of the compass. Finally after hours of struggling with their ice-laden boat they could no longer struggle with the oars but pulled them in and huddled up to withstand, if possible, the bitter cold of the night that was descending. Keenly they stared out through the gloom of the storm and the night, hoping to see a headland or hear the surge of the sea upon the beach. Nothing was seen, however, but the snowflakes driven slantwise into the choppy sea. And while they drifted and stared the numbness of death gradually crept upward and inward upon the two fishermen until it changed the keen look of their eyes turned landward into a glassy stare.
Their friends in Ellison Bay waited in vain for the return of the fishermen. The wind which had been from the northeast had changed to the northwest but was still favorable for a speedy return providing no obstacles were encountered. In "the Door," however, where the drifting ice floes from many directions met to jostle each other, no man could rely on the wind or the ice for a safe return. Several days went by and the two fishermen were finally given up as lost.
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About the middle of the following March the ice began to break up and was driven southward into Lake Michigan close to shore. One day Wm. Sanderson, the lightkeeper of Cana Island, chanced to look out and saw a boat drifting by imbedded in the ice. In the boat sat two men and their positions were so natural that the lightkeeper at first thought they were alive. As the boat approached nearer he saw that they did not move and soon he realized that the two mariners were both dead. In the stern sat an old man with his arms folded, slightly bent forward, resting them upon his knees. His face, with the expression of one straining every nerve to see or hear something, was turned toward the shore. On his cap was some frozen snow, and from his gray hair and beard hung icicles. The young man, like his father, had his arms folded, looking directly before him out of glassy eyes, which had the same expression. They had abandoned the oars, but not hope. The bodies drifted by and were never found nor was the boat again heard of.
Such has been the experience of many a man in "Death's Door." Valiantly but vainly he has struggled against the wind, the current and the ice until finally he has been carried a captive into Lake Michigan there to be engulfed.
The chief factor in the promotion of the settlement of the northern part of Liberty Grove was a Dane by the name of John Ellison/(Eliasen). After him is named Ellison Bay. He came to Ephraim in 1854 and was for many years a member of the Ephraim community. At Ephraim he owned an exceedingly poor and stony forty of land and made but little progress. By 1870, however, he must have accumulated some means as we then find him at Ellison Bay preparing to build a large pier and systematically advertising in the newspapers for settlers.
The pier was built in 1872 and also a store. One or both of these must have been profitable as Ellison in 1878 was the owner of 8,000 acres of land.
Among the settlers who came to Ellison Bay as a result of his advertising were a number of Norwegian woodchoppers from Ephraim. These were Hans and Ole Tostenson, Martin Olson and Lars Larson. These bought land in the vicinity of Ellison Bay in the early '70s. Hans Tostenson soon opened a store and built a pier for shipping wood at Gills Rock. Here he became a person of great importance and was called the "King of Gills Rock." Andrew Weborg, another Norwegian who had bought out Allen Bradley's claim in 1874, was another man of influence at Gills Rock. This harbor, formerly known as Hedgehog Harbor, received its later name in honor of Elias Gill, a timber operator who also had a pier there and about thirteen hundred acres of land. At Newport was another pier, store, mill and postoffice. Hans Johnson and Peter Knudson, both of Danish extraction opened and operated this business. The Newport pier was built in 1879 and in 1882 a postoffice was established there.
At Garrett Bay another pier for shipping timber, with its accompanying store were built in 1882 by Andrew Nelson, another Dane. He shipped about 3,000 cords of wood annually and personally owned about 600 acres of land. In 1887 he also opened a stone quarry. Andrew Nelson was a prominent factor in town politics and for many years was register of deeds. He died in 1909 while holding this office. His widow has now (in 1916) built a pleasant summer hotel at Garrett Bay.
At Rowleys Bay, Daniel H. Rice started to get out cedar about 1857. He gave up the business soon which was later taken up by Osborne, Coxwell & Co. from Racine. They shipped a large amount of timber until 1876 when the lands, about four thousand acres, were bought by S. A. Rogers. He built a large mill there which is still in operation and is one of the oldest mills in the county.
Rowleys Bay, or rather Mink River, a sluggish stream emptying into it, bears evidence of haying been a favorite camping place for Indians. Many relics and evidences of village sites have been found there. When D. H. Rice settled there in 1857 he found a large cross planted near the path which led across the peninsula at this point and he reported that the Indians showed adoration for the cross. This cross may signify that here had been a chapel established by the early French Jesuits or it may be the survival of a memento to mark the visit of a Jesuit missionary.
Further facts of Rowleys Bay's interesting history are given in another chapter.
North Bay was another great shipping point in early days. As early as 1870 a postoffice was established there with J. L. Ramsay as postmaster. North Bay did a large business for many years and its enterprising promoters hoped to make it the business center of Northern Door County. In 1880 Richard Erwin & Co. owned 5,000 acres of land there and systematically advertised for settlers. Wm. Marshall was their manager. Now he is the only remnant of the business that once made this picturesque harbor famous in marine circles.
Due to its long shore line which made all tracts of land easily accessible. Liberty Grove was a famous place for woodchoppers and cedar workers. In 1882 there were no less than thirteen piers in the town all actively shipping timber products. The gross income from this business in that year was $250,000. Commission and freight took the greater part of this income but a little was left for the woodchoppers who toiled in the timber in winter and hoed potatoes in summer. Now the timber is practically all shipped and Liberty Grove is an excellent farming town.
An interesting fact is the discrimination which used to be shown against Liberty Grove by the county board when equalizing taxes. For instance, the assessment of Liberty Grove's real estate in 1874 was fixed by the county board at $92,709 against Brussels $42,390 and Sturgeon Bay (including the city) at $68,675. The entire county was assessed at only $702,415 for its real estate. Yet Liberty Grove in that year had the smallest population of any town in the county, having only one-third as many people as Brussels which had been largely settled for almost twenty years.
This soak-it-to-Liberty Grove attitude continued for many years. It originated in the '60s when the county's affairs were in the hands of three commissioners who did as they pleased. In 1867 Liberty Grove, having no representative on the county board, was assessed $83,481 which was twice as much as Sturgeon Bay, four times as much as Brussels and one-sixth of the entire county's assessment. In 1869 its assessment was $102,218, which was three times the assessment of Brussels, the oldest farming town in the county. In 1870 the commission form of government was discontinued and each town had a representative on the board. Byron Aslagson represented Liberty Grove and succeeded in getting the assessment materially reduced. It was still higher, however, than any town in the county with the exception of Sturgeon Bay. In 1871 Aslagson was succeeded by M. Kirsch and Liberty Grove's assessment shot up again. It continued near the head of the list, frequently even overtopping Sturgeon Bay for a great many years. For further information on this discrimination see the chapter on "Assessed Valuations of Door County Towns."
Liberty Grove is a very religious town, having no less than eight churches and congregations and four resident pastors. A fifth minister and a ninth congregation, a German Moravian Church known as Manasseh, until recent years was to be found two miles east of Ephraim. However, the church membership dwindled, the pastor moved away and the church was torn down to help in building the large Scandinavian Moravian Church at Appleport. The new graded school of District One now marks the site of Door County's Manasseh.
THE GIANT OF GILLS ROCK
At the extreme northern end of Door County a wide bay opens into the peninsula from the north. The eastern side of the bay is known as Gills Rock—so named after Elias Gill, who in the early '70s owned about one thousand three hundred acres of land in the vicinity with warehouse, fishing boats, pier, etc. The name of Gills Rock is a comparatively recent innovation. On old maps and among old settlers it is known as Hedgehog Harbor.
There was a man on Rock Island by the name of George Lovejoy. He had been a sergeant in the United States army and settled on Rock Island in 1836. Lovejoy was a famous hunter in many parts of Northeastern Wisconsin and had a remarkable faculty for almost anything he undertook. It was said he almost broke up the settlement on Rock Island by the bewitching, homesick melodies of old time songs he drew from his violin. He was also a master ventriloquist. Sometimes he would go out on the ice where an Indian was fishing and make the trout talk back to its captor in the most approved Chippewa dialect, to the poor Indian's terrorized amazement.
At an early date Lovejoy built a small sail vessel—said to be the first vessel built in Door County. One fall at the approach of winter his vessel was thrown on the beach near the present Gills Rock Pier. Next spring when he returned to launch her he found her so high above the water that he had to give it up. Later he returned with a companion by the name of Allen Bradley—a tremendously strong man—and with his help the boat was launched. During the spring and summer the porcupines had gnawed so many holes in her, however, that they had much difficulty in making her float.
When Lovejoy was ready to leave he offered to pay Bradley for his help. But Bradley would not accept anything. "I like this Hedgehog Harbor of yours so much," he said, "it is the pleasantest place I have found in the West, so I am going to build me a home here. Since you brought me here I will take nothing for my work." Allen Bradley then built a shanty just back of where the present pier stands, and in 1856 became the first settler in the vicinity of Hedgehog Harbor by which name it was afterward known.
Allen Bradley later became one of the epic characters of Door County. He was a good-natured, square dealing person, more than six feet tall but he was so broad that he rather looked stocky than tall. He measured more than four feet around the chest, he had hands as broad as shovels and was obliged to wear moccasins because no shoes could be bought that were big enough. All the old settlers in the northern part of the county speak of "Old Bradley, the timber chap, who lived like an Indian and could cut seven cords of body maple in a day." In those days crosscut saws had not yet come into use and the big maple trees were all felled and cut up into cordwood with axes only. Bradley had a homemade affair as heavy as a maul and with his strength behind it, chips a pound apiece would fly at every stroke.
