History of Sturgeon Bay, Door County, Wisconsin (Part 2)
From: History of Door County, Wisconsin
The County Beautiful
By: Hjalmar R. Holand, M. A.
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago 1917

[continued from part 1 of Sturgeon Bay History part 1.]

The arrival of the steamboat was a picnic for the people, since she brought with her supplies of goods and also the latest news from "America," by which name the pioneers were accustomed to designate the eastern states from which most of them had migrated. When her whistle sounded there was a general rush for the pier by such of the population as were not bedridden, the women, babies and cripples bringing up the rear. These watched the business of unloading cargo and "wooding up" with lively interest, the boys and men often lending a hand in these operations, being glad of an opportunity to thus exhibit their regard for the link that connected them with civilized mankind.

In November, 1857, the weather suddenly became severely cold and during a heavy northwester the bay was frozen. Not having anticipated so early a stoppage of travel, the village people had not yet obtained their winter supplies, although they expected to receive part of them by the Ogontz on her next trip. The loss of these supplies would be a serious matter to the village, Lyman Bradley alone, whose mill had started up again, having at this time nearly a hundred persons in his employ. A few days later the Ogontz appeared off the mouth of the bay, but not being prepared to plow a channel through the thick ice she made no attempt to reach the village.

It was on a Sunday when the Ogontz hove in sight and a large number of people had gathered on the pier to see her force her way through the ice. For a time there was a period of suspense and indecision, as if the captain of the vessel was in doubt as to what to do. When the vessel finally turned her prow out to sea again and the people saw that they were to be left without any supplies, a wail of anguish arose. They felt like a needy mariner, stranded on a desert island, when he sees the vessel on which he relied for rescue turn away without offering help. Everyone realized that unless supplies were brought to them starvation would be their fate. There were no roads to Green Bay and the ice would not be safe to travel for many weeks.

However, the Ogontz did not mean to leave them utterly destitute. When the captain saw it was impossible to land at Sturgeon Bay, he went to Egg Harbor and landed the supplies there. At that time there was no road further than to Bassford's farm. Beyond that a dense and trackless forest stretched unbroken for thirteen miles to Egg Harbor. What was now to be done?

When Lyman Bradley learned that the supplies were landed in Egg Harbor he swore in his customary vigorous and picturesque style that he would either "find a way or make it." He proceeded to make it. A large gang of choppers began to hew a path northward and in about a week a route was opened to Egg Harbor. It was an exceedingly primitive road, so rough that teams could haul only a few hundred pounds, but it raised the siege and brought the needed supplies to the anxious mill operatives. So slowly did the work of transporting the goods proceed that teams were engaged throughout the entire winter in making the transfer, while the freighting was as costly as it was prolonged.

But those who were not in the employ of the mills did not obtain much relief from these supplies. The Crandall & Bradley Co. had no more than would meet the strictest demands of their employees and therefore refused to sell to outsiders. Much distress resulted, and if the rations common in many households during that winter and the following spring should today be set before the boarders in an almshouse there would be an instantaneous riot. The usual bill of fare included only potatoes and molasses. A few exceedingly particular persons insisted upon peel ing their potatoes but the great majority, being democratic and economical, simply mashed the murphies in their jackets and then poured over them the molasses. Although flour at that time cost but $6 a barrel, bread was a luxury which some families scarcely saw during the winter. As for cake, that was simply out of the question. Some reckless and improvident housewives, who were so lucky as to obtain a little flour, did go so far as to waste a portion of it in making gingerbread, but society "sat down" upon them so heavily for their wanton extravagance that they dared not repeat the performance. When the ice became passable a limited amount of supplies was brought from Green Bay and for a little while relief was had. But after the ice became unsafe in the spring the privations were greater than ever and the horses belonging to the mill company nearly all died from starvation.

The general distress had the good effect, however, to draw the victims closer together. Like shipwrecked voyagers, they were alike involved in the calamity and bravely endeavored to make the best of the situation. If they could not have a feast they could at least have fun, and they did. Probably the village never before or since witnessed such a jolly, social winter. With feet as light as their stomachs were empty, the people had frequent dancing parties, these festivals taking place successively at various homes, the dancers being occasionally. regaled with hemlock and wintergreen tea. Whenever a family was fortunate enough to obtain some food out of the common order, the event was made the occasion of a general "gathering of the clans," who were made partakers of the luxury.

