Sunday, May 20, 2012

Red River Township and the Two Darbellays.....

Friend Sally lives near one of Kewaunee County's tiniest, but most well-known, communities. For most, it is a 45 mph limit nuisance with a tavern. Sally mused that if she lived near Darbellay, she wouldn't even know it. But, does she know that she lives near Rushford and Royal Creek which disappeared before Joseph Wery even thought of naming his area - nearly 25 miles north - Darbellay? And, Darbellay? There were two of them!

The first Darbellay was actually a postal community that opened on March 16, 1874 in the SW 1/4 of the SW 1/4 of Section 21 in the Town of Red River. Joseph Wery requested the office which brought business to his store, the site of the office. That office closed on January 1, 1875 and was relocated to Thiry Daems where Constant Thiry became the postmaster. It took Wery until July 7, 1887 to establish the second post office to be called Darbellay and in the same location. That Darbellay was closed in 1904 with the advent of Rural Free Delivery in Kewaunee County.

Darbellay appears in Wisconsin's 1901-1902 business directory. It was in the approximate area of the intersection of today's Kewaunee County Highways S and SS, an area of cornfields. There isn't even a 45 mph sign. Why Darbellay when Wery could have easily named the spot for himself? Joseph Darbellay was a Kewaunee resident who was appointed a postal inspector in 1867. More importantly, he was in charge of relief work following the horrendous Peshtigo fire in 1871. The fire ravished much of the northern portion of Kewaunee County, especially the towns of Red River and Lincoln. The high esteem in which area residents held Darbellay is evident in the naming of the postal community.

If Sally should venture north to find Darbellay, she won't find a 45 mph sign marking the community, but she will find corn growing on some of the finest farms around.

Silver Creek: Where Did It Go?

Silver Creek was so tiny that using the word "hamlet" implies too much. Had it been settled by Germans, such words as "dorf" or "flecken" might have been an appropriate  part of its name, which now indicates an area north of Algoma, but then Wolf River.

James Norman purchased 58 ½ acres in Section 7 of the Town of Ahnapee at the mouth of Silver Creek from the federal government in 1855. One acre was set aside for the school that became known as Woodside and ½ acre for a burying ground. Captain Zeb Shaw’s grave is about all that remains visible in the old cemetery.

Early businessman Albert Wells built a pier a few hundred feet out into water deep enough to allow sail boats in to load wood products. Pine, hemlock, cedar and hardwood was brought to the pier by oxen or horse drawn sleds and loaded onto schooners to be shipped, primarily, to Chicago markets. In the early days, the highway called County S did not exist. The road going out from (then) Ahnapee turned east at the Shaw farm, now the intersection of County Highways S and U, and followed the lakeshore most of the way to Sturgeon Bay, thus avoiding swampland. 

Captain Zeb Shaw was Silver Creek’s third resident and surely the most illustrious. Born in Nova Scotia in 1815, he married in Memphis and met and sailed with George Fellows, Sr. in Chicago. Shaw arrived in Wolf River, now Algoma, in 1851 and began hauling wood products. Later he relocated to the farm that remained in the family for well over 100 years. Eventually Shaw carried mail between Ahnapee and Two Rivers. Shaw and Fellows’ son Charles had a significant historical impact on Silver Creek, the village of Foscoro, now Stony Creek, and the Town of Ahnapee in general.

Today it is difficult to believe that Mrs. Perry Austin operated a restaurant a short distance from the mouth of the river or that the area had its own post office. Theodore Tronson used windmills to provide power to his sawmill business and Charles Serrahn built a cheese factory, the area’s last place of business. There is no sign of the pier or any of the other businesses in another of Kewaunee County’s long-forgotten early villages.

When Captain Shaw's son Moses applied to the federal government for a post office, the request was honored and the office opened on March 13, 1899. It was discontinued on November 15, 1902 when its papers were sent to Algoma. Moses Shaw was its only postmaster. Following the example set by his father and grandfather, Norman Shaw retired from Algoma post office in 1958.