Bradley did not spend much time cutting cordwood, however. He was a leisurely fellow, hunting and fishing and tapping his maple trees. Money was not much needed except for the annual purchase of flour and knick knacks for the family. The deer that bounded through the timber gave him abundant food and the best of clothing. Maple sugar for his flap-jacks in the morning, a bear-steak for dinner, a whitefish for supper—furnished a menu that did not cost him 5 cents a day and which the choicest epicure of the metropolis could not surpass in quality. Life was easy.
This was before the days of keen eyed assessors, ready to fine every man who is foresighted enough to stack up a good woodpile in his back yard. It was before the state had inaugurated its present expensive system of making a public pet out of wild game—with game wardens prowling around in every thicket—for the purpose of providing an annual holiday for the leisure class. It was before county nurses were flying about with a flashlight seeking for a hollow tooth. Governmental interference had not yet become the public nuisance it now is. Life was simple.
Many stories are told of Allen Bradley's incredible strength. He had a twenty-four foot pound boat and he and his son were wont to pull this up on shore by taking hold one on each side. Once at Washington Harbor six men were vainly struggling to lift a big timber into place on the crib they were building. Bradley looked at them for a while and then when they sat down gasping after their ineffectual struggle, he lifted the log alone and placed it in position.
In Escanaba he and another strong man by the name of Call once took a job of stacking a cargo of salt barrels. The barrels weighed 300 pounds apiece and they were to be stacked in rows on the pier three tiers high. It was slow work to roll the barrels along and then together lift them up in place. The captain therefore, knowing what bears he had for longshoremen, arranged for a wager to see which of the two could keep it up longest to handle the barrels singly. Each man picked up his barrel by the chime, lifted it breast high and put it up. Call kept on till 3 o'clock when he quit the job but Bradley nonchalantly swung the barrels into place until the cargo was disposed of.
A schooner was once wrecked on Hanover Shoal. Allen Bradley took the job of salvaging the rigging. He cleaned her up alone from keel to truck including a 1,000 pound anchor which he loaded into his boat and carried ashore in Fish Creek.
Once, when living on Washington Island, he was in Ranney's store. W. P. Ranney to test his strength and provide some entertainment for the crowd around the store told Bradley that he would give him a barrel of flour providing he could carry it home. Without a word Allen Bradley picked up the barrel weighing 415 pounds and carried it home three miles without resting, followed by a respectful and admiring crowd.
He had a long thick beard and it was common amusement for some of his friends to seize this and hang suspended, whereupon Bradley would walk around the room seemingly unmindful of the burden imposed upon his chin. As the accomplishment of this feat depended on the muscles of the jaw many doubted his ability to do this. In Green Bay a spirited wager was once made that he could not carry an ordinary man across the room in this manner. Bradley picked out Ransom Call, the heaviest man in the room, weighing 250 pounds, and asked him to grasp his beard. This was done and Bradley carried him with ease across the room. Call falling down exhausted at the end of the journey.
When the Civil war broke out he enlisted and carried his musket valiantly through many a battle. Once in a skirmish he became separated from the rest of his company and he was taken prisoner by the Confederates. His musket was taken from him and two soldiers were told off to conduct the prisoner to the rear, while the others were ordered off on another charge. No sooner did Bradley find himself alone with his two guards than he suddenly seized them by the neck with a grip of steel in either hand, swung them off their feet, and carried them like two squirming kittens back behind the Federal lines.
When the war was over and there was a general rush on the pension bureau, Allen Bradley did not join in the stampede. His strength was still intact and his sturdy independence as vigorous as ever. But after a dozen years or so old age came on. That red blood which had flowed so freely through his splendid body became chilled with his declining days and could no longer feed his massive frame. Those wonerful muscles, more tense than steel springs, became powerless and painful with rheumatism. Finally he became an object of charity and for five years; stayed at the home of Capt. John Noyes who gave him the best care. Captain; Noyes on his own behalf applied for a pension but the lords of Washington have; many preoccupations. Years went by and no pension came. Finally Joseph Harris and Senator Sawyer were interested in the matter and a wretched pittance of $4 per month was obtained. After interminable wire pullings this amount was gradually increased.
Not until he lay upon his death bed did the belated pension come.
Allen Bradley was born August 11, 1818. He came from Dunkirk, N. Y., to North Bay to cut cedar in 1855 but preferred to fish and hunt. He was almost impervious to cold, on the coldest days in winter wearing only a pair of trousers and one or two shirts. He was a striking example of the truth of the old proverb that "the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong." Although he had unusual opportunities and the wonderful strength more than necessary to develop them, he never held legal title to a foot of land and finally received a pauper's burial in the potters field. He died in Sturgeon Bay February 11, 1885.
THE RISE AND FALL OF ROWLEYS BAY
About a thousand miles from New York and almost as far from a railroad lies Rowleys Bay. It is the last little cove of Lake Michigan to the northward dipping deep into a land of reeds and rushes, of mink and muskrat, of marshmallows and odorous balsams. At the head of the bay is a sluggish lagoon, masquerading under the name of Mink River. Here the pickerel in June are reckless and the black bass bite with abandon. Aside from these annual piscatorial activities Rowleys Bay is as quiet and secluded as the North Pole—as indolent as the sunrise of a June morning.
But the name of Rowleys Bay has not always been the synonym of peace and pickerel. There was a time when the commercial possibilities of Rowleys Bay were eagerly discussed from Chicago to Tacoma, and glowing lithographs eloquently describing financial investments at Rowleys Bay, possible and impossible, were scattered by the tens of thousands. But we are anticipating.
Away back in the early morning of Door County's history there was a man by the name of Peter Rowley. He was one of that eccentric tribe of western pioneers who feel themselves crowded to suffocation if they have a neighbor within a Say's journey. In 1835 he became oppressed by the imaginary congestion of the little frontier post at Fort Howard. He packed his possessions into a boat and fled far to the northward past an uninhabited wilderness. Fifty miles away he came to Sturgeon Bay, as quiet and undisturbed as the morning after creation. Here at the mouth of the bay on the west side, where now stands Cabot's Lodge, he pitched his tent, thinking he had left civilization behind forever. 1 [Peter Rowley entered a tract of 50 acres, described as lot 1, section 23, town 28, range 25, later known as Sherwoods Point or Idlewild, on Nov. 5, 1838, being one of the earliest land entries within the limits of Door County.]
But an evil fate pursued him. After a few years other eccentric pioneers followed his trail and settled in secluded coves not many miles away. On a real clear day he could see the smoke from their cabin chimneys rise above the treetops of the distant horizon. This was intolerable. Once more he fled from congestion.
He followed the shore of Door County to its extreme northern point. Not a living soul of white men had settled north of him on the peninsula and Peter Rowley grew hopeful. Then as his boat was bobbing on the waves of Death's Door passage his keen old eyes discerned the boat of a lonesome fisherman who lived at Washington Harbor, fifteen miles away. Sadly he rounded the point into Lake Michigan.
Where should he go? To the south of him lay Chicago and the pioneer camps of Milwaukee and Sheboygan. Restless fellows would soon push up the shore. In that direction lay no hope of peace. To the north was that impertinent fisherman of Washington Harbor. Where should he go?
Then he discovered Rowleys Bay. He examined it carefully and believed he had discovered an oasis in the desert of civilization. Swamps to the north of him, swamps to the south of him, the great lake in front of him—here surely was a spot where he might live and die in peace. Contentedly he reared his cabin on the shore and ate his venison and his fish. In times of extreme need he made up a raft of logs from the timber on the Government land around him. In this he was assisted by two women who lived with him. Whether they were his wives, sisters or mothers-in-law is not known. As far as we know he lived and died contentedly, his name preserved to posterity as the discoverer of Rowleys Bay.
Strictly speaking, Rowleys Bay was not discovered by Peter Rowley. A few years before he began to fish in Mink River some other white men camped there for several weeks and ate of its fish until they loathed the sight of it. The story of this adventure is as follows:
In 1834 Northern Door County was surveyed by a surveyor named John Brink and his assistants. One time in the fall of that year he found that provisions were running short and a messenger by the name of James McCabe was dispatched to Hamilton Arndt's trading post at Green Bay for supplies. Mounted on a trusty pony, named Polly, the mesenger started off with the instructions that he was to join Brink and his men at a certain place near Death's Door in three weeks.
The trip to the Indian trader's was made without incident, but on his return, when not far from Death's Door, he was taken prisoner by a band of Indians, who thought he was a deserter from the army. McCabe was about one hundred yards from the pack horse at the time, having stopped in a grove to camp over night, and when the Indians seized him they did not know that he had a horse with him and they would not, or rather could not, let him explain, as he did not understand their dialect.
The Indians were sometimes called upon to assist the soldiers in running down deserters, and when they were of any assistance they were always supplied with a little whiskey for their services, and with the prospect in view of getting some "firewater" for the return of McCabe to the Government fort they watched him carefully. The more he remonstrated the more the Indians imagined he was a deserter.
McCabe, therefore, not knowing but what the red men intended to burn him at a stake, was compelled to go with the Indians while Polly, with the pack of provisions, was left grazing in the little grove.
"Those fool Injuns actually made McCabe carry a canoe five miles across the peninsula," said Mr. Brink when telling the story, "and he was taken to Hamilton Arndt's headquarters, where the Injun trader had some difficulty in making the varmints believe that McCabe was not a deserter from the army.
"All this time, we, of course, were waiting for the packman at the place appointed and were without anything to eat, having waited two days, and lived during that time on nothing but hope. Still no packman, and we had no firearms to kill game, even if any could have been found. At the expiration of two days you can imagine that we were pretty hungry. We concluded to get something to eat when the third day rolled around, and we moved on toward the lake and discovered a little creek running into the big body of water.2 [This stream was no doubt Mink River which was famous for its abundance of fish.]