The reopening of navigation was never more anxiously awaited than in the spring of 1858, and Robinson Crusoe did not more joyfully greet the approaching sail that was to deliver him from his island prison than did the people of Sturgeon Bay welcome the first sail that brought them relief in the first week in May. The children of those days are now old men and women, but they will never forget that queer mixture of mirth and misery they experienced during the starvation winter of 1857-8.

The first merchant in Sturgeon Bay was Oliver Perry Graham. He had a store in connection with his boarding house which was closed in 1857 when the panic stopped all business.8 Shortly afterward David Houle opened up a little stock of merchandise which he sold out in 1860 to Wield & Hoyt. About this time E. T. Schjoth also opened a general store. The business done by these men was small, however, compared to that of F. B. Gardner at Little Sturgeon. As he early put up a very good grist mill, his place of business was the center for most of the buying and the selling in the county for many years.

Sturgeon Bay was the county seat, however, and for this reason most of its people had faith that it would soon develop into a place of great importance. For this reason also Joseph Harris in the spring of 1862 started the Door County Advocate, the first newspaper in the county, which is still being published under the name of the Sturgeon Bay Advocate. The publication of this newspaper was a great boon to the city and the county. It centralized interest in local affairs by furnishing a medium of exchange for news and ideas. tinder Mr. Harris' and later Mr. Long's able management it also became an excellent advertisement of the county's resources and brought a great many settlers into the county. Being ably edited from the start it soon achieved a position of great importance, with a large subscription list. This was frequently paid for by cordwood, hay and potatoes, but the publisher adapted himself to local conditions and labored with and for his readers without complaint.

Joseph Harris was the great man of the county in those days. Almost from the first issue of his paper he pointed out the possibilities and great significance of a canal to connect the waters of Green Bay with Lake Michigan. Year after year he untiringly worked for its realization, using a great deal of his time and money to push the project forward amid an unceasing array of obstacles and indifference. Due to his unremitting energy it finally became a reality and Sturgeon Bay became a city, as is told in another chapter.

Mr. Harris was also the first county clerk, county treasurer, and register of deeds in the county, procuring the books of record and getting these three offices in running order. He was also our first state senator. In 1864 while in the Senate he framed the charter of the Sturgeon Bay and Lake Michigan Ship Canal and Harbor Company. Whether it was to give a speech at a gathering at home or a trip to Washington to plead the needs of the county before Congress, Hon. Joseph Harris was the man that could do it.

Among other early celebrities who came at a little later date were the following:

John Garland, who originally settled down on the bay shore in 1853. He was a very popular county clerk for many terms. Garland Street is named after him.

D. A. Reed came in 1860, and was the county's first district attorney. His house still stands adjoining the Union Hotel on the north.

Chas. Scofield came in 1868. For a time he operated one of the largest shingle mills in the county and did not become permanently identified with Sturgeon Bay until about 1880.

John Leathern and Thomas H. Smith are two of the best known business men of the peninsula. They operated several sawmills in different places, finally taking permanent residence in Sturgeon Bay about 1880. The Sturgeon Bay bridge was built by them in 1884.

Judge F. J. Hamilton came to Sturgeon Bay in 1871, and for a number of years was principal of the schools. He later became county judge. O. E. Dreutzer for many years a lawyer of great prominence also came at this time.

Leroy M. Washburn came in 1870 and entered the mercantile business started by A. W. Lawrence, who later became his father in law. The same year also came Archibald Meacham. the first physician to permanently locate in Door County.

N. Arnold Wagener and William Wagerer came in 1873. The Wagener family has ever since been prominently connected with the politics of Door County on the democratic side.

Sturgeon Bay in the '60s and '70s was really a very insignificant place. As late as October 22. 1863. Mr. Harris through the Advocate offered to give a lot, 50 by 150, on Main or Cedar streets to any blacksmith who would start a shop in Sturgeon Bay. He was evidently not very hopeful of any one taking immediate advantage of his offer, for he adds: "This shall be a standing offer for the next six months."

