Richard J Harney.

History of Winnebago County, Wisconsin, and early history of the Northwest online

. (page 20 of 71)
Online LibraryRichard J HarneyHistory of Winnebago County, Wisconsin, and early history of the Northwest → online text (page 20 of 71)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

been destroyed by fire, one mile of its main
street is composed wholly of handsome new
business blocks. This is one of the finest
looking business streets in the state — com-
pactly built with fire proof structures of brick
and stone. Its palace stores are models of
elegance, and its handsome residence streets
are most attractive. The city is compactly
built up from the shore of Lake Winnebago to
that of Lake Buttes des Morts, a distance of
three miles. The residences on its best streets
are beautiful structures. One street of two
miles is almost wholly composed of what might
be called palace residences, embowered in the
luxuriant foliage of great oaks and shade trees,
with well-kept lawns and tasteful surround-
ings. There are twenty-five miles of graveled
streets, the material of which cements into a
smooth, hard surface.

The Fox River, connecting the two lakes,
bisects the city, and has an average width of
five hundred feet and a depth of thirty. The
river shore, for two miles, is lined with manu-
facturing establishments run by steam power.
There are some sixty of these, and among
them are foundries and machines shops, which
manufacture steam engines, boilers and mill
machinery; sash and door factories, with a
capacity of one thousand doors, two thousand
windows, and four hundred pairs of blinds per
day; saw and shingle mills, whose products
have, in good seasons, loaded sixteen thousand
cars per year; threshing machine works; a
match factory, which employs three hundred
hands; grist mills; a large trunk factory, and
woolen mills. These, with the steamboats and
sailing crafts plying the river and lake, the
moving railroad trains and the busy streets
present a scene of great business life and

This place is the seat of the State Normal
School, an institution of a high order of excel-
lence. There are also a Business College, two
Academies, and the Oshkosh High School,

which, with the ward schools, employ about
one hundred teachers.

A favorite amusement of the place is yacht-
ing. The Oshkosh Yacht Club has a fleet of
twenty yachts, finely modeled crafts, and the
lake is famous as the best yachting waters in
the West. Fond du Lac, Neenah and Mena-
sha also have fleets of yachts; these all join in
regattas, which make a most attractive sight,
and one which never fails to delight the vast
crowd of spectators which always assembles to
witness it.

Lake Winnebago, bounding the eastern side
of Winnebago county, and indenting it with
deep bays and capacious harbors, forms with
its handsome sloping shores of prairie, open-
ings and woodland, one of the finest natural
scenes to be found. It has no overtowering
mountains, but this lovely expanse of water,
stretching away as far as the eye can reach,
and glittering like a gem in its emerald setting
of undulating banks and leafy groves until the
view fades away in the dim distance, among
the hazy points and headlands, is a scene of
picturesque beauty that is seldom equaled.
This lake and its surroundings, possess great
attractions for the summer tourist. The coun-
try afi"ords delightful drives over good roads,
with fine views of lake and river scenery. The
climate is healthful. The air pure and dry.
Artesian fountains abound, furnishing the best
of water; there is good shooting in the season;
the game is principally ^\•ild water fowl, largely
teal, mallard and wood-duck. The fishing is
excellent, the water abounding in white and
black bass and pike. The shores and harbors
are accessible at all points, making safe boat-
ing for ladies, who largely participate in that
amusement. The shores of the lake have most
delightful camping-grounds, and steamboat
and yachting excursions are frequent; parties
sometimes camping out for a week at a time.
A favorite place of resort is Island Park,
a beautiful wooded island on the west shore.

Another charming place is Clifton, on the
eastern shore, in Calumet County; a bold
promontory, rising abruptly from the lake to
the height of about two hundred feet. Here
are caverns and grottoes and precipitous ledges
of limestone, affording many interesting nat-
ural subjects for the geologist and lover of natural
studies. The wooded hills of Clifton oxcrlook-
ing the lake are lovely camping-grounds and a
favorite resort of excursionists. The \'iew of
the lake from the summit is magnificent. The
lox'ely expanse of water, dotted with steamers
and white sails; while on eitherhand, in the dim
distance, may be seen the smoke arising from
the manufacturies of two of the principal cities




of the State; and the track of railroad lines on
both shores, may be traced by the smoke of
the locomotive.

