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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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This article was contributed by Kay Reitberger

Wilson - Sheboygan Press - April 29, 1927

Land Speculators First Bought Land In Wilson

First Families Made Homes Along Lake And Fished For A Living

Land speculators as early as 1838(?) purchased the land at the mouth of the Black river and platted it into lots under the name of Char???) but no permanent settlement was made in town Wilson until the spring of 1840 when David WILSON who came from Ohio, located on Section 11, and engaged in fishing. His family did not arrive until about two years after.

In 1845 James and Leonard OSGOOD settled on Section 14, and the following year Joseph FAIRCHILD also settled along the lake on Section 14. Two OSGOOD brothers were drowned when a boat in which they were returning to their homes from Sheboygan capsized on Lake Michigan. The bodies were later recovered and buried in a small cemetery just south of Black river a short distance from the shore of the lake. This burial ground for many years has been sorely neglected, and the marker over the grave, which marks the resting place of these two pioneer settlers of town Wilson, lays ??? upon the ground with no one interested in preserving the only notification of the grave in which lay the bones of these former intrepid pioneers. David WILSON also lost his life by drowning and is buried in this grave-yard.

Fished For Livelihood

Other early settlers who located along the lakeshore were the following families, all of whom engaged in fishing: A. WARNER, who owned a fish-house; CHEESEMAN, KLAP?? and J. LUTZ. These men carried on the fishing industry for many years until it no longer became profitable when they moved to different points along Lake Michigan. The WILSON brothers en??? to continue fishing with ??nd-nets at Sheboygan, but they were unable to compete with the fishing boats out of this port and were finally forced out of the business.

Up to 1846 the settlement in town Wilson was confined to a small area along the lakeshore about four miles south of Sheboygan. It was there where the first log school house was built in 1846. Milo CHAMBERLAIN taught in that school house during the winter of 1846-1847 and probably was the first teacher in he town.

The settlement, in addition to the school house, contained a hotel and a number of crude dwellings houses. Later a pier was built extending into the lake from H. WILSON's property. This pier was known as "PETERSEN's pier" and the earlier piers of the town brought railroad ties and wood to the location where they were loaded on scows and conveyed to vessels out in the lake. During the early years fish were plentiful and were caught in ???-nets which were hauled in by ??? windless. White fish only were caught and salted down for commercial purposes. Sturgeon were numerous, but there was no demand for them. A sturgeon weighing 200 pounds could be bought at any price and were mostly caught by boys who cut off the ??? of the fish and used them as a soccer ball.

Indians Flock To The Lakeshore

During the summer months the Indians who spent their winters in a shelter of the Potash Kettles gathered in the western part of the county, frequented the lake shore because of the fishing and the good hunting ground. It is said that the lake shore from the present site of the city of Sheboygan for many miles southward was one continuous Indian village.

While the territory adjacent to the lake was covered with massive and abundant white pine, the interior of the town was covered (???) with hardwood trees. When the German settlers began to arrive they located along the old Sauk trail and by 1855 the town had become well populated by these thrifty emigrants.

The first thing these settlers had to do was to clear the land which resulted in logging, forming the original industry for many years. First the logs were hauled with (???) to Sheboygan where a sawmill was located on the south side of the Sheboygan river near its mouth. Later, however, the logs were taken to Joseph RICHARDSON's mill at Sheboygan Falls.

Town Wilson originally was a (???) of Sheboygan until its organization in 1846. The town takes its name from that of its first white settler, David WILSON.

The first birth in the town was a (???) to David WILSON in 1843, and the first death was that of Waterman JACKSON in the fall of 18??. The first marriage of which there is an authentic record was ??mes R. BROWN and Luisa WILSON in 1844.

