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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History
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History of Sheboygan County


AGRICULTURAL GROWTH

     For some years after the first settlement of Sheboygan County, not enough provisions were raised in the county to subsist the people. Then the agricultural resources were sufficiently developed so that the staple productions had no longer to be imported. Gradually a surplus for shipment was acquired, until 1867 the surplus products of the soil amounted to a $1,500,000. Wheat, then the main crop, was produced of so fine a quality that Sheboygan County wheat had acquired a reputation in all the principal markets of this country, and enjoyed the distinction of a special quotation in Milwaukee, Chicago, Buffalo and New York. Rye, barley and oats of fine quality were also produced. A re-markable fact is stated by old residents, in reference to the prosperity of agricultural interests of the county, namely that there has never been a failure of crops, such as has occasionally been witnessed in many localities.

     At this time (1867), the wool interest was a large and profitable one in the county. In an early day, some of the finest blood of Vermont was brought to Sheboygan County, and the quality of wool improved until the product of this county sold in the markets of New England at an advance over that of old Vermont herself. It was about this time that the great dairy interests, which now make Sheboygan known in all the leading markets of America and Europe, began to assume a permanently important character. The first premium awarded for cheese made in this county was awarded to N. C. Harmon, of Lyndon, at the fair of the Sheboygan Agricultural Society held at Sheboygan Falls, September 24 and 25, 1857. The next year, John J. Smith procured the first cheese vat and began to manufacture on the cooperative plan, collecting into curd of his neighbors. It was not until 1859, however, that a regular cheese factory was started, in which year Hiram Smith took milk from his patrons and paying cash or manufacturing for a percentage of the cheese. A dairy board was first organized at Sheboygan Falls, in 1872, which has held regular meetings each season since for the sale of cheese. When John J. Smith first exhibited Sheboygan cheese in Chicago, dealers would not look at them, and he had to offer to pay a man for his time if he would examine them. But he sold the cheese, and in 1875, the export trade had reached 5,000 boxes, while buyers from Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Montreal and Liverpool were present at the meetings of the dairy board. In 1867, Sheboygan County cheese sold at better prices in Milwaukee and Chicago than Ohio and New York products. In the best days of hop culture, Sheboygan County produced an article not surpassed anywhere. Other evidences of the prosperity of the agricultural sections of the county were multiplied of a better character than even the superior quality of the productions, we mean the organization of schools and churches and building houses for the use of these objects. The assertion is ventured by a careful observer of that time "that in proportion to the area and population of the county, we have a greater number of schoolhouses, churches and mills than any county in the State." This is certainly a flattering statement in view of composite character of the people who had settled in the county, coming as they did from many different States of the Union, and nearly all the principal nations of Europe. In 1870, there had been erected 120 schoolhouses, and more than fifty churches, besides many schoolhouses being used for church purposes. A statement of the productions of the county carefully compiled for the year 1870, indicates what advancement had been made in agriculture from small beginnings. There were then owned in the county 6,518 horses; 22,204 neat cattle and cows; 38,378 sheep; 8,904 Urine, and 94 asses, which, as some facetiosly observe, was a "remarkably small number for a population of 30,000." There was produced of the cereals, 570,665 bushels of wheat, 90,824 bushels of rye; 126,651 bushels of corn; 425,374 bushels of oats; 56,427 bushels of barley. Other productions were 139,057 bushels of potatoes; 134,240 pounds of wool; 710,088 pounds of butter; 85,565 pounds of cheese; 39,424 tons of hay. There was received for pork in that year about $50.000, and about the same amount for peas. The raising of fruit has not been made a specialty in the county, but a careful estimate of the production of apples in the town of Plymouth alone, in the year 1869, placed the production at 15,000 bushels. A similar statement of agricultural products a decade later gives as the production of the soil in 1880, wheat, 236,104 bushels; corn. 312,418 bushels; oats, 544,280 bushels; barley, 230,077 bushels; rye, 67,607 bushels; potatoes, 168,031 bushels; root crops, 66,716 bushels; apples, 221,503 bushels; clover seed, 1,287 bushels; timothy seed, 626 bushels; hops, 14,620 pounds; tobacco, 345 pounds; hay, 36,616 tons. There were 18,688 cows owned in the county, valued by the Assessors at $333,793. The dairy products amounted to 419,711 pounds of butter, and 4,294,509 pounds of cheese. The yield of peas was estimated by dealers at from 50,000 to 60,000 bushels. There were owned 9,195 horses; 31,522 neat cattle; 25,214 sheep, and 10,109 swine. The figures here given showing the production of cheese in 1880, are taken from the reports made by Assessors on file in the office of the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors. But the German Bank, through which most of the transactions were made, kept a record of sales which shows that 4,768,110 pounds were shipped by the Lake Shore road alone in that year. Shipments by other routes and careful estimates made in reference to the yield in the western part of the county, placed the total production of cheese in 1880 at not less than 6,000,000 pounds.

