May 19, 2001
Heading south along the Lake Michigan shore, well beyond the Door Peninsula, we might want to stop at Two Rivers and taste a local delicacy. At least it was local early in the 1880s. It was on a presumably hot day in 1881 when a gustatory pioneer named George Hallauer strolled into Ed Berners' Ice Cream Parlor for a dish of the cold stuff. Ed was about to serve it up when George decided t looked a bit boring. He suggested that Ed take some of that chocolate syrup he used for making sodas and just drizzle some of the tasty goop on top of the scoops, thus giving birth to the ice cream sundae. The s-u-n-d-a-e spelling was coined a bit later to get around some of the recently introduced blue laws. Moving on downlake, we could stop in at Monitowoc, for a visit to the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, where we'd learn of the city's proud heritage of turning out submarines for the Navy during World War II. Finally, moving on we arrive at Sheboygan.
Green Bay trapper and trader William Farnsworth might have been the first settler but for one slight detail. He never really settled. He paid a visit back around 1814, but didn't linger. He stayed a bit longer on a return visit in 1818, putting down impermanent roots for a month or two. He may have run into Frenchman Andrew Vieux, who put up a hut here, that lasted long enough for his wife to give birth to the first white child born in the future Sheboygan County, before all three of them moved on. Also during the year Michigan Territorial governor Lewis Cass put into shore with his exploratory flotilla. Busy year!
It was another 16 years before anyone decided to hunker down for more than a brief visit. Chicago miller William Paine came up in 1834 with a partner named Crocker to build a sawmill and begin the local lumber industry. It took about a year for them to become bored (don't forget, no ice cream parlors for another 45 years or so) and they sold off their holdings, half of them to that old wayfarer William Farnsworth, in November 1835. Trapping was no longer paying off so he decided to try his hand at mill running. He brought up a couple from Cleveland, John and Eliza Follet, the husband to work in the mill, the wife to run the cookhouse. The settlement's first frame house was put up and turned into a combination boarding-house for the millhands and tavern for travelers between Green Bay and the Milwaukee-Chicago area. In 1836 Charles Cole and family arrived, followed by Mr. A. G. Dye, his family and a number of carpenters, to erect a warehouse for Farnsworth. Not far behind were William Ashby, the three Gibbs brothers and teacher F. M. Rublee, who began the county's first school.
No one could be said to be living off the fat of the land. The winter of 1836-1837 caused some real tightening of Sheboygan belts. They survived though, with the help of some rather ancient provisions from Green Bay. Spring was extremely welcome that year. Things began looking up. More and more people, looking for unencumbered land, poured in. The village had nearly 20 buildings, including warehouses, a schoolhouse, two stores and a blacksmith shop. Plans were drawn up for a real city, with streets and avenues. Life wasn't so bad after all. However, it may have been the far frontier, the back of beyond, but the almost non-existent threads connecting them with the Atlantic coast's financial markets were still sufficiently strong enough to control their destinies. And not always for the best.
Further Sheboygan adventures next week. For Classical 91.5 and 90-point-3, this is David Minor
URL OF THE WEEK
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus, reflecting on constant change, once said that you could never step in the same river twice. But you can get a feel for the past of the Badger State, at the site sponsored by the Wisconsin Local History Network, which promises "Stories, essays, letters, poems, biographies, journals and tidbits from Wisconsin history. Many first hand accounts - profusely illustrated."
You can read about an 1835 canoe ride up the Minnay Sotor (say the name quickly and it may sound like a nearby Great Lakes state), an 1843 winter trip from Milwaukee to Green Bay, local authors in 1918, the 1921 struggle for the vote for women, early lumbering on the Chippewa, the 1871 Peshtigo fire, and sketches of pioneer women. Period photographs (steamboats, lumber camps, local notables and their homes, mines) and maps provide visual aids to a time and place we can never quite return to.
The Game's Afoot ! !
© 2001 David Minor / Eagles Byte