History of Sevastopol, Door County, Wisconsin
From: History of Door County, Wisconsin
The County Beautiful
By: Hjalmar R. Holand, M. A.
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago 1917


The banner town in Door County is undoubtedly Sevastopol. Here the land is deep, rich and gently rolling, excellently suited to agriculture. Here are many of Wisconsin's largest and best managed orchards. Here the improvements are substantial and the highways excellent. Not many towns in Wisconsin are superior to Sevastopol for farming operations or results.

But not all the land in Sevastopol is suited to agriculture. Along Lake Michigan is a broad belt of low and indifferent land which has not yet been put to any important use. Here, however, is where Sevastopol's first permanent settler made his home.

Up in the northeastern corner of the town lies a large and beautiful lake, known as Clarks Lake. The northern part of the lake extends into the Town of Jacksonport. Between this lake and Lake Michigan lies a trnact of inferior low lying land. Here, on the shore of Lake Michigan he settled and developed a very interesting fishing station.

John P. Clark was one of the first white settlers on this peninsula, having located here in 1838. He had previously been fishing at Two Rivers and while so engaged was informed by an Indian that there was a better place farther down the shore. Taking his informant with him Mr. Clark visited the spot which is now known as White Fish Bay, and finding that he had been correctly informed he determined to locate there. In order to have plenty of elbow room, and to control the grounds he bought large tracts of land along the shores, his purchases ultimately amounting to about twenty five hundred acres and extending along the beach for nine miles. In 1842 he was accompanied to the fishing ground by his brother, Isaac S. Clark, who continued to take an active interest in the business from that time. They landed at Two Rivers in April of that year from the steamer Cleveland, which was running between Buffalo and Chicago. At that time and for some years following they began to fish at Two Rivers in April and there remained until August, when they removed to White Fish Bay where they operated for the remainder of the season, which closed about the middle of November, after which they returned to Detroit for the winter. Fishing was then done entirely with seines, which varied in length from 40 to 160 rods, or half a mile in length, though nets of medium size were found to work most satisfactorily. They were carried into the lake and set from the boats, then afterward hauled in by windlasses on the beach, the operation taking several hours. Large hauls were frequently made, a single sweep of a net having on one occasion brought in 175 barrels of 200 pounds each, all fish being at that time put up in full barrels. Although the seines brought in every kind of fish, none was picked out but whitefish, all others being hauled to a field for use as fertilizer. Sometimes the oil was extracted for tanning and other purposes, it being worth $1 a gallon. Most of this work was done by Indians, two or three hundred of whom assembled at the bay to manufacture oil, in the fishing season, the proceeds of which they spent for whiskey in order that they might get drunk "just like the white man." The Messrs. Clark employed from thirty to forty fishermen and several coopers, and their annual catch at Two Rivers and White Fish Bay was from fifteen hundred to two thousand barrels. The schooner Gazelle, owned by John P. Clark, was engaged in carrying the fish to Cleveland where most of them were sold, the price in 1838, and for several years afterwards, being $12 per barrel. The use of seines continued until within the past fifteen or twenty years, when they were discarded and pond nets used in their stead, these being found much more economical to use, while the hauls made in them were as large as had previously come from the seines.

When Mr. Clark began operations in this region there were but few white persons in Door County. Excepting Indians, Mr. Clark's only neighbors were wild animals, and of these the woods were full. The howling of wolves was heard every night, and the occasional loss of a pig or a calf served to keep the colony in a state of pleasurable excitement, conjecturing that when the domestic animals were consumed the wolves might insist upon having fresh baby for supper every evening. Deer and bears were scarcely less abundant than wolves. The refuse fish carried to the field attracted the bears, and as many as eight were at one time seen engaged in getting a square meal from a pile of offal. As usual when the Indians come in contact with the whites they rapidly deteriorated. Civilization and shotgun whiskey were altogether too much for the constitution of the red men. In addition to the meanest kind of fire water the whites brought with them the smallpox and cholera, while dissipation caused the hitherto rugged natives to become a prey to lung diseases. About 1860 an Indian named Nimniquette camped with his family on the north point of White Fish Bay during the fishing season, himself and many others of the tribe having come on one of their annual oil making expeditions. Nimniquette was afflicted with consumption, which had reduced him to a mere skeleton. He died a short time after his arrival, and the burial ground of the tribe, being at Sands Bay, south of Kewaunee, his friends applied to Mr. Clark for the use of a boat in which to convey the remains to the cemetery. Just as the party was ready to leave a violent storm arose and continued for several days. Before it abated one of the fishermen happened to visit the camp and was horrified by the discovery that the Indians were smoke drying the dead man. Being otherwise unable to preserve the dead man until it could be transported to its destination, they had enclosed it in a box and were treating it as though it were a sugar cured ham. When the funeral party was ready to start, the lamented "stiff" was so thoroughly dried that he could safely be warranted to keep in any climate until the Angel Gabriel summons mankind to come to judgment.