What a spectacle is here afforded of the
wonderful progress of the age! Twenty-eight
years ago this location was one of the frontiers
of Western civilization; and the Indian title
not then extinguished to the tract lying west
of the Fox River, only ten miles distant from
Oshkosh, then a frontier village. Now popu-
lous cities, marts of trade and commerce, with
educational institutions, and all the luxuries,
and elegancies of modern social life, cluster
around these waters — highly cultivated farms
cover the whole face of the country — railroads
stretch away in every direction ; and the empire of
modern progress holds undisputed sway. The
Indian wigwam and the pioneer's log cabin are
supplanted by the stately mansion and tower-
ing steeple — the bark canoe and the voy-
ageur's bateau have given way to the magni-
ficent steamer and graceful sail craft; and the
generous hospitalities of the pioneer — his
hearty welcome — his kindly manners and
his brave enterprises that opened up the
pathway of progress, are among the things of
the past.

And now, if the writer, who has endeav-
ored to sketch the country on the line of
these great water courses, and the outlines of
its e\entful history of two centuries, with its
transformations from a wilderness into the pop-
ulous centers of busy life, has succeeded in
drawing the picture, that portion of his task is
ended, and the next subject will be the his-
tory of Winnebago County, and its several
cities and towns.



The Fo.\ River Valley and Central Wisconsin — Indescrib-
ably Charming in its Picturesque Beauty of Commingled
Prairie, Woodland, Laltes and Rivers — The Lovely
Water Scener)' an Especial Feature — The Richest Fertil-
ity of Soil, with Good Water and a Healthful Climate — -
The Fox Valley a Conjunction of Three Distinct Types of
Country, with Great Natural Elements of Productive
Wealth, and One of the t^hief Business Thoroughfares of
the State.

^fH^S^Y an examination of the map of Wis-
ciinsin, it will be seen that the Wis-
consin, and Upper and Lower Fox Riv-

is^^^^" ers, form a water-line through the
' entire breadth of the State, whosemain

direction is nearly northeast from the mouth

of the Wisconsin, on the Mississippi, to that
of the Lower Fox, at Green Bay. This line
is the dividing point between two dis-
tricts of very distinct physical features. The
territory lying south of this river line, com-
prises the great rich prairie and opening dis-
trict of the State, which stretches from Win-
nebago county to its southern and western
limits. This vast tract, with the exception of
the strip of timbered land in the counties bor-
dering Lake Michigan, constitutes the north-
eastern section of that great agricultural
empire of fertile prairie and openings, which
extends to the south and west for distances
that include whole States in their vast limita-
tions, and presenting in almost one continuous
body a tract of agricultural country, whose
territorial immensity and fertilit)- is unparal-
leled in the wide world. That portion of it
included in the limits of the State of Wiscon-
sin is more diversified with openings and
detached bodies of timber, and consequently
does not present those great monotonous
stretches of level prairie, which largely abound
in the more southern portions of the district.
The face of this prairie and opening country of
Wisconsin is indescribabl}- charming in its
picturesquebeauty of commingled prairie, wood
land, lakes and rivers; forming vast rural
landscapes of the most exquisite loveliness.
Here are lakes rivaling the finest in the world,
with handsome sloping banks rising in the
most graceful undulations.

The rolling prairie, in a succession of
smoothly rounded ridges, stretching away as
far as eye can reach, dotted with picturesque
openings and bordered with the dense foliage
of the more heavily wooded slopes, affording
views, whose distant vistas fade into a per-
spective that resembles some enchanting mir-
age of wooded hills and grassy lawns, with
glimpses of water flecking the whole scene in
artistic light and shadows. But in all this
magnificent countiy, there is no tract that can
surpass, and but few that can equal, that
embraced in the counties of Winnebago,
Green Lake and western Fond du Lac. These
now present one expanse of highly cultivated
farms, with farm houses that, in many instan-
ces are elegant rural villas; spacious barns and
good fences, giving every evidence of the
wealth and thrift of their occupants.

