Richard J Harney.

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

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Underneath the April skies,
Rears aloft its steepled crests,
Where the swallows bviild their nests.
Massive blocks of brick and stoue
Show what enterprise has done ;
Tasteful homes and gardens fair
Show that wealth resideth there.
Mills stand on the river's side,
Lumber floats upon the tide;
Rises smoke from furnace throats,
Loaded are the passing boats ;
While, like hum of monster tops,
Sounds the labor of the shops.
' Gazing up at April skies,

This fair city smiling lies,
Rears aloft its steepled crests,
Where the swallows build their nests.

Through the hum of busy trade, growing, nearer, rising higher,

Speeding on the wings of fear comes the dreadful cry of fire.

Past the shops where labor toils, through the mart where Mammon

In the doors of happy homes, down the misery-haunted lanes.

Presage of destruction dire,

Swells and roars this cry of fire.

Peal on peal of wild alarm, ring forth from each brazen bell,

And shrieking mill and wliistUng boat the mournful story tell,

While crashing through the crowded sti-eets the ponderous engines go,

To mingle in the flaming fray, and battle with the foe,
"Who every moment sendeth higher
His breath of smoke and tongues of fire.
The hurrying crowd, with gleaming eyes and faces pale as death.
Sweeps on to where the Demon stalks, in all his fiery wrath.
They see his thousand lurid flames, in triumph spreading faster,
And vainly strive to beat them back, for Fire to-day is master.
And slaves who bondage break.
The worst of tyrants make.

He shakes on high his crested head, in scorn at man's endeavor.
Breaks every bound and rushes by, a swollen, flaming river,
Which, gathering strength as it rolls o'er blocks of wood and stone.
Becomes a mighty molten flood, whose fiery breath alone.

To tree and house became

Presage of death and flame.

Rushed the towering flames, like torrents breaking from a mountain't

Hissing, roaring, whirling, leaping on their blazing (
Melting granite, as a furnace melts a heap of softest wax ;
Sweeping through the sternest iron, as through walls of driest flax,

Flooding loftiest roof and spire

With deluge of consuming fire.

Stately mansion, humble cottage, block of brick and wood;
Buildings that were half completed, buil lings that for years had stood;
Lowly workshop, mill gigantic, feeble store and massive bank,
AU beneath the flood of lava, in one common ruin sank ;

For raging fire, like death, is quite

Too powerful to be parasite.

Swept this flood of fiery ruin on that fearful, fatal day.
Seized with fury unrelenting, on its unresisting prey,
Happy homes rbduced to ashes, haunts of vice in ruin fell.
And the place in smoke and cinders, glowed with all the fires of heU,
Or what is much the same.
Glowed with a burning sea of flame.

And while on its broad and blackened pathway countless homes in ruin

Overhead the flood had painted flaming colors on the sky,
Flags triumphant, banners crimson, showing all the victor's glow,
O'er the blazing triumph gathered in the siege below;
For 'twould be a species of insanity
If every Wctor didn't show a Uttle vanity.

And ,,the flames kept up their scourge, onward rolled their moulten

'Till their blazing column's gathered at the very river's verge.
There they faltered in confusion— fiery strength and fury gone-
Turned to sparks and smouldering embers, and the day of wrath was


Thus Heaven, in kindness, has decreed
One element may stay another's greed.
Where the fiend foimd strength and beauty, left he but a blackened

Like some field of bloody battle covered with its thousand slain ;
Smoke and ashes, frowning ruins, crumbling walls on every side,
Marked the place where splendid buildings once had towered in their

Gone were all the grace and beauty of the structures man had made,
All the pride of this fair city in the tomb of ashes laid ;
Gone, the labor years had taken, gone like fleeting of a breath.
Wealth ana spiendor, grandem-, glory, swallowed up in fiery death.
For Fii*e, Uke Death, his brother shark.
Is prone to "love a shining mark."
While the past is desolation, in the future Hope is flying;
Sijilt our milk is, therefore let us waste no time iu useless crying.
Gird our loins up, seize the hammer, sound forth labor's cheering cries,
Till once more we see our city in its strength and beauty rise.
For who win spend his time in weeping over home and fortune slain.
When liis tears, though like a torrent, will not bring them back again ?
Who will idly gaze distracted on the scenes of fiery strife?
Folded hands and eyes of anguish cannot bring the dead to life.
"Let us then be up and doing, with a heart for every fate,
'Still achieving, still pursuing, learn to labor and to wait."
Remembering that 'tis said the Heavenly Host
Giveth him the greatest help, who helps himself the most.