There was no physician in the village (or in the county), but in 1862 there was a standing advertisement from one Lottie Cahoon stating that although Sturgeon Bay was a very healthy location it was not entirely exempt from disease and she had therefore "given considerable attention to the study of homeopathy, first in the family and later among others, and invariably with success. So many are applying for advice that I have sent for a fresh supply of medicine and have decided to charge two shillings for a prescription. To those unable to pay it is gratuitous as before." Which must be said to be very generous terms, indeed.

In a later issue there is the joyful announcement of the opening of a drug store in Menominee and complimenting the people of Door County upon the close proximity of such a desirable convenience.

The first church building was started in 1857. A church had this year been started in Ephraim (the first in the county) and the Moravians of Sturgeon Bay now felt that they must do likewise. There was as yet no congregation organized in Sturgeon Bay and as the Moravians there were few in number they invited people of other sects to join with them to build a Union Church. This proposition was accepted by a number of Lutherans, Quakers, Methodists and others. On a certain day in 1857 they met on a lot given by Anthoni Thompson and began to erect a church under Hans P. Hanson's leadership. A foundation was built, trees were felled and the logs were neatly hewed and deftly joined together. When the walls were about four feet high one of the workingmen discovered that the laws of Wisconsin required that a church building must be deeded to a certain church organization. A debate now arose as to what church organization should hold the deed. There was as yet no church organized in Sturgeon Bay. The discussion finally got so heated that all the men present picked up their tools and went home. For six years the half built church stood there neglected, with its rotting piles of big pine logs on one side, a monument of distrust. Finally in the spring of 1862 a Moravian congregation was organized by Rev. A. M. Iverson. By his help legal title was obtained to the church lot and building and in 1863 the church was completed. The original church building started in 1857 is now used as a church parlor and is a part of the present church.

The Methodists were next to organize and build a church. Rev. A. M. Iverson, the county's first pastor, had for some time been conducting English services in Fish Creek. As his friends there were mostly of the Methodist faith, Reverend Fullmer, a Methodist minister, was in 1862 induced to settle there and take up the work that Iverson had begun. Fullmer preached all over the county, but found his best support in Sturgeon Bay. In 1863 a Methodist congregation was organized in Sturgeon Bay and Fullmer began to collect funds for a church. When he shortly afterward removed to other parts "Deacon" Geo. Pinney, who was not ordained but had some ability as a speaker, took charge of the work. About two thousand dollars was collected, and by June 22, 1866, the frame of the church was raised by voluntary labor. This church building is now used for a seed store.

Mr. Pinney was in charge of the church work for some time, but later on difficulties arose and Mr. Pinney was expelled from the church. A very exciting trial followed, both before ecclesiastical and common law tribunals. Mr. Pinney at first had Dr. E. M. Thorpe, a pettifogger from Fish Creek, as his legal adviser, and for a while had the best of the argument. Later the tide turned.°

About the same time as Mr. Pinney took charge of the Methodist Church work he was also, according to published advertisements in the Advocate, selling fruit trees. Mr. Pinney owned a tract of land in Ohio which he had never seen. This he traded for a quantity of fruit trees which were shipped to Sturgeon Bay. It was from this lot of trees, the first to be brought into the county, that Robert Laurie and Joseph Zettel, the first fruit growers of the county, in 1866 obtained their stocks. This apple tree business was pushed by Mr. Pinney for some years until it was turned over to Henry Schuyler and Mr. Pinney went into the evergreen nursery business. By 1876 this business had assumed large proportions, Mr. Pinney shipping from four to six million seedlings annually. A. W. Lawrence was associated with him in this business.

Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Pinney were also in partnership in publishing the Expositor, the second newspaper in the county. Its first issue came out October 24, 1873. Between the Expositor and the Advocate there now broke out a bitter warfare of vilification to the great entertaiment of the people of the village. This was kept up until Frank Long in 1873 bought the Advocate and put a stop to the fighting.

