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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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History of Sheboygan County


     The first known visit of white men to the present county of Sheboygan was in the year 1818. It was in this year that Gov. Cass. of Michigan, who was exploring this part of the then Michigan Territory, landed here with his fleet of canoes. In the same year, William Farnsworth, a pioneer of the first settlement, resided here a few months as trapper and Indian trader. During the same year (1818), a Frenchman, Andrew Vieux by name, built a hut on the east side of the Sheboygan River near its mouth, and had born to him there the first white child born in this county. Nothing is known of his subsequent history.

     The first permanent settlement was made in the fall of 1834, when William Paine and a man named Crocker came up from Chicago, built a saw-mill near the junction of the Mullet and Sheboygan Rivers, midway between the present village of Sheboygan and Sheboygan Falls, and began to cut off the forests which covered nearly the whole county. Paine and Crocker becoming sick of the undertaking, sold out in September, 1835, to William Farnsworth, the Green Bay fur trader, who had visited the place as early as 1814, and spent a few months here in 1818. When the land has been surveyed, it was offered for sale at Green Bay, in November, 1835, and Farnsworth became owner of a half-interest in the village plat of Sheboygan. A sixteenth of that interest he subsequently sold during the "land craze" of 1836-37, for the nominal sum of $30,000, and another sixteenth brought him $25,000.

     While in Chicago for the purpose of engaging help to carry on his lumbering interests, Mr. Farnsworth met Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan Follet, of Cleveland, and engaged their services, Mr. Follet to work in the mill and Mrs. Follet to cook for the men engaged there. They came from Cleveland in the fall of 1835, and occupied a log house at the mill. Mrs. Eliza Follet was the first white woman to become a permanent resident of the county, and did not see another white woman until the following year. At that time the only white settlers in the county were those at the mill. Mr. Follet entered land near by and remained upon it. The first frame house in the county was erected near Farnsworth's mill, and was kept as a boarding-house for mill hands. It also served as a tavern for the accommodation of travelers to and from the Green Bay region.

     Early in the summer of 1836. Mr. Charles D. Cole and family settled on the present site of the city of Sheboygan. About the same time, Mr. A. G. Dye was engaged in Chicago by William Farnsworth to come to Sheboygan and build a warehouse. He brought his family and several carpenters to assist in the work. They came on the Michigan, first going to Green Bay, and were nearly a month making the voyage. In the fall of the same year, William Ashby came from Green Bay on foot to engage in lumbering at the mill. In December of that year also came the Gibbs brothers-John D., James H. and Benjamin L., and set-led in the present town of Lima. They were eight days in cutting their way through the woods from Milwaukee, a distance of fifty miles.

     In the winter of 1886-37, the first school in the county was assembled in Sheboygan, and taught by F. M. Rublee. Provisions were very scarce during this winter, and had to be brought from Milwaukee and Green Bay. A load of condemned provisions from the latter place, arriving during the winter, was considered a Godsend by the settlers.

     The year 1837, witnessed a gratifying influx of people. A map of the county made at this time represents the river as navigable to its source, vessels sailing its entire length, and a city laid out with streets and avenues where Sheboygan now stands. Corner lots were valued at from $8,000 to $15,000, and actually sold for those prices in New York City. At the close of 1837, the embryo city contained seventeen or twenty buildings, including a school-house, two large warehouses, two stores and a blacksmith shop. The population was steadily increasing. The bubble burst at this time, however, and the publication of Jackson's famous "specie circular" caused a financial crash, which nearly proved a death blow to the young city. All business stopped. Those who could remove to other places did so, and those who could not, moved on to land previously purchased. At one time the city of Sheboygan contained only one man-Capt. Thorp. Many of the buildings were torn down and taken to Milwaukee.

      The only people in the county, in the early part of 1840, were James Farnsworth and family, within the limits of the present city of Sheboygan, which contained eight or ten unoccupied houses, built during the land speculation of 1836-37. John Johnson and family lived near the present cemetery. Two miles up the river, at the saw-mill built by William Farnsworth, there lived Alvin Rublee, Adonikan Farrow and William Ashby. At Sheboygan Falls a saw-mill and three houses had been built. The inhabitants were Mr. Palmer, Col. Silas B. Steadman, C. D. Cole, a shoemaker named McNish and David Giddings, who was a member of the Territorial Legislature. William Trowbridge and his son Benjamin lived two miles west of the Falls. Southwest of the Falls, in what is now the town of Lima, lived A. G. Dye, Benjamin Firman, J. D. Gibbs, B. L. Gibbs, James Gibbs and Dr. Hoffman. At this time the nearest neighbors on the north were at Manitowoc Rapids. On the south, with a single exception in Washington County, there were no inhabitants until within six miles of Milwaukee. On the west and northwest there were no signs of civilization nearer than Lake Winnebago and Green Bay. Supplies were mostly obtained from Milwaukee, and brought in an Indian canoe. A little wheat was raised in 1840, but there was no mill for grinding it. The only blacksmith in the county was Deacon Trowbridge at Sheboygan Falls. He was also the only preacher, and a blast from his long tin horn called the people together for religious worship. At this time there was neither school nor store in the county. There were no wagons nor carriages. There was one horse and about a dozen cows.

