Fish Creek was so named by Increase Claffin who settled there, as has been stated, in 1842. For a few years
he and his family lived here in solitude, the only one on the peninsula north of Sturgeon Bay. In 1847 he was joined
by Van Renssalaer Marshall who with his two sons, William and Van Renssalaer Marshall, moved up from the Bay Settlement
near Green Bay in 1847. The elder Marshall froze to death in November, 1862. He was returning from Ephraim to Fish
Creek by boat and as night drew on he for some unknown reason anchored at Eagle Island which was then deserted.
He wrapped up in his sail and laid down in his boat to sleep. During the night it turned very cold and the old
man did not again wake up. There were no other settlers until Asa Thorp came a few years later and opened up the
country by his pier.
Among the earliest to join the little settlement at Fish Creek, mostly as wood choppers, were John and Stephen
Norton. They came in 1857. In those days no saws were used in making cordwood. Yet some of these woodchoppers were
able to put up three to four cords of wood per day with an axe. John and Steve Norton were great choppers, one
winter putting up no less than 400 cords between them. The same year also came John Brown, the later sage of Fish
Creek, Horace Poppleton, Michael F Kalmbach and John Torrey. The latter had a house on the hill east of Fish Creek
later known as the Barringer farm. He was a cooper. So were also Poppleton and Brown.
A greater sage than old John Brown was old Myron H. Stevens who came in 1856 and for a time lived at the "gorge."
He had a gift for law and wit and became a famous pettifogger. In this he was more prompted by a desire to outwit
his opponent than to unravel legal intricacies and a good time was usually looked for and realized when old Myron
Stevens took a case. When he had anything he was very charitable and when he hadn't he expected others to be. Many
stories are told of his curious mannerisms and witty sayings One day he came into a neighbor's house and said:
"Say, neighbor, can you let me borrow a piece of bacon? I'll bring it back when I have cooked my beans 1"
Another time in winter he was riding along, blue with cold, his teeth visibly chattering, behind a slow horse.
A passerby called out to him, "Say, Myron, why don't you get off and walk and get warm?" "No,"
replied Stevens in chilly dignity, "I would rather sit and freeze like a man than trot behind like a dog."
In 1856 a man by the name of Sweezey Burr came up from Sheboygan County to look for cheap farm lands for himself
and his neighbor, David Graham. About 1 1/2 miles south of Fish Creek, on one of the highest elevations of the
peninsula he found three forties which the surveyor by some mistake had listed as swamp lands. He therefore got
this land for 50 cents per acre. Early the next spring his son, Enos Burr, moved up with his family and household
goods and were landed at Baileys Harbor. There was no pier there then so they bad to throw the oxen and cow into
the water and swim them ashore. It was thereupon necessary for Burr to cut a meandering road across the peninsula
for more than ten miles until he reached his claim where the Burr family has since resided.
December 5th of this year, 1857, the county board set aside all that part of the Door County peninsula lying north
of the Sevastopol line into a separate town. This town was about forty miles long and of the width of the peninsula
The following spring the woodehoppers of Fish Creek and Egg Harbor, the cedar workers of North Bay and Baileys
Harbor, and the fishermen of Ephraim and down the shore made their way along blazed trails and devious paths to
Asa Thorp's house. Here the first town meeting was held and officers elected. John S. Torrey was elected chairman.
Solomon Beery of Baileys Harbor was elected clerk and Rev. A. M. Iverson of Ephraim superintendent of schools.
The name of Gibraltar was given to the new town at the suggestion of Solomon Beery because Gibraltar was the official
name of Baileys Harbor, up to this time the county seat of Door County, which was included within the borders of
the new town.
The preceding fall a man with a small trading vessel had put into the harbor so late that when he woke up the next
morning he found the bay frozen over. His name was Jacob St. Ores. Being obliged to winter there he found the few
pioneers who were settled there such good company that he decided to make Fish Creek his home. Moreover he made
a trip back to Ozaukee County, his former home, to tell his relatives about this delightful place he had discovered.