"As luck would have it the stream was full of fish, and we had no trouble in catching all the big fellows we wanted. There was one man in our party who was so hungry that he didn't even wait to cook the fish. He just scraped off the scales and chewed the stuff up almost before the finny creature was dead.
"For just eleven days we lived on nothing but roasted fish. It was fish for breakfast, fish for dinner and fish for supper, and you can better believe we were sick of fish before we got through with our experience. We had no salt or anything to flavor the stuff with; it was simply roast fish day after day. It sickened me of fish and I haven't eaten any since. It kept life in us however. When relief did come it came unexpectedly.
"The twelfth day that we arose to begin the day with a fish breakfast, we heard the tinkling of a bell, and on the crest of a little hill we saw old Polly. As soon as she discovered us she came galloping up, neighing as if overjoyed to see us. She was so pleased to see us that she actually laughed. I could see her eyes blaze with delight, and as she rubbed her nose against my shoulder she appeared to be brimful of happiness.
"The pack containing the pork and beans and flour was still strapped to her back, and you can wager all you have got that we had a good square meal that day. As far as we could learn Polly had gone back to the place from where McCabe had started with her, and not finding us there had wandered around the country following our trail, and finally discovered us.
"The next day McCabe appeared, having been released as soon as the Indian trader explained matters to his captors. He expected to find a rather sickly looking lot of men, and if he didn't find what he thought he would he certainly did a fishy crowd, for we were covered with scales and smelled like the inside of a whale."
The history of Rowleys Bay for the next thirty or forty years is a blank as far as human interest is concerned. Gradually the lumber companies found their way thither. Camps were built where the men sat in their bunks and swapped stories of the woods. A pier was built and huge cargoes of telegraph poles, ties and cordwood, were shipped. The work of destruction pursued the even tenor of its way.
In 1876 S. A. Rogers arrived from New York. He had a farm in Illinois which through the medium of a real estate agent he traded off for a vast acreage of land and water at Rowleys Bay. Unfortunately the land and the water were mixed together after a somewhat haphazard formula, constituting a 4,000 acre tract of swamp lands covered with a pretty good stand of cedar. Being a man of energy Mr. Rogers built a large sawmill which sometimes scaled a run of seven or eight million feet of sawed lumber in a season. He built a commodious pier along which nearly always lay a vessel or two loading. He also built a store and other buildings for the accommodation of the growing business of the place.
All this business centered on the cedars which were big enough to cut. But there were millions of cedars too small even to make a fence post. Of what use were they? Much cogitation on this subject followed.
About 1885 a man was found who solved this puzzle. This was J. H. Matthews of Milwaukee who understood the process of making cedar oil. He built a factory on the northeast side of Rowleys Bay where he employed about twenty-five men. Cedar twigs were cut and placed in a tank or retort. The dimensions of this retort were 4 by 22 by 8 feet, the top being convex. The steam from this retort was taken up into a four-inch pipe and cooled and conducted through a succession of pipes of decreasing diameters placed zig zag fashion in the bed of a small creek fed by cold spring water. After the steam had meandered through these cold pipes for a distance of about two hundred feet it trickled into a receiving tank in the shape of limpid oil which sold at $8 per gallon. For two years the business was pushed and paid very well.
Mr. Matthews was a man of enterprise and ambition. He reasoned that if good money could be made out of waste timber products in such an inaccessible place as Rowleys Bay, much more could be made if the business was enlarged and established in a more central place. Accordingly he pulled up his cooling pipes and moved to Marshfield where he undertook to make wood alcohol. He promptly failed in business and with this his part in the history of Door County is finished.
About 1892 Mr. Rogers found an opportunity of trading off several hundred acres of his swampy estate for a farm in Missouri. Through another trade this tract of swamp land was transferred to a Mr. Ditlef C. Hanson of Tacoma, Wash. In the course of time Mr. Hanson came to inspect his purchase.
He found the land lay too low for farming, too high for fishing. The timber was all gone. It was too inaccessible for a frog preserve and muck was drug on the market. What was it good for?
Mr. Hanson had one great ambition in life. He had heard of other men laying out a townsite, waxing rich by the sale of building lots and famous by having the town named after them. He reasoned that since his Rowleys Bay possession was fit for nothing else, if it was not created in vain it must be intended for a townsite. True, it was wet, but Mr. Hanson being a man of reading recalled that a wet foundation was no barrier to the most shining successes in city building. Chicago was built in a marsh. Venice was built in a lagoon and Shanghai was originally a frog pond. A townsite then it was to be forever to immortalize its founder— Ditlef C. Hanson! He debated whether to call it Ditlef's Hope or Hansonburg, but finally rejected both as lacking in euphony. Instead he called it Tacoma Beach as being both resonant and reminiscent of the city of his home. This important point being settled in haste he hied him to a printer.
Townsite lithographs are wonderful things. In 1836, long before there was a single settler in Kewaunee County, a townsite was platted about where the City of Kewaunee now stands and large fortunes were made and lost by means of an eloquent lithograph. A nomadic fur-trader had shortly before that time picked up something in the swamp at the mouth of Kewaunee River which his imagination had transmitted into gold. Rumor reached the ears of some enterprising promoters who proceeded to lay out a townsite. Not a settler at that time lived within thirty miles of the place but that did not prevent the project from becoming a great transient success. A number of men of national fame became interested, among them being such men as John Jacob Astor, Governor Doty, Governor Beals, Judge Morgan L. Martin, Hon. Sanford E. Church, General Ruggles, Colonel Crocker and ex-Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Salmon P. Chase. For a while there was much debate in the minds of great financiers whether to invest in Chicago or Kewaunee real estate. In April, 1836, a forty-acre tract in the swamp was sold to Governor Doty for $15,000. Judge Martin had entered a tract of eighty acres in the swamp from the government. This he sold within a few days to his distinguished colleague, Chief Justice Chase, for $38,000.00. These and other lands were subdivided into lots and on September 2, 1836, a grand auction was held in Chicago. There was a great rush for the lots, some selling as high as a thousand dollars, and the promoters reaped barrels of money. For a while there was much slushing around in top boots in the Kewaunee swamp in search for gold. Nothing was found, the investors went sadly away, and the land reverted into an untaxed and unsettled wilderness for the next thirty years.
Our Ditlef C. Hanson had no such rosy dreams of success. He did not know any governors or Supreme Court Justices. But he did his best with the material at hand. He got out a stock of splendid lithographs. These showed a townsite plat more than a mile long with wide streets and curving avenues. No such common names as Pike street or Billings avenue were here permitted. They were all sonorous street names, reminiscent of the glory of the Republic, like Arlington avenue, Columbia street, Potomac Boulevard, etc. Along the shore a beautiful park was shown enlivened by smart carriages and gay children dashing around on roller skates. Some streets were marked with street car lines and certain corners were marked as occupied by a public library, postoffice, sanitarium, bank or other institution of might. Even sluggish old Mink River as if taking new life by this activity was pictured as a dashing stream, leaping over boulders and plunging at last into the lake by means of an inspiring waterfall. All in all it was the most imposing document ever published setting forth the charms of Door County.
Armed with these lithographs Mr. Hanson returned to Tacoma and opened the campaign. He showed them to friends and foes who were duly impressed and sometimes bought. He discovered, however, that the vastness of the American continent lying between Tacoma and Tacoma Beach deterred many who would otherwise eagerly have invested. Because of this and because, like Moses, he was slow of speech though of great resource, he determined to go to Chicago and sell out. He went to Chicago where he met a man by the name of Lowenstein or Rosencrans. To him he sold his entire stock of lithographs with the townsite thrown in.
Mr. Lowenstein or Rosencrans was enthusiastic about his purchase. He went out into the highways and byways of the city and explained the lithographs to all who would listen. He showed them how they could live happily there at Tacoma Beach, or, if they would not, how they could die, secure in the faith that their money was well invested and their widows would bless their memory. His arguments were irrefutable. In due course of time many of these investors came to view the paradise of their purchase. Among them was a semi-invalid who came with a full equipment of paint and pots and brushes. He had taken the job of painting the cottages of the new city. Some went as far as Sturgeon Bay, others went on to Fish Creek and Sister Bay, while still others persisted in pushing on to Rowleys Bay, before they were disillusioned. Alas, they each and all discovered that they had forgotten the most important part of their equipment for viewing the new city - top boots!
We will not linger over the gnashing of teeth or the bitter recriminations heaped upon old Lowenstein or Rosencrans. The lots were sold and the lithographs used up, so he merely shrugged his shoulders and turned his thoughts to other things. So also, after a while, did the dupes. Their money was gone so they wasted no more in paying taxes on their submerged lots and Lakeside boulevard. It remained now only for a long suffering county board to unravel the tangle. Finally the "streets" were vacated and the land sold for taxes. The affair cost the county about five thousand dollars.
After eight years flight in financial circles Rowleys Bay returned once more to its undisturbed seclusion. In the parks of the new city the frogs croak by day and the crickets chirp by night. Even frisky old Mink River has ceased from its gambols and settled into its sluggish solitude where the pickerel in June are reckless and the black bass bite with abandon.
