Florence County, Wisconsin

Florence County, Wisconsin

(Above photograph: Commonwealth Mine, date unknown, from Mining Artifacts and History, Wisconsin Mines)



--The Wisconsin Magazine of History, Vol. 3, No. 4, Jun., 1920, "The History of Florence County". Howard, L. Wood. Pages 466 - 467

Could I obtain through you a tract, bulletin, or book containing the history of Florence County, Wisconsin? I am connected with a large colonization company which will soon begin active colonization work in that county. I wish to obtain as complete a history of the county as possible and will certainly appreciate any assistance you can give us in this matter.

--Howard I. Wood, Marinette

Florence County was erected by the legislature of 1882 from portions of Marinette and Oconto counties; the former had been set off from the latter three years previous. Oconto County was originally a part of Brown County, from which it was set off in 1851. Brown was one of the two original counties erected by the legislature of Michigan Territory in 1818. The region composing Florence County was but little known to early white men. There was a portage route from Keweenaw Bay by way of Michigame River which was in use very early, during the French regime; but so far as known no record of any voyage by this route is in existence. The first white man who has left any description of his journey along the streams that bound Florence County is Captain Thomas Jefferson Cram, United States army officer, who surveyed the northeast boundary of Wisconsin in the years 1840 and 1841. Cram reports that the Brule River (Indian name We-sa-co-ta) had a rapid current and varied in width from eighty to one hundred twenty feet. It had a rocky bed and was quite shallow. It took six days in high water to The History of Florence County 467 ascend from its mouth to Lake Brule; one may descend in two and a half to three and a half days with a lightly loaded canoe. There was but one portage at the mouth of Paint River (Indian name Me-squa-cum-me-se-pe); and one "decharge" a half a mile above. The banks were overhung with white cedar, through which a passage must often be cut for a canoe. Fir, poplar, tamarack, white birch, and pine lined the banks, which seemed at first to be lands of inferior quality. A few hundred yards back, however, was a rich upland with good hardwood timber. There were many Indian camping grounds along the stream, but no Indians were encountered until Cram's party reached Bad Water village. The whole stream formerly abounded in beaver and otter, which were nearly trapped out when the surveyors passed. The Pine River (Indian name Mus-kos-se-pe) was a low stream, the valley abounded in deer, and the Indians hunted along it very frequently. The whole region belonged to the Menominee tribe; but the Chippewa mingled with them. The Menominee River (Indian name Me-ne-ca-ne-se-pe) was desolate because of devastation by fire. At the Bad River village the Indians cultivated only potatoes; it was so far north that corn could not ripen before frost. In his report of 1841 Captain Cram said he had surveyed the entire Brule River, which was 54 miles 950 feet long, and contained 59 islands.

Florence County remained a region for hunting and trapping until in 1877 iron was discovered therein. The iron mines of the Michigan side of the Menominee were discovered in 1873 by N. P. Hulst and other mining engineers. In 1876 The Menominee Mining Company was organized and the Chicago & Northwestern officials began the building of the Menominee River Railway which in 1877 was extended to the Vulcan mine. The Florence mine was discovered in October, 1874 by H. D. Fisher. Work there was begun in the winter of 1879-80 when 30,000 tons of ore were taken out. The summer of 1880 the railway reached the mine. This railway was incorporated with the Northwestern system on July 1, 1882. The Florence mine was named by Dr. Fisher for Mrs. N. P. Hulst. In 1880 Florence Township of Marinette County had a population of 267. In 1890 Florence County numbered 2,604 persons.








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