In Green Lake and Winnebago counties,
the beautiful water scenery is an especial fea-
ture, which gives additional charms to the
contrasting varieties of prairie and woodland.
These large bodies of water modify the heat of
summer, and purify the air, which is delight-
fully exhilarating and healthful. These lakes




and rivers, too, form a great water-course
through the heart of the country, which is nav-
igated by steamers, and upon whose banks
have arisen some of the chief cities of the
State. Here, then, is a country of the richest
fertility of soil, with a healthful climate, in
which malarial diseases are almost unknown;
with pure air and an abundant supply of the
best of water; while every portion of it is in
close proximity to business centers, and
abounding in great physical resources of agri-
culture and manufacture. Immediately
adjoining this country is the heavily timbered
region, of northeastern Wisconsin, traversed
by navigable streams, and possessing the
greatest water-power on the continent, with a
capacity, at a number of points, for miles of
mills and factories; at one point on the lower
Fox the capacity being one hundred and fifteen
thousand horse-power. This "timbered"
country of northeastern Wisconsin is also a fine
agricultural district, in addition to its great
manufacturing resources. The thirty large
flouring and paper mills, many of them mam-
moth establishments, in Neenah and Apple-
ton, and the extensive iron works and manu-
factories of wooden ware, at various points on
the river, already give evidence of the giant
proportions of its manufacturing capacity, but
which is yet in the very infancy of its develop-
ment. The country, collectively, constitutes
the Fox River Valley; the Upper Fox, prairie
and openings of the richest fertility; the Lower,
hard-wood timber lands, with a good, strong
clay soil, while to the northwest is the belt of
sandy district, which terminates in the great
forest lying beyond. This country, to the
north and west of the Upper Fox, with the
exception of a portion of Winnebago county,
is one distinctively different in its physical fea-
tures to that lying to the south and east, as
stated in the beginning of this article.

The vast prairie countrv to the southwest
has its northeast boundary in the beautiful
valley of the Upper Fox, in which the face of
the country, the soil and general features, are
similar to those of the best part of the southein
portions of the State, with the additional fea-
ture of numerous bodies of navigable waters.
A short distance to the north, after crossing
the Fox, the character of the country changes,
and the region called Northern Wisconsin here
has its beginning. The soil changes from the
rich, black loam of the prairie, and clay of the
wooded land into a sandy soil, which very
generally prevails in Waushara and northern
Marquette counties, and the southern half of
Portage and Waupaca, with variable degrees
of fertility. After crossing the belt of open.

sandy country, the pine and hardwood forests
of Northern Wisconsin are reached. The vast
region lying beyond the Fox Valley, and
and extending north to the shore of Lake
Superior, is one of great variety of soil,
resources and face of country, embracing
small, sandy plains, handsome openings of fair
fertility, extensive cranberry marshes, grass
lands, cedar and tamarack swamps, pine lands,
and rough, rocky districts, and mineral lands.
It is well watered by innumerable lakes and

There are also in Northern Wisconsin large
tracts of the very finest sugar-maple land, com-
prising nearly whole townships in a body, with
a rich, warm, black soil — as fine farming land
as can be found in the West. There is a wide
belt of this maple land mixed with other hard-
wood timber, and an occasional patch of pine,
extending through Oconto, Shawano and Mar-
athon counties. Some townships are already
well settled, and large tracts in a good state of
cultivation. This whole tract is well supplied
with the purest of running water, spring brooks,
rivers, and in many locations, beautiful lakes.

The country to the north of this is more bro-
ken, rough and rocky, and constitutes a por-
tion of the great mineral tract, which extends
to Lake Superior. It will be seen, therefore,
that this region has a great variety of natural
resources in its timber materials, mineral
deposits, agricultural lands, navigable streams
and water-power.

The Wolf River and its large tributaries,
floiK.<iHg from this region, empties into the
Upper Fox,, and is navigable for one hundred
and fifty miles or more, thus giving the Fox
River Valley eountry ivater communication and
easy accessibility to its vast material resources.

It is this conjunction of the respective natu-
ral elements of three distinct types of country,
which constitutes the great manufacturing and
business capacity of the Fox River Valley,
where Nature, with the most prodigal hand,
has scattered the richest elements of productive
wealth; and it is this which makes the beautiful
country on the line of these water-courses a
populous thoroughfare, on which have sprung
up thriving cities — the busy centers of modern
enterprise and manufacturing activit}-.





County of Winnebago — Its Area — Face of the County —
Altitude — Water, Timber, Soil and Productions.

HE cuiinty (if Winnebago, comprising
si.xtcen townships, four of which arc
fractional, constitutes one of the finest
tracts in the Fox Valley. It is situ-
ated west of Lake Winnebago, which
boiinils its entire eastern border.