No Village In Township

The history of the town is ??? agricultural and dairying purposes. There has never been a mill or manufacturing industry of any kind located in the town. There is ??? a single village located inside its boundaries, although for a few ??? there was a railroad station at WEEDENS. This, however, was only for the accommodation of the ??? settlers residing in that section , no agent was ever stationed there, The building at the railroad station(?) soon became a rendezvous for (tramps?) and upon petition of the settlers in the vicinity the North Western company abandoned the station and the building was closed. About 1852 another log school house was erected at WEEDEN's station and soon thereafter one was built on the Sauk Trail about three miles south of Sheboygan. When the fishermen along the lakeshore left that district the school there was abandoned, but the present schoolhouse in District 4 is on the site of the log school house originally erected on the Sauk Trail. The pupils attending the latter school wore wooden shoes during the winter and would remove them from their feet and place them near the stove to dry. Miss Ida CROCKER, now Mrs. A. F. HENRY, of this city, was a teacher in the school located at WEEDEN's station.

Before WEEDENS station was abandoned Mose GUYETTE ran a stage between that point and Sheboygan Falls, carrying the mail and passengers. Mr. GUYETTE owned and operated a hotel at the Falls and he also was owner of an opera house which stood near the hotel. Both of these buildings were torn down about two years ago and an oil filling station now occupies the site. Mr. GUYETTE was killed in 1892 when his team of horses became frightened and ray away between Sheboygan Falls and WEEDENS station. He was thrown from the carriage and sustained a broken neck resulting in instant death.

Land Bought From Government

Practically all the land located in the town of Wilson was soldier's claims taken up after the war of 1812, and was purchased by the early settlers whether upon payment of delinquent taxes or at the Government's nominal price of $1.25 per acre. By 1860 this land had all been taken up by the settlers, and as complete a list as it was possible to obtain shows the following settlers located in the town at that period.

Along the lake shore beginning at the north town line and running in regular order southward to the south town line were:

C. ROVER; P. LEYSER; J. HAGERT; O. BUERK; O. L. PETERSON; F. HARTMAN; G. and A. WILSON; Joseph FAIRCHILD, who owned a fish-house on a large tract of land; J. H. HAEN; A. WARNER, who has a fish-house; H. WILSON (Peterson's pier was on this property); WILDGRUBE brothers; J. LUTZ; ZIEMER; G. KAPP; G. WIRTH; G. SCHLIETER; J. POTH; and M.G. SUERMAN.

Sauk Trail Settlers

On the Sauk Trail beginning at the north end of town and going south, in regular order of settlement were:


Other old settlers located in the town were:


Earliest Arrivals

Some of the earliest settlers in chronological order of their arrival in the town were as follows:

1843 - G. S. WILSON on Section 11

1845 - J. S. CROCKER on Section 5

1846 - James SCHMIDT on Section 7; E. HARTMAN on Section 32.

1847 - M. TRIMBERGER on Section 19; J. SPRANGERS on Section 19; Jacob BREHM on Section 4.

1848 - G. W. WEEDEN on Section 8; Fred HARTMAN on Section 3; Carl ROEHRBORN on Section 14; William ROEHRBORN on Section 8; J. H. HAEN on Section 16; William BAHR on Section 8; L. ZIMMERMANN on Section 16; William SPRINGBORN on Section 28; and Jacob VERHAGE on Section 31; and Andrew McLELLAN.

1849 - Conrad SEIGWORTH on Section 4; F. SEIFERT on Section 4; J. J. BREHM on Section 16; and Edward THIMMIG on Section 17.

1851 - August ZIMBAL on Section 4

1852 - George KOCH on Section 9; John STIRDEVANT on Section 6; W. WILKE on Section 7; and William EHRHARDT on Section 32.

1853 - August STAHL on Section 7; William FROELICH on Section 10; J. PITH on Section 15; F. HEINEMAN on Section 15; and Thomas AREINS on Section 6.

1854 - Joseph PROEBSTER on Section 5; Carl REICH on Section 10; Gustav KUNZE on Section 9; August MAFFERT on Section 9; Christ KUNZE on Section 5; and Samuel MUELLER on Section 33.

1855 - G. FLADER on Section 28; H. BIESE on Section 8; Andrew FLAIG on Section 8; Theodore MOENNING on Section 16; and Franz BOCH.

1856 - E. WILDGRUBE on Section 21; Ignatz RAMMER on Section 21; and G. C. GARNGER on Section 7.

1857 - Valentine REYER on Section 21; and A. TAX on Section 7.

1858 - S.JANSEN on Section 6.