A sad city, wailing, lies
Under mournful April skies.




Fallen are its steepled crests,
Where the swallows had their nests ;
Massive blocks of brick and stoue
Into dust and ashes gone.
Tasteful homes aud gardens fair
Scenes of desolation are.
ALills upon the river's side,
Swallowed up by flaming tide,
Furnaces that poured forth smoke
Into sombre ntius broke ;
Workshop's hum, that went aud came,
Vanished in a sheet of flame.
Like some fair garden of the Lord
Hewn and hacked by fiery sword;
Under mournful April skies
Our sad city wailing lies,
Fallen are its steepled crests,
Where the swallows had their nests.


[Special Corresxjondeuoe of Chicago Tribune. |

A visit to the City of Oshkosh, now so vig-
orously springing up from the ashes of its late
fire, discloses to the most casual observer the
fact of its recuperative force, and the great
vitality of its business resources.

The work of rebuilding is being pushed for-
ward with great vigor, and everything indi-
cates that spirit of enterprise and business
activity for which Oshkosh has been distin-

The courageous enterprise manifested must
arise from the firmest faith in the future pros-
perous career of the place — a faith that is not
only well sustained by the splendid progress in
the past, but which a knowledge of her
unbounded resources for trade and manufac-
ture will conclusively show to be well founded.

Two months have not elapsed since the fire,
and during that time several brick blocks have
been erected; many more are well advancedin
their construction; and on nearly every other
site of the business portion of the burnt dis-
trict, foundations are being laid and building
material stored in readiness for immediate work.

Bricklaying is an extensive business in Osh-
kosh at the present time, and the incessant
click of the hundreds of mason's trowels adds
a new chord to the music of Oshkosh, and
minglessonorously with the noisy chorus of her
machinery and business hum.

It would be naturally supposed that such a
fire would have paralyzed the hopes of a com-
munity; but no sign of despondcnc)' is to be
seen in Oshkosh. These peopleare determined
to build up a city here worthy of the beautiful
and advantageous site it occupies. They will
succeed even beyond their highest anticipa-
tions, for nothing can check the progress of a
place like this.

No one can become familiar with the beau-
tiful and fertile country surrounding Oshkosh,
and look at its magnificent river, 600 feet wide
at this point, flowing from the great forests of

Northern Wisconsin, and floating to this city
their timber products, and the splendid sheet
of water, Lake Winnebago, and the steamers
and sail craft which ply in every direction,
to the Mississippi on the west and Lake Mich-
igan on the east — without seeing the plainest
evidences that Nature has laid here the found-
ations for a city of large proportions, and one
that must necessarily be a great manufacturing
and business center. The immense quantities
of commercial timber, in the shape of hard
wood, as well as pine, in the country to the
north of Oshkosh, on its tributary rivers, and
the vast deposits of iron ore, which can be
shipped south on the line of its demand through
the forests which furnish the fuel for its man-
ufacture, must ever make this region one of

This tract of forest land also comprises large
bodies of the finest grass and grain lands in the
West. The country is well watered and not
subject to droughts. There is every variety
and character of soil and face of country, from
the sandy, and rough, and rocky, and mining
lands, hay-marsh, cranberry bog, cedar and
tamarack swamps, to the very finest sugar-
maple lands, comprising nearly whole town-
ships in a body — the latter as fine farming
lands as can be found in the West, with all the
coveted advantages of rich soil, best of timber,
plentifully supplied with the purest of running]
water — spring brooks, large rivers and beau-
tiful lakes; with railroads, business and manu-
facturing facilities, and a healthful climate.


This country has but just been opened up to
settlement by the railroads. Its trade and
business are developing with wonderful
rapidity; villages and manufacturing ham-
lets are springing ud along the lines o)
the railroads. The manufacture of pine
lumber and hard wood lumber, staves, spokes,
wagon and furniture timber, now consti-
tute the principal articles of manufacture,
to which must soon be added iron work;
and the various staple iron manufactures: for,
let it be understood, that the railroads run fron-
the iron and copper mines southward, througl
the great tract of timber and farming lands, b)
which the ore can be moved to meet the fue
on the very lines of its natural shipment an<
ultimate demand. The lines of road traversi
ing this country must necessarily become i
continuous hive of industry, and pour ai
immense trade into the first available busines:
center; and Oshkosh is the point. This
plainly foreshadowed.