Note: The map is part of Moses Shaw's request for a post office. It has been taken from Here Comes the Mail, Post Offices of Kewaunee County.

Conflagration at Forest Hill.......

Forest Hill in the eastern-most part of Town of Carlton numbers among Kewaunee County’s long forgotten communities. Forest Hill, in Section 7 along Lake Michigan, was completely destroyed by fire on June 26, 1864. U.S. Post Office Department records indicate the place was also called Carlton, and one of the two places known as Sandy Bay.

Two conflagrations that come to mind when one thinks of such destruction in Kewaunee County are the Peshtigo fire of 1871 and the 1898 fire within the City of Kewaunee. However there were others. Perhaps it was because fewer people were affected, or maybe it was due to the era's primitive communications that these fires don’t have much of a place in county history.

Throughout May and June 1864 forest fires raged all over the county.Thousands of dollars were lost in the burned timber lands. Finally, fire destroyed Forest Hill.

Fire had been ravaging the woods near the small community for several days. Its residents had been working day and night to keep the fires at bay but then, just as in the Peshtigo fire years later, it was a strong wind - a south wind - that brought the fire into the small village destroying the entire settlement’s 25 buildings in less than an hour. Saving anything was nearly impossible. Some families threw whatever they could over the lake bank while they themselves were escaping to safety. A team of horses hauling water for Dean and Borland was cut off from safety and perished in the fire, as did dogs, pigs and other animals.

Villagers spent that Sunday night on the beach. As soon as the news got out, teams were sent from Kewaunee to get women and children, however most preferred to stay until they could plan for themselves. Area residents sent food and whatever they could.

Dean and Borland’s store, sawmill, warehouses, 12,000,000 shingles, 1,000 cords of wood, wagons, sleds and more were destroyed. Even the bridge pier that extended hundreds of feet into Lake Michigan was consumed by the fire.

The loss of the pier meant a loss of shipping, but Dean and Borland rebuilt. Forest Hill never regained its economic importance and faded into the annals of history along with Carlton Pier and Dean’s Pier, later names for the same place.

Ironically, seven years later, the Peshtigo fire also occurred on the Lord's Day.

Note: The above photo was taken from Here Comes the Mail, Post Offices of Kewaunee County.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Kewaunee County and the Election of 1860

Hundreds of thousands of vacationers will travel to Mount Rushmore this summer. Visitors will marvel over the history and the four presidents whose heads are carved 60' tall into the South Dakota mountain.

One hundred fifty two years ago, few residents of Kewaunee County would have believed such a thing would have ever taken root. Abraham Lincoln was not popular in Kewaunee County. He was most unpopular in Red River. When the town's votes were counted for the 1860 election, of the 105 votes cast, Lincoln received only one.

Abraham Lincoln was nominated as the Republican candidate on May 18, 1860, though the news didn't reach Kewaunee County until  the Racine came in on the 22nd. Capt. Smith brought newspapers that were read and reread. Kewaunee County's few Republicans, led by Kewaunee's James Slausson and J.R. McDonald of Ahnapee, were enthusiastic about Lincoln's nomination while Democrats were enthusiastic Douglas men who felt a compromise with the South could be reached. John Breckenridge, the third candidate who ran as an Ultra Democrat, represented Southern Democrats. Though Breckenridge had no following within Kewaunee County, he came in third place nationally behind Lincoln and Douglas, a Northern Democrat. Breckenridge finished second in the Electoral College vote.

Election day 1860 dawned crisp and clear. Lincoln and the Republican ticket carried the small village of Kewaunee by a mere seven ballots, 76-69. Lincoln carried Pierce Town by even fewer votes. Three. However, it was his opponent Stephen A. Douglas who swept the county of 5,530 persons - most of whom were women and children - by 362 votes. Little did county residents know until a week later that Lincoln had been elected. Then they thought of the great internal conflict facing the country.