Besides these church fights and newspaper quarrels there were also other subjects of interest for the people of Sturgeon Bay in the '60s and '70s. Among these may particularly be mentioned hogs, spirits and Indians, which indiscriminately were infesting the village. For a time it was the hogs which claimed most attention. These were permitted to run loose to the great annoyance of those who would rather grow peas than pigs. Finally in 1867 a local ordinance was passed, the hogs were shut up and everybody took new courage. The spirits, however, were not so easily controlled. As early as 1866 spiritualistic seances came into vogue and disentombed spirits were roaming about at any time and place eager to impart immaterial information. With the organization of several religious congregations the excessive "spirituality" gradually found expression along more conventional lines.

In these early days Indians were frequent visitors in the village. They usually came in considerable numbers, begging and bartering and in quest of spirits, but of another kind from those mentioned above. In May, 1876, there was a large concourse of Indians in the village, among them being Pottawatomics, Winnebagos, Chippewas and Sioux. One superannuated warrior, gaudily arrayed in a pair of earrings and one coat sleeve, was circulating a paper with the following appeal to the charitable, prepared for him by the editor of the Advocate (D. S. Crandall) inscribed thereon: "This may certify that the bearer is an aboriginal cuss in whom there is no guile. He never lifted a scalp nor robbed a henroost in daytime. He is the father of some of his children and uses no cologne. He has that noble attribute of his race - an untutored mind. His squaw has gone to the spirit land and he wishes to visit that earthly land of spirits, where trouble is forgotten at the rate of 10 cents a spirit. He respectfully asketh aid of the pale faces. No order for groceries received."

For accounts of these trials see the Door County Advocate, beginning May 26. 1870, and running to February 16, 1871.

Up to 1875 Main Street was the principal street of the village. Just north of the present Advocate building, on the same side of the street, still stands one of the oldest landmarks of the city - the Peterson building, built in 1856 and used for a hotel for many years. Just across the street from the Advocate is the site of the first county courthouse. Adjoining this on the southeast was Leidiger's brewery. The courthouse was a two story building with a basement. The basement was used for a saloon, which was very convenient for the court and jury. However, it was customary for the jury to provide itself with refreshments in another manner After O. E. Dreutaer had harangued the jury into a real bellicose attitude, the jury would retire into its sanctum sweating under the collar. A rope would then be dropped to a side door of the brewery and a keg of beer hauled up. After due investigation of the contents of the keg the verdict would be returned.

In this old courthouse whose site is now marked by a big hole in the ground, many famous legal battles of the county have been fought, the narration of which is beyond the province of this account. An amusing incident of those days is, however, not out of place. Once upon a time, shortly before the Fourth of July, old Judge Henry Schuyler was holding court, listening to the evidence prosily presented by D. A. Reed and G. W. Allen. Patrick Ryan and Frank Long passed by and prompted by a desire to inject a little life into the proceedings they threw a large lighted firecracker in through the window. The firecracker fell at the feet of Mr. Reed and exploded at once. Instantly there was a mighty hubbub, with Mr. Reed jumping about in an excited manner yelling, "I am shot! I am shot!" Squire Schuyler, who was no friend of Reed's, pounded the desk, and shouted, "Shut up, you d-d fool! It serves you right. You should have been shot long ago!" 10

The new courthouse was built in 1878.

Sturgeon Bay was incorporated as a village in the spring of 1874. The first president of the village was John McKinney. As a guide to the position of the men who in those years were most prominent in material things the following list of heaviest taxpayers, January 1, 1878, is interesting:

"The other day an old man of three score and ten, with long tangled locks and matted gray beard, was found sitting in a chair in a lonely cabin in the woods near Bayfield, dead. It was the end of one of life's stirring careers. The old man, deserted, alone, rough, uncouth, unlettered, had played an eventful part in life; had sat in Legislatures, plead before courts, held a commission in the army, and had lived beyond the days of his usefulness. He was personally known to hundreds of readers of the Enterprise. That old man was D. A. Reed. Thirty years ago he was a leading politician and lawyer of Northeastern Wisconsin; has twice represented Kewaunee and Door counties in the Legislature, and for many years was prosecuting attorney for Door County. Many anecdotes are told of him savoring of pioneer days in the courtroom and in politics. He was an indefatigable talker. No bill was introduced in the Legislature that escaped the ordeal of his long and dreary oratory. Once, when Gabe Houck was speaker, a point of order was raised and Bouek's decision was questioned. Reed arose, stroked his long gray beard, and, in a grand, eloquent harangue of an hour's duration sustained the speaker's ruling. At the conclusion of his remarks Houck said with cutting irony: 'Since listening to the gentleman from Door, I an fully satisfied that I am in error; my decision is reversed.' " Reed was a man fierce and relentless in his enmities, yet withal of a suave and kindly nature. He was one of the characters of the old era."