Baileys Harbor enjoys the distinction of being the first place in Door County that was selected for a village site. Not only this, but it was officially selected as the county seat several years before Door County's actual organization was effected. The genesis of this early Baileys Harbor boom is as follows:
On a windy afternoon about seventy years ago a Captain Bailey was piloting his storm tossed vessel back to Milwaukee. He had been to Buffalo with wheat and was now returning with a lighter but more troublesome cargo of immigrants bound for the West. After he had passed the Straits of Mackinac and turned southward a fresh northeast wind began to blow which soon developed into a fierce gale. He was now skirting the shore of Door County and was thinking with gloomy misgivings of the 200 mile journey up the lake to Milwaukee without a harbor or an island or a lighthouse to ease him on his way. His topheavy schooner almost stripped of canvas was rolling about in the heavy sea in a fashion which held but little hope for her safety in the approaching night. Just as the wailing of the frightened immigrants was threatening to drive the worthy captain frantic he saw a large harbor opening into the land on the west. He did not know whether the water was deep enough for his boat or how the passage was into it as his faulty charts said but little of any harbor at this point. However, fearing sure shipwreck if he continued he determined to take a chance on the harbor and turned in. He found the passage was broad, deep and easy and in a few minutes his vessel lay snugly anchored under a protecting wing of pine that shut out all evidence of the storm that raged outside.
As the storm continued several days the captain had time to explore his surroundings. He found the harbor was deep and roomy while the shores were studded with a splendid growth of mixed timber. Back from the shore a short distance he found a ledge of fine building stone. Up among these crags grew the most luscious raspberries which were eagerly picked by immigrants weary of a diet of salt pork. No human occupants were found.
Elated with his discovery Captain Bailey took with him several cords of building stone and firewood and proceeded on his way to Milwaukee. Here he gave such an enthusiastic account of the harbor he had discovered that among other captains of the line "Baileys Harbor" at once became a famous place. The owner of the line, Mr. Alanson Sweet, also became very much interested in the samples of stone and wood that Captain Bailey had brought with him. Mr. Sweet was doing an extensive business in the forwarding and commission business and owned about a dozen large vessels. These plied between Milwaukee and Buffalo. On the way down there were always large cargoes of grain to be carried but on the way up the freight was scant and uncertain, consisting chiefly of salt and immigrants. In Captain Bailey's discovery he saw a chance to augment his profits by adding freight to his return trips. Building stone, cordwood and lumber were in great demand in Milwaukee and at "Baileys Harbor" they were all easily accessible. In the summer of 1849 he therefore purchased lots 3 and 4, section 20, containing about 125 acres. These with lots 1 and 2 in the same section include the present Village of Baileys Harbor. Lots 1 and 2 were entered by Joel Carrington from Peshtigo in September, 1849, and the patents to lots 3 and 4 were issued to Wm. S. Trowbridge who entered them May 29, 1850. There is therefore some doubt as to Sweet's title.
In the summer of 1849 he sent a crew of men under Solomon Beery up to build a pier and open a stone quarry. During the following winter the pier was built, being the first one built in Door County. The crew of men also cut and banked 2,500 cords of wood which were shipped to Milwaukee in the summer of 1850. Six comfortable log houses were also put up in the vicinity of where now stands Branns Store and a road was cut across the peninsula from the harbor to the Green Bay shore opposite Hat Island. This was the first road cut in Door County.
Mr. Sweet had great hopes of his colony at Baileys Harbor. He began negotiations at once with the Federal Government to secure a lighthouse for the harbor. In this he was successful and in 1851 he built a lighthouse under contract from the Government on the point at the east side of the bay. This lighthouse was in use until 1868 when the present range lights were built to take its place. He also got an act passed by the State Legislature setting off Door County as a separate county with its present boundaries. He also persuaded the lawmakers of Madison to designate his own little settlement at the harbor as the official county seat. To accomplish this he pointed out that this site had the best harbor —not only in Door County, but along the entire west shore of Lake Michigan and that it was therefore bound to become a place of great commercial importance. In contrast to this he claimed that all the western shore of Door County was made up of steep, unapproachable cliffs affording no natural shelter for shipping. He also showed that the proposed site for the county seat was half way between the northern and southern extremities of the county and therefore most centrally located. Finally, Baileys Harbor was the only village or claimant for the county seat in the entire county. All of this was more than enough for the worthy legislators, none of which ever expected to see the new county. The county seat was therefore established at Baileys Harbor but under another name. Mr. Sweet felt that Baileys Harbor—named after one of his own happy-go-lucky captains— was not sufficiently sonorous to fit the county seat. As the principal characteristic of the place to him seemed to be stone and rocks he was reminded of the name of Gibraltar, the great rock of the Mediterranean. He therefore suggested this name which was adopted as the official name of Door County's capital. This new name did not, however, stick with the people as did the old name of Baileys Harbor which continued to be used.
If Mr. Sweet had continued prosperously in the shipping business it is probable that Baileys Harbor would to this day have been the county seat, a little city of importance perhaps overshadowing Sturgeon Bay. However, for reason unknown to me, Mr. Sweet shortly afterward withdrew his connections from Baileys Harbor. His mill burned down, his pier went to ruin, his cottages crumbled into decay, and the hopeful county seat of Door County expired in its infancy. However, on the official records of the state it continued as the county seat until 1857 when the energetic hustlers of Sturgeon Bay took the necessary steps to have the county seat removed to the latter village. Notices were posted in Baileys Harbor and elsewhere, chiefly inspected by chipmunks, stating that an election would be held to learn the wish of the people as to the location of the county seat. A cigar box was then carried around to the scattered fishermen and few dozen farmers inviting them to vote for the rising metropolis, Sturgeon Bay, which they obligingly did.
While the county seat went south its name went north. In December, 1857, the Town of Gibraltar, as yet nameless, was set off, embracing all of the present Liberty Grove, Gibraltar, Egg Harbor, Baileys Harbor and Jacksonport. The following spring the first town meeting was held in Asa Thorp's house at Fish Creek. Solomon Beery proposed that the town adopt as its name the official name of the county seat, Gibraltar, which lay within its borders as befitting the bold precipitous cliffs that overshadowed them.. This was done. When therefore Baileys Harbor in 1861 was set aside as a separate town it lost even the name of its former glory.
For a time Baileys Harbor relapsed into almost primeval seclusion. Its earlier population mostly left for other parts, leaving only Solomon Beery, Miles M. Carrington, Adam Hendricks and S. B. Ward. The last was a kindly, chatty old man who had brought a small stock of provisions and notions to the Harbor in 1853 and opened a small store in the firm conviction that Baileys Harbor would soon become the business center of the entire county. He was the first storekeeper on the peninsula. In 1870 he fell dead on the street of heart failure.
These early settlers at the Harbor during the '50s existed after a fashion, fishing a little, hunting a little and now and then sawing a little lumber with a stationary engine that some one had landed. There was no pier, however, so shipments were made with difficulty.
In 1857 a new business man from outside parts saw possibilities in Baileys Harbor. This man was A. K. Lee, who built six limekilns along the bluff and proceeded to burn and ship lime in a wholesale fashion. He also built a very large dwelling house “with a cupola from which you could see clean across Lake Michigan," on the site of Wm. Brann's new house. He had time to make only one shipment of lime when he failed in business. His interests were now taken over by Cooley Williamson. He operated the business for a year but found much trouble in shipping lime by water. When at the end of this time the large comfortable house left by Lee burned up, he gave up the business in disgust and removed to other parts.
Among the men that Lee brought up to work at the lime kilns was Hugh Collins. He stayed and shortly afterward cleared a farm three miles south of Baileys Harbor on which his family still reside. Through him several Irish families settled near the harbor. A number of other men who had drifted north in the hope of good employment in the village but were disappointed followed suit and began the huge task of carving out farms out of the vast forest that surrounded Baileys Harbor. Among those who stayed and became old settlers were T. W. McCullough, Peter Goss, Samuel Williams, J. B. Lallemont, William Toseland, William and Thomas Panter, John and Con Collins, James Ridings, Hugh Spring and Roger Eatough. These all came during the Civil war or shortly after. The greater part of Baileys Harbor's choicest surrounding farming lands, lying west and northwest of the village was not settled until about 1876 when there was a considerable immigration of Polanders. They live partly in the Town of Baileys Harbor and partly in Gibraltar and the story of their coming is told in a separate chapter. About this time (1877) also came the Brann brothers, John, Andrew, William and August Brann, who later became prominent business, men of Baileys Harbor. They are from Finland. They were sailors and when their vessel in 1877 was laid up they were directed to Door County where woodchopping was at its height. They came here with about twenty other Finnish sailors who all fell to chopping and later became prosperous citizens.
In the meantime the Village of Baileys Harbor, having made several false starts, had found its true course and was now humming merrily. This real beginning of the village may be said to start with Moses Kilgore's arrival in 1860. He built the first permanent pier in the village in 1861 and by it made an outlet for the vast forest products that for forty years made Baileys Harbor the chief shipping point for cordwood, ties, and cedar poles in the county.
In 1865 William R. Higgins and his son, Allen Higgins, built a pier a mile south of Baileys Harbor which for many years did a big business. Maj. J. W. Lowell followed with a sawmill and a hotel was also built. For many years Higgins Pier, or "Frogtown" as it was called, now one of the most peaceful spots in the county, was a very busy trading point.