As a result his brother in law, Martin Minor, with his family, including his sons, Edward S. and Augustine A. Minor,
moved up in 1858. Martin Minor built a house near the Gorge where he accumulated a great deal of land and had many
woodchoppers at work for him. His son, Edward S., was persuaded to join the Fish Creek colony for the purpose of
becoming its first schoolteacher. However, it was little tempting for an adventurous youth to sit in a little log
schoolhouse in the wilderness as schoolmaster and he preferred to roam abroad as a sailor. Later he became a merchant
in Fish Creek and finally went to Washington as congressman.
The early woodchoppers who first laid low our splendid virgin timber were generally of the opinion that Door County
was too far north to grow anything but grass. Asa Thorp had hopes, however. The first year in which he ventured
into agriculture he cautiously planted potatoes. They grew and yielded amazingly. The next year he planted flint
corn of the hardiest variety known. This, too, succeeded. After that he sowed and reaped all manner of things until
he finally grew peaches which won premiums at great national expositions.
Encouraged by this success others soon began to grub out the stumps and dig out the stones that generously covered
all the surrounding land. Among the earliest of these in Northern Door County were old Isaac J. Jarman who with
his sons, Thomas. Joshua and Charles, settled in Fish Creek in 1858. Thomas and Joshua Jarman and Horace Poppleton
lost their lives in a storm off Chambers Island the following year. Charles and his father, Isaac, pre-empted a
tract of land about three miles east of Fish Creek which became the well known homestead of the Jarman family.
Being misled by the large timber the Jarman were unfortunate in selecting one of the stoniest tracts of land in
the town while only a mile to the south lay very choice farming land which was not taken up until fifteen years
later. Undismayed by this, however, Charles Jarman every morning at sunrise trudged through the swamps and underbrush
on his way from Fish Creek to toil all day in his nest of stones; and being a paragon for hard work he soon had
a respectable farm to show.
Enos Burr, Chas. Jarman. John and Stephen Norton are among the first men tc take up farming for a living in Northern
Door County. The Moravian colonists around Ephraim began to till the soil a few years before them but with them
it was more of a side line as they occupied only small lots. These men all came in the '50s and were the only ones
to try farming in Gibraltar until after the Civil war. In the meantime a number of fishermen came, among them being
Ingham Kinsey, Geo. Jones, Charles Gessler and Charles Jeffcott. In 1861 came John Hogan and C. P. Fairchild. The
hitter bought considerable land near the "Gorge" where he was busy for some years cutting cordwood. In
1862 came Stephen Mapes, a friend of Enos Burr. from Shebogan County. He had fourteen children and toted them all
and all his other possessions through the timber for 200 miles on a two wheeled cart drawn by two oxen. When he
came to Sturgeon Bay he built a raft and managed to get the oxen and all on board. Standing in front of the oxen
feeding them corn to keep them quiet so that the fourteen babies would not be spilled out he ferried them across
to the promised land where riches and happiness were soon expected but which, alas, were never realized.
Dan L. Fish and Josiah Judd came in 1863. That winter many people were on the point of starvation in the north
country. In Baileys Harbor the provisions first ran out. A crew of men cut a road across the peninsula to Fish
Creek, where the people divided provisions with the people of Baileys Harbor. Soon the people of Fish Creek were
also in need when it became necessary to carry what was needed from Green Bay.
Due to being the first stopping place and fuel station on the peninsula Fish Creek early assumed an importance
which for a time almost rivaled Sturgeon Bay. In the later '60s there were two stores in the village doing a lively
business. One was owned by E. S. Minor and Frantz Blakefield (the latter came from a distinguished family in Norway
where his name was spelled Blichfeldt). The other store was owned by W. H. Sellick and David McCummings. Sellick
also operated a sawmill There were also two large piers, one owned by Asa Thorp, the other by McCummings. David
McCummings came to Fish Creek in 1865. He had three sons whom he named De Witt, De Hart and De Los. He also had
a daughter who was named De Ette. When another daughter came his supply of names beginning with the French prefix
De was exhausted. He was therefore obliged, very unwillingly, to christen her with a name in which the de came
in the second syllable Adelaide.