The tract embraced in its limits forms the
northeastern extremity of the great prairie
and opening countrj' of Wisconsin; and one
more lovely and picturesque cannot be found
in the West.

Its surface is generally rolling; the more
level districts being on the margin of the
streams. The greatest altitude is one hundred
and seventeen feet above the level of Fox
River. The country, in its natural state,
resembled avast park, in which prairie, wood-
land, lake and river combined in one diversi-
fied scene of natural beauty.

It is one of the best watered districts of the
State, being intersected by three navigable
rivers, the Upper and Lower Fox, and the
Wolf, and bordered by Lake Winnebago, a
body of water thirty-five miles long and ten
to twelve wide. The lovely water scenery of
the county is one of its charming features. In
nearly every direction the scene embraces dis-
tant views, disclosing vistas, in which lake and
river, prairie and forest are blended together
in exquisite harmony. The mouth of the
Upper Fox forms one of the most spacious
harbors in the State. This stream, between
Lake Butte des Morts and Lake Winnebago
averages five hundred feet in width. It
empties into a handsome bay, on the shores
of which Oshkosh is situated. The mouth of
the river is ahalf mile in width, and, with the
handsome point that forms the northern out-
line, and the steamers and numerous sailing
crafts moving on its surface, forms a most
attractive scene.

The shores of the lake were originally forest,
a belt of "timber" extending inland from two
to five miles, which was composed chiefly of
oak, sugar-maple, hickory, elm and basswood.
Adjoining this were heavy burr-oak openings,
which, in some places, approached the shore
of the lake. Along the shore, in the town of
Black Wolf, were what were called "timber
openings," and Indian planting grounds; being
very large, tall oaks scattered at intervals
through open spaces, with occasional thick-
ets of hazel brush, plum and crab-apple. The
undergrowth was so kept down by the annual
fires, that large tracts presented the appearance

of great, well-kept parks. At some points the
lake could be seen through the trees from a
distance of one or two miles back from the
shore. The Indian planting grounds were
mere open spaces, with an occasional tree or
clump of bushes, and were the sites of the
Indian villages that previously occupied the
most eligible points on the lake shore. On
Lakes Butte des Morts, Winneconne and Poy-
gan were also many large Indian clearings, the
sites of villages and planting grounds; for, as
stated in previous pages, this count)- was the
center of a large Indian population.

A large proportion of the shores of the
lakes is handsome, undulating land, frequently
forming points with gravel and sand beaches.
In some places on the margin of the streams
and lakes, were extensive hay marshes, with a
luxuriant growth of red top and wild pea vine.
The bottoms of the smaller streams and the
"interval lands" also furnished natural

The soil, though varying much in different
localities, when taken as a whole, is nowhere
surpassed, — from a deep, purely vegetable
mold to a vegetable loam, clay and sand, all
resting upon a sub-soil of clay, and small
areas of sand mixed with ochre, which makes
the earliest and richest soil known. The pre-
vailing rock is of limestone, which is found in
extensive quantities, supplying an abimdance
of hard, durable building stone, and superior
grain growing qualities to the soil. Sand
stone is also found to a limited extent.

Good water is everywhere abundant; the
lakes and streams meandering through the
country from various directions, with innumer-
able springs as feeders, furnish a lavish and
never failing supply, while excellent wells are
readily obtained at a depth of from ten to
thirty feet, and by drilling from fifteen to one
hnndred feet (generally within forty-five feet),
constant flowing fountains of purest water
are produced, discharging from two to five
feet above the surface, in any part of the
county, the deeper fountains supplying water
of remarkable medicinal qualities.

The lakes and streams abound in a great
variety of the finest fish, of which the black
bass, rock bass, pickerel, pike, perch and
sturgeon, are prominent, affording rare sport
to those whose inclination leads in that direc-
tion; and added to these are the sucker (red
horse), buffalo fish, cat-fish, and other

In the northeastern, as in some other por-
tions, extensive beds of brick clay of superior
quality are found and largely utilized, produc-
ing the cream-colored brick.




The notable products of the county are
wheat, rye, oats, corn, barley, buckwheat,
hops, potatoes, butter and cheese, horses, cat-
tle, sheep and hogs; apples, plums, pears,
cherries, grapes, and a profusion of the smaller
fruits, with an abundance of hay, both natural
and cultivated.