Between the village proper and Higgins Pier the road traversed the land of a man by the name of Finch. Certain legal formalities had been omitted in opening the road and Finch began a series of suits against the town for damages. So persistent was he in pushing his legal claims that he after some years won the title of "the champion suist." The Door County Advocate of February 25, 1869, contains the following account of his legal persistence:
"We have a champion suist in our county. He hails from Baileys Harbor and answers to the name of Finch. He is the Mark Tapley of suists and can stand more suits with greater cheerfulness than any other man we know of. He flourishes beneath the depressing influences of the law like a veritable green bay tree. No term of the Circuit Court escapes without his name on the calendar in some capacity, and during court week his cheerful countenance beams benignantly on judge, jury, lawyers and spectators. And he has influence too. Twice every year a delegation of Baileys Harborites come up and their business is Finch. The magic of his name summons them from their Homes to brave the gibes of lawyers and the uncertainties of petit jurors. Between him and a portion of his townsmen is a road and that road has run through three years of our Circuit Court and bids fair to run for many a term to come. He takes a grim pleasure in thus playing familiarly with that that is a grim terror to so many, and takes more delight in punching up his unanmiable neighbors than a menagerie man the royal bengal tiger to make it roar. Great is the law and great is its friend Finch."
In spite of his persistence and the possible justice of his claim Mr. Finch was not a popular hero as he was interfering with a public necessity. It was therefore with a feeling of relief that people one day in the winter of 1871 heard that an end had come to Finch's lawsuits because he had committed suicide by hanging himself in the stable. The circumstances of the hanging were peculiar and many old settlers to this day feel sure that the man was murdered by his teamster instead of taking his own life. However, Finch by this time was considered a nuisance and no further inquiry was made into the manner of his death. The teamster married the widow and Baileys Harbor's perennial lawsuit was at end.
The village was platted in 1866 by Thomas Severn who bought the land, laid it out in lots, built a third pier where now is Anclam's Pier and opened a big store. He did a large business until he in 1871 sold out to F. Woldtman.
Owing to the shallow water at Baileys Harbor it was necesary to build very long piers which were expensive to keep up. In 1869 Kilgore built a long addition to his pier. During the following winter there was piled on this new extension no less than 800 cords of green maple wood. This load was too much for it and in January, 1870, this extension collapsed with a loss to Mr. Kilgore of about five thousand dollars besides a great loss to the pioneers who owned the wood who hoped with its returns to pay the interest on the mortgage.
Baileys Harbor was at this time and for many years afterward a very busy place. Numerous schooners were daily to be seen, loading wood and other products, more than a hundred cargoes being shipped annually. The big boats, plying between Chicago and Buffalo, also made regular stops at Baileys Harbor. Compared with the bustle of the latter '60s, '70s and '80s the village now presents a very tranquil appearance.
The greater part of the farming population around Baileys Harbor is German, most of whom settled on their various tracts of wild land in the '80s. Of these immigrants it may be said that they helped to clear their part of the world of stump and stone, toiling desperately that their children might possibly have a little ease.
A serio-comic event of some importance happened in connection with the arrival of one of these immigrants which makes a rather good story. A man by the name of August Krauser, having laid aside a few dollars by diligent chopping of cordwood, bought transportation tickets from C. L. Nelson and sent them to Germany that his brother, Gottfried, and family might also come and partake of the wealth that abounded in the slashings of Door County. Gottfried and his family packed their boxes and went to Bremen to take passage for America. Through some mistake the ticket for the youngest child was made out for an infant of less than a year old and the child being over this age was not permitted to go on board. In their dilemma it was arranged that the wife and the children should go on to America first and there arrange with their relative to have the mistake corrected so that Gottfried could follow. In due course of time the woman with the children arrived in Door County and explained why the father had been left behind. Through Mr. Nelson arrangements were now made to bring over Gottfried Krauser who, however, in the meantime had disappeared. After months of search the steamship company finally found him in a hospital with an injured leg. He was finally brought on board the vessel to join his family.
In the meantime his wife had given up her husband for lost. After a brief season of grief she was ardently wooed by. another German in her new home in Gibraltar by the name of Anton Mahlberger. When he proposed to marry her, children and all, she demurely consented and the marriage knot was tied at once by the renowned justice, William Jackson.
The next day a goodly crowd was assembled in one of the saloons of Baileys Harbor, where Anton Mahlberger was "setting them up" in honor of the event. Just as they were having "one round more" and congratulations were profuse and noisy another man stepped in. It was C. L. Nelson, the agent of the steamship company. He listened to their thick-tongued chatter for a moment and then created great consternation by announcing that their celebration was a little premature—husband number one had just arrived in Sturgeon Bay! For a moment there was silence and visions of a deadly struggle between the two jealous husbands flew before the eyes of the excited bystanders. Anton Mahlberger was the least effected. He ordered up another drink and coolly announced that if the woman wanted to live with the "other fellow" it was agreeable to him.
The following day there was great eagerness to see the woman meet her two husbands. However, it did not take her long to make her choice. Anton was big and strong as a young ox, a perfection of manly grace in her lovesick eyes; Gottfried was small, deformed and pinched by excessive work and illness. She scornfully surveyed her humble first husband and said "Go back to Germany where you belong! I have eaten husks with you long enough. Now I want some of the real fruit!" Then she went to the triumphant Anton and took his hand. However, that poor Gottfried might have something to show for his share in the affair, they magnanimously told him to take the children, which he humbly did.
Baileys Harbor has had a number of prominent residents favorably known all over the county. Among these are in particular three whose names are among the leading memories of the county's history. These are Moses Kilgore, Allen Higgins and Roger Eatough. Moses Kilgore was among the earliest permanent settlers of the town and it is commonly asserted that he did more for the improvement of the town than any other man. He was a remarkably energetic Yankee from the State of Maine with a picturesque flow of profanity and unadorned speech which was exceedingly entertaining or dreadfully horrifying according to the temper of his audience. He was the first great booster for good roads in the county. When he represented the county in the State Legislature in 1867 he succeeded in putting through an appropriation for building the state road that runs through the county on the Lake Michigan side. He was also a prominent business man, stage driver and member of the county board for a number of years. His epitaph might be: "He was an indomitable hustler from his cradle to his grave."
Roger Eatough is Kilgore's son-in-law and while he has the same strength of purpose he is very much unlike him in manner. While Kilgore was frequently brusque and vociferous Mr. Eatough is always smooth and quiet. He has a natural aptitude for diplomacy which in more favorable fields like politics, law or real estate would have given him a distinguished name and station. Mr. Eatough has however always spent his time in Baileys Harbor until recently when he moved to Sturgeon Bay. As member of the county board he has had a unique record representing the Town of Baileys Harbor on the county board for twenty years, terminating only with his removal to Sturgeon. For eight years he was chairman of the county board.
Allen Higgins was like Kilgore a pier owner and business man. In company with his father he built Higgins' pier south of Baileys Harbor which for many years was a great place of business. Mr. Higgins, however, is better known as one of the most respected county officers the county has had. New men came and went but Mr. Higgins stayed on as clerk of the court for thirty-five years until he finally refused re-election. To all these county officers he was a helpful friend, to the annual county boards an interested counselor and to the thousands who visited the courthouse a willing helper whose genial, courteous manner and never failing fund of exact information was always at the command of those seeking aid.
The Town of Baileys Harbor is very irregular in shape, being about eight miles long, with a shore line of twice that length, while it is only a mile wide at the village. At this point the Town of Gibraltar comes within about a mile of Lake Michigan. In 1870 the county board was persuaded to detach a large portion, sections 1, 2, 11, 12, 13 and 14, from the Town of Gibraltar, and attach it to Baileys Harbor. This gave Baileys Harbor a very valuable tract of territory and largely remedied the irregularities of its boundaries. The people in the detached portion of Gibraltar, however, resisted the transfer. Both towns assessed the debatable territory and for a time it looked as if the people in this section would have to pay taxes in both towns. Gibraltar was finally permitted to keep the territory within her boundaries owing to the fact that the town had less than thirty-six sections of land.
Baileys Harbor has more swamp land than any other town in the county with the possible exception of the Town of Sturgeon Bay. It is claimed that 70 per cent of the town is unfit for cultivation. This claim is probably excessive. It also has two lakes within its borders. In the northern part is Mud Lake, a dreary pond deserving of its name. In the southern part is Kangaroo Lake, a very beautiful body of water three miles long and almost a mile wide. This charming lake, now beginning to be appreciated by summer resorters, was the first part of Door County to evoke a poetic outburst. Far back in 1857 Mr. Allen H. Powers, a man of culture who for some years lived in Fish Creek and was chairman of the Town of Gibraltar, suddenly came upon Kangaroo Lake hidden in the trackless forest. Mr. Powers was so charmed with the unexpected panorama that he at once penned the following very respectable lines:
"This wild northwestern land I love.
As 'mongst its bays and lakes I rove.
Nor wish for other home than this.
To give me all home can of bliss.
"I love its beauteous inland lakes.
Whose tiny waves in riplets break
On pebbly beach, begirt with trees
All murmuring in the gentle breeze.
"And when my restless spirit craves
A stormy scene and wilder waves.
Within one mile, an inland sea
Rolls its surf on a rocky lea.
"I love to stand on that rock-bound shore.
And hear the mighty waters roar.
And feel the earth beneath me quake.
As the foam-capped waves in thunder break.
"I love its skies so deeply blue;
Its stars so brightly shining through,
Where Luna holds her nighty sway,
And Sol's refulgence lights the day.
"Where Orion's belt with its triple clasp,
And the heavy club in his mighty grasp.
With radiant beauty that nightly shine,
Unknown in stars in southern clime.
"Tis here that nature tried her hand.
To make a wild romantic land.
And spread her streams, and bays and lakes,
In all the forms that beauty takes."
A. H. Powers.
THE POLISH SETTLEMENT AT BAILEYS HARBOR
One of the thriftiest looking sections of Door County is to be found just west and northwest of the Village of Baileys Harbor. It is a rolling country covered with a fertile soil in a high state of cultivation. The roads are in excellent shape and are lined by large barns and commodious dwelling houses. There is an abundance of livestock to be seen on every hand and there are often two windmills in each barnyard—one for pumping water, the other for grinding feed and other power purposes. This is the home of the Polish Settlement of Door County.