Fish Creek was after the war the chief fishing center in the county and D. W. Ranney removed his fish buying station
from Washington Harbor to Fish Creek. With him came Levi orous who for some years had been his manager. At this
time also came Samuel Churches and Alexander Noble - two political antagonists who for years seesawed for the chairmanship
of the Town of Gibraltar. Sam Churches was a precise and well informed official but rather crabbed. Alexander Noble
was also efficient but infinitely more cross grained with a caustic wit which was the dread and admiration of all.
At the close of the war there settled in Fish Creek a queer individual who for many years figured prominently in
the county news. This was Dr. E. M. Thorpe, the first dentist in the county. He was also an amateur lawyer and
when not giving legal advice to others was busy in pushing suits of his own. He seems to have been drawn to Fish
Creek because of the beauty of the scenery. He bought Strawberry Island which he entirely cleared of timber with
the exception of a fringe around the shore. He also built a first class two story house, constructed a dock, dug
a well and a cistern, laid sidewalks around the house and to the dock and made an excellent driveway around the
island, making a road of about 154 miles in length. A large part of the island - about twenty acres he planted
to grapes. He also kept about six hundred hens. All the improvements he made were such that they with stood the
wear and tear of the weather and the ice and for twenty years later Strawberry Island was reckoned the most beautiful
spot in the county.
Two other prominent citizens of the county, whose families have since moved away, also settled in Fish Creek at
the close of the war. These were L. P. Hill and L. M. Griswold. L P Hill came from Beaver Island, the famous Mormon
island kingdom in Lake Michigan in the '50s where he won his wife from the household of King James Strang in a
most romantic manner. L. P. Hill's sons, in the '90s organized a steamship company and for many years operated
passenger boats on Green Bay with headquarters at Fish Creek. They later moved to Kenosha, where they are now operating
a line of boats between Chicago and Racine.
L. M. Griswold operated a sawmill and other business and was a prominent man in Fish Creek in his day. His wife
was the chief agent in securing for Fish Creek the little Episcopal Church which nestles in the center of the village
as pretty as any picture. This was originally the unfinished dwelling of a fisherman by the name of Charles Gessler.
Mrs. Griswold and old Mrs. Sarah Jeffcutt interested friends in the East in the needs of the village of a church
and the dwelling was remodeled. For a time a resident rector conducted regular services here. The Episcopalian
worship seems, however, to lack that element of dogmatic doctrine which seems to be a need of a husky pioneer community.
This was found a few years later when a zealous Seventh Day Adventist arrived and held stirring revival services
centering on the saving grace of Saturday. His labors were amply rewarded and on May I, 1876, while the harbor
was still half full of ice, thirty four grown persons were baptized by immersion amid the bobbing ice cakes.
Fish Creek has always been a fairly orderly and well behaved village and it is many years since any saloon has
been permitted in the village or the town. In the early days, however, a saloon was in operation where the village
loafers would meet to swap fish stories over a glass of stale beer. This came to an abrupt and dramatic ending
through the energy of a resolute lady of the village, the forerunner of the famous Carrie Nation, who became disgusted
at the waywardness of her worthy spouse. One Sunday evening as he and other village notables were dozing over a
game of penny ante the door suddenly opened and his irate wife appeared in the door with her apron full of brickbats.
She wasted no time in words but let fly a cobble stone which instantly smashed the smoky lamp. Thereafter darkness
and pandemonium ruled the room. The lords of the card table forgot their dignity and dived head first under the
billiard table while stones and curses flew around the room. A door finally opened to the barkeeper's kitchen,
when, seeing this avenue of escape, the men stood not upon the order of their going but flung out all in a heap,
leaving the doughty woman a defiant victor.