1860 - William STIRDEVANT on Section 6.

1861 - August WILDGRUBE on Section 21.

1862 - F. WILDGRUBE on Section 22; and Jacques SCHNEIDER on Section 5.

Wilson Pioneers Still Living

William MOENNING, who with his wife now resides with their daughter-in-law, Mrs. Gust BECK on S. Seventh street, lived in town Wilson for about 70 years. He was ten years of age when he came with his parents to this country, the family coming from Milwaukee by boat and settling on a farm at Six Corners.

About 50 years ago Mr. MOENNING in company with William FROELICH, August MAFFERT, John POTH, Erdman WILDGRUBE, Gustav KUNZE, Fred HARTMAN, Friedrich PAASCH, and Carl ROEHRBORN started the third cheese factory in town Wilson. The first factory was started by G. W. WEEDEN and the second by Charles REICH located on Highway 17 about three miles south of Sheboygan.

Mr. MOENNING continued making cheese until about 30 years ago when the factory was taken over by his son, Gust, who still owns the property and manufactures cheese in the original building located on the old MOENNING homestead in Section 10 about four miles south of Sheboygan.

Mrs. MOENNING is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Christian MARSHALL, who in 1857 settled on a farm about two miles south of Sheboygan Falls. She attended school in the old log schoolhouse near WEEDEN's station.

Veteran Cheese Maker

Ferdinand BREHM is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob BREHM. Jacob came to Sheboygan in 1847 and for a few years worked at the old KOSSUTH House, acting as "runner" between the hotel and the boat landing. Later he purchased 120 acres of land in Section 16, town of Wilson, located near the present town hall on Highway 17. A few years afterward the family moved to another farm located on Section 3, and it was on this farm that eight children were born in the family.

Of these children, Ferdinand retired from active farming about eight years ago and now resides with his wife on S. Seventh street and his brother Richard lives on S. Twelfth street near the city limits. Ferdinand was born 71 years ago and has lived practically all his life on the old family homestead in town Wilson.

About 40 years ago he started a cheese factory which he operated for about ten years. When farmers began hauling milk to Sheboygan the cheese factory became unprofitable and he abandoned the business. At the present time his daughter-in-law utilizes the building for raising poultry.

Mr. BREHM said that when the Civil War broke out many of the younger men in town Wilson became discouraged and left the farms, many of them going to the copper region in Upper Michigan. His father also felt the urge, but was advised by Judge TAYLOR, a prominent man in Sheboygan at that period, to remain on his farm and to buy up all the land which was offered for sale at cheap prices. Following this timely advice Mr. BREHM acquired a large acreage in town Wilson, which formed the nucleus of the accumulation of considerable wealth a few years after the war ended. When the sons reached manhood's estate the elder BREHM divided his large farm into three parts, turning over an equal portion to his sons Ferdinand, Richard and Jacob, Jr.

Pigeons Cause Trouble

One of the greatest of pests to farmers during the early days were the passenger pigeons which frequented the region in large numbers. It was not an uncommon occurrence for a flock of these pigeons to alight upon a ten-acre field just sowed with peas and within ten minutes pick out all the seed which had been placed in the ground. This made it necessary for farmers to re-sow peas two and sometimes three different times.

Doubtless it will interest the present generation of young people to learn that millions of wild pigeons, which came to Wisconsin each season, perished during a migratory flight across Lake Michigan, when they were overtaken by a very severe blizzard during the early 80's. Hundreds of thousands of dead pigeons washed up on the shore of the lake after the storm, and since that time, with the exception of a few small and scattered flocks, these beautiful but destructive, wild birds have not been seen in Wisconsin.

Henry MEGGERS and William FROEHLICH, both switch-board operators at the City Hall of Sheboygan, are descendants of old settlers in town Wilson. Originally there were three brothers of the MEGGERS family, namely, George, Calus, and Johan. Of the eight children born to Johan, two sons, Henry and William, and one daughter, Mrs. John POLT, all of Sheboygan, still survive.