As one beholds this pleasing, comfortable looking countryside it is hard to- believe that forty years ago this was all an unbroken wilderness of timber. For mile after mile the forest stood dense and unbroken except for the ruthless slashing of the lumberman. With branches interlaced the huge maples and hemlocks stood—thin, shaggy tops shutting out the sunlight, while underneath the moist ground was covered with rotting windfalls and boulders of all sizes. There were no roads or paths. There were no little clearings with romping children. It was a primeval wilderness, undisturbed since the day of creation with only now and then a prowling redskin in search of favorite herbs or setting his traps in a well-chosen runway.
In October, 1871, the great Chicago fire laid the western metropolis in ruins and the news of the disaster reached to the ends of the earth. During the following winter and summer the cry of the city for men to come and, rebuild it went far and wide. In Chicago, they were told, any man could get work at his own wages. A boom in real estate was also coming and they could get rich over night. Thousands heeded the call and hurried thither.
Among these soldiers of fortune were also five Polanders from the far distant Province of Posen, in Prussia. Once upon a time Poland was, one of the great powers of Europe but little by little it fell a prey to the greed of the surrounding powers. In 1794, after the downfall of the great Kosciusko, the country was divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria, and Poland ceased to exist as a nation. As proof of the great national spirit of the Polish people it may be added that even to this day the people cling to their own language and ideas and refuse to be considered as natives of the countries that conquered them. It was from the Prussian part of ancient Poland that these five men came. Their names were Martin Schram, Theodore Zak, John Raza, Christ Grey and Casimir Schmidt. They were all married except Martin Schram.
When these men arrived in Chicago in the fall of 1873 they were all filled with great hopes of success. They were sturdy fellows willing to work and they looked forward to the time when they could send money to their humble friends and relatives in the Province of Posen. However they were soon to be disappointed. The boom following the fire was past, a panic had followed and the city was over filled with foreigners like themselves, who could speak no English and who had no other qualifications but a pair of brawny arms. As they went from one employment office to another they were everywhere met with the same reception, "Nothing doing, come some other day."
One day as they stood in an employment office discussing their hard luck, a stranger entered. He listened to their talk and said:
"If you want work, boys, come with me, I'll fix you up."
"What work do you have?" they inquired, and "where is it?"
"You can cut cordwood for me at Baileys Harbor, where I live, 300 miles north of here."
Their faces fell. Three hundred miles away! How would they get there?
"I have a schooner here," said the stranger, "and I'll take you up there free of charge."
The matter was quickly settled. To be sure, they had little idea of what or where Baileys Harbor was, but they had to make a living some way and they went with him.
This man was Frederick Woldtman, a German who had been in America four or five years. He had a little store where Anclam's store is now located, with a pier outside. He is spoken of by most people as a kind-hearted man, who was always ready to help the needy by word or deed.
Besides Woldtman's there were two other piers in Baileys Harbor. In the north end of the village was one owned by the bluff old Yankee, Moses Kilgore, a sterling old pioneer of whom many good stories are told. A half mile south of the village, however, was for a time the principal business center. This was “Frogtown," where William R. Higgins and son, Allen Higgins, had a pier. Here was also a sawmill, a hotel, much traffic and no doubt, much whiskey. In those days there was much more business at "Frogtown" or Baileys Harbor than now. Before the Sturgeon Bay Canal was built the Goodrich boats used to stop there twice a week. There was also a constant stream of schooners loading cordwood and other timber products. Many men had crews in the woods cutting cordwood. The more cordwood they handled the poorer they got, but they kept at it. Nothing now remains of "Frogtown" but a charming little nook by the water, unvisited except for an occasional picnic party seeking a secluded spot for a lunching place.
Our Polish pioneers cut cordwood for Woldtman for about two years. By 1876 Schram and Schmidt had saved up a few dollars and were able to buy forty acres of land each on the north side of the township between Gibraltar and Baileys Harbor. Schmidt built the first house. This land lies just west of the little creek that crosses the town line two miles west of Baileys Harbor and was chosen because of its convenience to the creek, as water in those days was almost a luxury. A little later the other Polanders bought in the immediate vicinity. Not all were able to build houses and for years they lived together in crowded log houses, but in great harmony. Even after they got individual houses the swamp and the creek was a great gathering place, for everybody had to carry water from the creek.
Little by little these sturdy pioneers forged ahead. Though beginning only with a borrowed axe and a pair of overalls, in a strange land with no knowledge of the language, they never flinched or bemoaned their fate, but hewed their homes out of the wilderness. After a few years they were joined by their friends and countrymen to whom they had written. Among these can be mentioned the Polzins, the Charnetzkis, the Rehs, the Wisas, the Brunetzkis, the Rosenaws, the Kittas, the Krauses, the Klingbeils, the Zdryewskis and others. Some of these are Germans, but they come from the same part of Posen as the Polanders and they speak Polish as well as German. These all went through the same desperate battle with the wilderness, but they have all made good and many of them are in very prosperous circumstances, owning several hundred acres of land, with choice improvements. There are now about thirty Polish family in this settlement, but judging by the number of children in most families it will soon be many times as large. Fred Reh, John Wisa and Ignatz Charnetzki have each had nine children, Peter Zdryewski has ten, Theodor Zak and John Raza have twelve, and Martin Schram had fourteen.
The secret of the success of these people is their remarkable capacity for work. Physically considered they are a splendid class of people. Because of their indomitable energy and industry they have triumphed over stumps and stone picking, mortgages, drouths, grasshoppers, hard times, drink and all. The last mentioned handicap has perhaps been the worst. Although they live in close proximity to Baileys Harbor's many saloons which have been rather freely patronized by them they have not permitted these occasional indulgences to get the mastery over them but have pushed ahead untiringly.
And just as capable as the men have been in the woods or in the fields, so have their wives in their households. Old settlers who used to travel through the settlement in early days tell that no matter how small or humble the log shanty was, it was always scrupulously neat and clean inside, with well-cooked food and a ready welcome.
May this settlement of Polish people prosper and live long! They are built of the stuff that is needed in a new country.
Once upon a time a young Chippewa Indian from Washington Island was hunting with his dog on the hill overlooking Horseshoe Bay in the present Town of Egg Harbor. As he was cautiously stepping forward amid the tall trees and occasional open glades he spied two bear cubs comfortably dozing on the sunny side of a big windfall. Being, like all Indians, fond of pets, he silenced and restrained his eager dog and crept forward intending to capture the cubs alive. When near them he laid down his gun and suddenly pouncing upon them, he seized them both. Immediately there was much squirming and yelping but he managed to get a good hold in the fur of the neck and after a brief struggle arose with one cub in each hand. No sooner was he on his feet, however, before he heard a ferocious growl behind him. Turning instantly he saw a huge bear, the mother of the captive cubs, advancing upright on her hind feet. His gun was on the ground some distance away, so dropping the cubs he pulled his tomahawk and his knife to defend himself. He had only time, however, to raise his arm to throw the tomahawk when the savage beast was upon him and giving his arm a tremendous blow which broke it like a pipe stem she sent his tomahawk flying through the air several rods away. Then she seized him in a terrible embrace and he felt his ribs cracking.
Still clutching his knife in his other hand he was able to give his huge adversary several ugly slashes in the abdomen. This, however, did not bother her much and he would soon have been crushed to pulp if it had not been for his valiant dog. So fierce were the attacks of his faithful ally that the bear felt constrained to turn her attention to the dog. This gave the Indian his opportunity. He jumped for his tomahawk and resolutely advancing he drove it with a sure stroke to the hilt into the skull of the bear which fell dead.
By this time the little bears had disappeared in the forest and he had to give up their capture. His companions who were not far away set his arm and with their help the big bear was skinned. For this exploit he received the name of Big Bear and later became a famous chief.
Egg Harbor seems to have been a great place for bears. Old settlers tell of them invading their storehouses to steal their bacon and drink their milk. Once in broad daylight it even happened that a child was carried away by a bear. This happened at the home of Fred Kracht in section 32. It was on a morning in May, 1876. The father had gone to Baileys Harbor. The mother, eager for a piece of gossip, had left her little two year old boy undressed in the yard while she strolled down to a neighbor woman some distance away for a chat. Soon the dog which was chained was heard savagely barking and the child screaming in terror. The mother and the neighbors hurried to the house but the child was nowhere to be found. A general alarm was sounded and scores of men turned out to search the woods and the fields thoroughly. Nothing was ever found of the child, however, only some big fresh bear tracks leading into the swamp.
There is some doubt as to the origin of Egg Harbor's unusual name. In April, 1862, Hon. Henry S. Baird of Green Bay contributed the following article to the Door County Advocate for the purpose of throwing light on the origin of this name. Mr. Baird writes as follows:
"In looking over the list of towns in Door County, I observe that one of them is named ‘Egg Harbor.' This name calls to mind an incident which occurred many years since—before Wisconsin had a habitation, or name - and from which event, 'Egg Harbor,' undoubtedly received its appellation. At all events, the relation to the circumstance alluded to, may be of interest to the inhabitants of that part of the state, as a reminiscence of the 'early times' in Wisconsin, and exhibits the contrast between the facilities and mode of travel in the 'fast days' of the world's progress and the slow and primitive locomotion of the days of yore. At the period I allude to, ‘Green Bay Settlement' was the oldest of two places—then—the only white settlements in the limits of Wisconsin. The only highways, then existing, were the lakes and rivers; and upon those the journeys, or rather voyages of the travelers, were made. The communication between Green Bay and Mackinac, Detroit, and the lower lakes, was principally by sail vessels for at that time there was but one (possibly two) steamers on the lakes, and their visits to Green Bay were 'few and far between'; perhaps once or twice a year. The travel on the rivers was by Mackinac boats or bateaux, and bark canoes and very frequently these bateaux and canoes made voyages to and from Green Bay from Mackinac and other places, even Montreal. This was done by coasting along the eastern shore of Green Bay, to its mouth, making—in the language of the voyageur—'Traverse' of the bay, and thence coasting along the north shore of Lake Michigan, and through the 'straits' to the Island of Mackinac. In making the voyage, the traveler was obliged to lay in a sufficient quantity of the 'creature comforts,' to serve him to the end of his journey; for there were then neither 'hotels or taverns'—and no inhabitants save the original owners and occupants of the country.
