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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History
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Charles D. Cole

Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record - Published 1894 by Excelsior Publishing Co., Chicago" Pages 695 - 696

Charles D. Cole, one of the very earliest pioneers of Sheboygan County, was born in Schenectady, N. Y., October 19, 1806, and was a son of Nathan and Chloe (Rowley) Cole. The subject of this sketch attended the public schools until sixteen years of age, and at intervals spent more or less time on the canal-boats. At sixteen he was made captain of a canal-boat and made his home in Cleveland, Ohio. During the running season he was employed on the canal, and in the winter in the warehouse of a Mr. Winslow.

On the 22d of August, 1831, Mr. Cole was united in marriage at Ithaca, N. Y., with Miss Sarah W. Trowbridge. Mrs. Cole was born in Worchester, Mass., October 6, 1813, and was a daughter of Deacon William and Dorthea (Chapin) Trowbridge, of whom see sketch elsewhere in this work.

Six children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Cole. The two elder were born in Cleveland, Ohio, and the younger members in Sheboygan County, Wis. George T., the eldest, married Emeline Rublee, and resides at Sheboygan Falls. William H. married Helen Brainard, and died on the 2d of October, 1862. James R. was born in Sheboygan Falls, May 25, 1837, and is said to have been the second white child born in Sheboygan County. He was twice married. His first wife was Rosella E. Moore, who died March 11, 1863, leaving one child, Rosella, now the wife of Stedman Thomas, of Sheboygan Falls. His second wife was Mary Giddings, a daughter of Charles Giddings. She died May 20, 1868, leaving one child a son, Willard C., an attorney of Sheboygan. James R. Cole died in Two Rivers, Wis., February 13, 1877. He served two years as a soldier in the late war for the Union. Nathan, the next in order of birth, resides in Sheboygan. (See sketch.) Charlotte is the wife of Charles A. Spencer, of Wapaca, Wis. Hattie, the youngest of the family, died in childhood.

Mr. Cole became the owner of some canal-boats, which he ran successfully until 1836, when he sold out and, with his family, removed to Wisconsin Territory, then almost an unbroken wilderness. They went by sailing-vessel up the Lakes, and in 1836 landed near the mouth of the Sheboygan River, on the site of the present city of Sheboygan. They camped at first on the beach, where they built a shanty of slabs, but shortly afterwards removed to the Sheboygan House, which had but just been completed. Without much delay, he and Mr. Farnsworth built a warehouse, where they engaged in merchandising and buying furs of the Indians. Their goods and provisions were brought in boats from Milwaukee during the season of navigation. Sometimes birch-bark canoes were the only conveyance by water, while at other seasons trips were made by land to Milwaukee and return with ox-team and wagons. Mr. Cole made many trips to Milwaukee and returned in the manner described, enduring many hardships at times, both by water and land. The winter trip with oxen sometimes consumed two weeks.

In 1836, Mr. Cole was appointed Postmaster at Sheboygan, while keeping hotel, he being one of the first to hold that office in the territory embraced by the county of Sheboygan. On the organization of Sheboygan County, Mr. Cole was chosen the first Register of Deeds, and went to Green Bay, Brown County, where he made a transcript of the records pertaining to the new county. He was a Whig in politics in the days of that party, and joined the Republican party on its organization in 1856.

In 1838 Mr. Cole removed to Sheboygan Falls, where he made his permanent home. He bought in that town three hundred and twenty acres, which contained considerable pine, that he cut and made into lumber and shingles. He became familiar with the location of many tracts of Government land in Sheboygan County, and entered a great deal of it for the early settlers, and for himself, buying and selling as opportunity afforded. In 1848, he built a sawmill on the Pigeon River, in what is now the town of Sheboygan, which he operated for a time. Later he bought the water power at Sheboygan Falls, where he owned and operated a sawmill and a gristmill. Both institutions proved of great use to the settlers, then rapidly opening up the wilds of Sheboygan County to civilization. Mr. Cole bought saw-logs from the farmers of both Sheboygan and Manitowoc Counties, the money they received from him being of great assistance in procuring teams, tools and household supplies in those early days. Much of the lumber he manufactured was rafted down the Sheboygan River to Sheboygan, where it was in demand for building purposes in that growing hamlet, or for shipment by vessels to Milwaukee and Chicago. At the same time, Mr. Cole carried on farming. He was aided by his sons in these various occupations, in which he was engaged until the close of his life. His death occurred March 20, 1867, at the age of sixty years. Mrs. Cole survived her husband, and died March 24, 1887, aged seventy-four years. She was a member of the Baptist Church, and a woman possessed of many excellencies of character.

Other members of Mr. Cole's family joined him in Sheboygan shortly after he settled there. His brother, John Beekman Cole, who was also employed on the Erie Canal in early life, was one of the first conductors on the old Erie Railroad, the first railroad that was built from Albany to Buffalo, N. Y. He came to Sheboygan in 1845, and for a time was interested with Charles D. in milling on the Pigeon River, and was also engaged in farming, and in the grain business in Sheboygan. He was the first to keep the Beekman House, which was named after Mr. Cole, and was in its day the leading hotel of the Chair City. Mr. Cole was recognized as an active business man, of good repute. His death occurred January 27, 1886.

In 1842, another brother, George C. Cole, arrived in Sheboygan, accompanied by his mother and sisters, Mary, Sarah and Clara. Mary, now deceased, was the wife of James L. Trowbridge, of whom see sketch; Sarah married Henry Willard, and resides in Ripon, Wis.; Clara is the wife of Hon. John E. Thomas, a banker of Sheboygan Falls. George C. Cole has continued to reside in Sheboygan, and is largely interested in real estate in the city and county.

Charles D. Cole was liberal in his views regarding religion, and, while liberal in contributing toward the support of churches, was never associated with any church in particular. He was a man of broad views and kindly disposition. A good business man, enterprising yet conservative, in the early settlement of Sheboygan County, he was unquestionably its most prominent and influential citizen. He did much to encourage emigration to this county, and to assist the early settlers in securing comfortable homes. His integrity was above question, and his course of life such as to command the respect and esteem of all with whom he had business or social relations.


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