Nothing now remains to mark Clark's fishing station. The quaint old houses - some of them built without a single nail or piece of iron in them - have disappeared, the surging waves have beaten the piers to pieces and the forest growth has conquered the clearings. The recollections of this interesting and long established business are now only a vague and fleeting memory.

More than ten miles away, in the extreme western part of the town, on the shore of Green Bay, Mr. Clark had his nearest neighbor. This was Mil McMillen, a fisherman like Clark. It is likely, however, that Mr. Clark never met his neighbor and fellow townsman as they were separated by a trackless forest of ten miles of huge trees by land and by a journey of 100 miles around "the Door" by water.

It was this huge forest of ancient growth that the farmers had to conquer before they could make Sevastopol the land of milk and honey it is today.

When the Norwegian Moravians of Fort Howard moved to Sturgeon Bay in 1852 four of them settled a few miles north of the future city in the Town of Sevastopol near the mouth of Sturgeon Bay. These four were H. P. and Jacob Hanson, Louis Klinkenberg and Salvi Salvison. The next year they were joined by John and Thomas Garland.

John Garland had been a sea captain and was of a roving, romantic, disposition. He came from Canada and knew nothing of the West but what the interesting curves on the chart told him. Feeling the call of the wild he loaded his possessions, including Brussels carpets and ornate china, into a boat and sailed for the setting sun. When he arrived at the mouth of Sturgeon Bay he thought nature had created such a perfect picture that a lovelier scene was not to be found. He pitched his habitation on the spot now occupied by Dudley S. Crandall's house and built a pier. He felt sure that a great port would here be developed as a result of the Buffalo trade.

The next year, 1854, the little settlement at the mouth of the bay was augmented by the arrival of Alexander and Robert Laurie. They came in a hooker from Buffalo "looking for a place where there was no fever and ague." They found it at the mouth of Sturgeon Bay. From the year of their arrival the Lauries have been prominently identified with the history of the county. They built some of the earliest vessels that floated on Green Bay and were leaders in almost every enterprise. Alexander Laurie was drowned in a storm on Green Bay in 1862 but Robert Laurie, the father of the present county highway commissioner, John M. Laurie, lived to attain a ripe age. He had in his youth been a salt water sailor, visiting many strange ports and heathen lands. His wife had brought with her into the wilderness many old files of the London Illustrated Weekly. In the evenings it was quite common for the neighbors to gather in the Laurie home where Mrs. Laurie would read of the manners and customs of the dusky denizens of the Orient, while Robert Laurie would sandwich in personal observations from the same ports. In this manner the evenings were most enjoyably spent by many of the old pioneers of Sturgeon Bay and Sevastopol. When the county board in 1859 set off the Town of Sevastopol the board gave it the name of Laurieville in honor of the Lauries. The Germans of the eastern part of the town were not consulted in this, however, and the name was later changed to its present nondescript appellation.

So far the history of the Town of Sevastopol has dealt only with men who settled on the shore, whose principal industry for many years was fishing or sailing, with whom farming was a minor side line. In 1856, however, we come to the men who felled Sevastopol's great forest and converted the land into the rare farming tract it now is. About the first of these was George Bassford, ever since a leader in the town, who in 1856 led a party of landseekers from Fond du Lac to Sturgeon Bay. When they reached Green Bay the road came to an end. With remarkable persistence, however, they pushed on through the primeval jungle on foot, wading through swamps, fording creeks and crawling over the innumerable rotting windfalls. After three days and nights during which time they never saw a human habitation or open clearing they finally emerged on the shores of Sturgeon Bay. They crossed this and pushed on for five miles farther into the primeval woods. Here they finally came to land so excellent, judging by the growth of the timber, the topography of the ground and other indications, that no better could be sought. Bassford bought 240 acres and at once became the biggest owner of lands for farming purposes - a title he has almost always held. With him or about the same time came A. Sacket, the Stephenson brothers and several others who later moved to other parts.