Among some of the other old settlers of town Wilson, who now reside in the city of Sheboygan, are August MAFFERT, who recently celebrated his 86th birthday anniversary, and Charles REICH, Henry and William HERBST, the former now supervisor of town Wilson, are sons of August HERBST, one of the earliest pioneers of the town.

Aside from the accident which resulted in the death of Mose GUYETTE, during all those years there has been but one tragedy in the town of Wilson.

Frozen To Death

Early in February, 1885, George KOCH left his home about four miles south of Sheboygan and came here to purchase an axe handle. Late in the afternoon of the same day he started to return to his farm while a severe blizzard was raging along the lakeshore. He apparently became bewildered in the blinding snowstorm and lost his way. His foot-prints seen in the snow the following morning indicated that he left the highway to avoid the huge snow-drifts and that he walked in circles for a long time.

The next morning members of the Johan MEGGER family discovered the stark frozen body of Mr. KOCH lying in the yard near the house. Apparently, he had staggered through the deep snow until he came in contact with a post around which he had wound his arms before he became unconscious and dropped to his knees in the snow. In one hand with the fingers tightly clasped around it was the axe handle he had purchased in Sheboygan the day before.

Another interesting family of pioneers in town Wilson was that of Johan HEYER who located on a 200-acre farm in Section 10 about four miles south of the city of Sheboygan. Gottlieb, a son of Johan, continued to work the farm after his father became too aged to perform manual labor, but a few years later he moved to the state of Illinois to rejoin friends who formerly lived in the town. Gottlieb had a son named Gottlieb who was a talented musician and who, for a number of years, lived in the little old house located at the northeast corner of the intersection of New York avenue and N. Ninth street. This building was torn down in the summer of 1926 to clear the ground for an oil filling station. While residing in Sheboygan Gottlieb was very prominent in music circles, for many years conducting an orchestra which was considered to be one of the best in this vicinity.

Churches Built In Early Days

The first churches in town Wilson were located in proximity to each other where Highway Trunk V intersects with Highway 17. A German Lutheran church of the Iowa Synod was located on the east side of the highway, and a similar church of the Wisconsin Synod was located a short distance west on County Trunk V. Later these two congregations were united and the present edifice was erected to serve the united congregation. On the west side of Highway 17, directly opposite the present church building, on the farm now occupied by William HERBST, was an Evangelical Lutheran church which was erected about 60 years ago. This building was later purchased by Henry HAHN who moved it north on Highway 17 for a distance of about one mile where it was converted into a cheese factory. For a few years Frank MEYER operated the factory, but the business proving unprofitable, he closed it up shortly afterwards. Besides the Lutheran church, the St. George's Catholic church is located in town Wilson near Six Corners.

Little is known of the present whereabouts of the descendants of the first white settlers along the lake shore in Town Wilson, with the exception of a son of Mr. CHEESEMAN who now resides in Sturgeon Bay, and who is still agile despite his advance years. His son Clarence keeps in touch with his father's old friends who live in Sheboygan.

Joseph FAIRCHILD had seven sons, all of whom were fishermen. They have dispersed to parts unknown.

A portion of the original Christian BRAUNSDORF farm property now forms a part of the South Side Catholic cemetery.

August FROEHLICH, who was one of the earliest settlers in the town later came to Sheboygan and started a brick yard on Indiana avenue west of the present North Western railway tracks. He operated this yard for a number of years.

The late O. ZIMBAL, who for many years operated a large brick yard in the southwestern section of Sheboygan, was a son of August ZIMBAL, one of the early settlers in town Wilson.

Andrew McLELLAN, who came to town Wilson in 1848, taught school in the schoolhouse located east of the Sauk Trail in which is now known as District No. 2. Mr. McLELLAN passed away in 1878, but a son, U. McLELLAN now resides on the Upper Falls road near the county farm and a daughter, Mrs. Jacob BREHM, resides on Indiana avenue, while another daughter lives in Chicago.

At the present time Town Wilson has five district and one joint district school. with a total enrollment of 409 pupils. These schools are known as River View school, Route 5; Jackson school, Route 5; Wilson school, Route 5; Harmony school, Route 5; and WEEDEN's Station school, Route 4.