A jolly good town is old Fish Creek,
The best on the pike, I know;
With its back to the rock and its face to the sea
Where the rollicking breezes blow.
As snug as a bug in an old woolen rug
It lies there embowered in green;
You may go where you like, on any old pike
No cosier village is seen.
When old Father Claflin discovered "old Door,"
Some four score years ago,
With Indians and black bear it was galore
And sturgeon-a wonderful show !
He roamed the timber and cruised the shore
Delighted with all he did see.
But when he saw Fish Creek he roamed no more;
But said: "My home here shall be
Do you know the folks of Fish Creek town?
A merry stout lot are they.
Their wives are sure some famous cooks-
Just look at their men, I say!
Why nearly every man in town
Has a waistband of forty or more.
With a happy old chuckle around they go,
Grand boosters to the core.
At the same time as Fish Creek received the above settlers a number of Scandinavian fishermen came and settled
on the shore north of Fish Creek, now known as Blossomburg, where Peter Weborg and Even Nelson had settled in the
early '50s. Among these were Carl Lundberg, Gjert Anderson, Ole Sorenson, Sven Anderson and Ole Nilson Klungeland.
Eventually the whole Peninsula Park area became peopled with Scandinavians, about thirty five families. Ole Sorenson
was a famous strong man of his community. Once on a bet he carried a barrel of salt pork, weighing 260 pounds,
on his back from Peterson's store in Ephraim to his home, a distance of three miles over the ice. Sven Anderson
was a very gentle minded old bachelor and retired sailor who settled here because of the transcendent beauty of
the scenery. He built his house high up on top of "Sunset Cliff," also known as "Sven's Bluff,"
where he could enjoy one of the finest views in America. His house (still standing) was a mecca for all the children
of the neighborhood, because he always treated them so courteously and generously. Although a bachelor he always
had a petticoat hanging on the wall, "so as to make the house look a little more homelike."
Back in the woods, a half mile, still stands Ole Klungeland's old log shanty. Ole Klungeland is said to have given
the name to this locality. In his early days, when Ole Klungeland was a man of many affairs he frequently traveled
from Fish Creek to Ephraim by boat In rounding Eagle Bluff he often encountered contrary winds, and therefore called
the more exposed shore north of Fish Creek "Blaasenberg" (the windy mountain). This name later became
Because of his many notorious lawsuits and numerous eccentricities Ole Klungeland is remembered far and wide as
a famous pioneer clown. Numerous stories are told of him, all of which border on the ridiculous. Ole Klungeland,
however, took himself very seriously and no one can recall having seen him smile. When he first arrived from the
old country he appeared to be a man of some consequence as he dazzled the little community by appearing in a tall
silk hat and toggery to match. He also seemed to have plenty of means and bought much land. It was very difficult
in those days to obtain perfect titles owing to the fact that nearly all lands had lapsed for taxes; but Ole Klungeland
dauntlessly entered suit after suit. He was often victorious but as the lawyers and pettifoggers got the spoils,
there was finally nothing left to Ole but one forty and a wealth of experience. His former glory had departed,
including his money and his silk hat. So he settled down in his little cabin, satiated with lawyers and suspicious
of the world, brooding over an old volume of law which was practically his only surviving possession, hoping therein
to find the means to outwit his enemies and open the door to restitution and renown. Unlike his neighbor, Sven
Anderson, whose house was as neat as an old maid's Ole Klungeland gradually slipped into the depths of slothfulness.
His time was taken up with the study of his lawbook and he had none to spare for housekeeping. When he needed a
fire he would go into the woods and find a dry pole which he gradually pushed through the stove as it burned up.
Beneath the stove was a convenient hole in the floor through which the ashes fell. Cooking was done once a week,
a kettle of pork and a kettle of potatoes, which stood on the table until they were emptied. Occasionally he baked
bread which was a source of great annoyance. As he was kneading his dough, deeply pondering a legal problem he
would often forget himself and run his hand through his hair as was a habit of his. A little dough would usually
stick to his bushy locks. When he had gone to bed, impudent rats would come and nibble at these clumps of dough
in his hair to Ole's great pain and disturbance.