Here is the splendid ri\er flowing from thi

Residence or Genl.Tho mas S.Allen, Jackson St.Oshkosh,Wis.





great forest tract and uniting at this point with
Lake Winnebago and its continuous water
communications east and west. The flow of
trade from the North naturally runs to the
west side of Lake Winnebago. This is the line
of the direction of the demand of its products,
and here is the natural center of trade and busi-
ness between it and the beautiful prairie and
open country which stretches from here away
to the south and west.

The country immediately surrounding Osh-
kosh, and, in fact, the adjoining counties, is
among the most fertile and beautiful in the
West — prairie and woodland commingled
with lakes and rivers.

The resources of Oshkosh stimulate
a growth which no disaster like her great fire
can suppress. Last year over seven hundred
buildings were erected, and this year, although
the great fire destroyed the business portion of
the city, its rapid progress is unchecked.


The danger of fire, so long menacing Osh-
kosh, is now, in a great degree, removed. The
large quantities of combustible material which
were stored in such dangerous proximity to
the business portion of the city, are now tor-
ever banished by a city ordinance to that effect.
The old wooden buildings are all destroyed in
that locality, and nothing but fire-proof struc-
tures are to be permitted to take their place.
The safety of the city from further conflagra-
tion can be very readily secured, for very few
cities have better natural facilities for protec-
tion. The splendid river, 6oo feet wide, which
bisects the city, forms an effectual barrier of
non— communication and gives an immense
water frontage, with an ever ready and most
available supply of water at the immediate
points of greatest danger. There is no doubt
that Oshkosh will profit by her experience and
avail herself of her superior advantages to
secure immunity from any further extensive
conflagrations, and that the city is rebuilt on a
foundation of safety.

It is rare to find a place with such fine busi-
ness facilities, possessing so many attractions
as a place of residence The wealthier classes,
the business and professional men, of large
cities, are glad to find pleasant places of resi-
dence from ten to twenty miles from their
places of business, where their homes are
exempt from the stifling, impure air, heat,
dust and smoke of the crowded marts;
while the citizens of Oshkosh have, within ten
or fifteen minutes' carriage-drive of their busi-
ness center, the most delightful sites for sub-

urban residences, embracing a lake front of
surpassing beauty. The drive to Winneconne
discloses a most picturesque view of lake
and river, and beautiful slopes of prairie,
groves and cultivated fields. The shores of
Lake Winnebago, a most magnificent sheet of
water, and the finest yachting waters in the
West, are among the most beautiful situations
for suburban residences to be found in the
countr)'. The shore in the immediate vicinity
of Oshkosh, and for several miles, has a fine
gravelly or stony beach, with many beautiful
points and bays. Steamboats, sail craft and
pleasure yachts ply its waters, and add addi-
tional attractiveness to the lovely scene. No
finer location can be found for a delightful
watering-place and summer hotel. It is sur-
passing strange that such an opportunity
should have been so long over-looked, and I
call the attention of those who are looking to
enterprise in that direction to this most attrac-
tive place.

R. J. H.


[Special Correspondence Chicago Times.]
" I saw from out the wave her structures rise,
A.S from the stroke of the enchanter's wand."

A year ago, Oshkosh built up a half mile of
upper Main Street, which had been formerly
destroyed by the great fire of that year, and
this year she performed a similar operation on
a scale of greater magnitude, being the whole
business part of the immense burnt district
which was laid waste by the memorable con-
flagration of last April. She now enjoys the
distinction of being the only bran new city,
with all the modern improvements, that was
ever built in the short period of one year.

Although so terribly scourged by the two
great fires which, in one year, burnt up two
miles of the densely populated portion of the
city, including nearly the whole of its business
buildings, hardly a trace of the fire can now be
seen on the business streets. Her fire scars
were healed over in a single season, and her
calamity is forgotten in the prosperity which
attends her vigorous enterprise.


The structures erected in Oshkosh during the
summer of 1875, were: One hundred and
twelve fire-proof stores, two first-class hotels,
twelve manufacturing establishments, two
school buildings, one elegant opera house, two
bank buildings, five churches, fifty-six build-
ings comprising frame stores, mechanic shops,
livery stables, etc., and 284 dwelling houses —
being 476 buildings in all. Nearly ten miles
of sidewalk have been laid, and upper Main




street has been graded and graveled, and long
lines of sewers constructed. Of the residences,
over half are elegant and costly structures.
The business streets are metropolitan in appear-
ance, with their palace stores and magnificent
plate-glass windows of the largest size. Main
street, for nearly a mile, is compactly built up,
there being but three vacant spaces on lower
Main, the scene of the spring fire. It presents
a splendid appearance in its long line of hand-
some new structures.