St. George's Church

The earliest available accounts of the history of St. George's congregation, town of Wilson, date from about the year 1850, when the first Catholic pioneers, who had emigrated from Southern Germany, settled at Six Corners and vicinity.

The first resident pastor of St. George's church was the Rev. C. T. SCHRAUDENBACH, who banded the people together, and organized the congregation in 1860. During his pastorate the first church was built and dedicated, which was a small log structure, erected by the members of the parish.

The following year, in 1861, Father SCHRAUDENBACH was succeeded by the Rev. Patrick SEIBOLD, who had charge of the congregation until 1869. It was during his administration that the present St. George's church was built. The site upon which the church was to be erected and adjacent grounds for parsonage, school and cemetery, comprising in all six acres, was acquired gratis. Mr. Joseph HEMSING, a member of the parish, and a mason of no mean ability assumed the contract for the construction of the church edifice, which is a stately brick building, the architecture of which is carried out in the Romanesque style.

Pioneers Still Living

It may be interesting to note that some of the pioneer members, who helped in building the first log church, and the more modern church some years later, are still members of St. George's parish, others having died only recently.

The widow of the now deceased Joseph HEMSING, who built the present church in 1867, is 92 years old, and is residing with her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. STAHL, town of Wilson.

The building of the present church was completed in 1867, when the Most Rev. J. Martin HENNI, then Archbishop of Milwaukee, performed the solemn dedication of the new edifice, which was placed under the patronage of St. George.

After the Rev. Patrick SEIBOLD, the following priests were appointed pastors to St. George's Church successively: Rev. T. A. MUELLER; Rev. M. MUEHLBERGER; Rev. Nicolas MOES; Rev. Wm. ENGELN, who died here in October, 1875. His remains are interred in the adjoining cemetery. Upon the latter's death, Rev. Chas. FESSLER was given charge of the parish. During his administration, 1875 to 1880, the present parish school was built. In October, 1860, Rev. Theo. MEYER was appointed pastor of St. George's. Many improvements marked his seven years rectorate, among them the building of the present parsonage. Rev. Norbert DIERINGER succeeded Father MEYER in 1887. Improvements at this time were the installation of stained glass windows in the church. In 1892 Rev. J. W. BLUM assumed charge of the congregation. Father BLUM erected the present church steeple in 1893 and had three large bells installed.

After the Rev. J. W. BLUM, the following priests served as pastors from 1899 to 1921: Rev. Geo. SCHLEICHER; Rev. Peter HOLFELTZ; Rev. Paul E. SCHEIDEL; Rev. H. J. KRAUS; Rev. Stephen ZOHLEN; Rev. Sebastian WIMMER; Rev. Joseph SCHROEDER; Rev. Carl GLEISSNER; Rev. Theo. J. DAUM. During Father SCHROEDER's pastorate a new spacious sacristy was added to the rear of the church, and a beautiful vestment cabinet installed.

Rev. Knackert Now Rector

Since Jan. 1921, the present pastor, Rev. Geo. J. KNACKERT, has been in charge of St. George's congregation together with the mission church, St. Rose of Lima in the town of Lima.

The following priests have been reared in St. George's Parish: Rev. Dean A. J. VAN TREECK, pastor of St. Mary's Church, Burlington, Wis.; Rev. J. P. VAN TREECK, deceased, founder and late pastor of St. Peter Claver Church, Sheboygan; Rev. Wm. BRUECKER, pastor of St. Lawrence Church, Little Chute, Wis.; Rev. George TRIMBERGER, deceased, late pastor of Sacred Hearts' Church, Franklin, Wis.; Rev. Sebastian BREUNIG, deceased, and prior to his death, active in St. Cloud, Minn. Besides these priests are eight young ladies, from the parish, who have joined different religious orders of the sisterhood, namely: Misses Anna and Mary SCHARINGER; Misses Gertrude and Anna VAN TREECK; Anna NYTES; Frances and Cath. SCHUESSLER; and Clara MAYER.

There are today a large number of residents in the city of Sheboygan, who were reared in St. George's parish, and who spent a great part of their lives in this farming community. No doubt, the years they spent in this picturesque and prosperous rural district of Sheboygan county, belong to the happiest of their lives.

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