These nightly attacks by the rats were the greatest trial Ole had ever encountered. They were worse than the pettifoggers
who had fleeced him of his patrimony. They disturbed his quiet cogitations before slumber overtook him, they turned
his sleep into a bedlam of nightmares, they made him an object of ridicule among the young people after he had
thoughtlessly confided his grief to a visitor. Long he pondered how to stop this nightly torture. Finally he hit
upon a most promising plan.
Ole Sorenson had a wolf trap - a trap with a powerful steel spring with a long chain attached to it. He borrowed
this trap and baited it with a tempting bit of bacon. He then placed the trap on his pillow and carefully laid
down beside it. Now he felt prepared to meet the meanest rat on earth.
But Ole Klungeland had other enemies in bed besides rats. As he laid there chafing and rubbing the trap slid farther
and farther down into the bed until it rested in a pocket in the middle of it. Finally, in his sleep, Ole rolled
over and settled squarely on top of it. The trap snapped and caught him with a fiendish grip in a fleshly portion
of his posterior region. With a howl of agony Ole jumped out of bed. He pulled and pressed, trying to get the thing
loose, but in his awkward position he could not seem to master the mechanism. Finally in despairing torture he
started down the trail, his trousers in one hand, the chain in the other, and got Sven Anderson out of bed to liberate
Among the queer characters who have lived in Fish Creek was also a "Doctor" Hale who for a time made
things lively in the village. He and his wife were traveling members of the Kickapoo Indian Remedy Co. which was
a cross between a circus and a patent medicine agency. He made a trade with L. L. Hill whereby be in the '90s acquired
a farm in the east end of the village now owned by Doctor Welcher. His wife had been an equestrienne, or performer
on bareback horses, and profoundly impressed the populace by dashing about on horseback in all manner of perilous
postures. Not less were they impressed by "Doctor" Hale who carried in his pocket a $1,000 bill, whether
bogus or genuine is still debatable. This $1,000 bill was remarkably efficacious in winning respect or securing
credit in any transaction.
When E. S. Minor opened his campaign for the office of congressman, "Doctor" Hale let it be known that
he had been Senator Gallinger's private secretary and had practically made the senator. He offered to give to Mr.
Minor the accumulated wealth of his vast political experience and guaranteed his election if he were given free
hands as campaign manager. Mr. Minor's friends in the village now felt that the entire election hinged on Mr. Hale's
co-operation and beseeched Mr. Minor not to commit political suicide by refusing to engage Mr. Hale. Mr. Minor,
however, stolidly refused the potent aid of the $1,000 bill and went about getting elected just the same. It later
developed that while Doctor Hale had come from the same state as Senator Gallinger, he had had no connection with
Doctor Hale now got political aspirations of his own and ran for town chairman. His opponent was L. L. Hill and
there also existed between the two quite a business tangle. It is said that Hill and Hale had a h--l of a time
but Hill finally won out both in business and politics and Hale took his $1,000 bill to new fields of enterprise.
South of Fish Creek about three miles lies Juddville, now chiefly settled by Norwegian community that settled there
in the '80s. Juddville is so called because Josiah Judd for a time was the only settler there. Nicolai Kihl joined
him in 1869. A few years later the Scandinavians came and took possession of this excessively stony tract. Among
the earliest was Otto Anderson. He had seventeen children, of which twelve are still living.