The same year came John Haux (Hocks), Jacob Crass and Joseph Zettel. The first was Dutch, the second German and the third Swiss. Zettel came from Washington Island where he had worked for a year for the Ranney Fish Co. Joseph Zettel deserves particular mention because it was due to him more than to any other man that Door County became famous as a fruit growing section. He started to plant fruit trees in 1862 and by 1890 he had forty five acres in apples - the largest orchard in the state. In 1893 his display of more than twenty varieties attracted much attention and many premiums at the Worlds Fair in Chicago, his apples keeping their flavor and appearance better than those of any other exhibition. It was due to Mr. Zettel's thirty years' successful experience in growing fruit that A. L. Hatch, Professor Goff and other fruitgrowers a few years later came in and developed that boom in fruit growing which made Door County famous.

In 1857 there was quite a number of pioneers who moved into Sevastopol to clear farms. Most of these were Germans. Among them were Peter J. Simon, Leonard Heldman, Nicholas Armbrust, John Meyer, and Luke Coyne. This year the first Irish families also moved in of which there are now quite a number in the town. These were Henry Martin, Andrew Finnegan and James Gillispie. E. C. Daniels and Alexander Templeton also settled here this year. Of others that came before the war were Anton Long, George King, Dennis Crowley, Richard Ash and James R. Mann.

Sevastopol was organized as a ton November 17, 1859. Its first name was Laurieville. This name did not suit the farmers of the town. A special meeting of the new town was held to choose a fitting name for the town. Several names were mentioned without meeting favor. A few years previous to this the events of the Crimean war had been the leading news items in the papers and J. P. Simon had gained a fragmentary knowledge of it. Sebastopol, the great Russian seaport and fortress which had been captured by the French and English in 1856 after a siege of eleven months, loomed big in his mind and he suggested this name as a fitting suggestion of the town's future greatness. This name was adopted. In getting it on the records, however, an error in the spelling occurred and thus we have Sevastopol, a shining example of the pitfalls of little learning. In the same manner the Russian name of Malakoff was later applied to a post office in the town. The fact that the two postoffices of the town were marked with Russian names on the map of the state made many strangers believe that here was a large Russian settlement. However, it is doubtful if there has ever been a Russian family in the town.

This Peter Joseph Simon was a man who took himself very seriously. In 1868 there was a great landslide of democratic voters to Grant and Simon's vote was also carried along by the flood. He announces his change of heart in matters political in the Advocate of October 1, 1868, in the following precious announcement:
"Wonder! Wonder!! Wonder!!!

Peter Joseph Simon, originator of the name of the Town of Sevastopol, say: I have lived in said town for nearly twelve years. I was one of the first settlers there. I have been a man who has voted for the democratic ticket for the last twenty five years. I have also used my influence in favor of the democrats. I therefore, after taking a survey of all matters and circumstances, have thoroughly changed my views upon my former politics. Now and henceforth I am a Grant man! Grant is my man! Hurrah for Grant!

Peter J. Simon was not only an energetic politician; he was also a progressive farmer and had the honor of growing the first bushel of wheat in Sevastopol. In 1873 he gained much deserved credit for purchasing the first mower in use north of Sturgeon Bay. For four years he enjoyed the glory of having brought the first mower into the town. Then his light was eclipsed by Luke Coyne who scraped the bottom of his credit by bringing the first grain binder into the county. This grain binder was the third step in the evolution of the present self binder. First came the reaper which cut the grain and left it in swaths on the fields to be bound into sheaves by slow and painful hand labor. Then came the Marsh Harvester. This reaper elevated the grain and placed it on an elevated table attached to the machine where two men were stationed whose laborious task it was to bind the straw into sheaves as fast as it dropped on the bench. This machine was both a man killer and a horse killer, being very heavy and was early in the '70s superseded by the wire binder. This machine was a great stride forward and bound the sheaves in almost the same manner as the present binders, wires being used, however, for tying the bundles. Soon, however, complaints came in from farmers in districts where the wire binder had been used, telling of thousands of dollars lost by those whose cattle had been killed by the wire swallowed with the straw. Flour mills also refused to grind the wheat cut by a wire binder because small fragments of wire in the grain cut the bolting cloths and also sometimes caused explosions by friction in the machinery.