The change effected by the fire has com-
pletely transformed the place. The old wooden
structures were all swept away, and the old
familiar landmarks have disappeared forever.
It was hopefully predicted, early in the sum-
mer, by the local papers, that half of the busi-
ness portion of the burnt district would be
rebuilt by fall. The progress of Oshkosh in
this instance, as in all others, has surpassed the
most sanguine expectations. Instead of half
the space being filled up, it is nearly all rebuilt,
and more than fifty of the finest structures have
been erected on lots formerly vacant or occu-
pied by frame buildings. In fact, a building
mania prevailed, that seized upon every avail-
able place with a determination to fill the whole
thing up, and it has accomplished its purpose.
One remarkable feature of this unparallelled
rebuilding is that it is very generally paid for.
There is but a trifling indebtedness as the busi-
ness property in the burnt district is princi-
pally owned by men of ample means.

L()C.\I, WE.\LTH.

The local wealth of Oshkosh is rarely
equalled by cities of its size. The average
deposits in its three banks is nearly $1 ,000,000.
This, in connection with the heavy capital
invested in some seventy manufacturing estab-
lishments and the large class of mercantile
houses, makes a sum total which plainly tells
the story of the business capacity of the place.
Oshkosh, therefore, renews her business career
under the favorable circumstance of freedom
from burdensome indebtedness. Her business
firms, with one or two exceptions, all resumed
business immediately after the fire, and
although there were individual losses involv-
ing large amounts, their solvency was unshaken.
There was probably never another instance of
such a wholesale destruction of property
attended with so few failures. The business
men of Oshkosh asked no compromise with
creditors, and amid the loss and wreck of their
property, and the great discouragements of the
interruption of their business and lack of facil-
ities, they prompth- met their demands.


The municipal indebtedness is compara-
tively nothing, being only some $70,000. The
city has invested largely, too, in local improve-
ments, but they are paid for. Her school
buildings are among the finest in the State.
One of them is the State Normal School,
towards the erection of which Oshkosh contrib-
uted some $30,000 — and the Oshkosh High
School buildings, v.hich cost about $40,000.
Several of the Ward Schools are fine buildings,
costing from $10,000 to $20,000 each. In the
construction of two magnificent bridges, 600
feet long, the width of the river, which bisects
the city, $50,000 was expended. There are
over twenty miles of graveled streets. Algoma
and Washington streets are almost one contin-
uous line of three miles of elegant residences.

The value of manufactured products for the
year 1875, is over $4,000,000. Although
Oshkosh is a great lumbering center, rough
lumber now constitutes but little over one-
third of the value of her manufactures.

R. J. H.

0.shUush, .\])iil, 1876.


McKey & Folds § l,"™

J. M. Rollins 4,000

Win. Hill & Co 15,000

P. Kelly 4,000

Moses Hooper and George Mayer 9,000

Mrs. McCabe 4,000

Wolcotfs Block 10,(X)0

R. Gueuther 6,000

Mrs. Carter 4,500

J. F. W. Decker 4,600

A. B Wright 8,000

G. F ,t L. M. Kastmau 4,000

Alf Ford 4,000

Mrs. Watts ". 4,500

H. L. Bigger IB.IXKl

E. W. ViaU and .lames .Icukius 10,000

Clarks & Forbes 3,500

H. Kuehnistcd 4,500

S. M. Hay 1<I,000

C. M. McCabe 4,000

Cameron & McCo\irt 4,000

Williims & FroehUch 4,000

LaBudd & Habeu B,000

L. Mayer & G. W. Newman ... . fi.ooii

Haben & Ruck ,. 7,1100

Voigt & Wendorff 7,00(1

Win. Wakemnu 7,000

Mrs, Hardy .. 4.000

David Evans . B,000

.f. Horuiug J: .1. Bamngnrtiipr .^OOO

Hoisiuger Bros 7,000

Jul. Heisiuger .'>,000

K. Dichmauu & Sou H,000

Kaerwer & Henkle 3,000

Peters & McKenzie .6,000

V . Hermann . lo,000

Metz & Schloerb 0,000

.1. M. Weisbrod 3,000

L. Bridge 3,000

H. Bammessel 10,000

W. 11. Kennedy 4,000

If. McKenzie 5,000




H. B. Jackaou

P. KeUy

Jos. Striugham

A. Andrea

C. Ernst

E. Hubbard

M. Griffin

A. Meisuer

Wm. Klotsch and E. W. Tiltou.