     The Sheboygan County Agricultural Society was organized July 4, 1851. T he annual fair is held at the fair grounds, of which the society has a permanent lease, one mile west of the village of Sheboygan Falls. The grounds are fenced and have buildings suitable for carrying on the fair. A half-mile track is used for the exhibition of horses. The society is free from debt. A liberal premium list draws out good exhibits in every department. The officers of the society are: President, C. H. Pape, of Sheboygan; Secretary, J. Q. Adams, of Sheboygan; Treasurer, J. W. Hanford, of Sheboygan Falls, Vice Presidents, G. A. Willard, of Sheboygan, William Chaplin, of Plymouth, and William Wonsor, of Holland; Executive Committee, G. N. Gilbert, of Sheboygan Falls, R. R. Wilson, of Plymouth, M. Guyett, of Sbeboygan Falls, Asa Carpenter, of Plymouth, and J. E. Thomas, of Sheboygan Falls; Discretionary Committee, N. C. Farnsworth, I. Adrience and G. W. Peck, all of Sheboygan Falls.

     Fairs were held in Sheboygan under the auspices of the German Agricultural and Industrial Society, as long ago as the year 1868. They grew from small beginnings, and it was not until August 13, 1872, that the society was formally organized according to the plan under which it has since worked. The principal movers in the organization and in drafting the constitution, were F. Stoesser, F. Mueller, G. Pieper, A. Froehlich and J. Dengel. Tho first officers elected by the new organization were M. Trimberger, President; F. Stoesser, Secretary, C. Reich, Treasurer. The first Board of Directors consisted of F. Zimmerman, A. Froehlich, G. Pieper, J. Dengel and N. Mueller. About 120 members participated in this organization. The present grounds, in the northern part of the city, were purchased, and the main building at once erected. Other buildings, sheds, etc., have been added from time to time. The society now numbers 350 members, and offers premiums to the amount of about $400 for exhibits at its fair for 1881. The present officers are, President, Charles Wipperman; Vice Presidents, W. Froehlich, August Zschetzsche; Secretary Joseph Bast; Treasurer, Carl Reich.

     As it was the lumbering interests which first brought business enterprise into Sheboygan County, so there has always been manifested a commendable interest in the development of the resources of this region in the direction of general manufacturer. In 1849 there were in the county one flouring-mill, carrying four run of stone, two custom mills, one steam saw-mill, seventeen saw-mills, running by water-power, and two foundries. In 1858, there had been added in Sheboygan, two steam flour-mills, one steam saw-mill, a planing and siding mill, two more foundries, four or five wagon shops, thirteen cooper shops, a fanning-mill shop, three ship yards, two of them with steam machinery, and two brick yards were turning out from 300,000 to 800,000 beautiful cream brick annually. In 1870 there were seventeen gristmills and twenty-six saw-mills. The value of leather manufactured was $200,000; wagon stuff shipped, $30,000; cooper's stuff, $30,000. The immense strides which have been made in manufacturing; covering a large range of products, will be noted with justifiable pride, as shown in the portion of this history devoted to the city of Sheboygan and the several towns respectively.

     In taking the land in a state of nature and improving it until the "wilderness shall blossom as the rose," a vast amount of wealth is created--wrought out by hard toil and careful economy. This is the most substantial form of wealth, and is the truest political economy. After a quarter of a century of growth, Sheboygan County contained, in 1860, a population of 27,082, residing in 5,469 dwelling-houses. The value of the real estate was $5,211,021, and the number of acres of improved land was 107,245. The value of personal property $1,542,532.

    The value of agricultural products was $562,403, and of manufactured articles, $722,140. In 1870, 31,759 people lived in 5,738 dwellings, and owned real estate to the amount of $11,366,540, of which 150,093 ares was improved Iand, and possessed personal property to the amount of 4,252,611. The value of agricultural products was $2,076,892, and of manufactured articles, $1,765,953. In the year 1880, the population numbered 34,221. The results of the census of that year are not yet published, relating to the enumeration and valuation of property, but a fair estimate, calculated upon the basis of the assessed valuation, shows a real property valuation of $14,318,528 and personal property amounting to $4,686,822. The statement of agricultural products given elsewhere, shows a large increase of value over 1870 in same articles notably in the immense production of cheese. The value of manufactured articles in above figures does not include the products of the manufactories, but only articles owned and used by the people of the county. When to the figures already given are added the values of all manufactured products of the great factories now in operation, and the property exempt from taxation, it will readily be seen that the wealth of Sheboygan reaches vast proportions.

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