     Two years later, in 1842, Mr. George C. Cole came to Sheboygan, and enumerates the following persons as then residents in the county; in Sheboygan and along the lake in this town, Capt. N. W. Brooks, wife and girl, Stephen Wolverton, wife, son and daughter, Joshua Brown and wife, John Glass and wife, Don Fairchild, David Wilson and family, Alvah Rublee and family, David Evans and wife, now of Oshkosh, Hiram G. D. Squires, William Ashby and wife, Aaron Ritter and family (stayed only a few months), A. Farrow, Wentworth Barber. At the Dye settlement, Asahel G. Dye and family, the Widow Farmin and son Benjamin, Newell Upham and wife, Chauncey Hall and family, Wendell Hoffman and wife, Elizabeth Cady, spinster, and brother Edward. At Gibbsville, John D. Gibbs and family, James H. Gibbs and wife, Benjamin L. Gibbs and wife, John Johnson, wife, sons George, Michael, Robert, John and William, and daughters Ann and Maria, Peter Palmer and wife, William Palmer, Leroy Palmer, Allen W. Knight and wife. At Sheboygan Falls, Albert Rounseville, wife and two children, Benjamin C. Trowbridge, wife and family, including Alvira O'Cain, Maria Dieckmann, Seth Morse, Samuel Rounseville, Harmon Pierce, Nelson Bradford, George O. Trowbridge, all of the above living in one house, Silas Stedman and wife, David Giddings and wife, Charles D. Cole, wife and family, and George T., William H. and James R. Cole, afterward his mother and three sisters, and his brother George C. lived with Chas. D. Cole. On the Trowbridge farm, William Trowbridge, his wife and sons William S., James T., Thaddeus and John. All the sons are now dead except James T. Chas. D. Cole was Postmaster, the mail being carried every week between Milwaukee and Green Bay by a Frenchman on an Indian pony. C. D. Cole was one of the earliest dealers in merchandise in Sheboygan, and at the Falls. Mr. Hoffman performed the duties of doctor, though the people were so healthy he had not much to do. William Trowbridge, being what was called in the East a whitesmith, did the blacksmithing for the neighborhood. H. Pierce was a miller; Benjamin L. Gibbs did a little tailoring, and James H. did something in shoemaking. Thus were the particular gifts of individuals utilized in early days.

      A settlement of Fourierites was begun in the town of Mitchell in 1846, by a colony from the State of New York, but failing to secure a charter from the Legislature, it broke up, some of the members joining the similar settlement at Ceresco, near Ripon, in this State, and only three families remaining here. In the same year, the Dutch settlement, in the town of Holland, was begun, G. H. TeKolste being the pioneer of that nationality.

     The number of settlers gradually increased each year, but it was not until about ten years after the first settlement of the county that there was any rush of new comers. From 1845 to 1850, rapid strides were made, and many who have had an active part in developing the county and city of Sheboygan and building up the institutions which the present generation are enjoying the advantages of, came during those years to make homes here. Dr. J. J. Brown was one of the pioneers of this time, and from a list of over one hundred names of people living here at the time above mentioned, carefully compiled by him, the following, not before mentioned, are taken: Dr. S. M. Abbott, Henry S. Auable, Daniel Brown, E. Fox Cook, H. H. Conklin, Rev. L. W. Davis, Evan Evans, A. H. Edwards, Judge William R. Goesline, Gen. H. C. Hobart, Thomas C. Horner, J. F. Kirkland, A. P. Lyman, Rev. H. Lyman, John Maynard, Dr. Jairus Rankin, H. N. Ross, William Seaman, H. N. Smith, J. R. Sharpstein, Judge David Taylor, D. C. Vosburg, George M. Gillett, Frank Stone, John H. Roberts.

     It was about this time that the Germans began to settle in the county in considerable numbers. This movement was inaugurated by H. C. Heide, of Milwaukee, and a brother of his with Deidrich Logeman, George Theirman and Deidrich Bartles were the first German residents, settling in the town of Sheboygan Falls. This industrious class of people increased steadily until they became the predominant nationality, and remain so still. The State Immigrant Agent reports that during the summer of 1853, 13,400 immigrants landed at Sheboygan.

     The following figures, taken from the census returns, shows the growth of the county in population from 1840 to the present time. In 1840, there were 133 people in the county; in 1842, 227; in 1846, 1,637; in 1847, 5,580; in 1850, 8,370; in 1860, 26,875; in 1870, 31,773; in 1880, 34,221.

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