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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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History of Sheboygan County


     For a number of years after the first settlement of the county, connection with the outside world was maintained only by means of boats on the lake, which occasionally touched at Sheboygan. The arrived of the mail was the event of the week, though it occasionally happened--particularly in the winter season--that the place was cut off from all communication with the outside world for months at a time. The trip from Milwaukee was occasionally made by land; but so difficult was it that it was seldom undertaken by loaded teams. The overland trip was often made along the beach and near the shore of the lake.

     The two earliest roads in the county were established by the Territorial Legislature of 1838-39. One of these was made to run from Sheboygan by way of Hustis Rapids, on Rock River, near Horicon, to Madison, and the other was laid out from Sheboygan to Sheboygan Falls, and thence to Fond du Lac. The commissioners for the former were B. L. Gibbs of Sheboygan; James L. Thayer, of Manitowoc and John Hustis, of Milwaukee; and, for the latter, Charles D. Cole and David Giddings, of Sheboygan, and John Bannester, of Fond du Lac. A Government appropriation of $3,000 was expended on the Fond du Lac road in 1845. Of plank roads, the Sheboygan & Fond du Lac road was chartered in 1851, and completed in July, 1852. The Sheboygan & Calumet plank road was incorporated two years later; completed to Howards Grove in 1856, and built to Kiel, Manitowoc County, in 1859. September 4, 1852, the Sheboygan River Plank Road Company was organized at Sheboygan Falls. J. F. Seely was chosen President; S. B. Ormsbee, Secretary and John Kelley, Treasurer. That the early settlers were alive to the importance of having good roads, is shown by the fact that in a local town-meeting, when it was proposed to raise $100 for roads and $1,000 for schools, the voters reversed the sums giving the $1,000 to the roads.

     The means of communication between different parts of the county and with the outside world, are now equaled by few counties in the State. Two lines of railroad--the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western and the Milwaukee & Northern--traverse it from north to south, and the Sheboygan & Fond du Lac brings it into easy communication with central part of the State. Add to this its thirty miles of lake coast, a good harbor, passenger boats touching daily and all kinds of freight boats constantly loading and unloading in its harbors, and you have a county that can be surpassed by few in its facilities for both land and water communication.

     In the same year that the improvement of Sheboygan's harbor facilities was actively engaged in, the necessity of railroad connection with the interior was impressed upon leading citizens of the county. At a meeting held in the city of Sheboygan September 6, 1852, to taIk over the matter of a railway to Milwaukee and thence to Chicago, the conclusion was arrived at that inasmuch as water communication existed to these points already, it would be wiser to first turn attention to the building of a road back into the interior of the State, and across it to the Mississippi River. The Sheboygan & Mississippi Railroad Company had been incorporated on the 8th of March of that year, and books opened for the subscription of stock, but the Company was not organized until the following year. At a meeting in Sheboygan, held for this purpose April 5, 1853, J. F. Kirkland was elected President, and M. J. Thomas, Secretary. Work was actually begun on the construction of the road June 4, 1856, by the contractors, Edward Appleton & Co. The road was completed to Sheboygan Falls in January, 1859, to Plymouth June 6, of the same year, and to Glenbeulah March 29, 1860. This was as far as the above-mentioned contract extended. The road suffered the fate of most new enterprises of this character, and, after foreclosure of mortgage, the company was re-organized. The new organization was known as the Sheboygan & Fond du Lac Railroad Company, and its officers were S. P. Benson, President, and J. O. Thayer, Secretary and Treasurer. Finally, the road was completed to Fond du Lac February 14, 1869. It was subsequently pushed on to Princeton, in Green Lake County, which point was reached in the fall of 1871. The road is now under the management of the Chicago & North-Western Railroad Company.


     The Milwaukee & Northern.--The Milwaukee & Northern Railroad Company was incorporated February 24, 1870, and the contract let for the construction of a road from Milwaukee to Green Bay. The road runs through the western portion of the county, crossing the Fond du Lac road at Plymouth, which point was reached early in the year 1872. The road was, in the year 1874, leased to the Wisconsin Central Railroad Company.

     The Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western--The importance to the city of Sheboygan of obtaining railroad communication to the South, connecting it with Milwaukee & Chicago, became so manifest as time went on that when a movement for a lake shore road was started, leading business men at once took a deep interest in the project. On the 10th of March, 1870, the Milwaukee, Manitowoc & Green Bay Railroad Company was organized and work at once commenced. Interruptions occurred, and it was November 21, 1872, when the first passenger train was run between Milwaukee and Sheboygan. December 10, 1875, the road was sold under foreclosure of mortgage, and in re-organization the present name, Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western was adopted. It has always done a thriving business.

     The Sheboygan & Fond du Lac and the Milwaukee, Lake Shore & Western received liberal aid from the city and county of Sheboygan in the purchase of stock, and the Wisconsin Central from several of the towns through which it passes.

Postal Facilities.

     A post office was established in Sheboygan as early as the autumn of 1836, James Farnsworth being appointed Postmaster. In 1839, this office was discontinued for the reason that the Postmaster's family was the only one then living in the place. An office was also established at Sheboygan Falls in 1837, George B. Babcock receiving the appointment of Postmaster. The first mail carrier, named Griswold, committed suicide by hanging in 1837. The mails were brought overland, and were slow, so that Eastern newspapers were very old when they reached here. It was not until 1849 that this condition of things was greatly bettered. In June of this year the matter having been brought to the attention of the Postmaster General, the mails were ordered to be brought from Milwaukee by the steamer Champion, which came regularly into this port three times a week. By this arrangement, mails were received two days in advance of the previous delivery. Up to this time, it had taken as long to get the mails from Milwaukee as they were in coming from Buffalo to Milwaukee. By the new order mails reached here from Buffalo in about fifty hours. This was regarded as a substantial gain by the business interests of Sheboygan. The following is the list of post offices in the county at the present time, numbering twenty-eight in all. Ada, Adell, Beechwood, Cedar Grove, Cascade, Dacada, Edwards, Elkhart Lake, Franklin, Gibbsville, Glenbeulah, Howard's Grove, Hingham, Johnsonville, Our Town, Onion River, Oostburg, Plymouth, Random Lake, Rathbun, Rhine, Scott, Sheboygan, Sheboygan Falls, Silver Creek, Winooski.

     A telegraph line was run along the lake shore from Milwaukee to Sheboygan in 1851, but was sold for taxes and taken down.

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