"In the summer of the year 1825 Mr. Rolette, then a very prominent and extensive Indian trader, arrived at Green Bay, from the Mississippi, with three or four large Mackinac boats, on his annual voyage to Mackinac, with the returns from his year's trade. There being at that time no vessel at Green Bay, Mr. Rolette kindly offered a passage on his own boat to Mr. and Mrs. Baird, then 'young folks' who resided at the bay and were anxious of visiting Mackinac. On a fine morning in June, the fleet left the Fox River and proceeded along the east shore of Green Bay, being well supplied with good tents, large and copious 'mess baskets,' well stored with provisions of all kinds, especially a large quantity of eggs. On the second day at noon the order was given by the 'Commodore' (Mr. Rolette) to go ashore for dinner. The boats were then abreast of 'Egg Harbor,' until then, without a name. On board the 'Commodore's' boat, there were besides himself, Mr. and Mrs. Baird and nine Canadian boatmen, or voyageurs, as they were styled. On another of the boats were two young men, clerks, in the employ of Mr. Rolette—one of whom was a Mr. Kinzie—now of Chicago and a like number of boatmen. It was the etiquette on those voyages, where there were several boats in company, the principal person or owner of the 'outfit' take the lead in the line; sometimes, however, a good natured strife would arise between the several crews, when etiquette was lost sight of in the endeavor to outstrip each other and arrive first at the land; and this was especially more likely to occur when eating or encamping was near at hand. Mr. Rolette was an eccentric and excitable Frenchman, and had many eccentricities which were often imitated and ridiculed, behind his back, by the young men in his employ, and by none more frequently than Mr. Kinzie. At the entrance to the harbor the boat in charge of Mr. Kinzie came along side the Commodore, with the evident intention of taking the lead. Mr. Rolette ordered it back; but instead of obeying, the crew of the boat—urged on by Mr. Kinzie—redoubled their exertions to pass the 'Commodore,' and as a kind of bravado the clerks held up, an old broom; the Commodore and his companions could not stand this; the 'mess baskets' were opened and a brisk discharge, not of balls, but shell, was made upon the offenders. The attack was soon returned in kind. It then became necessary to guard and protect the only lady on board from injury, which was accomplished by extending herself on the flat surface of the packs of fur, which composed the cargo, and covering her over with a large tarpaulin or oil cloth. The battle kept up for some time, but at length the Commodore triumphed, and the refractory boat was obliged to fall back. Whether this was the result of superior skill of the marksmen on board the Commodore's boat, or the failure of ammunition on the other, is not now remembered.
"After landing the battle was renewed. The boats and men presented rather an 'eggish' appearance, and the inconvenience was rather increased by the fact that some of the missiles used by the belligerents were not of a very savory or agreeable odor. The fun ended in Mr. Kinzie having to wash his outer garments and while so employed, some mischievous party threw his hat and coat into the lake. All enjoyed the sport, and none more so than the merry and jovial Canadian boatmen; and the actors in the frolic long remembered the sham battle at ‘Egg Harbor,' and it is believed that to this circumstance may be attributed the origin of the name of one of the towns of Door County."
According to Jacob E. Thorp, one of the earliest settlers in the Town of Egg Harbor, the name has a different origin. He writes as follows:
"Mr. (Increase,) Claflin named most of the places and islands from Sturgeon Bay to the Door. Horseshoe Bay he called by that name, because he found his horses there, when they were on their way back to Little Sturgeon after he had moved to Fish Creek, and one of the horses had lost a shoe at that place. The place has gone by that name ever since. Egg Harbor he so named because of the harbor there, and on going in he found a nest full of duck's eggs. Hat Island he said was the shape of a hat. Strawberry Islands he named on account of the amount of strawberries that grew there. Eagle Island he named because he found an eagle's nest there. Sister Islands because they were so near alike." Mr. Thorp was Mr. Claflin's son-in-law and lived with him for five years and therefore had excellent opportunities for hearing Mr. Claflin's recollections of the beginning of things in Door County.
Jacob E. Thorp was the second settler in the Town of Egg Harbor, building a house on the beach half way between the two present piers. His son, Roy, was the first child born in Egg Harbor. He had come to Fish Creek in 1850 to look after his brother, Asa Thorp's, interests, and to work as a cooper for Increase Claflin. When Asa Thorp in 1855 settled in Fish Creek, Jacob and his brother, Levi Thorp, the same year settled in Egg Harbor where they bought about sixteen hundred acres of land including and surrounding the present village. A pier was soon built by them. After a few years Levi Thorp bought out his brother's interests and did a big business shipping cordwood and cedar.
Levi Thorp, who for many years was the principal business man north of Sturgeon Bay, was a very capable and experienced man. He was among the early gold miners of California, where he was successful in washing out $6,000 worth of gold. On his way to California he went around Cape Horn, stopped at the Island of Juan Fernandez of Robinson Crusoe fame and returned across the Isthmus of Panama. The imposing house on the hill in the Village of Fish Creek was his home. By 1879 he had 160 acres under cultivation and was at that time the biggest farmer in the county.
For a few years the population of Egg Harbor consisted chiefly of Indians and Belgians that the Thorp brothers employed in cutting cordwood. They could talk no English but they could cut wood. The cordwood was all cut with axes in those days—no saws were used no matter how big the maple was—and wagon loads of big chips left by the choppers could be picked up anywhere in the woods all ready for the cook stove. The men received 50 cents per cord for chopping. The wood was frequently sold for only $2 per cord.
Among the earliest settlers of Egg Harbor were Wm. G. Manney, Wm. Turner, Russell Baker, Sr., and M. E. Lyman. The last three settled on the point west of the village. Baker and Turner came from Washington Island where they had settled as fishermen in 1852. Baker had previously lived on Beaver Island, the domain of the famous Mormon king, John Strang, whom he had helped to depose. Milton E. Lyman was the first settler in the town, locating there in 1853, being then thirty-two years old. Mr. Lyman was a man of education and intelligence and what prompted him to seek a home so far from any neighbors is not known. Moreover, the land that he selected was very poor being even today considered of little value. Mr. Lyman was a popular and companionable man, esteemed and dreaded for his wit and sarcasm. He was the first county judge of Door County, holding office from 1862 to 1866. He was also at the same time clerk of court and county superintendent of schools. After this he was for many years justice of the peace in Egg Harbor and as such was great at drumming up business. He was assisted by a little following of constables and pettifoggers who were ready to offer their services the moment a row broke out. Down to his little house on the flats the procession of pettifoggers, plaintiffs, defendants, witnesses, constables and others would wend their way and here scores of heated trials have been held. The result was interminable feuds and hard feelings. During his career as justice Mr. Lyman united no less than seventy-three couples in marriage. At each of the accompanying rousing wedding celebrations he was usually a noted guest, respected for his pungent wit.
The wood business proving profitable, William Le Roy and N. W. Kirtland in 1865 built another big pier at Egg Harbor. It was not completed at once and great fear was entertained that the ice would crush it in the spring. However, the ice left it clear in the spring and Le Roy & Kirtland heaved a great sigh of relief. A few days later, however, the ice returned, jammed into the harbor with great force and smashed the pier. Not daunted by this the new firm got out material and built another big pier the following year. This one was completed and 450 cords of wood were piled on it. When spring came the ice demolished this one, also.
In the meantime Egg Harbor had received an important addition to its population in the southern part of the town. These were the two brothers, Thomas and William Carmody. They came from Limerick, Ireland, and lived for a time in Pennsylvania. In 1857 they came to Door County. At that time entire townships lay vacant, waiting for their first settlers. Most of the best land near Sturgeon Bay was still open for pre-emption. Thomas and William Carmody, however, chose to go as far back into the timber as it was possible to get at that time and settled ten miles north of Sturgeon Bay. Here, far beyond any roads, trails or neighbors, they settled on some rather low lands just north of the present Carlsville which are even now considered of little value. Their purpose was not farming, however, but to get out cedar. Whether this was found profitable is not known. But here they lived year after year without schools, churches, markets or neighbors. It was in the heart of the wilderness. No daily or even weekly mail came to tell them of the world's progress. Beefsteak was not often on the bill of fare but bear meat took its place and the boys found wolf hunting better sport than pool playing.
Both Thomas and William Carmody had a number of husky boys and girls and the Carmody family is now numerous in Door County. Thomas had five sons and two daughters. These were Jack, Thomas, Michael, Dennis, Patrick, Mary and Olive. William had five sons and four daughters. These were John, James, Dennis, William; Henry, Mary, Bridget, Ellen, and Johanna.