The best portion of Gibraltar by far is the southeastern quarter of the town. For some reason this land was not
pre-empted until in the '70s when it was settled by a sturdy class of Germans. The first of these was George Reinhard
who seattied there in 1870. Shortly after him came Henry Pleck, Polzin Franke and Reh. The Town of Baileys Harbor
has always looked with avaricious eyes upon this fair corner of Gibraltar. In the '70s the county board was induced
to transfer this portion of Gibraltar to Baileys Harbor. Gibraltar refused to recognize the validity of the transfer
as it had less than thirty six sections of land. Both towns sent their assessors into the disputed territory but
as the freeholders refused to pay taxes to Baileys Harbor the latter town was finally obliged to relinquish her
claim. Again in 1917 an attempt was made to transfer the taxes from this part of the town to Baileys Harbor for
high school purposes. The residents however remained loyal to Gibraltar and Baileys Harbor again lost out. The
people of Gibraltar have now practically unanimously voted ample funds to build and equip a high school which is
expected to be completed in the summer of 1918. This will be the first high school in the county outside of Sturgeon
The fishing industry has now practically ceased in Fish Creek and it has become instead one of the chief summer
resort centers of the county. This had its beginning in 1894. In that year Mr. Legler (then secretary of schools
in Milwaukee, late librarian of the Chicago public library) found his way to Fish Creek. He bought some lots now
owned by Mr. Geo. M. Clark. In 1895 he returned with Mr. Edward Risman, principal of the Milwaukee South Side High
School. He also purchased lots. The Crundons of St. Louis and others also came to Fish Creek this year and E. C.
Thorp was obliged to enlarge his house to accommodate them. Through Mr. Risman Dr. Herman Welcker was induced to
come to Fish Creek. In 1896 Doctor Welcker contracted to buy from Asa Thorp his hotel, 32 lots, one mile of shore
front, and a farm of 500 acres for $5,000. The doctor started to farm with trotting horses and was not successful.
The contract was therefore annulled. Mr. Thorp then offered him one mile of shore front for $200. This land is
now assessed at about $35,000. E. C. Thorp and Dr. H. Welcker are now the largest summer hotel operators in the
county, each catering to about one hundred and fifty guests.
The saddest memory in the history of Fish Creek is the wreck of the steamer E. L. Hackley whereby eleven persons
were drowned. On October 3, 1904, the steamer left Marinette for Egg Harbor. A high wind from the southwest had
been blowing all day but at 5:45 P. M. Captain Vorous set out. In the vicinity of Green Island a squall came from
the southwest which caught the steamer on. the starboard side and threw her to the port, a position from which
she was unable to recover. In a few moments the cabin was wrenched off the boat and thrown into the sea. Immediately
afterward the hull filled with water and sank. The drowned were Capt. Joseph Vorous, Carl Paehlke, Hugh Miller,
Henry Robertoy, Lawrence Barringer, Edna Barringer, Geo. Le Clair, Nels Nelson, Edna Vincent, Ethel Vincent and
When the boat was filling with water a number of persons jumped for the floating cabin and managed to cling to
it through the long, savage hours of the following night. Some finally, were unable to hold on any longer and were
washed off and drowned. About 8 o'clock the following morning the steamer Sheboygan spied the wreckage then floating
near the Door County shore and rescued the survivors who were still clinging to the cabin. The rescued were Orin
Rowin, Blain McSweeney, Milton Hanson, John Haltug, F. Mathiesen, Martin Olson, Milton Olson and F C Blakefield.
Nearly all of the persons on the steamer were from Fish Creek.
The E. R. Hackley was seventy nine feet long, with a capacity of fifty seven tons. She was not considered very
seaworthy and Government inspectors were blamed for permitting her to carry passengers.
1 In the Door County Advocate of January 8, 1880, is the following note on Ole Klungeland:
"Many of our citizens have no doubt lost all track of Ole Nelson, better known as 'Klingland' who years ago
figured in every term of court, either as plaintiff or defendant. In fact he lawed it so much that he was reduced
from well to do to abject poverty, and a few years ago buried himself in the wilderness of the Town of Gibraltar,
near the Eagle Bluff lighthouse, where he lives in perfect seclusion in filth and squalor. Those who have visited
his den say it is the dirtiest hole they ever put foot into, and hardly fit for an animal to live in.''