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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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Peter Coons

Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record - Published 1894 by Excelsior Publishing Co., Chicago" Pages 459 - 460

Peter Coons has certainly a right to be classed among the pioneers of Wisconsin, for he has been a resident of this State for fifty-two years. He now lives on his farm on section 35, Sheboygan Falls Township, and is respected by all who know him. He was born near Bingen, on the Rhine, Prussia, July 26, 1836, and is the only survivor of the three children of Peter and Margaret Coons. The father was a shoemaker by trade, and followed that occupation until coming to America, with the exception of three years, which were spent in the Prussian army. In 1841, the family set sail for America, and at the end of a forty-two days' voyage arrived in New York in July. From that place they went to Albany by steamer, then by canal to Buffalo, and around the Lakes to Milwaukee, where they arrived in August. The father settled about fourteen miles west of that city, in New Berlin Township, Waukesha County. Here he stayed on his original purchase of forty acres of Government land until 1865, when he removed to St. Croix County, where his death occurred.

Our subject was a lad of some eight or nine years when he lost his mother, and a year later he left home and started out to make his own way in the world. The spectacle of a lad of his years striking out to make a livelihood is a strange one; yet such was his lot, and much of the training received at that time stood him in good stead in later years. He worked on a farm at first for very small wages, a portion of which, nevertheless, he managed to lay aside.

Going South, Mr. Coons was present at the terrible explosion of a magazine in Mobile, about May 24, 1865. This catastrophe has found a place in history, and Mr. Coons speaks of it as follows: "At the time of the explosion I was in a book store reading. A deafening noise was heard, and I rushed to the door to see pieces of the buildings falling, while horses, vehicles and men were thrown in all directions. My first impulse was to run - and run I did, for a long way. When almost out of breath, I stopped, and, looking back toward the magazine in the eastern part of the city, I saw shells flying every way. My captain, sitting on a camp stool three miles away from the scene, was knocked off, as though he had been struck with a bludgeon."

On the 10th of October, 1855, Mr. Coons married Miss Jane Ann Akin, who was born in Fairfield County, Conn., December 9, 1841, and acquired a good education in the common schools. She is the second in a family of ten children born unto Andrew and Abbie (Squires) Akin, and all are yet living. They are as follows: Mrs. Coons; Harriett, wife of Frank McLaughling; Mary, wife of William Granger, of Waukesha County; George, a resident of Pewaukee; Matilda, wife of Mr. Horning, of Pewaukee; Clara, wife of William Rader, of Black River Falls, Wis.; Frank, now of Waukesha County, Wis.; William, who makes his home in Hartland, Waukesha County; Nellie, wife of Edward Allen, of the same county; and Charles, who is located in Waukesha County. The parents also reside there. The father was born in Connecticut about 1809. He was a shoemaker by trade, and after his removal to this State, in 1839, started the first shoe establishment in Milwaukee. His wife was born in Fairfield County, Conn., in 1821. Mrs. Coons was only seven months old when her parents came to Wisconsin. Their home was a log cabin, and venison and wild honey were the principal articles of diet. All the experiences and hardships of pioneer life were borne by the family.

At the time of their marriage the young couple had just $40 with which to set up housekeeping, but they were brave and undaunted by the difficulties they plainly foresaw were in their pathway. Four children were born of their union, only one of whom is now living, Abbie Jennie, who lives at home with her parents. She was educated in the High School of Plymouth, besides receiving musical instruction.

In 1859, Mr. Coons left Waukesha County and came to Sheboygan County, where he bought a piece of wild land in the town of Mitchell. Here he resided for a year, then returned to Waukesha County, obtaining employment with a farmer. He stayed there until February, 1864, when he enlisted in the Twenty-eighth Wisconsin Regiment, being assigned to Company G, and ordered to report at Camp Randall, Madison. With his regiment he was ordered to Pine Bluff, Ark., then to Little Rock and New Orleans to organize for the spring campaign. He was present at the capture of Ft. Blakesley, Spanish Fort and Mobile, and witnessed the surrender of Gen. Dick Taylor. At this time he was ordered to Texas, was mustered out, and received an honorable discharge September 22, 1865, returning home to engage in peaceful pursuits.

Mr. and Mrs. Coons permanently located in this county after the war, and have owned some six different farms since that time. Their place comprises thirty-seven acres, situated eight rods west of the corporate limits of Sheboygan Falls. The improvements on the farm are fine, and the house is very comfortable and pleasant, being built in the English cottage style.

In politics, Mr. Coons has been a Republican since first using his right of franchise in support of the Martyr President, Abraham Lincoln, but is not an office-seeker. A man who endeavors to obey the Golden Rule, he is not, however, a member of any denomination. He well remembers when the appearance of the State was very different from that at present, and when Milwaukee was only a village, the present site of the Plankinton House being covered with a dense forest growth. Lead was hauled by ox-teams from Galena, Ill., to Milwaukee in those early days.

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