After twelve years of life in their cedar slashings Thomas and William Carmody moved north to what is now called Carmody Prairie—then a big forest. Here they found other Irishmen and quite a settlement of Irish was formed back in the woods of Egg Harbor. These other Irish were Martin Maloney, Michael Hayes and Andrew Hanrahan.2 [Hanrahan lived just across the line in Sevastopol where he settled in 1860.] When the Town of Egg Harbor was organized in 1861 Mike Hayes was candidate for side supervisor. Jokingly William Carmody asked him why he wanted to run for office seeing he had no education. "Oh, gwan wid youse," was the reply. "If I have no eddication, can't I get a prostitute?" He meant a substitute.
One of the first settlers in the northern part of the town was Dr. David Graham. He originally settled south of Fish Creek in 1858 and moved into the town of Egg Harbor in 1867. He was chairman of the town for many years and was a very popular and highly respected man. He died rather suddenly in 1882. Speaking of his death the Advocate writes: "It is no disparagement of the living to say that the departure of no other man could have occasioned such profound and general sorrow throughout the county as has been caused by the death of David Graham. In the northern towns there are few households in which the event is not regarded as a personal calamity, so thoroughly had the good doctor endeared himself to the people who knew him best. For nearly a quarter of a century he had been the guide, philosopher and friend of his acquaintances, always generous, helpful, benevolent and kind. Although not a regular graduate of a medical school, his natural inclinations led him to give so much time to the study of the healing art that he was able to successfully minister to the sick. He was let to do this, not from mercenary motives, but because his sympathies prompted him at all times to allay suffering or distress of any nature whenever possible." His funeral was a remarkable manifestation of the high esteem in which he was held. Not less than 400 mourners were present from Gibraltar, Sevastopol, Baileys Harbor and Sturgeon Bay, while nearly every family in Egg Harbor was represented at the funeral.
Another very popular and efficient town officer of Egg Harbor was Frank Wellever, the present genial clerk of the court. For almost a quarter of a century, until he finally took up his residence in Sturgeon Bay, Mr. Wellever was in charge of the affairs of the town, successfully piloting it through every crisis and deftly managing to harmonize its various warring elements. If Mr. Wellever had remained in the town there is no doubt he would by this time have achieved the honor of holding the record of longest service as chairman in the county.
Prominent among the famous men of Egg Harbor is Dr. H. F. Eames who came to the town about 1875. Doctor Eames has a large practice but being a man of insatiable appetite for work he has added to his duties the responsibility of operating the largest farm in the town. He is a very extensive fruit grower and also owns a pier and a drug store. All this, however, is insufficient to fill the doctor's energetic cravings and he is always ready to take part in matters of public policy or political controversy. In conversation his tongue flows with epigrams and bristles with sarcasm. His mind is an unusual mixture of extreme kindliness, pungent wit and irrepressible optimism.
West of the Carmody prairie a couple of miles lies Horseshoe Bay, once a thriving little village. Andrew Anderson, still living there, built the first pier about 1870. He bought and shipped cordwood and kept a store. In a few years he sold out to Albee & Taylor and they pushed the business energetically. They had a mill and vessels daily came and went from Horseshoe Bay. A cooper shop, a blacksmith shop, a general store, a school and a dozen dwelling houses were soon erected there. All roads led to Horseshoe Bay and business was booming. Later Fetzer & Young bought the property and employed many men. In 1890 an ice company made up of Sturgeon Bay people started cutting ice there, employing about sixty men. The ice harvest farther south was poor and the Horseshoe Bay company were confident that the price would go high up and all would make much money. They therefore held the ice, that is, that which did not trickle away. Little by little the ice melted. When the ice speculators were ready to sell the ice had turned to water and their dreams of gold had turned to dross.
That was the last exploit in the Village of Horseshoe Bay. The mill was closed, the schoolhouse was moved away, the buildings fell into decay and the grass and brush grew up in the roads. Soon almost every one forgot that there had ever been such a place as Horseshoe Bay where the schooners in olden times dropped anchor.
Once more, however, Horseshoe Bay has come forward. The lands around the beautiful bay have become the property of the Horseshoe Bay Country Club, made up largely of Green Bay people. They have here erected a commodious and elegant club building, the finest of any in the county intended for the entertainment of transient guests. Many large and beautiful cottages have also been built, streets are being opened up and lawns are being made. In a few years Horseshoe Bay will be one of the most beautiful places in the county.
Egg Harbor is one of the most enterprising towns in the county, taking a leading part in the construction of good roads. In fact in this field it has probably outdistanced every other town in the county. It was the first town to complete the macadamizing of its entire stretch of main county thoroughfare traversing the town—a distance of more than ten miles. The last link in this highway was the road down the big Egg Harbor hill - a rare monument of excellent road construction. The town has now begun to macadamize its branch roads.
The people of the town have also distinguished themselves in such a co-operative enterprise as church building. In the Catholic Church at Egg Harbor we have a church edifice whose beauty, solidity and pleasing lines are seldom equaled in rural houses of worship. The congregation that built this church is not a large one, numbering only about sixty families.
This superabundance of energy lately so commendably manifested in the construction of fine churches, schools, modern homes and good roads in olden times frequently found an outlet in a manner not so complimentary. Egg Harbor for many years had the reputation of being a boisterous town full of clamor and carousings. Fun was frequent and so was fighting. Perhaps other towns at times were quite as bad, but at least they were not so frequently heard from as Egg Harbor.
Something was "doing" there every little while. The following account culled from the columns of the Advocate, gives an interesting picture of how the old folks used to amuse themselves.
"A farmer living a few miles from the Village of Egg Harbor invited his neighbors to come and spend a sociable evening at his home. It is not at all likely that his hospitable offer would have been refused even though no other attraction than a dance had been promised, for amusements are always welcome in that locality so that the giver of a party is not obliged to send out a press-gang in search of guests, as was the case of the gentleman whose marriage feast is recorded in the New Testament. But having backed up his invitation with the assurance that there would be plenty of beer for women, children and other temperance people, and lashings of whisky for those who preferred to get drunk with neatness and dispatch, it is hardly necessary to say that he had a crowded house with ‘standing room only' for those who arrived after 7 o'clock.
"It will be readily understood that under the inspiriting influence of abundant grog the evening had not far advanced before there was such a tremendous sound of revelry that had there been any police in the vicinity they would have 'pulled' the house and brought the entertainment to an abrupt conclusion. But there being no legal impediments to the festivities, they were conducted upon such a free and easy scale as would have astounded those who lived in a more civilized community. Long before midnight the fun became boisterous and decency received the grand bounce. It was while affairs were in this interesting state that one of the men, who was possibly a little more tipsy than the rest, laid the foundation for a first-class row. The whisky he had drunk excited his affectionate instincts to such a degree that regardless of his surroundings he made advances of a decidedly indelicate character to one of the women, who immediately proclaimed the fact by a squeal that drowned all other noise in the house. Whether her displeasure arose from offended virtue, or whether she was enraged because her amorous friend had not chosen a more appropriate locality for his demonstration, is an unguessable conundrum. At any rate, the fair creature raised such a tremendous bobbery as to draw upon herself and her admirer the attention of the whole party. Among these was the woman's son, who had no sooner learned the cause of the trouble than he struck out from the shoulder with such vigor and precision that the offending man took a tumble under the table, where he lay for a few minutes trying to discover how many of his teeth had been loosened.
"It might be supposed that a man who had committed such a gross offense against the moralities would have no sympathizers, and that the verdict of the crowd would be that he should be kicked as long as kicking was good for him. This would doubtless have been the opinion of the guests if they had been sober, but being drunk they took a different view of the matter. It should also be remembered that up to this time there had been no fight, and that all hands had taken just enough whisky aboard to make them itch for a scrimmage. The consequence was that within two minutes every man in the room was endeavoring to put a head on his neighbor. No one appeared to know or care what he was fighting about, the chief aim of each belligerent being to put in his knuckles where they would do the most good. It did not take the ladies long to realize that the men were conducting a riot with so much skill and energy that the assistance of the fair sex was entirely unnecessary. In order, therefore, to give the combatants abundant room, and also to get themselves out of harm's way, the women bundled themselves and the children off to the rooms upstairs. The terrific uproar below caused several of them to go into hysterics, and when their condition became known in the lower regions some of the men went up to their relief. The additional burden thus put on the chamber floors was more than they could support and the joists gave way with a crash, precipitating men, women and children and furniture upon the heads of the pugnacious gentlemen on the ground floor. For about five minutes that floor presented an appearance to which no description can do justice. Many of the ladies were standing on their heads, their limbs sticking out of the heap in every direction like the spokes of a busted cart wheel, while their striped stockings waved in the air like signals of distress at the masthead of a water-logged scow. The children screamed, the women shrieked, and the men swore as in their efforts to disentangle the squirming mass of humanity they found that a woman was being pulled out of the heap in different directions. When at last order was restored everybody was surprised to find that nobody was either killed or seriously hurt. The fighting party had escaped the falling floor, and the people from above were none the worse for their tumble. The accident had at least one good result. It brought the row to an end, and now all hands were as ready to bind up their neighbor's wounds as they had lately been to inflict them. As soon as the women recovered from their fright they began to count noses to learn whether any one had been lost. The inventory showed that one of the children was missing, and for a short time the mother was distracted. The young kid was finally discovered in a flour barrel into which it had fallen when the floor gave way, and was restored to its mother's arms along with several pounds of 'double extra' breadstuffs that had powdered the infant from head to foot.
"Having almost torn the house to pieces, pounded each other for about an hour, and nearly succeeded in killing the women and children, it was mutually agreed that there had been enough fun for one night. The guests therefore collected their wraps, took one more drink all around in token that they bore no ill-will towards one another, and departed assuring their host that they had spent a most delightful evening and that his party had been the most successful affair of the season."
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