M. T. Battis

Nelson Gill

Mrs. Bailey

VoiKt & Weudorff

E. Luhm

George Condie

A. Tietzen

H. Peck . .

C. Kolilman & Bros


T. J. Kelly

C. Spore

Dichmahu's Block

Hancock's Block

J. Wlllock ... ■.

Beckwith House

Treraout House

Union National Bank

First National Bank

\\'n\. Suhl's Steam Bakery .. ..

Postoffice block

Masonic Hall

M &8t. P. R. B. Depot

Fraker's Opera House

Jail and Vaults

Bell k Rogers, Planing Mill

Williamson, Jones * Co..

Perry Ransom

J. K. Loper

M. T. Battis

Coles & Forbes

First Baptist Church

St. Peters Catholic Church

















3,000 ,


■2 000

, 3,000

. 3,5''0

, 8,000


. 4,000

. ■25,001

. 20,000


, '22,000

. 7,000


. 16,000

. 18,001)

. 15,000

. 25,000



. 10,000

. 6,000

. 3,000

. 2,000

. 15,00!)

. 20,000

In the above list are included ii2 fire-proof


Griffith and V akelield S 7,000

Schmidt Bros 5,000

Oshkosh Wool . Ti Mills 6,000

B. J. Musser ;j ''o


Germau-Eneli-di Academy 4,5,0

Evangelical Church 6,000

Danish Churca 3,000

German Methodist Church lo,noi)

Fifty other frame structures were erected
during the -eason, comprising frame stores,
livery stables, barns and mechanic shops; also
five mechanic shops of brick.


Fire proof BtoL-33 112

First class hotels '2

Banks - 2

Mauufacturi ag Establishmeuts 12

School Buildiugs 2

Opera House 1

Churches 5

Dwellings 2R4

Mechanic shops, brick 5

Frame stores, shops, etc 51

Total 476

The actual amount expended in the con-
struction of buildings, between the time of the

great fire, of April 28, 1875, and the 12th of
January following, was $1,050,490.


The Business Firms of Oshkosh After the Fire in Board Shan-
ties — The City Protected Against Further Extensive Con-
flagrations — A new Impetus in Progress and Improvement —
The Public and Private Enterprises in Oshkosh in 1879 —
Nicholson Pavement on Kansas Street — New Bridge in
Course of Construction — New Iron Railroad Bridge —
Another Railroad Added to the Communications of Osh-
jjosh — The Construction of the Grand Exposition Build-
ing—New Branches of Manufacture — The Government
Ship Yard — State Editorial Convention — Popular Gather-
ings and Amusements — The Northern State Fair — Geo.
Peck's Comments on Oshkosh.

H E burnt district was a desolate look-
ing tract immediately after the fire.
One vast field of ashes and debris —
the remains of the wreck of a city; but
it soon began to assume the appear-
ance of life and activity. The rapidity
with which firms resumed business was a mat-
ter of surprise to people at home and abroad.
Little shanties began to spring up before the
ashes were cold. In fact, the erection of tem-
porary structures began the day after the fire,
and in a few days many of the business firms
were in new quarters — rough board structures
which were erected principally on the side
streets and intended for temporary occupancy.
There probably was never another instance of
such a wide-spread conflagrati on attended with
so few failures and so slight an interruption to

Oshkosh, arisen from the ashes of her late
conflagration, was, in 1876, a newly-made
city. The immense district, over a mile in
length, of bran new buildings, was a sight that
is seldom witnessed. Donned in her new attire
she was now ready to renew her career in the
race of progress.

This was the third time that a large portion
of the burnt district had been rebuilt, and this
time it was wholly composed of fire-proof
buildings. The danger of fire so long menac-
ing Oshkosh, was bow, to a great extent,
removed, as all the wooden structures that for-
merly endangered the business portion of the
city were destroyed, and an ordinance pro-
hibiting the erection of wooden buildings in
the newly prescribed fire limits enforced.

The fires that have occurred since that time
in that portion of the city have been rare, and
have not spread beyond the building where
they originated — in fact, no building on Main

Online LibraryRichard J HarneyHistory of Winnebago County, Wisconsin, and early history of the Northwest → online text (page 33 of 71)