When Congress met in Washington on December 3, 1860, South Carolina had already passed an ordinance of secession following the confirmation of Lincoln's election. President James Buchanan's cabinet was in a state of flux while the citizens of Kewaunee County nervously awaited steamers bringing newspapers. It was February when South Carolina's ultimatum demanding all federal property in the state be turned over to the state government.

Members of both political parties attended the Union meetings that were held in some of the larger cities. "Save the Union at all hazards" was the slogan.  As Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, Kewaunee County Republicans and Democrats gathered to celebrate in Kewaunee. When Editor Garland wrote about the event, he said it was "a scene of beauty and splendor never before seen in this part of the state.* Eight days later, county residents were able to read President Lincoln's inaugural address when Ahnapee merchant David McCummins brought a copy of the Evening Wisconsin from Milwaukee.

When Algoma's John Densow died in October 1916, he had the distinction of being the last county person on the ticket that included Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln was at the head of the ballot while Densow was at the bottom. He was running for coroner.

*Kewaunee County was  2 months short of its 9th anniversary when Garland made the comment.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Kewaunee County and the Civil War, 6

Historian George Wing said the news about Fort Sumter caused tobacco smoke at Ahnepee's Tremont and Kenosha Houses to thicken while William Nelson was scratching his bald spot, DeWayne Stebbins kept going to the tobacco box to fill his pipe and Judge Boalt kept nervously wiping his spectacles.

Hamp Smith took the news home to Hall's Mill and Bill Fagg went to Forestville the next day. Wing said that when the spring winds blew and the boats came in on the April 20th, throngs of people from Clay Banks, Silver Creek, Forestville and from the English, German and Belgian settlements came to Ahnapee to hear the news. By then there was also news of street fighting in Baltimore and the capture of Fort Pickens.

As nervous as Ahnapee's citizens continued to be, it was in August that Peter Schiesser told the Enterprize's Editor Dexter Garland that the war had little effect on Ahnapee. He went on to say that Boalt, McCummins and Strong were doing good business, new buildings were going up and Youngs was shipping large quantities of wood products for which he was being paid in gold.

Following the fall of Fort Sumter, President Lincoln asked for 75,000 soldiers for a three-month enlistment. A week later, Governor Randall issued a call and raised more volunteers - 36 companies - than the Union army would accept. Counting on a war of three months or less, Secretary of War Cameron advised cancelling all enlistments beyond one regiment, but the governor kept organizing regiments for the reserve.

By early May 1861, Col. J.C. Starkweather's 1st Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers was raised and uniformed at Milwaukee. Col. S, Park Coon's 2nd Regiment was at Madison and ready to respond. The 30th, 40th and 42nd Wisconsin were 90-day regiments, however things changed and the 43rd Wisconsin became a three year regiment.

Edward Decker served as president of a September 11, 1861 enthusiastic war meeting at Brandeis Hall in Kewaunee held to encourage enlistments. Math Simon was one of a committee of five appointed at the meeting, held in both German and English, to look after the destitute families of volunteers.

Privates were paid $13.00 per month plus $5.00 for their families. One hundred dollars in gold was to be paid upon honorable discharge and, based on other wars, the men felt they would probably also receive 100 acres of land. Then the Enterprize announced Congress raised pay to $15.00 in an effort to attract those with war experience. Fifteen dollars a month plus clothing and rations, in addition to the bounty, seemed to be a good deal.

Following the Battle of Bull Run, often called Manassas, Manitowoc's Carl Schmidt opened an office to recruit for the 9th Wisconsin, which was to be a German regiment ordered by the Adjutant General. Commanded by Col. Frederick Salomon, the regiment was expected to be attached to General Fremont's division in Missouri. It was said that volunteering was a way to demonstrate patriotism. Recruiting officers continued to come to Kewaunee County and when Manitowoc's Lt. George Waldo began organizing a company, he even brought a brass band.

From An-An-api-sebe, Where is the River (the history of what is now Algoma, Wisconsin from 1851-1897.)

Note: Enterprize was spelled as such until 1865 when it was renamed Enterprise. Ahnepee became Ahnapee in 1873, somewhat of an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" as the State of Wisconsin consistently spelled it.