It was such a binder that Luke Coyne one day in August, 1877, brought into his fields to the great edification of his assembled neighbors. His triumph, however, did not last long. The binder refused to work, he was unable to pay for it and lost the farm. This farm, one of the very best in the county, is now owned by H. Feel

Among the famous old pioneers of Sevastopol was also Fred I. Schuyler, one of the first men to come to Sturgeon Bay.

Fred Schuyler is best known for his inimitable story telling and for his infinite love of a good joke. He was in early days much given to playing pranks on others, at which he was quite successful. For instance, once when he was in A. W. Lawrence & Co.'s store he heard L. M. Washburn who was one of the proprietors complain of the large number of rats on the premises and was asked if he could not find some stray cats. Schuyler thought he could and with a twinkle in his eye went on a cat hunt. Finally he had captured about a couple of dozen. These he tied in bags and carried into the store. The bag that he brought in looked suspiciously large and heavy but thinking he had brought only a couple of cats Mr. Washburn thankfully told him to let them out. Schuyler did so and instantly there was a mad scramble accompanied by yowls and hisses. The cats frightened out of their wits by their close confinement made for the topmost shelves scattering dishes right and left. Now and then they would come to a tight place and then followed a cat fight with more crashing crockery to the infinite entertainment of the bystanders. Before the cats were evicted they had smashed more than twenty dollars worth of crockery and left a stink that stayed for weeks.

While Schuyler usually got the best of it in a joke, the laugh was once on him with a vengeance. This happened as follows:

For a time, while farming in Sevastopol, he had for neighbor an Irishman by the name of Jack Hurley who lived across the road. The big Yankee and the little Irishman were the best of friends except for occasional spats about trespassing pigs and poultry. One day in Schuyler's absence the Irishman had severely punished an inquisitive pig belonging to Schuyler. When the latter in the evening returned home and learned what had happened he became very angry. Scattering lurid imprecations he strode across the road to pay the Irishman back in kind. The Irishman saw him coming. Just inside of the door was a trapdoor to the cellar. Believing discretion to be better than valor he blew out the light, opened the trap door and awaited developments. Schuyler did not stop to knock but kicked the door open and marched in. The next moment he found himself shooting down the trap door which the Irishman quickly closed and barricaded with cupboards and woodboxes. Then he went to bed. The next morning a truce was patched up entirely satisfactory to the triumphant Irishman who sat upon the trap door while telephoning to Schuyler who during the night had had ample time to cool off while perched upon a bin of potatoes.

When reminded of this adventure Mr. Schuyler reminiscently remarked, "That Jack Hurley was the smartest Irishman that ever crossed the ocean."

In early days Sevastopol had three shipping points which now are used no longer. These were Podunk, Lily Bay and White Fish Bay. Podunk was a small lumbering village in the extreme northwestern corner of the town. Geo. W. Marsh built a pier here about 1867 and got out a great deal of pine. As it was difficult to make a road up and down the limestone ledge behind the banking grounds a slide was constructed down which the logs were sent. Podunk was later called Thayerport in honor of its owner, Capt. C. It. Thayer, and continued to ship cordwood and cedar until the close of the century.

Lily Bay in the southeastern corner of the town became a great shipping point about 1884. Horn and Mashek started the business here which was shortly taken over by V. and C V Mashek of Kewaunee. A mill and pier were built, a dam was put across the creek so as to raise the water almost five feet and almost a hundred men were employed in the woods to get out logs and cedar During the winter of 1885 more than a million feet of logs were banked at the mill and a vast quantity of cedar and cordwood was made ready for shipment. A store, blacksmith shop and a number of dwellings were erected near the mill. The Goodrich boats made regular calls at Lily Bay which for some years served as a lake port for Sturgeon Bay in winter. Of the evidences of its former importance nothing but a desolate, ruined building or two remain. It is literally a hole in the ground, the strong southeast winds having scooped immense holes in the ground into which the old boarding house threatens to engulf itself at any time.

Lily Bay was originally called St. Joseph in honor of Mr. Joseph, a Gartner of Wm. H. Horn. When Mr. Joseph retired from the partnership the name was changed to Lily Bay in honor of Mr. Horn's daughter, Lily.

V. and C. V. Mashek became very large owners of Door County lands, baying out the seven miles of water front owned by I. S. Clark besides other lands. At White Fish Bay they also had a mill and a pier owned for a time in company with Wm. H. Horn. This mill was the original Crandall & Bradley Mill, the first one built in Door County. It was moved to White Fish Bay and later to some point in the northern peninsula of Michigan.

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