A. W. Lawrence & Co


Scofield & Co.


Charnley Bros. & Co.


A. W. Lawrence


C Leonhardt


W. G. McMaster


0. E. Dreutaer


Feldman & Cochems


Doctor McEacham


L. M. Washburn


Henry Hahn


Jacob Noll


A. Thompson


C. A. Masse


John Masse


A. G. Warren


Frank Long


John Leathern


Joseph Lavassor


The village was incorporated as a city in 1883 with three wards. The following is a list of mayors and clerks of the City of Sturgeon Bay, Wis., since April 9, 1883, when the Village of Sturgeon Bay became a city:



Term of Office

Chas. Scofield

L M. Sherman


Frank Mullen

Jacob Dehos


Chas Scofield

Jacob Dehos


George Nelson

Jacob Dehos


George Nelson

H P. Hendricks


James Keogh, Jr.

Christ Daniels


James Keogh, Jr.

H. P. Hendricks



L. L. Bacchus


James Keogh, Jr.

F J. Hamilton


Louis Reichel

A N. Dier, resigned



F. J. Hamilton


E. S. Minor

F J. Hamilton


George Nelson

Louis Reichel


George Nelson

Louis Reichel


Chas. Greisen

Jacob Dehos


George Nelson

M. V. Cochems


H. C. Scofield

Jacob Dehos


H. C. Scofield

Jacob Dehos


Joseph Harris

N. C. Garland








Joseph Harris

N. C. Garland


Wm. R. Hay

Henry Leonhardt


Joseph Wolter

Henry Leonhardt


N. C. Garland

J C Langemak

1911-to date

The fourth ward of Sturgeon Bay, commonly called Sawyer, was added in 1891. Sawyer was founded by Hon. Joseph Harris who platted the village in 1874 and called it Bay View. The same year he started to build a summer hotel in the new village. The plans called for a main building measuring 40 by 40 with a wing of 20 by 30 feet. It was to be surrounded by a park of twelve acres. Distractions of various kinds, however, did not permit Mr. Harris to carry out his plans.

By help of a persistent advertising campaign this favorable location soon developed into a large village. A ferry had already been established in 1860 by E. S. Fuller. When Mr. Fuller's charter expired in 1863 Mr. E. T. Schjoth obtained a charter for a ferry which he operated for ten years. In 1873 Robert Noble established a steam ferry which did good service for many years. In 1883 he was succeeded by Dr. A. McEacham who operated the ferry until the toll bridge was built. Leathern & Smith in 1886 obtained a charter to operate a toll bridge for twenty five years and the bridge was completed in 1887.

Beginning in 1869, numerous attempts were made to build a railroad to Sturgeon Bay. However, the vessel interests were determined to keep Sturgeon Bay and Door County an island dependent on their uncertain mercy. However, in 1891 their opposition was finally conquered and three years later the railroad was in operation. Sturgeon Bay's isolation and pioneer days were at last passed.


1 Jesuit Relations, LX

2 Wisconsin Historical Society Collections, XX, page 377.

3 Peter Sherwood was a stepfather of John Boone of Rock Island, whose mother he married about 1840.

4 See the chapter on Ephraim.

5 Martin 's History of Door County, page 34.

6 Dudley S. Crandall, a son of David S. Crandall, is still living near Sturgeon Bay, at the age of eighty-three, a remarkable example of well preserved physical vigor and mental wit. He came to Sturgeon Bay with his father in 1853, but did not become a permanent resident until 1870. For many years he edited one of the local papers.

7 Missing

8 This store building is now used by D. D. Donavan as a residence. It originally occupied part of the site of the Reynolds Preserving Plant.

9 Missing

10 D. A. Reed died near Hayfield, Wis., in 1891, and the Kewaunee Enterprise of a near date gives the following obituary of him:

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