As evidence of the inexhaustible fertility of
the soil, Mr. Commodore Rogers, of the town
of Oshkosh, pointed out a field of wheat, just
harvested, the twenty-fourth consecutive crop
on that piece of land; which was equal to the
average of this year's growth within the town.


Early French Settlers of Winnebago — The Trading-Post at
Butte des Morts — L. B. Porlier — The Grignons — The
Business Center of the Upper Fox — Trading-Post at Coon's
Point, Algoma — Captain William Powell — William John-
son, the Interpreter — Charles Grignon and Family — James
Knagg's Trading Post and Ferry, Near the Site of Algoma
Bridge — Government Agency for the Instruction and Civil-
ization of the Indians, Established at Winnebago Rapids ( now
Neenah) — Mills and Buildings Erected for the Use of the
Indians at that Place in 1835-36 — Archibald Caldwell —
The Abandonment of the Enterprise and Sale of the Site
and Buildings to Harrison Reed.

^j^N 1818, Augustin Grignon and James
wlw Porlier established a trading post, just
g^5b) below the present village of Butte des-
''fK Morts, on the bank of the lake. Mr.
il Grignon was at that time a resident of
Kaukauna, and Mr. Porlier resided at Green
Bay. Robert Grignon had charge of the post
for a time, but subsequently went to Algoma,
and started another. In 1832, Mr. L. B.
Porlier took charge of the post at Butte des-
Morts, and for many years did an extensive
business at that point. He still resides at that
place, which is one of the oldest historical
land-marks of the country; while he is a sur-
viving representative of the old French-Indian

This place in its day was the business center
of the Upper Fox; the Indian trail from Green
Bay to Fort Winnebago crossed the Fox at this
point. The opposite shore, now a wet marsh,
afforded solid footing for a horse. A ferry was
kept and a public house for the accommoda-
tion of travelers. At times a large number of
Indians were congregated at this post, trading
their furs for Indian goods, and many a festive
backwoods frolic has occurred there.

Augustin Grignon, a man most highly
esteemed by the old settlers, also kept a pub-
lic house at Kaukauna, which was a favorite
resor]fe of officers from forts Howard and Win-
nebago, who on great occasions used to assem-

ble with their ladies, to trip the light fantastic

General Cass, Governor Dodge, and other
high dignitaries, even, have participated in
these festive occasions.

Another early settler was Peter Powell. He
built a place on the shore of the lake in 1832.
His son. Captain William Powell, who lived
with him at that time, acted a conspicuous
part in the early day, and was very popular with
both the white settlers and the Indians. He
was noted for his fine address and pleasing,
genial ways, and for being one of the dryest
jokers in the country.

In 1835, another trail was adopted for the
mail route between forts Howard and Winne-
bago. This trail crossed the river just below
the foot of Lake Butte des Morts, near the
present Algoma bridge, and in that year,
George Johnson, father of William Johnson,
well known to the old settlers," as the Indian
interpreter, built on what was afterwards
known as Coon's point, two log houses, estab-
lished a ferry, and opened a tavern. He sub-
sequently sold the whole establishment to
Robert Grignon and William Powell. They
afterwards sold the same to James Knaggs, a
half-breed, who immediately opened up at this
point, a trading post, with a large stock of
Indian goods. This was the first business
concern within what is now the limits of

In 1839, Charles Grignon, with his family,
settled on what is now known as Jackson's
Point. A band of Menominees soon joined
him, and an Indian village, with adjacent
planting-grounds, sprung up on that site.

In 1 83 1, a treaty was concluded with the
Menominee Indians, which provided for the
payment to them from the Government, of
$5,000 per annum, for four years, and after the
expiration of that time, $6,000 for twelve
years; $4,000 of this latter yearly annuity was
to be expended in arms and ammunition; and
in pursuance of a plan adopted by the Gov-
ernment for the civilizing of the Indians, it
was agreed upon, that an agency should be
established at some suitable place, a Govern-
ment grist and saw mill erected, and log dwell-
ing houses for the use of such Indians as would
live in them. It was also provided that five
farmers should be established at the agency, at

Online LibraryRichard J HarneyHistory of Winnebago County, Wisconsin, and early history of the Northwest → online text (page 20 of 71)